Posted at 00:00 on 30 Jun 2016 by Pandora / Blake
First posted on Patreon, 30 June 2016. Patreon backers see these updates first; I add the posts to my public blog a month later.
So, as most of you will have already heard, June has brought big news. After a prolonged legal challenge, and lots of stress and difficulty behind the scenes, my feminist spanking site Dreams of Spanking is back online! Ofcom upheld my legal challenge against ATVOD (the quango who originally ordered it to be taken down) and… well, it’s been a long time coming, and I'm very happy to have been vindicated, but it hasn’t been entirely plain sailing. If you’d like a few more of the details you can read more about the impact of this whole ordeal on my blog.
So what with that and all the work it's taken to get Dreams of Spanking up and running again, I hope you'll forgive me for this newsletter being a few days later than expected. But without further ado, here’s the lowdown on all the political campaigning work your support has helped me do since I last wrote!
Sex work activism
I had an excellent meeting with the English Collective of Prostitutes, a pioneering organisation of sex workers campaigning for decriminalisation and sex workers’ rights. I’m really proud to be working with them. We discussed the launch of the report on the parliamentary symposium on sex work legal models which I helped co-ordinate last year, which will come out in July. We also talked about the scandalous recent cases of Romanian street-based sex workers being harassed and deported by UK police in a racist initiative called "Operation Nexus". The ECP are supporting these women in challenging the deportations, but now that the UK has shockingly voted to leave the EU it is unclear how this will affect the ongoing cases.
I gave a long phone interview to researchers from Beyond the Gaze, an academic project collecting data on the working practices, regulation and safety of Internet-based sex work in the UK. It was good to submit my experiences to the project, and I'm really excited to see their eventual conclusions.
The following week I attended an academic symposium on The regulation of sex work, politics and activism at Kings College London, at which Dr Teela Sanders from Beyond the Gaze presented on their research so far, alongside an exciting list of other speakers. I live-tweeted the conference, and collated tweets from the #sexworkreg hashtag into a Storify, which you can read here.
On a lighter note, I watched and reviewed the fantastic Sex Workers’ Opera, which brings sex workers' stories to the stage in a production of which at least half of the cast and crew are sex workers themselves. It's the most diverse production of it so far, and I found it profoundly moving. If you haven't seen the show yet, look out for it next time it's on - I'm sure this run won't be the last, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
My research into the proposed regulatory framework mandating age controls for online porn has now been posted online in full. Here are the links to all six sections - this is really important information and will continue to be politically relevant, so I'm sure we'll be returning to these posts in future campaigns. Please read, digest, bookmark and share with anyone you think might be interested!
Finally, I've submitted my research as evidence to the Liberal Democrat Sex Work Policy Working Group, after my meeting with their committee in person - for more information about this, see last month's newsletter.
UKAP meeting with the DCMS
On 16 June I attended the UKAP (UK Adult Producers trade association) meeting, which included Henry Anderton, a representative from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport whom I had already met at our meeting in May. It was the first face to face meeting I'd had with the Department since they'd read my consultation response, which was very interesting. I learned the following:
- The age verification consultation received several thousand responses, including emails and the online survey. So thank you so much to everyone who responded - that's an amazing effort. (Apparently mine won the prize for the longest!) They are processing the data now, and compiling responses.
- Despite this huge public response, which I am sure included a fair amount of criticism of the proposals, the Department has been briefed to go ahead with the age verification plans as they were proposed. This is obviously disappointing, but I got the impression that there wasn't much the DCMS could do about it - this policy was a Tory party manifesto commitment, and was announced in the Queens Speech. As such it is steamrollering ahead regardless of what the public - or indeed individual civil servants - may think about it.
- The DCMS are receptive to calls for them to moderate the policy, and intend for the new regulatory framework to focus primarily on "major commercial providers" rather than small-scale independent producers. During the meeting, several UKAP members mentioned that the free tube sites should be a priority for regulation, as most commercial porn studios will be highly resentful if they are targeted for regulation and the tube sites are not. I intend to continue to apply pressure on this point.
- Mr Anderton informed us that the intention is to focus on the "most visited sites" based on ComScore data. Apparently none of the top 100 visited sites within the UK are actually based in the UK, which implies that smaller UK-based sites will largely fall outside the remit of these proposals.
- Although there are concerns that the new regulator will have limited power to force overseas sites to comply with age verification, the UK government has no current intention to bring in ISP blocking, as they realise this would go against British values of freedom of speech and would be hugely unpopular with the UK public. This is good news, although Mr Anderton was keen to assure us that he couldn't make any guarantees.
