I was extremely worried to read today that, as part of the digital economy bill, the UK government is pushing through a deeply draconian clause which limits the type of porn which British people are allowed to access on the internet. Now, this is obviously something which most people will shy away from wanting to discuss. There's so much moral panic floating about at the moment that we've reached a stage where no one feels they're allowed to debate issues relating to pornography for fear of being branded some sort of pervert, but, believe me, this clause in this bill is the thin edge of the wedge, and if this country takes its pornography laws back to the way they were pre-internet, it is only a matter of time before we all start to be affected.
So here's the science: What the government, with this bill, is wisely trying to demand is better age-verification checks, which stop those under eighteen from accessing extreme online sexual pornography. No one is going to argue that this is not a good idea, and this aspect of the bill has been discussed at length in parliament. The worrying bolt-on is an un-debated clause which means that British people are banned from watching porn which, though consensual, features "non-conventional" sexual activity.
Now I realise porn isn't everyone's cup of tea, and furthermore, that more obscure or hardcore porn is distasteful or frightening to many more. We all get squeamish talking about sex. We all feel inherently ashamed of the things that make us tick down below. But how can any one person or collective possibly attempt to decide what's appropriate within this murky, yet incredibly diverse world?
This law will throw British people back into the dark ages in relation to the so-called liberal world. Europeans, Americans and many other nationalities will still be able to access porn of whatever flavour they desire, whilst we have to be content with Tesco's own basic vanilla extract. Some of the things that we'll be banned from watching as a result of this bill include, and please don't read on if you have a fragile disposition, scenes featuring female ejaculation, sex in public places and "any form of spanking which leaves red marks..." which is basically all spanking.
And there we are: back in the 1990s, when the British porn industry was the laughing stock of the world because it could only show un-erect penises in its films. In actual fact, there was an industry standard called "Mull O'Kintyre." If a penis stuck out of a male body at a greater angle than the Mull O'Kintyre sticks out of Scotland, then it was deemed inappropriate. Fact.
How on earth have we ended up living in a country where the government gets to dictate what those of us who are over eighteen are allowed to enjoy in the privacy of their own homes. We've spent most of this year punishing MP's for being out-of-touch, and not understanding what the little people want, so why on earth are we letting them take the lead on porn?!
None of the practices which are being banned from online porn sites are actually illegal. They don't involve children or animals. They're all things that two consenting adults are presently allowed to do in their own homes (except the sex in public bit...) The female ejaculation ban is particularly odd, because it doesn't involve a sexual act. Ejaculation is a bi-product of sex and it's certainly not merely triggered by heavy-duty sleaze.
Control what we can see on porn sites and it's just a hop, skip and a jump before someone tries to ban the acts themselves and we all start dobbing in our neighbours because they have louder sex than we do. And then what? What else do we ban? Where does it stop? Do we decide that trans people shouldn't be able to have sex in porn films because it's unnatural and we don't want "innocent" eighteen year-olds suddenly deciding to swap gender? Do we ban sex toys? Sex clubs? Saunas? Do we start to regulate the length of hemlines on telly? Or ban soap operas from exploring plot lines involving sex before marriage? In my view, when a government attempts to get involved with questions of morality, those on the fringes of society, whoever they are, get punished. How many Tories or Tory voters have felt the need to apologise recently for the years of hurt caused to the gay community by Clause 28? We condemn Russians for having a law banning the "promotion" of homosexuality, and then stand by and watch our government bringing in something equally draconian. Why the hell do we not learn from our mistakes? There will always be the Daily Mail to whip up a moral panic. Remember those "video nasties" in the '80s? We're right back there.
Sadly, any argument about sexuality always comes down to the need to protect children, and it's the one thing no one feels they can argue with.
Believe me, as a gay man who came out in the late 1980s, I know everything there is to know about "choosing" a "non-conventional" sex life for myself, and because I've always been on the outside of "normality" staring in, I've learned one thing about humanity. We all have kinks. Some we talk about. Others we don't. We don't choose our kinks. We acquire them. Some people like leather. Some like suits. Some like satin. Some like feet. Some like boobs. Some like nurses and firemen. Some like pain. Some value monogamy. Some go cruising. Some go dogging. Some wife swap. Some wear masks. Some like sex at bus stops. Some have fantasies about joining the mile high club. Some wish they weren't so boring. Some want to do it on a glorious beach with the waves crashing around them. And who gives a shit about any of that if none of us are breaking the law? We're all different and our right to be different is something which we should be protecting until we draw our last breath.