The UK porn industry is in a sorry state of affairs

One of our readers asks Dear Abi: Why Are There So Many Goddamn Politicians In My Bedroom?

Dear Abi,

My partner and I have been thinking for a while that we’d like to get involved in the porn industry, probably as independent creators making and promoting our own stuff. We’re in the UK, though, and the more research I do the more I realise how difficult it is to stay on the right side of the law here. What’s with Parliament getting so involved in my sex life? Do you think it’s worth the risk, or should we give up on the idea altogether? What can we do to get some of these ridiculous bits of legislation changed to something more sane?

Yours frustratedly,

Someone who doesn’t fancy David Cameron even a tiny bit.

 

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Dear Sane and Sensible Person,

You’re not the only one asking why there are so many goddamn politicians in your bedroom all of a sudden. A few years ago I started describing this generation’s general political atmosphere as “neo-Victorian”, and this is just another way in which I think we’re falling into an ever more backward-looking and reactionary pattern.
A little backstory for our readers: just over a year ago, Parliament quietly amended the 2003 Communications Act to ensure that internet porn produced in the UK adhered to the same censorous strictures as “hard copy” porn sold offline in DVD format. They also expanded those strictures while they were at it, thereby banning a wide range of things previously enjoyed by millions - including:

  • Spanking
  • Caning
  • Aggressive whipping
  • Penetration by any object "associated with violence"
  • Physical or verbal abuse (regardless of if consensual)
  • Urolagnia (known as "water sports")
  • Role-playing as non-adults
  • Physical restraint
  • Humiliation
  • Female ejaculation
  • Strangulation
  • Facesitting
  • Fisting

I dunno about all y’all, but that list neatly encompasses pretty much my entire sex life. Not only does it essentially make it completely illegal to produce BDSM porn of any sort (notice how they’ve covered every imaginable base by not defining ‘physical abuse’ in any way), it also seems to have a particular hate on for specifically female pleasure - they try to pass facesitting off as a “life-threatening act”, but I have yet to see even such bullshitty justification for the inclusion of female ejaculation.

Even before this it was illegal for anyone in the UK to possess what they call “extreme pornography”, a term which seems at first glance to be defined reasonably (there are arguments to be had about necrophilia and bestiality porn, for sure, but I’m not particularly bothered if it isn’t legal) until you get to the bit where they make no effort whatsoever to define “serious injury” and explicitly include anything found by a judge to be “grossly offensive”.


It’s not just in the porn industry, either

I’m going to digress from your original question a bit here, S&SP, because there’s something related to it all that I think it’s important for us to talk about. You don’t hear about this often, but kink is still a mental illness in this country.
Europe doesn’t use the DSM-IV; we have the ICD-10 instead. It was written in 1990, and ICD-11 now isn’t due till 2018 - the initial release date was 2013, but they keep pushing it back and back. Some of the things defined as diagnosable mental illnesses (and therefore admissible in court) by this document include ”the wearing of clothes of the opposite sex principally to obtain sexual excitement” and “a preference for sexual activity that involves bondage or the infliction of pain or humiliation”. These things can be described as a mental illness by a medical professional if “the individual...acts on the urges”.

You can add to that the fact that teenagers are being threatened with prosecution for taking photographs of themselves doing things that are completely legal, not to mention that our own Prime Minister has repeatedly and consistently resisted all attempts by the rest of Parliament to improve the state of sex education in our schools - the one thing that might help to solve the problems that those photographs create. What we’re getting here is a pretty grim picture of how our authorities think about sex and what it means.

I’m not claiming there are no potential problems. The porn industry isn’t without its issues. There’s no denying that the availability of internet porn has changed the ways we think about sex as a society - and many of those changes are directly harmful to women, to people of colour, to trans people and to other marginalised groups.
The thing is, though, we can’t necessarily fix those problems by banning the things that cause them - what we need is reform. We need a porn industry that is led by women as much as by men, that includes trans people as something other than a niche fetish, that depicts a wide range of healthy and affirming sexual styles in a way that people enjoy and find something good in.

Instead what we’ve got is a porn industry where films following the deeply problematic old formula (a thin woman with augmented breasts and no body hair of any sort is approached by a strapping but mostly-faceless man with a large penis; they have conventional and highly objectifying sex; he finishes with a moneyshot) are the only kind it’s legal to make here. Our government seems to be doing everything it can to stop people like you and your partner creating the kind of material that could actually start to deal with the stuff they’re clearly so afraid of.


So what should you do?

This is a tricky question to answer, S&SP. If you’re just wanting to have some fun and make a bit of money, you’re probably best off either making stuff that’s clearly fine - which would be quite dull for most Fuck.com readers, I expect - or moving onto another project and giving this idea up as a bad job.


If you feel strongly about this, though, I commend you; so do I, and we need more people who care enough to start getting this changed. Your best starting point is probably to find out what prominent UK porn activists are doing already, and as it happens I know at least one personally: if you have a look at http://pandorablake.com/blog you’ll find out about all sorts of things you can do to get involved, some of which - like filling out a government survey to respond to a consultation - won’t even require that much of your time or energy. Her site DreamOfSpanking was the first to be censored when the new regulations came into force, and she’s been challenging that decision ever since.


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