Spank you very much

Apparently, your sexual preferences are wrong. Sorry to say that, but it’s true. If you like watching female ejaculation, that’s filthy. If you like watching a woman straddling a man’s face, that’s disgusting. If you like watching people be spanked hard, you’re a reprobate. What, did nobody tell you?

On Monday, a new set of regulations came into being in the UK, relating to porn. From Monday, video on demand porn sites in the UK will not be allowed to show porn produced in the UK that would not get an R18 rating from the BBFC.

What’s an R18 rating? Well, it’s the top-end rating given to films by the British Board of Film Classification, and it is pretty much reserved for hardcore porn. A film cannot be released commercially in the UK without a BBFC certificate, and a film being R18 means that it can only be sold in licenced sex shops, and even then there are some heavy restrictions. For instance, R18 films, outside of the obvious “no children, no animals” rules, and excluding many for time, cannot contain any of the following;

  • Aggressive spanking, caning, and whipping
  • Penetration by any object “associated with violence”
  • Physical or verbal abuse (regardless ofif consensual)
  • Urolagnia (known as “water sports”)
  • Role-playing as non-adults
  • Physical restraint
  • Humiliation
  • Female ejaculation
  • Strangulation
  • Facesitting
  • Fisting

(you can read more on the specifics here)

(It’s odd that several of these have been classified as potentially “life-endangering”, when any BDSM aficionado knows that if all proper precautions are taken, and they are, then such activities are in no way life-endangering). Ahem…anyway…

The justification for this legislative boner-killer is that, according to an anonymous spokesman the Independent talked to, “the legislation provides the same level of protection to the online world that exists on the high street in relation to the sale of physical DVDs”. OK, so far, so logical; if we’re going to have these restrictions on porn (which we shouldn’t), they should probably be consistent. However, they then continue, “in a converging media world these provisions must be coherent, and the BBFC classification regime is a tried and tested system of what content is regarded as harmful for minors”.

OK, a couple of things on this;

  1. If you’re concerned about something harming minors, why does that require censorship for the entire adult population? We don’t ban cigarettes and alcohol for everyone, just because we don’t want kids to consume them.
  2. There have been many, many studies into pornography and teenagers, and it is, at very best, inconclusive as to whether exposure to pornography really does harm minors
  3. Children will see porn anyway. They did so before they learned how to use computers better than their parents, and they will continue to do so. I cannot say that I believe that any of the above would be more damaging to a kid than so-called ‘vanilla’ porn. If we accept that kids will probably see porn, and it’s about time we did, we should consider talking to them about it; about depictions of sex, about what may be differences between “real world sex” and “porn sex”. It may be possible to bring in discussions of sex work, and what BDSM is, etc.

But, hey, there’s nothing like censorship to replace, y’know, actually talking about stuff.

It is also an enormous assault on people’s sexual pleasure, and particularly that of women. It is widely accepted that mainstream porn has some deeply misogynistic traits. After all, it is largely made by straight men, for straight men. However, kink porn, and femdom porn in particular, is one of the areas where there is often more female input, and which focusses more on female pleasure, and female dominance, whether that be from being a domme, or a sub (I cannot say I am an expert on BDSM porn, find others for their thoughts. Maybe feminist, and spanking-porn producer Pandora Blake). Some people may not know this, but lots, and I do mean lots, of women watch porn.

Apparently, this will not do, and so female ejaculation is gone. Meanwhile, male ejaculation is totally fine. Also, facesitting is gone, while facef*cking is fine. Why, yes, those are some ridiculous double standards. By the way, points for you if you’re one of the many people who’ve already interpreted the ban on “penetration by any object associated with violence”, as a ban on penises.

Also, this may have worrying consequences for the British independent, queer, and BDSM porn industry. Yes, the new regulations do mean that, in theory, the production of these films could still be exported, and this does not stop porn viewers from viewing material produced abroad, but removing the home country removes a huge part of their revenue, not to mention the fact that most people watch porn for free on tube sites these days. These new regulations will drastically affect the lives of people in the UK porn industry, and many such people have no idea what to do, how these laws will affect them, and whether they can continue in their livelihoods. Meanwhile, the much more mainstream, and many would argue, more misogynist, end of proceedings, will remain largely unscathed. As award-winning porn director Erika Lust writes

With this legislation, the UK is in danger of finding itself back in an age where porn is simply the boring, unrealistic, male fantasy of bimbos eagerly pleasing men as if it is their duty, where women are submissive and lack ownership of their sexuality. Women in the industry will now fear the loss of their livelihoods as well as their sexual independence.
— Erika Lust

Vanilla 4eva.

I do not care what kind of sex you’re into, or indeed what kind of porn you are into. I have said it many times, but as long as it’s safe, consensual, and with any luck, mutually enjoyable, it is nobody else’s business. Yet because Britain is still a largely reserved and sexually repressed country, these regulations were able to go through with the most minimal of fanfare, because few people want to openly defend porn. As Myles Jackman says, porn is the “canary in the coalmine” when it comes to censorship; it is the first to die, and it is the last thing most are likely to defend, because porn is still an enormous taboo, despite loads and loads of us using it.

Hopefully not, though. When this news was reported, there has been a long line of excellent blogs and articles, a short stream of which you can find on the aforementioned Pandora Blake’s blog. People are enraged by this assault on freedom of sexual expression, and right they should be. In America, it was only twelve years ago that sodomy laws, which banned any kind of sex that was not penovaginal, were declared unconstitutional. Sexual expression in the western world still has a way to go.

To paraphrase an oft-used quote, if liberty means anything at all, it means the right for people to have consensual sex in a way that you do not like. And that liberty should be afforded to the porn industry too.