To paraphrase Nick Hornby: did I download the porn because I was a perv, or was I a perv because I downloaded the porn? Right now that's the question dripping off everyone's lips and chin. Prompted by the impassioned campaigning of a bereaved mother our beloved government has decreed that possession of violent pornography may soon be a criminal offence. If this law comes to pass then I am, not to put too fine a point on it, fucked and so are quite a few of my friends and peer group, of varying ages and genders. Now I know how all those sixties hippies felt after they'd invested in a lifetime's supply of blotter acid before discovering that the Man had gone and made it illegal. A heavy trip indeed. Bad news for wankers and nob-polishers.
Personally I prefer the term 'recreational self-helper'. But before I buy a fake moustache and book a ticket to South America I have a couple of questions, chief among them being: What exactly constitutes violent pornography? Throttling? Donkey punching? Biting? Scratching? Slapping? Where exactly is the line? I was reading a piece in this weekend's paper and one article featured a feminist quote to the effect that in a patriarchal society all heterosexual sex is rape because of the massive imbalance of power between the genders. I didn't nail the quote down properly because I wasn't really paying attention, and I assumed that the lady in question was on the blob or something when she said it (I'm kidding! The paper got recycled before I could note it down. Please let me keep my testicles; they're all I've got, such as they are.) So if there are people out there who think that good old fashioned missionary sex is tantamount to violence then what chance have we got of building a workable law around this?
This brouhaha (I love that word) was sparked by Liz Longhurst, whose daughter was murdered by a man apparently obsessed by violent porn. I just want to say, right off the bat, that I have no beef with this lady or her fight. Mrs Longhurst's daughter was taken from her in a horrific and sickening way and she's simply trying to do what right by her. The world would be better place if we all had her courage. But I'm uneasy, as ever, about allowing the recently bereaved to play such an important role in deciding the fate of the rest of us.
"How can you say you condone drug-taking? Listen to this man! His daughter died of an overdose so he knows the pain that drugs can cause better than anyone!"
OK. But I would argue that people who have lost family to a particular social problem are the last people whose counsel should be sought, because they can't think about the problem in logical fashion. They're so torn up with grief that they can barely stand so how can they be allowed to fundamentally alter the lifestyle of huge sections of the population? I'm being fatuous, because that's what I am, but I feel that the point is valid.
Fatuous and a criminal. I break the law on a daily basis; I'm breaking it right now, in fact. And I understand that I could go to jail for it, even though I probably wouldn't and definitely shouldn't. I'm fine with that. I'm quite prepared to go to jail for the stuff I've done, but I don't want to go to jail because of what I might do. Here's a quote I did pin down:
"You are going to kill me, and that will protect society from me. But out there are many, many more people who are addicted to pornography, and you are doing nothing about that."
That one was from Ted Bundy, the fun-loving serial murderer. So there you have it. The government is banning hardcore porn because they don't want us to turn into a nation of little Teds. Except Ted Bundy was never into porn. He said he was for the benefit of the Christian TV station that was interviewing him at the time; he thought that saying hardcore porn made him do it would get him brownie points, and he was right. He made it up because he was (wait for it) a lying, psychotic sack of shit and that little quote was used as a stick to beat the porn industry for a good many years. But riddle me this, Batman: why is it that only guilty people are believed? This is a man who sexually assaulted a woman with an iron bar. Why don't we get his opinion on a few other things? What does Ted think of rendition? Globalisation? Salad cream or dressing?
This is the same argument we had over Grand Theft Auto and, back in the day, splatter flicks and raawk music. Do violent and unsavoury images breed violent and unsavoury behaviour? The answer, of course, is yes. Yes in a verrrrrrrry verrrrrrrry tiny section of the population. I'm willing to concede that certain very suggestible individuals could maybe possibly be negatively influenced by violent imagery. But I'd also look at other factors in said individual's life before I went round apportioning blame.
"M'lud, as a child the defendant's father would force him to stand naked and insert unlubricated fruit into his own rectum whilst the whole family pelted him with handfuls of each other's faeces. The family would then dress in demonic clown suits and engage in incestuous poo-soaked orgies that would climax in gales of insane laughter that would echo around the dusty halls of their isolated country mansion, until they eventually tired and went out to slaughter another rent boy for supper. We believe that this had an incalculable impact on the defendant's emotional wellbeing and directly contributed to his going on an insane killing rampage."
"You'll have to do better than that, Mr. De Quincey."
