The Adam Smith Institute has just released a new paper by Nicholas Cowen of Kings College London: Nothing to Hide: The case against the ban on extreme pornography. In it, Cowen makes a robust case against the current prohibition on acts that are legal to perform–and yet not to record–show it to be expensive, dangerous, and illiberal.
The executive summary of the paper reads:
- The ban on possession of extreme pornography was introduced in 2009 and extended in 2015. The law, as drafted, bans depictions of some sex acts that can be conducted safely and consensually between adults, with a specific risk of prosecution posed to LGBT minorities.
- The Crown Prosecution Service reports more than a thousand offences prosecuted each year, implying significant enforcement costs that could be deployed effectively elsewhere.
- A significant minority of the British population enjoy sexually aggressive fantasy scenarios but do not pose a specific risk of committing violent or sexual offences.
- Access to pornography has increased dramatically in recent years, yet social harms imputed to pornography (especially violence against women) have reduced moderately but significantly.
- While some survey evidence claims a correlation between individual use of pornography and sexual aggression, econometric evidence suggests this is not a causal relationship and that, if anything, increased access to pornography can reduce measurable social harms.
- The ban itself represents a potential risk to political integrity. Like the ban on homosexuality in much of the 20th century, prohibitions on private sexual conduct can be used to silence, blackmail and corrupt individuals in positions of authority and responsibility.
- There are better policies for reducing violence against women in the dimensions of criminal justice, education and economic reform.
- The prevailing free speech doctrine in the United States shows that it is realistically possible to simultaneously tackle damaging forms of expression and maintain strong protections for innocuous forms.
…Read the full paper Nothing to Hide briefing paper [pdf] from adamsmith-private.squarespace.com