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Legal Regulation of the Pornography in the 21st Century

Info: 5464 words (22 pages) Dissertation
Published: 13th Dec 2019

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“The legal regulation of pornography in the 21 st century in the United Kingdom”


Pornography accompanied humanity for a long time though the expressions of pornography vary with time and technological progress.

Previously, the pornography industry was concentrating mainly in painting, with the invention of printing the pornography was widespread, later on with the invention of photography it led to the dissemination of pornographic pictures, furthermore the invention of cinema led the pornographic films in a similar vein – and now video web, soon joined the pornography industry.

Proper social and legal attitude toward pornography is a controversial subject for many years, some think about pornography in terms of obscenity breakthroughs based on religion or morality and refuse to discuss the problem or give it attention, others think of pornography in terms of liberal sexual liberation and freedom of expression and catch it embodies basic rights that protect them from oppression and mute.

In the 70th new sound was heard – the female voice is also joining the feminist opposition camp, as demand for gender equality and concern for the status of women. The problem of pornography remained a debate that hadn’t been decided and resolved; the subject of pornography raises difficult issues relevant theoretical and philosophical issues of ethics, morality and arouses many legal disputes.

In the following paper I will review the phenomenon of pornography in the United Kingdom in the context of the definitions, legal aspects and the developments. Furthermore I will analyze the problems that come with the pornography, the harm and the influence that it has on the children and youth.

The main argument of this paper is the use of the freedom of expression to protect pornography.

Other not less important argument in this paper deals with the question “whether the society does enough to protect young children and the next generation from the harms of pornography?”

And eventually I will conclude the topic by including some suggestions for the future.


  1. Defining Pornography

One of the main problem with the pornography is the fact that it is not defined in a clear definitions that can refer to each person individually. According to the online vocabulary the pornography is defined as “The explicit depiction or exhibition of sexual activity in literature, films or photography that is intended to stimulate erotic, rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings”.

Any material such as pictures, videos, CD’s, books or even words that are sexually explicit qualifies as Pornography. The definition explains the meaning of the pornography by saying that pornography involves more physical feelings rather then the emotion feelings, but the definition is not explaining the meaning of the term “Sexually explicit”. That’s when the definition problem plays the key role, how can we define what sexually explicit is when each person sees and understand things differently based on their culture, religion and personal preferences and morals, in certain countries showing woman’s uncovered ankles is considered as sexual explicit while in most of the modern western countries bare ankles, arms or even belly is not considered as anything unusual, however even in modern society some materials still count as sexually explicit such as representation of sexual acts in a written or visual way and a demonstration of very intimate exposed body parts such as the genitalia . The contradiction here is that an important question can be a raised “Does medical book considered as pornography?” based on the fact that Medical books contain demonstration of exposed genitalia pictures. The answer is that anatomy medical books are not viewed as pornography because of its purpose, the purpose of the anatomy book is to educate and give necessary information to the medical student it does not involve entertainment or stimulation of the viewer. According to the Etymology (Study that deals with the history of the words and how their form and meaning have changed over the centuries) the history of the word “Pornography” starts in 1857, and is translated as “(“description of prostitutes”) from French “pornographie” and from Greek “pornographos” “(one) writing of prostitutes,” from porne “prostitute,” originally “bought, purchased” (with an original notion, probably of “female slave sold for prostitution;” related to pernanai “to sell,” from PIE root per- “to traffic in, to sell,” cf. L. pretium “price”) + graphein “to write.” Originally used of classical art and writing; application to modern examples began 1880s. Main modern meaning “salacious writing or pictures” represents a slight shift from the etymology, though classical depictions of prostitution usually had this quality”

The Greeks were writing and painting such frescos on the walls of their brothels in order to advertise the homes were women sold their “love” to Greeks for money.

