Icelandic Porn Law Will Strike a Blow for Gender Justice

Will Iceland’s proposed ban on violent internet pornography work?  We have heard the arguments that internet porn content is increasingly violent, depicting more sex with children, more abusive acts toward children, and can lead to violent crime.  We have also heard that it traumatizes kids who view it and that it wreaks havoc with marriages, causes erectile dysfunction in men and body image issues in women, and “hijacks” our sexuality.

What I find most interesting about the Icelandic government’s proposed legislation is that it is built on another argument as well, one that is seldom cited, namely porn promotes gender inequality.

The question of whether such legislation can “work” must be looked at not only in terms of whether it can decrease crime or other objective measures of social wellbeing.  The Icelandic proposals have the potential to go where no one has gone in a liberal western country.  That is to raise consciousness about the eroticizing of domination and the “comodification” of women.  In other words to bring a focus to what the new feminists see as the underlying woman-hating that saturates pornography and the depiction of maleness as brutal.

The British Prime Minister David Cameron had supported legislation last year which would require internet providers to block access to pornography and put in place an “opt-in” system for users.  When this effort failed to get traction Cameron in December of last year came out is support of a proposal which would leave filtering in the hands of parents and would “require” that parents with children at home provide for filtering when the obtain internet service in their home computers.

The argument that we should somehow prevent children from seeing pornography is not wrong.  However it misses an important point.  The point that gets the least attention in the whole porn debate is that pornography sanctions an increasingly cruel and degrading representation of a whole class of society—women.  Such stereotyped and prejudicial images of any other sub-group of society would be seen as intolerable and unjust.