Naming the priest: a moral dilemma

14 Sep

Food for thought: is it acceptable for Nick Xenophon to name in parliament a priest accused of rape ?

Xenophon argues that the Catholic church has been aware of the accusations for at least four years and has failed to investigate. He warned the church that unless they stood down the priest until the investigation had been completed, he would name him. The church refused to stand him down, and has expressed outrage that Xenophon named him when the man has denied the allegations and has not been found guilty of them.

Xenophon counters by pointing out that the church has had more than enough time to investigate, that the man is in a position of trust, and that keeping sexual abuse secret is what allows it to flourish.

A few ethical tangles to unpick later in the day.

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13 Responses to “Naming the priest: a moral dilemma”

  1. Matthew September 14, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    Just on your Online Opinion article, Australia already has some of the most draconian internet laws in the western world. Essentially anything above M15+ is banned on Australian servers (see here for details; http://libertus.net/censor/netcensor.html and guess who was instrumental in getting that legislation through? Senator Brian Harradine. And who was his bioethics adviser? Melinda Tankard Reist). Trying to stop any kind of pornography on the web is trying to stop the population having certain thoughts. It’s impossible. Block webpages and people will just change their DNS or use VPNs. Ban it everywhere and it will be traded via peer to peer that is unblockable. Keeping the PC in the lounge room and filter software on PC are the only ways you keep kids from looking at. However I still saw R18+ films, got hold of numerous copies of adult magazines, saw copies of NSW Police Journals with colour photos of the gruesome aftermath of violent crimes, and had access to porn films when I was in my early teens. This was back in the mid 1980’s without the existence of the internet and in country NSW.

    I noticed you sort of conflate the so called “violent porn” with drug trafficking and people smuggling, but the production of the material is quite legal in North America and most European countries. Also like the main debate as to what is exactly porn, the question is what is violent porn? Is BDSM in that category? What about the “Clothed Female, Naked Male” genre? That is degrading to men, is it not? When I hear “we urgently need to figure out how to restrict the uploading of violent pornographic images on the world-wide-web, and how to restrict access to those images”, to me that sound a bit like Dines and MTR. There has to be a valid reason why those have to be blocked or else it just sounds like the wowsers. Milton Diamond’s work has showed that despite the fact a country like Japan has some of the most violent porn in the world and more than double the amount of video releases compared to the US, sexual crime has been steadily dropping since the 1970’s.

    It’s not like we should question this material, but unless there is some peer reviewed data that harm is being caused, then there is no real reason to block these images (there seems to be no real data as to who is using this material anyway). Especially when all parties involved in the creation of the material are consenting and nearly 100% this can be verified due the fact there are strict record keep laws forced on US porn distributors (European distributors keep similar records). Anyone forcing people to make this material against their will be easily caught out. Creation of the material would be the evidence to convict them. Like you I really don’t like any material in which women are being harmed. I don’t even like the mainstream X stuff. Only ever liked the Penthouse style single girl shoots, and modern stuff is pretty low quality anyway. But I’m not about to ask to ban stuff I don’t like. That’s MTR and Dines territory. People have lot of disturbing thoughts and fantasies. The internet just makes them public. I also think that demonising anyone’s sexual fantasies is not helpful.

    Also with the “tentacle porn”, if you can find it get “The Erotic Anime Movie Guide” by Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy. Though it’s a little old and out of date (12 years old), it does explain why Japanese pornography is so bizarre. Essentially it’s censorship. You can’t show genitalia in films (hence why they’re pixelated in Japanese films). But hey, a tentacle is not a penis so it doesn’t have to censored, so that is why it happened. And it of course it works really well in animation and comics, though there is a sub genre of live action porn films.

