Here's a fun drinking game to play on a lonely night. Knock back a shot of the poison of your choice if any of the following have ever featured in your consensual sex life:
3. Aggressive whipping
4. Penetration by any object "associated with violence"
5. Physical or verbal abuse (regardless of if consensual)
6. Urolagnia (known as "water sports")
7. Role-playing as non-adults
8. Physical restraint
10. Female ejaculation
How are you feeling now? Sober as judge? A little tipsy? Under the table? Whatever your score out of 13, it really is none of anyone's business. And, equally, if you are a consenting adult who enjoys watching any of these acts in pornography, that is also nobody's business but your own. If you are a consenting adult who wishes to be involved in the making of such pornography, either in front of the camera or behind the scenes, again, that is your business.
Except the government has made it their business. The above list is from the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 that requires video-on-demand online porn to meet the same British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) guidelines for DVD porn. These 13 things are now banned from being depicted in anything made by British pornography producers.
If you care about freedom of speech and expression and an internet that doesn't treat adults like children and you value that novel concept of parental responsibility instead of banning all the things, you should be concerned. Even if your idea of sexy viewing is a flash of wrist as a glove is unbuttoned in a Merchant Ivory film, you should be concerned if you consider yourself an anti-censorship champion.
Because this sort of nonsense starts with porn. It's the government dipping its prudish toe in the waters of moral panic to see what it can ban without causing too much of a ruckus. After all, how many people will seriously bring traffic to a halt by marching on Parliament brandishing banners about the right to make and watch golden shower porn? The government is not expecting a fist-in at Trafalgar Square or civic disobedience by flooding the streets of London with female ejaculate.
So once the porn ban passes without incident, the gates are open for other things to be banned - things you might like, things you might find interesting, sources of information. And while this is going on, the government might just take a peek at your online activity too. It might be as blatant as the snoopers' charter "emergency data" law that is supported by all major parties. Or it could be that tinkering-around-the-edges attempts at silencing people, such as the cosy yet odious Twitter chat between Tory MP Sarah Wollaston and Tory MEP Daniel Hannan in which they sneer patronisingly at the #CameronMustGo hashtag that has been trending on Twitter in the UK for more than a week now. Of course people who use the #CameronMustGo hashtag know it will be decided at the ballot box next May but Twitter is a way for those who feel voiceless to be heard. Or The Sun doing the dirty work for the government by making the New Era Estate story all about Russell Brand's rent rather than working people being evicted from affordable housing. Yeah, The Sun, that newspaper that champions ordinary hardworking Brits...
Censorship takes many forms and this porn rule is only the start.
And the porn ban, as well as being the start of further curbs on freedoms for adults, is, like most poorly thought-out, knee-jerking, pearl-clutching regulations completely stupid, ineffective and could do more harm than good.
First, it only applies to porn made in Britain so as long as people have the internet, they can probably access anything on the list from other parts of the world. So then the government has to go on an insane website-blocking rampage because they're thinking of the children. Instead of parents taking responsibility for their children. And this is the sort of activity that is impossible to maintain.
And then there is the list itself. Depictions of spanking, whipping, caning and facesitting are frequently the preserve of the dominatrix, the woman in a position of sexual power. Is the government scared of this? And what exactly is an object "associated with violence"? For a rape victim, that object might well be a penis but if penile penetration is removed from porn, that is going to be somewhat limiting. The stuff about abuse, strangulation and role-playing as non-adults shows an ignorance of fantasy versus reality. And the "physical restraint" could be fluffy pink handcuffs or a delicate tethering to the bed with silk scarves. Is that now off limits for delicate British eyes? Bans on water sports depictions are just goofy and the female ejaculation ban is ridiculous. If anything, seeing this depicted in pornography may well be reassuring for the woman who thought she'd wet the bed at the moment of orgasm.
The ban will just drive much of the porn industry further underground and create a black market. Hey presto, we end up with a greater risk of people performing in porn against their will, underage people getting involved, trafficked people and so on. None of this is OK. But it could be an unintended consequence of moronic rules that treat consenting adults like idiot children.
To paraphrase a well-worn saying, first they came for the pornographers but I preferred Downton Abbey...
Who's up for that Trafalgar Square fist-in then?