2.13.2006

shall make no law

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This is the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. It was ratified in 1791, four years after the Constitution was ratified, along with the other nine amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights.

I'm a First Amendment nut. I view unfettered freedom of speech as one of the backbones of a free society, along with freedom of religion, the right to assemble, and the right to bodily integrity (not mentioned in the US Constitution).

When the First Amendment is in trouble, I have no trouble knowing where I stand. When the Nazis wanted to march through Skokie, Illinois, I was only 17, but it seemed clear to me that they must be allowed to do so. In the nearly 30 years since, my beliefs have been clarified and strengthened. Whether it be a t-shirt I agree with or a billboard I detest, I support every person's right to publicly express her or his views. The way to fight hate, in my opinion, is not to censor it, but to bring it out in the light of day. Fight messages of hate with messages of tolerance. Fight propaganda with truth.

Way back when our immigration applications were being processed, I had an extended email conversation with a woman who lives in Toronto. She's very progressive, and is also involved in queer issues. She was upset over the latest Fred Phelps outrage, and was both hurt and contemptuous that he was allowed to practice his brand of bigotry so publicly in the US. I remember her saying, "One person like that has the ability to hurt so many people. I don't see what on earth that has to do with free speech."

She was taken aback with my response, defending his right to spew. When she said, "In Canada, we believe..." I took it to mean that Canada's anti-hate-speech law has nearly universal acceptance. Since moving here, I've read several editorials and columns from Canadians who disagree with that, so now I see it isn't quite so one-sided.

I also see the laws in a new light. One way the US and Canada can be contrasted is individual vs community. Both countries value both, to be sure, but to me the emphasis is unmistakable. In the US, the individual's right to freedom of expression is supposed to trump any other concern. (Supposed to. Don't confuse John Ashcroft's and Alberto Gonzales's America with true American values.) Canada's anti-hate-speech law curtails an individual's right to say whatever he pleases in favour of the comfort of the community, and a community's right to exist free of harassment.

I still oppose it.

When looking online for more information about this from a Canadian perspective, most of what I found was written by Christian Conservatives bemoaning their right to spread homophobia. I obviously disagree with their views, but I don't know why they should be enjoined from publicly stating them.

This column was a little more moderate, although still from a conservative point of view. I was disappointed to find only conservatives and reactionaries opposed to the hate-speech laws, but no liberals or progressives. If this is an accurate representation, rather than an error in my research, it confirms a right-wing stereotype about the left. I'm hoping it's not the case.

As the "cartoon riots" were being discussed and debated last week, this caught my eye. Doug Saunders, writing in the Globe And Mail, ended his column with this:
As the riots were getting under way this week, Britain's Labour government attempted one solution to the dilemma, a law to make such cartoons completely illegal. Britain's Racial and Religious Hatred Bill would have outlawed any disrespectful expressions toward religions. It was drafted in response to an equally ill-conceived law that passed last summer in the wake of the July 7 bombings, which outlaws the expression of intolerant or hateful ideas in places of worship.

That's one response to the multiple ironies of offence-giving cartoons versus offensive religious practices: Pass laws against unpleasant thoughts and ideas. During the long and angry parliamentary debate, it emerged that all manner of posters, cartoons, jokes and even sermons would be rendered illegal, as they implicitly are in Canada's unfortunate hate-speech laws.

The British government tried to define this sharia-like law as a necessary tool in a diverse society. As it turned out, the debate taught a more important lesson -- that what social diversity requires is not "tolerance," as the cliche would have it, or even laws to make our expressions sound "tolerant," but rather a greater latitude for intolerance.

Rowan Atkinson, the normally silent comedian of Mr. Bean fame, was suddenly rendered articulate, and spoke eloquently on Monday of the "right to criticize and ridicule religious beliefs and practices." To everyone's surprise, his side won: After Tony Blair made the mistake of leaving the House of Commons for five minutes, the bill came to a swift vote, and it was defeated by exactly one "Nay" -- indicating just how sharp this division has become. The Tory whip was forced to resign.

"Something I feel that I have learnt over this long campaign," Mr. Atkinson said afterward, in a surprisingly non-squeaky voice, "is that hate legislation, no matter how well-intended, is never more than a mechanism to paper over the cracks in society.

"Of course, I would sympathize with anyone who says, 'I would rather look at the wallpaper than the cracks,' and if such legislation can provide short-term comfort to vulnerable communities, that is all to the good. But it will never provide any solutions to the ills of society. In the absence of other action, behind the paper, the wall will continue to crumble."

A strikingly non-funny line from a master of visual humour. But if there was a lesson this week, it was that dreadful jokes can have a useful effect.
Although I found the C-250 Bill when it was read in the House of Commons, I was unable to locate the text of the law itself, or even its proper name. Wikipedia is down and I can't find the exact law on any Canada government information site. I must not know what to look for. If you can fill me in, I'll edit this post to include your information.

[Update: new commenter Wangmo posted a link to the hate-speech amendment to Canada's Criminal Code. Thank you!]

What are your thoughts about laws criminalizing hate propaganda? Why does Canada need this law? Whose interests does it serve? When can government censorship be justified?

72 comments:

James said...

One point about the article: Rowan Atkinson isn't normally silent. He's only silent for the Mr. Bean chararcter. He's actually much funnier when he's talking (cf. Blackadder)

I don't know that much about the Canadian hate speech laws, and agree that they're the wrong approach to the problem. IIRC, they were inspired by such obnoxious people as Ernst Zundel and the National Alliance, who were quite active in Canada for a while.

L-girl said...

Re Rowan Atkinson, yes, of course. I'm a huge Blackadder fan, as you know. I think Saunders was just using Atkinson's fame as Mr Bean to make a point.

Ernst Zundel?! Oh my. I was just thinking about him, in relation to the book I just finished.

Wangmo said...

re: the legislation. A bill loses it's bill name (C-250) after it's final reading and proclaimed by the governor general. But since it's a bill to amend the criminal code, you can find the final version of it on the Justice Canada website under the criminal code legislation. It's a true goldmine if you're into that sort of thing. Here's the link to the amendment.

L-girl said...

A bill loses it's bill name (C-250) after it's final reading and proclaimed by the governor general.

That's what I assumed (just like in the US), but I couldn't find the name of the actual law anywhere. The bill was as close as I got.

you can find the final version of it on the Justice Canada website under the criminal code legislation. It's a true goldmine if you're into that sort of thing. Here's the link to the amendment.

Thank you! I'll take a look.

Granny said...

I liked your post very much and of course I won't comment on Canadian law specifically. It would be silly.

I do stand with you on the 1st Amendment even when the results are chilling a la Fred Phelps.

Wrye said...

I'm kind of ambivalent on the subject. Some thoughts:

-Allowing these slime to speak allows us to know who and where they are.

-Speech that crosses the line into incitement, slander or advocating violence is perfectly actionable without requiring hate speech laws.

-Zundel getting deported as a suspected terrorist is hard to see as anything but a farce.

