Wikimedia // Creative Commons

The Porn Wars

Wikimedia // Creative Commons

And so, the censorship of the Internet begins. In a move to regulate online porn, rules have come into force governing what can and cannot be shown in paid-for online pornography – culminating in a list of banned acts that is vague, pointless and, frankly, sexist.

The idea behind the new laws is to protect children from viewing content that could be “disturbing” – but from a practical point of view, since the regulations only apply to paid-for porn, they are pointless. They have been introduced to safeguard the young – and yet, children aren’t going to be watching videos that they have to pay for when there is a wealth of porn out there on the internet for no cost at all, much of it containing far more explicit acts than those the government has banned.

The only people these new laws really affect are those making a living producing and directing erotic films. Banning sexual acts from films that people pay money to watch will direct them towards free porn sites that are not subject to the same restrictions – meaning the livelihood of anyone in the industry will take a serious, unwarranted hit.

The new “rules” state that whilst male ejaculation – over any female body part – is fine, female ejaculation apparently is not. Banning this sends out the message that a woman enjoying an orgasm is more “harmful” than a man – and that idea, in itself, is dangerous. Alongside fisting and banning penetration with certain objects, both of which women can derive pleasure from, the clear message in this legislation that porn should not show women being pleasured – something that so many female directors have tried to change. Porn is renowned for being sexist, but recently there has been a surge of porn created by and aimed at women, encouraging them to embrace their sexuality. These laws will only limit that, sliding women back into a submissive position in porn that, in the long run, will be far more harmful to the future of equality than to children who watch it.

Most importantly, however, the new legislation ignores the fact that it is inherently normal for people to have sexual desires – and watching pornography is just a way of exploring and expressing them. In censoring erotic videos, the government is telling people what it’s ok to like in the bedroom and what it isn’t – what’s considered normal, and what makes you violent, or weird, or a borderline rapist. In a country that is so well renowned for its freedom of expression, tolerance and openness about sexuality, controlling how people choose to express it can only be a step backwards.

I can’t pretend the porn industry doesn’t need to change, because it does. All too often it perpetrates a culture in which women are the submissive sex and men play out their violent, dominant fantasies upon them. But censorship of paid-for erotic films isn’t the way forward, to protect children or otherwise – it only signals a worrying downhill spiral for equality and freedom of expression.

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