The Nightmare Before Christmas – Why the new UK online porn censorship affects us all

I have spent the last couple of years investing a lot of time and money into building my own streaming service of porn by women. There have been many technical obstacles and “Cinema Joy” was supposed to finally launch by the end of this year. The site was meant to featuring my own erotica as well as porn by other female directors such as Shine Louise Houston and Maria Beatty – directors who shoot different female fantasies than I do. However, on the 1st December, new regulations relating to online porn content came into full force in the UK. Now my dream of finally making my films available to anybody who wanted to pay to view it, no matter where they are in the world, whenever they want it, has become impossible. The dream has become a nightmare.

As of the 1st December, the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) have entitled the “British Board Of Film Certification” (BBFC) to apply their definition of what is “acceptable” and therefore legal content in porn onto online porn content published in the UK. Until this date the BBFC classification rules for “R18” porn (restricted hard-core porn, only to be sold in licenses sex shops) were only applied to DVDs sold in the UK. I have given up publishing DVDs in the UK a long time ago: firstly the BBFC licensing process is expensive for the submitting filmmaker, secondly I never found a distributer that fitted my alternative, feminist content. So I was looking forward to launch my streaming service so that finally films would be available to a UK audience again.

Now, suddenly, some of my content is illegal (such as a hot and authentic scene with a couple where she ties him to the bed and practices face-sitting on him, or the scene where Jiz Lee ejaculates twice during her orgasm, both from my latest film “(S)he Comes”). Also illegal to publish in the UK is content I wanted to stream by lesbian porn director Shine Louise Houston (containing fisting) and fetish director Maria Beatty (bondage, hard whipping, fisting etc.)

The reason given for this censorship of content is the tried and trusted defence of “youth protection”. However, UK companies that offer streaming and download of porn are already obliged to run an age verification of each individual viewer to ensure their customers are adults. So the application of rules to classify/censor content refers to content that adults are willing to pay for to view. You would think that these adults would like a choice of what sex acts they would like to view on porn (apart from content that has always been rightly been illegal such as films that show children being sexually abused, which is not porn but a visual evidence of a crime). But if you want to watch porn content from UK producers online then what you can view is supposed to have been approved by the BBFC.

Jerry Barnett from “Porn and Censorship” explains the Government’s justification of the online porn censorship:

“The UK media regulator Ofcom looked at the results of research by 20 European governments, and stated: “No country found evidence that sexually explicit material harms minors”. This is inconvenient for a government that wants an excuse to censor pornography, regardless of any evidence of harm. Introducing the R18 test removes the need for objective evidence, and instead allows censors to make arbitrary decisions. Although the law is introduced under the pretext of “protecting children”, it actually affects adults and children alike.”

The list of acts now banned from being streamed by UK production companies is long and curious; here are the key practices that have been banned:

  • Spanking (if it goes beyond a “gentle” level)
  • Caning
  • Aggressive whipping
  • Penetration by any object “associated with violence”
  • Physical or verbal abuse (regardless of if consensual)
  • Urolagnia (known as “water sports” as part of sexual play)
  • Role-playing as non-adults
  • Extreme Physical restraint (all extremities bondaged and person gagged)
  • Humiliation
  • Female ejaculation
  • Strangulation
  • Face-sitting
  • Fisting (insertion past all knuckles of a hand)

(The final three listed fall under acts the BBFC views as potentially “life-endangering”.)

When reading this list various concerns become immediately obvious:

Who defines for example if the spanking is “gentle” or rough? What is a soft stroke for one person is a hard one for another. So this means that the judgement of a spanking scene is OK or not lies completely with the subjective opinion of the censoring individual.

There seems to be a double standard applied regarding male and female ejaculate or forced fellatio and face-sitting. It is allowed to show 20 men coming over a woman and for her to swallow their cum. But it is illegal to show a woman squirt if her ejaculate is onto someone else’s body or her cum is being “consumed” (just in case it is urine rather than cum). The line “All ejaculations are equal but some ejaculations are more equal than others” springs to mind. Anna Spann challenged the BBFC ruling on squirting five years ago by handing in samples of female cum to a lab to prove the liquid was cum and not pee. Anna succeeded and got her film passed with an R18 rating but the rule remains and is still applied to any other porn that is being classified. Sadly I cannot drag my squirting performer Jiz Lee from LA to London to have her jiz tested and get my film passed with an R18 but then I also think – why should I have to put her through this potentially humiliating experience?

