I was 16 in 1994, the year the World Wide Web came into being.
I had been aware of myself as a sexual being for about two years, and for a similar amount of time had been plagued by worries about the types of sexual fantasies I had. Sexual dominance, torture, and sadism that, in the media available to me, were only ever associated with serial killers and evil people.
In my developing sexuality, I looked for media to show me sex, and inspire sexual thoughts. I suppose a lot of young male-bodied types, like me, started with lingerie models in mail-order catalogues (not something you’d assume today, of course, but back then it was harder to find proper porn when you were considered “too young”). I graduated quickly to wank mags such as Razzle and Escort, but couldn’t find what I needed, because what I needed was hard, BDSM porn.
I saw my first porn videos while at university, and it was exciting but only when I overlaid some BDSM elements with my imagination. Even the “kinky” stuff I could find turned out to be astonishingly mild and of no relevance. But the internet? The internet was my saviour! Here, at last, were images and narratives, and personal accounts, of people enjoying sex the way I imagined it. The way I needed it.
I learned about Spanner, and I learned about the BBFC guidelines that clearly told me that I could not buy videos that worked for me (although mail-order from Europe, it turns out, neatly gets around that problem).
For the past two or three years at least, the Daily Mail has been whipping up a moral panic about porn, using ludicrous “statistics”, the whole “Won’t somebody think of the children?” line, and typical “legislate from disgust” headlines (I only know the headlines, I don’t read the paper itself). David Cameron responded favourably to the Mail and has created new laws more or less at their behest to create one of the most restrictive sexual censorship regimes in Western Europe.
The latest step is to apply the BBFC guidelines to UK-based online porn producers and providers, though the instrument of ATVOD, which oversees online “video on demand” services, which are described as “TV-like”. I recall a few years ago, UK porn companies asking for the BBFC restriction on R18 content being sold by mail order to be lifted, because they were losing out to their European competitors who could sell much harder material by mail order. It seems obvious that in general, ATVOD will also not stop porn reaching UK consumers, but only where it comes from.
I’ve seen a variety of opinions on just how badly this will affect Britain’s independent porn producers. I am no expert, but I strongly hope that some of the great fetish and feminist kink porn producers I follow online, and occasionally support by buying some of their stuff, will survive: they’ve all vowed not to self-censor in the light of the new law, and to fight it every step of the way.
Here’s three of the best posts on the subject:
The legal expert – ObscenityLawyer: The Following Content Is Not Acceptable
The porn producer – Pandora Blake: Online porn: the canary in the coalmine
The feminist anarchist – Stavvers: The new online porn regulations and how they disproportionately affect women
That last one is particularly worth noting: the BBFC regulations particularly stigmatise female pleasure and female-dominant sexual activities. As Blake (quoting Stavvers and other sources) explains:
It’s interesting that for the most part, femdom sites have been the ones targeted. The restrictions on facesitting and squirting disproportionately censor female sexual expression, female pleasure and female dominance
facefucking is permitted, but facesitting is not; likewise consuming male ejaculate is permitted, but consuming female ejaculate is not. The new legislation props up patriarchal models of male sexual dominance and criminalises femdom and feminist producers whose work provides alternative models of sexual interaction.
Similarly, the restriction against fisting – an important part of authentic queer sexuality – will disproportionately affect producers of queer, lesbian and gay porn. This is undeniably a blow against women and queers, with a transparently sexist emphasis on restricting acts of female sexual power.
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Censorship is how we teach young people (teenagers and young adults) they are SICK and WRONG and DISGUSTING for having sexual thoughts, particularly sexual thoughts outside of heteronormative, vanilla, PiV-male-orgasm-oriented sex.