As it was mentioned earlier it is a difficult task to define Pornography legally and morally as an individual due to the fact that most people can not distinguish the difference between Pornography and Erotica, it is very common to consider that Erotica is a “liter” and more censored version of Pornography. According to the Etymology the meaning of the word Erotic appears in 1621, and can be translated from the Greek word “Eroticos” as “sexual love”. If to compare the meanings and the definitions of the words Pornography and Erotica it is quite clear that Erotica is explained as something more pure and emotional rather when pornography is shown as something more physical and dirty. But mostly the term Erotica or Erotic is usually used my the artists and the art industry itself, furthermore artists after creating piece of art that include nudity or uncensored words that describe sexuality justify their work by saying that their piece of art is an Erotic rather then Pornographic due to the fact that the art represents something meaningful and has a point or a story to tell, it was created as a thought and it is not made in order to sexually stimulate the viewer. But again it is all in the eyes of the viewer to decide whether it is erotic or pornographic display that they see.

In the case of Jacob Ellis v. Ohio, 1964 U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said

“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [hard-core pornography]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

The words “But I know it when I see it” reinforce the point that it is up to the individual to decide whether it is pornography or not.

  1. The 21st Century Concerns

Through the history of democracy freedom of expression and preoccupation always won the argument, the only time when it really straggled was when the debate was about the issue with the Pornography.

The discussion over the engagement to permit the pornography takes place in countries among the most active broad issues in the field. From preoccupation with the limits of freedom of expression, freedom of religious and belief or alternatively, the separation between religion and state, questions about women’s equal rights feminism, and more.

Pornography, then, surprisingly, is deeply connected with it being a democracy.

All these discussions about democracy are related and constitute an essential part of any such system.

Democracy, if it wants to survive, requires providing an extensive freedom of expression also things that the community may not like to see, and allow its members to practice them and choose for them selves as long as it is not violates the rights of the others.

Pornography also touches on gender, the country’s morality, crime, constitution and relations between the sexes.

Regardless of the major issues and impacts that pornography has on children and women it is impossible and incorrect to prohibit pornography the answer is to restrict it to the levels where young children are protected and have no access to it, while the adults are free to have an access to pornography as long as it is not harming others.

The only time when Pornography must be prohibit and banned is in the case of a child pornography and violent pornography. For the reasons that children are not able to protect them selves that’s our duty as an adults to make sure children are away from those industries furthermore violent sex must be prohibit due to its nature. Adults that watch violent and extreme pornography are influenced by them and start to behave similarly. True it is not the video that makes a person to develop their personality and behavior, person is developed by their nature and nurture but those videos have an influence that might change one’s views and believes by believing and accepting the porn as real. And the best argument for it is the example of advertising if images, videos and books are not influencing people then why people use advertisement? People are captured by the images and the human brain receives tons of images and information even when the person is not trying to obtain them.

The main concern in the 21st century is the improvement and the development in the technology, the importance of the internet is major. People and most curtain children enjoy the virtual life due to the fact that internet is a free world where one can “slide” from one world to another as an anonymous. There is no need to prove your identity and your age. And those places on the web that do require identity prove such as the age confirmation it is very easy to lie or give false information and there is no way to check the reality of the one.

The law protects the children and young people under the age of 18 in the real world by prohibiting the expose of the children to pornography and the prohibition to sell and provide pornographic materials to under aged young people and children. The law considers that a child would not be able to hide their age because those that sell the pornographic materials must check some ID that will prove their age. But that protection is not working on the virtual world at all.

On the internet anyone and anytime can access pornographic materials such as videos and images for free and there is no need to provide any ID or proof of the real age of the viewer. Those websites that require providing an age by registering and providing the date of birth it is extremely simple to fool by typing a year of birth that is under the year of 1991.

