Sex, Videotape and Lies

There is a controversy brewing over pornographic television channels. One of the two South African satellite television providers, TopTV, takes their signal from the Astra 4 satellite. Another broadcaster, PSat, uses the same satellite, although they are not licensed to broadcast into South Africa, so their signal is not sold here. All this hard core porn raining down unperceived upon the innocent citizenry has tweaked an entrepreneurial nerve. African Satellite Installations wants to sell us smartcards and decoders so, for the trivial sum of R99 (~$12 US) a month we can immerse ourselves in “pull-no-cumshots” content featuring “guy-on-girl, girl-on-girl and monstrous group orgies, all with the heterosexual viewer in mind”. So far, so good, but some snags have come up.

The first is that because the same satellite is used for the TopTV signal, people with existing TopTV satellite dishes will be able to use the same dish for the new channel; but they will have to get a new decoder and smart card. Well, so what? ASI said so, that’s what, so TopTV are litigating to get ASI to stop saying that which is true, i.e. that subscribers can use their existing TopTV antenna to receive the new signal. This is why I’m not a lawyer; anyone who can spend months in the High Court debating this utterly unimportant point must have a view of the minuscule that surely precludes them from seeing anything approaching the big picture, whether that picture is pornographic or not.

When TopTV launched, they claimed that they were a company with “strong Christian ethical values”, and their initial bouquet contained no fewer than four channels devoted to religious programming. One could be forgiven for thinking that that would be why they are against ASI, but one would be wrong. They are against ASI because they want to launch their own porn channels. If you are surprised by the hypocrisy, you shouldn’t be; these are, after all, the religious.

There are other religious nuts on the case as well. It would be extremely surprising if Errol Naidoo, the arch-hypocrite who fronts the Family Policy Institute, was absent from the fray. And sure enough, here he is threatening to mobilise Christians to boycott any company however peripherally involved with Psat or ASI.

Then there are the folk who argue that pornography causes violence against women. If this were true it would be a compelling argument against making pornography generally available, but it turns out that it isn’t true at all. Research by Todd D. Kendall of Clemson University suggests the opposite. In his paper, Pornography, Rape, and the Internet, he finds that

…the arrival of the internet was associated with a reduction in rape incidence. However, growth in internet usage had no apparent effect on other crimes. Moreover, when I disaggregate the rape data by offender age, I find that the effect of the internet on rape is concentrated among those for whom the internet-induced fall in the non-pecuniary price of pornography was the largest – men ages 15-19, who typically live with their parents. These results, which suggest that pornography and rape are substitutes, are in contrast with most previous literature. However, earlier population-level studies do not control adequately for many omitted variables, including the age distribution of the population, and most laboratory studies simply do not allow for potential substitutability between pornography and rape.

My opinion is that what a person does in the privacy of his own home is his own damn business and everyone else should butt out. If he wishes to watch pornography that should be his business alone. I made this point to an acquaintance the other day and he argued that porn should be banned on the grounds that some of the participants are harmed during the making of these films. I countered that there are already laws against rape, assault, murder, child abuse and any of these crimes committed during the shooting of a movie could be prosecuted under those laws. We don’t ban cars because sometimes they are used as getaway vehicles, or because sometimes rapes and murders occur in them.

It seems that there are more and more people who wish to dictate what everyone else does with their lives. The worst offenders by far are the religious who would love nothing more than to compel compliance with their so-called ‘moral code’.

I hope ASI are able to launch their new service. I shall not be a subscriber–porn doesn’t really float my boat–but I’m sure there are plenty who would far rather subscribe to this than don a false beard and raincoat to rent DVDs at their local Adult World.

Creative Commons License
Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License

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