I should start by admitting that I don't pay for porn. I know - less people actually paying for porn pushes down wages for the people both in front of and behind the cameras, and isn't actually very ethical when you think about it. But this is how most people accessing online porn behave nowadays, in much the same way that sales of music singles are in decline and hey - anyone remember the last time they bought an actual newspaper?
The rise and rise of various 'tube' sites - RedTube, XTube, LubeTube, or the bizarrely named 'XHamster' - means that people aren't carefully sourcing the porn they watch based on the studios, directors or performers whose work they admire. instead they're making a choice based on that week's most watched, top rated or the most recent uploads. And often these videos aren't uploaded with their original titles, but rather a rough description of whatever happens in each scene. Often with questionable grammar. A quick look at today's front page on one site offers the following:
"Acrobatic sex big tits cum in mouth"
"Hot brunette gets sensual fuck"
"xxx outdoors orgy"
"From massage to a three-way"
"Big dick for lucky ladies"
"juicy nymph copulated hard in wow movie"
"Russian incest 1, brother rape sister"
It's immediately clear that the last one might qualify as "rape porn". The clue being in the title.
The video starts with a man in a bed and a woman sat on a chair reading a magazine. I don't know what they're saying as it's in Russian, but it goes on to show a simulated rape scene. It's unpleasant throughout, but the acting is in no way convincing.
The video has over a thousand views and a 99% positive rating.
I found it horrible to watch, and I didn't watch the whole thing. But in much the same way I found a particular scene from The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover quite a traumatic experience. (The scene I'm referring to is one in which a character is force-fed the pages of a book by pushing them down his throat with a wooden spoon.) Both scenes were clearly performed by actors, but knowing this doesn't change the visceral reactions we can feel when confronted with certain images.
Recently the government announced that possession of "rape porn" will become a criminal offence and those found guilty could face up to three years in jail. The definition of "possession" will be redefined to mean that at some point you watched something in your web browser. Even if you only watched it for a second. Or if you clicked it by mistake.
So here's why even if you think rape porn is awful and wrong you should think twice about supporting such a move: there is loads of poorly labelled porn out there. The idea of watching a simulated rape scene is not actually something that appeals to me, but this doesn't mean that over the years whilst looking at porn I haven't found myself clicking on the odd simulated rape scene.
I'm also not turned on by watersports or fisting, but I've still managed to accidentally click on a few videos with these in. (Potential idea for a new site - NoWaterSportsOrFistingAllowedTube.)
Enthusiastic consent should be an important thing when it comes to your actual sex life, but trying to apply the same standards to a scene where actors are playing characters doesn't make sense. To use an example from something I did actually choose to watch - what about this Ancient Egypt themed scene, in which the pharaoh chooses a new slave to be his concubine. Is it irrelevant that the concubines look pretty happy with this arrangement? If they're just slaves how can this be a free choice entered into willingly?
But all of this seems a bit meaningless when you consider the fact that the actual location they're filming in is probably a studio in California and the year, judging from the quality of the film, is probably some point in the 1980s. Or 70s.
And what defines whether or not something is porn? I've never watched an episode of Game of Thrones but this hasn't stopped me hearing people discuss all of the supposedly graphic rape scenes it features. Or what if you've got a book of Greek myths and legends? Or some Shakespeare? What this move will do is invite the state back into your bedroom. Or wherever it is you keep your computer.
And the state is already trying hard enough to police what porn people are accessing. Take this story from earlier this month: