Birmingham Salon

Can Pornography Ever Be Liberating?

Thursday 22nd September, 7.30pm at The Victoria, John Bright Street, Birmingham B1 1BN

Pornography is one of the visual expressions of sex and sexuality.  Among the oldest surviving examples of erotic depictions are Palaeolithic cave paintings and carvings, which suggests that that looking at pictures of naked bodies is an ancient habit.

In modern times, though, there is widespread concern that communication technologies have led to the unhealthy and excessive proliferation of pornography. Does the ability to access explicit sexual images from our smartphones represent sexual liberation or corruption?

A massive growth in the production of pornography has prompted producers and performers to push the boundaries of their work in order maintain profits and stay ahead in a very busy market.  It is possible to argue that that this gives us more choice and information about sexual behaviour, but are these vivid images also confusing and desensitising? Young men say they are being traumatised by violent sexual imagery, and some young people are reported to be exposed to pornography before their first kiss.  How do we balance our responsibility to protect children and teenagers with the liberty to engage with pornography without resorting to hypocrisy?

Some feminists and seek to ban all pornography on the grounds that it leads to the objectification of women and rape.  Are the anti-porn feminists very different from religious leaders who call for women to cover themselves up in order to avoid sexually inciting men? More and more people claim they are ‘addicted’ to viewing sexually explicit material. Is this just a symptom of modern childishness, or are we enslaved rather than liberated by pornography.

The debate is produced and will be chaired by Rosie Pocklington.

Luke Gittos is law editor at spiked, a British Internet magazine focusing on politics, culture and society from a humanist and libertarian viewpoint. He is also solicitor practising criminal law and convenor of the London Legal Salon.

Jerry Barnett is an author, technologist, photographer and activist. His long experience in anti-fascist politics led him to become a dedicated campaigner for free speech and sexual freedom, and he founded the Sex & Censorship campaign in 2013. His book Porn Panic! was published in August by Zero Books.