After it was passed by the Commons, the Bill bounced back to the House of Lords for final consideration. I've only skimmed the transcript of the debate so far, but as far as I can tell there were no substantive changes to Section 3, covering age verification for online porn.
The event was hosted at Newspeak House, a political community space dedicated to helping technologists improve the way that we make collective decisions as a country. It has regular communal meals and there's lots going on, so if you can get to Bethnal Green and this sounds like your cup of tea, I recommend looking it up.
Videos like this are made possible by my Patreon supporters - if you want to help me create more free-to-access public resources like this about UK porn censorship, obscenity law or any other issues, please donate - even $1 a month is valuable, and every penny adds up to time I can spend campaigning on behalf of our community.
Since the Digital Economy Bill passed to the House of Lords a few months ago, I’ve been following its progress closely. I’ve also been doing my best to intervene in the amendment of the Bill by lobbying the Lords - specifically, sending out a briefing on behalf of Backlash after the second debate, before the Bill was discussed in committee. Each time any transcripts have been published, I’ve read them - and started writing blogposts about each stage of the debate. But I’m not a lawyer, and the passage of a Bill through Parliament is a dense legislative process. Honestly, it’s taken all of my capacity to read, digest and comprehend the Hansard transcripts; I didn't also manage to write succinct, accessible reports on the changes as they happened.
I'm going to have to ditch those half-written drafts now, because the Lords have voted on their final amendments to the Bill, and passed it back to the House of Commons for approval. Section 3 on age verification for online porn has changed in some significant ways. In theory there is still the opportunity for MPs to disagree with the changes and propose amendments of their own; bills can be passed back and forth between the Houses until agreement is reached. But realistically, with a General Election just having been announced for 8 June, it's very unlikely that there will be time for an extended game of legislative ping pong. It's much more likely that the Bill will be rushed through in wash-up without any further changes. So this draft is probably the final shape of the forthcoming Digital Economy Act 2017.
I’ve spent a couple of days reading up on the Lords committee report and third debate, and I think I understand them as well as I’m going to. So here’s my overview of the final shape of the Digital Economy Bill.
You may remember my post last month, telling how I had a journalist and photographer over to my home one evening to watch me and Blath shooting a ritualistic, witchy content share scene. Well, the photos and resultant article are now available in Huck Magazine.
The piece contains some good stuff: talks in a positive way about queer kinky porn, critiques the Digital Economy Bill and Age Verification, and quotes Vex Ashley and Bishop Black along with me and Blath. It also does a bit to center our work in the historical context of political porn, rather than trying to claim that we are inventing it (as a lot of journalists do when they hear about alt porn for the first time). And at least there isn't any pointless "can porn be feminist???" questioning. I have to admit I'm also struck by the pictures - the photographer did a great job of capturing the dark sexy vibes of the scene (credit to Blath for the arty lighting). Sequins and "decriminalise sex work" postcards: yup, that's a queer porn set.
Next week I shall be speaking alongside Myles Jackman in a discussion with Martin Ashworth of ORG London (Open Rights Group), on the potential impact of the Digital Economy Bill and Age Verification on individuals in the UK. ORG London has over 1200 followers on Meetup, so hopefully this will be a well-attended event and will help to get the word out prior to the upcoming vote on the Bill.
If you're in London next Tuesday evening (April 11th), come along to Newspeak House in Bethnal Green to learn more, and to meet me and Myles!
I talked in a previous blogpost about a fun interview with a French indie magazine called Bottom Up, the print version of which is now available! They gave me heaps of coverage in this issue, including a report on the Kink Olympixxx which talks about censorship relating to the Digital Economy Bill, a review of Dreams of Spanking, and a very sweet and flattering profile of me followed by an interview - the full transcript of which is below.
I particularly adore this picture of me and Myles at the Kink Olympixxx!
When I started making spanking films I never once imagined that I would get a chance to screen them at the British Film Institute. Porn - especially queer porn and fetish porn, and Dreams of Spanking is firmly in both camps - is in many ways innately counter-cultural. When I launched the site I didn't expect the draconian criminalisation that would follow; but equally I didn't expect that queer porn, specifically my queer spanking films, would be considered cultural enough to be shown somewhere like the BFI.
It's a bittersweet juxtaposition, perfectly illustrated by something I noticed when I arrived at the BFI for Flare, the LGBTQ film festival, at which I was taking part in a panel discussion around how porn law affects queer porn. The banner across the Flare reception desks proclaimed the sponsors of the event; and there on the left was the legend "Supported by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport." How ironic that the very department of the civil service supporting this event is the one which introduced a statutory instrument in 2014 criminalising many forms of queer porn, including my own. It was surreal to speak about that criminalisation, to a sympathetic audience eager to learn how they can resist state oppression, at an event supported by the very public body responsible for that oppression. For me, that dissonance aptly summarised the widening gap between legislation imposed from above by those who have no clue about sexuality or sex work, and an increasingly open-minded public who mostly consider the sex lives of consenting adults to be their own damn business.
Before the panel proper, I recorded a video interview alongside queer porn icon Jiz Lee, and Chocolate Chip, who stars in Snapshot, the new "porn noir" sexy whodunnit by Shine Louise Houston, with questions asked by Flare programmer Jay Bernard. Jay is one of the curators of the festival, and they did an amazing job co-ordinating the Sexit panel and programming queer films that center people of colour. The interview was intended to be streamed via Facebook Live, but apparently the BFI is an old old building with shitty connectivity, so it was recorded instead - I'll link the video as soon as it's available.
I recently gave an interview to fellow feminist porn producer, the fabulous Erika Lust, which is now available on her website, complete with some pictures and sexy gifs! We talked about how I make my porn ethical; how Dreams of Spanking is at risk from the Digital Economy Bill here in the UK; how many of the fetish acts which seem to have been highlighted as “unacceptable” are those specific to female domination porn; feminism and submission; BDSM in the mainstream, and more. It had to be cut for length, but just for you dear readers here is the interview in full:
Hi Pandora! It's so great to talk to a woman on the same mission as myself to change the face of porn, *virtual high five* :) Now down to business. Your work has been described as "ethically produced fetish content" on your site Dreams of Spanking. Can you explain a little what this means?
Along with the statement about the Women's March, one of my first actions in my new role as spokesperson for Backlash was to write a briefing about section 3 the Digital Economy Bill, and send it out to 151 members of the Lords, in advance of the Bill going to Committee stage. We targeted the briefing to those members sitting on relevant committees, those who had contributed to the second debate on the Bill, and Liberal Democrats whom we might hope would be sympathetic to issues of net freedom, privacy and civil liberties.
It was no easy task to condense my research and findings on the potential harms of this bill into a short, easily digestible format. To make it more likely that the briefing would be read, I summarised the main arguments in a single cover page, and then fleshed out the three sections - privacy, freedom of expression and lack of supporting evidence - in more detail over three subsequent pages. If you're looking for a succinct introduction to the problems with the age verification policy, I think it's a reasonable start.