Age verification: Piracy, monopoly and industry standards

Posted at 09:59 on 29 Jun 2016 by Pandora Blake

Response to the Government consultation on Child Safety Online: Age Verification for Pornography

1: Evidence of Harm

2: Sex education

3: Privacy, surveillance and freedom of speech

4. Credit cards, classism and social exclusion

5. Problems with the existing classification system

6. Piracy, monopoly and industry standards

The age verification proposal observes that free tube sites are the primary route by which under 18s access porn, and yet the proposed regulatory framework fails to adequately differentiate between tube sites - which make money from advertising, and often distribute commercial content without the consent of the producers - and commercial porn sites, where the viewer can purchase content direct from the makers. This distinction is worth emphasising. It is not reasonable to impose identical regulatory controls when the two types of site function in very different ways, and have very different effects on the browsing experience of under 18s.

Adult content redistributed on tube sites (often by a third party rather than the original creator) is usually given new headlines and scene descriptions, utilising very different language. Videos are often re-edited to be more concise, with contextualising dialogue and scene-setting removed. A scene which was originally published as an extended exploration of foreplay, intimacy and sensual affection, described with respectful, humanising language that emphasises the consent and mutual respect of the participants, might be pirated and uploaded to a tube site, cut down to a jerky sequence of out-of-context sexual acts, with the activities and participants described using sexist and offensive language. Moreover, videos on tube sites are redistributed outside the content in which they were originally published, without giving the viewer access to any behind the scenes videos, performer interviews and commentary that were available on the original site.

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Tags: age verification, AV consultation, civil liberties, decriminalisation, digital rights, piracy, politics, porn, sex workers rights, tube sites, Zahra Stardust

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Flickering

Posted at 20:59 on 23 Jun 2016 by Pandora Blake

"Are those 'ows' real 'ows'?" my top asks in concern, resting the tip of the cane on the bed.

"No. Well, yes, they're real as in it really hurts, but it's the difference between owwww!" (high pitched squeal) "and 'Gerroff, you fucker'." I twist around and look at him through my eyelashes. "Basically if I'm still being cute, I'm consenting."

"Aha." He smiles, and picks up the cane.

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Tags: cane, consent, D, empowerment, Felix, hand spanking, helpful tops, kink, m-f, negotiation, personal, pleasure spanking, teaching, thigh spanking

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The Naked Truth Film Club

Posted at 19:56 on 17 Jun 2016 by Pandora Blake

Last night I attended the second Naked Truth Film Club screening, a new adult industry event organised by Terry Stephens, chair of UKAP, the UK porn producer trade association. Like most of us who organise within the adult industry, he's interested in destigmatising porn and raising public awareness about the realities of porn, combating the myths and misconceptions that percieve erotic labour as exploitative. The film club screens relevant documentaries in Central London, with a panel of sex workers hosting a Q&A after the screening.

The first event was a few weeks ago, and showed UnSlut: A Documentary Film, an American documentary about slut-shaming and teenage sexual bullying. It doesn't mention the adult industry but examines slut-shaming more broadly, looking particularly at the way that it affects young people. The documentary was born out of The UnSlut Project, an internet initiative that invited people to submit their own stories of being bullied or shamed because they were perceived as being slutty or sexual. The project brought people together to share experiences - some who had never told anyone before - and offer support, solidarity and healing.

The documentary follows a number of women telling stories of sexual assault, slut-shaming and bullying. It's a serious subject, and the film is powerful; definitely not light viewing. One girl, Allyson Pereira, was asked to send a nude photo to her ex-boyfriend, who then shared it with the rest of her school without her consent. She was bullied and ostracised by her town as a result of this violation. The most harrowing story was that of Rehtaeh Parsons, who was drugged and gang-raped at a party. Her assailants took photos, shared them, and she was labelled as a "slut" as a result. The subsequent slut-shaming and bullying followed her despite changing schools several times, compounding the trauma of her assault. Eventually, at the age of seventeen, she took her own life.

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Tags: camming, events, reviews, sex work, slut-shaming, stigma

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How does it feel to fight the law - and win?

