Porn: hard cases make bad law

June 1, 2013 at 2:58 pm (censorship, children, crime, cyberspace, Guardian, Guest post, murder, Pink Prosecco, Pornography, tragedy)

Mark Bridger
Above: Mark Bridger, murderer of April Jones and user of child porn
Guest post by Pink Prosecco

The kneejerk reaction to violent crime often seems to be a call for illiberal restrictions on freedoms.  Arguing against such responses can be difficult, particularly when the crime is the sickening murder of a small child.  But the message in the Guardian editorial (31.05.13 in print edition) does, I think, need to be firmly resisted.

“Internet pornography is usually abusive and often violent. Mark Bridger, convicted yesterday of the murder of April Jones, had compiled a store of it. Pornography is easily and freely accessible, and at most requires only a credit card.”

The editorial goes on to describe the apparent link between pornography and violence.  There are correlations between all kinds of activities and negative outcomes, but that doesn’t mean a ban is always the answer.   Pornography comes in many different forms.  Either the content or the production may be exploitative, certainly.  It would be good to tackle the factors which drive people to seek work which exploits them – which is not to say that all who are involved in the industry are exploited (or exploiting).  To claim that pornography, all pornography, is an ‘incitement to hate’ seems over the top.  (Otherwise surely there’d be a lot more hate around the place.)

Taking measures to prevent children accessing pornography is fine, and obviously child pornography should be clamped down on ruthlessly.  But measures such as those suggested in the Guardian’s editorial – such as preventing UK credit cards being used to view pornography on line – seem like a massive over-reaction.


NB: since the print version of the Guardian editorial appeared, it has been amended online, and the following addendum has been posted:

• This article was amended on 31 May 2013 to clarify that the intention of the editorial was to propose restrictions on violent and abusive pornography, as opposed to pornography in general. The original also incorrectly stated that it was Dutch members of the Pirate party who brought down attempts to insert a proposed ban on pornography into European equal rights legislation.


  1. Mike Killingworth said,

    Fortunately for the Grauniad there is no debate at all at all about which pornography is “violent and abusive”. Or about what is and what is not pornographic.

  2. Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    Its actually rather charming that the last time the Guardian’s editorial writer looked at any online porn you still had to pay for it.

    And if you genuinely wanted children to not see porn the surest means of doing so would actually be to erect paywalls around it – not make it impossible to pay for (which AFAICT hardly anyone now does anyway) as generally its precisely the non-adult who don’t have credit or debit cards.

    But God forbid that the Guardian should task anyone who knows anything whatsoever about the subject with writing their editorial.

    • Mike Killingworth said,


  3. Pav said,

    Some porn is definitely a form of gender hate crime. A lot of it incites hatred for and violence against women; some of it is actual abuse.

    In my view it is as inadequate to leave the response to this in the individual’s hands as it would be to leave other forms of orchestrated (capitalist) exploitation or abuse or hatred, such as negotiating a minimum wage, factory farming, paid surrogacy or organ donation, racist or homophobic or religious hate propaganda. There needs to be an organised and legal response.

  4. Pink Prosecco said,

    Thanks Jim for adding the update. I don’t find it a fully convincing statement though – otherwise why the implied approval for Iceland’s attempted ban?

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