In the middle of the absolute fucking mess that is Brexit, you might have missed another big problem the government is lining up for us. Age verification for people who want to look at porn is imminent, and it’s bullshit, too. As with Brexit, you’ve got opportunistic, greedy bastards licking their chops and thoroughly prepared to turn a bad situation to their advantage; as with Brexit, there’s a lot of dishonesty, scaremongering and moralistic posturing involved.
Age verification, though, is part of an older, more overarching problem than the ghastly cocktail of xenophobia, empire-fantasy and, well, greed that is behind Brexit. That problem is pleasure-phobia.
Genre fiction. Porn. Fatty sugary food. Mobile phones. Alcohol. Recreational sex. Popular music. Computer games. Dancing. Horror films or fantasy films. Labour-saving devices. Fancy but impractical clothing. Universal basic income which would enable people to reject shitty jobs… All these things are, we get told, Bad For Us. They will make us ill, or unhappy, or engaging with them, consuming them, will somehow do untold damage to other people.If wwe are to have access to such things at all, that access must be regulated and controlled.
While it’s true that ingesting too much of some things can affect health, and some desirable products or services are produced under exploitative conditions, it’s difficult to believe that too much enjoyment of life, and all it has to offer, is a problem. Yet people are surprisingly willing to believe that fun and pleasure are somehow going to harm them and should be approached with extreme caution. That self-denial and self-sacrifice are virtuous, and our lives should be spent in pursuit of some sort of higher good.
It might be worth considering who benefits from the idea that enjoyment and happiness are potentially dangerous. Happy people, whose bellies are full and whose desires are generally satisfied, tend to be a bit less easy to push around, or scare, or enrage. They are harder to sell unnecessary stuff to. They are less interested in punishing or scapegoating or harassing their neighbours – unlike those who are anxious, hungry, thwarted, unsatisfied or uncomfortable with the way their lives are panning out. They are disinclined, basically, to put up with nonsense from anyone who wants to make use of them.