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European Union Porn Ban: Would It Help Society?

Porn connoisseurs around the world dropped their monocles in outrage and bombarded news site comment sections with one handed keystrokes after a misleading FalkVinge article claimed the European Union was about to ban online pornography. The story was further compounded, when it was discovered that the EU representatives were blocking emails from constituents who were writing in to complain about the proposed law.

As it turns out, the European Union is voting on an "Elimination of gender stereotypes" proposal that is almost as old as the internet itself. The blocked emails were simply the result of the I.T. department trying to stem the flow of misinformed messages flooding politicians’ inboxes — though it doesn't bode well for representative democracy that they would even consider that an acceptable solution. But this bill isn't the first time internet pornography has arisen as a wedge issue for politicians to wield, and as is always the case — the facts are getting blurred.

The portion of the bill that has people so irked, reads as follows:

"17. Calls on the EU and its Member States to take concrete action on its resolution of 16 September 1997 on discrimination against women in advertising, which called for a ban on all forms of pornography in the media and on the advertising of sex tourism."

The goal may simply be to reduce the amount of female degradation in advertising and media, but the counter-argument comes in how do we actually define "porn," "media" or even "degradation" for that matter.

The idea that this law was a broad attempt to ban all forms of pornography would have been laughable, if Iceland wasn't pursuing that exact notion. Interior Minister Ogmundur Jonasson wrote her country’s ban — which aims to introduce major internet filters that can censor and block all pornographic online content. Her argument is that pornography damages children and women — and leads to violent crime. This is typical political nonsense, taking a moral high ground and demonizing vice: "Immigrants, prostitutes, drug dealers — they've taken our wholesome streets from us, now is the time to fight back."

In the political arena, when faced with crippling economic issues and disharmony among voters, this maneuver is the equivalent of jingling keys in front of angry cats. More important to note, is the painful irony of politicians painting pornography as some kind of source of aggression. They’d like us to believe that men lose respect for women, have unreasonable sexual expectations and run rampant with violent tendencies as a result of watching too much porn. The reality is that over-indulgence actually has the exact opposite effect:

"Perhaps the most serious accusation against pornography is that it incites sexual aggression. But not only do rape statistics suggest otherwise, some experts believe the consumption of pornography may actually reduce the desire to rape by offering a safe, private outlet for deviant sexual desires."

It’s not just rape statistics that have seen a shift. Other psychological, sexual and social effects have been measured from the emergence of online pornography – and they echo of familiar scientific discoveries from years ago. 

In 1956, physiologist James Olds wrote an article for Scientific American, called "Pleasure Centers in the Brain" — describing experiments in which researchers had attached wires directly to certain regions of a rodent’s brain. Whenever the rat would press down on a paddle, he would receive a small electric current to his pleasure center. At the peak of the experiment, some rats were pressing the paddle as much as 700 times per hour. They ignored food and sexual partners – eventually dying of exhaustion.

That’s a closer comparison to the transformation we’re seeing in our society today. Every young male with internet access can venture into a boundless world of sexual utopias — and just like the rat’s paddle, unending pleasure is just a few mouse clicks away.

 


If politicians really want to attack pornography, they should address the increases in anxiety and deterioration of social skills which porn addiction can cause. The release of dopamine makes any pleasurable behavior, and our desire to repeat it, addictive. That’s why we eat ourselves into obesity, play video games for hours, chain drink coffee and measure our self-worth in Facebook likes. We now have access to more images of nudity and sexuality than any of our ancestors could even have fathomed — and to some degree the real world can’t compete. Real life courtships require facing our anxiety, interacting with a person, the rush of hormones, attraction, seduction, conversation, humor, and confidence. To some, that may seem daunting compared to pressing a few buttons. That laziness could explain rising diagnoses of depression, erectile dysfunction, and social anxiety.

In the end, online porn isn't about nudity, sex, power, or lust — it’s about ease of access. You don’t always do it because you’re particularly horny, you do it because you’re bored and it’s available. It’s the junk food version of sex — half the ingredients, only the most vulgar flavors and easily consumable. The worst thing you can say about it, is that it momentarily ruins your appetite for real food. The addicts who can’t stop stuffing their eyes with smut, are no different than those clogging their arteries, poisoning their liver, or blackening their lungs. Life doesn't have a fast forward button to skip to your favorite parts. We don’t get to enjoy a diversity of partners, toys, and costumes with every sexual encounter — outside of Las Vegas. If you find the real world so terrible, there will always be a consumable escape waiting for you. But it’s on you to find moderation and restraint. 

Why would a politician sell that message though, when fear is such a better motivator? As I write this, I’m sure some of my readers are downloading “emergency” files to keep in hidden folders — a doomsday porn stash, guarded from prying eyes like some kind of digital batcave of smut. Perhaps if governments do one day succeed in whitewashing the whole internet, those personal porn bunkers will become hot black market commodities — giving birth to a generation of “boobie bootleggers.”

If that’s the case, I know several soon-to-be millionaires!

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