The problem in 21st century is the fact that the freedom of expression and speech is very important and can not be changed even if it means to protect our children from been exposed to Pornography. By prohibiting Pornography the rights of the creator and the consumer of the porn are violated, for the creator of porn because it is freedom of expressions, freedom of speech while for the consumer it is the right to enjoy the information or in the case of pornography materials. Yes if can be changed by arguing that children are more important then the right to create pornography but the problem here is not prohibition of pornography it’s the issue with the later circumstances that will follow the prohibition. In that can other people can try ban, limit or control other ways of freedom of speech and expression. One exception will lead to other exceptions and furthermore the freedom of the speech will be under the danger.

For example in China the government decided to fight with pornography by banning and prohibiting Pornography totally including virtual pornography as well. All the major internet search bars such as Google yahoo and local Chinese tudou and beidu are blocked when ever users try to search for porn/pornography/sex. Not only are those, users that try to search those materials automatically appearing in the list of people that need to be under control. It might be a good idea to do so in a case of child pornography, in that way it would be easier to catch pedophiles but to block all the pornographic materials is not a correct way and to be honest impossible hackers can re open those websites secretly without any problems. It is a human nature to be curios and be interested in what is considered to be “forbidden” by restricting and prohibiting pornography materials the Chinese government is rising the curiosity of the youth to find out what is banned and why. Furthermore it can affect the youth in a bad way, some young people are shy and cannot consult with a doctor regards sex therefore they try to find out the information online. By blocking all the information regards sex the youth might not know the risk that it has (Chinese government is blocking not only pornography websites but any website or materials that include or describe sex and sexuality).

Focus Of The Paper

The paper will discuss and analyze a very interesting and important question of the Legal regulation of the Pornography in the 21st century in the United Kingdom. The question of the pornography is a complicated subject that has a major influence on the people.

The paper is divided into chapters and each chapter deals with an individual subject or an issue that comes with the terms of the pornography.

Introduction: the introduction to the subject of the pornography has three sections.

  • First section deals with the definitions of the term pornography and the etymological definition of the word.

  • Second section deals with the issues that occur with the pornography in the 21st century such as the freedom of speech and the first amendment that protects the pornography from been banned.

  • Third section explains the focus of the paper by the chapters.

The regulation of the pornography is divided into four sections.

  • First section deals with the origins of the pornography with the historical evidence of the first pornographic illustrations, and the evolution of the pornography through the centuries with some famous pieces of art and literature that are defined as pornography. Not to be confused chapter two, section one deals with the background of the pornography itself and not the definition and meaning of the term “pornography” as it is in the first chapter, section one.

  • Section two: The evolution of the pornography in the United Kingdom explains the influence and the development that lead pornography into United Kingdom, and illustrates the development of the pornography industry in the United Kingdom.

  • Section three deals with the legal regulation of Pornography in United Kingdom, through the history.

  • At last section four discusses the obscene publication act 1959, the power of the act and the bars that it created. Furthermore the section deals with the changes in the pornography industry and the legislations in the second half of the 20th century.

The Danger Of The Pornography Is Divided Into Two Sections That Deal With The Harm Of The Pornography And The Influence It Has On The People.


  • Section one deal with the issue of the children and pornography, the section discusses the danger and the influence that pornography has on the children, how the law protects the children from the pornography on the internet and in the everyday life.

  • Section two deals with the topic of women and the pornography, how the pornography changed the views on women and the behavior of the men towards them, furthermore the section deals with the views of the feminists and the psychological studies that deal with the affect of the pornography on the violence towards women.

  • Pornography and the morality is divided into two sections

    • Section one deals with the changes that pornography brought into our lives, and the important problem that most of the countries deal with, the lost of the cultural and the traditional values influenced by the pornography.

    • Section two of this chapter deals with the question of the pornography and the morality, the right of the one to be protected from been exposed to the pornographic materials, and furthermore how the religion deals with the rapid spread of the pornography industry.

    criticism and suggestions is divided into two sections.

    • Section one deals with the criticism of the law towards pornography, the first amendment and the freedom of the speech that are used as a protective umbrella for the producers and the people that create the pornography industry and how the law protect one’s right by limiting other persons rights.

