Monday, 21 November 2016

#DEBill: What is porn?

Okay, I'm going to say it without being (too) blasé: the Digital Economy Bill is fucking terrifying.

It really, really is. I mean, it's completely unworkable: a clusterfuck of ambiguous words, with no concern for personal freedoms, freedom of speech and expression and financial gain; no government in their right mind would do this.

But then again, Brexit is unworkable. Donald Trump is unelectable. Prince is immortal. 2016, so far, has been a year to prove that the impossible is possible, and in ways that are progressively worse. When the Digital Economy Bill was first introduced, MPs voted against it, including my local MP, for whom I voted simply because of that. This year, with basically no opposition, it looks set to sail through unhindered. And that's what's terrifying.

Girl on the Net has a post with some links to further reading on the Bill and, to prove there's some resistance, there's a compilation of evidence submitted my Pandora Blake and Myles Jackman here (which is easy to digest, even if you don't speak legalese; go and read it, it's very rational). Quick, dirty research reveals that the Bill itself makes constant references to two BBFC certificates: 18 and R18 - classifying them both as containing content intended to arouse... which isn't true; I've never once had a wank while watching Hannibal or Kill Bill.

Leaving aside R18, which has its own myriad of problems, and the obvious predilection of how to classify material that arouses, there's something niggling at my mind that hasn't been addressed, and I think it should be important.

How does the Digital Economy Bill classify soft porn?

Soft porn is 18-rated material intended to arouse. Whether or not you find it arousing, that is its purpose. When it actually comes down to it, soft porn has exactly the same aim as hard porn: entertainment to cause a sexual response in the viewer. Like every sort of porn, it is both subjective and divisive; what it lacks, however, is the stigma usually attributed to hardcore porn, the sort that involves explicit sexual contact and is usually referred to as, simply, "porn".

My concerns involve the following: 
  • Soft porn would, under the Bill, be classified as 18-rated material intended to arouse, and therefore, access to it could be restricted.
  • However, soft porn relies (for the most part) on plot - more so, in my experience, than hardcore porn (although it does depend on which producer). Because of an emphasis on storyline, this may reclassify such material as entertainment, which happens to include sex scenes. Game of Thrones is like this, and I don't see that being restricted.
  • The banned fetishist acts which restrict R18 films are, for fairly obvious reasons, not depictable in soft porn (in fact, most of those acts involve visible genitalia, which soft porn does not show). Are softcore films which simulate such acts, or 'unrated' director's cuts which accidentally show actors with flaccid penes or visible vulvae, considered obscene or not?
  • Soft porn is very difficult to find online via streaming porn sites such as the Pornhub network owned by MindGeek. How would the Bill consider such sites as softcoretube or Ancensored, both of which being hosted outside the UK and catering mostly for softcore viewers?
  • On the same subject, what about sites behind a paywall offering softcore to download, such as erotic4u?
  • I also take issue with the definition of the word 'porn' or 'pornography'. From what I can see, 'porn' is defined at R18-rated material explicitly depicting sexual contact. Soft porn depicts sexual contact without explicit content (and, actually, doesn't involve any real sex, as it is all simulated). What is porn?
  • And I will say that again, as it bears repeating. What is porn?
    Once again, my main concern is that this all comes down to a lack of empathy, understanding, or careful consideration. The fact that this Bill should get past the first hurdle is astonishing in itself, and the fact that it could get passed at all is so mind-numbingly infantile that I'm amazed it's even been mooted as an option. Falling as it does under an umbrella of "protect our children" only goes to highlight the need for better SRE over a kneejerk reaction to adult content.

    I started watching soft porn at the age of about 12 or 13 and I'd like to think my sexual desires are healthy and non-threatening.

    However, for all I've said above, this isn't about softcore, hardcore or really any sort of porn at all. It's about a coming restriction of liberty - a revocation of a human right present in UK Law, the EU constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It's something illegal being made legal, it will benefit nobody, and it must be stopped.

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