Let's talk about porn. Let's talk about porn specifically in the context of Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. It is an odd little section, and one that, like all English law, is both precisely worded and yet curiously coy in places, resulting in some circular thinking which could take us to dangerous places.
Porn imagery performs a valuable service in the world: it is entertaining, titilating and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes from the monstrously cheap and tawdry to the stunningly fantastic and beautiful. Whilst I tend to be more of a fan of the latter, I understand the need for the former: just as we adore Champagne there is also a requirement for cheap fizzy lager. Although I do not have to drink it, others might wish to. Porn is subjective. Acts of pain, torture, submission and bondage turn me on. Acts of inflated breasts, perma-tans and big hair turn Sun readers on.
I am not, in general, a fan of legislating around anything that covers a person's private behaviours or hobbies, except when they could have a direct and harmful impact on others. And by harmful I mean actual, non-consensual injury, physical or mentally, I use the term direct because if a butterfly looking at some porn causes a storm in a teacup somewhere in Surrey, then perhaps those people in Surrey should switch to coffee and get over it.
For the most part, I think the bill is needless bureaucracy that will have no effect on my day-to-day existence. Yet it is now law, and in its very words lie a turnkey for the state and that moral majority we hear so much about and so little of any sense from. A sensible application of this bill should have no effect on the BDSM community. We should have our art, and our porn and all of the pictures in between. But the world is a prejudiced place and the law is a place where the less-than-conventional should tread carefully. There are images that I would happily hang on my bedroom wall which would fall into the category of "illegal" in this bill, so woe betide me should I chose to become more politically active beyond firing pixels into the ether.
The telling phrase, and the linchpin upon which all of the problems with this bill lie (to my mind) is one of the two defining categories of an "extreme image" and an image must conform to both of these categories to be classified as extreme. The first is a list of things which are extreme, under the terms of the bill, and whilst I disagree with some of them, they are at least clear. The second is subjective and woolly at best, mind-bogglingly unclear and open to abuse at worst, simply stating that an extreme image is one which is "grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character".
Extreme images are extreme, but some are more extreme than others?