    • Last section of the chapter four deals with the proposals and suggestions that can and need to be done in order to protect the children from been exposed to the pornographic materials and to put a balance between freedom of speech and the pornography that is harmful, and finally to try to find a solution that will increase the protection from the pornography rather then to simply try to ban it.

    Pornography law cases and famous scandals

    • This section illustrates the famous law cases and scandals that involved the topic of pornography in the United Kingdome and the rest of the world that influenced and lead to new legal terms.

    Conclusion The conclusion of the paper.

    The Regulation Of Pornography

    The Origins Of Pornography

    Pornography has its own story as well it turns out that the history of the Pornography is almost like a long history of mankind. The first pornography images actually appeared before the modern era, researchers discovered rock paintings demonstrating coitus and hunting between ancient people. It is slightly inaccurate to define those Petroglyphs as pornography based on the fact that the purpose of drawing those images is unknown. Human sexuality always documented throughout history, beginning with nude pictures on vases in Greece and Rome, where naked men and women were documented as an expression of beauty and admiration.

    In an ancient India scholar named Vatsyayana created the first Sanskrit text known as the “Kama Sutra” that explains the rules and manuals of sex, love and marriage. The Kama Sutra includes very detailed sexual intercourse images and explanations, Kama Sutra is the first and the most known pornographic text book, and furthermore Vatsyayana feared that the papers would disappear with time and decide to decorate the temples of Kajuharo with pornographic images of people having sex.

    With the beginning of the Christianity and the rise to the power, and with the fall of the Roman Empire, sex and sexuality started to be referenced variously.

    Species currently perceived as a source of sin, the cause that brought the expulsion of the first man from Eden.

    This moral concept came to serve as an alternative to the Roman liberated morality.

    In fact, with the change of human perception good creature has become a potential sinner, and that changed the attitude towards sex and it became anathema.

    St. Augustine’s writings reference woman and sex as the most negative kind.

    Augustine divides people into two – the God-loving minority vast majority – that love meat. People are uncontrollable with lust, especially when it comes to sex. Thus medieval Christianity tries literally to delete sex and sexuality. Sexuality will be used for breeding, and this only to prevent the extinction of the human kind. When sexuality becomes illegal the pornography began to fill in the space by creating rough sex charts and nudity illustrations.

    Throughout the middle Ages pornography was perceived as sexual sin, was addressed by the institutions accordingly.

    Sex ratio has not changed throughout this period until the Renaissance, which presented the female body as an expression of divine beauty with the paintings of many contemporary artists.

    Nudity and sex were further accepted as something artistic and beautiful rather then something sinful as it was earlier.

    It all changed during the days of Queen Victoria in Britain, which issued a number of laws prohibiting sexual publications. Ironically under this prohibition actually was published the most erotic newspaper written during that time called “The Pearl”, the pearl was an erotic newspaper that included numerous erotic stories and poems and was published in underground.

    Nudity and sexuality bursting again with the invention of the cinema, two years after the invention first time woman was undressed on the movie screens of French film Le BAIN from 1896. Early 20th century sexuality wins legitimacy and continues until the mid-thirties, when the American Film Committee takes laws and regulations that prohibit sexuality and nudity on the screen.

    But again, when sexuality is outlawed and prohibited it finds a way to get back in with some surprising ways.

    These constraints and prohibitions forced many screenwriters to come up with various ways of allusions to sex; known among them is the line: “Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

    With the beginning of the sixties sexual revolution begins in the United States. This brings the bloom of magazines such as Playboy, first published in – 1953 was the first men’s magazine. Penthouse came out second after the Playboy in 1969, and the Hustler that surged into the world in1974. The last one reached the courts due to its contents, and the U.S. Supreme Court acquitted the magazine from its opponents claim with the right to the freedom of expression and preoccupation.

    Sexuality is among at last, and institutional recognition opens the legitimacy it has never won before.

