U.K. to Criminalize Possession of “Rape Porn”

Starting in January, possession of “rape porn” will be a crime in the United Kingdom, punishable by up to three years in prison. Since the law does not distinguish between images or videos that depict actual rape and those that depict simulated rape, though, it will have the effect of criminalizing a large amount of (otherwise legal) online material.

This new law is but the latest component of Prime Minister David Cameron’s misguided war on pornography. Announcing the ban on “rape porn”, Cameron proclaimed that: “These images normalise sexual violence against women – and they are quite simply poisonous to the young people who see them.”

The idea that porn leads to real-life sexual violence can be debunked by a few minutes of Google searching, and in fact the evidence seems to suggest the opposite–that the increased availability of porn is partly responsible for a decrease in rates of rape and sexual assault.

For men who are inclined to commit rape, viewing simulated rape porn may very well be an outlet for their aggression, allowing them to commit sexual violence vicariously through consenting adult film performers.

At the very least, simulated rape porn will not cause otherwise law-abiding young men who view it to go out and commit rape.

And besides, I suspect that many of the people who view “rape porn” are not even imagining themselves as the perpetrator, but rather as the victim (although I don’t have any hard numbers to back this up).

For women in particular, simulated rape porn can provide an outlet for rape fantasies. As Salon’s Tracy Clark-Flory points out, such fantasies are common among women–but rather than indicating any sort of desire to be sexually violated, these fantasies “represent a faux-violation, a powerlessness that is paradoxically controlled by the fantasizer.”

And men can have these fantasies, too. Contrary to the popular stereotype, men’s rape fantasies aren’t limited to those in which they fall victim to group female lust. No, men can imagine themselves being “taken” by another man, as well.

If simulated rape porn allows individuals to explore sexual fantasies without doing any harm to others, what about images or videos that depict actual rape? Although these are much more problematic, mere possession of such videos does not infringe on anyone’s rights so it shouldn’t be illegal.

In the same way that victim’s rights advocates claim that merely having in your possession a photo depicting child sexual abuse is itself an act of abuse, some would surely claim that downloading a video depicting rape is akin to committing rape. (Hell, anti-porn feminists already claim that all pornography is violence against women.)

But downloading a video of a rape no more makes you a rapist than downloading a video of the 9/11 attacks makes you a terrorist. To suggest otherwise is absurd.

Perhaps British authorities should devote more time and resources towards apprehending and prosecuting actual rapists instead of going after the small minority of internet porn users who seek out material depicting simulated rape.

(And if genuine rape videos are truly a widespread problem on the Internet, how about adding a few years on to the prison sentences of rapists who videotape their crimes and post the videos online? Or would that make too much sense?)

Like many campaigns ostensibly aimed at protecting women from sexual violence (i.e. shutting down strip clubs to combat sex trafficking), banning “rape porn” will not help women–it will only expand the power of the State to police people’s bedrooms.

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This entry was posted in Censorship, Media, Sex and Sexuality, Women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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