Campaigners For SESTA See It As A First Step To Stomping Out Porn

from the good-luck-with-that dept

There are obviously a lot of mixed motivations behind the push for SESTA -- the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act -- with many of those motivations based on good intentions of actually stopping sex trafficking. Of course, we've explained in great detail how SESTA isn't likely to help at all, and is quite likely to make the problem worse. It also seems clear that many of those lining up in support of the bill see it as a wedge -- a way to slowly dismantle intermediary liability protections for platforms on the internet. And thus, some just see it as a way to attack Google and Facebook out of a general dislike for those companies -- without realizing (or without caring) just how much damage it will do to free speech online and the platforms that enable such speech. We've also been perplexed by SESTA supporters using completely bogus stats to insist the problem of sex trafficking is much larger than it truly is. As we noted, sex trafficking is both very real and an absolute tragedy for those caught up in it and their families. But we should be realistic about the actual scope of the problem -- and many SESTA supporters aren't actually able to do that.

But perhaps the motivation behind some SESTA supporters is... even more absurd. An email popped up in my inbox recently with a bunch of really strong language supporting SESTA, coming from a group calling itself the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE). They run the website "End Sexual Exploitation" and are strong supporters of SESTA. But what caught my eye is that the end of the email noted the true mission of NCSE isn't to end sex trafficking... but to rid the world of the "public health crisis of pornography."

You see, NCSE began its life in 1962 as Morality in Media, and was a reaction to a ridiculous moral panic over "pornographic material" being left outside of a school. NCSE appears to believe that all porn is pure evil and must be eradicated. The group has insisted that porn is a "public health crisis" and has worked to get states to declare it as such. It also posts a Dirty Dozen list of organizations that it needs to shame for "perpetuating sexual exploitation."

Want to know how totally fucked up the list is? They include the American Library Association and Amnesty International on this year's list. Really. They completely misrepresent the ALA's opposition to mandatory internet filters to claim that libraries have been turned into "a XXX space that fosters child sexual abuse." It put Amnesty on the list because Amnesty dares to call sex workers "sex workers" rather than prostitutes. They also list the Justice Department as an honorable mention for failing to enforce obscenity laws, which NCOSE wants to use to basically criminalize pornography. In other words, NCSE supports pretty blatant censorship.

Now people can certainly differ on their beliefs about prostitution and pornography, but having groups like this at the forefront of destructive, counterproductive bills like SESTA -- which will do nothing to stop actual sex trafficking, and plenty to harm free speech online -- raises some serious questions about what really are the goals of SESTA. NCSE certainly seems to think it's part of the plan to wipe out all pornography. Considering that other SESTA supporters insist (incorrectly) that SESTA won't have any impact on speech online, they might want to consider why one of their major coalition partners seems to be eagerly looking for ways to censor the internet.

Filed Under: porn, sesta
Companies: morality in media, ncse


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  1. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 29 Mar 2019 @ 8:04pm

    The war on porn

    The advocates of decency in the war on porn have always fought with such hubris as to overstep their bounds, not only seeking to criminalize media clearly in the realm of decency. To this day, the Vatican has to explain its embarrassment of fig-leaved or castrated art pieces, many of Raphael's or Michelangelo's, the result of the offended sensibilities of many a cleric and a few popes.

    But were our anti-pornographers to have their way, countless novels and comic books, many of which have little to do with sex, or in which sex is not dwelled on overmuch would be censored as to protect the delicate sensibilities of our children. Sometimes we expunge books from the library or burn them in the streets, only to regret the culture permanently lost a decade later. So it is with Plato's transcripts of Socrates, annihilated for Socrates' impiety. The Hellenists of the modern age still regret that one.

    We tire of censors who think they know what the society needs and, no, they really don't. Our movies and video games have to adhere to weird rules to suit the MPAA or ESRB already. Specifically so as not to upset the individuals on the committee. Bargaining is done and egregious scenes are inserted so they can be used to haggle with the ratings committees, and ultimately our moral guardians who are demonstrated to be an ugly farce, a bureaucracy that serves only to fuel its own continuity.

    And on the opposite side of the swing, we have The Stripping Years, the cinematic era of Spain after the rise of the democracy and shattering of the strict censorship laws of the dictatorship. Every movie features sex and controversy, often incidental to story. And then there's People v. Freeman during which California district attorneys tried to use pandering laws meant to apply to prostitution instead to apply for porn talent. In the end it became explicitly legal to pay someone to fuck someone else so long as the event is being recorded. California is now the porn capital of the US (though Russian porn has replaced Swedish porn on the international scene, thanks to the fall of the Soviet Union.)

    Ultimately, though, concerns regarding treatment of the talent is going to come to its own resolution: Porn is going to be computer rendered not just because it will become cheaper to not have to deal with talent, but also because then we can create super-normal models (that is, media that provides a super-normal erotic experience) against which ordinary erotic content will not be able to compete.

    Maybe, by then, we can actually teach our kids about human sexuality, instead of avoiding having real conversations and letting porn do the talking for us (#MakeLoveNotPorn) because it's not going to go away, no matter how much the anti-sex / anti-porn folk scream about it.


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