London Fears Pics of Really Big Ben

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I generally don’t talk about repressive legislation or sexuality witchhunts in other countries, where adulterers can be stoned to death, gays can be executed, consumers of porn can lose their jobs or kids, and artists creating “blasphemous” art can be jailed.

But when our cousins across the pond threaten the fundamental rights of their citizens to own sexy pictures, we should care. Especially when their proposed laws sound very, very close to ours.

The British Parliament is set to approve a law next week that would criminalize the mere possession of images which the government deems “too extreme.” These would include images depicting acts which “threaten or appear to threaten a person’s life” and which “result in or appear to result in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals.”

You could go to jail for owning a picture of people play-acting a scene of rape.

The new law gained traction after the murder of a British woman whose killer frequented websites depicting violent sex. Members of Parliament seem uninterested in the much, much larger number of people who go to those websites without murdering anyone.

The new law will forbid couples from sharing images of themselves engaged in consensual sex if a court decides it’s too rough. As one Lord Wallace said during the bill’s debate, “If no sexual offense is being committed, it seems very odd indeed that there should be an offense for having an image of something which was not an offense.” Translation into American: this bill creates a crime out of nothing.

The prospect of a thousand-year-old democracy forbidding people from owning pictures of legal activity is extremely disturbing. What’s even more disturbing is that similar laws already exist in the U.S. (e.g., 17-year-olds having legal sex can’t own photos of their lovemaking because it’s considered child pornography)—and every year, our Justice Department attempts to criminalize larger and larger categories of pornography.

The U.S. and U.K.—two countries divided by a common language? It’s looking more like two countries united by a common fear: the fear that pictures of sex have some magical power to destroy people’s minds. London Bridge is indeed falling down—not from porn, but from the fear of porn.

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