Is Porn Hate speech?

public porn
Statue at Ankerbrua, Oslo. Photo: Alex Utopium 2019

Sometime I envy Americans that have a proper constitution, in all its imperfectness it still works like a shield in many respects when things go to court. That shield might have taken a few punches since its inception, but it is by far better than the Swedish constitution: Especially when it comes to protecting speech. In Sweden, we have a special box on our law-shelf, labeled “Hate Speech”, that people like to put tendencies they don’t like into and whish things away (or at least punish ‘evildoers’).  This is a reply to an opinion piece by Elin Gustafsson, Social Democratic commissioner, where she argues that Porn should be considered hate speech against women.

“The Social Democratic women will never accept womens rights being dismantled. We are proud how far Sweden has come, but the political landscape of today clearly show that we can take no victories for granted. (Rights) have to constantly be defended and get re-won.” – Elin Gustafsson

When you have a very one-dimensional view of the world and think that the only way to solve problems is through legislation and making things forbidden it is extremely easy to paint yourself into a corner. That corner is very hard to tangle yourself out of once you figured out that you need to go somewhere else.

In the short opinion piece, Gustafsson proposes to make violence against women, specifically, extra-illegal and that porn should be considered hate speech against women and its not clear what that even means what Gustafsson’s intentions are beyond that, so I have to construct a thesis out of what I know.

The first thing that comes to mind is that it is very hard to draw the line between porn, erotica, art and so forth. I’m not entirely sure I’m comfortable with giving lawmakers and their judges the power to separate between those categories and then find someone guilty of doing the wrong, state-forbidden expression. How many resources would be needed to be burned to figure it out? It seems absurd to surrender the artistic interpretation to one monopolistic instance in society and hope it spits out the correct answer. Every time.

If you are found guilty of Hate Speech in a Swedish court you can get fined or jailed. One of the most famous cases in recent years was a 72-year old woman writing negative comments on Facebook, earning her a 4000 Swedish Kronor fine. So with this fact in hand, we find that Hate Speech is a criminal act – So who is getting the court-room heat in the case of porn? A provider of a link on social media? If someone is showing someone else pornography, are they hate speaking, so to speak? Is the producer at fault for setting sexual content out into the wild? If you view it at home, alone, does it still count? I’m wrestling with the “who is the criminal?” without getting into silly examples and scenarios.

In a country priding itself on its feminism, progressive ideas, and up-standing women, it is very hard to not trample a few toes when you do sweeping generalizations like “All porn is hate-speech”. 46% of Swedish women watch porn, that’s a lot of supposed hate going on. Erika Lust (SFW link), Swedish feminist porn producer and director would probably have a thing or two to say about the proposal and the idea behind it.

I have Erika’s book ‘Good Porn‘ in my bookshelf and it’s a good read for anyone interested in feminism and molding the porn industry from inside it – Plus a really sweet walkthrough of film-history. I should revisit it soon and write a review on it! Maybe I could gift Gustafsson a copy of it so she has some good reading material to look forward to.


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3 comments

  1. In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart had this to say about deciding what pornography was.

    “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.”

    In response, William T. Goldberg had this to say.

    “This simple phrase, embedded in a plurality opinion, carries with it many of the conflicts and inconsistencies that continue to plague American obscenity law…In effect, “I know it when I see it” can still be paraphrased and unpacked as: I know it when I see it, and someone else will know it when they see it, but what they see and what they know may or may not be what I see and what I know, and that’s okay.” (http://www.bu.edu/law/journals-archive/bulr/documents/goldberg_000.pdf)

    After 54 years since this court case, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacobellis_v._Ohio), we haven’t made any progress in determining what is ‘porn’. I know what it is and you know what it is, but neither of us can describe it. Further, we probably will not agree with what someone else thinks and so we have to take the tack that Goldberg did–it’s all right if we disagree.

    Hate is an emotion, just like love, compassion, jealousy, envy, and pity. It amuses me to see the contortions that people go through to ascribe hate to an act or a crime to sway public opinion toward imposing a greater penalty on the perpetrator. Every crime has an element of “hate” involved, therefore every crime is a “hate” crime. We’ve gotten to the point where we are (almost) more concerned with what the criminal ‘felt’ than with what he actually did.

    As far as porn goes, do the people who produce, distribute, show, or watch it really hate women? What about the women who participate? Do they hate themselves? How can we tell and what should be the sanction against them if they do? Should we do anything at all? What ever happened to self-control?

    Hate hate…if you can! Everyone else does. I know this to be true, I just can’t prove it.

    Liked by 1 person

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