What do you count as ‘extreme’?
How about ‘grossly offensive’, ‘disgusting’ , or even ‘obscene’?
How about fisting?
A firm spanking?
It may shock you to discover this, but these actions may very well be considered as a bit OTT, or at least in the eyes of the British government.
This was the case as of 2014 the Digital Economy Bill decided that all three of the acts above were suddenly too abhorrent for digital pornography. More so it also prohibited many other acts, including (but not limited to):
Infliction of pain or acts which may cause lasting physical harm
Sexual activity which involves real or apparent lack of consent
Penetration by any object associated with violence
Sexual threats, humiliation or abuse which do not form part of a clearly consenting role-playing game
Any form of physical restraint which prevents participants from indicating a withdrawal of consent
Material (including dialogue) likely to encourage an interest in sexually abusive activity which may include adults role-playing as non-adults
And this includes acts such as:
Sexual acts involving menstruation
Sexual acts involving urination
Sexual acts in public
Spanking, whipping or canning which leaves marks
Inserting more than four fingers into an orifice
Notice anything about these regulations?
Not only are these restrictions potentially (explicitly) sexist and at times rather confusing (A four-finger rule? Really?) but they’re also worrying vague in places. And, what worst, is that they also come with the doubly whammy of an age filter which is only set to strengthen as time goes on.
What’s the damage of this situation?
The honest answer is that no one truly knows.
One thing that we should all be worryingly aware of, though, is that what you write in any capacity that can be considered ‘digital’ may also (at some point) fall under these regulations.
Oh yes. If you produce and digitally disseminate (in any way, shape or form) something that can be considered in any of the above contexts and was intended to arouse in some way then you may find yourself falling foul of the law.
This is the case even if you consent, even if you can legally perform the act in your own home, and even if what you’re exploring is sheer fantasy and nothing more.
Even worst, we’re not even sure what will and won’t get someone in trouble, where the limits are, nor if erotic fiction, adult review sites, or even your own private erotica (shared via loving DMs) will be safe.
Obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman and authors such as Jerry Barnett (author of Porn Panic) and others have been tirelessly fighting to get definitions, boundaries, and clear answers out of the government but the overall consensus is a shrug of the shoulders and a ‘we’ll see how we feel when the cases come to court’.
By that point the damage may already be done for many and social stigma and personal shame may cause more damage than can ever be truly repaired, even if the person involved is considered innocent and even if the ‘offense’ turns out to be over something as harmless as a man dressed in a tiger costume in an odd (but perfectly legal) reference towards Frosties.
In such a day and age it is vital to protect ourselves, but how can we do so if even the most well-versed among us (if even our own government) can do no more but to provide vague and wishy-washy notions of what may or may not eventually land us in a world of trouble and heartache.
And, more to the point, why should sex acts that we are perfectly capable of consenting to and exploring in the safety of our own home suddenly become obscene if we choose to document or express them?
Will art one day become something that we cover up for shame of its influence?
Will literature once again find itself presented as a force for the state to rally against (rather than encourage in a flourishing display of free speech).
Again, we do not know, and that is why the UK’s current approach to sex and digital media is so troubling.
For now all we can do is read up on the DEB, contact our local MPs, promote better sex and relationship education, and do everything we can to find some clarity and support in this otherwise dismal situation.
Otherwise there may become a day where even this site is suddenly unsuitable for public viewing.
A huge thank you to Myles Jackman, whose Eroticon talk ‘Obscene Text: Free Speech and the Written Word’ inspired this talk. And, of course, big thank you to Knicker Rocker Glory, too, who sponsored my attendance at Eroticon. Please support their work wherever you can and stay safe.