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2016 year in review - highlights and reflections

Posted at 13:35 on 11 Jan 2017 by Pandora Blake

Happy new year! It's traditional to do an end of year review, and I've been chewing over my 2016 one. Damn, it was a hell of a year; comparable in craziness only to the year before it. Here are the headlines:

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Tags: Bright Desire, Charlie J Forrest, Digital Economy Bill, Dreams of Spanking, Eroticon, media, Nimue Allen, Parker Marx, politics, porn, School of Erotic Mysteries, Tai Crimson, year in review, Zak Jane Keir

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Restricting niche porn sites is bad news for people with marginalised sexualities

Posted at 09:41 on 30 Nov 2016 by Pandora Blake

Restricting niche porn sites is a disaster for people with marginalised sexualities - Pandora Blake for The Guardian

Last week I had an article published in the Guardian about the impact of the forthcoming Digital Economy Bill, and its proposed restrictions on online porn. You can read it here - Restricting niche porn sites is a disaster for people with marginalised sexualities.

The article has received over one and a half thousand comments - and I was pleasantly astonished to discover that the majority of them are sympathetic or supportive. It seems that many people share my outrage that the Government think it a worthwhile use of time and money to legislate what consenting adults do for fun - or think that this bill is a proportionate, workable answer to the problems emerging from young people's lack of sex education.

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Tags: age verification, BBFC, classification, Digital Economy Bill, Dreams of Spanking, ethical porn, feminist porn, Guardian, in the news, kink acceptance, Kink Olympixxx, law, media, Myles Jackman, Obscene Publications Act, obscenity, porn, protest

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Porn Film Festival Berlin 2016

Posted at 11:17 on 21 Nov 2016 by Pandora Blake

This year I took the train again to the Berlin Porn Film Festival, a habit I began last year and which I mean to continue. It's a ten or eleven hour journey across northern Europe, and I vastly prefer it to flying: I like the armchairs and reclining seats of the Eurostar and high speed ICE trains, with hot coffee brought to your seat, and fast, free wifi which is unconstrained by the adult content filters now ubiquitous in the UK. I like not having to do airport security, or waiting at boarding gates. For ten hours it's just me, my laptop and my books, as the autumn fields and grey skies of Belgium and Germany whip past at nearly two hundred kilometres an hour.

That space and time to reflect has become a necessary ritual for me before the film festival, which is so crammed with social and sensory overstimulation. The linear, methodical journey by train feels more like a pilgrimage than the stop-and-start process of air travel; there's something satisfyingly complete about watching the horizon blur by. And at journey's end, I find belonging, acceptance. Here is the community queer pornographers lack the rest of the year, dotted around the globe as we are, turning Twitter into our shared office. Here, I'm neither shocking nor extreme. Sometimes I struggle with the unspoken suspicion that I choose this life because some part of me is attracted to rebellion, to the feeling of being outrageous; but when being among my people brings me such happiness, that suspicion is silenced.

This was my third year at the festival. Some part of that powerful sense of belonging was born last year, when I was awarded First Prize in the Short Film Competition for Houseboy, my BDSM romance about the teething pains of a queer poly household. That recognition, coming at a time when this film - along with the rest of my website Dreams of Spanking - had been outlawed by the UK government as too extreme to be tolerated, kept me afloat during my legal struggles. It also explains why I feel more at home in Berlin, at least for the week of the Porn Film Festival, than I do in the UK, which seems determined to criminalise my sexuality and my self expression. True, Germany already has mandatory age verification for online porn - a spectre currently looming over the UK - but at least they don't place prudish limits on the activities consenting adults can watch or film.

