A year ago we assembled at Old Palace Yard in Westminster to protest against the changes in the law banning certain sexual acts
The Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 which bans sex involving using bondage and/or gags, fisting, facesitting, urination, female ejaculation and spanking or caning beyond moderation was brought into effect on 1st December 2014 – without any public consultation.
On 12th December 2014 we gathered together to show our frustrations, to meet other like minded people and to whip up a media frenzy to raise awareness of the suppression of sexual and creative freedoms within independent pornography. I covered the event in my blog last year.
In the following months I interviewed Courtney Trouble and Jiz Lee for a small series of posts on the changes in legislation called Criminal Behaviours and wrote a guest blog on consent for a Girl on the Net. It formed a huge part of my writing in the past year, and when I got the email from Charlotte Rose announcing a second protest I cleared my Saturday afternoon and dug out my warmest jumper for more activism in the cold.
Exactly one year on, we gathered back together in the same place to show our solidarity and defiance against the threat to our sexual freedom.
Charlotte Rose, organiser of both Porn Protest 2014 and 2015, is keen to raise as much public awareness as possible on the changing laws.
“If we stop fighting, the next generation will have nothing left to protect,” she explains.
“The excuse of ‘protect the children’ is the only reasoning that the government claim, yet all children that want further information about sex are being denied this education in school.”
The Internet provides a resource to learn about anything you could think of, but when it becomes the only method to learn about sex this warps our understanding of a fundamental human impulse. Both young people and adults stand to suffer if we remain silent about sex and let erotic entertainment perpetuate misconceptions about sexual expression.
Charlotte Rose adds “the attack on consensual activities is growing. If we don’t do something now we will be put into sexual oppression and no government has the right to take your personal liberties away!”
There were speeches from key players in the fight against the legislation at the protest, such as Jerry Barnett from Sex and Censorship, Jane Fae of Backlash and obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman. We also heard from representatives from the NHS, a plethora of sex workers and a women’s sexuality group which had not existed this time last year. It was inspiring and galvanising to witness speeches from these men and women.
Pandora Blake, who was present at last year’s protest, is an erotic artist, producing, directing and performing in films featuring spanking – illegal since December 2014. She has been a visible public advocate of sexual expression since, had sent a message from her holiday to be read out at the protest.
Pandora’s website, Dreams of Spanking, was shut down in August 2015. We spoke before the protest about her experiences in the past year.
“When the regulations came in I wasn’t sure how they would play out in practice. Sometimes vaguely worded or ill-thought out laws are brought in, but not actively enforced. However, the enforcement was far swifter, and more heavy handed, than I expected.”
During the several months of investigation, with the support from Backlash and Myles Jackman, Pandora fougaht the actions every step of the way. The final decision was given in August and the website was taken offline. Pandora remembers being informed of the investigation swiftly after appearing on a panel on pornography for BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour.
“It seems likely that my public criticism of the new regulations brought me to ATVOD’s attention,” she concludes.
“Many of my fellow pornographers who distribute similar work depicting spanking that leaves lasting marks have not yet been contacted, so it’s hard not to see it as political censorship.”
This targeting reflects a growing concern that it isn’t about the content, but how we publicly express our rights to sexual freedom. Pornography is only the first step on a much more sinister journey to suppress freedom of speech. Encouraging people to speak out against restrictions on UK pornography is problematic in that barely anybody will admit they consume any kind of erotic media.
It is important to keep having these conversations, with as many people you feel comfortable with, to make as many people as possible aware of how online expression is being affected. We cannot leave it to porn producers and sex workers to fight for our rights as consumers of online media. This has the potential to affect everybody, and you know you will miss it if (/when) it goes.
Follow Charlotte Rose on Twitter, check out Sex and Censorship and Backlash‘s websites and join the conversation.