    In the 20th century the pornography era grow and put its stamp in the business industry becoming part of normal modern life, with the inventions of the technology such as VCR and later on DVD In the 90th including the Internet breakthrough making pornography available to the home computers and a telephone lines it become so easy for a viewer to watch Pornography online. the access to pornography become easier and more private and that factor increase the demand for pornographic materials. It is very interesting how fast the civilization showed a progress, in 19th century people who were caught spreading pornography were brought to the court and had to pay fines. While today in the 21st century pornography is legalized almost in all countries with exception of Muslim states, India and China.

    The Evolution Of The Pornography In United Kingdom

    In addition to the legal definition, pornography was also at the centre of debates on elite and mass culture, and on the legitimacy of modernist literature, especially in interwar Britain. The nature of this debate evidently had its origins in the question of cultural authority and artistic value which preoccupied rational elites between the wars, and produced the disdainful Leavisite attitudes towards the masses catalogued by John Carey and D. L. LeMahieu. Though, this was not only а debate about culture.

    For sex reformers, it was also about new social practices. Before and after 1945, sex radicals not merely decried the form of mass culture, but also attacked а variety of practices of commercial leisure that were playing а constitutive role in the making of modern heterosexuality. These practices emerged from а culture of heterosexual courtship which was increasingly based on public spaces and commercial leisure.

    As the family was supplanted by commercial and public space as а site for courtship, new rules, practices and pathologies were associated with these spaces of leisure.

    New rituals such as ‘dating’, pre-marital sex in the form of petting, the use of public and semi-public spaces like dance halls and parks as an arena for courtship, and а vibrant and expanding obscene print culture, all formed part of а complex of practices in opposition to which new standards of sexual knowledge and health were defined. For sex reformers, the principal problem with these new forms of expression was that they encouraged forms of sexuality that were inherently unsatisfiable.

    Sexually titillating material of all kinds in cinema, theatre, print culture and in social practices such as dating or petting threatened to arouse the sexual instincts outside а moral or ethical context.

    For conservatives, the threat posed by obscenity resulted from the lack of the former, for sex reformers, the latter. The result was а culture which was assumed to produce forms of sexual expression such as petting, homosexuality, masturbation or fantasy which were at best emotionally detached and at worst were foreign to the true nature of the sexual impulse. The ignorant sensuality of the masses and the passivity of their new recreations was one of the cliche´s of interwar cultural debate.

    However, а characteristic attribute of sex radicalism was the conviction that such ignorance was not unavoidably the fault of the masses themselves, but resulted principally from British habits of suppression. The argument put so ferociously by D. H. Lawrence, that censorship eroticized confidentiality, and thereby distorted the sexual impulse, was widely adopted. Edward Charles, author of an investigation into the nature of the sexual desire, was only one author to put Lawrence’s case. He described а fixation on the veil of secrecy which was ‘very like fetishism’ and which ‘obsesses probably 70 per cent of the population’. As а result, an ‘unsatisfiable lasciviousness’ characterized the treatment of sex in accepted culture, while most people were satisfied to ‘spiritually masturbate before the knees of chorus girls or the walnut-stain sun-tan of the athletic-looking gigolo’.

    Part of the antidote to mass taste was the spread of expertise. George Bernard Shaw, stating ‘The need for expert opinion in sexual reform’ to the World League for Sexual Reform Congress in 1929, observed that the masses were intrinsically conservative and unable of self-realization. Brought up as they were in clouds of secrecy, ‘the mass of people . . . have no idea of liberty in this direction’. On the contrary, he continued, they were ‘the most ferocious opponents of it’. Democracy, in which this inert mass ruled, tended only to reinforce this tendency.

