Posted at 00:00 on 4 May 2016 by Pandora / Blake
First posted on Patreon, 4 May 2016. Patreon backers see these updates first; I add the posts to my public blog a month later.
We're up and running!
After launching this Patreon just a few weeks ago, amazingly we've already sailed past my first three milestones:
- $100 a month means I can now commit to writing two blog posts a month on topics relating to sexual freedom.
- $300 a month means I can now promise at least one unpaid public speaking gig per month, allowing me to support groups and organisations that wouldn't have the funds to pay me, and speak to audiences who wouldn't otherwise hear me.
- $800 a month (wow!) means I can now dedicate two full days a month to political lobbying, and working to make sure the voices of marginalised groups are heard at the highest levels.
We're now rapidly heading towards $2000 a month, which would first of all mean that I'd co-author an academic article with Zahra Stardust on UK and Australian porn law, and later allow me to commit a few days a month to following up on academic and media interest.
I've been bowled over by the response so far - it's been truly amazing to feel so supported by the community and has redoubled my commitment to resist censorship and to campaign for decriminalisation of the adult industries. Each and every donation helps. The validation of knowing someone out there is rooting for me gives me the strength to keep fighting, and in a very real way, every dollar donated gives me extra time and mental energy to devote to campaigning.
Thanks so much to everyone who has donated so far! Your perks will be processed over the next few days and will be sent out via Patreon - or in real life in the case of handwritten thank yous and physical items. If you signed up to a perk that involves receiving rewards to your email inbox or home address, please make sure the address you've given me is the best one to send them to.
Age verification consultation response
- I replied to the government consultation proposing mandatory age verification for UK viewers to look at any adult content. This was no mean feat - the policy document is 44 pages long, crammed with footnotes, shoddy statistics and references to evidence that showed the opposite of what they claimed. To refute all this I had to seriously get stuck into research; in the end, my response was 26 pages long and over 10,000 words. Thanks to your help, it was completed and submitted by the deadline.
- These proposals keep on coming, and I'm sure this won't be the last we'll hear of the idea. As such I'm publishing my response online as a resource for future consultations, collating the evidence and debunking the bad science and ideological rhetoric that is always found behind calls for porn censorship. The first two parts are already up - the first showing that there is no evidence that encountering porn online is harmful to under 18s, and the other exploring the many ways in which improved sex education would be a better harm reduction measure than restricting access to sexual imagery.
- A week before the deadline, I also produced a public fact sheet helping anyone interested to reply to the consultation themselves. Thanks to all of you who filled out the online survey and wrote in yourselves to give your feedback on this damaging, misguided policy. With these government consultations, the best bet is usually a combination of lots of personal responses from different individuals, plus one or two rigorous, in-depth examinations of the evidence. This time, with your help, we managed to achieve that; and hopefully our efforts have given them pause. We can't guarantee they will listen, but the more of us speak up, the better chance we have of being heard.
Evidence-gathering session with the Liberal Democrats
Shortly after I responded to the consultation, I received an invitation from the Liberal Democrats to give evidence at their policy committee in Parliament. They are drafting a proposal for sex work decriminalisation, which includes sections on the internet and porn industries, and they wanted to hear evidence from specialists and experts to inform their policy. I was stunned to receive an invite - apparently my blogpost on how to respond to the age verification consultation convinced them that I knew what I was talking about! The evidence I gave will be taken into account as they develop their policy on sex work, and they will produce a motion to be voted on at the next party Conference. It's great to see the Lib Dems willing to listen to sex workers - other parties take note!
Meeting with UKAP and the DCMS
That same week, I was astonished to receive another invite to Parliament - this time to talk to the DCMS. That's the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, a branch of the civil service that I am all too familiar with. It was the DCMS who produced the recent consultation on age verification, and who are driving the various "child safety online" initiatives that are being used to justify increased control and surveillance of the UK internet. It was also the DCMS who produced the AudioVisual Media Services Regulations 2014 - i.e. the legislation under which my website Dreams of Spanking was criminalised and forced offline. So you can imagine I was very interested to meet them.
I met them along with delegates from UKAP, the UK Adult Producers trade association, who have written up the meeting on their website. It was a fascinating experience to talk face to face with representatives of the department of government that has caused the adult industry so much grief over the last few years. I used the time as best I could to represent the interests of independent UK pornographers, particularly those making fetish, alt, queer and feminist porn. These times of niche pornography are disproportionately affected by the current classification system, and it sometimes seems as if legislators are completely unaware of our existence.
I'm not sure what the outcomes will be as yet, but it's very encouraging that the door has been opened. A year ago, when my site was being forced offline under new legislation I felt powerless to change, I felt completely helpless. Now, I have a seat at the table, and the glimmerings of a faint hope that I might be able to influence those in power - even if only slightly.
I can't promise miracles. New legislation is usually the tip of a bureaucratic iceberg that started moving years ago and has far too much momentum to suddenly change course. Nonetheless, it's very encouraging that they are willing to open a dialogue, and I will do my utmost to use it as effectively as I can to moderate the worst excesses of the proposed policies. I intend to try to get them to see some of the unintended consequences of current legislation, and at the very least put a human face on so-called 'extreme' fetish pornography - an often stigmatised and misunderstood sector of the adult industry.
Many thanks to UKAP for facilitating this meeting - if you are a UK porn producer and not yet a member, please consider joining so you can make your voice heard about decisions that affect you. You can follow them on twitter: @UKAPHQ and @itsadult.
What's coming up next
I'm speaking at the University of Manchester on women in porn on May 5 at 4pm: Girls on Film: women, sex and the media organised by the UoM feminist collective. This is an low budget student event, and my attendance is sponsored by your Patreon donations. You made this happen - thank you! The talk is only £1 on the door and open to the public, so if you're in Manchester, it's worth checking out.
Later in the month, I'm giving two workshops at the Eroticon Live conference in Bristol, on the weekend of May 21-22. My "Empower yourself through DIY porn" session will take place on Saturday at 2.30pm, followed by a corporal punishment workshop in the live kink demo at 4pm. On Sunday, I'll be giving a talk on the impact of the new UK porn laws at 1.30pm. Eroticon Live is a weekend of learning, socialising and fun for erotica writers, bloggers and sex nerds, and tickets are available online.
Meanwhile you can expect regular blogposts (I'm aiming for one a week!) on pandorablake.com on issues close to my - and your - heart. The current posts are all about the AV consultation, with three more yet to be published from my response; look out for upcoming posts on my Patreon page and blog to get up to speed on all the details around privacy and surveillance, problems with the classification system, and piracy and monopoly in the online porn industry.
Thanks to donations received so far, once that's all squared away I will be able to start a global conversation about working conditions in the porn industry that will hopefully improve transparency and empower performers, as well as giving some well-deserved promotion to the lovely producers who are currently doing it right!
I'm also hoping to start work soon with Zahra Stardust on our academic article covering porn law in the UK and Australia, once we've raised a little more funding - this goal is not yet fully funded so if you want to help make it happen, please spread the word and share the link to my Patreon page!
This is such an inspiring start - with your help, I think we can really make a difference. Your support is making change happen, in a very real way; I quite literally couldn't do this without you. THANK YOU.
We are all consenting adults and no-one, government or otherwise, has the right to tell us what we can and can't do with our genitals - or what we can think about while we're doing it. Let's stand together to resist thought policing, censorship and stigma, and defend our rights to civil liberties and sexual freedom.