Today Westminster is set to witness a somewhat unusual demonstration. Around 500 people are set to simulate sex at Old Palace Yard, right next to the houses of parliament. This will take place as MPs discuss new regulations that amount to an effective censorship of the British pornographic industry. As of 1 December, Britain’s Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 banned a whole range of sexual acts from being filmed in the UK.
Not in the interests of our own censorship but more out of respect for our listeners’ breakfasts - or dinners - I probably should not go into enormous detail. But in the interests of thorough reporting, some of the most contentious of acts to be banned are: the showing of female ejaculation (male is still absolutely fine), most forms of bondage and those acts that are purposely causing harm: caning, spanking and all the rest.
What’s the big deal, you may ask? Surely in light of the spectrum of terrible abuses to children and vulnerable young adults online, some sort of regulation in the interests of safety and public wellbeing is long overdue? Well yes, maybe, but this regulation was not only introduced almost surreptitiously but it seems arbitrary, illogical and downright sexist. One presumes - and in the absence of accompanying consultation or guidance we can only guess - that the intention was to protect female porn industry workers. But actually these measures smack, almost literally, of moral judgement and ignorance.
Some might say that the new porn censorship is itself very revealing. It show a prudish up-tight sensibility that many thought the British had managed to shrug off. The more I think about it, the more it feels like a slap in the face of a permissive and progressive society. As a rule, British, or rather, English conservatives are keen to decry the so-called “nanny state”, the “health and safety gone mad” blight that probably has something to do with Brussels. But when it comes to the bedroom, or film studio, these same voices are predictably silent.
The futility of these measures is astonishing, as the good porn consumers of Middle England will be able to view or purchase foreign-made material containing these acts without any problem. ‘Not filmed on British soil’ seems to be the guiding principle. “It might not be your cup of tea,” says sexual-liberties legal expert Mules Jackman. “But pornography is the canary in the coal mine of free speech. It is the first freedom to die.” Personally, I feel that the British consumer should not be gagged. Unless of course, they ask to be.
David Plaisant is an associate producer for Monocle 24.