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Extreme porn legislation: after the Act

Posted at 17:16 on 6 Jan 2011 by Pandora / Blake

To some extent, I've been blithely assuming that the "extreme porn" sections of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 wouldn't have any real effect in law. Yes, the wording is dangerously vague and creates a 'thought crime' in UK legislation, but wasn't that case with the comical tiger sex clip dropped in January after the prosecution actually listened to the soundtrack? Apart from that, I haven't been aware of much activity since the Act was passed. Perhaps our concerns that it would be used to police sexual fantasy and give police ammunition against people they didn't like but nothing to charge them with were unfounded.

Yesterday a dramatic local news article announced that this law was being tested in a "landmark trial":

In one of the first cases of its kind in the country, Kevin Webster is accused of having "grossly offensive or disgusting" pictures, even though they are "fakes".

Webster, aged 47, denies three charges of possessing extreme pornography depicting images likely to result in injury to a person's breast and one similar charge depicting an act which threatens a person's life.
In this case, the staged nature of the images is not in question - the subject matter is what is relevant. Darron Whitehead, prosecuting, stated:
"Why is there a need for this new legislation? There is a need to regulate images portraying sexual violence, to safeguard the decency of society and for the protection of women."
This suggests that our fears about the consequences of the extreme porn legislation are being borne out. It's no longer about protecting the people involved in making the images, but about policing our fantasies. Never mind that no causal connection can be demonstrated between viewing pornography and sexual violent crime (in fact it's arguable that access to pornography helps prevent violent crime by giving people with socially 'unacceptable' desires an outlet for their fantasies), nor that it is perfectly possible to create ethical images of violent acts using consenting actors. Under this way of thinking, even illustrations and cartoons are too dangerous. This isn't about regulating the porn industry, it's about personal taste masquerading as morality. The prosecution in this case explicitly uses the Victorian concept of the "decency of society" as an excuse for censorship.

This position is demonstrably hollow. If drawings of tentacle rape are so dangerous, what about the constant barrage of violence and sexual violence we see in mainstream film? If porn affects the "decency of society", why not these? If you're really interested in protecting women, Mr Whitehead, why not turn your attention to prosecuting rape and sexual assault cases?

Porn is no more inherently dangerous than any other cultural text. Claiming that violence in porn is somehow worse for us than the violence and carefully-policed sexual content permeating our media is to create a ludicrous double standard. Sex is everywhere we look, and yet explicit sexual discourse, real human sexuality, is still the enemy. Our culture is fucked up about sex, and the only way to fix that is from the bottom up.

Censorship has never, in the long run, been successful, and often serves to increase the taboo appeal and cultural interest of the banned content. Top down legislation of this nature is not the way to fix the exploitation within the porn trade or violence against women. If you're worried about unethical porn, support independent and fairtrade producers. This legislation is clearly not intended to make anyone safer, but merely to make people who think their culturally-approved sexuality is the only 'decent' option more comfortable, and to punish those who don't conform, regardless of whether anyone is harmed by their desires.

All these arguments were made countless times, and by better spokespeople than I, during the campaign against the legislation. Once the Act was passed, our only remaining hope was that in practice, few people would actually be charged under it. And until yesterday, I thought that was more or less the case.

How wrong I was. A bit of googling revealed that Kevin Webster's case is far from the first to be brought under the extreme porn legislation. Very few of them have made national news, but the local papers carry many more examples from the last couple of years. Here's what google threw up on a first pass (names included merely to demonstrate that these each represent a different case):

16 June 2009: Colin Blanchard, Manchester, accused of sexual assault, making and distributing indecent images of children, and possession of extreme porn.

18 June 2009: Man prosecuted for possession of extreme photographs depicting women and animals; given an 18-month supervision order and 24 hours at an attendance centre as the judge deemed "support and assistance" were needed.

4 September 2009: Nathan Porter of Pendleton charged with seven counts of possession of extreme pornographic images featuring "content of a bestial nature".