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    • Jennifer Wilson September 14, 2011 at 11:01 am #

      I agree with you that violent porn shouldn’t be censored anymore than any other kind of porn, and my yardstick is when people are being harmed. I probably didn’t make that clear enough. What I want is for that kind of porn to have restricted access so that I’m not forced to see it and children can’t come upon it. The valid reason why it needs to be restricted (not blocked, not banned, but restricted: there’s a big difference) is that it’s frightening and disturbing if you are somebody who doesn’t want to see it. I don’t want to be forbidden to see any kind of porn and I don’t want to be forced to see it either. I find it hard to believe that there isn’t a way of denying entry to sites unless you’ve got passwords, pay fees etc, that can be use to keep violent porn out of the mainstream, yet available for people who wish to view it. This is where I differ (one of the many places I differ!)from Dines, MTR etc – I don’t argue for banning, I argue for controlled access.

      As you point out, the most effective control is for individuals to take responsibility for their children’s internet access, and that isn’t difficult to do.

      I did just discover that interesting background to Japanese tentacle porn – I think it’s pretty funny – they won’t allow genitals but bestiality’s all right! I suppose sex between women and octopi is bestiality???

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  2. Matthew September 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    Jennifer, I don’t think there has been many cases where anyone has been harmed in the production of the material. There was the case of Max Hardcore back in the 1990’s, but he was a pariah in the industry. I think most people know what they’re getting into. There have been few who have complained; Linda Lovelace for famously, with lurid tales of snuff films and other such nonsense. When an old B&W film loop of her having sex with a dog filmed long before “Deep Throat” surfaced, her credibility took a nose dive. Plus she returned to porn in the 1980’s anyway. Shelley Lubben an ex porn star has over the last couple of years been blabbing that she got several sexually transmitted diseases when she was in the industry, however she almost always fails to mention she was a street sex worker who often worked without condoms for years before and after her brief porn career.

    It’s thanks to people like Dines and MTR that I discovered the truth behind these cases and blogs from women working in the industry like Ms Naughty, Violet Blue and Furry Girl (because hardcore porn certainly isn’t my thing). They all seems to be very in control of what they do. The image these women paint is far removed from the lurid tales that appear in “Pornland” and “Big Porn Inc”. I really feel much more inclined to believe the performers than I am Dines and MTR who do nothing but distort and lie.

    With access to the material, in 2011 if you find porn by accident on the web (as either a child or an adult), then you are doing something incredibly wrong. I have Googled some terrible images once in a while, but his is incredibly rare. The last time this happened to me was using Google to find some images for Japanese children’s animation, and I discovered that adult fans had made their own images of the show. That was in 2003. Now that’s pretty much impossible. You have to deliberately go in and change the settings on the Google homepage to turn off the safe settings. Plus you can see a preview of the page before you go to the website. It’s pretty much impossible to have it forced on you. Unless I deliberately look for it (i.e. go to http://melindatankardreist.com/), I never see it. Never had any spam emails for porn either. Ever. And I’ve been on the web since 1997.

    Second the problem with porn, like movies, TV, books, music etc, is that the internet has devalued it. It’s worth nothing. Plus unlike music and movies, ISPs apparently won’t take action when asked to by copyright holders. So it’s more of a free for all than MP3s or torrents crammed with movies because no one is really policing the copyright of the material. It doesn’t matter if the original creator hides the material behind a paywall. Once somebody pays for the material they can copy and torrent the hell out of it or post it on message boards with links to sites like Megaupload. Google’s program for indexing webpages is too damn good, so this stuff will appear in searches if remove the safe settings.

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    • Jennifer Wilson September 14, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

      While I don’t like to imagine anyone being actually harmed in the production of porn, that’s not my primary concern in adult porn (as opposed to child porn.) I doubt that anyone has the right to attempt to prevent adults participating in porn of any kind, and if it’s criminal then there’s laws already in place to address that if someone makes a complaint.

      It’s reassuring to read your explanation of the safeguards that are in place. I’ve only encountered nasty stuff once when I was attacked by a virus, but I don’t go looking as I find internet porn pretty boring after the first five minutes. Whereas I could have gazed at the octopus painting for hours.

      I don’t understand one thing though. If these safeguards are in place how do people access child pornography so easily?

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      • Sam Jandwich September 14, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

        Jennifer I was just going to say, child pornography is one area where attempts to censor the internet appear to have been remarkably successful. Sure it’s true that people who are really determined seem to be able to access it, going by the frequent media reports on the subject. But as far as I know it’s pretty much unheard of on any site that doesn’t require the negotiating of elaborate security measures to access. Contrast this with the early days – say around 1995 – when it was virtually impossible to avoid.

        The way this has been achieved is through the admirably persistent efforts of police forces around the world, working in close cooperation, to discover and prosecute both producers and consumers. Perhaps you could say these efforts are underpinned by political will and, ultimately, a virtually unanimous opinion amongst the general population, that stamp out child pornography. If there was the political will to deny children access to violent or degrading material then I’m sure that could be done too. However at the moment it seems the expenditure would be hard to justify because the will just isn’t there.

        I’m not a fan of censorship either. I think that consent, or even “mutual agreement” should be the yardstick for deciding what’s legal to do or show to whom, or not as the case may be. I read a great line in a book once, which I can’t remember, but it goes something like “if you’re mature enough to want to see something then you’re mature enough to cope with the consequences of seeing it”. But for those who don’t want to/shouldn’t see it, I wonder whether maybe the best way to manage this is to be open about the fact that this stuff exists, and to alert people to how to avoid it, and what to do if you do come across something upsetting.

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      • Matthew September 14, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

        I’d have to agree with Sam Jandwich that prior to search engines it may have been easier to find, but then again I never found any in my early days on the web (‘96 – ‘97) when you had to find your way around via links and you had no idea where you would end up. I recall some sort of website which pulled porn images from all sorts of places. You’d hit “next”, and a new image would be downloaded. The only really shocking thing I saw was a couple of photos of women with dogs, most of the material however was presumably scanned out of commercial men’s magazines. Never ever saw child porn of any description. Did see some Star Trek porn which was heads of the cast photoshoped onto some random image. That was odd. In the never ending discussion about the internet filter on the Whirlpool forums, many people have claimed never to ever seen child porn on the internet, and most of them have been on there since the mid 1990’s. Most search engines block child porn sites (most sites only last a couple of days though) and ISPs block news groups where child porn is traded.

        Child porn laws in Australia are draconian. The law states that child porn can be anything from photographs, drawings, text of anyone who appears to be under 18. So if you have a picture of a 22 year old that looks like they’re 17 to the authorities, your stuffed. It doesn’t matter if the person was over 18 at the time the photo was taken. You have people being criminalised for having drawings and teenagers “sexting”. So the laws meant to be protecting children are locking them up and apparently a drawing of a child needs to be protected as much a s a real flesh and blood child. The law is a complete ass. Irene Graham has written about it here; http://libertus.net/censor/laws/celaws.html She’s also busted some of the myths as to how much child porn sites are actually out there; http://libertus.net/censor/laws/celaws.html

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        • Jennifer Wilson September 14, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

          As I wrote in a comment on OLO, I wish I’d had all your information before I wrote the article, Matthew, because I would have included much of it. Many thanks for the links. This is the kind of factual info that debunks the hysteria.

          I think we have an unbelievably silly situation when teenagers are criminalized for sexting and I fear MTR and co are aiming for an equally stupid situation with their crusade against porn, and their lobbying for an internet filter.

          I wonder what arouses them?

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  3. Matthew September 16, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    I was going to post this at OLO (like I should have done with the first comment), but I forgot may password and I’m at work, so I can’t see my mailbox to get my new password (they block webmail), so I’ll post this here and will probably repost tonight;

    “If people are turning up in increasing numbers looking for psychological assistance for the effects of pornography on their lives then it’s reasonable to conclude that for some people pornography of some kind is proving dangerous. That is, unless all those people are lying to clinicians, or all the clinicians who make these claims are lying.”

    First, is there an evidence that people are seeking help from the effects of porn? I’m serious, is there? I’m highly suspicious of the “pornography addiction” argument, prior to say five or six years ago, there was no mention of pornography being addictive. Religious groups such as XXX Church used the term well before psychologists. I am well aware that is has sort of, kind of, been included in the DSM 5, under Hypersexual Disorder. Seeing as pornography has been widely available to mainstream audiences since the early 1970’s, why are we just discussing addiction now? Yes I get that the internet has increased its availability, but when has that been an issue with other addictions? Also if we go back to the 1980’s where the media had stories about “Satanic Panic” and the seemingly Whitley Strieber inspired tales of alien abduction, well there was little evidence these things actually happened (the former is totally discredited, really don’t want to believe in the latter) despite some victims actually having diagnosed post traumatic disorder. Investigate it, yes, but colour me sceptical that porn is the cause of these people’s woes or that it is a widespread addiction.

    “Restrictions already exist across the media. Why should the Internet be exempt from them? That’s for you to prove, not me”

    Because the internet is not Australia. Very little content is hosted in Australia compared to the world. Do you really think every country is going to bow down to the Australian government and have all their webpages rated by the Classification board at $450 a page. That’s just not going happen. Anyway currently the highest classification you can have on a webage hosted in Australia is M15+. Currently is also illegal to link to pages which are on ACMA’s blacklist if your site is hosted in Australia (Broadcasting Services Act 1992, Schedule 5 – Online services, Schedule 7 – Content services). It’s completely insane. It’s much clearly much harsher than any other format.

    The other problem is that unlike static media like films, books, etc, the internet is dynamic. Pages can change daily or by the minute. When I posted this reply, this page changed. Literally anyone can publish anything (as long as it’s lawful). Classification of the internet is impossible. In July 2008, the official Google blog stated there was over one trillion web pages and that the web was growing by several billion pages per day.

    So that’s two major problems already; websites sitting on servers legally under the laws of hundreds of governments which are much freer than the current Australian law, and the size of the web. There’s also major problem if you start to filter content. See the mess that Internet Watch Foundation in the UK caused Wikipedia and the Internet Archive (Wayback Machine). I really think we have to ask ourselves if the blocking/disruption of these sites is worth the effort of blocking a few porn sites. I think it was lucky only these sites were hit and it didn’t effect bank or other similar sites. What if it was in the same Plus parents in Australia can download a free or heavily discounted filter from their ISP, or use the one on Internet Explorer or the add ons on Firefox, or use Open DNS or use Webshield or the filer option from Optus. There are plenty of options for parents. The filter issue has already been hashed out over five or so years on the Whirlpool fourms. In a nut shell filter is no substitute for parenting or police work (see http://www.unpolitik.de/2009/05/28/delete-dont-block-it-works/ for the don’t block child porn argument).

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    • Jennifer Wilson September 16, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

      “Is there evidence that people are seeking help with porn issues?” Well, that’s pretty much what I’m interested in finding out. As far as I’m aware there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from clinicians that they are seeing people and their partners who claim their lives are being seriously affected by a “porn addiction.” It makes sense that with increased availability on the www more people have access for more of the time, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that clinicians are experiencing an increase. I have heard several psychologists say this is the case, but as far as I am aware there has not been any controlled research and the only “evidence” we have is anecdotal.

      If a client presents to a therapist naming porn addiction as their difficulty one has to accept that. You don’t say, that’s rubbish there’s no such thing. People also present claiming gambling addictions, shopping addictions, sex addictions, rage addictions, and as a therapist I’m not very interested in whether or not something is classified in the DSMs as a legitimized illness. I’m interested in addressing how people feel controlled by their behaviour and perceive themselves as addicted to it, rather than feeling free to choose whether they’re going to do something or not. The goal is to turn that around so they don’t feel themselves enslaved to the point where their lives and relationships are ruined. If you’ve never experienced compulsion, you’re very lucky, it’s no picnic and it’s very, very real.

      The manner in which the DSMs are compiled and by whom are very suspect IMO and I’ve never used them.

      Addictions of any kind are a symptom, and symptoms can overwhelm to the degree that it’s impossible to address the cause without first getting the symptoms under control.

      “Why are we discussing this now?” I guess it’s the zeitgeist, one might as well ask why are we discussing sexual abuse just now, gambling addiction just now, climate change just now – usually because enough people get exercised enough to make it a public issue in a particular moment and we have to look at it in the best way we can. What else would you have us do? Bully everyone into silence? Refuse to allow people to speak about their concerns?

      I’m well aware of the technical difficulties of restricting anything on the www. I don’t support the filter proposition.I agree that the very best way to handle this is for parents to be provided with software that enables them to control their home computers. There are plenty of organizations that use such software – plenty of workplaces restrict access – yours blocks webmail – access to No Place for Sheep was blocked by a workplace for a while –
      IMO access to violent porn should not be permitted on any public computers. That is a protection and safeguard, while leaving people who want to access it perfectly free to do that on their own technology.

      I think you are conflating my argument for restricting access to violent porn with censorship of the Internet. I have no problem at all with people viewing violent porn or any kind of porn in their own homes, or on their own technology. I do not think it should be available on public computers. This is not censoring the www. I think attempting to ban porn of any kind is ludicrous.

      I also think you are conflating my argument for restricted access with an argument about whether or not porn addiction exists, presumably because to argue that it doesn’t strengthens the case for allowing unrestricted access. But I haven’t argued that access should be restricted because of porn addiction. I’ve argued that violent porn be restricted because we really have no idea of its effects on developing sexuality, or adult sexuality, but what we do know about sexuality in general is enough to cause us to proceed with caution and research. This has become one of the many issues raised by the advent of the Internet that we’ve never had to consider to the same extent before.

      What it boils down to is are we going to attempt to live as communities that give a damn about everybody in them, or are we going to say, well I don’t care if porn, gambling whatever f**cks some people up, that’s their problem I’ve got my rights. Nobody is arguing that because some people get stuffed up by something everybody has to stop doing it. I really do not understand why caring about how things affect everybody causes such a bloody fuss. From some of the comments on OLO you’d think I was Gail Dines.

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    • Jennifer Wilson September 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

      What else occurs to me is that the arguments against my opinion on OLO don’t come from a technical perspective, as do many of yours, Matthew, a perspective I appreciate because I’m not as informed about what is possible and not possible with the internet. Revealing what can and can’t be done is one of the most useful outcomes of the conversation.

      But the OLO opposition is almost entirely emotional – what right do I have to suggest infringing another’s liberty, etc etc. I want to “ban” content, and so on, when my article makes it very clear that I’m not at all interested in “banning” anything. The emotion is so strong it both blinds and deafens objectors to what is actually being said, and in this they are exactly the same as the MTR and Dines crowd.

      I think both extremes of the argument are driven by fear, not reason, and certainly not concern for or interest in anybody else. Whether its Dines or the OLO objectors, they are tyrannical and dictatorial – “my way or the highway, nothing in between.” Well no. I don’t accept that from either extreme, and I don’t accept that the only choice is between two extremes. That’s impinging on my freedom and liberty because I don’t belong to either.

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  4. Matthew September 16, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    I found a defunct message board dedicated to sex research a while back. The owner made the statement that if field was an asylum, you wouldn’t be able to tell the inmates from the doctors. The major problem is that people like Dines and MTR are making statements which are out of their field of knowledge or they have no knowledge in the first place. And there is a long history of this, more than 30 years. People like Dr Judith Reisman have been saying the same baseless crap for decades before Dines came along. They’ve cried wolf for decades now without any evidence of the existence of a wolf. This is the key reason why people dismiss any negativity about porn, as well as their experience of it and the fact those who make the most anti-porn noise are complete loons (see Reisman’s mad ravings). Everyone is either lumped into the anti-porn/sex camp or the “sex positive” camp. There seems to be no middle ground as such. Abuse is hurled by both camps and everything becomes politicised. It’s really depressing.

    I would like to see some studies done on if porn addition exists to any degree. I agree with your second paragraph and I was sort of trying to say the same thing, but wording it very, very badly (sorry…). Porn addiction probably exists to some degree as you can probably be addicted to anything, but I suspect the numbers are amazingly low. I think the real problem is that even if it could be studied properly (looking at studies, pornography seems to be an area where it is really hard to obtain any significant data), the results are going to be politicised and ignored by one side. I also feel that results will be used by censorious politicians (a significant number of Labor and Liberal members and senators are right wing Christians gunning for censorship). Knee jerk legislation does not help. See the Dangerous Pictures Act and Dangerous Cartoons Act in the UK; http://www.backlash-uk.org.uk This kind of legislation doesn’t help anyone and criminalises innocent people for their sexual tastes. I’m still highly suspicious about the timing of and of those who originally raised the issue of porn addiction.

