Pornography is a sticky subject. For some it is a shameful business, perpetuating the objectification of women and undermining the moral fabric of society. Broken marriages, corruption of childhood, sex addiction, desensitization of healthy conjugal relations and all manner of other social ills have been laid at its door.
Yet to others, pornography represents simple freedom of expression, engaged in by consenting adults and contributing to the wider entertainment industry. It provides a valve for the sexually repressed and allows for the indulgence of sexual fantasies that might otherwise fester and find unhealthy outlets elsewhere. Most people waver between these two extremes, neither condemning outright nor necessarily condoning it. Many are happy to shout it down in public, but behind closed doors, and inside internet browsers whose histories are kept scrupulously clean, it is a pleasure that many dip into from time to time. The more purple their rage, the more red-faced these moral hypocrites presumably feel when they fire up Google Incognito in their boxers. By this measure, then, certain swollen, self-loathing members of the European Parliament must be the most avid of all porn abusers, because last week they set a plan in motion to ban it outright.
Under the guise of marking International Women’s Day on Friday 8th March, a motion was put forward in the Brussels-or-Strasbourg chamber to “ban all forms of pornography”. Whatever one might think about pornography in general, it is not the kind of social issue which has an overwhelming majority either for or against it. It occupies the grey no-man’s-land of many a moral issue, with arguments raging in both directions. On what basis does the European Parliament feel authorised to put forward such a motion? Whence does it believe it draws the popular mandate to pass it? Not that such questions (unlike pornography, perhaps) ever keep the European elites up at night. They have scarcely ever cared to trouble themselves with the people’s will. Witness the European Constitution, repackaged as the democracy-free Lisbon Treaty after France and the Netherlands delivered stonking Non and Nee votes against it. Not even brave Ireland could stop the Lisbon juggernaut – when they voted it down, in accordance with a constitutional safeguard, they were simply told to ‘vote properly’ a second time. Barroso himself has gone on record as stating that “decisions taken by the most democratic institutions in the world are very often wrong”. Convenient indeed for an autocrat like José, whose position is entirely immunised from the vox populi.
How does the European Parliament imagine such a motion would play out, were it to become law? In the wake of the spectacular failure that has been the War on Drugs, are we to have a European Rapid Response team waging a War On Porn instead, bursting into private homes following anonymous tip-offs about an excessive purchase of Kleenex Mansize? A Ministry of Onanism, perhaps, staffed by former members of the Stasi throwing dirty magazines down memory holes? Will the EU send its purest politicos on a fact-finding mission to Beijing, there to learn the art of the Great Firewall of China? At this time of global economic recession, I am sure we all have an extra few quid to spare in taxes to pay for policing what would surely be such a popular policy.
Yet, as a libertarian it is not the mass approval or approbation of pornography per se which really matters: it is the ill-founded idea that over-promoted mediocrities of the European Union should think they know best. Liberty is about the freedom to do what you will, provided it does not infringe upon the liberty of others to do the same. If you want to take your clothes off in front of a camera and get paid handsomely for so doing, why should the European Union, or anyone else, stand in your way? And if you want to look at the end result – or, indeed, look the other way – that is your business. Pornography exists, it’s out there. If you want to find it, if you want to make it, it’s no further than a few mouse clicks. But if you don’t, you can keep your Y-fronts on and block it out entirely. That is the joy of liberty: you have the freedom to choose for yourself. For we are dealing with the realm of the private (or privates) and Haiku Herman, Butterball Barroso and the rest of the stuffed shirts of the European “project” can kindly keep their shrivelled beaks to themselves.
“It’s only porn”, you may say, “what does it matter?” It matters because, once delegated, personal liberty is never returned. Don’t surrender yours to the European Union.
Chi The Cynic – 11th March 2013