/ open rights group

On Porn, and the Blocking Thereof

Contains rude words, opinions, triggers and ire.

This is my daughter. As I'm sure you've already noticed, she is the most wonderful, beautiful, amazing thing in the world. Her birth completely changed my life: now everything I do and everything I think about is filtered through the prism of what's best for her and how I can make her life better. The love I feel for her is an instinctive, over-powering, guttural thing. It's frightening.

My feelings about child rapists, child abusers, and facilitators of child abuse are almost exactly the opposite. I hate those cowardly fuckwits. Child abuse - whether sexual, physical or emotional - is one of the most horrific things in the world. The amount of violence I'm prepared to administer upon anybody who even contemplates hurting my child is limitless. The idea of her being raped or tortured is - almost literally - too terrible to contemplate.

I hope this goes some way towards establishing my credibility to be able to speak on the rather emotive subject of "Children Good, Paedophiles Bad". I think children are so great that I went out and got one for myself. I think paedophilia is, like, really bad. I'm invested here.

So. Let's talk about internet censorship. The ridiculous proposals outlined by David Cameron recently make me so furious I'm finding it difficult to concentrate. Let's set aside the fact that they won't work, the fact that when they do work they'll block the wrong stuff, the fact that ISPs have already told Cameron that this won't work and the fact that David Cameron doesn't understand the internet. Let's talk instead about how they affect my daughter.

Now, you may say that I'm being rather manipulative in exploiting my daughter's innate gorgeousness to bring a false sense of emotive trepidation to this debate. You'd be right - but that's exactly what Cameron, the hypocritical Daily Mail and the idiots on MumsNet are doing by playing the tired old "Will no-one think of the children?" card, so I figure I can legitimately join in too. Will no-one think of the children? Specifically, my children?

I spend a lot of time on the internet. My professional life for the past few years has, to a greater or lesser extent, revolved around it. I know my way around, and I know how it works. I know more about how the internet works than most people, and I know more about how to control my family's access to (and experience of) the internet than most people. Believe it or not, I've already spent some time thinking about how my daughter will interact with the online world when she becomes old enough to do so. Here is a (by no means exhaustive) list of Things That I Want My Daughter To Be Able To Find Online:

  1. Porn. Let's start with the big one, as the adult entertainment professional said to the other adult entertainment professional. First of all, there's nothing wrong with porn. Not inherently, anyway. If you have a moral or religious objection to porn simply on the grounds that it's porn, that's your business. The solution is simple: don't watch porn. You don't have the right to impose your moral standards onto the rest of us. Porn is good - or, at least, porn is not bad. I want my daughter to have a healthy attitude to sex and to her own sexuality, and as part of that I don't want her to grow up with the automatic assumption that sex is bad and porn is bad and orgasms are Satan's tickles. It's a difficult tightrope to walk, I know. It's not easy, and there's no simple fix. It's supposed to be difficult: it's called being a parent.

  2. Sex education. My baby's a girl, which probably means my wife has to have The Talk rather than me, but sex education is a difficult thing to get right. There's so much confusion and counter-information when you're first learning the horrific truth, and it always feels like everybody else already knows it all. I'm glad that my daughter has access to search engines that will answer those awkward questions that are just too embarrassing to ask her mum about.

  3. Feminism. Unless I utterly and completely fail as a parent, my daughter will be brought up a feminist. Certainly, she'll understand the complexities and key points of the feminist cause, the progress that's been made, and the victories that are still to be attained. I hope it's something she'll be interested in. If it is, I want her to be able to to do her own reading. I want her to be able to read Germaine Greer talking about tasting her own menstrual blood, and Caitlin Moran proudly reclaiming the word "cunt". I also want her to be able to read about unpleasant but essential feminist issues like female genital mutilation and the underage sexual slave trade. Why? Because pretending they're not happening won't make them stop, and if my daughter is sufficiently interested to care then she deserves to hear the truth.

  4. LGBT help. I don't know if my daughter is gay. She doesn't know yet either, because she's only five months old. Soon enough, though, she's going to be figuring out who she is and what she likes. Gay or straight, male or female, figuring out your own sexual identity is difficult. Homophobia (and transphobia and cis-phobia, and all the rest) is still extant. If talking to (or even just reading about) other people who are struggling with the same issues will help her, I want to ensure there are no barriers between her and that information.

  5. Offensive political opinions. It hurts me to admit it, but I have to face the possibility that my daughter might be a Tory. The chances are good that she will, at some point, attempt to define her own identity by setting herself in opposition to her parents. Joining the Conservative Party seems like a pretty good way of doing that. Whether or not she does go the Full Boris, I don't want her to be denied access to the kind of ridiculous semi-literate nutters that the internet has to offer. If she reads what the nutters have to say and it convinces her that they're wrong, great. If she reads what they have to say and still thinks they're right, then my concealing the facts from her wouldn't have changed anything.

  6. Body dysmorphia. There are legitimate reasons for wanting to look at naked people on the internet, other than the obvious ones. Answering the question "is it supposed to look like this?" is a case in point.

  7. Self-harm. I hope to hell she'll talk to me long before it gets to this stage, but I can't be absolutely sure. That's why I'm glad there are so many excellent support sites and community sites out there.

  8. Eating disorders. See above.

All of this is really just my way of saying that I want to be able to choose what my daughter can and cannot access online. That's not a task I want to farm out to my ISP or my government. It's my job to strike the balance between protecting my daughter, and educating her. Of course I'll have a filter on our home network (controlled by and understood by me). Of course I won't let her online unsupervised during her early formative years. Of course I'll make sure she knows that she can talk to me or her mum (or her uncles or aunties or grandparents) about anything. Of course I'm not proposing that she watch "Busty Sluts III" instead of "In The Night Garden".

I'd love to believe that my daughter will feel completely at ease and able to talk to me, frankly and openly, about any of these things ... but she won't always, because I'm her dad. There are some things that you just don't want to talk to your parents about. There are some things you don't want to talk to anybody about. That's why I'm glad there are other resources available to her. I'm not going to stop her looking things up on the internet, any more than I'm going to stop her reading the encyclopaedia at the local library, or talking to her mates at school, or hiding an elicit copy of "50 Shades Of Grey" under her mattress. I'm glad that all those things are there for her. I just hope she knows that I'm there for her too.

Johnnie Ingram

A portable Geek-to-English translation unit. Atheist, pedant, undercover feminist. Stalker of stand-up comedians. Quite likes Doctor Who.

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