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.
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.
When the new porn laws came in last December, criminalising the distribution of material depicting sex acts such as facesitting, female ejaculation, watersports and spanking or BDSM that leaves lasting marks, the first person I called was Myles Jackman. Over brunch, he provided invaluable advice regarding how I should proceed with my porn site Dreams of Spanking, which was strongly affected by the new legislation. Since then he has taken on responsibility for handling my Ofcom appeal, provided support countless times as a volunteer for Backlash, and been on the end of the phone during the most stressful periods of my investigation by ATVOD, the new UK video on demand regulator. Almost all of this support has been provided free of charge.
Myles is a tireless campaigner defending sexual liberty in the UK, and many individuals who have been charged with consensual adult pornography offences, or facing family or employment law issues on the basis of their sexual preferences have benefited from his pro bono legal advice. He has dedicated his career to challenging the legal framework through which sexual morality is constrained in the UK, and he specialises in privacy and freedom of expression issues, especially for members of the BDSM and queer communities, sex workers and people in the adult industry.
I'm still reeling from the news. Thanks to our 105 generous funders, we raised a whopping 3836 for Backlash, and the money was transferred to their account yesterday. I met with David last week and he tells me the cash will be invaluable for funding legal support for producers affected by the UK porn legislation (which might well include yours truly).
I want to extend a personal thank you to each and every person who supported our sponsored caning campaign - whether by donating, sharing the link or writing a newspaper article. I had no idea when I launched this campaign that it would turn into such a wild success, and it's heartening to learn how many people in the UK and worldwide support the stand we're taking against this unjust attempt to censor our freedom of expression.
Wow, what a week it's been! Thanks to you, the kinky Indiegogo campaign I launched with Nimue Allen has raised more than five times our original funding target to help fight UK porn censorship - and there's still 18 hours left.
The fundraiser is running until midnight tonight PST (that's 8am on Sunday for us Brits), so there's still time to donate. Every penny raised will be donated to Backlash to help fight the UK's regressive new porn laws. Please do contribute if you can!
Our sponsored caning fundraiser to fight against UK porn censorship has now raised 1400 - thank you so much to all who have donated so far! But we aren't stopping there. All proceeds raised (and I mean literally all - we aren't keeping a penny) will go to Backlash, who campaign against laws that restrict sexual freedom - and maintain a legal fund to help defend those prosecuted under such laws.
No UK fetish porn producer can afford an expensive court battle. We are all small independent businesses operated by solo kinksters or couples, working from home and barely making a living after the costs of running a website. Any producers affected by these regulations will desperately need Backlash's support - and it's up to us, the kinky community, to help ensure Backlash have the resources they need.
Encouraged by the amazing support we've received so far, we are continuing to promote the campaign and are adding new stretch goals. Every pound will help in the battle against the UK's draconian new censorship of consensual kinky porn.
You have all probably seen this already, but I haven't mentioned it here yet - on 12th December after the facesitting protest outside Parliament against the new UK porn laws, I was invited to debate the issue on Newsnight. This was my first proper TV appearance and it was a big deal for me.
I finally got round to making a video blog about the new UK porn censorship laws. The Audiovisual Media Services Regulations (AVMS) 2014 impose dramatic restrictions on the sort of online porn that can be published in the UK, disproportionately targeting fetish, queer and feminist porn with no reference to whether the content was ethically and consensually produced. These laws criminalise me and my site Dreams of Spanking, and put me and other independent UK porn producers in a very precarious position. If you want to know more detail about the laws, exactly what is restricted, and how they affect me, watch this.
I recorded this at 1am a week ago without notes, because I've talked about this damn issue so much in the last six weeks I no longer need a cribsheet. As a result it's a little longer than I wanted - I might make some bullet points and attempt a 5 minute version at some point. I sent it to Backlash UK before posting to check I wasn't saying anything glaringly inaccurate, and they replied with a few clarifications as follows:
When there's important stuff happening, there's usually not much time to write about it - and that's how things have been the last few weeks.
In December, what I was mostly writing about was the new UK porn laws that mean that I, along with countless other independent fetish and feminist porn producers in the UK, am now a criminal. There was a protest and a bunch of media coverage. I talked about the new laws on Channel 4 News. The petition collected a few thousand names, and then the signatures stopped coming in (If you haven't signed it yet, please do). Christmas happened. And now it's 2015, and I'm still a criminal, these regulations are still in place, they still haven't been debated in Parliament or been subject to any democratic scrutiny by elected officials. Many of my colleagues have signed their businesses over to international producers, and I have no idea whether that will be enough to save them. I'm still producing exactly the same material I always have, and the Sword of Damocles is still hanging over my head.
It's a new year, and now the best chance for me and every other producer affected by this is to join forces and support Backlash, the campaign group who are lobbying against these regulations - as well as defending freedom of sexual expression on many other fronts. The best way to support them, if you can, is by donating hard cash. They explain on their website:
This guest post by James was written in response to the new online censorship of many common, consensual fetish acts in UK porn. Click here to find out more about the law and how it affects us.
I was six years old when I first enjoyed a spanking experience. This wasn't a consequence of being abused by a parent, teacher or dodgy relative. It was a playground game where, without thinking, I smacked a five-year old girl through her thin summer skirt and found that I rather enjoyed feeling the shape of her bottom and hearing her squeal.
Although there was precious little in my life to fuel my interest, I kept on wanting to know more and understand more what it might feel like to give or receive physical punishment. My fantasies progressed from hand spankings to canes, slipper, belts, and just about any implement you can imagine. I tried quite a few things on myself but had no opportunity to explore my desires with others.