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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New York Libraries: Come on in and Watch Some Porn


If you don't mind getting your face punched in, New York's public libraries might just be your new favorite place to watch people have sex with each other on the internet. Sure, you're surrounded by other patrons, but it's free!

You might think that watching people pound away at each other in the most graphic and jarring manner in public might run contrary to a library's mission of promoting literature and the arts, while providing a safe and tranquil place to read, work, and study. And sure, in 1973 Miller v. California pulled porn out of the categorical forcefield of free speech. But, the NY Post reports, NYPL rep Angela Montefinise thinks everyone's favorite part of the Bill of Rights includes PornHub: "In deference to the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech, the New York Public Library cannot prevent adult patrons from accessing adult content that is legal."

This is a sticky (sorry) situation! On the one hand, we tend to agree that people should be able to access whatever information they'd like in a free society. And what if you're a gender studies major, and you're writing a thesis on pornography? Or something. Cases like that are likely the infinitesimal exception to the rule that is creepy dudes without a home internet connection who just want to spend the afternoon watching porn, but censorship never quite sits right, even when it's something I probably wouldn't want my (hypothetical) little kids to see when I take them to the library to read Goodnight Moon.

So which side to err on? Liberal progressive western civilization, or not wanting to expose children to HD gang bangs? Masturbating in public is always illegal, whether you're doing it to internet porn or Jane Eyre, so that shouldn't be an issue as long as there's some diligent librarian to enforce it (and my God what an awful job that would be). So perhaps we could make exemptions for those occasional cases in which porn-viewing would have some scholarly justification—but really, the first amendment is about information and ideas, and libraries are about accessing just that. No matter how much of a free speech zealot you are, we can all agree that porn (especially two minute clips online) convey nothing except naked doing it—erotic stimulus, not information. So, sorry, creepy guys of New York (and beyond)—I think the libraries need to rescind this invitation. With that being said, online porn is a wonderful thing, and I would take to the streets with an AK-47 to defend its legal consumption in the privacy of your own home. [NYP via Gawker]

Shutterstock/Robert Kneschke