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My response to the obscenity consultation

Posted at 17:00 on 26 Oct 2018 by Pandora / Blake

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) recently ran a public consultation on the Obscene Publications Act (OPA) - submissions closed last week. I was really glad to see them open the consultation, as the current guidance is out of date with case law and with modern social standards of obscenity, and is well overdue for review.

The fact that the CPS are considering updating their guidance is massive. The CPS Guidance on the OPA is what's behind the 'facesitting law' (AVMS 2014) which criminalised the depiction of facesitting, fisting, watersports, BDSM that leaves marks, full bondage with a gag, etc in online porn. These same rules were nearly reinforced with new draconian web blocking penalties via the Digital Economy Act 2017 - thankfully we were able to talk them out of it via an amendment in the Lords. And they are also behind the BBFC classification guidelines, and the reason these acts are banned from classification even under R18, the highest classification (and therefore from DVD distribution) in the UK.

I've been advocating an update to the guidance (and a root and branch review of obscenity law in general) for years now: seeing the OPA Guidance finally updated would be a huge win for freedom of expression, sex positivity, and fair representation of diverse sexualities.

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Tags: consultation, CPS, Obscene Publications Act, obscenity, politics, porn law

6 comments

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

18 comments

How to respond to the age verification consultation

Posted at 19:13 on 5 Apr 2016 by Pandora / Blake

A working group called the “UK council for child internet safety” have published a 44 page proposal document outlining new plans whose stated intention is to ‘protect children online’. The proposals have worrying implications for privacy and freedom of speech, and are based on questionable assumptions and widely-debunked statistics and studies. If they go ahead, online age verification will become compulsory for anyone in the UK wishing to view any web page anywhere in the world on which adult content (still images or video) is hosted. If a site does not install an approved age verification system, the government wants to be able to contact the site's billing agent to cut off their income, and/or their hosting provider to have the site taken offline entirely. These proposals formed part of the government's pre-election manifesto, which also promised the construction of a UK-wide firewall blocking adult sites that failed to comply.

If you think this is a bad idea, please respond to the consultation by midday on 12 April 2016 - that's one week from today. 

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Tags: age verification, AV consultation, BBFC, censorship, civil liberties, CPS, digital liberties, ethical porn, feminist porn, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, net filters, obscenity, Ofcom, OPA, piracy, politics, porn, privacy, sex education, surveillance, tube sites

11 comments

Where do the AVMS guidelines come from?

Posted at 22:13 on 13 Jul 2015 by Pandora / Blake

When I talk to someone about the AVMS guidelines, which control what content it is now legal to distribute online in the UK, their first question is always how on earth these regulations came to pass. Why is facesitting banned, but not gagging on cock? Why can UK video producers not show female ejaculation, but male ejaculation is permissible? Why are the guidelines weirdly specific on the details of a high number of niche activities only found within female domination porn - such as trampling, ballbusting, facesitting, scissoring, wrestling, urethral sounds, anal insertion and BDSM pain play - but no mention is made of countless other obscure fetishes?

A preview photo from Femme Fatale Films, which definitely doesn't depict any of ATVOD's banned acts.

After I describe these inconsistencies, the person I'm talking to usually makes a face as they try to imagine how such a bizarre list of banned acts could possibly be compiled. Perhaps they envisage a group of old white men sitting in a boardroom, listing all the fetishes they can think of on a whiteboard, deleting some and underlining others. Half the fetishes on the internet they have never heard of, so they don't get a mention. None of these old white men have ever made a woman squirt, so the consensus is that female ejaculation is a myth, and probably urine - better ban it. But perhaps some of them have guiltily visited a dominatrix or watched femdom porn, so those activities are on their radar - along with all the attendant anxiety of a repressed sexuality. It's potent stuff, they might think, but it's also clearly morally suspect. Best to remove the temptation and ban it all together.

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Tags: ATVOD, AVMS, BBFC, censorship, CPS, fisting, kink activism, obscenity, OPA, politics

12 comments

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