17 December 2009: Matthew Jones, Chertsey, charged with possessing child pornography, making an indecent image of a child, and possessing extreme pornography portraying sex with animals and an act likely to result in serious injury to a persons private parts.

13 May 2010: Peter McArthur of Kingskerswell pleaded guilty to possession of extreme pornographic images featuring 'mutilation' and bestiality, and and six indecent images of children.

5 July 2010: John Wood,of Thurlby, near Bourne, pleaded guilty to two charges of possession of 17 'extreme images', and one charge of possession of child porn.

25 July, 2009Alan More of Carrickfergus charged with sex offences against a 15-year-old and possession of extreme pornography (BBC erroneously claims this is the first case to be brought under the 2008 Act.)

3 August 2010: Darren Toone of Worsley jailed for 16 months for two counts of possession of child porn, possession of amphetamines and possession of extreme pornography featuring violent rape scenes and bestiality.

17 August 2010: Paul Reynolds of Walpole St Peter charged with making indecent photographs of a child, and possessing child pornography and sexual images involving animals.

24 August 2010: Glen Smith, Chingford, sentenced to 2.5 years in jail for selling pirated CDs and DVDs and possessing extreme pornography. Officers claim they're the first in the UK to bring charges under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.

18 September 2010: David Harvey of West Cross charged with making child pornography and possession of images featuring sex acts between people and animals.

1 November 2010: Brian Porritt, Manchester, sentenced for possession of child porn, cocaine and extreme pornography.

30 December 2010: Mark Russell of Neath, Wales charged with possessing extreme porn featuring animals, making indecent photographs of a child and possessing child pornography. Case continues - his next court appearance is February 23 2011.

That's a steady stream of cases, and it's no doubt an incomplete list. Since it was passed, the extreme porn legislation has certainly been earning its keep. So what do the cases so far tell us about how it's being used?

  • All of the defendants so far have been male.
  • Bestiality porn seems to be the most frequent target of the legislation to date, although the "serious injury" clause has had a couple of outings.
  • These cases mostly represent "extreme porn plus" - that is, possession of extreme pornography charged alongside cases involving child pornography, counterfeit trading or drugs possession. Two of the 2009 cases listed here are the only exceptions I've found so far; I haven't seen any cases in 2010 which were brought involving extreme pornography alone. (Edit: but that doesn't mean there weren't any: see this list for more.)
  • Images seem to mostly come to light when the defendant's home is investigated relating to other sex offences, a crime committed in their own home for which their computer is evidence, or else the images are reported by engineers fixing the computer. I haven't seen any examples of random police raids, or computer searches arising from warrants unrelated to sex offences.
  • Where the charge is possession, no details are reported of any investigations into the creators of the images.

If Kevin Webster is found guilty, he may be the first person in a year to have been prosecuted under only extreme pornography charges alone, which would herald a worrying shift. And unlike cases which involve images of children or animals, in this instance the images only portray adults - and, since even the prosecution describes the images as "fake", most likely consenting adults, at that.

This has been a wake-up call for me. I had no idea the Act had been so, well, active; and the Webster case has some notable, and worrying differences from most of the cases last year. Of course I'm not about to start self-policing and clear any images which may be covered by the legislation out of my cache; if people start doing that, the censors have won.

Please do send me any relevant news items I've missed - I intend to keep a careful eye on the way this legislation continues to be used.

--

Edit 17:33: Snap! I'm not the only one to blog about this today, but Heresy Corner has more up-to-date news sources; he's just posted the news of Kevin Webster's acquittal. Good news. Heresy Corner writes:
Had he been convicted, it could well have opened the floodgates to many more such prosecutions. Will his acquittal have the opposite effect, and make the CPS think twice about their own definitions of extreme pornography?
We can only hope so, but right now I for one am not inclined to be complacent.

