On December 1, 2014, UK online pornography distributors were dealt a cruel blow by a new change in the law. Previously, the Crown Prosecution Service's Guidance on the OPA provided a list of sexual activities that were deemed illegal to publish in British pornography. Yet, the new regulations set in place specifically stated that only sexual content that is equivalent to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) R18 category can be sold via Video on Demand (VoD) service.

What Does This Mean?

The BBFC is the British equivalent of the Motion Picture Association of America. The R18 certificate, our equivalent of the X rating, is the most restrictive of all their certificates. It provides a classification for works that are within the UK's obscenity laws, but exceed what the BBFC deems acceptable for the 18 certificate.

So, from December 1, 2014 and going forward, UK VoD producers are now subject to the same restrictions as DVDs. They cannot sell anything that’s prohibited under the R18 certificate as it is no longer legal. The Internet was considered the last bastion of creative freedom of expression by many UK adult filmmakers. It was the one space where they could feel free to post and sell a broader range of content than admitted by the BBFC – it was a safe space, one that had gotten smaller as a result of censorship laws.

The list of acts that are legal for consenting adults to practice, and yet are now forbidden to be portrayed, is depressingly long. They include:

  • Squirting (and consuming female ejaculate – male ejaculate was deemed fine)
  • Facesitting
  • Age play (however, school uniforms are acceptable provided there is no pretending that the wearer isn’t of legal age)
  • Fisting
  • Bondage and restraint
  • Watersports
  • BDSM pain play (only “moderate” pain play is acceptable; therefore, reddening of the skin is okay, but raised welts and bruises are not)

As several sources reporting on the matter have noted, a lot of the forbidden acts seem to lean favorably toward male sexuality; consuming female ejaculate is not OK, but male ejaculate is fine, for example. Facesitting (which usually involved a woman) was restricted. Queer sexual expression has also come a cropper, with fisting (both vaginal and anal – again, an act which is legal to perform in real life with consent) banned as well.

Caned in the Name of Censorship

One of the voices speaking up against these laws, a voice that found her own work affected by the laws, is Dreams of Spanking’s Pandora Blake. As well as appearing in various media outlets talking about the new laws and their regressive nature, she and fellow performer Nimue Allen launched an IndieGogo campaign to raise money for Backlash UK, an umbrella organisation providing academic, legal, and campaigning resources defending freedom of sexual expression.

The campaign, which involved getting one stroke of the cane for every £10 raised, was a huge success. They raised £3863. However, as Nimue and Pandora couldn’t possibly take all those cane strokes alone (because no-one has a bottom that resilient), they called upon friends to help take the cane strokes and, in the process, capture it on film.

I was one of the people putting their ass on the line.

I am not a UK pornography distributor. I am not a performer. I have never taken cane strokes. And yet, one Sunday afternoon, my other half and I went to Pandora’s house for tea, an on-camera chat about my feelings about these laws, and five cane strokes delivered by Pandora herself.

Pandora is a friend of mine, and I was absolutely devastated to see the effects these laws were having on her business, her passion project, and her mental health. I can but imagine the ripples of disturbance the laws have caused in the lives of other UK online pornographers. This act of sexual censorship (an act that is feared by many to be just the beginning of something worse) is not only draconian and silly; it’s also dehumanizing and criminalizing the people who put their heart and soul in the content they create.

I’ve been called brave a couple of times for taking my first caning on camera. To be honest, I didn’t feel brave. Looking back on it, I wasn’t even scared. I was doing what I felt was needed for a cause I believe in. All the people who partook in the sponsored caning were doing so because they were defending a cause they believe in.

Born Out of Fear and Shame

I believe that these laws are not only restrictive of creative freedom and sexual expression; they also have the potential to be damaging on a greater scale. People have looked to porn to find evidence that they are not alone in their sexuality. That what they desire, that what they are does not make them weird or a freak. They’re looking for a sign that they’re OK. To not only find no content that displays alternative sexualities, but an active ban on specific sexual acts can never lead to anything good.

Not only that, but small business owners (and yes, I am talking about the pornographers) are now deleting content, transferring their domains to overseas servers, or terminating their websites. These laws cause unemployment. No matter what you think of the porn industry, these are people who lose the work they not only spend great amounts of time creating, but also great amounts of time defending.These are people who used the money they earned in their job to pay bills just like people with more traditional jobs.

Fear and shame are not acceptable forms of education regardless of who you are trying to educate. Censorship is born out of fear and shame. It is born out of a reluctance to educate from a place of truth and a desire to hide information that needs to be heard. It is a fear that should this information become widespread, should people be educated from a place of truth, the world will somehow suffer from it instead of being in a better place. If censorship is the answer (as erotica author and activist Zak Jane Keir once put it) it was a stupid question to begin with.

And because I (and Pandora, Nimue, Ariel Anderssen, Alex Reynolds, Rosie Bottomley, and the other people involved in the sponsored caning – and I suspect many others around the world) believe 100% in that statement, I took five cane strokes to the ass for the world to see. It was my statement of intent, my confirmation that I will help in any way I can to stop this censorship before it goes any further.

It hurt, sure. However, cane welts and the pain they cause are temporary. These laws, their effects, and possible new and even more restrictive laws in the future may be permanent. And at the end of the day, that’s way more terrifying than the prospect of a cold caning.