Nothing to hide

Cowen, Nick and Jackman, Myles (2016) Nothing to hide. Discussion Paper. Adam Smith Insitute, London.

Full content URL:

Nothing to hide
Published PDF

Request a copy
[img] PDF
Nicholas+Cowen+-+Nothing+to+hide+FINAL.pdf - Whole Document
Restricted to Repository staff only

Item Type:Paper or Report (Discussion Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


The ban on possession of ‘extreme pornography’ was introduced in 2009 and extended in 2015. The law, as drafted, bans depictions of some sex acts that can be conducted safely and consensually between adults, with a specific risk of prosecution posed to LGBT minorities. The Crown Prosecution Service reports more than a thousand offences prosecuted each year, implying significant enforcement costs that could be deployed effectively elsewhere. A substantial minority of the British population enjoy sexually aggressive fantasy scenarios but do not pose a specific risk of committing violent or sexual offences. Access to pornography has increased dramatically in recent years, yet social harms imputed to pornography (especially violence against women) have fallen moderately. While some survey evidence claims a correlation between individual use of pornography and sexual aggression, econometric evidence suggests this is not a causal relationship and that, if anything, increased access to pornography can reduce measurable social harms. The ban itself represents a potential risk to political integrity. Like the ban on homosexuality in much of the 20th century, prohibitions on private sexual conduct can be used to silence, blackmail and corrupt individuals in positions of authority and responsibility. There are better policies for reducing violence against women in the dimensions of criminal justice, education and economic reform. The prevailing free speech doctrine in the United States shows that it is realistically possible to simultaneously tackle damaging forms of expression and maintain strong protections for innocuous forms.

Keywords:extreme pornography, free speech, privacy, criminal justice, civil liberties, LGBTQ
Subjects:L Social studies > L211 Liberalism
L Social studies > L320 Gender studies
L Social studies > L216 Feminism
M Law > M211 Criminal Law
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:36356
Deposited On:03 Jul 2019 14:32

Repository Staff Only: item control page