• kem.norris

A License to masturbate

The UK porn block that was scheduled for July 15th is delayed again due to an administrative error. Some of you may have not known that your penchant for pornography was soon to be curtailed by age-verification or you may have been outraged at this invasion of privacy on behalf of the government. In any case, whether or not we want to submit our ID before our viewing pleasure, the main objective is to prevent children from “stumbling across porn”.


Illustration by Angel Yiu

The terms of the Digital Economy Act 2017 state that online commercial pornography services which can be accessed from the UK must use an age verification system. Mindgeek, the company that owns Pornhub and YouPorn, has developed a system called AgeID, which will check a person’s ID (a passport, driving license or credit card). There was outcry among porn and privacy defenders stating that a porn block will leave users open to hacking and surveillance. They believe that this is an unnecessary waste of time and resources especially when it’s easy to skirt the ban if you know how to set up a VPN (I’m sure you can google how if you’re really spooked about registering your passport).


A quick google search of the word “porn” displays nearly 17 billion results and there’s an ever-growing number of people seeking help for porn addiction, including more under 18 year-olds. A survey by the Middlesex University, commissioned by the NSPCC, indicated that over 50% of 11- to 16-year-olds had seen explicit material online, nearly all of whom (94%) had seen it by the age of 14. The researchers questioned 1,001 children aged 11 to 16 and found 65% of 15- to 16-year-olds reported seeing pornography, as did 28% of 11- to 12-year-olds. There are also personal and social ramifications to consider at the impact of having unfettered access to increasingly hardcore porn at a young age. A murder trial in Ireland of a 14-year-old girl by two 13-year-old boys recently revealed that one of the two boys had thousands of pornographic images on his phone, that were not considered as evidence to the jury, including searches for child porn and animal porn.


The porn block also raises other questions. Do we have a right to pornography? We show ID to buy alcohol, cigarettes and lottery tickets. What’s wrong with showing ID if you’re a consenting adult? We need a license to drive a car, why not a license to wank?


Adults have preferences for what porn they want to see and a variety of reasons for why they want to see it, but they’re also aware that these scenarios are not real-life experiences and aren’t a guide to sex. We should use the ban to progress open conversations about healthy sex-lives, healthy sexual attitudes and look deeper at the role, either positive or negative, that pornography plays in everyday society.

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