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April 13, 2014 | by  | in Features Homepage |
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LAW RE:PORN

Those enjoying what Judith Collins considers “particular technical expertise” (you clever cookies who can stream videos online) could soon be paying up to $2000 to watch 2 Girls 1 Cup. The Objectionable Publications and Indecency Legislation Bill has passed its First Reading in Parliament, and is currently under consideration by the Select Committee. The Bill proposes to close a gap in current censorship law through which people streaming an “objectionable publication” online are able avoid prosecution.

What’s the law on porn censorship?
Section 131 of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 (the Act) makes it an offence to be in possession of an objectionable publication. If the person knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, that the publication is objectionable, they could face up to five years in prison or a $50,000 fine.

So what’s considered “objectionable”, and who gets to decide?
The Classification Office, led by Andrew Jack, determines what’s objectionable. Its decision operates retrospectively. So once something’s deemed “objectionable”, a person could be prosecuted for possessing it – even if they’ve had it for years.

“Objectionable” is defined as describing or depicting, expressing or otherwise dealing with matters such as sex, horror, crime, cruelty or violence in such a manner that the availability of the publication is likely to be injurious to the public good. That’s a lot of porn. A publication is deemed objectionable if it tends to promote or support:

a) the exploitation of children for sexual purposes;
b) the use of violence to compel someone to submit to sexual conduct;
c) necrophilia (sex with dead bodies);
d) the use of urine or excrement in degrading or dehumanising or sexual conduct;
e) bestiality; or
f) acts of torture or the infliction of extreme violence or cruelty.

Former Chief Censor Bill Hastings noted that the sorts of publications likely to be captured by this are “real videos of children being molested or of women being raped.” Fictional movies with actors are less likely to be banned, unless (for example) “the whole film promote[s] or support[s] rape.”

The Act doesn’t cover broadcasting videos – so streaming porn online isn’t included. As long as you don’t download it, you can watch people getting off shitting on dead bodies while they’re being whipped to your heart’s content. But that could be about to change.

What changes are proposed?
Basically, just watching something objectionable will be enough for prosecution.

While the original intention was to punish and deter sexual exploitation of children, the way the Bill is drafted means that someone who watched a video containing sex with a dead body (or anything else “objectionable”) could equally be punished.

The sentences are also going to be more serious. The maximum term of imprisonment for knowingly possessing objectionable material would be raised from five to ten years – a heavier penalty than the one currently imposed for committing an indecent act on a young person, suggesting that Parliament thinks porn is worse than inappropriately touching a child.

Will porn censorship really deter sex offending?
David Friedman, a Law lecturer at Santa Clara University, argues that paedophilia is an inbuilt biological characteristic that is unavoidable in some people. Friedman hopes that satisfying paedophiliac desire by increasing the availability of child pornography will reduce the rate of sex offending. He recommends child porn be made with adult actors made to look younger using CGI. Chrissy Brown, President of the VUW Women’s Group, says: “using porn to tackle or reduce that crime is normalising [paedophilia] which is … extremely … dangerous.” Instead, promoting porn as an alternative to sex offending “just creates and widens the market.” As Friedman reflects, it’s hard to imagine this would ever become law. But it’s an interesting thought.

 

DON JON’S LONG SCHLONG

Living the dream, Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed and starred in Don Jon alongside Scarlett Johansson. Don watches a lot of porn. In examining the effects of porn in mainstream media,  Don Jon gives us an avenue through which to discuss those issues usually kept under the sheets.

A predominant concern among social commentators is the damage porn causes – to individuals, to relationships, to society at large. Basically, we’re all doomed to die wanking alone. Porn is dangerous. It builds a culture of unrealistic expectations of sex and relationships, men get addicted, and women are harmed. Or so the argument goes.

30 per cent of the internet is porn. A 2009 study of 29,000 US college students indicated that around 64 per cent of men and 18 per cent of women at university viewed porn weekly. And you know how often you watch it. If porn’s so popular, maybe it’s society that’s fucked.

Don: “I don’t watch too many movies. The pretty woman, the pretty man, the first kiss, the break-up, the make-up, they drive off into the sunset. Everyone knows it’s fake but they watch it like it’s real life.”

A common fear is that by using porn as a model for ‘real-life’ sexual relationships, people develop unrealistic expectations of sex and of their sexual partners. But surely this is true of most films? Don’t we have at least an inkling of desire to star in our own rom com? It seems the difference lies in the physical.

In the latest Porn Studies journal, Brian McNair argues there’s no convincing evidence that porn has any direct effect on behaviour. Instead, the effects of porn are described vaguely as “conditioning”, “desensitising”, or contributing towards a “predisposition towards aggression”. Last year in the UK, a 12-year-old boy raped his seven-year-old sister after watching porn on his friend’s Xbox. He said he wanted to “try it out”. Could you have any more convincing evidence?

Don: “I don’t know if I really want a wife and kids.”

Dr Victor Cline, a sexual therapist, reflects that in his experience, porn leads to sexual deviancy or disruption of real intimate relationships. Dr Cline describes “porn impotence”, whereby men especially prefer porn to real sexual experiences, as a growing phenomenon. As humans are designed to bond to the object of their sexual desires, porn can create a “virtual mistress”. Partners frequently sense this, and feel “lonely and rejected”, and some consider the attachment to porn a form of infidelity.

This may help explain the pop-ups on porn websites advertising “desperate hookers” and “cheating moms in your area” as providing some obscure moral reassurance that those watching porn aren’t alone in their sexual ‘deviance’.

Don: “There’s only a few things I really care about in life … My porn.”

The human brain evolved to pursue sex as a means of survival; we’re wired to enjoy and want more of it. Addiction is different: it’s compulsive continued behaviour despite negative consequences, like waking up at 7 am demanding coffee when all you wanted was a sleep-in. When the dopamine pleasure/reward system in the brain is overused, natural dopamine levels decrease, and a person must act out an addiction to boost dopamine back to normal. Porn addicts need progressively more shocking images for stimulation, graduating from soft- to hardcore to objectionable porn. Joel Hesch, founder of PROVEN Men (a Christian organisation offering help to porn addicts) and Law professor at Liberty University, says porn addiction leads to “failed marriages, job loss, over-aggression and abuse.”

Don: “She caught me watching porn.”
Bobby: “That’s it?”

If porn has a direct effect on behaviour, and addiction demands new shocking images, then watching porn is not “it”. As Chrissy Brown, President of the VUW Women’s Group explains, “porn is harmful to women inside the industry and harmful to women outside of the industry.” The promotional copy for Anally Ripped Whores reads: “Adult diapers just might be in store for these whores when their work is done.” It’s hard to raise an argument that this isn’t harmful. Brown says that with the demand for increasingly violent material, the porn industry is “finding ways to do everything except kill women.” The implications of this are concerning – as feminist author Robin Morgan writes, “pornography is the theory, rape is the practice.”

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