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.
Happy 2019! I'm thrilled to annouce that Felix and I will once again be facilitating a consent workshop in London later this month. This is another opportunity to participate in the sold-out workshop we held in October, which we are running again due to popular demand.
Here's what attendees from our previous workshop had to say about it:
I'm proud to publish this online version of our consent leaflet, Getting and Giving What We Want.
This is a condensed version of some of the things we cover our consent workshop Getting and Giving What We Want, produced by Backlash. We are running another workshop in January so keep an eye out for details! My co-facilitator Felix and I had a fun challenge cutting the techniques that we teach in the workshop down to a suitable length. As we were going through the material we initially felt that it was all so important we couldn't cut any of it. It was an informative exercise to ask ourselves, out of all of this crucial information, what is absolutely most important? - and this is what we came up with.
‘This idea that consent is a contract is really pernicious,’ Blake says. ‘Consent is revocable and ongoing, and being encouraged to change your mind is necessary for consent. By saying you’ve changed your mind, you’re helping your partner respect your boundaries.’
This is something I've been wanting to do for a really long time, and I'm thrilled that it's finally happening.
I'm facilitating a new workshop in London - Getting and Giving What We Want. I've developed this workshop with my co-facilitator Felix. So far we've run it a couple of times at little festivals and got a really good response. This will be our first time running it in London. It's happening at 7pm on Tuesday 2 October - just in time for the London Fetish Weekend - at the Apple Tree in Clerkenwell, a fab new LGBT venue that has just opened.
We will explore consent, boundaries, and ways to sensitively communicate with other people to create the best experiences possible.
Last week I was invited to visit the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and deliver a half day of training. This was something of a coup. Three years ago, my ethical porn website had just been closed down by the previous online porn regulator, due to my films contravening guidelines maintained by the BBFC. Now, the new online porn regulator were asking me to come and deliver an expert briefing to their compliance team about BDSM, its ethics and practice, and my recommendations regarding the way BDSM films are regulated.
It was an amazing opportunity to meet the people making decisions that affects filmmakers like me, talk to them about the issues, and create a shared context. I was excited to have the chance to share my knowledge and experience to help the team's understanding as they make classification recommendations on BDSM content.
The #metoo movement is just getting started. Lately it seems that every time I come online, I see more excellent articles discussing the gendered dynamics and inequalities of sex, pleasure and consent. This is a much-needed conversation, and it's thrilling to see it taking place in mainstream publications, on an international scale.
Here are some recent highlights from my reading. Content note: sexual assault and consent violations.
Last Thursday evening found me screening porn to a crowded basement bar in Shoreditch, as part of my workshop ‘Feminist Porn - where to find it and how to feel good watching it’. It was totally sold out, and when I got there I realised I'd underestimated how big an event it was going to be; there were apparently a hundred people there including ten journalists, so the whole thing was a bit higher profile than I'd anticipated. I hope that the coverage is favourable, and that my material wasn’t too controversial for the members of the press who were there.
My intention was to introduce the topic of feminist and ethical porn to people who wanted to learn more about it (including talking about the differences between those two terms, and some of the problems that have been raised with ‘feminist porn’ as a phrase), and to also screen some short samplers of some of my favourite feminist porn films, to give an indication of the variety available under that umbrella.
To kick things off I gave a very brief history of feminist porn, starting with Candida Royalle’s Femme Productions of the 1980s (read a heartfelt bio of her here), and introducing other important feminist directors and producers since then, from Annie Sprinkle to the present day. The first screening was a short clip starring Annie which kicks off with her schooling a male lover in how to lick her pussy. I wanted to show that porn which bucks mainstream trends and centers female pleasure and desire has been around for several decades now, and is going from strength to strength.
"Are those 'ows' real 'ows'?" my top asks in concern, resting the tip of the cane on the bed.
"No. Well, yes, they're real as in it really hurts, but it's the difference between owwww!" (high pitched squeal) "and 'Gerroff, you fucker'." I twist around and look at him through my eyelashes. "Basically if I'm still being cute, I'm consenting."
Consent is complicated, and playing with non-consent can be really difficult to do in a way that feels reassuring and secure for all concerned. This short film, found via Kitty Stryker, offers an awesome introduction to the complexities of non-consent play:
The "obvious answer" to the problem posed by this film is to use a safeword, but safewords can also be pretty complex. There's a lot to say about safewords, but right now I want to focus on the negotiation part of non-consent play.