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Should Pornography Be Restricted By Law

Introduction

The issue of pornography is the one that is very sensitive in nature. It has, however, gained popularity even among those people who are considered to be conservative. It comes as a surprise, especially considering that such a topic has been popular only among the liberals. Feminists have not been left out of this debate either. As evidenced by Skipper (1993), the question that many interest groups ask themselves is whether the state has the authority to limit the citizens’ access to pornography. Many people ask themselves whether the state has the right to prohibit citizens from viewing pornography or printing this content. There are those who claim that such a state action would amount to the violation of the citizens’ freedom that allows them to access whatever kind of information they wish.

Therefore, this essay will start with the definition of pornography and items that are considered pornographic in nature. There are many ways of defining pornography. Some dictionaries define it as the material that is sexually explicit. The challenge is how to categorize items that are sexually explicit and those that are not. Items may be termed explicit by one individual and not by another. Another definition of pornography explains that pornography is the material that is sexually explicit and is designed particularly to arouse its viewers sexually (Parent, 1990). It means that the producer of the material does his/her best to ensure that whoever watches the video gets sexually aroused.

Others tend to define pornography in terms of whether or not the content of a particular material is obscene. As such, they define pornography as the material that is both sexually explicit and is full of obscenity. In any attempt of defining pornography, it is important to take into account the views of all interest groups. The views of the liberals, the conservatives, and the feminists should be taken into account for the proper definition of the word “pornography” (West, 1994). These views should also be taken into account while formulating policies that govern issues of pornography in any state. Formulated policies will govern the way pornographic items are published and consumed. It is important that the public is sensitized to make right choices because at the end of the day the choice of whether or not to consume this material remains with an individual. This essay will attempt to discuss issues surrounding pornography and give some reasons why the consumption of pornography should be restricted. Another item this essay will look at is the one of foul language.

For a long time, only those who consider pornography morally wrong have opposed it. Very vocal arguments about the ills of pornography have been expressed by religious leaders who have campaigned for the ban of pornography. They have claimed that the material that is obscene and sexually explicit tends to corrupt the morals of people in the society. This group of religious and conservative individuals believes that the material offends many citizens who wish to conform to the values of the society. They state that pornography is the reason why sexual promiscuity is so widespread and why there are many sexual practices that are deviant in the today’s community. They believe that pornography has also threatened both religious and domestic institutions that have been the foundation of our society. It has led to the society that is unstable and morally rotten. These groups of people insist that pornography is not good for its consumers because it leads to bad behavior, which normally prevents people from living meaningful lives. It is especially true for religious groups holding the opinion that pornography affects the faith of those who are innocent (Parent, 1990).

Non- religious interest groups, however, believe that the issue whether or not someone consumes the pornographic material largely depends on one’s own convictions. They believe that when one purges himself/herself, he/she is able to determine whether the pornographic material is worth the trouble. The conservatives, on the other hand, believe that it is the duty of the state to coerce people and to use its power for limiting access to the pornographic material. They think it is the duty of the state to uphold moral convictions of the society. Therefore, it should use all available resources to ensure that morality in the society is kept intact. Access to pornography, in their view, should be limited to the public because its consumption goes against the norms and set standards of the society. Thus, restricting access to pornography will keep the community morally intact and descent. The process of the state limiting access to pornography to citizens can be referred to as legal morality (Dyzenhaus, 1992).

Conservative members of the society would like to see the state instituting some form of legal paternalism claiming that the state is allowed to interfere with the citizens’ freedoms. This law is applicable even to those citizens who are considered to be mentally competent as long as it is in the interest of the community. Concerning mentally healthy citizens, the conservatives believe they should be restricted from accessing and consuming pornography in an attempt to protect moral health of the entire community.

The liberals have opposed the restriction of pornography for many years. They disagree with other groups who want to abolish pornography. They do not agree with the opinions of thee other groups maintaining that pornography should be abolished on moral grounds or that the state has powers to prohibit the consumption of pornography. In their view, both legal paternalism and legal morality do not hold water. It does not mean that the liberals think that pornography is healthy or useful in the lives of those who consume it. If anything, they believe that pornography is offensive and mindless, especially when it is degrading or violent in nature. In their view, pornography is a low value product and does not contribute much to the lives of its consumers. They say that pornography does not have any artistic, intellectual, or political value that those who consume it could possibly gain.

The most important thing, according to liberals, is that citizens should be allowed to make independent choices concerning the material they wish to consume. Adults are mentally competent and are able to make these choices without being coerced or forced. The liberals insist that these adults should be allowed to believe in things, people, or even forces of their own choice. These beliefs should be expressed freely as long as they are practiced, watched, or read in the privacy of their homes without interfering with the freedoms and choices of other citizens. They insist that no single person, state organ, or organization possesses the power to impose their beliefs on others as everyone has the right to choose what he/she deems right.

