The problem with banning female ejaculation in porn

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Louise Lush

The The list of acts deemed "prohibited" by the new UK censorship law includes: spanking, being tied up, being gagged, ...

The The list of acts deemed "prohibited" by the new UK censorship law includes: spanking, being tied up, being gagged, facesitting, fisting and female ejaculation.

In 1960, government censorship prosecutors in the UK argued that DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover was not the sort of book one would want one's wife or servants to read. Despite their efforts to protect the fragile ladies of the land, the book ban was overturned and Britain moved into a more liberal era of censorship.

Fast forward fifty years and Britain may once again be ready to challenge the idea that the government can dictate what its public can see and hear thanks to a new raft of internet censorship laws that came into effect on December 1.

The Audiovisual Media Services Regulations Act of 2014 regulates what material can be viewed on online video on demand services, bringing it into line with existing rules governing DVDs. The list of acts deemed "prohibited" by the new law is extensive: it includes spanking, caning, being tied up, being gagged, "abusive language", "harmful penetration by an object", facesitting, fisting and female ejaculation.

While it may seem bizarre for the Brits to ban spanking (a damned good thrashing seems to be part of the national psyche), it's these last three sex acts that particularly have sex-positive feminists crying foul, primarily because these things are focused on female pleasure. Female ejaculation typically accompanies orgasm, facesitting usually involves cunnilingus and fisting using the whole hand is a standard practice among lesbian and queer communities. Tellingly, there are no subsequent bans on depictions of male ejaculation, forceful fellatio or anal penetration by multiple penises.

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Feminist pornographers have pointed out that the rules overwhelmingly target porn produced by small, independent operators who depict alternative sexualities and female pleasure.

Australian feminist porn performer Zahra Stardust is writing her PhD dissertation on the legal regulation of pornography. She says "Those of us who are making queer, feminist, and kinky porn are doing so as an act of civil disobedience, because we know from lived experience that the cost of censorship in our communities is too high. These laws actively produce a heterosexist, misogynist sexuality as 'normal', whilst pathologising and closeting practices that actually life-affirming, consensual and meaningful. Fisting (an activity which is non-phallic) and ejaculation (which leaves visible evidence of pleasure) operate for many of us as pleasures of reclamation and resistance in a world that devalues and denies our sexualities."

Pandora Blake runs a feminist adult website called Dreams Of Spanking. In a blog post condemning the law, she wrote: "It predominantly targets the cottage industries of women, couples, queers and fetishists – people who are making enough to cover their costs or perhaps a little more, people who are making their own porn because the mainstream genres don't cater to our needs.

"Our films are homegrown, niche, playful, political and sexy, documenting our authentic sexualities where they are not catered to by the mainstream. We work alone or with our partners and like-minded kinky friends. We dare to be different, and to reach out to others who are like us. For this we are criminalised."

Pandora points out that the laws seem to have been written by people who have no real understanding of kink. For her, the depiction of consent in her spanking films is vital and is a pillar of her commitment to ethical porn production. Unfortunately the new rules don't allow for that. It doesn't matter if an adult willingly agrees to be spanked, or caned, or tied up, their agency and ability to consent is not acknowledged.

The wholesale censorship of BDSM-themed porn flies in the face of a populace with a growing desire for non-vanilla sexual pursuits. The massive popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey has seen vast numbers of women experiment with the odd bit of spanking and being tied up. A Mirror.co.ukarticle on the new laws reported that 52% of British women had fantasized about being bound or gagged. The UK government is now declaring such acts to be obscene. A chasm is starting to open up between what people can do and what can be seen.

The ban on female ejaculation seems to stem from the fact that the censors are unable to tell the difference between squirting and urine (this despite the fact that they are perfectly able to spot the difference between male ejaculate and pee). Urolagnia ("watersports") is another sex act that is banned, apparently because it is considered to be harmful, though consumption of urine is a relatively low-risk activity.

The British censorship board maintains it is seeking to prevent harm to viewers or society in general. Murray Perkins, senior examiner at the BBFC, wrote in the Guardian that the board "may cut certain acts in pornographic works where imitation or the influencing of attitudes is a particular concern".

Sex blogger Girl on the Net writes: "It's massively ironic that in a world screaming about how important it is for us to teach people the difference between 'porn sex' and 'real life sex', porn censorship is forcing any kind of sex that doesn't fit the mainstream porn model off the screen."

QUT lecturer and researcher in adolescent sexuality and the media, Dr Anne-Frances Watson says censorship of this sort doesn't help young people. "When governments attempt to regulate online pornography it is often done within a framework of harm reduction, particularly with a view to protecting children or young people – however, these attempts are often misguided. Young people do not receive adequate sexuality information at home or at school, and so often look to the Internet.. While pornography is not and should not be a sexuality educator, it is often the only opportunity for young people with differing sexualities to see and find out more about the kinds of sex that they are interested in.

"The solution isn't censorship. Instead we should open up the conversation, talk about it and provide young people with the kind of sex education they want and need."

The UK laws aren't unique. Australia's own censorship scheme features a similar list of prohibited sex acts, including female ejaculation and spanking. A recent review by the Australian Law Reform Commission recommended significant changes to the existing classification scheme, pointing out that the "Refused Classification" category with it's prohibited checklist did not align with community standards. So far, neither the Labor or Liberal governments have had the courage to make any changes. It's still assumed that "cracking down" on porn gets more votes.

Meanwhile, the Brits may be finally ready to stand up for their internet porn. A plethora of incredulous articles and blog posts have appeared in the wake of the new laws, questioning the basis for sexual censorship of this sort. Petitions have been organized and a rally is scheduled for the Houses of Parliament next week. The willingness to stand up for alternative sexual representation reveals a shift in attitudes; people aren't ashamed of their porn anymore. The kinksters and the female ejaculators are mad as hell, and they're standing up for their right to pleasure - and pain.