The UK government is on the verge of implementing a new law banning all ‘non-conventional sexual acts’ from online pornography. As part of a larger government bill, internet service providers will be forced to ban all content which is not certified for commercial DVD sale. Content will have to cohere with the standards of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and consequently, a large amount of pornography currently available to users will be potentially blocked.
This change comes contained within a larger bill which will also enforce age verification checks, which we can only assume will be similar to the ‘checks’ on alcohol websites where users must put in their date of birth before entering the site.
Whilst this seems to be well intentioned – it is inarguable that pornography is far too accessible for young children – there are certainly questions as to how effective this will be. Websites such as Facebook still have age restrictions for example, but this does not seem to curtail the amount of children that set up accounts. You must be 13 years old to create an account, however in order to keep up with their friends and a society where it is more or less unheard of not to have an account, children are simply aging themselves up whilst creating an account. It would come as no shock if this were also done whilst accessing pornography online.
Overall, it can’t help but be asked if there is any point in creating these age restrictions when pornography seems to be constantly within reach on the internet. You can google anything, literally anything, and a pornographic image of some nature will eventually appear.
As for videos containing ‘non-conventional’ content however, a straight up ban seems to be on the cards. This of course, begs the question of what a ‘non-conventional’ sexual act is. According to the BBFC, this includes, but is not limited to, content showing sex acts that involve menstruation, urination and female ejaculation, sex in public and spanking that leaves marks.
But, does restricting this sort of content simply restrict people from accessing a safe outlet to explore their sexualities? Not only does it appear that the government are further curtailing online freedom, blocking users from accessing non-harmful content, but this ban also sends a message that these sexual acts are wrong, and people viewing this material should in some way be ashamed and simply stop.
It does not necessarily mean that because the act is deemed ‘non-conventional’ by the BBCF that it is wrong, and should be blocked from all public access. By banning and pretending that this kind of content does not exist, we are in many ways restricting people from enjoying certain elements of their sexuality in an entirely safe way.
Female ejaculation in particular being labelled ‘non-conventional’ can in many ways be a problematic feminist issue. As something which is not non-conventional in any way, but a natural response which many women have to certain sexual stimulation, by banning this content in online pornography, are we promoting the idea that this act is wrong? That women are wrong to enjoy sex and their bodies’ physical reaction?
In addition, there is an element of danger in how people will get around the new bill. As with many elements of the internet, there will usually be a way to find what you are looking for. Users will potentially choose to peruse darker corners of the internet than simply accept the ban, and as a consequence finding material where the acts depicted are not legal. This may in turn lead to a higher amount of people accessing content showing child abuse and sexual abuse, whilst looking for their ‘non-conventional’ but very legal pornography.
Overall, the general response to this section of the bill seems to be a negative one, comments on The Guardian ranging from mumbles of annoyance to mocking, pointing out the ridiculousness of the situation. The bill is all but passed, despite the widespread concerns. It seems the government is firmly of the opinion: ‘Missionary position only please, we’re British.’
[Grace Michael – @gracemichael925]