I very much enjoyed the SCL (Society for Computing and Law) event on Sextech, porn and the law last week. It was hosted by lawyer Neil Brown, and chaired by Daniel Cooper. There was a sizeable audience and four speakers in total; in addition to Neil and myself, Sarah Jamie Lewis and Dr Kate Devlin.
Dr Devlin kicked things off with an engaging talk about sex robots, one of her areas of research. She shared some of the hype and misinformation that the media tends to indulge in around sex robots, and why a lot of it is hyperbolic and sensationalist. She talked about what sex robots can and can't offer; including a preview of the Harmony bot which is being developed in California at the moment. Dr Devlin went to visit the lab working on this project, and she describes the robot as a beautifully crafted silicon sex doll with an animatronic face and a recorded voice controlled by AI. They've got an in-house AI team and the AI is apparently remarkably good; you can chat to Harmony. The robot head mounts onto the standard sex dolls, meaning the body is poseable, but doesn't move independently. Read Engadget's report on meeting Harmony here.
Myles Jackman and I will be sharing a 30-minute slot, covering how porn is "the canary in the coalmine" when it comes to free speech, the privacy risks of the Digital Economy Act, and where we go from here. I also hope to cover within that how porn censorship will impact upon members of marginalised communities, with a particular focus on queer sexuality - a subject close to my heart, and to many of yours I think.
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.
I am delighted to have been invited to speak at an event in October, organised by the Society for Computers and Law (SCL), entitled 'Sextech, porn and the law - a glimpse into the future of sex and sexuality and its regulatory framework'.
I shall be on a panel with the fantastic Dr Kate Devlin, Sarah Jamie Lewis and laywer Neil Brown, and the event will explore the technology of sexuality in detail including its history, current and future developments, privacy and security, and legal issues affecting production and sales. My talk will centre on how the legal framework affects the production and distribution of online pornography, with a focus on the new Digital Economy Act and its forthcoming policy of mandatory age verification. After the four talks there will be a Q&A session which provides an exciting opportunity to ask the opinions of some of the leading experts in this field.
The idea for the event was prompted by the interest in Neil Brown's excellent article 'Sextech: sticky legal issues?' which talks about sex toys that have internet connectivity, and the resultant data collection, privacy and security issues; and about sex robots and the various ethical issues around them. I really recommend a read.
I'm really excited to be giving a workshop on ethical porn and how to find it, on Thursday 31 August. It's part of the Sex Ed for Grown Ups series of events on sex, sexuality and gender, held at The Book Club in Shoreditch, London. I shall be talking about what makes porn ethical, and how to find porn you feel comfortable watching. Porn is a very personal topic, and some people's squicks are other people's squees. But it's a fact that the free tube sites where a lot of people browse for porn don't make it clear whether what you're watching was consensually or ethically produced, and don't include much material by queer and feminist producers.
I'll be sharing some of my favourite porn which has not been created for the straight male gaze, but instead centres the pleasure of queer and female performers. The evening will include some screenings of hot feminist porn clips, plus the opportunity to discuss what we see. I'll give advice about how to be an ethical porn consumer and find porn where the performers were treated well. I'll also talk a bit about my experiences as a performer and producer in the porn industry.
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.
Tickets are now on sale for SEXIT: What the Fuck is Happening with UK Porn Laws? an event taking place at the Birtish Film Institute as part of BFI Flare, the LGBT+ film festival. SEXIT will question the new wave of censorship which disproportionately targets queer pornographers, performers and portrayals of alternative sexualities. What does it mean when a feminist UK business is forced offline, but hardcore free American porn will still be readily available?
I'm delighted to be sitting on the panel along with the brilliant Myles Jackman - and I've heard some exciting rumours about other front-line activists and filmmakers who may be joining us to. This promises to be a great discussion, and it's great to see the BFI making space for this conversation amongst queer and kink community members.
Last night I attended the second Naked Truth Film Club screening, a new adult industry event organised by Terry Stephens, chair of UKAP, the UK porn producer trade association. Like most of us who organise within the adult industry, he's interested in destigmatising porn and raising public awareness about the realities of porn, combating the myths and misconceptions that percieve erotic labour as exploitative. The film club screens relevant documentaries in Central London, with a panel of sex workers hosting a Q&A after the screening.
The first event was a few weeks ago, and showed UnSlut: A Documentary Film, an American documentary about slut-shaming and teenage sexual bullying. It doesn't mention the adult industry but examines slut-shaming more broadly, looking particularly at the way that it affects young people. The documentary was born out of The UnSlut Project, an internet initiative that invited people to submit their own stories of being bullied or shamed because they were perceived as being slutty or sexual. The project brought people together to share experiences - some who had never told anyone before - and offer support, solidarity and healing.
The documentary follows a number of women telling stories of sexual assault, slut-shaming and bullying. It's a serious subject, and the film is powerful; definitely not light viewing. One girl, Allyson Pereira, was asked to send a nude photo to her ex-boyfriend, who then shared it with the rest of her school without her consent. She was bullied and ostracised by her town as a result of this violation. The most harrowing story was that of Rehtaeh Parsons, who was drugged and gang-raped at a party. Her assailants took photos, shared them, and she was labelled as a "slut" as a result. The subsequent slut-shaming and bullying followed her despite changing schools several times, compounding the trauma of her assault. Eventually, at the age of seventeen, she took her own life.
This coming weekend I'll be running my first ever workshop, a full day event hosted by the amazing people at the School of Erotic Mysteries, who are passionate about helping people explore and express their sexual power. It's going to be the first event of its kind (that I know of) in the UK, and I'm really excited to have the opportunity to share the knowledge I've accumulated during ten years working in porn. If more people made their own porn we could transform the industry for the better - make it more authentic, more diverse and more representative of the gorgeous variety of real people's sexuality. Plus it would give more people the chance to experience the many rewards of expressing your erotic self on camera - it's an incredible buzz and a journey towards greater self-love and creative satisfaction!
We've had lots of interest and many people asking questions about the event, so we have put together the following FAQ. If you have any other questions, ask away - and if you want to dip your toe into the waters of erotic performance in a supportive, accessible and non-judgemental environment, perhaps I'll see you on Sunday.
This event will take place in central London on Sunday 6th March - just two weeks away! It will run from approximately 10am-5pm with a break for lunch, and we’ll focus on building your confidence and capacity to the point where you have the skills and inspiration you need to go home and start shooting.