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Tags: Extreme porn legislation, in the news, Politics

129 comments

the view from the bottom

Posted at 14:02 on 21 Feb 2009 by Pandora / Blake

After my posts about the extreme porn law and the demonstration I attended in Parliament Square, I received an invitation to write a guest post on the issue for Heresy Corner, a UK political blog with an impressive readership. "While I do my research thoroughly, my opinions are theoretical and those of an outsider. You actually live this stuff." the Heresiarch explained in his email. "I was also struck from something you wrote a while ago about how 'sex blogs' are rather cut off from other parts of the blogosphere - and it seems to me that your thoughts deserve a different audience."

I've been pretty over-committed lately, so it took me a while to get back to him. I said I was honoured to be asked, definitely interested, but well aware that my tendency of setting myself ambitious goals in four or five different areas at once leaves me vulnerable to changes of focus, and I have a bad habit of leaving projects unfinished and commitments dangling. The Heresiarch assured me there was no hurry from his point of view, but I shyly asked if he could set me a firm deadline, or it probably wouldn't happen. He was kind enough to oblige, and I said sure, I'd write him something.

I started work on the blog post two days before the deadline. Loads of time, I thought. But first there was the writing block to overcome. Suddenly this felt like a real writing project. I haven't had written a proper article since I was studying. I didn't help matters by looking through the recent posts on Heresy Corner until I felt thoroughly intimidated and uninformed in comparison.

But I chatted to my Doms in IRC, and they both had useful input, and I made a lot of notes about censorship and democracy and media responsibility. Once I started writing, I quickly realised that I had enough thoughts on this topic to fill a small book - particularly since I'd been told I shouldn't assume that my audience was familiar with kink, so I had to start from scratch with explaining where I'm coming from, and challenging some of the misconceptions which played a part in getting this legislation passed.

I finally finished it, after cutting it down to about a third of its original size, three days after the deadline. So I probably deserve a spanking for that. And I have at least two more articles I could write with the material I collected. But I'm pretty happy with the post that went up on Heresy Corner yesterday. It's not a bad start.

The View from the Bottom - An insider's take on spanking, S&M and the new porn law.

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Tags: Extreme porn legislation, Politics, Sex worker rights

1 comment

Yes we CAAN

Posted at 21:58 on 26 Jan 2009 by Pandora / Blake

Shamefully, I'd never been to Parliament Square before. I followed Penny's confident lead as we got the bus from Leicester Square, and dashed across the busy roads to the island in the centre, which as far as I could tell has no legal crossing to it. At first glance, the CAAN protest seemed to be huge - it took me a minute to figure out that most of what I was seeing was the demos against violence in Sri Lanka and Gaza, and Brian Haw's infamous seven-year peace protest against the war in Iraq. Next to the stalls and placards about human rights atrocities, our cause seemed a little petty.

But there were already a healthy crowd of kinksters, and over the next three hours the group expanded impressively. It was great to see Amy again, and various other friends in the goth/alternative scene. Once I'd arrived D. pointed out to me the gorgeous, young-looking redhead standing out from the crowd. "Can we take her home?" he quipped, slipping an arm around my waist. Spotting cute boys and girls is a favourite pastime of ours.

"Sure!" I grinned, not realising that the young lady we were so cheerfully perving over was in fact Irelynn. I didn't recognise her until she came up and introduced herself. (I think she deserves a prize for making it to the demo on her own from the other end of the country, even braving the terror of London buses in the process.) She is, of course, even lovelier in person, and an interesting internal battle between my protective instincts and wicked thoughts ensued. But I managed to behave myself, and not scare her too much. (I hope!)

There seemed to be some internal debate about whether it was better to protest in attention-grabbing outfits, or while seeming as "normal" as possible so as not to alienate passers-by, but I think it was good to have a mix. Our placards attracted quite a lot of attention. Especially mine. I had several compliments on it, mostly from people who looked blankly at me when I made a comment about lolcats, so at least I know it made sense to people who didn't get the geeky internet in-joke. :)





The placards either side of me read: "Get your filthy laws off me" and "The internet is for porn" respectively. Both of which sentiments I heartily endorse. My other favourite slogan of the day was "Make Love Not Laws" - simple but effective.