I guess it's just very difficult to think of a clear definition of what distinguishes a hate crime or hate speech from ordinary crime. Something that hurts someone's feelings is different from speech advocating violence against minorities, but how do you define that difference in law?

L-girl said...

Zundel getting deported as a suspected terrorist is hard to see as anything but a farce.

I particularly dislike it because it supports the "Jews control the world" mindset. While writing this post, I saw one popular website define hate speech as "anything Jews hate". It's depressing.

L-girl said...

Allowing these slime to speak allows us to know who and where they are.

This is very important. Criminalizing hate speech doesn't make haters go away. It just forces them underground - making it harder to combat them.

L-girl said...

Oh! Thank you, Granny. I almost missed you there. :)

L-girl said...

I particularly dislike it because it supports the "Jews control the world" mindset.

I should have said appears to support.

Granny said...

You almost missed me because I'm never that brief. Standing joke.

S'okay.

Ferdzy said...

Put me in the mixed feelings camp.

I do support freedom of speech. I'd soon be in big trouble without it!

Nevertheless I am truly exasperated that anyone would publish such hateful, incendiary cartoons at this moment in time. I am truly exasperated by the intense denseness exhibited by most political and public figures involved. Sometimes freedom of speech seems an awful lot like letting children play with matches in a world made of wood.

I guess what I want is freedom of speech AND decency, compassion, empathy and openness on the part of those who speak publicly.

Good luck to me.

RobfromAlberta said...

In response to an invitation to weigh in on this issue, I will say that I vehemently oppose any and all government limits on free speech. It's really as simple as that. What I find interesting is that the groups that react most aggressively to criticism (namely organized religions) are often the same ones who engage in the most hateful speech themselves.

Scott M. said...

Where the hate propaganda is specifically inciting violence or maltreatment I agree with the law. If, on the other hand, the person is simply spreading lies they should be able to do so (though I personally detest it) and it if it's against an identifiable group they should be held to account under slander or libel laws.

The good news is both the courts and the Attorneys General have both exercised restraint with respect to the use of this section of the Code. I would be extremely surprised if they would ever charge a paper for published these cartoons. The spirit of the law clearly protects the newspaper if they were publishing to show Muslim intolerance to criticism (the original stated intent) or to provide perspective for the current round of rioting.

I personally believe that all newspapers, worldwide, should publish the cartoons on the same day. I think they're in bad taste (at least some are) and it was a bad idea in the first place, but I also believe that the press should not be intimidated as they are being now by any interests.

Scott M. said...

BTW, the Western Standard (likely the most right-winged publication in Canada) published 8 of the 12 cartoons. The publisher talked with CBC's Harry Forestall today.

Wrye said...

But they aren't good cartoons.

And you're correct Rob, but of course, what most people want is restrictions on other people's speech. I do note that it's amazing how many religious folks started saying that our laws would be used to ban the bible and similar nonsense in the past few years...someone's been at work out there stirring things up.

I suppose I have less of a problem with hate speech laws than, say, porn laws, but it really is a fundamental problem of government regulation trumping common sense, and powers that supposedly are supposed to protect minorities turning out to be double-edged.

Scott M. said...

I suppose I have less of a problem with hate speech laws than, say, porn laws, but it really is a fundamental problem of government regulation trumping common sense, and powers that supposedly are supposed to protect minorities turning out to be double-edged.

As of yet, do we have any reason to be worried? I'm not. I haven't seen any instance where the law was abused. It's written in a very intentional, very clear way to avoid abuses.

Andrea said...

I guess what I want is freedom of speech AND decency, compassion, empathy and openness on the part of those who speak publicly.

I am with ferdzy on this one, although I will admit it is dreaming.
I have never been concerened with the use of this law, YET, here in Canada though.

Wrye said...

I assume you mean hate speech laws, Scott--because our anti-porn statutes had similarly lofty goals and were demonstrably turned into cudgels to beat up Gay and Lesbian bookstores.

The very definition of worry revolves around thinking about what might happen. This is relatively new legislation and it hans't been tested that much. (Enter the Western Standard...)

The fact that we haven't had problems yet does not mean that none will ever occur. Vigilance, vigilance.

Scott M. said...

I assume you mean hate speech laws, Scott--because our anti-porn statutes had similarly lofty goals and were demonstrably turned into cudgels to beat up Gay and Lesbian bookstores.

Indeed, I was referring to the hate speech laws. As mentioned, they are very clearly written.

Any law written by humans is not infallible. I am not of the belief that just because it is impossible to craft a perfect law an attempt shouldn't be made.

When a law becomes abused and requires change, ultimately it is our representative democracy which allows the people to express their outrage. Until abuses happen, there is little reason to make changes to the law. If we spent all of our time reviewing individual sections of the Criminal Code, we would be needlessly and constantly be making minor improvements (in both languages).

When there's an issue, such as the definition of "obscene", it needs to be addressed. BTW, on that topic, when I was a customs officer I can tell you that "normal" relations were never brought into question. The stuff we stopped was certainly a very clear violation of the law.

In every case I was involved with (which is by no means a large enough sample to be representative), the questionable material was being imported by a Gay- and Lesbian-themed vendor. It's not that we didn't check other vendors, it's just that they weren't in violation of the law.

Scott M. said...

In case anyone wants to read the definition Customs uses, you can check out the D-Memorandum (everything about Customs is in the D-Memos) here. (I can't believe they are now available on-line!)

IIRC D9-1-1 covers the imporation of obscene material.

L-girl said...

Thanks everyone :)

In my opinion, the fact that a law has never been used is no excuse for having a bad law on the books, and should be no comfort. I've seen way too much abuse of originally well-meaning laws in the US to believe that.

Canadians are fond of saying that Canada is a young country. It's true. And this law is even younger. So if a law hasn't been used yet, it might only mean it hasn't been around long enough.

The way I see it, we shouldn't trust the government with something this important. I think we should allow govt to restrict us as little as possible.

Btw, this post wasn't inspired by the cartoons. I wasn't really referring to them at all.

Carrie said...

I agree with Ferdzy.

Scott M. said...

In my opinion, the fact that a law has never been used is no excuse for having a bad law on the books, and should be no comfort.

Fundamentally though, I think our disagreement is on whether this is a bad law or not. I don't believe this to be a bad law -- possibly flawed, but there seems to be no evidence that those flaws are causing problems.

Andrea said...

This is not Canada but Japan. another democracy with some free speech problems.
This link is a little sad. It is open for a few days but if it is closed registration is free.

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20060214zg.html

I am really sorry but I dont know how to make that link for you.

Wrye said...

The jury is out on the hate crime law, to be sure. The obscenity law is an ass.

Definitions of what is obscene aside, stuff going to Gay and Lesbian Bookstores was stopped, the very same stuff going to normal bookstores was not. A well-documented pattern of harassment took place and even ordinary materials were destroyed. The law was applied unevenly, and applied a standard set by a majority to censor works by a minority. As for what's obscene, of course it wasn't "normal". That's the entire point--the imposition of majority values on a minority.

But of course, I'm a librarian, so the idea that people need to be protected from ideas, words and images isn't one I have much time for.

Scott M. said...

