The Blue Market: Now and Then
August 10, 2005 // 10:11 a.m.
We're going to take a different approach to this week's column.
Whilst sat in the car after a game of pool with my pal, he said "You know, you should do one of those columns where you have more than one person editorialising about a subject and comment on each others opinions". He also said how good I was at pool and it was an honour to play me, although that part may not be true, even if I did score the most awesome win ever that night.
I’ve played you at pool Chris, and you suck. If bit-tech is going to maintain its reputation for honesty and integrity, I have to point that out.
Ah, the intensive pool training has seen to that. I digress, in the first of hopefully many exciting 'burn offs' we're going with the columnist heavyweights, myself and Wil Harris. (By the way, when I asked Wil what he'd like to talk about he said 'Naked Ladies' so, here's one just for you mate!)
"Surely you remember the heady days of hedgerow erotica and the thrill of finding some embarrassed twenty-something's now defunct 'art magazine' collection?"
Pornography; love it or hate it, you can't avoid it and there's no arguing that its basis is the foundation of life itself. The question of how appropriate it is in polite society and, clearly, how accessible it is to the youth of today is in the limelight given the recent upheaval about GTA: San Andreas, a stern reminder of how it's possible to mod your favourite games into a somewhat more realistic representation of the world (aside from gangland violence being OK of course).
I’d be tempted to say ‘Don’t even get me started on this…’ but I guess that rather defeats the point of this column. The fact that the world has a complete skew on outrageous violence versus moderate nudity is a constant source of irritation to me. GTA:SA can have graphic depictions of a guy killing a prostitute – but actually have sex with a girlfriend and hell, the world’s about to end! It makes me think – am I really the only person that thinks this is bizarre?
However more specifically, no-one is addressing the issue about accessibility to actual soft/hardcore pornography on the Internet. Granted, they've been at it in the background for years but you don't read it in every piece of journalism under the sun as we're seeing with GTA.
First, don't get me wrong, I'm pro-pornography for consenting adults and whatever people wish to get up to in their own homes is fine by me (provided I can get a video of it on a website). For the male readership aged around the thirties (and potentially the female, although I've never heard of this situation being the case), surely you remember the heady days of hedgerow erotica and the thrill of finding some embarrassed twenty-something's now defunct 'art magazine' collection tied up in a plastic bag to pass onto future generations.
In school, trading in mags or seventh-generation VHS movies was prolific, and I proudly possessed a large quantity in my 'lockable drawer' in my room (Which every parent knows is where you keep your porno, so don't bother trying to hide it kids).
As someone almost 10 years younger than Chris, I fear I missed out on this rite of passage and went straight into…
Well, I’m coming to that Junior. Move into the Internet generation and no doubt my plastic bag full of grumble is busy rotting away in a railway siding somewhere due to the fact that all this erotica (and oh so much more) is no further away than a curious teenager's PC.
Exactly. Indeed, you have to work really hard to avoid porn on the net, not find it. It’s absolutely brilliant. However, it clearly is dangerous – we don’t want people that are too young accessing porn, that’s for sure, and I think moving porn to the .xxx domain will help a great deal. But at what point do we say too young? 18? What about all the curious 15 year olds? Doesn’t that just create the same black market in website passwords than existed in old porn mags in Chris’ era?
That said, what makes it any more wrong to be available to the horny young blighters now than it was back then? Sure, there were campaigners against "Top Shelf" wares and the terribly unarousing Electric Blue series, but I would argue to the hilt that pornography is more accessible today than it was back then. In the early nineties, if I wanted to get my hands on something more inspiring than the underwear section of my Mums Kays catalogue I had to negotiate long and hard with the school peddler of filth, however now I have to have a PhD in popup and spyware control just to get into any decent websites.
Well the issue seems to be this. Porn is ok as long as not too many people are looking at it – society tolerates it. However, allow widespread porn access, and the guardians of morality take umbrage at it – it starts to get dangerously close to their own back doors (as it were).
Game mods take skill on the part of the user and if you're telling me that hacking your way through a game in order to see a bit of low resolution simulated sex is worse to society than two fourteen year old kids swapping a skateboard for a DVD of some hardcore Swedish filth and the back catalogue of Razzle circa 1978, you REALLY need to remember what it was like when you were a kid.
" Indeed, you have to work really hard to avoid porn on the net, not find it. It’s absolutely brilliant."
I think that’s just it – a lot of older people grew up in a culture of no sex before marriage, and certainly no accessibility to nudity. It’s hard for them to comprehend – it’s just part of the cultural gap between generations. I read a great article in The Economist today, which was a great evaluation of why video games are blamed for so much in society. People grow up with video games, they consider them normal. People have video games thrust upon them; it’s change and any change is scary. By the time all the old people are dead and younger generations have the reins of society, nobody will try to say that video games affected behaviour any more than they will claim that music will.
Have we actually decided anything? I think we can say that society is overly hysterical about porn, especially in games, and especially when compared to the relative amount of violence around. Is the crux of the issue simply that porn is tolerated by ‘society’ as long as it’s hard to get and there isn’t too much of it around? If so, it seems inevitable that as the people pulling the power strings move from being older to younger people, the mindset of ‘society’ is likely to change – and those of us weaned on free net porn will have an altogether different stance on Hot coffee.
I think we decided our next versus match is across a Pool table and you read The Economist at your age...? Times are definitely changing!