There seemed to be a healthy number of reporters present, including a camera crew, and a handful of journalists from national press to local student papers. I gave a couple of quotes, but was too shy to do a video interview. I'll be interested to see how many of the articles make it to print.

The Register published a balanced and entertaining response to the new law over the weekend, which gives the sound advice previously published by Backlash a wider audience. I was also heartened to read a couple of sympathetic articles in the Independent after the protests in December. The bill has already been passed: it's too late to change that. But the true test of legislation that's vaguely worded is legal precedent. The only hope we have now is to persuade juries and Justices that there is no correlation between looking at sadistic porn and committing abuse; that depiction harms no-one, and that a hard-line interpretation of this law constitutes an infringement of civil liberties.

In the meantime, I'm going to have a little lie-down and enjoy some of the extreme and violent images which I keep stored in my brain. Big Brother may be watching me masturbate, but the government can't do a damn thing to stop me looking at those.

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Tags: Extreme porn legislation, Kink activism, making a scene, Photos, Politics

2 comments

kinky slogans

Posted at 09:42 on 22 Jan 2009 by Pandora / Blake

I want to carry a placard at the demonstration this weekend, but I can't decide what to write on it. I'm going to need to start making it pretty soon, so I wondered if any of you lot could help me brainstorm some ideas. I started out by googling, but that was no use - I can't find a list of pro-kinky-porn slogans anywhere, which suggests to me that it's high time we came up with some.

Previous protests have seen placards saying 'No to thought crime', 'Penalise crime, not sex' and 'Depiction harms no-one'. Which are okay, I guess, but I was hoping for something a little wittier.

I'm not very good at this sort of thing, but I had a think while I was doing the washing up and came up with the following for starters:

'I <3 Extreme Porn'
'Consensual Sex is Not a Crime'
'My Thoughts Are Not Crimes'
'I <3 Consensual Violence'
'If you can't join us, please don't beat us'
'Have Autonomy, Can Consent'
'Love the Sinner, Love the Sin'
'Kinky and proud'
'If you think that's extreme, you should see some of my fantasies'
'Welcome to 1984'
'Big Brother is Watching You Masturbate'

I'm strongly tempted to use the last one because lolcats rock my world, but more ideas can't hurt. Do your worst. :)

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Tags: Extreme porn legislation, funny, Politics, requesting assistance

1 comment

taking action

Posted at 14:04 on 21 Jan 2009 by Pandora / Blake

I got back from my weekend away to discover I'd been mentioned on a mainstream political blog. No, I'm not famous yet - the blogger is my excellent friend Penny Red, and she wanted a quote from me on the violent porn legislation that comes into force on Monday. (In fact, she texted me to ask if I was available for a quick phone interview, but I was neck-deep in Shakespeare at the time and missed my chance.)

I have not, however, missed my chance to attend the demonstration at Parliament Square this Sunday, protesting the ban. The action is being organised by CAAN, the Consenting Adults Action Network. The Spanking Writers have already written this week about CAAN and the legislation; I've already discussed my own point of view at some length.

As Abel has already argued, I don't think most spankos are in danger of becoming criminals next week. Here's the relevant section again:

(6) An extreme image is an image which
     (a) falls within subsection (7), and
     (b) is grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character.

(7) An image falls within this subsection if it portrays, in an explicit and realistic way, any of the following
     (a) an act which threatens a persons life,
     (b) an act which results, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a persons anus, breasts or genitals,
     (c) an act which involves sexual interference with a human corpse, or
     (d) a person performing an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive).

