Bath Literature Festival: Protect young women with a ban on pornography, panel hears

Panellists debate right to free speech and moral obligation to protect the vulnerable

A ban on pornogaphy is the only way to protect vulnerable
children – because our modern media teaches them that sexual abuse is
acceptable, the Bath Literature Festival heard today.

Ali Morris, a local authority domestic abuse adviser from Swansea, said that concerns about freedom of speech were misguided. "Whose rights are we talking about?" she asked during a debate on the ethics of pornography. "The right of pornographers to exploit women, children – and men – in a multimillion-pound industry?"

Fellow panellist Jan Macvarish, a child welfare researcher at Kent University, said she also regarded porn – even of the Fifty Shades of Grey variety – as "degrading", but described the suggested ban as dangerous and an attempt to "institutionalise feminism". It suggests "an incredibly pessimistic view of childhood and parenting," she added.

The debate, chaired by Labyrinth and Citadel author Kate Mosse, founder of the Women's Prize for Fiction, evoked honest and moving contributions from the 150-strong audience. One mother was distressed that teenagers see anal sex as normal.

Mosse said her daughter simply laughed when asked whether she could avoid seeing these sorts of image in her day to day life. "We can cope because we have good role models," her daughter had said. "But friends who don't are damaged by it."

In her work at a South Wales police station, Morris said she heard daily that women were being forced to perform sex acts their partners had seen on the internet – or handed over to more dominant males in their peer group if they would not.

Passing a sex shop recently, she said, she'd seen a disturbing sign. "Read Fifty Shades?" it said. "Get your equipment here!" An outright ban, she said, would send "a strong message" that "this rubbish is sullying".

Macvarish's view was that it was also dangerous to inculcate in children the idea that sex is itself "somehow toxic". "How can we show them they can have proper intimate relationships in this sort of atmosphere? It's very blinkered to think of porn as the cause of all our problems in this area."

"There's absolutely nothing wrong with sex," Morris countered. "Young people should be having it. But pornography has nothing to do with sex, it's all about power and control.

"Women are vulnerable. They are abused by their partners. A ban would be dangerous? What's dangerous is the lives that many of these women and children lead. And many young men misinterpret their role in sex because of what they see on their screens, in lads' mags and even in TV ads."

Mosse felt that the debaters were talking about the same thing, but from two different points of view. "The difficult question was, is free speech the Holy Grail? Whose civil liberties are we talking about protecting?"

Some of the most disturbing images she had seen were from people campaigning against porn, Macvarish said. But their effect could be exaggerated. "Surely the most likely outcome if most young men stumble upon them is that they will be repulsed?"

Morris, who presses her case in an interview for Ken Loach's new documentary The Spirit of '45, felt the real danger was that "people become desensitised to increasingly hard-core porn. Young boys see acts of gang-rape, whipping, violation. These become normalised."

What's on: Monday 4 March

11.15am: AN Wilson on the Wedgwoods. The celebrated novelist and biographer introduces his new novel about Josiah Wedgwood, the master craftsman, and his nephew Tom.

1pm: Environment, Resources and Economy. The Monday Independent Voices debate explores whether business and capital can save the planet. Chaired by The Independent's environment writer, Michael McCarthy.

6.15pm: Sandy Toksvig. Radio 4's funny woman and writer discusses her novel Valentine Grey.

8pm: James Runcie on Keats. The festival director looks at the great Romantic poet's attitude to friendship, love and death.

Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower