The world seems to be going a little crazy over the last few decades with the rise of religious fundamentalism and the equally prolific rise in the availability of legal and illegal pornography. The latest additions to Australian pornography laws, bordering on the ridiculous, are a ban on A-Cup breasted women in print and film and a ban on female orgasm (via BoingBoing). These both exceed the X Rating and meet the Refused Rating for Australian censorship.
This is kind of crazy not only because of the bizarre way we’re treating A-Cup women as though they have a physical deformity that will bring predators out of their shells, but also because it assumes the statistics are normally distributed. By that I mean the statistics represent as a bell-curve with equal tails on either side – the conclusion, if that were the case, would be that the problem sits with the majority of men who, exposed to A-Cups, will become predatory pedophiles. That’s an interesting assumption.
Malcolm Gladwell’s article in the New Yorker titled Million-Dollar Murray: why problems like homelessness may be easier to solve than to manage (February, 2006) – republished as the full version in What the Dog Saw (pages 177-198) – looks at a very similar false assumption of a normal distribution. When, in fact, homelessness (and dare I say people who become pedophiles due to exposure to A-Cup pornography) are a distribution the shape of a hockey stick. That means its a relatively flat line until you get to the extreme end and you have a big fat bump. Like a hockey stick, not like a symmetrical bell curve.
What that means is that Barnaby Joyce’s A-Cup ban is plainly stupid based on emotion rather than solid science. Its a solution aimed to address the normalised (bell curve) distribution not the hockey stick shaped distribution. As Malcolm Gladwell points out the solution to problems with these distributions are to fix the problem. Locate and address the hockey stick end, not the middle of the fictitious bell curve.
Wouldn’t the solution be binary – ban porn or not ban porn; legal at age 18 or not legal at age 18; all orgasms legal or all orgasms illegal… after all, breasts are breasts are breasts and even God, if you’re a fundamentalist Christian, surely approves of the A-Cup sized variation. After all, its a popular size and non-the-less effective!
Will a 27 year old sex worker who is suddenly out of a job because of her physical deformity (in the world of Barnaby Joyce) sue the Australian Government for physical discrimination or invest in B-Cup sized breast implants and claim them back as a tax deductible work expense? And, if she does, how will that affect the legality of looking at her in pornography – some topless images of her being legal and others plainly illegal? The only difference being the implants.
Don’t even get me started on the claim that women don’t have orgasms… we all do understand that male orgasms are external, we have external sexual organs? Because I’m starting to wonder if some politicians attended science classes in high school.
The key take-away of legislation along these lines is that they pass through on the idea that anybody opposing them are part of the problem – deviants, pedophiles, Satan’s minions. Its the schoolboy in the playground being prodded by their peers to call the little girl a nasty name… if he doesn’t he’s a nancy.
And this is where I see the key to much of this tom-foolery by government. The meeting of fundamentalist values with the new world order of government censorship and control. If Malcolm Gladwell is right then it just might be more effective (and probably cheaper) to fix the problem of online pedophilia than to assume all men are guilty predators who succumb to A-Cup predation response… which kind of reminds me of an old movie called Futz.
If you haven’t seen Futz then please do. It has a lot of deep underlying commentary directly around this area of social behaviour.
Update: 31 January, 2010
You might find the article Has Australia Really Banned Small Breasts to fill out a balanced conversation about this topic, with strong emphasis on reading through the comments to understand both sides of this conversation. For example, a law saying it is illegal to depict persons who appear to be under 18. The question then becomes – on what basis do you assess that someone appears to be under 18? Small breasts? Pigtails?
So, the comments over there are well worth your while. Censorship in Australia, after all, is a small group of unelected somebodies making case by case decisions and interpreting the regulations such as this scenario. Thought crime? Big Brother? Normalised distribtion (bell curve) or a hockey stick distribution?