This week the new Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 aimed at censoring On Demand Video in the UK were ratified. I can’t say I watch a lot of porn of any kind, and my personal opinions of the remediated acts listed in the regulations range from a shrug to a shudder. There are lots of things I’m not interested in seeing and, because I have free will, I can choose not to see them. However, I do have a conceptual problem with the regulations for a number of reasons.
They purport to be necessary to ‘save our children’ from seeing terrible things and, it is implied, becoming warped by them. (I don’t want to get into the discussion of all the awful non-sexual things they might see on the news, in the theatres, on TV) There are many, many things that children should not see, both in the media and in real life, and it is the obligation of a parent to make sure they don’t see them. State intrusion into the making of cultural product ‘for the sake of the children’ is denying the very real and important responsibility that parents should exercise themselves. Governments that do it end up creating a population that feels itself able to relieve itself of this important aspect of parenting and growth that should be a matter between parents and their children.
Although not explicitly stated, the regulations infer that there is empirical evidence that children who watch, say, a woman sitting on a man’s face, are more likely to be psychologically and socially affected by it that, for instance, seeing 10 men ejaculating on a woman. There is NO creditable research to this effect. Now, I don’t want to suggest its time to kick the net-nanny to the curb. There is some – not a lot – of research to indicate that exposure to extreme types of violent pornography might be psychologically problematic (Flood 2003) but, frankly, the conclusion is based on a lot of assumptions and not a great deal of solid research. The irony of the discussion is that, since it would be illegal to expose under 18s to porn, it’s almost impossible to get hard data on what the effects of it are.
In the absence of any solid, scientific data, let us be responsible about what our kids our watching, yes? Seems sensible. But in order to do that, we would have to play an active role in how our children formed their thinking about sex. Since, as a society, we are so hell bent on pretending children HAVE no sexuality, thereby neatly absolving parents from their roles as good sex educators, we’re letting the government do it for us? That can’t end well – for many, many reasons.
Meanwhile, the list of prohibited acts on VOD and the rationale behind them remains stunningly puzzling. I don’t agree with the censoring of any of the acts (as long as the actors are of age, consenting and the viewers are equally of age and consenting) but some are actually laughable.
Although, according to Debra Lynne Herbenick PhD, of the Kinsey Instituted, it is assumed to be a very, very common form of sexual play (Washington Post). On an admittedly anecdotal basis, I don’t even KNOW anyone who has not at least tried it once. When regulations don’t reflect some semblance of agreement with what ‘normative’ people do in the bedroom, the regulators stop simply looking like over-zealous prudes; they take on something a little more sinister. Is this an attempt to socially engineer a view of sexuality formed in the image of their own fantasies?
The second newly prohibited act is the remediation of female ejaculation. It’s not totally prohibited: only if it gets on anyone else’s body. Why, you ask? Because according to this learned group of censors, it’s watersports in disguise. They maintain that since female ejaculation may contain some urine in it, there’s no difference between a squirting scene and a golden shower.
It does tell you something about how utterly tone deaf these people are to the nuances of sexual semiotics that they equate the two. Not that I personally have a problem with either of the acts.
But let us not be disingenuous. Golden showers always carry, however subtly, the implication of degradation about them. The person being urinated on is, from a sexual power dynamic, usually the ‘bottom’ in the scene. That’s why people find them hot.
Squirting, meanwhile, is rarely semiotically degrading to the person who gets ‘squirted on’. It happens to have emerged, for better or for worse, as a symbol of extreme pleasure in an orgasming woman. If anything, there is some flavour of the helplessness in the throws of pleasure of the woman doing the squirting.
But also, what is this obsession with the urine content?
This is where it gets personal for me. Many women don’t experience female ejaculation, but I do. Not after one or two orgasms, but past the third, it is likely to happen. I honestly don’t know what’s in it. It doesn’t smell like urine, but I’m more than willing to admit there might be some in there. When I was younger, the prospect that there might be terrified me. I would forcefully stop a lover from giving me more than two orgasms for fear I would squirt. And, of course, due to the fact that one squirts during orgasms, there’s a very good chance that you will get it on your partner, and all over the bed. But it is a natural consequence of my body reaction. It is not obscene, or perverse, and it certainly WOULDN’T damage a child to see it (anymore than a glimpse at anything else they shouldn’t be watching).
It took me many years to get over the fear of it. It took me a long time to grapple and settle on the reality that sex is messy and involves a LOT of body fluids: saliva, mucus, semen, effluvia, urine, even blood sometimes, and … wait for it… shit too. I can assure you that there are microscopic fragments of feces on every cock caught on camera penetrating an anus, and the censors haven’t banned THAT, why?
But, from a purely gendered perspective – why is it socially acceptable to have video of semen all over the place, but not female ejaculation? Why is it fine to show women choking on cock, but not women sitting on a man’s face? Now the legislation doesn’t simply seem prudish, it looks downright sexist!
Look, from a erotic writing perspective, I’m thrilled they’re banning things. Banning stuff just makes it more transgressive and hotter. The writer in me says: heck, ban it all! Ban ankles. I can write a great erotic story about calves!
But the 21st century woman in me says: what planet to these idiots live on? This is not about keeping anyone safe. This is about the exercise of power for the sake of power. This is about a society that has grown so demanding that they be ‘kept safe’ from everything. A society so unwilling to take individual and personal responsibility for itself and live with the consequences of its choices that it has allowed an authoritarian monster to reemerge from the murky deep age of sexual repression.
Please be offended by this. Not because you want to view these things but because you have free will and are intelligent and can choose to watch or not watch as you wish; because you know the difference between acted-out fantasy and reality and its consequences; because letting authorities exercise this kind of power unopposed has never, in the history of mankind, ended well.
P.S. It has come to my attention that Malin James has also written a post on this: The Pendulum: Why American’s Should Care that British Porn is Fucked.
Flood, Michael, and Clive Hamilton. “Youth and Pornography in Australia Evidence on the Extent of Exposure and Likely Effects.” 52 (2003): n. pag. Print.
Herbenick, Debra. Interviewed for the article “Sex study: Sexual behavior, habits, and enjoyment.” Washington Post Online (2010) http://live.washingtonpost.com/sex-survey:-sexual-behavior,-habits,-and-enjoyment-.html