In their arguments, liberals strongly defend the freedom of an individual to make choices and to stand against any attempt to regulate the content that he/she is allowed to consume. In their view, the only time the state could have powers to restrict an adult’s access to pornography is if the person is interfering with the freedoms of surrounding people. In an attempt to protect others from harm, therefore, the state can restrict access to pornography. This harm caused to others, whether in the form of rape, battery, assault, or murder, must be proven beyond any doubt. Therefore, liberals have given three main reasons why they strongly defend pornography (Vernon, 1996). One of the reasons why liberals do not want pornography to be restricted is the fact that pornography is an avenue through which individuals can express themselves and communicate with those around them. Liberals also say that each individual has the right to privacy and this freedom should not be interfered with. As such, an individual should be allowed to do whatever he/she pleases during his/her private time. The third reason why liberals believe pornography should not be restricted is the fact that it is relatively harmless. The harm that pornography causes to its consumers is significantly small.

There is, however, one thing that both liberals and conservatives agree on, child pornography. Child pornography is the material where children are used sexually and are exploited in the making of pornographic material. Both conservatives and liberals believe that child pornography should be prohibited, so that children can be protected from people who would like to exploit them. Children are not mentally capable of choosing whether to be a part of these activities. Children also may not understand the consequences of their actions if they take part in these activities. As such, children should be prevented from viewing or purchasing pornographic materials. It can be done primarily by parents, guardians, and the state through strong policies. Liberals, however, would prefer the state to use measures that are not coercive while discouraging from purchasing and viewing pornographic materials. Such non-coercive methods include educating the public about the dangers of consuming pornographic material. These educational campaigns should be focused on proving that pornographic material is really harmful to its consumers.

One more group of people that has strongly opposed pornography is comprised of the feminists who insist that pornography should be restricted and prohibited. They disagree with the liberals who think that pornography is a harmless entertainment. They claim that the issue is not about the harm pornography causes. In their opinion, the issue is that pornography is offensive. They differ from the conservatives who say that pornography destroys the moral fiber of the society (Itzin, 1992). Instead, feminists are more concerned about the way pornography oppresses and exploits women. In their view, pornography has a way of portraying women as coerced, degraded, and dominated by their male counterparts. They maintain that most pornographic material depicts women as subordinates to men who are to dominate. Therefore, feminists have attempted to pass laws that allow women who have been abused and harmed by pornography to sue the producers of such content. However, these attempts have,not been very successful because the Supreme Court has overturned them. The state argues that these women have no right to sue the pornographers because they participate in pornography out of their free will. The feminists have not given up on convincing the state that women who have been harmed in the result of pornography have the right to sue the pornographers. In their arguments, feminists say that pornography depicts women as sexual objects that get sexual pleasure only when they are mutilated, cut up, placed in submissive sexual positions, or penetrated by animals and objects.

Pornography can be regarded in many ways. For this reason, it is important t consider many factors before pornography is restricted to the public. Critiques of the abolition of pornography argue that should pornography be restricted, users would resort to accessing it underground, which is bound to result in even more trouble. The effects of the underground pornography would be even more devastating to the society. The focus of this essay is to find out whether or not pornography actually causes harm to the consumers and eventually to decide whether it should be prohibited. While feminists have shown clearly that pornography causes harm to women, it remains to be proven whether or not pornography harms the rest of the society (Vernon, 1996). In my opinion, all the above mentioned views present a good argument for the definition of pornography. Judgments concerning whether it should be prohibited or not have to be based on much more than just what liberals, conservatives, or feminists say.

In order to understand the issue of pornography in a clearer way, I will avoid any prejudices or biases in analyzing it in this essay. One thing is for sure, though, is that pornography is not appropriate for adolescents or children because they do not have the ability to make their own decisions. It should be remembered, however, that each person is free and should be allowed to express him/her in the best possible for him/her way. In my opinion, pornography should not just be restricted to people who are under the age of 18 like it has been done in the past. Authorities should ensure that existing laws are implemented. Taking into account that children are still in the development stage, they should not be exposed to the materials that are sexually explicit as it will affect them in the future. Having been exposed to such materials, children may become promiscuous in the future (Vernon, 1996).

There are many ways how the society can limit this kind of material that reaches the public. The debate concerning whether the government can restrict pornography or not is the one that continues to rage on. Government should monitor the content that the public is allowed to access. These measures could include formulation and implementation of laws that determine the kind of content that is available to the public. Society must be involved in the process of implementing these laws if they are to be successful. Government should also appoint necessary authorities that are able to limit the access to pornography by citizens. These authorities would act as a watchdog to ensure that the laws put in place are followed.

