Earlier this month, UK anti-porn advocates won a monumental and far-reaching victory when the UK government passed the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014, in which a whole host of sexual acts are now banned from British porn, based on what the board deems as “content that is not acceptable.” I will get into the list of taboo acts in a moment, but first I think it is important to take a look at what this ruling means. In my opinion, it sets an extremely dangerous precedent, in which some third party or government body can effectively censor anything that they may subjectively object to, even if the material is consensual and harms no one.
Avant-garde Yugoslav film director Dusan Makavejev created films in the 1970s focusing on the intersection between government, society, and sexuality. In his work, he raised a critical eye towards authority and its desire, or more like incessant drive, to eradicate and suppress all freedom and dissent. For his efforts, he was persecuted and eventually blacklisted. As Makavejev so deftly shows in his films, the first line of suppression for any authoritarian government is one of the key sources of our human creativity, inspiration, and personal sense of freedom– our sexuality. History shows that as soon as an authoritarian government rises to power, one of the first things to go is human sexual rights.
Take a look around at the world, and you can see for yourself the crackdown of human sexuality imposed by authoritarian and dictatorial regimes– Egypt’s gay community targeted by government crackdown http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/17/egypt-gay-community-fears-government-crackdown , Russia’s institutional violence and discrimination towards gays http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/religious-right-leader-backs-russian-cra , Uganda’s anti-homosexuality legislation http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29994678 , female circumcision (genital mutilation) ordered in the Islamic State http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/07/un-islamic-state-orders-genital-mutilation-201472412511366171.html. Sadly, I could go on and on. What’s the common factor? None of these are democratic governments. And? They all harshly cut down sexual freedoms.
It is in this light that I view the recent developments in the UK with great concern. Unfortunately, it appears to have been advocated for by misguided individuals who believe that they are somehow protecting the public from harm. Who it is exactly that they are protecting is unclear. Men? Women? Most porn, by a landslide, is watched by men and in its hetero version often portray acts done to women. However, the acts that were banned were often acts in which women were doing things to men, such as face sitting and fem-domme type stuff (more on that later). So, really who this act is meant to protect appears to be vague and unclear. Which is not surprising if the legislative body or committee that passed this was acting from a moral or emotional, rather than scientific perspective.
Here in the US, I think this is where the whole sex addiction and porn addiction industry is trying to take us, even if unwittingly. Yes, there are people who struggle with sexual compulsivity, and I work with them daily, but that is not what I am referring to when I say “sex addiction industry.” What I mean here is the underlying philosophy of sex negativity and moral panic that is really driving the incessant need to paint sex or porn as the inherent evil (much like crack cocaine or heroin) rather than take a more holistic look at the individual, his/her psychological and emotional factors, as well as systemic relational issues. When the entire focus is on the “addictive” aspects of sexuality (which have never been proven), instead of understanding the meaning and context of an individual’s behavior, what we have is an agenda focused on taking us in the direction of censorship and subsequent authoritarianism.
And here’s the danger. When we start taking away some of our freedoms, it becomes a slippery slope to taking away others. Want to ban some (consensual, non-harming) acts in porn? Why not stop there, let’s ban all of porn. And while we’re banning porn, why don’t we ban other things we don’t like, such as homosexuality? If that’s not going too far, we should go back to outlawing all sodomy. In fact, why don’t we just put cameras in everyone’s bedroom and arrest people if they engage in behaviors that are not on the approved list. Would all of the sex addiction advocates like that? When you start banning and censoring consensual and non-harming acts, where do you stop? So we should ban the things that one group doesn’t like, but keep legal the things they do? What if different groups like different things? The Christian Right wants to ban most sexual things, should we also enforce a limit on the amount of children we can conceive, like in China? Oh, well that is going to far, right? What is too far anyway, and who decides?
The whole thing just becomes one big absurdity. And this is exactly why, in a truly democratic and free country, it is our responsibility, indeed our duty, to tolerate things that we don’t like. In fact, we must ardently and passionately advocate for the freedom for people to engage in things (again, consensual and non-harming) that we don’t like. We must fight for other’s freedoms so that we can enjoy our own. Even if we don’t understand it. And despise it. And it scares the hell out of us. And that is how people think and act in a free country. For more on my thoughts on social justice and sexuality, click to my article here.
So, let’s get to the heart of what this legislation is actually banning. Below is a list of the acts the UK government deemed to be “content that is not acceptable”:
Penetration by any object “associated with violence”
Physical or verbal abuse (regardless of if consensual)
Urolagnia (known as “water sports”)
Role-playing as non-adults
The last three actions were classified as “life-endangering.” I’ll get to each of these activities in more detail perhaps in a future article. But for now, let me quickly mention the most ridiculous one– female ejaculation. I suppose there is something about seeing a woman experiencing pleasure that is just too “not acceptable.”
Suffice it to say, this decision prompted a number of protests the following week. If you take a look at the video below, you will see that most of the protesters were in fact women. If these were the folks that the legislation was meant to protect, then clearly they don’t want this “protection” after all. (Warning: NSFW)