As it turns out, although I have written to my MP, Andrew Lansley, about several matters of censorship and of sex work or sex legislation in general, the particular issue of the ATVOD regulations had slipped through the net. So, belatedly, I have rectified that matter.
Presented below is the letter/email I’ve now sent via Write To Them (you can too, but use your own letter, because they don’t allow copy-pasted form letters). I don’t know if it’s particularly good, and the best bits are probably the turns of phrase or points that I’ve plagiarised from @waitinggirl3 and especially, Pandora Blake.
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Dear Andrew Lansley MP:
I am writing to you today to protest in the strongest terms against the continuing encroachment of censorship on the internet, and in particular of sexual content made by consenting adults. This email is occasioned by the coming into effect of new regulations that require ATVOD to censor Video on Demand services in the same way that the BBFC censors film and video releases, and my main aim is to ask that you act in whatever ways will be most effective to persuade the government to rescind these unnecessary and harmful restrictions on sexual expression, and on freedom of speech.
In my view, the most important point is that, as has frequently been stated by others, “porn is the canary in the coal mine for free speech.” Restrictions of freedom of expression are almost always tested first by seeking to restrict access to adult, sexual, material first, because there will always be people whose response of disgust allows a “moral panic” support of the measures, despite the eventual inevitable harm done. But once the principle has been allowed to fall by the wayside to outlaw sexual material on the grounds of disgust, then it becomes that much easier to use the same measures to outlaw other things that certain people find “disgusting”. Censorship of sexual expression, and of the internet, must be opposed in order to preserve the freedoms and democracy that we pride ourselves on in this country.
The BBFC regulations send a disgraceful message about sexuality to our young people. It is as though they were written specifically for the mainstream producers, who cater only to the male market and regard women as mere receptacles. Anything that displays powerful, female, sexual pleasure seems to be outlawed, while equivalent acts that focus on male pleasure are permitted. Furthermore, acts that are predominantly associated with “queer”, homosexual, or sexual minority groups are also disproportionately targeted. The new regulations are anti-women, homophobic and anti-kink. Some might argue that it should be made stricter to censor male pleasure, too; but these should not be heeded; it is banning female pleasure that is harmful, not the permitting of male pleasure.
The most direct effect will be to force the UK’s independent, feminist, “fair-trade” producers of sexual material out of business, meaning that representations of mutual sexual pleasure, positive informed consent, and negotiation, and which embody the values we should be teaching young people about sex and how to behave towards one another, will be harder to find. Meanwhile, the juggernaut of male-dominated, exploitative sexual oppression will roll on unaffected.
The Backlash UK campaign states that:
“The EU AVMS directive states that content that “might seriously impair minors” should be restricted in order to protect those under 18. However, when considering the research of 20 European States(3), Ofcom found that: ‘No country found conclusive evidence that sexually explicit material harms minors. As a result, the regulations have been introduced under the aegis of “child protection’, without any evidence that the regulation will contribute to child welfare. It will, however, have an adverse impact on the sexual choices of consenting adults and on the British media industry. ”
I would go further: by enforcing regulations that enforce and prescribe a narrow focus on male pleasure over female pleasure, of heterosexual practice over “queer” sexuality, and ignore the importance of free and self-aware sexual expression, this government is creating a toxic environment in which young people learning about their own bodies and sexual desires will be harmed because the language is denied them to choose something better than the mainstream, sexist, model. This will trickle down into sex and relationship education in a harmful way and send precisely the wrong messages about sex and negotiation to our young people. While they may not see the material directly, the social environment they inhabit will still be affected, and in turn, affect them.
This legislation is wrong-headed, sexist, unworkable – and it strikes a huge blow to equality and sexual freedom. I close by asking you again to do all you can to bring about the end of pointless and harmful censorship of British sexual expression, and specifically to ensure that the BBFC guidelines are removed from ATVOD’s regulations.