Memorandum submitted by Dr Clarissa Smith et al (CJ&I 341)
As academics and researchers working in the fields of film, media, cultural studies and social science we would like to make the following submission to the Committee. In view of the shortness of time to put our concerns to the Committee, this submission is brief and to the point, we trust that the issues raised will be given due consideration by the committee and that a further more detailed submission will be made possible.
Our concerns relate to Section 6 of the proposed Bill on the Criminalisation of the Possession of Extreme Pornography and are as follows:
1. The necessity for the legislation appears to rest on an amorphous 'increasing public concern' about 'extreme' pornography - the evidence base for this public disquiet is not offered. As researchers in the field we are aware that panics about troublesome media forms are not innocent of their own politics and prejudices.
2. The definitions of the materials to be legislated against are vague. The proposal and its supporting documents are littered with vague and problematic terms relating to the production and consumption of pornographic materials. In particular, we are extremely concerned by the intention to criminalise images which 'appear to be real'. Aside from the bluntness of this instrument, the term demonstrates ignorance of the vast body of research which has examined the complexities of viewers understandings and relationships to the 'real'.
3. Claims that pornographic materials are easily characterised by being 'clearly for purposes of sexual gratification' ignores the considerable research evidence that pornography of all kinds has no such singular purpose.
4. Previous research into problematic media has demonstrated that emotive terms such as 'violent' and 'extreme' frequently act as code-words for objections based on moral, political and taste grounds
5. The proposed law is underpinned by unexamined and unproven causal claims of a link between viewing and perpetrating illegal acts - there is a substantial body of research evidence which entirely refutes these claims and which the consultation process has so far chosen to ignore.
6. During the consultation process there has been no proper opportunity for the presentation of alternative and detailed research evidence into culturally controversial media forms.
7. The evidence presented in the Rapid Evidence Assessment is extremely poor, based on contested findings and accumulated results. It is one-sided and simply ignores the considerable research tradition into 'extreme' (be they violent or sexually explicit) materials within the UK's Humanities and Social Sciences.
8. The proposers of the Bill have made no effort to seek out research which investigates how viewers of pornographic materials understand their practices - the effects of 'extreme' pornography are assumed and ascribed to 'problem individuals' - further research is required which does not presume effects of a singularly harmful kind.
9. The supporting documents for the proposed Bill draws on the emotive language and hyperbole of moral campaigns, a law drafted on this basis cannot be reliable.
We would welcome the opportunity to discuss our concerns with the Committee in detail and should the Committee require further information and evidence we would be willing to prepare a more comprehensive submission.
Martin Barker, Professor of Film & Television Studies, University of Aberystwyth - director of 2007 BBFC-funded research project into audience responses to screened sexual violence
Clarissa Smith, Senior Lecturer in Media & Cultural Studies, University of Sunderland - author of One for the Girls: The Pleasures and Practices of Porn for Women, Intellect, 2007
Dr Michele Aaron, American and Canadian Studies, University of Birmingham, editor of The Body's Perilous Pleasures: Dangerous Desires and Contemporary Culture (Edinburgh University Press, 1999), and has written extensively on the ethics and politics of watching unconscionable images.
Dr. Yaman Akdeniz, Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University of Leeds, Director, Cyber-Rights.Org, and author of Sex on the Net: The Dilemma of Policing Cyberspace, Reading: South Street Press, 1999, and Internet Child Pornography and the Law: National and International Responses, Ashgate, forthcoming March 2008
Dr Jane Arthurs, Professor of Media and Cultural Studies, University of the West of England, author of Television and Sexuality: Regulation and the Politics of Taste (Open University Press, 2004)
Feona Attwood, Principal Lecturer in Media Studies, Sheffield Hallam University, editor of Mainstreaming Sex: The Sexualization of Culture, I.B. Tauris, forthcoming
Professor Andrew Blake, Associate Head of the School of Social Sciences, Media and Cultural Studies, University of East London
Dr Petra Boynton, Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, University College, published works have researched claims of effects of pornography and questioned the ethics, methodological approaches and conclusions on much of the studies on porn.
Dr Sara Bragg, Academic Fellow in Child and Youth Studies, The Open University, co-author:Young People, Sex and the Media: The Facts of Life.
Paul Carter, Programme Leader, School of Media and Film, University of Winchester
Prof. Lisa Downing, Chair of French Discourses of Sexuality, Director of the Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Sexuality and Gender in Europe (CISSGE), University of Exeter
Dr Santiago Fouz-Hernández, Modern Languages and Cultures, Durham University
Dr Claire Hines, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies, Solent University, co-editor of Hard to Swallow: Reading Pornography on Screen (Wallflower, forthcoming).
Dr Ian Hunter, Principal Lecturer, Film Studies, De Montfort University, author of many articles on cult film, erotica and exploitation cinema
Mark Jancovich, Professor in Film & Television, University of East Anglia, author of many articles on horror film and pornography
Robert Jewitt, Lecturer in Media & Cultural Studies, University of Sunderland, researching new media and its users
Darren Kerr, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies, Solent University, co-editor of Hard to Swallow: Reading Pornography on Screen (Wallflower, forthcoming), and contributor to edited collections Porn.Com: Making Sense of Online Pornography (forthcoming) and Peepshows: Cult Erotic Cinema (Wallflower, forthcoming).
Geoff King, Professor of Film and TV Studies, Brunel University; Director, Screen Media Research Centre, Brunel University; author of numerous books including studies of Hollywood and American independent cinema
Dr Sarah Leahy, Degree Programme Director, MA in International Film: History, Theory, Practice, University of Newcastle
Dr. Stephen Maddison, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies, School of Social Sciences, Media & Cultural Studies, University of East London, author of articles on the politics of pornography in numerous journals, including New Formations.
Brian McNair, Professor of Journalism and Communication, University of Strathclyde, author, Mediated Sex (Arnold, 1996); Striptease Culture (Routledge, 2002)
Tom O'Malley, Professor of Media, Writer on policy issues, University of Aberystwyth.
Julian Petley, Professor of Film and Television at Brunel University, author of Censoring the Word (Seagull Press/Index on Censorship 2007) and co-author with Philip French of Censoring the Moving Image (Seagull Press/Index on Censorship 2007)
Dr Nina Power, Lecturer in Philosophy, Roehampton University, author of several articles on vintage pornography.
Dr Tony Purvis, Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies, Newcastle University, co-author Television Drama, Palgrave, 2005 'Sexualities', in The Oxford Guide to Theory, OUP, 2006, ed Pat Waugh, Media and Cultural Studies, Edinburgh, 2006
Gordon Reavley, tutor in visual culture and art history, Universities of Newcastle, Oxford and Nottingham Trent, author books on social and cultural history including studies of American and European film