Monday, 24 July 2017

Age verification

The UK government is threatening to implement age verification on porn sites because won't
someone think of the children. This means that porn site users will have to prove they are 18 before they can feast upon the porn within.

I have to admit, I have some concerns about porn which can be summarised as:
  1. Lots of performers (especially women) are hurt by the porn industry. There are questions of whether consent is really possible when one's income relies on saying yes. Sex work is not necessarily just another job and there are certainly porn companies that take advantage of performers and their plight, if they have one. I have nothing at all against consensual performance and am entirely in favour of sex workers being allowed to work without criticism or harassment. But we usually have no way of telling what pressures the performers face and therefore what, if any, consent, they are really capable of. I think we - as consumers of porn - need to be very careful.
  2. The messages children are likely to glean from porn are not positive. They could be, I reckon. Hangups about sex and sexuality from previous generations and religious nonsense are terrible things and being positive and cool and non-judgmental about sex and sexuality is surely good. But it's clear that the vast majority of porn doesn't encapsulate great messages about agency and consent and equality. If a child's introduction to sex is mainstream porn, it seems likely that it'll have fucked up ideas about how to treat other people, especially women. I would  rather they learn sex-positive lessens from places other than porn.
The second item is most germane to the government's goal of age verification of porn sites but there are some problems. I'll stick with two:
  1. Literally everyone on the planet knows it won't work. It's the equivalent of - in the 70s and 80s - putting porn on the top shelves of news agents where children cannot supposedly reach with their short arms. It's like the buying of booze and tobacco by children through very easy means such as asking someone older. Refusing to sell young people cigarette papers probably won't cause an indelible barrier to their smoking a bit of whatever takes their fancy.
  2. Putting porn verification in the hands of the people who sell the porn is an open season for blackmail.
And this is the thing. Make up your own mind about porn: it's not illegal to make it (for the most part) or consume it (usually) in the UK. But if we have to register our consumption of porn, we're at the mercy of laws that will certainly change for the worse. 

Being a registered porn consumer will automatically put you in the frame for sex crimes, for example, regardless of any other suspicion. The register of casual porn users will become a list of automatic suspects. 

And porn companies, who have our credit card details, would be in an excellent position to threaten us, fake our browsing or chat behaviour or otherwise fuck us over.

And of course that's all before worrying about how the whole registration and access business might work, which is nightmarish in itself just from an engineering perspective.

TL;DR: It's complicated. Age verification won't protect anyone and it'll certainly expose people who haven't done anything wrong to undue and improper security. 

And above all, it won't protect the people who need the most protection: the performers.

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