As far as mistreatment of one importer versus another, all I can say is at our port we searched without regard for who was importing and seized accordingly. Perhaps there were a bunch of homophobic bigots elsewhere, but not where I was working. It certainly was *not* institutionalized.

As for what's obscene, of course it wasn't "normal". That's the entire point--the imposition of majority values on a minority.

So society is not supposed to set any limitations? We stopped some child pornography... obviously some minority thinks it's OK otherwise it wouldn't be produced or purchased. The other stuff? Mostly beastiality, rape and violence. Is that OK?

L-girl said...

So society is not supposed to set any limitations?

Of course not. Why should it?

Child pornography is a crime because it is evidence of a crime against the child. That is obviously a separate issue.

Other than that, why should society impose limitations on what adults can look at? Who would set the limit?

I think it's ridiculous that in a free society an adult can't entertain her- or himself in a way that doesn't hurt anyone else, because someone else finds that entertainment objectionable.

Scott M. said...

why should society impose limitations on what adults can look at? Who would set the limit?

Quite simply, the government and courts. Below is the list of objectionably obscene issues that the government and courts have decided. I think it's fair.

Yes, the govenment is imposing morals on others (ones that I happen to share). But they do that all the time (take Monogomy for example, or, for that matter, incest). I happen to be on the government's sides on these issues.

Over time what society deems acceptable behaviour will change (note the greater acceptance of homosexuality - something I too am in favour of), and the law will be changed to reflect that (as it just did for gay marriage). In the meantime, I am more than happy to have necrophilia, polygomy, incest and many other things illegal.

I must ask forgiveness for posting this below, but I think it's important for people to realize the limitations brought on by the courts are neither wide-ranging nor generic. And, though I did not copy it below, there is an artistic merit defense which is clearly spelled out in the D-Memo along with all other regulations regarding importation.

---

Depictions and/or descriptions of:

1) Sex with degradation or dehumanization, if the risk of harm is substantial, e.g.

(a) actual or implied urination, defecation or vomiting onto or into another person, and/or the ingestion of urine, feces or vomit

(b) ridicule and/or humiliation

2) Sex with pain

3) Sexual assault

4) Sex with violence

5) The taking of a human life for the purpose of sexual arousal

6) Incest

7) Bestiality

8) Necrophilia

and/or

Descriptions of:

9) Sexual acts involving children (under 14 years of age)

10) Sexual exploitation (14-18 years of age)

Note: Depictions of sexual activities involving children and/or juveniles (persons under the age of 18) will generally constitute child pornography.

Wrye said...

No one is arguing for rape or Child porn, any more than gay marriage is about beastiality. The concept is simple: consenting adults. Animals and children are...wait for it...not adults. I have no doubt that beastiality and child porn materials were seized somewhere, at some point. Actual recordings of rape and violence (as opposed to, say, a catalogue of riding crops, which is just as likely to be seized) are, as LG points out, evidence of crimes. But to imply that all the material fell under this category, and that these all just happened to be all destined for Gay and Lesbian bookstores, and so therefore all is right under heaven?

Give me strength.

Look, there's material out there which will make J.Q.Public squicky, sure. Just read Savage Love every week to see some examples. Personally, I can't stand all that icky vanilla-scented candlelight and soft music business. But if the government has no place in the bedrooms of the nation, then it has no place in the bedroom fantasy life of the nation, either, and I don't have the right to demand systematic seaches of Bed, Bath and Beyond shipments.

Fact is, the policy was found by the supreme court to have been administered in a discriminatory way. Non-obscene material was destroyed or delayed. Full stop. This is a matter of public record. Does this mean every customs officer is a bigot? No. They followed the letter of the law. And yet a pattern of harrassment somehow took place, with the blessing of the state. The intention of the law is one thing: the effect is another.

Now, as I understand it (from one of the owners of Little Sister's), the original problem is mainly bureaucratic in nature: once a company was found to have imported what is deemed to be "obscene" material, then that company winds up on a blacklist and will almost always be subject to searching. (This doesn't explain the shipments of ordinary magazines that arrieved weeks late and shredded, but let me give the benefit of the doubt). There was no way to appeal the finding, or remove the company from the list, and no central maintenance of the list. The court ordered changes made to how customs does things. Will it happen? We will see. But I think it's a clear cautionary lesson on the unintended consequences of legislating morality.

Scott M. said...

To quote myself:

Perhaps there were a bunch of homophobic bigots elsewhere, but not where I was working. It certainly was *not* institutionalized.

I stand by that.

But to imply that all the material fell under this category, and that these all just happened to be all destined for Gay and Lesbian bookstores, and so therefore all is right under heaven?

I made no such implication. I did, however, note that (in my limited experience): In every case I was involved with (which is by no means a large enough sample to be representative), the questionable material was being imported by a Gay- and Lesbian-themed vendor. It's not that we didn't check other vendors, it's just that they weren't in violation of the law.

And, you are absolutely right. Once one importer is found to have imported prohibited items, they will be searched more often than other importers. I hope that never changes. I do agree, however, that there should be an institutionalized way of having a lookout removed. When I was there it was done on an ad-hoc basis with no guidelines whatsoever.

L-girl said...

why should society impose limitations on what adults can look at? Who would set the limit?

Quite simply, the government and courts.


In dozens of situations, people will freely admit the govt is a bunch of bungling idiots that manage to mismanage everything. In others, they're willing to turn over control of what they may view and how they may enjoy themselves.

Your list below makes little sense, as it combines non-consensual practices with those that many consenting adults enjoy.

You do know that some people like sex with pain, right? Ridicule and humiliation? Come on, to some people, it's not sex without it!

I guarantee that you personally know people who enjoy sex with pain - but you don't know that they do, because it's their private business. Not yours. Not the government's.

You also refer to polygamy as if it's on par with having sex with German Shepherds. Many people have multiple partner relationships, freely and with the consent of all parties. It's usually referred to as polyamory, rather than polygamy, because it doesn't necessarily involve formal marriage. It hurts no one and indeed, many feel, does the world a lot of good.

Why should polyamory or polygamy be lumped in with child porn or films of actual rape? I say actual rape as opposed to simulated rape, which some people enjoy, either participating or watching. If it's a film of an actual rape - well, rape is a crime, whether or not it's filmed. The film isn't the problem there.

The state has no interest in regulating the enjoyment of consenting adults. None whatsoever. Nothing is to be gained from it but some self-righteous sense of morality, but it's your own morality, and not universal.

Why should I have to live according to your morality? I don't ask you to live by mine.

Wrye said...

When I was there it was done on an ad-hoc basis with no guidelines whatsoever.

Yes, that's the fundamental problem, I think, execution and not intention. We're getting at some interesting issues here, and I think of interest to other people, so don't think I'm just being argumentative for argument's sake. :)

Below is the list of objectionably obscene issues that the government and courts have decided. I think it's fair.

Well, I think it's unfair. But here's why: looking at the list, clearly not all of these are equal, and most have a grey area. For instance:

Depictions and/or descriptions of:

In other words, writing or cartooning-which harm precisely zero people in their production-can be banned.