Posted at 18:10 on 9 Jun 2016 by Pandora Blake

On Monday it was officially announced that I'd won my appeal to Ofcom against the ATVOD decision that forced Dreams of Spanking offline last year. "Congratulations!" people have been saying, "You must be over the moon." And so I reply that I am. I tell the papers that I'm overjoyed, because that's the story: I fought the law, and I won. This is my moment of triumph. Of course I'm delighted.

But how does it really feel?

Even here - my blog that is more political than personal these days, but still the closest thing I have to an online journal - I'm not sure if I should stick to the "official" story. You want to hear how happy I am, right? And I am happy. I am. I think. But the truth is that with events this huge, processing emotions can be more complicated than that. I've been struggling to access my happiness over the last few weeks, since I first found out that I was going to win. I thought that it would all connect up on Monday, when the win was announced, but I still find myself feeling weirdly ambivalent. And hey, this blog has always been about authenticity, so you get to hear all about it.

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Tags: appeal win, ATVOD, censorship, Dreams of Spanking, Ofcom

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BREAKING NEWS: Ofcom have upheld my appeal against ATVOD!

Posted at 10:11 on 6 Jun 2016 by Pandora Blake

FEMINIST PORN MAKER THRASHES CENSOR

Pandora Blake, award-winning activist and feminist pornographer, has won her appeal to Ofcom against ATVOD and can reinstate her site Dreams of Spanking, which was banned under the AVMS guidelines in August 2015, triggering widespread anger among free speech advocates as well as porn fans.

The controversial Audiovisual Media Services Regulations came into effect in December 2014, banning consensual sex acts from online porn including facesitting, female ejaculation, and spanking that leaves marks. Pandora Blake took part in the 'facesitting protest' outside Westminster, and also spoke on Newsnight and Women's Hour challenging the sexist and regressive nature of the regulations. She believes that speaking out made her a target for censorship.

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Tags: ATVOD, AVMS, censorship, Dreams of Spanking, ethical porn, feminist porn, Ofcom

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The Sex Workers' Opera is back - bigger, braver and more powerful than ever

Posted at 17:08 on 25 May 2016 by Pandora Blake

Since I last blogged about the Sex Workers Opera it has had two years to grow and develop under the direction of Siobhan Knox and Alex Etchart. I watched it last year at the Arcola Theatre; a longer run than its two-night debut in 2014, with new scenes and polish added. Since then, they have crowd-funded the budget for a bigger, better-rehearsed, more ambitious production - and they have also, incredibly, received Arts Council Funding; a fantastic validation by mainstream culture of a marginalised community production, and a useful boost in terms of perceived respectability, as well as being practically useful in providing much-needed extra cash. The cast and crew made incredible use of their budget, and as a result the show has significantly leveled up. Who knew that with adequate funding, artists could produce their best work? It's almost as if money made things easier.

It was, more or less, watching the Sex Worker's Opera - and picking up an invitation to sex worker breakfasts in the ladies loos - that got me involved in the sex worker activist community. Since then, I've organised with the Sex Worker Open University and the English Collective of Prostitutes; I've attended breakfasts and the poledancing class run by the same community enough times to form intimate friendships, although not as much as I would like. So this time, watching the Opera was a much more personal experience. I knew almost everyone on stage (and already had crushes on nearly all of them, which were made all the more acute by watching the sheer talent exhibited during the show) and consider many of them good friends. I felt like a proud sister, beaming with pleasure at the skill of the performance. As a sex workers rights activist I felt included in the solidarity and community that we were invited to witness among the cast members - in fact a clipping of my voice is used at one point in the performance, ranting passionately about the stupidity of the UK porn laws, so I really was, literally included. 

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Tags: gender politics, politics, review, sex worker rights, Sex Workers' Opera

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My first month fighting for sexual freedom on Patreon

Posted at 18:19 on 23 May 2016 by Pandora Blake

Last month, I launched my sexual freedom Patreon to crowd-fund my political activism - and just six weeks in, I've already shot past the first three goals and am closing in on the fourth. If you've become a Patron or shared the link with interested friends, THANK YOU.

