I'd say there are a lot of good arguments for why pornography, or at least the public distribution thereof, could be made illegal, and it seems that many countries in the West are beginning to regulate internet pornography more strictly lately.
Some arguments I find interesting:
1. One argument is that an actor in a pornographic film doesn't have the physical ability to consent to being viewed by strangers on the internet, therefore a 'contract' of consent to a porn company is null and void; and a person viewing a stranger in a sexual situation would typically be criminally charged under laws such as voyeurism laws; therefore viewing internet pornography is the same as voyeurism, and therefore could be made illegal to view or distribute.
2. Likewise, an argument could be made that producing or viewing pornography violates the property rights of one's body, and while legally a body is one's living property, much like a horse one owns, one isn't legally allowed to do "anything" they want to it in practice; for example one can't legally give a person written permission to murder you and have them escape murder charges.
So using these facts, a case could be made that producing pornography for the viewing of strangers is permitting them to engage in a property rights violation against one's body, and therefore could be illegal regardless of one's consent.
I think these arguments have good philosophical bases, and apparently the trend in the West is to begin cracking down on internet pornography, so it will be interesting to see where this trend leads; likewise the popularity of 'amateur' pornography seems to be helping to drive commercial pornography out of business, much as internet piracy has more or less done CD music, so it'll be interesting to see the direction things go.
Hopefully not an excessive backlash like the Victorian Era of England, or the rise of the Ayatollah in Iran following the Shah's removal from power, but if society on the whole is showing signs of backlash against the more uncultured and sub-literati elements in mass culture, a la internet pornography and lots of "quasi-pornography" which doesn't meet any artistic merit despite barely being over the 'legal' threshold, this may be a good thing.
And, again in that scenario, the "criminal" is not the California porn company that made the video and hosted it on its site. It's the Indonesian viewer of the pornography.
"1. One argument is that an actor in a pornographic film doesn't have the physical ability to consent to being viewed by strangers on the internet, therefore a 'contract' of consent to a porn company is null and void; and a person viewing a stranger in a sexual situation would typically be criminally charged under laws such as voyeurism laws; therefore viewing internet pornography is the same as voyeurism, and therefore could be made illegal to view or distribute."
That's a bad argument for a few reasons:
Porn actors do indeed have the ability to legally consent. And they regularly do. And the contracts are perfectly valid. That's how the industry works and the law works.
Viewing internet pornography isn't the same as illegal voyeurism because the internet pornography was legally produced for the purpose of viewing by individuals other than the actors. It's a bit like saying that reading someone's personal diary is a violation of their privacy. It most certainly is, if you don't get their permission. But one of the best selling books of all time is "The Diary of Anne Frank" and I assure you that no one is breaking the law by reading that book.
"Likewise, an argument could be made that producing or viewing pornography violates the property rights of one's body, and while legally a body is one's living property, much like a horse one owns, one isn't legally allowed to do "anything" they want to it in practice; for example one can't legally give a person written permission to murder you and have them escape murder charges."
The latter part of your argument generally makes sense but the beginning doesn't. Need an example? If I punch you in the face right now, that's assault; a criminal charge. But if we're both boxers and we legally consent, fully informed, to participating in a sanctioned boxing match, it's not assault and neither of us will be criminally charged. Another example? It's illegal for me to stab you but, if you consented and I was licensed to do so, I could pierce you. Or suture you. Or perform surgery on you.
"So using these facts, a case could be made that producing pornography for the viewing of strangers is permitting them to engage in a property rights violation against one's body, and therefore could be illegal regardless of one's consent."
I disagree. Using my examples above, it's the same reason I don't get arrested on the basis of Good Samaritan laws for sitting back and having a beer while Connor McGreggor beats the shit out of someone in a cage on TV.
"and apparently the trend in the West is to begin cracking down on internet pornography"
I've not heard of this trend. More info please.
"likewise the popularity of 'amateur' pornography seems to be helping to drive commercial pornography out of business"
Actually, it's the opposite. What's killing the traditional porn industry (and I'm including internet porn in here) is piracy. What's saving the industry is adopting the business model and product delivery format of amateur pornography. While porn actors/actresses in the 80s made most of their money through tapes, and in the 90s through DBDs, and in the 2000s through internet, now the shift is towards paid cam girl / live stream work. And it's actually putting more money into the pockets of the talent rather than the studios.
