Why the UK’s new laws could destroy queer & female-led porn

The governments’ bid to censor ‘non-conventional’ sex acts is prohibiting the sexual liberation of female, transsexual and gay people

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Protesters at parliament’s mass face-sitting protestPhotography Stephanie Wilson

According to recent figures, the global porn industry is currently worth around $97billion. It’s hardly surprising: the Internet has democratised porn in a way once never thought possible, allowing millions of us worldwide to explore our fantasies in the privacy of our own homes. Signs even point towards a new, progressive era of online pornography, with feminist porn on the rise, and sites like MakeLoveNotPorn shooting sex with actual intimacy. 

Now for the shit news. The UK government has quietly proposed a new clause in the Digital Economy Bill which, if passed, would see “non-conventional” sex acts blocked by UK Internet service providers. These acts are yet to be officially defined, but the language already mirrors a law passed by David Cameron in 2014, which saw the filming of face-sitting, spanking, fisting and female ejaculation outlawed in the UK. Although not confirmed, it’s logical to assume that this new clause would aim to eradicate these same apparently “non-conventional” acts.

At surface level, the proposed legislation appears to be just another arbitrary method of policing our online activity. It is, of course, true that our porn use does need to be monitored – there’s a lucrative market for child and non-consensual pornography growing daily, whereas studies reveal that the average first exposure to porn comes at just 11 years old. It is, therefore, clear that regulations and laws relating to online pornography are necessary and, on occasion, life-saving. This new clause, however, isn’t being proposed for the benefit of anybody’s safety. Instead, the clause is yet another futile attempt to impose a cultural ideal of what counts as ‘normal’ sexual activity – an idea which is inherently damaging.

At school, I never learned the ins and outs of same-sex activity, nor was I ever told that being attracted to other men was in any way ‘normal’. I grew up with a sense of shame that coloured my earliest sexual encounters (which were – spoiler alert – shit). A lack of information meant that I, like many other queer people, looked to pornography for a makeshift DIY sex education.

“It feels like we’re going back in time. 50 years of queer activism which pushed the boundaries of what can be considered ‘acceptable’ sex would be flushed down the toilet” –  Stacey Clare

Anybody with any experience of porn knows that a vast majority of it depicts muscular men and petite, shaven women. They also know that, in most cases, the guy will get to come either on her face, stomach or tits. With the UK’s proposed ban, female ejaculation could end up outlawed, but this will be allowed to continue. What are we saying to young women nationwide if we legally outlaw footage of their orgasm? The UK is sending a message that sexual intercourse exists solely to sate male pleasure, and this message reinforces the idea that women and their desires need to be policed, controlled and, ultimately, stigmatised. 

One woman with personal experience of this stigma is Stacey Clare, co-founder of the East London Strippers Collective. The aim of ELSC is to unite strippers, allowing them the freedom to self-organise, rally against exploitation and challenge the depressingly frequent misconception that sex workers are always trafficked. “I’m a stripper activist”, she explains, “I believe stripping and sex work challenges social norms in terms of sex, love and relationships. As part of a marginalised community, I know the effects of stigma. Stigma leads to silence, which leads to suffering, which leads to harm.”

Clare also notes that this draconian government proposal coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which decriminalised homosexuality. “It feels like we’re going back in time”, she laments. “50 years of queer activism which pushed the boundaries of what can be considered ‘acceptable’ sex would be flushed down the toilet.”

Pornographer Pandora Blake, who founded the queer feminist BDSM site Dreams Of Spanking, has also expressed her frustration at the government’s attitude. “The AVMS regulations are about patriarchal institutions trying to enforce a heteronormative, kink-phobic sexuality,” she said earlier this year. “Banning face-sitting but not deep-throat reveals a deep-seated misogyny that is suspicious of female sexual dominance and female pleasure. Banning squirting but not cum shots reveals the patriarchal belief that only men should gain pleasure from sex, and male visible orgasm is fine but female visible orgasm is obscene.”

Clare and Blake highlight that sex is inherently political. The sex lives of queer people have been legally monitored, attacked and weaponised for so long that social ideals of ‘normal’ sexual behaviour have become a tool of oppression. Even now, the disheartening debate surrounding the ‘bathroom bill’ in America recently resulted in a sickening advert which depicted a young girl about to be raped by a trans woman in a bathroom stall. The implication was that trans women are perverts, a threat to ‘biological’ women and girls. 

This proposed legislation has nothing to do with safety, and everything to do with discrimination under the guise of morality. “Marginalising members of society due to the choices they make in private as consenting adults is probably one of the most destructive, insidious and despicable moves a government can make”, summarises Clare. “If we want to create a healthy society, we need better sex education, support and protection for children, not more surveillance for adults.”

This isn’t a superficial proposal to stop us all indulging in feature-length videos of piss play and fisting – it’s an attack on female sexual liberation, an attack on queer and ‘non-conventional’ sex lives and a law designed to further stigmatise minorities already suffering the effects of a post-Trump, post-Brexit landscape. Recent shifts of power have placed authority in the hands of politicians notorious for their anti-LGBT and anti-women policies. We’re all already being threatened with the legal eradication of our hard-earned rights – at least allow us all to exercise our right to sexual freedom and kinky porn in peace.

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