6b is explicitly and worryingly subjective. The News of the World believes that a private judicial caning carried out by consenting adults is gross, disgusting and obscene; the Sunday Mercury thinks that filming spanking porn with consenting adults is a sex crime. (If you disagree, feel free to contact the journalist and explain why - a sample letter and his email address are available here, courtesy of SpankedHortic.) Let's hope none of their fans have jury duty coming up any time soon.

Section 7 is more precise, but significant subsets of BDSM porn are covered by the legislation. An abduction scene where the victim is threatened with a knife? Illegal. A photo of a blade lightly pressing against a throat? Illegal. Sexy shots of someone fellating a gun? Illegal. Erotic asphyxiation? Illegal.

I love non-consent games. Coercion roleplay? Sign me up. I wouldn't enact it with most people, but my fantasies overflow with forced sex, blackmail, kidnapping, restraint, slavery, objectification, threats and brutal discipline. Force me up against a wall and growl into my ear exactly why I have no choice but to submit and I'll be wet before you start. Hold a sword to my throat and I'll give up on even trying to pretend I'm not enjoying it. I get off on breath play so much it's been known to make me come on the spot. As such, I heartily support the existence of erotica depicting these acts. I don't own anywhere near as much of it as I'd like, but will defend the rights of anyone who's been lucky enough to get hold of the good stuff.

As a spanking model, the kind of porn I own most of just about, assuming a sympathetic jury, slips through this new net. Half of it has me in it, which potentially provides a defense under section 66 (although it's debatable whether it's possible to consent under law to, for example, the caning I received in my recent Pain4Fem film). But even if I'm not technically going to be criminalised next week it doesn't mean there's nothing wrong. Something is very wrong.

Images of violence, actual bodily harm, threats to a person's life have been acceptable as popular entertainment for years. The only legal difference between "extreme porn" and half of Hollywood is that the former was "produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal". Owning a copy of the torture scene in Casino Royale, for instance, is not criminalised because the film as a whole is not deemed pornographic. You tell me that half the people watching that scene weren't enjoying Daniel Craig's exposed body and delicious vulnerability. And yet an identical scene produced for publication on, say, this blog would be illegal.

This photo of Chris Burden holding a knife to a reporter's throat is either journalism or performance art, and therefore legal. This image of a handcuffed Asian girl being threatened with a knife is far more ambiguous. In many ways it is less violent than the Chris Burden photo. Was it created for purposes of sexual arousal? No-one knows but the photographer. (And would he be believed in court if he denied it?)

Essentially, the content of the images is irrelevant to this legislation. The intent is the deciding factor. This legislation is so significant because it is the first instance in UK law of a thought crime.

Which is why I'll be at Parliament Square at 2pm this Sunday, defending my right to make and own porn depicting scenes I can legally and consensually enact in private. I hope I'll see some of you there.

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Tags: Extreme porn legislation, films and TV, Kink activism, making a scene, Politics, rant, requesting assistance

1 comment

fighting for freedom

Posted at 15:30 on 16 Jul 2008 by Pandora / Blake

A few months ago, when the Max Mosley case first went to press, I (along with a handful of other bloggers) received a polite request from Lucy McLean, owner of Northern Spanking, asking us to please not blog about the case. The "hookers" mentioned in the original News of the World piece were spanking professionals she knew personally, and if their identities were revealed they were at risk of losing their jobs - or even guardianship of their children. Lucy hoped that without the viral publicity of the internet, the case would die down with no further harm done.

Firstly, this should give you some idea of quite how protective, loyal, caring a person Lucy is, and quite how much the scene depends on people like her. Secondly, this is why I haven't written about the case before. This week, however, stories of how Max Mosley is sueing the News of the World have flooded in, and several spanko bloggers have picked up the thread. Amy Hunter kicked it off with a sharply worded satire of the pathetic desperation of the News of the World to find something - anything - even vaguely Nazi-related in the private play party they spied on, to add extra spice to their story. Not that doing Nazi scenes are illegal, of course - their justification for their shocking invasion of privacy is that the caning apparently drew blood, which is illegal. But Nazi roleplay is a convenient hot button. People get very upset by anything that looks even slightly like exploitation of the Holocaust for personal ends.

