The government of Iceland recently announced that it’s studying ways to ban Internet pornography in their country. They have set the precedent to be able to do so because printed pornography has been banned there for many years and strip clubs were banned two years ago. The reasoning behind these bans is that these institutions exploit women and threaten the mental health of children.
Having freedom of speech so engraved in my mind because of American culture, it’s difficult for me to fathom that a modern government would have the audacity to try to ban such a form of expression, even if some find it objectionable. I understand there are circumstances where women are taken advantage of or even coerced into participation, and I acknowledge that it’s certainly possible children who are exposed to pornography may develop negative side effects. However, just because bad things could happen ought not to be the litmus test for what is acceptable and what is not.
The surface of the argument is clear cut: save the women and save the kids. But underneath, it’s a bit more complex. Many women willfully participate and make a living doing so. Those who are coerced or taken advantage of have ought to have legal recourse because having sex with someone against their consent is rape. Most countries have an age limit on viewing and obtaining pornography, and kids that disregard those statutes are doing so of their own volition. Admittedly the Internet makes it easier for young kids to skirt these laws, but I would contend that it’s not a government’s job to ban an entire industry because some children intentionally violate a law designed to protect them.
I’m also uncomfortable with the idea that a government has the power to dictate what images and videos are acceptable because the potential for abuse is inordinate. What’s to stop such a government from declaring that rebellious and dissenting blogs should be banned? It’s true that a rebellion would lead to civil unrest and possibly a large amount of injuries, but if the government is corrupt, failing or otherwise not performing its duties then the rebellion would be justified.
At the core of the issue is my belief that consenting adults performing activities that they enjoy and that don’t harm anyone should be allowed do such unimpeded. Along those lines they also ought to be able to talk about it publicly, make a video of it, write a book about it, or even draw a picture of it if they so choose. If someone finds it morally objectionable then they have every right to share their opinion and move on. A government’s job should not be to legislate the view of morality that is popular at the time. Rather a government should protect the rights of its people against infringements and abuses and maintain a stable platform where people can thrive and share ideas. I don’t believe there’s necessarily anything valuable about Internet porn, but I know the precedent that will be made by banning it will be a steep price to pay.