Opinion: The firm hand of the state where you least want it

A government with Liberals in it has banned spanking on film. Who would have thought it? I was hoping for a society where the state at least kept pace with social attitudes. Instead we find that through obscure bits of legislation we are continuing a move towards controlling people more and more that was started by the Labour party.
Porn made in the UK can no longer include sexual acts such as facesitting, spanking, caning, fisting and female ejaculation thanks to the  Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 . There are many reasons why these changes are bad, 10 of them are here in an article by Emily Dubberly. It includes the fact that they are arbitrary, sexist and infringe civil liberties.

But for Liberal Democrats I wanted to add 6 other reasons, which should make us hold our head in shame (although don’t hang that head near a woman’s vagina, they are potentially deadly don’t you know!).

1. This really is health and safety gone mad. Some of these acts are banned because they may be potentially life-endangering. Potentially.

None of the practices outlined cause harm every time they are conducted, like everything in life it’s about taking the proper precautions (like looking when you cross the road). As a proportion of harm committed, and accidents appearing in A and E, I am going to stick my head out and suggest it’s less than smoking, alcohol, riding a bike in London or even walking down a wet aisle in Tesco. We don’t ban youtube clips of these.

2. This is instituting Family Values by stealth. Labour started this by capitulating to the Fawcett Society and changing the laws for Sexual Entertainment Venues and Possession of pornographic material. This Government is doing the same by finding small bits of legislation that it can tinker with that stops people watching  consensual sexual acts.

Inch by inch law is moving us to the right when it comes to ideas about sex, relationships and even nakedness. Controlling how we behave as a society through the lense of Victorian family values.

3. It devalues equal marriage. Not as big a leap as you may think – honest! My concern about gay marriage was that it was still reinforcing marriage as the state sanctioned form of relationship. For some it neatly put gay people in a morally acceptable box and made clear that alternative forms of relationships or lifestyles were still not acceptable.

This change in the law basically signals to the gay community, amongst others, that whilst marriage is fine your sexual preferences and behaviour are not. Equality was given with one hand and taken away with another.

4. This law has one other ‘potentially’ that worries me more. It potentially creates more victims of sexual crime, trafficking and sexual coercion.  Just like the change in Sexual Entertainment Venues, when you ban something you drive it underground. At the moment the porn industry is well regulated and allows us to protect people who are vulnerable, trafficked or coerced. This is undoing all the good work Sarah Teather is doing on people trafficking.

5. Lives will be ruined as cases that are just ridiculous come to court. Exposing the law to be the ass that it is. It will claim the mental health, livelihoods and reputations of law-abiding people along the way. I saw how local politician Simon Walsh was treated when he was tried for owning adult still imagery that contained some of the sex acts on the banned list. You can read more of his account here. We should not do this to people who are harming no one. Let’s save it for the people that really are abusing and hurting others.

6. More damaging is the porn we are left with. This law, by implication, is now telling me what type of sex it is acceptable for you and me to watch. I am sad to say that not only is it terribly vanilla (and for that we can generally go and see a PG movie at the cinema), but it also involves fake-boobed, acrylic-nailed , hair-free women. Bad porn showing a sanitised version of sex. Selling a stylised heterosexual male, conservative version of real sex, is far more dangerous.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog post, and want to know more about the difference between real sex and porn, then visit makelovenotporn.com.

* Laura Willoughby MBE is a Lib Dem member in Islington

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Eddie Sammon 4th Dec '14 - 6:14pm

    I don’t have sympathy for some of the things banned, but in my opinion the way female ejaculation has been banned sums up the government as being incompetent. How did this get through all the hurdles and become law?

  • The regulations were probably written by a DCMS staffer and nodded through the Department and then Parliament. As members of Plus will tell you, DCMS is possibly the least competent government department.

  • Stephen Howse 4th Dec '14 - 7:35pm

    My main concern is that once the government has decided to ban UK production of something online, it will find it all too easy to ban UK consumption of it as well. It’s minority sexual pursuits today, with the reliance on good old British embarrassment about all things sexual to ensure people don’t kick up a fuss. What’ll it be tomorrow? The framework they’ve introduced here gives this government and future governments a handy framework to use to ban some more sexual content later, and to gradually widen the net to ensnare further and further content they consider ‘obscene’.

    I do not trust this government on issues of net neutrality and freedom. I trust it as little as the previous Labour government and as little as I will trust the next government. I fear that in ten years we will look back on the 2000s as the Golden Age of the internet and that free, unfettered, unrestricted access is now a thing of the past.

  • These regulations were introduced as a Statutory Instrument.

    If nobody objects, then they go through by default, with no debate. This is exactly what happened in this case. These ridiculous regulations need to be abolished.

