Friday 21 June 2019 4:59 am

Scrap the porn laws, and keep the government out of our sex lives

They say once is a coincidence, twice is an accident, three times is a pattern.

Now that the introduction of the new porn laws has been delayed for a third time, I think it’s safe to say that we have a clear pattern here from the government – of turning a blind eye to a terrible policy.

The new policy around adult websites will in practice amount to a block on all content.

In order to access the material, a person will either have to submit their passport, credit card or driver’s licence details into the website, or they will have to purchase a “Portes pass” in a shop.


Imagine walking into your local shop to buy milk, eggs, and your porn pass. Why should any adult have to make their intimate bedroom habits known to the local shopkeeper, or anyone else who isn’t consenting to be part of the activity?

Our sex lives are nothing to be ashamed of, as long as everyone is having a fun, safe, and consensual time. But that doesn’t make us any less coy about sharing those details with others.

The spike in online sales of condoms would suggest that we’re not even comfortable with shopkeepers knowing that we’re practising safe sex, let alone far more personal information about our intimate preferences.

Worse than public embarrassment in front of a cashier and a few customers, however, would be if the details you submit to the porn site were dumped into the public domain.

Indeed, the government’s most recent climbdown from the implementation of the porn laws is reportedly linked to security concerns that personal identities and intimate browsing behaviour could be hacked or leaked, and exposed for public consumption.

This isn’t scaremongering. A few years ago, users of Ashley Madison – an adult website to connect married and single people to engage in affairs – found vast amounts of their data released and widely publicised.

While many might find such a website fairly disgraceful, it is the mark of a free society that, if something is legal, people are free to engage in it. It was not right for users to have their lifestyles exposed to the world.


The porn laws would extend the risk of such data breaches to anyone daring to look at adult content on the internet.

There are a host of technical issues around the proposed laws, including their effectiveness. While they may reduce adults’ access to porn sites (as foreign providers, not wanting to deal with the restrictions, consider leaving the market altogether), teenagers who are looking for this content are more likely to be pushed into more dangerous parts of the internet, which host far more problematic material, with next to no oversight from government, regulators, or companies.

But fundamentally, the arguments you can make against the specifics of the porn laws come secondary to the fact that the principle behind them is at total odds with our liberty – our freedom to live as we please, as long as we don’t harm others in the process.

Let’s hope that this recent climbdown leads to the rollback of the policy all together.

In a free society, there must be limits to the government’s intervention in our lives. And our sex lives are far past that red line.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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