This is a very complex, messy moral grey area and I'm not sure I feel comfortable making definitive statements about it. In general, while there are some fantasies which make me very uncomfortable, I don't feel that I or anyone else is in a position to label them "immoral" or otherwise; it's up to the individual. I also feel that while certain scenes, particularly ones set in the context of actual current or historical oppression, are likely to be offensive and the individual should be sensitive to that, legislating private sexual behaviour is never the answer. I'm not saying all sex acts ever are necessarily okay; I'm saying that proscriptive legislation and censorship are definitely the greater evil. As far as I'm concerned, whether or not it's acceptable to eroticise historical suffering is pretty much up to the conscience of the individual, and as long as it stays private there's no harm done.

The reason this scene didn't stay private is the fault of neither Max Mosley, nor the spanking professionals who were involved in the roleplay. The reason the scene didn't stay private is that the News of the World paid someone to sneak a camera in; and because the News of the World then wrote sensationalistic, screechingly judgmental articles about someone's private sex life as if this "news" was worthy of public attention; and because the News of the World have continued to exploit everyone they possibly can in order to sell as many papers as possible. Forgive me for being cynical about their actual interest in the sociopolitical ethics of using war imagery for entertainment purposes. In slapping the word "Nazi" over every single story that's gone to press, regardless of the complete lack of evidence of Nazi or Holocaust imagery in the actual video, the News of the World are the ones who have exploited the historical suffering of Holocaust victims for their own ends. Not Max Mosley.

I'd prefer to avoid an argument about whether it would have been immoral if Mosley had been playing a Nazi scene; the question seems irrelevant, because the fact is that he wasn't. The video and the testimony of those involved are quite clear on this. That element was completely invented by the News of the World to make the story more shocking. Any offense caused to Jewish groups or anyone else is, in my opinion, entirely the responsibility of the News of the World. The plain fact of it is that a private spanking party really isn't news unless you sprinkle it with a generous helping of fiction.

In Mosley's case, his father's political involvement with the British fascist party provided an easy target, and the German language of the roleplay not only served as "evidence", but conveniently prevented the majority of the British public from understanding what had actually taken place. Because of course any film or TV scene featuring generic military-looking outfits and German language must be Nazi. And because eroticising something automatically makes it more immoral. Never mind that people watch prisoner of war and torture scenes in films all the time! If they're only enjoying it in their hearts, minds and souls, and not in their genitals, of course it's perfectly edifying.

(Is it worth my pointing out at this point that, if Mosley ever did have Nazi fantasies, it's quite possibly the healthiest way for him to deal with the family legacy he grew up with? Is it also worth pointing out that identifying with the victim - as Mosley clearly was, playing a sub role in a substantial part of the scene - is perceived as sympathetic and human most of the time, and is only viewed as exploitative or objectifying when it involves sex? Could this, in fact, be less about the ethics of exploitation and more about the destructive prudery, and fear of healthy sexuality, which permeates our culture?)

In response to Amy's article, Niki Flynn posted an equally righteous article about the devastating effect this "scandal" has had on completely innocent people within the scene. People, in fact, like Lucy McLean and her husband Paul Kennedy. Despite not being involved in the scene at all, they were dragged into the shit-storm because of a misunderstanding that the informant was one of the models listed at Northern Spanking. The resulting crossfire has, as Lucy describes in detail in a comment further down the thread, cost Paul his job and the couple a substantial portion of their stability and income, not to mention months of stress and hassle.