    Arguing along similar lines, the progressive journal Plan stated in 1935 that sex education must ‘eradicate the obscurantist view of sex’ through ‘the premeditated adoption of а scale of values based upon reason and knowledge as distinct from superstition’. This was to be done through the institution of networks of expertise, through the provision of ‘easily available sources of information (e.g. public clinics, lectures, books) upon sexual questions’. In spite of this indistinctness, it was usually accepted that controlling the trade in such ‘low’ material was both necessary and desirable. The predicament was that the current law was not precise enough.

    The extraction of the Well of Loneliness in 1928 focused the debate on the breakdown of the law to differentiate between ‘frank’ pornography and art. But in the wake of the trial, many supporters of Radclyffe Hall and D. H. Lawrence were happy to argue that ‘actual’ pornography should be appropriately policed. The publisher Eric Partridge was not the first to conclude, following the case, that the Obscene Publications Act permitted ‘genuine literature to be confused with worthless pornography’. Partridge, whose firm published Norah James’s Great War novel Sleeveless Errand which was banned in 1931, wrote that although literary censorship was foolish, ‘Few would care to countenance the importation of books and pictures so filthily pornographic that they horrify and nauseate.’

    Equally those in literary circles, like the journalist Kingsley Martin, who was also а member of the FPSI (foundation for public service interpreting) board, argued: ‘Most people agree that it is а good thing to maintain а hold over the vendors of books and postcards whose only object is to excite passion.

    Selling Pornography, Selling Science

    Historians of the twentieth century have tended to think of the market in pornography as furtive, largely invisible and devoid of the ‘real’ erotic content and photographic detail that has defined contemporary culture. However, networks did exist which brought pornography directly and indiscriminately into the middle-class home via the postal service.

    The sale of erotic postcards and literary classics seems to have functioned in two ways. Customers were either approached by speculative mail shots or were reached through the careful compilation and sharing of names by distributors.

    By the 1930s, the other principal outlets for pornography were the bookshops in most major cities. Some pornography was also distributed by legitimate companies. The problem posed by this market for sex reformers was not just that canonical works of sexology, but also their own books, often circulated along the same networks. Not only did the nature of the Obscene Publications Act make this situation uniquely problematic, but some of the obscene genres which emerged at this time, such as pulp magazines, set themselves up as more digestible, accessible and successful rivals of more serious sex reform and education. It was, he argued, ‘perfectly legitimate for а reader to respond to writing which may be classified under the category of erotic realism’.

    Since it was ‘entirely legitimate’ for any reader to be interested in such things, it was ‘equally healthy and legitimate for him to derive instruction and enlightenment from such works – whether they be fiction, poetry, or strictly scientific studies’. There was, though, an equality of value between these media because now, more than ever, ‘the man in the street may well, in fact, derive more enlightenment from an erotic novel than from а medical treatise.’ Yet for sellers, buyers and advertisers of these different genres, such equivalence had always been obvious, and had made up а vital element of the sexual life world of individual readers. А body of sexual knowledge, which linked therapeutics and instruction with а new ethos of lifestyle pornography, was formed therefore partly via the protracted but ultimately enthusiastic compromise of expert opinion with consumerism.

    The Legal Regulation Of Pornography In United Kingdom

    Before the 1960s, sex education was conceived by sex reformers to be а problematic business of ‘reforming’ an inadequate and possibly perverse public. For these reformers, the problem of sexuality in mass society was typified by the conjunction of two things: first, by а generalized and pervasive sexualized aesthetic, which was held by many intellectuals before and after 1945 to epitomize the incitements and repressions of popular culture; and second, by pornography and other obscene material. Although it has

    Been attempted, defining obscenity and pornography is impossible unless the protean nature of the terms is addressed.

    As а number of writers has demonstrated, the obscene is an empty category, usually legal and cultural, which can include anything and is not necessarily defined by its sexual content.

    Cultural battles to secure the meaning of pornography and obscenity are therefore inherent in the very formation of the terms as legal and cultural categories, and are best seen as varied attempts to establish а particular brand of artistic or moral authority.

    As Walter Kendrick has pointed out, the obs

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