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Tags: Ms Naughty, porn, Porn Film Festival Berlin, porn screenings, queer porn

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Written evidence submission to the Public Bill Committee on the Digital Economy Bill

Posted at 12:29 on 28 Oct 2016 by Pandora Blake

Digital Economy Bill

Written evidence submitted by Myles Jackman and Pandora Blake (DEB 61)

 

Who we are

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Tags: age verification, BBFC, classification, Digital Economy Bill, freedom of expression, Myles Jackman, obscenity, politics, porn, privacy, R18

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Announcing the Backlash Kink Olympixxx - changing the rules for adult games

Posted at 17:39 on 4 Oct 2016 by Pandora Blake

The Backlash Kink Olympixxx: Mon 17 October, Houses of Parliament

I'm finally ready to announce some exciting news that I've been working on behind the scenes for over a month - ever since I realised the full extent of the harm that will be done by the Digital Economy Bill. The bill is currently going through Parliament, and proposes to bring in mandatory age verification for online porn without any provisions to safeguard the personal privacy and sexual liberty of web users. The bill has been debated twice by MPs and on 8th October will go through to the committee stage; and yet none of the concerns which I and other civil liberties activists have raised have yet been satisfactorily addressed. 

Do you want to have to enter personal identifying details before you're allowed to look at porn - such as your real name, address, or date of birth? Do you trust porn sites to keep this data secure - and do you want a database of your accumulated porn browsing history to be owned by private companies, exploited for commercial gain and at risk of Ashley Madison style data breaches that would leak your personal sexual preferences into the public domain?

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Tags: AVMS, Backlash, BBFC, classification, Digital Economy Bill, Myles Jackman, obscenity, politics, porn, protest

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The Adult Provider Network discusses problems with the Digital Economy Bill

Posted at 12:29 on 28 Sep 2016 by Pandora Blake

The Adult Provider Network

Last month I attended the second meeting of the newly reinstated Adult Provider Network - an adult industry trade association formed last month to co-ordinate responses to the Digital Economy Bill. It was an absolutely fascinating meeting, and I learned a lot. Read on to discover how this will actually affect your business if you run a UK porn site, why the bill potentially discriminates against the visually impaired, and how the bill risks creating a new trade barrier between UK industry and overseas.

Who are the Adult Provider Network?

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Tags: Adult Provider Network, age verification, ATVOD, AV consultation, AVMS, BBFC, BBFC guidelines, censorship, child safety, civil liberties, Digital Economy Bill, digital rights, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, health and disability, MindGeek, obscenity, Ofcom, politics, porn, privacy, sex education, surveillance, technology, young people

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Age verification: The Digital Economy Bill and what it means

Posted at 22:30 on 30 Aug 2016 by Pandora Blake

The government have published their reply to the consultation responses we submitted earlier this year on their proposed policy to enforce age verification for UK viewers of online porn. These proposals are not evidence-based, are classist to the core, and have worrying implications for privacy and freedom of speech. Along with many of you, I submitted a response to the consultation in April, which you can read in full here (it's split into six parts - turns out I had a lot to say). My response was also submitted to the Liberal Democrat policy committee, as well as to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in the civil service. 

Since then I've attended meetings with representatives from DCMS, the UK Adult Producer trade association, and the Adult Provider Network to discuss the age verification proposals. In these meetings the civil servants I spoke to worked hard to come across as reasonable, open-minded, and interested in listening to our concerns and improving the proposals. But now they've published their official response to the consultation, it's clear that this was a performance purely for our benefit. The Digital Economy Bill reproduces the original policy proposal pretty much unchanged; which in turn is drawn straight from a Conservative party manifesto pledge. It seems that the consultation was a mere box-ticking exercise, paying lip-service to the of listening to experts, industry and the public, but without any intention to actually take the responses into account. Despite seeming open to criticism when we met in person, the official response makes it clear that they don't care what we think, and intend to go ahead with the proposals as if the consultation had never taken place. 