  • I don’t why anyone things this authoritarian streak is a Labour Party trend. They were not in power during spy catcher, video nasties or clause 28 or for most of Britain’s many moral panics or much of Britain’s very long history of banning things. The Tories and their friends in the press are far more authoritarian than Labour and always have been

  • “we are continuing a move towards controlling people more and more that was started by the Labour party.”

    That seems an odd and very unfair statement given that it was the last Labour government who legalised hard-core pornography (in print and video form) in the first place. All this stuff had been completely illegal before.

    “A government with Liberals in it has banned spanking on film.”

    Well no, it hasn’t actually. What the government has really done – though you’d struggle to tell from this article – is to make video-on-demand services subject to exactly the same restrictions that currently apply to DVDs; that is, material is classed as “prohibited” if it would not qualify for an R18 certificate. In the case of spanking, this means that material depicting serious injury would indeed be banned, but consensual spanking that does not lead to real injury would not be banned. Context is everything, as the BBFC make clear in their reaction to the fuss over this :-

    “It has recently been suggested that the introduction of the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations will lead to several acts now being banned from UK on-demand services, including spanking and verbal abuse. Much of this information is inaccurate, some of it is wrong. In judging material which may or may not be allowed under BBFC Guidelines it is often unhelpful to speak hypothetically and in generalisations when specifics of context and potential harm in a given situation are among the considerations which really matter.”

    Nor has the government banned “production” of anything with these regulations, as many critics are complaining.

    “but it also involves fake-boobed, acrylic-nailed , hair-free women”

    Unless I’m much mistaken, when this article first appeared earlier this evening, the credited author was actually a man (unless my computer was doing very odd things), and when I read the above comment I definitely took it to be a tad misogynistic. Now the article appears to have been written by a woman, I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

  • Good article. This may have been done by statutory instrument, but it’s a crying shame aLib Dem MP didn’t challenge it. Obviously, standing up for weird porno isn’t much of a vote winner, sadly.

  • Lib Dem supporters reported the widest range of sexual behaviours “including erotic massage, orgies, sex with someone from a different ethnicity and sex with a transsexual”, writes YouGov associate director of analytics Bernadeta Wilk
    In my youth many Liberal supporters were Methodists!

  • @ Julian Huppert MP

    “Incidentally, it’s worth noting that DCMS is one of the departments where we have no Minister”.

    Most Council Groups would have organised this better. One of the DPM’s SPADs should have been assigned to the task of reviewing all the draft SIs generated by departments without a liberal on the ministerial team. And for the sake of completeness I should add that liberal ministers in the departments need to flag to the DPM all the “politically” sensitive initiatives that are coming out of the departments they work in.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Dec '14 - 4:07pm

    Thanks for looking at this Julian Huppert. My fairly strong response was also because it is not the first time I have seen what in my opinion are deeply unfair laws being introduced this parliament.

    I’ve been incompetent myself in other areas, but I can still criticise a bad law when I see one! Part of me thinks the media might have made it sound worse than it is, but without having a debate about it then how do we know?

  • There’s an interesting article here which claims to have much more detail on what is and is not allowed under the new rules :-


  • “Porn made in the UK can no longer include sexual acts such as facesitting, spanking, caning, fisting and female ejaculation”

    I very much doubt many people really care. If our politicians could somehow get hardcore porn banned from the internet that would be an achievement. How the hell teenage boys are expected to grow up to respect women, when they watch so much porn they think gangbangs, fistings, caning, anal etc are normal is beyond me.

  • “Porn made in the UK can no longer include sexual acts such as facesitting, spanking, caning, fisting and female ejaculation”

    After reading the BBFC guidance and other articles, it seems to be the case that porn made in the UK can include any of those acts. Porn sold in the UK can include four of the five acts listed, albeit with certain restrictions (some more strict than others). The only total no-no is fisting.

    So all in all, the sentence quoted doesn’t score too well in the factual accuracy department.

  • When a person has no is completely devoid of any creative ability, they can become a politician and use other people’s lives as a canvas for their self expression.

  • John Lister 6th Dec '14 - 11:36pm

    All of these things are legal to do. Why are they then illegal to film?

  • John Lister 6th Dec '14 - 11:38pm

    Or to be precise: all of these things are legal to do. Why is it then illegal to sell film of them happening?

  • Was there an incident with this fetish porn or something? Why would the gov waste their time on this? Death by facesitting…well, I can think of worse ways to go away

    And what about pirate sites like squirtingsluts, http://theporndude.com/, myfetishgirls,…? Or are only people doing it for $$$ being victimized and not the sites who rip it and share it for free?

    Looks like no sites are blocked yet, but I’m curious, if the government will give those pirate sites the same blockage as thepiratebay. I bet the UK makes will not be happy

    How much porn is still being sold actually?

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