Posted at 09:00 on 14 Feb 2019 by Pandora / Blake
Good news for those who care about consent: this week 'upskirting' became illegal in the UK. This refers to the act of photographing under someone's clothing without their consent and usually without their knowledge. The new law makes it illegal for anyone of any gender to violate someone's consent in this way, if the intention is sexual gratification, or to cause distress and humiliation. Click here for the government page explaining the changes.
Fans of fetish porn will be familiar with the "upskirt" genre, photos taken of someone's genitals or buttocks, with or without underwear, in a voyeuristic style, often staged as if the performer was unaware that the photo was being taken. It's an innocent fantasy, which for many people harks back to the first accidental glimpses they caught under someone's clothing as a child. But I hope that all fans of this fetish genre would insist that the performers pictured did actually consent to the photos being taken.
As with other ways in which those of us in the fetish community play the game of "not consenting", there is a serious difference between fantasy and reality. In fantasy, we can pretend innocence, acting the part of someone unaware that their picture is being taken. In reality, this sort of violation can cause real harm.
We all have the right to consent to whatever sexual activity we want - and we all have the right to go about our business without experiencing unwanted sexual harassment. When someone takes what they want without asking first, it can leave people feeling used, degraded, humiliated and hurt. It can make people feel less safe going out on public, or using public transport. All of us who support our right to sexual autonomy should also support our right to not have our consent ignored.
I campaign for better protections for adult consent in law, and better protection of our bodily autonomy - including our right to consent to so-called 'extreme' acts. I am therefore entirely in favour of legal protections penalising people who violate consent, including by creating non-consensual images such as upskirt shots and revenge porn.
It is perplexing that many of the people who campaign for these protections are the same people who oppose the rights of sex workers, queer folk and BDSM practitioners to give their full consent to perform whatever sex acts they want to on camera. It's critical that we help such people understand that consenting to be in porn is completely different from porn made and shared without our consent.
The only difference between rape and sex is consent. Consent is also the line between abuse and BDSM. When it comes to pornography, performer consent is absolutely paramount. As a proponent of greater freedoms to create a more broad variety of consensual media, I am also in favour of strict penalities for those who think consent is something that can be ignored. I hope that this law further enshrines the significance of consent in law - and that those who have championed it don't take this as a sign that they can erase the consent of porn performers by expanding their campaign to criminalise consensual porn.