Can pornography ever be liberating?

Thursday 22 September, 19.30 - 21.00 , The Victoria, John Bright Street, Birmingham, B1 1BN UK satellite events

Pornography is one of the visual expressions of sex and sexuality. Among the oldest surviving examples of erotic depictions are Palaeolithic cave paintings and carvings, which suggests that looking at pictures of naked bodies is an ancient habit. In modern times, though, there is widespread concern that communication technologies have led to the unhealthy and excessive proliferation of pornography. Does the ability to access explicit sexual images from our smartphones represent sexual liberation or corruption?

A massive growth in the production of pornography has prompted producers and performers to push the boundaries of their work in order maintain profits and stay ahead in a very busy market. It can be argued that that this gives us more choice and information about sexual behaviour, but are these vivid images also confusing and desensitising? Some young men say they are being traumatised by violent sexual imagery, with many young people are reported to be exposed to pornography before their first kiss. How do we balance our responsibility to protect children and teenagers with their liberty to engage with pornography if they choose to?

Some feminists seek to ban all pornography on the grounds that it leads to the objectification of women and even encourages rape. Are these anti-porn feminists very different from religious leaders who call for women to cover themselves up in order to avoid sexually inciting men? More and more people claim they are ‘addicted’ to viewing sexually explicit material. Is this just a symptom of modern childishness, or are we enslaved rather than liberated by pornography.