The double standard continues when it comes to other sexual techniques: It is OK to show a woman being deep-throated and gagging on a cock but not OK to show someone’s face being smothered by a pussy. I have no clue why and am not the only one trying to understand this double standard which seems extremely misogynistic. Both practices – female ejaculation and face-sitting/queening – feature a lot in female-made porn. So some of us feel that the rules are meant to target specifically female porn producers who have been publishing their content freely on line, independent of a largely still male distribution network or the rules of the BBFC. The new legislation is targeting a lot of femdom sites and many have been shut down. However one UK dom pornographer Mistress Tytania has taken on the ATVOD and won the case on the grounds that her site is not a television-like site at all so the TV licensing laws that apply to sites like the BBC-iplayer should not be applied to her and her site is now exempt.

Many of the outlawed sexual techniques feature in alternative porn aimed at the gay, lesbian, queer and bdsm community. To judge certain sexual preferences on film as “obscene” and outlaw them as “illegal” feels to me like an infringement of human rights. The right to our own body and self-determined sexuality no matter how individual our desires might be. Surely as long as everything happens consensually we should respect other people’s preferences?! If you are not into fisting or spanking, chances are that you will not want to pay to view this kind of content, so what is the problem?

The know-it-alls suggest to UK based filmmakers like me to leave the country and start up a production company abroad. Many UK production companies have already done this after the age verification rules were introduced a few years ago. The highly successful streaming site is owned by a Brit now based in San Francisco.

But it is not as easy as that – firstly England is my home and I have no intention of leaving. Secondly and more importantly and menacingly the rules applied to UK porn companies publishing online in the UK are only the start…

The solicitor Myles Jackman writes:

“It is actually the framework in which these regulations have been allowed to emerge that is of greatest concern to all forms of freedom of expression. The attempt to regulate online content is clearly a pretext to controlling the runaway online market.”

It looks like this market is not restricted to the UK anymore. In recently updated guidelines by the Crown Prosecution it states that: “There are very difficult jurisdictional issues about whether material hosted overseas is within reach of the English criminal law… [However] if a web site is hosted abroad and is downloaded in the UK [...] there is publication both when images are uploaded and when they are downloaded.

If this logic is followed, all foreign pornographic websites selling content within the UK would need to register with ATVOD and abide by the BBFC guidelines. If these companies do not comply then they might be blocked under UK ISP’s filtering systems or hit by “trade sanctions”, making it impossible for UK citizens to pay for and view porn that is hosted abroad and does not comply with the BBFC guidelines.

Jerry Barnett warns:

“This law was clearly introduced to further ATVOD’s plans to restrict what sexual content can be accessed by UK citizens, and will doubtless be used to justify further censorship in various forms. ATVOD have long wanted to stop banks from processing payments for services that don’t meet their tight regulations, and have tried (and failed so far) to introduce licensing of non-UK sites”

This attempt to control the neutrality of the web and freedom of adult citizens to access online information or entertainment has frightening similarities with authoritarian regimes like the Chinese government.

For now UK producers are being targeted. But it looks like porn producers from abroad are next and ultimately UK citizens. Currently there are no repercussions for UK viewers that consume porn that is not licensed by the BBFC. But it looks like in the future they might simply not be able to get this kind of content online anymore. And maybe the next step will penalising consumers who manage to obtain and consume ‘illegal’ content in the UK by bypassing filters.

This threat might seem far away to producers streaming porn from abroad into the UK or any UK consumers who can currently still find whatever content they like on the web – but none of us should take any of these freedoms for granted. They are under threat right now and if we do not stand up, speak up and be counted, they might be lost forever and before you know it you are a criminal.

Myles Jackman, a specialist obscenity lawyer states:

“Pornography is the canary in the coalmine of free speech: it is the first freedom to die. If this assault on liberty is allowed to go unchallenged, other freedoms will fall as a consequence.”

I agree wholeheartedly. And I think we are all in the same boat, even if you might not shoot or view fisting, spanking or squirting porn…I took the liberty to freely adapt the famous Martin Niemöller quote “First they came for the Socialists…“:

First they came for the squirter, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a squirter.
Then they came for the fister, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a fister.
Then they came for the spankers, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a spanker
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

More info:

What can you do:

Follow Sex&censorship @PornPanic, Myles Jackman @ObscenityLawyer and Petra Joy @petrajoy on Twitter.

2 Responses to The Nightmare Before Christmas – Why the new UK online porn censorship affects us all

  1. Pingback: Female ejaculation banned from UK porn and why censorship sucks - We Love Good Sex

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