Proposed changes to UK law on ‘extreme’ pornography

The proposed Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill mentioned in the previous post also criminalises ‘extreme’ pornographic images. Under the new Bill, one may be jailed for up to three years for possessing such an image.  The Bill states that an image is pornographic “if it appears to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal”. An “extreme image” is an image of any of the following –
(a) “an act which threatens or appears to threaten a person’s life;
(b) an act which results in or appears to result (or be likely to result) in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals;
(c) an act which involves or appears to involve sexual interference with a human corpse;
(d) a person performing or appearing to perfom an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal,
where (in each case) any such act, person or animal depicted in the image is or appears to be real”.
A common feminist complaint about laws on pornography is that they are always open to interpretation. The new proposals are no exception. What counts as an act that is or appears to be likely to result in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals? Having sex on a kitchen counter, with one’s bottom perilously close to a lit stove, is surely an act that is likely to result in serious injury to one’s anus. But an image of such wanton activity is surely not what one might call extreme pornography. What about fisting? Doctors often tell us that fisting – both anal and vaginal – can result in serious injury to the anus or genitals. Yet there are (many?) people who regularly enjoy consensual bouts of such activity. Will photographs of their fun be deemed criminal? One may also be puzzled as to why it is only likely injury to the anus, breasts and genitals that renders a pornographic image extreme – why are other body parts excluded?

Also troubling is the reference to images which only appear to be real. Suppose, e.g., that a film depicts a scene of kidnap. Must the viewer think that the scene shows a real kidnapping event? Surely most kidnapping films show actors staging a kidnap, and most viewers of such scenes understand this. Must the scene appear lifelike? But then what if a lifelike scene is entirely computer-generated? 

The Bill also excludes an image from being extreme and pornographic if it forms part of a classified work – i.e., a film which receives a classification certificate from the relevant authority – providing that the image hasn’t been extracted for the sole purpose of sexual arousal. In other words, images that would otherwise be criminalised as extreme and pornographic are allowed, so long as they occur as part of a classified film that has some purpose other than sexual arousal. Notice that it is ok for one to get off on such images so long as this is not the purpose for which they were produced. The implication, of course, is that there is something wrong with producing material designed purely for sexual arousal. One might wonder why this is so.

Further criticisms of the Bill are offered here.

6 thoughts on “Proposed changes to UK law on ‘extreme’ pornography

  1. Excellent worries, monkey. I’d also worry about the fact that *appearing* to have been produced solely for sexual arousal is sufficient for being pornography. You’re right to be bothered by the thought that there’s something esp. problematic about things produced solely for sexual arousal. I assume that the exemption for things which aren’t solely for the purpose of sexual arousal is meant to protect works of art, political statements, etc. But even these aren’t very well protected if the mere *appearance* (to whom??) of having been produced solely for sexual arousal is enough to render something pornography. Imagine, say, a piece of political art which depicts sexual violence (involving serious injury to one of the protected zones!) as a protest against such violence. Now imagine that somebody with the relevant power falsely believes that this has been produced solely for sexual arousal. That means one could land in jail for possessing it.

  2. here’s another worry with the demand that it be produced *solely* for sexual arousal: those pornographers who also produce images *in order to make money* won’t meet this condition. But those who make images for their own personal use may do…
    I wonder if this potential outcome was intended by the legislators… surely not!

  3. well there goes the freedom to do and think what you like .It does not follow that people that look at these images carry out the same thing .we all think about punching our boss but we don’t all do it .same think some mite like seeing some one in a bdsm seen but would not do it to some one it is called a release or fantasy .dam you can get a prison recordof having a fantasy image.as long as it is constenting adults what is the problem.

  4. How would any law criminalising pornography affect your freedom to *think* what you like? The law wouldn’t be that you couldn’t think that pornography is okay: passing a law doesn’t make it law that you can’t think that the law is wrong. It would, of course, impact your freedom to do what you like. As does any law. No-one has the freedom to do what they like, because we don’t live in an anarchist society.

    And the problem is that it’s far from clear that the women involved are indeed constenting.

  5. The Uk Cannot keep the children safe from Child-Molesters, So now they, the police, are going to become Sex-Cops. And it won’t be long before they will have the right to peek into the bedroom of your mind, and to see if you are using that mental Porn to please your wife, Because you’ll need all the help you can get to please her when you get the older. My!, oh My! Your county is going to H**l. And it won’t be long and they’ll be Out-Lawing Viagra, as that must be causing lots of dirty minds and lots of sex. Then they’ll have to take all of the children’s books out of the schools, as it won’t be too long before they read between the lines and call most of those books Porn. The UK is catching a bad disease called, Pure-ism. Watch-out PlayBoy They’ll soon be renaming you JailBoy in the UK.

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