These laws will help to restrict pornographic material in particular areas, so that only a given number of people would be allowed to access the information. There are applications at the disposal of governmental agencies that can be used to restrict the pornographic content. A useful tool that can be used to restrict pornography is the internet filter that regulates the access to such materials, especially if children access these websites through their computers. Unauthorized users will not be allowed to access sites that contain the X-rated materials. Authorities have to realize that getting rid of pornography cannot be easy because this material is available almost everywhere. Besides, those adults whose ethics do not prohibit them from viewing pornographic material should be allowed to access whatever information they wish to access (West, 1994).

Many countries of the world have established rules and regulations that govern access to the pornographic materials. Child pornography is illegal all over the world. In all countries, people who are found promoting or facilitating child pornography are made to pay dearly for such crimes. Pornography made by adults who have consented to the act is, however, a completely different matter. Amendments have to be made to these laws if regulations are to be made. These regulations will help to restrict the amount of pornography that the public is allowed to access. These laws should regulate the distance that pornographic material is allowed to travel in order to ensure that it is kept in check and does not involve scenes of obscenity.

Humans have the freedom to speak, but it should not be abused. The challenge concerning the regulation of pornography is that it is not always a criminal act and that the behavior of an individual cannot be controlled. Individuals’ choices should always be respected except in cases when those rights interfere with other people’s freedoms. Behaviors of people are different depending on their religions and beliefs and they should be respected. The extent to which these views are respected, however, depends on whether they interfere with the rights of others or not. Governments must come up with ways how the deviant behavior can be regulated.

When one thinks of pornography, the first thing that comes to mind is the internet. The internet has made pornography extremely accessible to anyone who bothers to click the button. All a person needs to access pornography is a computer with the internet connection. This way, one can access any pornography he/she wishes to. If pornography is viewed over a period of time, it can cause addiction. Individuals are easily influenced by what is shown in the internet. Restricting pornography must, therefore, begin by restricting the internet. Putting limits on the internet is a very tricky task because pornography in the internet is easily accessible. The internet is available at everyone’s fingertips and is very hard to restrict. There are such countries as China and Japan that have banned Google from being used by the community. While such measures are a bit over the top, they have been seen to efficiently prevent the spread of the pornographic material.

Pornography can, however, be easily restricted in the stores, so that people are not able to buy it in shops or at gas stations. Pornography should also be prohibited from movie stores. It means that customers would not be able to buy or rent videos that are pornographic whenever they wish. Pornography should be restricted because it makes sex look superficial. There are people who will quickly believe that sex is really superficial. There remains the issue whether or not any government can legitimately restrict the community from viewing or publishing pornographic materials without the violation of basic freedoms of the community members.

The debate over the prohibition of pornography raises some fundamental issues. The question that critics of the pornography restriction ask is the grounds upon which pornography may be prohibited. The center of the debate has, however, changed over the years from the liberals’ versus conservatives’ struggle to the issue of personal choices and their consequences.

The assumption is that pornography is only consumed and published by few marginalized people. The number of people who consume pornographic materials is not known as the estimates given vary from state to state. The pornography industry has remained quite lucrative earning billions of dollars annually. The reality is that more people consume pornography than it is widely assumed.

The research has shown that pornography breaks marriages and it is something that the society cannot and should not allow to continue. Whenever a man or a woman in a marriage gets involved in pornography, chances are quite high that the individual is not satisfied or even unhappy with his or her sex life. This unhappiness becomes evident in one way or another, which normally ends up breaking the relationship. There are those who disagree with this idea stating that it is the responsibility of an individual to define his or her own code of conduct and not to blame it on pornography (Itzin, 1992).

Raised questions include also the one whether pornography is as serious as terrorism and pedophilia that are banned in many countries. These are mostly questions raised by those companies that are involved in the production of the pornographic material. Even though only child pornography is illegal, material that is produced for adults should also be regulated in order to ensure that the rights of other people are not violated in the process. Those who, even after being sensitized about the dangers of pornography, still choose to engage in these activities should be allowed to access them freely as long as they do so in the privacy of their houses.

In terms of restricting pornography, another aspect that must be looked at is the challenge of keeping teenagers from accessing pornography. Humans have been known to become sexually mature at the age of 14. While someone is already sexually mature at the age of 14 or 15, he/she is allowed to have sex only when he/she reaches the age of 18. The challenge that parents and guardians experience is the one of keeping these children occupied until they attain the age when they are legally allowed to have sex. The fact that makes the issue even more complicated is the fact that it is the age when curiosity is high and hormones are quite influential (Scoccia, 1996). Technological advancements have not made the situation any simpler. It means that all stakeholders must get more involved in the process if implemented regulatory measures are to succeed. These stakeholders include, though are not limited to, teachers who educate these children in schools, church leaders, parents, and other individuals who interact with these children and are able to convince them to change their behavior (Vernon, 1996).