- The age verification regulations will be introduced as new clauses in the Digital Economy Bill, which will begin going through Parliament next month. The DCMS hopes that it will become law by spring 2017. That gives us a year to lobby MPs and campaign for the regulations to be moderated as much as possible.
- Mr Anderton expressed support for this new dialogue between delegates from the adult industry and from the government department that regulates it, and said that conversations like this "should have happened before the policy was developed". Damn right! However, we're here now, and in terms of the age verification policy, damage limitation is the best we can hope for now.
In the meeting myself and Myles Jackman raised some important topics from my research. We discussed the distance between the OPA and the R18 classification guidelines - in other words, the way in which the current classification system criminalises safe, consensual legitimate expressions of kinky sexuality, and apply a much stricter set of standards than that implied by the Obscene Publications Act. The result is an absurd disparity between what it is legal to do, and what it is legal to watch on film. Myles and I will both continue to advocate for a root and branch review of obscenity law, and the R18 classification guidelines in particular.
We also discussed the importance of sex education, and Mr Anderton assured us that the DCMS and the Department for Education are working together with the Home Office to "prioritise sex education". If this sounds a bit wishy washy, I agree with you, but we intend to continue to apply pressure on the government to improve sex education, particularly around porn and media literacy.
The return of Dreams of Spanking proved to be international news. In the last few weeks, I’ve been interviewed by or written about in over 16 publications - some talking about Dreams of Spanking, others about feminist porn and sexual freedom more generally. Some highlights include:
A phone interview with Sputnik magazine, talking about Susan Sarandon’s comments on porn
A phone interview with journalist Corinne Redfern about feminist porn for Fabulous magazine (not yet published)
Right in the middle of all this activity, my Facebook account was suspended - pretty frustrating timing! This wasn’t because of anything to do with my own work, but simply because I’d shared a flyer for a screening of the the Unslut Project documentary, which examines young women's experiences of sexual bullying and ‘slut-shaming’ in the United States; particularly - and tragically - those who have survived rape or sexual assault.
This just goes to show how important the issues around online freedom of speech really are. This is a campaign to support people - particularly young people - who’ve been the victims of bullying, and yet it was deemed so inappropriate by Facebook that my account was suspended and I was unable to post for seven days (inconveniently, this period ran right across the announcement of my appeal win). After some wrangling, I've managed to reinstate my account and am back on Facebook again - for now at least.
Meanwhile you can always find me on Twitter, which has somewhat less arbitrary and draconian "community standards" than Facebook.
Since my last newsletter, I've spoken an event at the University of Manchester on women in porn, organised by the university’s feminist collective. It went well, with a large and interested audience who asked intelligent questions. The event was recorded, so I'm hoping to have something to put on YouTube in due course.
I also gave two workshops and a live kink demo at Eroticon Live in Bristol, which were both well received. I filmed both of my hour-long talks, and also shot some footage and interviews for a mini-documentary about Eroticon - watch this space!
Finally, I attended the second event hosted by the Naked Truth Film Club, a new adult industry event organised by Terry Stephens, the chair of UKAP. This was a screening of the documentary Cam Girlz, a celebratory portrayal of American women who work on the cam site MyFreeCams. It was followed by a Q&A with cammers Satine Spark, Misha Mayfair and Lady Andromeda, hosted by porn performer and producer Linsey Dawn McKenzie. It was a great night, and I posted reviews of both Cam Girlz and Unslut, the previous Naked Truth Film Club screening, on my blog. Cam Girlz is available to watch online for free, and I'll link to the YouTube video of the panel discussion once it's up!
What's coming next
My next priorities include:
- Getting involved in both ECP's work with the deported Romanian sex workers, and in supporting Open Doors, the invaluable sex worker outreach service in East London which has just had its NHS funding taken away.
- Writing an article about the KCL symposium on sex work regulation.
- Ongoing advocacy work with journalists and documentary makers interested in feminist porn, porn censorship and the criminalisation of the adult industry.
- New political writing about improving health and safety within the porn industry, and about sex work decriminalisation.
In August, I'll be shooting for the "13 Steps to Suppression" project, an anti-censorship initiative co-ordinated by Jane Fae and Charlotte Rose, which will include an exhibition of photos showcasing images of acts banned under current UK rules.
And I'm still hoping to start work with Zahra Stardust on our proposed academic article on UK and Australian porn law - I still need to raise an additional $500/month to fund a project of this scale. If you want this to happen, please forward this email - or share the link to my Patreon campaign - with any of your friends who might be interested, and encourage them to support my work.
Many, many thanks and good wishes to all my supporters across the globe. We are living in interesting times - and as the UK referendum result makes clear, while we may win individual battles to improve our civil liberties and human rights, we are a long way from winning the war. There is a lot of work still to be done, and I intend to keep doing it for as long as possible.