1) Sex with degradation or dehumanization, if the risk of harm is substantial, e.g.

(a) actual or implied urination, defecation or vomiting onto or into another person, and/or the ingestion of urine, feces or vomit

Euuuugh. And yet note the "implied". Thus, "South Park the Movie" could be seized enetering Canada. But it likely wouldn't be unless it was going to a Gay and Lesbian bookstore and the officer on duty hadn't heard of South Park.

(b) ridicule and/or humiliation

"Risk of Harm is Substantial" does not seem to describe most common occurences of this. Remember that IKEA commercial where the wife dresses as a farmer and chases her husband (wearing a pig mask) around the apartment? Unless the harm is to viewers for laughing too hard...

I could go on, but I'm not sure of the entertainment value. Still, We have a list here which lumps together necrophila with saying "who's your daddy", and scenes from "Hostel" with nice middle class folks who like to dress up in spike heels and play "sorority initiation". There's a problem with that. Some of these things are just not like the others, and the individual customs officer is expected--no, required, to decide the difference, without letting squickyness enter the picture. And customs officers are people, not robots. How can we ask them to be the ultimate moral arbiters?

If the law were built around using this material as evidence of crimes commited in its production, no one would have a problem with it. Indeed, that's where the focus should be. No underage models, no unwilling participants, safer working conditions. But if no crime was commited in the production, (and I must underscore that) I simply don't see any remaining problem that doesn't somehow constitute thoughtcrime. We have all contemplated murder, even if just stuck in traffic. How is that different than some lost soul contemplating anything on that list? I don't think it is.

Artistic merit, while helpful in theory, is a non-starter. Who decides? How can it possibly be objective? What distinguishes bad art from non-art? Think of Saw II. and all those movies where Madonna or Rosie O'Donnell tries to act like a dominatrix. Where's the merit there? Do customs officers get training in Literature and art history? Does straight vanilla porn have to demonstrate that it ranks up with Caravaggio and Dickens?

Fact is, we can see the show "Kink" on Showcase pretty much every night if we want. But if it were being imported, it could legally be seized. And historically, it might very well be, especially if it was being sent to a Gay and Lesbian bookstore. That is a problem.

To pull it together for a second, hate speech laws (beyond actual crimes such as incitement to murder and slander) ultimately fail for similar reasons: if it is a crime to write or read that all muslims are terrorists, how can we justify watching 24 every week, which pretty much makes the same argument, while violating items 2-5 of the guidelines we've just listed?

(The sex is implied, of course)

L-girl said...

Wrye makes many excellent points. I just wanted to applaud one for the moment:

Artistic merit, while helpful in theory, is a non-starter. Who decides? How can it possibly be objective? What distinguishes bad art from non-art?

I heartily agree that the "artistic merit" exception is ridiculous, since it's completely subjective. Many objects now considered art were thought to be pornographic when they were created.

But beyond that, the "artistic merit" exception assumes that depictions of certain kinds of sex have to be justified in some way other than as entertainment and enjoyment. Yet other types of sex do not. Why is that?

If I have to see Cialis ads where a hetero couple shows up two minutes before the end of the opera because (it is implied) that they couldn't stop fucking - or the endless ads implying that men should bring home chocolates and roses today, in order to "get some" tonight - then I don't see why I can't, should I choose to, watch sex with a few more bells and whistles than you might like.

As long as I'm not hurting anybody, why should anyone else care? I would like to know that nobody in any of those films that I might choose to watch also aren't being hurt, but that's a separate issue - and not one that is helped by the banning of the end product.

Scott M. said...

Absolutely "artistic merit" is subjective. Hmm. I think we're at a bit of an impasse and may have to agree to disagree.

As an aside, you may be (somewhat) comforted by the fact that the Artistic Merit section has this as it's final statement:

29. Any doubt in this regard must be resolved in favour of the freedom of expression, which, in practical terms, means that doubt as to obscenity requires release of the goods.

Ya, I know it doesn't reassure you very much, but I tried. :)

L-girl said...

Impasse, for sure, for there's really no reconciling these points of view. I wasn't trying to convince you, however - just to make my points clearly. I can't abide censorship for any reason.

L-girl said...

But... one more thing, Scott M. I'd like to ask you what you see as society's interest in limiting some citizens' sexual expression, why you feel that is a valuable thing.

Let's leave child pornography and all other non-consensual activity aside. We all agree that is extremely objectionable, and it has nothing to do with this discussion.

You note that society's values change over time. Homosexuality was once considered depraved, or at best, an illness, and now is accepted as natural human variation.

I see all sexual expression in that light - human variation - and so would censor none of it.

How do you see it? Is it "this is too disgusting, and should not be allowed"? Or "a person who enjoys this must be warped in some way, so should not be allowed to indulge in this"? Or... I'm guessing here, because I really haven't a clue.

So I ask you outright. You say, society, through government, has a right to impose some standards of acceptability on citizens' sexual expression. Why?

Scott M. said...

So I ask you outright. You say, society, through government, has a right to impose some standards of acceptability on citizens' sexual expression. Why?

Here's a simple example. Would you allow a cartoon depicting child pornography? No children were harmed in the making of the video. Would you not have a problem with this because no other laws were broken?

Remember: these items are being sold in retail outlets throughout the country. The government routinely limits folks right to purchase certain items.

As my train companion is saying to me, if the government allows the sale of these items they are, essentially saying that society condones the actions. "Sex with pain"... yes, people may enjoy that themselves in their bedrooms and the government should stay out of it. But it's another thing altogether to allow the culture to flourish.

Government's job is to allow a society of expression that remains within broadly defined social norms. These things are too close, if not beyond, those norms. Staying on the same example, feeding a belief that "sex with pain" is a social norm can lead to negative consequences for society. You're right that there are likely mature, smart individuals who would never harm a fly who like sex with pain. But you can't ignore the fact that there are others who are way over the edge.

And I would suggest that, the closer you get to the edge of society, the fewer the number of responsible people and the greater the number of people who are looking for an excuse to commit a crime.

sharonapple said...

I want to throw my two cents in on porn: it's like anything else, it can be good or bad.

And on the general debate on porn. I don't think as a society, we've moved far from the points presented here:

http://www.salon.com/books/it/1998/10/05/cov_05feature/index.html

And an interesting Salon article on the state of the porn industry.

http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2005/03/12/porn/index.html

And going slightly off-topic... but it does deal with society... did anyone see the movie Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki? The main character ends up working in the spirit world's spa. Seems innocent, but there was an interesting article in the now defunct Pulp magazine where a writer noted the similarities between the female protagonist's adventure, and the influence of the sex industry on girls growing up in Japan. (Things to note -- apparently, Yubaba, the owner of the spa, is dressed like a 19th century Japanese madam; spas in Japan often have soapladies who offer what can be terms "sensual massage.")

Wrye said...

