The Icelandic government is trying to pass a law that will ban online pornography in the country. They are trying to specifically target porn that is “violent” and “hateful.” This isn’t a particularly surprising move from the country that has already outlawed strip clubs and is ranked number 1 in the Global Gender Gap report, meaning that they have the highest rate of gender equality of any nation in the world. They also have the first openly lesbian head of state in the world, Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir. But banning internet pornography is creating a heated debate about censorship and the slippery slope that banning porn could lead to, not to mention the fact that, logistically, it may be an impossible achievement.
“Web filters, blocked addresses and making it a crime to use Icelandic credit cards to access pay-per-view pornography, are among the plans being devised by internet and legal experts,” writes The Guardian. The only reason why this is even a conversation being had is that Iceland has a population of only 322,000 people. In a country with a bigger population it would be logistically impossible and Iceland may be the same. The debate about censorship that this has sparked has made the likelihood of this actually happening quite low but it also raises an interesting debate about pornography.
In Iceland, the average boy is 11 when he is first exposed to internet porn and the kind of porn he’s seeing isn’t your airbrushed Playboy centerfold either. The kinds of porn available to people of all ages these days is more graphic, sometimes more violent and as men become desensitized to hard core porn they may ‘graduate’ to more and more extreme types of porn to fulfill their erotic tastes. There have been studies on both sides of the debate about wether porn is negatively affecting society but those studies are getting harder and harder to conduct as it becomes nearly impossible to find large enough groups of men who haven’t watched porn.
I don’t believe in censorship but I’m glad that Iceland has opened up the debate around pornography, violence, and what we should deem to be acceptable. I hope that, if nothing else, this news from Iceland will get us to think more critically about what we’re watching, how it portrays violence against women, and wether or not it is helping, hurting, or remaining neutral in terms of gender equality.