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Tags: age verification, ATVOD, AV consultation, AVMS, BBFC, BBFC guidelines, censorship, child safety, civil liberties, credit cards, Digital Economy Bill, digital rights, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, obscenity, Ofcom, politics, porn, privacy, surveillance, technology, young people

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Age verification: Piracy, monopoly and industry standards

Posted at 09:59 on 29 Jun 2016 by Pandora Blake

Response to the Government consultation on Child Safety Online: Age Verification for Pornography

1: Evidence of Harm

2: Sex education

3: Privacy, surveillance and freedom of speech

4. Credit cards, classism and social exclusion

5. Problems with the existing classification system

6. Piracy, monopoly and industry standards

The age verification proposal observes that free tube sites are the primary route by which under 18s access porn, and yet the proposed regulatory framework fails to adequately differentiate between tube sites - which make money from advertising, and often distribute commercial content without the consent of the producers - and commercial porn sites, where the viewer can purchase content direct from the makers. This distinction is worth emphasising. It is not reasonable to impose identical regulatory controls when the two types of site function in very different ways, and have very different effects on the browsing experience of under 18s.

Adult content redistributed on tube sites (often by a third party rather than the original creator) is usually given new headlines and scene descriptions, utilising very different language. Videos are often re-edited to be more concise, with contextualising dialogue and scene-setting removed. A scene which was originally published as an extended exploration of foreplay, intimacy and sensual affection, described with respectful, humanising language that emphasises the consent and mutual respect of the participants, might be pirated and uploaded to a tube site, cut down to a jerky sequence of out-of-context sexual acts, with the activities and participants described using sexist and offensive language. Moreover, videos on tube sites are redistributed outside the content in which they were originally published, without giving the viewer access to any behind the scenes videos, performer interviews and commentary that were available on the original site.

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Tags: age verification, AV consultation, civil liberties, decriminalisation, digital rights, piracy, politics, porn, sex workers rights, tube sites, Zahra Stardust

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Age verification: Problems with classification

Posted at 21:01 on 20 May 2016 by Pandora Blake

Response to the Government consultation on Child Safety Online: Age Verification for Pornography

1: Evidence of Harm

2: Sex education

3: Privacy, surveillance and freedom of speech

4. Credit cards, classism and social exclusion

5. Problems with the existing classification system

The proposals assume a straightforward definition of “pornography” which is not workable in practice. During the second reading of the Online Safety Bill in the House of Lords Baroness Brinton argued that:

“A simplistic definition of pornography will cause immense problems in our courts. How do you define arousal and to what level of arousal - partial, full? Is that arousal the view of the average person on the Clapham omnibus, or should the definition cover the various fetishes that people may have? The famous film director Quentin Tarantino is a foot fetishist. There are a number of people who have assessed his use of bare feet in all his films. Clearly they arouse people with the said fetish.”

If a website calls itself “porn” or “erotica” but none of its contents depict nudity, staged violence or sexual acts - a foot fetish website is a perfect example - should it be categorised as a “sex work” for classification purposes? What harm could a young person possibly come to, looking at artistically lit videos of bare feet?

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Tags: age verification, AV consultation, AVMS, BBFC guidelines, British Fetish Film Festival, CPS, ethical porn, feminist porn, fetish porn, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, media, Myles Jackman, obscenity, politics, porn

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Age verification: Credit cards, classism and social exclusion

Posted at 13:36 on 11 May 2016 by Pandora Blake

Why would anyone use an alias?

Response to the Government consultation on Child Safety Online: Age Verification for Pornography

1: Evidence of Harm

2: Sex education

3: Privacy, surveillance and freedom of speech

4. Credit cards, classism and social exclusion

Most methods of age verification assume certain privileges which marginalise and exclude adults on low incomes, those at risk of violence for whom it would be unsafe to share their passport names, and those in unstable accommodation.

The most common method for age verification, with currently available technology, is for the site visitor to enter their credit card details to confirm that they are over 18. This often operates as part of a paywall but can function separately, with the card details being checked but not actually charged. Age verification for online porn is already mandated on UK-based adult websites, with credit cards the only method of age verification accepted by ATVOD - and (since ATVOD folded in January 2016) by their parent body Ofcom, who have taken over sole regulatory responsibility. Debit cards are not considered acceptable proof that a porn site visitor is over 18 - in fact this was one of the gotchas under which my site was ruled against last year. 

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Tags: age verification, AV consultation, censorship, credit cards, Facebook, freedom of speech, media, politics, porn, privacy, surveillance, technology

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