Scott, the government bans the sale of pornographic materials including cartoons to those under 18. That's all the restriction there needs to be. Your argument is the same one trotted out against Gay marriage: if the government doesn't make something illegal, it must therefore condone it. No. No. No. By that logic, if legality implies approval, then the government condones blowjobs, threeways, cunninlingus, ben-wa balls, gangbangs, portable massagers, warming gels and dildoes but draws the line at pictures of nipple clamps, the possession and use of which is in fact...legal. But one little picture of nipples getting squeezed with mechanical aid and we'll be awash in Gay and Lesbian pederasts and rapists because some ideas are just...that...dangerous.

Nonsense. Thoughtcoppery.

"But it's another thing altogether to allow the culture to flourish."

-the hell? Seriously, what the hell? Sex is a matter of how your brain is hardwired. People can't choose their triggers. You do understand that, right? Some people respond to the scent of vanilla candles, some men really mack on men, and some folks like having their hair pulled. None of them chose it. And you think this is about culture? Only if you think of the closet as a cultural space, friend.

Sharon...I love ya, but I think the average Japanese person would find that to be a reach. We can get into it if you want, but take it from me, that's just not what's going on in this movie. Might have been a part of the inspirartion, but that's it. Contemporary Japanese spas are everywhere, they are family oriented places, (similar to swimming pools) and the soaplands run by the sex industry are very very different things. The costume is interesting, but it might be coincidence--most of our pop culture images of our own 19th century femininity are more trollopy than we think, I suspect.

Scott M. said...

Sex is a matter of how your brain is hardwired. People can't choose their triggers.

So, again, those whose "hardwired" brains are turned-on by child sexual abuse should be able to get cartoons of the like, as long as no children were harmed in the making of it?

L-girl said...

Scott, you didn't really answer my question. I'm trying to derive your answer from what you said. Is it "some sexual practices are so disgusting that we must not encourage them by allowing their paraphenalia to be sold"?

Once again, you used the child-porn example, which is a red herring. Child porn is illegal and should stay that way, so it has no place in this discussion.

You're right that there are likely mature, smart individuals who would never harm a fly who like sex with pain.

Likely??? Accept it as fact. It's very common. Include the occasional spanking, restraint, pinch, etc.

But you can't ignore the fact that there are others who are way over the edge.

What does that mean, over the edge? Sadists? Torturers? Sexual predators? Yes there are, and their actions are ILLEGAL.

You are using a false stereotype of BDSM behaviour, assuming that normal adults who enjoy sex with some pain thrown in and some of the role-playing and equipment associated with it are on a continuum that leads to sexual torture, rape, etc. That is just plain old not true.

I'm ONLY talking about consensual activity. The "way over the edge" people you're referring to - I'm assuming - are not engaged in consensual activity. In other words, they're not having sex, they're committing henious crimes, and there are already laws against those crimes.

And I would suggest that, the closer you get to the edge of society, the fewer the number of responsible people and the greater the number of people who are looking for an excuse to commit a crime.

"An excuse to commit a crime." What do you mean by that?

Do you believe that certain kinds of porn encourage crimes? There's entirely no evidence to support that.

As a feminist involved in the anti-rape and anti-sexual-assault movement, I've had a lot of exposure to anti-porn folks. I understand their concerns very intimately, but I think there's a real lack of understanding of what porn is and how it's used. Porn doesn't make people do anything, except the obvious stuff they do while they're alone.

L-girl said...

most of our pop culture images of our own 19th century femininity are more trollopy than we think, I suspect.

Standard sexy attire is usually slightly ratched-down sex-worker wear.

There's a lot of fear and misapprehension about Asian culture when it comes to sex, spilling over from sex tourism and other exploitation - and neatly dovetailing with western sexual stereotypes about Asian women.

sharonapple said...

Contemporary Japanese spas are everywhere, they are family oriented places, (similar to swimming pools) and the soaplands run by the sex industry are very very different things.

No, of course they are. Public bathing is the norm. But in Spirited Away, the spa in the movie is more sinister than it seems on the surface. Even without the cultural cues, it's disturbing that once there Chihiro has her name changed to Sen and that she begins to forgot who she used to be (which leads Haku to warn her that once she forgets she'll never be able to go home). Culturally, the biggest anvils to fall on people, the workers are called Yuna (which according to the Japanese dictionary means a female spa worker who provides massage, and sex (yikes!)), and in the story, a customer called No-Face tries to buy Sen.

(Oh, and the 19th century dress of a madam in Japan -- a Victorian Western dress.)

As far as I remember, this was partially confirmed by the director in Pulp. I think it may have been this one:

http://www.japattack.com/japattack/film/spiritedaway.html

Yes. In his interview for the Japanese edition of PREMIRE magazine, Miyazaki explained that his wonderland is not just a fantasy, but represents the real world of today's Japan. "The sex industry is everywhere now in Japan," he said. "And the number of young girls who look like whores is growing."

In this interview, Miyazaki worries about the circumstance surrounds today's Japanese girls. Girls who grow up in Japan have to live surrounded by obscenity which is spread by media, no matter how much their parents try to cover their eyes. Furthermore, with the Japanese economy having gone downhill for more than a decade now, the unemployment rate is as high as it's ever beenófor women, getting a decent job is extremely difficult, because of these reasons compounded by sex discrimination. Japanese girl have got to have the guts to do anything even if it's work at a place like Super Loose. They're paying the price of the indulgences of their parents' generation: in the eighties, Chihiro's mom and dad enjoyed the bubble economy's hedonism without conscienceólike pigs.

Though Chihiro of course never actually provides sexual services in the film, it's obvious to me from the many details I've pointed out and the director's confessionóthat Sen to Chihiro is a film about prostitution. Oddly, no critics have pointed this out. Parents take their kids to the theater and look like they don't care. Maybe most of them just think it's a fairy tale. And maybe some people who do notice are just holding their tongues.

Why? I think it's because of "Kaonashi" (Faceless), the customer/monster who desires Chihiro. Though we don't know what he wants Chihiro, Kaonashi offers money to her.

"Kaonashi is Miyazaki himself," says Toshio Suzuki, producer of Sen to Chihiro, in the PREMIRE interview but Miyazaki fervently denies his partner's interpretation.

"No!" he says. "Kaonashi is a metaphor, the libido that everybody secretly harbors."


... Of course Disney didn't want to play up this angle in their ads of the film.

Wrye said...

Does Godwin's law cover repeatedly hauling children into discussions for the hot-button effect?

L-girl said...

Does Godwin's law cover repeatedly hauling children into discussions for the hot-button effect?

I feel really stupid, but I don't get this...

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

I disagree with this statement:

"Government's job is to allow a society of expression that remains within broadly defined social norms."

I don't think that's the job of government at all.

Basically, I believe there should be a strong separation of morality versus legality. One of the big arguments of the "let's criminalize bad behaviour" crowd is something I think Wrye mentioned earlier. If you don't ban it, it must mean you condone it, and if you condone it, lots of people will do it. This isn't true.

It's perfectly legal to be a self-centered a*****e, yet notice that most people aren't this way. This is a societal norm (or you could use the word "moral")that works well despite no law enforcing it. It's quite possible to have a highly moral society without having to threaten the non-compliers with jail time. In fact, you'd have a more authentically moral society, because they choose to live that way, they aren't forced to live that way.

