Archive for April 12th, 2013

This essay first appeared on Cliterati on March 17th; I have modified it slightly for time references and to fit the format of this blog.

A month ago today, the European Parliament passed a call for continent-wide censorship of sexual content, justified by a view of women more at home in Victorian thought than in the second decade of the 21st century.  Yes, I know you heard that the measure was defeated, but that’s because the Fourth Estate no longer bothers to perform the function so respected by 18th-century thinkers that they considered freedom of the press vital to liberty: namely, the task of keeping governments honest by publicly reporting on their sneaky doings.  The truth is that the EP overwhelmingly (368-159) enacted a resolution calling for women to be “protected” by our masters from words and images which could shatter our delicate little psyches, turning us into tragic, fallen, “sexualized” victims of evil men.  Now, this isn’t cause for panic (not yet, anyway); as Wired explains, European resolutions are not laws:

This kind of proposal…isn’t a binding resolution…it’s simply the European Parliament signalling that it agrees with the actions proposed by the lead author…of the report — in this case, Dutch MEP Kartika Liotard…these kinds of endorsements…are…taken by the European Commission as an indication of the opinion of the Parliament, and it then drafts bills accordingly.  If the Commission wants to introduce measures such as those found in the resolution, it’ll have a mandate for them…then the draft bill goes back to the Parliament to vote on, and if it passes then, it becomes a legally binding directive for EU member states to follow.Kartika Liotard

It’s hard to say exactly what the chances of the Commission acting on such a resolution are, because it varies from session to session; though the Parliament tends to rubber-stamp whatever resolutions come before it (passing 89% of them since 2009), the Commission often functionally ignores them.  For example, this is the second time a call for Protecting the Weaker Sex from Dirty Pictures and Words has passed this way:

…in 1997 the Parliament passed the “Resolution on Discrimination Against Women in Advertising” – which, while…less comprehensive than the latest report, does contain a clause that “calls for statutory measures to prevent any form of pornography in the media and in advertising and for a ban on advertising for pornographic products and sex tourism”…that’s almost exactly the same wording as in the latest report is because…it explicitly “calls on the EU and its Member States to take concrete action on its resolution of 16 September 1997″…it just updates it with extra clauses that take the web into account…

And thereby hangs the tale.  Though many reporters announced that the call for censorship had been rejected, the truth (as explained by CNET) is that it was simply hidden more effectively:

…[The] porn-blocking proposals…were buried within a report titled “Eliminating Gender Stereotypes in the EU”…Amendments …removed certain explanatory text, but not the references to the [1997] resolution…which called for a blanket ban on pornography…While the explanation was removed, the effect was not, according to Swedish MEP for the Pirate Party Rick Falkvinge…the 1997 resolution remains referenced, and therefore the call to ban “all forms of pornography in the media” remains intact.  Falkvinge said that striking out this text “has no other effect than deliberately obscuring the purpose of the new report”…to make matters worse, when a handful of MEPs called on their citizens to e-mail their representatives in protest, the parliament’s own IT department  began to block these e-mails en masse from arriving in politicians’ inboxes…

Falkvinge and EngstromFurthermore, as reported in The Telegraph, “controversial proposals calling for the creation of regulators with the power to police the depiction of women in media were voted through.  MEPs voted for the establishment of ‘independent regulation bodies with the aim of controlling the media and advertising industry and a mandate to impose effective sanctions on companies and individuals promoting the sexualisation of girls’.”  And in order to circumvent legal safeguards against censorship, the resolution tries to pass the dirty job off on the private companies who control most modern communication:

…Christian Engström…deputy leader of the Swedish Pirate Party… [wrote on his blog] “This is quite clearly yet another attempt to get the internet service providers to start policing what citizens do on the internet, not by legislation, but by ‘self-regulation’.  This is something we have seen before in a number of different proposals, and which is one of the big threats against information freedom in our society.”  Engström worries that the resolution would refer just as much to naked pictures that people send each other as professional pornography, as well as any kind of pornography included in private communications via email or social networks — “an attempt to circumvent the article on information freedom in the European Convention of Human Rights”…

Though everyone commenting on the affair, politician and journalist alike, hasten to laud the aims of the resolution as commendable, they are actually anything but; as I pointed out above, they are rooted in the fallacious notion that women are intrinsically fragile, childlike beings who can be somehow harmed by words and pictures deemed by our “protectors” to contain sexual content, and that sexuality, rather than being a natural function of our bodies and minds, is something imposed on us from without via “sexualization”.  Those who believe in this ill-defined concept seems to imagine that if it weren’t for equally ill-defined bogeymen like “the Media” and “Patriarchy” subjecting girls to “sexualization” (often but not always qualified with the adjective “premature”), we would all grow up in a blissful, chaste state and never, ever, ever be interested in dirty, nasty sex…and that this would be a good thing.

China dollI’m sure most of my readers would disagree on both counts.  I didn’t need “sexualized images” to inspire fantasies and behavior I now recognize as sexual at an extremely young age, and I’m not remotely unusual in that regard.  Sexuality is not a social evil imposed on innocents from without, but a natural development of biological organisms driven from within by instinct, brain architecture and (starting as young as 10 for some) hormones.  I doubt many of y’all think of sexuality as an evil, or adult websites as something they need to be “protected” from by the diktats of self-appointed, self-important censors.  Women need to start speaking out against those who view us as china dolls to be protected from our own inherent weaknesses by being shut away from the world in glass cases.

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