Monday, 9 July 2007

Dangerous censorship

I can't say that this kind of religious art is really my bag. But if you are a fan of Botucelli's Saint Sebastian, you'd better hurry up and make the most of it in all it's homo-erotic, sado-masochistic glory.

Why? Because if the latest proposed anti-pornography Bill goes through you could (arguably) be arrested for downloading the image here. After all, there is no denying that, under the language of the Bill, it falls into the category of ‘images of acts that appear to be life threatening or are likely to result in serious, disabling injury’.

By the way it wouldn't get Botucelli of the hook if he had stuck on a disclaimer to say that no models were injured in the making of this painting or that the model has consented to being shot or depicted as being shot. You see apparently it's the contents of the image that matters.

Of course this is 'art'. But one man's art is another man's porn with a massive grey area in-between into which has fallen at various times Lady Chatterly's Lover and the photography of Robert Mappleforth.

I'm not entirely naive - I have no doubt that there is all sort of truly nasty shit out there which cannot by any description be deemed to be 'art'; although I'd be very cautious to say where those boundaries are. But then the nasty shit portrays activities like child abuse or non-consensual sex which are already illegal anyway. And if what is portrayed in the images is actually happening, then we don't need any new laws to prosecute the people who make these images.

Which is my point, as soon as we start trying to legislate against images of things, rather than the things themselves, we are on a slippery slope. At best there is a danger of ending up looking pretty silly and small minded. At worst, we end up with a state-imposed puritanism.

In other words: I think if
Botucelli actually strapped some bloke to a tree and shot arrows at him, then he probably deserved to be nicked for attempted murder or GBH at least. But of course he didn't; he just summoned the rather bizzare image out of his imagination. And I don't really feel justified in criminalising him because his imagination doesn't coincide with my taste.

Many on the Left, influenced by some strands of Feminism, support this kind of legislation; I understand why but I'm afraid they are wrong. If we're going to combat the exploitation of women in the sex industry, we'd be better off looking at the largely hidden human trafficking of modern-day slaves from the poorest parts of Eastern Europe.

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