Vice Squad
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
 
Regulating Violent Porn


My post a few days ago at Crescat on the federal prosecution of producers
and distributors of pornography
led to this post (and a plethora of
comments) at Alas, a blog. One of the comments, from Alegna of
Anomalous Allegories, informs us that depictions of violent sexual acts are
banned in Australia. You should also check out the comment by arbitrary
aardvark, whose e-mail motivated the original post.

Will Baude at Crescat Sententia offered some reasons not to ban violent pornography.
Here's a brief excerpt: "My worry is that by forcing a speaker or picture to explain
why it's 'deserving' of free speech protection, or why we should care about free
speech in the first place, we're missing the point of free speech."

I didn't declare a position in the original post, though my loyal reader will recognize
that I am unlikely to think that it is a good idea to put consenting adult producers
of violent pornography in prison. And I find Will's arguments to be persuasive. But
as John Stuart Mill noted, trade is a public act, and the public can control it even in
the absence of harm to others. (Sale of such porn could not be banned, however,
if to do so would effectively ban its consumption -- and it would.) For this Millian,
then, a strict but not prohibitory regime governing violent porn would be acceptable.
The regime might include advertising controls or even ad bans, and perhaps a more
rigorous system of ensuring that all participants are rational, consenting adults. And
we might want to adopt policies such as requisite waiting periods for performers that will
prove helpful to those whose decisions to take part might be rash or short-sighted, from
their own long-term point of view. Though here I am on particularly shaky ground....

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