Regulation of and exercise of power over a member of the society should not be applied as long as that person does not cause harm to other people. If someone is protected from pornography for his/her own good, it is not a good enough reason, in the ctritics’ opinion. No one should be coerced into doing or using a particular item just because it would be better for him or her to do so. Something that makes one person happy will not necessarily make another happy as well. Everyone should be allowed to make his/her own choice. That is why, it is important that the authorities negotiate with people who use pornographic material. Reasoning with or trying to persuade an individual will be more fruitful than simply banning the consumption of pornographic material. When a person is compelled or forced to behave in a particular way, then chances are that he/she will do the opposite (Itzin, 1992). For this reason, it is important that the person is shown the ways how his actions affect other people’s lives. A person should then be persuaded to stop accessing pornographic material out of his/her own free will without being coerced by anyone else.

The society is justified when it interferes with the rights of people who are mentally capable of making decisions in case their actions cause harm to those around them. The harm principle or liberty principle that I have discussed earlier in this essay forms the cornerstone of the moral fiber of the society (Scoccia, 1996). As such, restriction of pornography should not be imposed on people if they do not affect the freedoms of others. The harm principle that is discussed by Mill is applicable only to mature people who possess decision-making abilities. The paternalistic intervention is permitted and it allows the state or other authorities to take an action that protects an individual from harming himself/herself or others who may be temporarily or even permanently unable to make their own decisions.

Having discussed reasons why conservatives and feminists want pornography to be abolished and why liberals, on the other hand, do not agree with its abolishment, I will now give my opinion of the matter. I believe pornography should not be completely banned, but it should be restricted in the way that only individuals who are adults and are capable of making informed decisions are allowed to access the material. No single entity or person has the ability to make this decision on behalf of another one (Vernon, 1996). No one can ban to view or publish pornographic material simply because he or she holds the opinion that consuming such material is morally corrupting or that it is not rewarding. I believe that the activity should not be restricted simply on the basis of the legal moralization as it often leads to tyranny based on the supposition that the majority is always right. Tyranny of the majority often leads to the individual diversity being crushed, which inevitably blocks human progress.

In a world where people are extremely obsessed with their freedom of speech, any attempt to restrict things that people can or cannot say is seen as a gross violation of their rights. Just like the right to live or to own property, freedom of speech is also a fundamental right of any citizen that protects one from being punished for the ideas they have or the things they believe in. This freedom has, however, been abused in the past when it was used as an excuse to say obscene things. If a society is to be properly established, the freedom of speech should never be abused (Parent, 1990). In order to ensure that freedoms and rights of other citizens are protected, the freedom of speech should be restricted. There are those who believe that restricted speech prevents people from freely expressing themselves. They believe that everyone should be allowed to speak their minds without fear. The critics say that people get to know themselves better and exchange ideas this way. This argument, however, has its pitfalls.

While it is true that open dialogue should be encouraged concerning such issues as sex, race, and homophobia, the conversation must be checked. If people have prejudices, the only way to clear them is through open conversation. Through these conversations, they will be able to share ideas and educate each other concerning these issues. While the open dialogue is important, people should be protected from the necessity to listen to obscene language. The truth is that when someone insults another person, he or she does not express any new ideas but rather violates another person’s rights. Insulting another person is an act of violence that should not be allowed. Speech is known to have a lot of power. Obscene language has in the past been known to be used to oppress and marginalize individuals who were regarded as week or vulnerable.

That is why, it is important to prohibit the use of the obscene language by the strongest possible measures. It will protect vulnerable groups from being abused or insulted by the privileged individuals. One’s freedom of speech should not impinge upon another’s right to live. Any society that wishes to be stable and safe should regulate the freedom of speech of its members. If one abuses his or her freedom of speech and uses it to contribute to the inequality of other group members, then the government is justified to revoke his or her freedom of speech. Obscene language often leads to the discrimination of a particular group of people (Langton, 1990).

Conclusion

Pornography has been described as a ravenous cancer that continues to destroy the modern society. It has increased the overall sexual activity and many people view it as the cause of sexual pervasion in the society. Even as the authorities consider ways of banning pornography and the use of obscene language, it should be remembered that whenever an activity or item is banned and is said to be illegal, it finds ways of thriving underground in a worse form. A good example is marijuana that has been banned in many states, yet it continues to thrive underground. In case pornography is banned, chances are that people will access it at a more alarming rate than they currently do. Therefore, rules and regulations should be implemented in a way ensuring that the problem of pornography does not become worse than it is now.

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