In fact, you don't have to look far for real world examples. Consider the Mennonites or the Amish. They are highly moral Christian societies, yet there's nothing legally forcing them to live they way they do. In fact, for the Mennonites the whole basis of their belief is that you voluntarily choose to live in the way that (they feel) Jesus intended.

Hate speech laws are an attempt to force morality on people, which I think most liberals would deny (thinking that forcing morals and value only comes from the other side).

It's very human to want to punish those who don't comply with your beliefs. As horrible as I find Zundel or other groups like the Heritage Front, the appropriate response should be to ignore them, not jail them.

L-girl said...

Well said, Kyle. Very nice.

Hate speech laws are an attempt to force morality on people, which I think most liberals would deny (thinking that forcing morals and value only comes from the other side).

I don't know if most liberals would deny this or not, but it's definitely true. I have little patience for otherwise liberal people who don't support free speech for everyone.

It's easy to be for free speech when it's all niceness and sunshine. The whole point of freedom of speech - and freedom of expression of all types, as we're talking about with the so-called obscenity laws - is to protect the minority, the fringe, the unpopular, the non-mainstream.

L-girl said...

As horrible as I find Zundel or other groups like the Heritage Front, the appropriate response should be to ignore them, not jail them.

I would add that another appropriate response is to counter their lies with facts - for open-minded, non-bigoted people to rally together and say, We oppose this. This is wrong.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

I would add that another appropriate response is to counter their lies with facts - for open-minded, non-bigoted people to rally together and say, We oppose this. This is wrong.

It's not only appropriate, it's what would happen.

I think this ties into one of the fundamental flawed behaviours in humanity. If we have an idea of how things should be, and we want others to believe it right now. It seems most of humanity's sorry tale of bloodshed and cruelty can be traced back to somebody believing in some vision of perfection, and that it must happen immediately (hence the ends justify the means).

sharonapple said...

There's a lot of fear and misapprehension about Asian culture when it comes to sex, spilling over from sex tourism and other exploitation - and neatly dovetailing with western sexual stereotypes about Asian women.

I know. The funny thing is that on a number of different levels Japanese women could be said to be more sexually liberated than women in Western countries. After all, they actually have porn that is directed to them and their tastes. And it's fairly wild....

Maybe the real problem with discussions about pornography is that people get set in different corners. I don't think pornography should be banned. What people choose to do or read is their business. On the other hand, I don't think pornography is absolutely benign.

It's very human to want to punish those who don't comply with your beliefs. As horrible as I find Zundel or other groups like the Heritage Front, the appropriate response should be to ignore them, not jail them.

I would add that another appropriate response is to counter their lies with facts - for open-minded, non-bigoted people to rally together and say, We oppose this. This is wrong.


Yeah, going back on topic... it would make sense to argue against them.... Of course, one of the depressing thing about people is that, as some politicians have noted, if you repeat a lie enough times, people will eventually come to believe you. And it does work as the Bush administration has show via the Fox New Network (interesting study where people who watched Fox got most of the facts about the Iraq war, wrong. But then you could say that Fox is a good argument about why opposing opinions and view points need to be discussed and shown.)

And one funny point once made about leadership in Tao philosophy, and how morality shouldn't be enforced:

Subtle authority is particularly suited to the temperaments of those who would be led. When leaders become overbearing and interfere with the lives of their people, the task of leading becomes unnatural. But when leaders hold back and establish goals indirectly - through trusting and carefully worded commands - people find satisfaction with their work and become more productive.
Enlightened leaders are impartial, intuitive and aware.

Their influence and power comes from using their energy to guide rather than to rule.


http://www.cit.gu.edu.au/~davidt/tao/the_way_of_subtle_influence.htm

L-girl said...

It's not only appropriate, it's what would happen.

It would, but the more it happens the better, and many people have to be encouraged to raise their voices in protest.

Meeting evil with silence is very dangerous. History is full of those examples, too.

It seems most of humanity's sorry tale of bloodshed and cruelty can be traced back to somebody believing in some vision of perfection, and that it must happen immediately (hence the ends justify the means).

Lust for power and riches has a something to do with it, too.

L-girl said...

if you repeat a lie enough times, people will eventually come to believe you.

Right. That's why dangerous lies can't be ignored. It's also exactly why many governments seek to suppress speech and writing.

sharonapple said...

I think this ties into one of the fundamental flawed behaviours in humanity. If we have an idea of how things should be, and we want others to believe it right now. It seems most of humanity's sorry tale of bloodshed and cruelty can be traced back to somebody believing in some vision of perfection, and that it must happen immediately (hence the ends justify the means).

I think it's easy to make sweeping judgements though, but you end up ignorings the hills and the valleys. Slavery ended against the will of the Southern States. It was easier to outlaw slavery in countries where slavery was declining, and blood was shed in the Civil War, but in a strange way blood was shed to stop cruelty to other people.... Some people against the extention of civil rights and desegregation in the 60's argued that it forced change on people....

Scott M. said...

Once again, you used the child-porn example, which is a red herring. Child porn is illegal and should stay that way, so it has no place in this discussion.

It's not a red herring. You're attempting to deflect a perfectly legitimate question.

I did NOT ask if you thought child porn was OK. I asked if you thought that CARTOON DEPICTIONS (that is animation) of child porn, which never hurt a child in the making, was ok.

Well, is it? How about animation of non-consentual sex? I'm sure they are both to someone's taste.

Your agrument against me using that discussion is that "child porn" is illegal, due to the abuse of the child. So is rape. But no one is getting raped if it's a cartoon.

If you're willing to draw the line around showing depictions of abuse that doesn't actually involve any abuse, how do you justify that? What makes it OK to show certain things and not others (if no one is harmed in the making there of)?

Scott M. said...

Does Godwin's law cover repeatedly hauling children into discussions for the hot-button effect?

No, but it should. :)

Unfortunately, in this case, it is relevant. The discussion was surrounding Obscenity and the definition thereof which includes depictions of child abuse. In other words, it's not that I'm bringing up children in an "Even Hitler improved health care" way, it's actually inherent to the discussion.

In this case, we're talking about a very small portion of "fetish" porn which is at the outskirts of societal norms and borders on illegality.

I'll use your nipple clips example. It is not illegal for a person to cause themselves pain. On the other hand, causing someone else pain is assault unless you have clear consent (and submission is not consent).

I'm not saying that the definitions they use are perfect... in fact, from this conversation alone I agree they may be improved.

That being said, unlike our gracious host and yourself I don't think we should simply do away with the limitations. There are many legitimate things on that list. Which brings me to my animation of child pornography (where no children are actually hurt) example.

Wrye said...

But it's a straw man, nonetheless, and it's not inherent to the discussion. We're not talking about that part of the list. Instead, you're clouding the discussion reaching to the most emotionally charged example possible. And it's flawed to boot.

See, I can phrase the question thus: would you rather see a pedophile look at porn created using actual children or animation using no actual children?

Answer the question.

