There’s a campaign afoot in Iceland to seriously restrict underage access to hardcore porn, and it’s drawing the typical outcries of free expression curtailment. Those arguments — that Iceland would turn into some kind of North Korea Lite, or literally explode from all the thwarted orgasms a porn ban would surely create — haven’t deterred anti-porn crusaders who see an imminent opportunity to put effective Internet porn blockers in place.
Internet porn is, at least in the Western world, ubiquitous, and no amount of “18 only” website warnings are going to keep curious adolescents from exploring the wide and sticky world of staged sex. Critics of porn bans or blocks (of the sort that some Icelanders have called for) say that putting limitations on porn amounts to government censorship or a direct attack on freedom of expression. According to a Sunday report in the Guardian, however, the argument that porn is a form of free expression smells, to some determined gender equality activists in Iceland, a lot like the sort of bullshit the multibillion-dollar porn industry shovels.
At the end of April, Iceland’s left-leaning administration was voted out of office in favor of a center-right coalition that will likely boost the porn defenders’ arguments. Ögmundur Jónasson, the former interior minister who proposed installing some new porn blocks, said that the porn issue nevertheless needs to be addressed, adding that limiting underage access to porn is not the same as limiting freedom of expression:
There are people who want to silence this discussion, but it is a discussion that will not be silenced. People want to confuse this with an argument about freedom of expression, but I would say it is those who are trying to silence the debate who are not respecting freedom of expression.
In other words, the porn industry does not have the interests of Icelands malleable adolescent minds at heart when it argues that limiting access to its productions is tantamount to government censorship. Much unlike the rest of Western Europe with its highly sexualized media images of women, Iceland is more conscientious about the way the female body is used to sell consumer products. Outgoing prime minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir (the country’s first openly-gay leader) backed laws to criminalize buyers of sex instead of sex workers in 2009, and later banned strip clubs in 2010. Iceland topped the World Economic Forum's 2012 Global Gender Gap report, and since 1869, distributing porn has been illegal. Moreover, the sorts of objectifying ad images that Don Draper has made his fictional living on are very rare in Iceland, making it unique among commercial Western countries for its unfortunately peculiar respect for the female body.
Using web filters to block underage access to porn has, however, proved a more difficult battle. Despite the fact that stricter measures to block porn were not introduced before the government shifted to the right, grassroots porn critics are making a strong push to keep the “unfettered misogyny” they see throughout the porn industry from making inroads into the adolescent consciousness, aware that porn can, in some instances, serve as a kind of sex manual for the uninitiated. That’s the concern, anyway, but, the legislative road to effective porn blocks will be much more difficult now.
Iceland campaigns to restrict internet porn [Guardian]
Image via AP, Virginia Mayo