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An Eliasian Perspective on the Intentional Actions and Unintended Consequences of the Criminalisation of ‘Extreme Pornography’

Allison Moore

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Since 2009, the possession of ‘extreme pornography’ in England and Wales has been criminalised under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act (CJIA) (2008). Introduced as an attempt to regulate the production and distribution of so-called ‘extreme pornography’ on the internet, the CJIA (2008) appears to be a specifically twenty-first century response to a twenty-first century problem that attempts to rise to the challenges posed by the rapid advances in communications technology. Drawing on Eliasian sociology this paper will argue that despite its apparent novelty the underlying assumptions of the CJIA (2008) have much longer lineages and irrespective of the intended aim to target a “limited category of extreme material featuring adults”, its unintended consequences have been to reinforce and reproduce dominant constructions of sexuality. It rests on the assumption that sexuality is a private matter and that representations of sexuality in the public realm must be controlled or censured. Secondly, it rehearses and reinforces gendered constructions of female passivity and male activity. Finally, because of its focus on pornography depicting acts that appear to lead to serious injury or represent a threat to life, it pathologises individuals who fantasise about and engage in sexual practices that eroticise consensual power exchange.

Keywords: Elias, process sociology, extreme pornography, CJIA (2008).