Ah, but you say, I would rather that pedophiles not look at anything at all and not have these urges. Well so would I, but that's not going to happen.

There's no cure for pedophilia, Scott, any more than there is for being gay. We don't know why these people are wired this way, anymore than we know why homosexuality exists or some people dig scented candles and soft lighting. What we do know is that depictions don't create these triggers--everything I've read suggests that they form at a very early age, so it's either genetic or an early-childhood factors, or a combination.

Pedophilia is, however, an illness, because (for the third or fourth time) it cannot be indulged with a consenting adult. It is a special and irrelevant-to this-discussion case, just as Beastiality is. The discussion around pedophilia that you should be asking is, what can you do with these people, those of whom haven't yet commited a crime, and presumably we want to detect and stop somehow?

Seriously, what do you suggest? Making it illegal for them to doodle and animate seems to me to be mistaking symptoms for the root cause. Does repression make it more likely that they'll act out, or less? Will it make it more likely that they'll seek therapy, or less? Short of preemptively killing or Lobotomizing them, what do you suggest? Smothering the problem and pretending it doesn't exist, spicing it up by throwing pathetic old men in jail for writing in a diary, seems to me a vast misplacement of effort and resources.

Now, as for what we're talking about?

(and submission is not consent).

Ah, okay, you really aren't familiar with this stuff. Allow me.

See, what happens is the consent is given separately, and beforehand, and not under duress. That's the entire point. While it may not be obvious to the outside observer, either participant can stop things at any time if trouble arises. That entire subculture is obsessed with safety, you'll be relieved to hear. Whether all porn should contain a disclaimer to that effect is a good question. "No one was emotionally harmed during the making of this video". Safe working conditions, remember?

But in the same way that the man who dresses up as a schoolboy is not an actual schoolboy, there's a distinction to be drawn between the depiction of a thing and the thing itself, and it's one that the vast majority of adults grasp. No one is actually murdered in a performance of Julius Ceasar. The law does not grasp this difference, and expecting a customs officer to split the difference--especially with things they don't know much about or are squicked by, is an unreasonable burden.

Do we agree that the list needs revision? I think so. I think what our host and I are saying is that the focus of the list should not be the subject matter, but the means of production--because much of that material can be considered as evidence of a crime.

L-girl said...

I apologize for that Scott, I really didn't understand what you meant.

My answer: animation and illustration of non-consensual sex should not be outlawed. No one is harmed in the making of them and no one is harmed in the viewing of them.

Pedophiles are in it for life, unfortunately. As I understand it, it's a lifelong struggle to express their sexuality without hurting anyone. Perhaps (animated, illustrated, NON-photographic) porn would help that. Perhaps not. One thing it won't do is cause child sexual abuse.

(There's a good movie about this, by the way - about one man's struggle to control his pedophilia. It's hard to think from an abuser's point of view, but this film succeeds - without apologizing. It's called "The Woodsman", with Kevin Bacon turning in an amazing performance as the lead. Well worth your time.)

I'll use your nipple clips example. It is not illegal for a person to cause themselves pain. On the other hand, causing someone else pain is assault unless you have clear consent (and submission is not consent).

Scott, my friend, you are out of your league here. BDSM sex is always and only with consent. The person doing the submitting is getting exactly what he or she wants. In fact, that person controls the entire thing. That is just a fact.

There are a lot of misconceptions about BDSM. I know because I once subscribed to most of them. But in reality consent and safety are paramount.

To paraphrase what Wrye said, women dressing up as pretend schoolgirls to be spanked by pretend headmistresses (a) are not really schoolgirls, (b) are not really being punished, (c) do not cause people to abuse actual school girls, and (d) enjoying themselves. People who like to watch this make-believe are no more likely to find real schoolgirls to spank than they are to flap their arms and fly to the moon.

And, in my world view, they are neither on the outskirts or deviant. They are simply expressing a piece of human sexuality, which is incredibly diverse.

If they like to view certain pictures or buy certain products to achieve satisfaction, what business is it of their neighbours, the government or anyone else. They are not hurting anyone - including themselves or their partners.

And that brings me around to my old question. What is the government's and society's interest in outlawing this material? I'm still not getting it. Is it because (you believe) these materials encourage violence?

RobfromAlberta said...

It's easy to be for free speech when it's all niceness and sunshine. The whole point of freedom of speech - and freedom of expression of all types, as we're talking about with the so-called obscenity laws - is to protect the minority, the fringe, the unpopular, the non-mainstream.

Exactly. The dominant political power in a society has a vested interest in limiting free speech because it is a threat to their control. In Canada, liberals are dominant, so they are the the ones who seek to control what can and cannot be said in the public forum. In the US, the situation is reversed. Censorship is not a liberal vs. conservative issue, it is a control issue.

RobfromAlberta said...

What is the government's and society's interest in outlawing this material? I'm still not getting it. Is it because (you believe) these materials encourage violence?

I believe so-called "obscene" materials are banned because there is a certain amount of agreement across the political spectrum that they are negative (albeit, for different reasons) and because there are few champions supporting such material. Feminists think it is objectifies women, religious conservatives think it corrupts the public morals and the silent majority doesn't want to be seen as either perverse or misogynist, so it keeps quiet (and gets its dirty pics over the internet).

Scott M. said...

Don't worry, I'm not naive enough to not know that professional movies are made with the consent of the actors, and that in people's homes they have "safe words" and the like.

What is the government's and society's interest in outlawing this material? I'm still not getting it. Is it because (you believe) these materials encourage violence?

Simply, yes. The element of society that they are catering to is on one or the other edge of acceptability one way or the other. There are certainly responsible, upstanding people on the proper side of the line. However there are more people on the wrong side of the line for whom these videos feed a compulsion. People who see apparent violence being associated with sex and let it feed their obsession with rape (irrespective of perceptible or imperceptible consent).

L-girl said...

Thanks for finally answering that! :)

However there are more people on the wrong side of the line for whom these videos feed a compulsion. People who see apparent violence being associated with sex and let it feed their obsession with rape (irrespective of perceptible or imperceptible consent).

How do you know any of this?

How do we know there are "more people on the wrong side of the line", and how do we know that violence being associated with sex contributes to rape?

Now, no one could oppose rape more than me. I'm a rape survivor myself, and have worked (as a volunteer) with survivors of rape and child sexual abuse. I have heard the stories first hand, and lived my own. If something was known to contribute to the epidemic of rape in our society, that would trump my free-speech beliefs. But there's simply no evidence to link the two. Societies without porn have do not have less rape than societies with porn. Rapists are not known to consume more porn than ordinary folks. Etc. etc.

I think the link is a belief, similar to a belief in god or santa claus - a nice idea if it helps you, but not a lot to back it up.

L-girl said...

Rob, good points - both.

I'm here arguing against "obscenity" laws, thinking, now does everyone think this is what I do with my spare time, watch schoolgirls getting spanked? :) And this is on my own blog! I'd be even less comfortable testifying in open court (so to speak). A serious campaign against these laws would be difficult. It would always be misread.

