Digital porn debate – neither heat nor light

I don’t quite know what I think about porn. I don’t think about it much, don’t watch it (What never? No, hardly ever). So what? What I do and don’t do, what I like and don’t like has no moral weighting when we are talking about societal harm.

This is a basic point that I wish the six speakers at tonight’s “debate” on the prevalence of digital porn had absorbed. (‘THIS HOUSE BELIEVES THAT WE SHOULD ACCEPT DIGITAL PORNOGRAPHY AS AN INEVITABLE PART OF OUR CONTEMPORARY EXPERIENCE’) Anecdotes and confessionality might win titters or applause from the audience, but they doesn’t advance the debate, it doesn’t expose people to (m)any ideas and perspectives that they’d not heard before.

A debate might shed more light than heat, or more heat than light. Or, occasionally, as in tonight’s curiously bloodless affair, not much of either.  I walked at the half-way stage, before people started pitching in from the audience, and had a drink with a good and v. smart friend.

I am not sure what I’d have done to sharpen it. I get the impression that the participants had not been in or to many actual debates, with cut and thrust, argument and counter-argument. They barely acknowledged each other’s points (such as they were), and mostly talked past each other.

Nobody laid out, at least that I heard (my attention drifted intermittently via the 6 five minute spiels) about the teleological (greatest benefit for the greatest number sort of thing) versus deontological (thou shalt/not) ways of slicing philosophical and ethical questions.

Nobody (and this is a point my good friend made in the pub afterwards) asked “why is sex any different to whatever else we sell – our time, our creativity, our physical labour”. And if you don’t tackle that one, if you dance around it, you end up with a debate invisibly shaped by Victorian values.

I don’t mind that it was mostly by and about young people (I just about vaguely remember being one of those) and the Effects On Teenagers. But what was quite odd was just how INCREDIBLY heteronormative it was. Not one person talked about porn that didn’t involve both men and women. Very odd.

BTW, am interested in any books that anyone  can recommend about “sex and the internet and ethics”, especially from an intelligent ‘sex-positive’ feminist position (i.e. and one that takes the strongest of the radical abolitionist arguments and deals with them fairly, without ad femininem or straw-womaning).

Update:  Here’s one that goes on the post-Thesis reading list

Virtual Intimacies: Media, Affect and Queer Sociality

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