    As for filters on public computers, they’re rubbish. The damage done by filters more than outweighs any “protection” they give. There is no evidence that a large number of people are accessing porn or violent porn on public computers. In fact I don’t think there’s any data on this. The Australian Library and Information Association are most certainly dead against it; http://www.itnews.com.au/News/150669,libraries-object-to-internet-filtering.aspx Last time I went down to Melbourne I used an internet café was really narked off at the false positives the filter was throwing up. Two sci-fi news websites were blocked for me. This is the major problem I have with any kind of filters on public computers, especially in libraries where you expect information to be uncensored. Net neutrality is what makes the internet so great. Sanitising it for anyone (including children) is not in anyone’s best interests. I understand what you are saying, but I think people’s access to information far outweighs any concerns.

    With your last paragraph, I think that ties in with what I was saying at the start. People are highly cynical. I think to a large degree people aren’t saying “that’s their problem I’ve got my rights” in regards to problem gamblers or video game violence or porn or whatever. It’s that those who usually bring up those issues are “arguing that because some people get stuffed up by something everybody has to stop doing it”. People like Jim Wallace, Dines, MTR, Julie Gale, Fred Nile etc. Our wowser detectors are blinking furiously. They’ve been bitten before and are very wary. The wowsers have screwed it for anyone who wants to truly raise any genuine concerns in this debate. For me I really fear that really crap legislation may result in this debate. For example one of the recommendations into the Inquiry into the Australian film and literature classification scheme earlier this year was; “the exhibition, sale, possession and supply of X18+ films should be prohibited in all Australian jurisdictions”. If that recommendation was taken up, how many Australians would be potential criminals because they possess X18+ material? It’d be in the hundreds of thousands at least.

    In short, the loon squad took over this debate long ago. Questioning porn makes people look people like loon squad members, despite their intentions and it doesn’t matter if you have water tight peer reviewed evidence to back you up. No idea how to fix this. Perhaps better, more comprehensive sex education in schools (including relationships) and let the next generation sort it out?

    PS Damn, saw your second reply after I wrote this you pretty much said what I said. I’ve been hanging around the Whirlpool forums filter thread too long (it’s been going on for about 4+ years now…). Maybe the second last paragraph on your OLO article sounds a tad like Dines or MTR (don’t take that the wrong way…). Also I have experienced compulsion as I have Asperger’s syndrome, but I like my compulsions and they’ve never caused me any grief (maybe in some social areas and they probably nark off some people).

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    • Jennifer Wilson September 16, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

      Matthew, I laughed out loud at your last sentence because I hate the thought of everybody been therapised out of their oddities, and I remember a writer friend of mine complaining that getting his head straight totally f**cked up his ability to write and he’d give anything to be dysfunctional again. Fortunately the therapy wore off and with it his writer’s block.

      On reflection there was a sentence in the OLO article that does sound a bit like the wowsers and I’d have done better to put it another way. I take note of your concern that anything and everything will be seized upon by the sex police to justify draconian legislation. I’m also beginning to think there can be no middle ground in this subject area, and it’s not worth the hassle of trying to carve out one. I would rather use my energy and voice to contest the loons.

      For a moment there I understood what it’s like to be in the loons’ world. I don’t know how they stand it, they must all be masochists looking for sadists. I don’t know how anyone can bear to live on high alert all the time looking for something that offends them.

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  5. paul walter September 16, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    I’d have thought many forms and styles of erotica through to porn were innocuous enough, but don’t agee entirely as to downrating sado, snuff, gonzo and the likelyhood of victims, often third worlders and or kids; the real and nasty low-end stuff that does occur. Market forces, one supposes…

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