Re liberals and conservatives and control, that's a very good point. It really pisses me off that anyone calling themselves a liberal would advocate censorship of any type. And logically, a true conservative shouldn't advocate it either, because it's government interference. Free speech should be an principle that both conservatives and liberals uphold. Yet...

Scott M. said...

How do we know there are "more people on the wrong side of the line", and how do we know that violence being associated with sex contributes to rape?

There has been substantial documented evidence linking pornography (not just child pornography) to pedophelia. You're right, not being a subject matter expert I don't have the studies at my fingertips showing that link, nor do I have immediate access to studies showing the link between rape and pornography.

I'm afraid if you're going to ask me to provide a burden of proof I'm not the right person to ask that of. Can you provide evidence to the contrary?

Scott M. said...

Aw heck. The things one does for this blog... :)

I ended up doing a search on studies linking pornography depicting violence to rape and other acts and came up with this after wading through all of the wing-nut religious crap.

Again, not being a SME I can't speak to the veracity of this research, but it looks OK.

L-girl said...

I'm not asking you to come up with proof, nor am I discounting your view because you can't.

But this

There has been substantial documented evidence linking pornography (not just child pornography) to pedophelia.

is just not true. To my knowledge, there are no good studies linking the two.

In the past there were a lot of flawed studies done by groups trying to prove that porn is bad. But the people who work with actual child offenders don't worry about their porn habits - except in the sense that children are abused and exploited to make porn, an entirely different problem.

You may have no idea how common incest and child sexual abuse is. Or you may, I don't know. It's unbelievably rampant. I've seen the damage it does, up close. It happens in all kinds of families, from all kinds of backgrounds, and it comes from people who wouldn't know where to find child pornography and wouldn't want it if they did. Conversely, no one is driven to pedophilia by their pornographic viewing habits.

The idea that porn leads to rape has also been completely discredited. Many (most?) women in the anti-rape movement still oppose porn, but it's on more general grounds. There's no causal link.

I also wanted to emphasize, once again, that the list you offered of what the govt deems acceptable and not acceptable had little to do with this. To me it seemed more like white-bread, vanilla porn is ok, anything a little less mainstream, must be deviant, let's ban it.

Well, long ago in this discussion, you said we should agree to disagree, but I was compelled to find out what was behind your POV. You've answered that for me, so I'll stop asking.

Thanks for sticking with the discussion this long.

L-girl said...

I ended up doing a search on studies linking pornography depicting violence to rape and other acts and came up with this after wading through all of the wing-nut religious crap.

Oops, I posted my last comment before I saw this. I'll check it out - tomorrow. Have a good night. :)

Scott M. said...

Thanks for sticking with the discussion this long.

No problem, it's fun to be the underdog once in a while. I usually represent "the intelligent minority" instead of "the unwashed masses" though, so this was a fun role reversal.

Scott M. said...

BTW, may I just chip in on the most controversial issue...

Blackadder goes Fourth was, by far, the best Rowan Atkinson work ever.

The series ender was heart-wrenching as well.

Nerdbeard said...

Wow. This thread is pretty intense! (In a good way.) I don't know if I have anything to add, but I'll chime in anyway.

I'm not well-versed in our country's hate laws, but my uneducated view is that they are not helpful. I agree with the view that ideas and speech should not be suppressed but rather opposed. There are some edge cases that I would be hard-pressed to apply this liberal view to, but I think they are more about how an idea is being used than the mere expression of it.

For example, what Phelps does when he pickets funerals is not merely speech. It's arguably verbal assault. Preaching "God hates fag" from your pulpit in front of people who came to hear you say it is appalling, but forbidding it seems to be cutting off our noses to spite our faces. The cost is too great. Forcing mourners to cross a hostile picket line that is screaming about hellfire is something rather different. I can't see how that is not at least harassment. Has there never been a legal charge against Phelps?

I can easily see myself on the wrong side of an overzealous hate law. I am of the opinion that most religion is harmful to individuals and society. I want the right to say so, in no uncertain terms. I don't think Islam fosters "terrorism" any more than does Catholicism, Judaism, etc. The problem is not the specific faction. Yet I do believe that religion and the worldview it supports DOES foster great hostility, which inevitably gets acted on. And heaven forbid that the Co$ should get protection from vocal criticism! It is fair to say that I hate religion. Is that so bad that I can't talk about it?

About obscenity law... Obscenity laws make sex bad and dirty. Which in turn is what makes sex so exciting. :-) I'm only half-joking, too. What makes Brokeback so charged is the shame, fear, and even a touch of self-horror. Something we've probably all experienced regardless of the specifics of our sexuality, but which today (thankfully) requires something a bit fringe to depict in a movie. All that oppression makes for exciting sex (there's a great quote from KITH about how having to live in sin makes gay relationships hotter) but the fallout can be brutal.

Do we really want to have pedophiles shamed and intimidated into hiding their desires -- even from themselves? That doesn't sound like a recipe for a happy ending for anyone to me. If they cannot accept their nature, they can never properly deal with and control it. Doing everything in our power to make them feel endangered and persecuted -- not for what they do but what they ARE -- is not going to solve anything. I think that outlawing materials which depict a crime but are not themselves evidence of a crime is ridiculous and harmful. Imagine if we applied that standard across the board.

Sorry for rambling.

L-girl said...

Blackadder goes Fourth was, by far, the best Rowan Atkinson work ever.

The series ender was heart-wrenching as well.


I adore Blackadder Goes Fourth. It's an incredible work - hilarious, and so politically biting, and that ending, oh my god, tears come to my eyes every time I see it. Brilliant anti-war comedy.

For sheer laughs, I think I'd pick the Prince Regent series. Hugh Laurie is just too, too funny in that. ("Sausage time!") But I love all the Blackadders, with one exception. I don't like the first series, the medieval one, at all. They hadn't gotten it down yet, IMO.

Thanks for weighing in on the important stuff, Scott. ;-)

L-girl said...

Nerdbeard, you are positively not rambling, and your comments are much appreciated.

For example, what Phelps does when he pickets funerals is not merely speech. It's arguably verbal assault.

I agree with you here. I use the example of the picketers outside US abortion clinics. Courts have decided they can stand and say things, but there are limits on what they can say, and they have to stand a certain number of feet back from anyone entering, cannot touch anyone, throw things, etc. Those laws prohibiting them from blocking access were hard won - even harder to get enforced! - and they were fought against First Amendment issues.

I can't see how that is not at least harassment. Has there never been a legal charge against Phelps?

I agree re harassment, but I don't know the answer to this, I don't follow that at all. There have been dozens of harassment charges against anti-choice groups for similar reasons.

Do we really want to have pedophiles shamed and intimidated into hiding their desires -- even from themselves? That doesn't sound like a recipe for a happy ending for anyone to me. If they cannot accept their nature, they can never properly deal with and control it. Doing everything in our power to make them feel endangered and persecuted -- not for what they do but what they ARE -- is not going to solve anything. I think that outlawing materials which depict a crime but are not themselves evidence of a crime is ridiculous and harmful. Imagine if we applied that standard across the board.

You make good points here. I agree with you.