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Everybody's Talking About Porn...

31/07/2013 14:19 BST | Updated 29/09/2013 10:12 BST
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Have you ever tried to tell a teenager not to do something? It's impossible...

Pornography. Everybody, it seems, is talking about it.

You can't have failed to notice the various furore circling print media and the Internet about David Cameron's attempts to ban us all from receiving pornography in the privacy of our homes; unless we specifically state otherwise, Mr Cameron would like to shut down our access to adult images.

And the Prime Minister's reasoning behind this seems, at first glance, to be laudable. Pornography, he states, is sending out the wrong message to our children and, because of the Internet, they are able to see too much of it, too easily. Teenagers are getting the wrong message about sex and they shouldn't be looking at images of naked ladies.

Herein, however, lies the flaw in Mr Cameron's campaign: Have you ever tried to tell a teenager they can't do something? It's impossible.

Tell them there is something they can't have, see, touch and they will go out of their way to do it. Partly, this is because children possess, in abundance, that wonderful trait that has meant the human species is the most evolved on the planet: curiosity. Mostly, teenagers do this because they have only one goal in life: to piss off their parents.

Prevent a teenager from smoking and they will gather behind bus shelters to share a cigarette; this usually results in every single one of them coughing up a lung, but they will continue to do it because they've been told not to.

Tell them they can't drink alcohol and they will club together to persuade some kindly stranger to buy them a four-pack of Special Brew from a nearby corner shop, and later mutter those immortal words: "I'll never drink again."

Switch off pornography on your household Internet connection and they will simply use their mobile phones, tablets, Internet connections in the homes of friends with more liberal parents, in order to see what it is you're trying to prevent them from seeing.

As a father of a teenager, I am becoming quite versed in the art of reverse psychology. My son is quite happy to sit in his bedroom playing video games and will not go outside if he can at all help it. Tell him, however, that he's banned from using his bike and he's off down the street on it like a shot, just to prove me wrong.

Ever since the camera was invented, man has been taking pictures of woman. Admittedly, in the 19th century, a lady wearing a dress short enough to reveal her ankle was considered risqué, but as time has moved on, so has the acceptable level of visible flesh. When the video camera came along, man moved in to the realms of videoing woman.

Before the Internet, pornographic titillation came in the form of nicking your mate's dad's magazines. On the school bus, the sixth formers got the brand new copies and, when they'd had their fun, the magazines were shared out amongst their mates.

And the first thing we all did in 1995 when we got our 9.6k modems was to connect to the Internet and search for an animated gif of a lady taking off her bra.

In 2013, then, what strain will such censorship put on Britain's already beleaguered Internet services? Monitoring systems will have to check every request made and then make a decision on whether to allow or block that request. Internet monitoring solutions are aplenty, used daily in the corporate world to prevent employees doing their banking at a time of day when they should be working, but they can't be one hundred percent accurate and it would be naive to think that any such action would prevent the child abuse Mr Cameron hopes it will.

Keyword monitoring solutions often fail because a seemingly innocent Internet address will contain an offensive word hidden within it; grape and Scunthorpe are just two examples of words that could be used in URLs that could then be blocked.

New websites come along daily and databases will need to catch up; tunnelling and proxy services find ways around blocking technologies, and the processing power required to control this Orwellian approach to our Internet access will simply mean that many people, especially those in rural areas, will be drumming their fingers on their keyboards even longer as they wait for a website to load.

And when Mr Cameron decides that we are all addicted to gambling? Will betting websites be the next to fall? When the Government decides that Binge Drink Britain has gone too far, will websites for pubs and breweries be switched off?

There are plenty of free Internet monitoring tools available that parents can install on their own machines to help control what websites children can have access to and what time of day they can use the Internet; we use K9 Web Protection in our house.

Of course, I don't condone the use of pornography to advocate abuse and we do need to ensure our children are protected but, when it comes to discussing what's right and wrong in the world of the Internet, I prefer good old fashioned parenting and a jolly embarrassing conversation about the birds and the bees over a half-pint of lager shandy.

The majority of pornography on the Internet can be fun, entertaining and even, dare I say it, amusing but, at the end of the day, like The Transfomers, it's not real and not every lady you meet in life will want to make love in that way.

Despite what pornography tells us, for the majority of women a facial is actually a form of beauty therapy, not a way to finish.