Rape Porn Ban Comes To UK: Possession Of Images Depicting Simulated Rape To Be Punishable By Jail

on November 18 2013 3:04 PM

Computer U.K. lawmakers are banning the possession of pornographic images that depict simulated rape, but some say the law goes too far.  Reuters

If you download a photo that simulates rape, you could soon go to prison in the U.K.

A new restriction on the possession of rape porn is part of a crackdown by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced this summer that lawmakers wanted to close a “legal loophole” in the law. Currently, possession of rape porn is legal in the U.K., even though publishing and distributing it has already been outlawed. The new restriction, which goes into effect in January, will put England and Wales in line with Scotland, which banned the possession of rape porn in 2008 under its Extreme Pornography legislation. Cameron has argued that images depicting rape normalize sexual violence against women, and that exposure to such images is “poisonous” to young people.

The move follows a June petition letter urging Cameron to close the rape-porn loophole in the U.K.’s Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008. Signed by a coalition of more than 100 women’s groups, child-safety advocates and others, the letter cites the recent high-profile murder conviction of Mark Bridger, who is said to have viewed images of child sex abuse before he abducted and killed 5-year-old April Jones. The letter goes on to mention a report from the British Children’s Commissioner suggesting a link between access to pornography and harmful attitudes and behavior toward women and girls.

Britain’s legislation on extreme pornography already bans the possession of images that depict bestiality, necrophilia or life-threatening injury. To not have included images depicting rape is a “serious omission,” according to the group Rape Crisis South London.

Not everyone thinks that banning the images are the right approach, however. Writing in the Independent in July, the feminist writer Zoe Stavri argued that the new restriction will only serve to push rape porn underground, further away from the prying eyes of regulators seeking to monitor and enforce safety parameters among pornography practitioners. She noted that consensual images of simulated rape, part of the BDSM umbrella, are categorically different than images depicting real-life instances of sexual violence.

“The key difference between porn depicting simulated rape and images and film depicting a real rape is the consent of all parties involved. It is absolutely crucial, when having this conversation that we bear this in mind, as ignoring the consent of people involved in sex is traditionally the domain of the rapist or abuser. Consent is, after all, the ultimate weapon in the fight against rape culture.”

Critics of tougher restrictions on pornography say there is little evidence that porn causes social harm, and in fact, some say just the opposite. In his study “Porn Up, Rape Down,” the Northwestern Law School researcher Anthony D’Amato pointed to a correlation between an increased access to pornography and a decrease in rape victimization rates. Writing for Psychology Today in 2009, Michael Castleman noted that a whole host of social ills have declined since the arrival of Internet porn, including teenage sex, divorce and “sexual irresponsiblility” (including rates of abortion and sexually transmited infections).

As part of the U.K.’s crackdown on pornography, British officials are expected to announce Monday a national database that will track and label illegal images, the Metro newspaper reported. Violation of the new rape-porn restriction carries a jail term of up to three years.

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