What does this mean?

Your support so far means I am:

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Tags: age verification, DCMS, Liberal Democrats, Patreon, politics, sexual freedom

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Age verification: Problems with classification

Posted at 21:01 on 20 May 2016 by Pandora Blake

Response to the Government consultation on Child Safety Online: Age Verification for Pornography

1: Evidence of Harm

2: Sex education

3: Privacy, surveillance and freedom of speech

4. Credit cards, classism and social exclusion

5. Problems with the existing classification system

The proposals assume a straightforward definition of “pornography” which is not workable in practice. During the second reading of the Online Safety Bill in the House of Lords Baroness Brinton argued that:

“A simplistic definition of pornography will cause immense problems in our courts. How do you define arousal and to what level of arousal - partial, full? Is that arousal the view of the average person on the Clapham omnibus, or should the definition cover the various fetishes that people may have? The famous film director Quentin Tarantino is a foot fetishist. There are a number of people who have assessed his use of bare feet in all his films. Clearly they arouse people with the said fetish.”

If a website calls itself “porn” or “erotica” but none of its contents depict nudity, staged violence or sexual acts - a foot fetish website is a perfect example - should it be categorised as a “sex work” for classification purposes? What harm could a young person possibly come to, looking at artistically lit videos of bare feet?

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Tags: age verification, AV consultation, AVMS, BBFC guidelines, British Fetish Film Festival, CPS, ethical porn, feminist porn, fetish porn, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, media, Myles Jackman, obscenity, politics, porn

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Age verification: Credit cards, classism and social exclusion

Posted at 13:36 on 11 May 2016 by Pandora Blake

Why would anyone use an alias?

Response to the Government consultation on Child Safety Online: Age Verification for Pornography

1: Evidence of Harm

2: Sex education

3: Privacy, surveillance and freedom of speech

4. Credit cards, classism and social exclusion

Most methods of age verification assume certain privileges which marginalise and exclude adults on low incomes, those at risk of violence for whom it would be unsafe to share their passport names, and those in unstable accommodation.

The most common method for age verification, with currently available technology, is for the site visitor to enter their credit card details to confirm that they are over 18. This often operates as part of a paywall but can function separately, with the card details being checked but not actually charged. Age verification for online porn is already mandated on UK-based adult websites, with credit cards the only method of age verification accepted by ATVOD - and (since ATVOD folded in January 2016) by their parent body Ofcom, who have taken over sole regulatory responsibility. Debit cards are not considered acceptable proof that a porn site visitor is over 18 - in fact this was one of the gotchas under which my site was ruled against last year. 

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Tags: age verification, AV consultation, censorship, credit cards, Facebook, freedom of speech, media, politics, porn, privacy, surveillance, technology

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Age verification: Privacy, surveillance and freedom of speech

Posted at 16:32 on 8 May 2016 by Pandora Blake

Ceiling Cameron is watching you masturbate - by @wefail

Response to the Government consultation on Child Safety Online: Age Verification for Pornography

1: Evidence of harm

2: Sex education

3: Privacy, surveillance and freedom of speech

Freedom of expression is important and must be protected. The UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Frank La Rue, stated last year in his report on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression that "the right to freedom of expression includes expression of views and opinions that offend, shock or disturb". His report also noted that restrictions on access to information can have a "chilling effect", whereby individuals restrict their own activities in anticipation of being forced to comply, often over-estimating and censoring themselves far more effectively than if it were left to government enforcement. He concluded that restrictions on access to information online must be:

  • limited to exceptional circumstances
  • governed by law and a clear legal process
  • necessary and the least restrictive means required to achieve the aim.

The Open Rights Group has reiterated the importance of these principles; they limit the extent to which governments, businesses or others can limit the free access to information, whether through overzealous efforts to protect citizens, or more abusive attempts to control free access to information.

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Tags: age verification, AV consultation, censorship, child safety, freedom of speech, media, politics, porn, privacy, surveillance, young people

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