Niki, noble soul that she is, implored the spanko community to show their support to Lucy and Paul by subscribing to Northern Spanking for one month. If any of you haven't yet, please let me persuade you to do so. Just as Lucy and Paul are exactly the kind of thoughtful, decent people who are a credit to the scene, so their site is pretty much exactly the opposite of the accusations the gutter press are making. The site is a labour of love, with profits covering costs but not generating any income for the owners. Every model hired by the site is kinky, genuine, and making spanking films because she loves it - and the site lets the personalities of the girls shine through, rather than using their images anonymously, or for any purpose the model herself wouldn't enjoy. The films themselves are a delightful mixture of sensual and edgy, all of them heartfelt and good-humoured. The site also has the highest proportion of comedy of any spanking site I've seen online, including regular film out-takes and a long-standing tradition of improvised wit and slapstick, with brilliant one-liners appearing even in the more serious films. This good humour is a testament to the affirming, frank positivity of the owners. Our kink is healthy, it's fun, and it's nothing to be ashamed of, and Northern Spanking communicates that message more effectively than any other site I know. If you can spare $25 this month, spend it on supporting the people that make this scene worth being in. (And if you still aren't convinced, head over to The Spanking Spot for a glowing review and some tantalising preview images.)

I'm not the first blogger to pick up on this - Prefectdt, Bonnie and Natty have all added their voices to the cause in the last couple of days. And every post so far has linked to new newspaper articles on Max Mosley's stand as a "freedom fighter". I've been surprised and pleased by the positive and neutral tone of these articles, which offer a stark contrast to the moralising, invasive tone of the News of the World. A First Post opinion piece offered a defence of Mosley's character and describes the News of the World's recent publications as "one of the biggest editorial blunders in British popular journalism in recent years." A Guardian article questioned whether the invasions of privacy perpetrated by the News of the World is in the public interest at all - surely there are countless news items more worthy of the News of the World's time and money. The Evening Standard added its support to Mosley's stance, while BBC Magazine published a balanced, if basic, report describing how common BDSM practices are in the UK, and arguing that for the most part they are completely harmless. We all know this already, of course, but it's the first time I've seen it said in as many words by the BBC. And an opinion piece in the Independent put it even more forcefully: "Sexual dreams alone, if we believe the barrister representing the News of the World, can be 'a form of corruption of the personality' leading to 'true depravity'. When thought is being policed by anyone, let alone tabloid journalists we are in trouble."

More and more papers are adding their voices to the consensus that spanking play is normal, common, and harmless. More articles on spanking have been posted in the last week than ever before. The Daily Record recently ran an advice column on how to seek out introducing healthy spanking play, and yesterday's Metro ran a story on Peter Jones, author of Confessions of a London Spank Daddy, which surely was only published because of the kink-curious climate provoked by the Mosley case, for all that it studiously avoids mentioning it. Spanking has never been so fascinating to the UK press.

The Mosley case was hugely depressing to me at the time, not least because I was busy stressing about the new violent porn legislation which was passed a few weeks ago, and which groups all over the UK fought for years to prevent, criminalising possession of images which appear to depict serious injury to the anus, breasts or genitals. I didn't write about this legislation, either, because when it was passed I felt so disaffected, so disenfranchised, that I just didn't know what to say. We'd campaigned and protested for months, and they'd passed it anyway.

The actual wording of the legislation is dangerously vague. Spanking and CP material isn't necessarily illegal, but given an unsympathetic judge armed with waffly, imprecise language, it could be. As a result, most of the individuals I know who own spanking porn haven't changed their habits since the law was passed; but the film producers are getting increasingly antsy. Several times this year, ideas I've had for shoots which would have been perfectly fine a few months previously were vetoed by nervous site owners who didn't want to risk it. Any caning on the breasts, for example, was deemed off-limits by one site owner unless it was so light as to be laughable. Face slapping was another no-no, although quite why when faces aren't a part of the body listed in the new legislation, I have no idea.