"M'lud, the defendant also likes Marilyn Manson."
"Well, there you go then. Guilty!"
There may well be other factors to consider, that's all I'm saying. What I do know is this: Over the last twenty-five years I have seen thousands upon thousands of violent images in movies, on TV, in videogames, in comics and, to date, have never even been in a fight. I've seen Leatherface carve people into little wet chunks but I've never got the old hedge trimmer out and started butchering the neighbours. I've seen a real-life photo of a Japanese woman in stiletto heels stamping on a kitten (officially the most upsetting thing I've found on the net) but I've never felt the urge to do the same to dear old Benson. Not often, at least. But that's because I, like 99.99999999% of people, can distinguish between real life and stuff that happens on a screen. We know that killing people is wrong. We understand the consequences of our actions. Why should we be prevented from doing what we want to do if we're not going to hurt anyone? Yes, pornography is unsavoury. Yes, it's seedy. Yes, it appeals to our baser instincts. But people are seedy and unsavoury. We have base instincts, all of us. And some of us like to indulge those instincts alone, in darkness, while the gentle glow of the monitor gleams off the shiny purple helmet.
"But what about the people who don't have your powers of discernment and who do take it all seriously and then go on a maniacal hacking spree? It'll be on your head when that happens, you cock-pony! I bet you're the sort of person who cares about human rights!"
(That last part was actually asked of me once. Er, yes I am, as it happens. Aren't you?)
I'm so sick of fear being the only emotion that plays a part in our decision making. Call it naivety if you like but I just can't bring myself to view the world as the terrifying place it's made out to be. I appreciate that there are some pretty sick monkeys out there but I don't subscribe to the idea that there's a paedo on every corner, or that I need to be afraid of the average bloke in the street in case he turns out to be a bit Norman Bates.
Of course, this is all part of our Government's ongoing plan to criminalise the entire country. Something like 80% of the criminal offences in British Law have been introduced since Labour took power 9 years ago. They're the most authoritarian government we've had in years and they don't trust us any further than they can throw us. They'll grab any chance they can to keep a closer eye on us. We've got more CCTV cameras than any other country on the planet, they're still trying the ID card thing and security is getting tighter all the time everywhere. Now it seems that our human right to have a good old polish in the privacy of our own homes is to be curtailed. Still, as Bill once said: I'm sure their motives are pure.
We need not concern ourselves too much, however, because the whole plan is completely cock-eyed and unworkable. They just want to be seen to be getting tough on something to disguise the fact that everybody hates them and violent porn is a very convenient scapegoat. Nobody likes violence and even people who like porn will admit that it's pretty distasteful. Throw in an old lady on an emotive and very personal crusade and we're away. Even if it comes through the mauling it will undoubtedly get in the Lords (where they hate the government and love violent porn in equal measure) in any kind of recognisable shape it'll be bickered by the fact that the internet is a sod to police. Osama Bin Laden has been posting videos on the internet for years and they've still got no clue where he is. And their definition of what constitutes violent pornography will be so wooly that any lawyer worth his salt will be able to wriggle the unfortunate onanist out of trouble lickety-split. Plus, the idea of that bunch of over-sexed perverts — with their homosexual dalliances on Hampstead Heath and their being-found-dead-in-women's-knickers-with-plastic-bag-on-head-and-orange-up-arse behaviour — pontificating on the nation's sexual mores seems a trifle rich.
This is all still at the consultation stage, of course. We've got until December to let them know what we think (although good luck trying. I've been trying work out exactly how you go about getting hold of them but they seem curiously slippery.) And maybe I should thin the old porn collection out a little. If you were to stick your dick in the back of my computer (as part of one of our famous Gentlemen's Wagers, perhaps. And a big hello to all my fellow Gentlemen) the end would come out a dirty yellow-brown from the accumulated electronic filth contained therein. It wheezes like an asthmatic donkey carrying an American up a hill because of the porn clogging its every digital cranny. Also, a reduction in porn would be good for my sense of self worth, if nothing else.
But that's a separate issue for me to discuss with my team of therapists and behavioural experts. It's nobody else's business, in fact, least of all the fucking government's. Masturbation might not be the healthiest of hobbies (except, of course, when combined with power walking) but I shouldn't have to go to prison because of it, and neither should anyone else. Because, really, when you get right down to it... there's nothing wrong with a wank, is there? Unless you're Gary Glitter, of course.