Being not exactly an Iceland expert but at least a guy who’s been to Iceland and read a lot about it, I feel as though I must weigh in on the country’s proposed ban of internet pornography.
Actually, my motives include one of the more sordid, ulterior type: in a few months the nascent travel-writing-exploring-do-gooding company GiveLiveExplore will publish its first e-book, which happens to be a little tome of mine called Tales of Iceland or ‘Running with the Huldufolk in the Permanent Daylight’. Much more on this fascinating development later, but for now you can check out the website, which is mostly in its teaser stage.
Therefore, as far as you people are concerned, you haven’t met a guy who knows as much about Iceland as me. Now about this porn ban, let’s do a one-hand-other-hand kinda thing:
On the one hand, there is much to admire about the spirit of what Iceland wants to do. Occasionally described as “the most feminist country on the planet,” Iceland has banned strip clubs, printing and distributing porn, and has criminalized the John, not the hooker—the most effective method of curbing prostitution.
As a guy who finds modern porn mostly repulsive and pathetic, I think there’s a lot of credence to arguments that the Wild West of the internet is producing a huge catalogue of pornography that more or less caters to male rape fantasies and worse. Child pornography appears to have become a permanent scourge, and the ease of the internet allows the worst instincts of men to prevail in what they view as a victimless crime.
If I were growing up today, it would probably take me till I was about five years old to figure out a way to find porn, and only that long because I’m by nature bad with technology. I do think the ubiquity of pornography is having a negative effect on modern men—if only in that they enjoy real, actual sex with women less because the pornographic ideal now involves things no sane woman would be subject to (unless you’re this small blonde girl I met in a bar in New York in 2010, in which case—yikes…). To be fair, my record is not perfect, and I probably slip up when drunk and find my way to some porn site two to three times a year, but in this age for a single guy that’s nearly goddamn heroic. The sole reason I stay away from porn, though, is totally selfish: I like having sex, and I want to keep it that way.
Nevertheless, whatever the consequences of ubiquitous porn may be, when limiting freedom of expression, erring on the side of the expression we don’t like is always preferred. This is where Iceland will find itself in a problematic place. While there is clearly great societal benefit to banning child pornography and prosecuting the people who view it, what happens between consenting adults should always be protected. And while this may sound silly when talking about pornography, one person’s smut can always be another person’s art.
For instance: Will Iceland prohibit couples from filming each other with iPhones and then uploading those films to their computers? What about if they share those films with some friends who are into that kind of thing? Oh, and what constitutes “violent pornography”? How tender must a man be during the scene to get past the censor? And what kind of panel will view all this porn and decide what sexual acts are too aggressive or too degrading? If the woman in the act is choking the man, is that okay? What about a woman spanking a woman? Is all anal sex off-limits or just if it looks a bit too uncomfortable? What if someone makes a regular feature film depicting graphic sex or rape? Will that be allowed? Just because we don’t want violence against women to exist doesn’t mean it then goes away, and artists will naturally always be drawn to that which society refuses to acknowledge—especially in liberal, progressive countries full of artists like Iceland. So what if a female artist uses aggressive sex within her art to make a point about the objectification and brutality leveled against women? Will that make the cut? What about a documentary on this very topic? And what if it’s not classified as porn but displayed in an art museum? Over in London, I went to the Hitachi Gallery and saw a really interesting/disturbing display that mostly consisted of the genitals of a bunch of impoverished Ukrainians. It was not exactly good jerk-off material, but you could see how someone might get off on it. Would Iceland prohibit that photographer’s images from being viewed on the internet?
Let’s be real, I could sit around all day thinking of these hypotheticals, and get nowhere except for a rather nasty case of priapism.