So the new law hasn't affected me directly, mostly because I haven't let it. Fuck it, I say; I don't think I'm at risk of the police getting a warrant to search my computer, and I refuse to live in fear. If I'm arrested then I'll defend my sexuality in court. But it has indirectly affected me because a lot of people in the industry have made changes to their professional decisions on the basis of the new legislation. As people who make a profit off this material, they feel they have a lot more to lose. I can't help thinking of the response to terrorism in recent years, and the eloquent speeches from people who felt that privacy and personal liberty was more important than public safety at any cost. Doesn't the same apply here?

Since then, I've thought of quite a few things I want to say about the new violent porn legislation, but given the length of this post I'll save most of them for another day. (In the meantime, have a read of my friend Mark's blog, who passionately protested the violent porn legislation since the initial consultation, and says it all far better than I could.) I mention it now because it seems relevant to the Max Mosley case in three ways.

First, Mosley's position of privilege and his strength of character have prompted a victim of tabloid gutter-reporting to defend themselves in a BDSM-related case. This doesn't happen often; the scandal and misinformation, as well as the consequences to the victims of making more of a fuss, normally allow the bullies to win. Not only has Mosley's defence prompted the most widespread, honest discussion of BDSM I've ever seen in the UK press - which has got to be a good thing - but he hopefully will set a precedent, making the tabloids less inclined to go down this route in future, and making it easier for any future victims to fight back.

Secondly, the very real consequences of this case have highlighed in a new and clear way the prejudice and discrimination faced by people of unusual sexual orientation in this country. It's illegal to fire someone for being homosexual - but not illegal to fire them for practicing BDSM. Kinky people have been protesting this discrimination for ages, but this case, and its appalling consequences for people who weren't even involved, makes it impossible to ignore. In a culture which recently made owning certain kinky pictures, even if they're of your own partner, illegal, this publicity is much-needed, and I'm heartened by the positive or neutral stance adopted by most of the press.

Thirdly, if any spanking or CP porn is criminalised under the new legislation, surely canings that draw blood are more at risk than the majority of what we look at? In which case, isn't the Max Mosley video bought by the News of the World illegal under the new law? And if it isn't, surely we as a community can stop fretting, and express our sexualities without fear?

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Tags: Extreme porn legislation, Gender politics, in the news, making a scene, Politics, rant, Sex worker rights

10 comments

Blogging for Backlash

Posted at 22:56 on 9 Oct 2006 by Pandora / Blake

Today parliament returns after their summer break, enabling consultation to continue on the proposed legislation of the possession of extreme pornographic material. Denny over at UK Fetish Info wrote a post drawing my attention to Blogging for Backlash, which encourages bloggers to unite in posting about the proposals today, as a way of raising awareness.

My friend Casby wrote two excellent articles outlining his response to the initial consultation, back in December '05, which you can read here and here. Casby worked in the control of pornographic material for Her Majesty's Export and Customs, as well as being the creator of some very pretty and edgy fetish art, so his opinion is about as well-informed as any I've read. I don't think I have anything to say that he hasn't covered. More excellent blog articles are listed at the central Blogging for Backlash day post.

The question currently concerning me is how the reason an individual looks at violent images is decided. As Andrew Rilstone has pointed out, the relevant point is the intention with which the material was created, not the intention with which it is viewed (or the reaction with which it is viewed). I used to be fascinated with serial killers, cannibalism and vampirism when I was about 11, and several of the books I read on the subject had photos/illustrations. I'm not sure that I can claim my fascination was entirely wholesome, but despite my perverse enjoyment of them, the books were written as factual, so looking at them was, according to the proposed legislation, fine. But if someone puts the same material on a website called "hornyhorrorfantasy.com", looking at them could land you in jail. I'm not at all comfortable with the idea of intention rather than action being legislated, particularly since it's so impossible to prove or measure.

Which leads, of course, to the question of written material. Whether you're talking about Poppy Z Brite's Exquisite Corpse, spanking blogs or hardcore BDSM fantasy material, you can't help but wonder whether words are next.

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Tags: Extreme porn legislation, making a scene, Politics

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