Not suitable for kids – turn off your laptop.

Earlier today, David “Dave” Cameron announced plans to block at ISP level all access to pornographic content on the internet from British homes. The exception here will apparently be users that request that their service providers turn the tit pic tap back on. It’s been heralded as a great move for protecting children and teens from accessing content that they really shouldn’t be exposed to, so much so that the ISPCC has requested that the Irish government follow suit. In all honesty, I can actually see where they’re coming from. Underage access to pornography is a serious problem, what with their smartphones and their HiPhones, their xboxstations and their whypads. Kids today basically have unfiltered internet access lashing its way through to their fragile little brains from every direction. Obviously the vast majority of them have nowhere near the comprehension of what they’re seeing on the supposed underbelly of the net, and what we need to do is wrap them in as much cotton wool as possible to ensure we need no longer educate them.

Wait, what? No, before I descend into the usual sarcastic ranting, lets consider the actual problem with pornography. It’s quite simple, really. It’s the same problem that lies with violent television / video games, supposed body image ideals as presented by the media, and any other form of fiction or escapism. It is not real. The danger is not and has never been in adult consumption of the above. It has always been in the young, inexperienced mind not realising that there’s a blurry line between what’s real and what’s not. A whole generation of young men (and to a lesser extent, women) are growing up in a world where their first contact with human sexuality is most likely to be online porn, which will naturally give them a rather warped view of how to treat women – and themselves – when it comes time for the real deal. Imagine if you will a 15 year old boy in Ireland who’s convinced that all the following are all true

  • Women are objects
  • All women want all kinds of sex within 15 minutes of meeting them
  • Every penis should be at least 8 inches long
  • Pubic hair does not exist
  • Everybody disappears after achieving orgasm

The sad fact is that the vast majority of online “erotica” plays to all of the above tropes, and several more that are better left unbroached for now. If you’re that 15-year-old, and you’ve not managed to navigate yourself through the iceberg field that is early human seduction, the above lies become the expectation. That’s nowhere near anyone’s definition of healthy and is certainly something that needs examining in each society as part of the greater discussion of human sexuality  and interaction. So the answer is obviously a blackout, right?

Wrong.

First and foremost, it’s sloppy legislation. What exactly constitutes a pornographic site? Obviously the pornhubs and xnxxs of the world aren’t going to pass as anything other than what they are, but what about bigger sites with pornographic sections? Reddit, the increasingly huge “front page of the internet” contains huge swathes of sexualised imagery and video. Some of it has been (correctly) called out as unethical in recent months, however much of it is user submitted and homemade – does this mean sections get filtered by the NannyNet or does the whole domain get blacklisted? What about the fact that social networks (Snapchat in particular, but Facebook to an extent as well) can , like any other picture-sharing site, be used to send naked images to people by the user? Does this make them porn portals as well? And what about the biggest portal of them all? Pretty much every search on the web for anything about everything is done through The Almighty G (which still records “sex” as one of its most-searched terms) – do we ban Google too?

The great thing about a label like “pornographic” is that it’s like any other label, and can be used to silence anything an untrustworthy government doesn’t want you to hear. Obviously this is less likely to happen in the west (hahaha) but we’ve already seen several Middle Eastern dictators in the past 2 years try to stop revolutions by switching the internet off. Why go to all that hassle when you can just use the word “porn” the way people used to use words like “terrorist”, “communist” or “witch”? Don’t think it would happen? Wait and see.

Is it even enforceable? Filtering websites at ISP level? Well, seeing as the recent decision to force ISPs in Ireland to block thepiratebay has completely , 100% stopped all piracy then yes, yes it is. Certainly, anyone that’s ever met an adolescent knows that telling them not to do something makes them immediately stop doing it and thinking about it. And, of course, we can absolutely trust in both the judgement of the Irish authorities to police this correctly as well as the technical expertise of the Irish government to make it useful. Yes indeed. no possible problem there.

Of course, each user will have the option to contact their ISP to have the filter lifted. Imagine how comfortable this conversation will be:

You have reach InternetCompany’s customer service. Please press 1 to report a billing issue, 2 to request a new modem, or 3 if you fancy a wank after hours.

(presses 3)

Please hold while we connect you to an operator

“Hi, this is PhoneJockey at InternetCompany customer support, how can I enhance your life experience today?”

“Hi PhoneJockey, I’d like to-”

“Can you first please confirm your name, date of birth, address, home phone number, customer account number, pin number, and personal access code?”

“Ok, the answer to all of those is Seven”

“Ok Seven, how can I help you today?”

“Well, I was looking to browse the internet without restrictions”

“You mean PORNOGRAPHIC WEBSITES? Just a quick reminder Mr Seven, this call is being recorded for training and quality purposes”

“Yes, whatever you want to call it, can you take the restrictions off please?”

“Please hold”

(shitty hold music for 3 minutes)

“Ok Mr Seven, I’ve made a note that you want to be able to access PORNOGRAPHIC WEBSITES so if you call at any point in future, it will be noted that you wanted access to said PORNOGRAPHIC WEBSITES. Please restart your house to access PORNOGRAPHIC WEBSITES”

“Thanks”

Nothing wrong with that at all, is there? Personally I’d have no problem making that phonecall, but it’s certainly not one that anyone should have to make. I’m sure no ISP would have the stones to ask for an extra 5e per month for the restrictions to be lifted now would they?

Here’s what it all really boils down to. There’s a world of things out there that aren’t for consumption by kids, but the internet is the one that many parents (predominantly those that remember paying rent in Irish Punts) see as something terrifying. Why so scary? Because their kids understand how to use it better than they do themselves. If I don’t understand what little Johnny and Mary are up to, then they obviously shouldn’t be allowed to do it anymore. If this sounds a bit like lazy parenting, that’s because it’s lazy parenting. If you want to see what your kids are up to online, then install software to monitor them. Put the home PC in a shared area of the house and monitor them. Hell, browse the net WITH them and show them what’s what. And above all else, make sure that your kids have some idea of the basics of human interaction. Maybe a little more responsibility being taken for education in the home?  It might be time that parents shouldered the burden of teaching their kids, particularly their adolescent sons, how to navigate the world of sex and more importantly how to treat women and MOST importantly how to tell the difference between reality and fantasy. Too long we’ve handed too much of our ethical and sexual education over to the church and the schools rather than deal with it ourselves head-on, and look where that got us. And now the solution is a government blindfold for all, as if that would lead to better understanding of anything? Hardly.

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Not suitable for kids – turn off your laptop.

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