"the more uncultured and sub-literati elements in mass culture"
Ah. You're one of those.
"I'm saying they shouldn't necessarily be considered valid. I mean, in Saudi Arabia a 10 year old girl can potentially legally marry a 50 year old man with parental consent; that's how the law works, but should it?"
I know what you're saying but you haven't presented a strong argument for it so far.
"That's debatable, given that martial artistry has an artistic element to it, there would be a fine line between watching a martial arts match and something which is purely voyeuristic; must as there would be a line between pornography, and erotica or nude artwork, the latter of which has aesthetic qualities which ad context to the sexual content that distinguish it from pure voyeurism."
All of that is extremely subjective. What differentiates a martial art from a combat sport. Who determines what is artistic and what isn't in the context of people engaging in consensual violence? What differentiates porn from erotica? Where does it stop being black and starts being white. Whether or not there's a plot? Whether or not the acting is good? There's too much grey there. It's all too subjective.
"Sports are considered a type of performance art to some extent or another; so a sport which includes violence wouldn't be considered the same as a 'snuff film' just by the virtue of containing 'violence' alone."
So you do want to give the performance art of sports an exemption from criminal charges related to consent and physical harm but you don't want to give the performance art of porn an exemption from criminal charges related to consent and physical harm because . . . reasons?
"There's no hard line, but the objective constants would be the presence or absence of the things being in an artistic context, as opposed to having no artistic context and existing solely for physical stimulation or exploitation."
And who makes that determination? And based on what guidelines or criteria? Some people think graffiti is vandalism. Others think it's art. Others think it's neither and others think it's both. We're talking about criminal charges here, with presumably serious consequences, and the burden of proof for criminal charges is "beyond any reasonable doubt". Can you imagine a judge or jury sitting there wondering to themselves "Is this devoid of artistic context? Or did they attempt artistic context but they're just bad at it?" And think of the workarounds: "To make this anal gang bang scene legal, we added all of this bullshit existentialism and artistic context".
What you propose doesn't make sense and would be impossible to enforce.
"There's a slightly different angle on the question of whether internet porn is voyeurism or not. Here in the UK at least, my understanding is that watching someone counts as voyeurism when they have a reasonable expectation of privacy."
Pro tip for Nature Of Man: That's not just in the UK. THAT'S EVERYWHERE.
"There's plenty 'art' that lacks merit but that isn't a reason to make it illegal."
MOTHERFUCKING STANDING OVATION
Frankly, this is all a fairly transparent pretext. It sounds like you started with a conclusion -- that porn should be illegal -- and you're working backward to the most convoluted legal reasoning possible so as to avoid just prohibiting it.
If you want to make porn illegal ... you don't need all of this nonsense. Just write a law that prohibits the production and sale of explicit sexual material. Such laws have been written before. They're not all that complicated to write. They're Constitutionally questionable ... but so is extinguishing the ability of a grown woman to consent to sex in front of a camera, or sign a contract, or whatever. You're probably Constitutionally more stable on the 'obscenity' front than on attacking the agency of porn performers.
The justification can be that it's immoral, it's not good for performers, it's not good for users ... whatever. You don't need to invent a novel reading of 'voyeurism' laws that is way outside of the intent of the law, nor do you need to upend the current legal understanding of consent. There is simply no way to pass a law that adult women with no mental handicaps are incapable of reasoned consent. You'd get your ass handed to you by pretty much every Court in this country.
Skip the legal pretext ... and just ban porn. Fairly straightforward stuff.
More importantly, prostitution should be legal for the same reasons pornography is.
Prostitution is legal.
Being a pimp is illegal. Soliciting prostitution is illegal. Running a brothel / bawdy house is (in most places in North America) illegal. But prostitution itself, the consensual exchange of sex for money, is not illegal.
Must be different in Canada, or your province.
Oh. Didn't realize that. Figure it was the same as up here. Up here, prostitution is not illegal, but solicitation is, and living off the avails of prostitution (pimping) is and running a bawdy house (brothel) is. But the exchange of money for sex is not.