Podcast 12: Porn Debate at Exeter University

This porn debate took place on 16th September 2016 during freshers’ week at Exeter University. It features Jerry Barnett (me) and the pornstar Karina Currie vs Heather Brunskell-Evans and Jane Fae. It begins with a five-minute speech by each of us; I’m last of the four. The floor is then opened to debate. To save you fast-forwarding to the end: we won by a landslide.

Video: Book Launch at Waterstones, Greenwich

This video was shot at the first book signing event for Porn Panic!, at Waterstones in Greenwich. Massive thanks to Terry Stephens (Naked Truth Guy) and Andy for shooting the event.

It’s a long video, but Terry has kindly provided an index for those who want to skip through (see below).

00:00 Porn Censorship
00:30 Oswald Mosley and The Battle of Cable Street
01:30 Albert, WW2 and Womens Lib during the 60’s
02:43 Europes Attitude To Porn
04:40 Growing up in West London
09:15 Fascism & Sex
14:30 Freedom of speech & the importance of expression
18:00 Introducing Edie LaMort
19:16 Racism In The Left Wing
20:15 Race & Sexism In The Music Industry (Nikki Minaj & Beyonce)
29:16 Attacks On Free Speech: Pro Censorship VS Tyler The Creator
35:37 Edie LaMort Strippers vs Radical Feminist Organisations
44:20 Edie LaMort Stripping & Working On Civvy Street
53:20 Lose The Lads Mags Campaign
59:20 Porn & The Rise in Violence Towards Women
1:03:50 Q&A

Interview with Polyamory.org.uk

I was interviewed for polyamory.org.uk about my book Porn Panic!, fascism, censorship and anti-sex morality:

“As part of Polyamory UK’s support of freedom or speech, sexual expression, and anti-censorship principles today I am speaking with veteran activist Jerry Barnett from the Sex & Censorship group.

To begin the interview I would like to ask you what your definition of pornography is?

I think porn is simply erotica that people are uncomfortable with. And since that applies to all erotica, then porn and erotica are basically the same thing. As the quote goes: “What I like is erotica. What you like is porn.”

In reading the opening of your book, it’s interesting how you frame the current situation over free speech, censorship, and pornography within a historical framework. You see the main groups attacking pornography as being on the left now, is that correct?

Yes, the worst attacks on porn (and all free expression for that matter) today are on the left, whereas that wasn’t always the case. My book looks at fascism in a historical context. The fascism of the 1930s was right-wing in nature. Today’s fascists are on both wings of politics….”

Read more at polyamory.org.uk

The Battle of Cable Street Matters

20 years ago today, I went to the screening of a documentary on the Battle of Cable Street, with my grandfather. Albert had been present at the great battle, which had taken place 60 years before that.

The battle against fascism is of supreme importance – today, more than at any time in the past 80 years. But the political landscape is deeply changed. Most disturbingly, the political left, once a bulwark against fascism, is now riddled with the very ideas that it once fought against.

From the opening of my book Porn Panic! –

Given the family and environment I was born into, it was virtually inevitable I would become immersed in political activism. My grandfather Albert Mann (later Albert Mann MBE), as a young Jewish man growing up in London’s East End ghettos, had been politicised by the rise of fascism, as well as by the poverty that surrounded him during his childhood. When the fascist leader Oswald Mosley tried to lead his blackshirts through the Jewish East End on 4th October 1936, Albert was one of many thousands who came out onto the streets to block Mosley’s progress. Jews, other locals and Communists united to physically beat the blackshirts out of the East End. Women threw heavy pots out of windows onto fascist heads. The police deployed their truncheons against the protesters, but were beaten back, along with the fascists. This victory of the left, known as the Battle of Cable Street, was a turning-point in the fight against British fascism.

The mainstream parties of left and right failed to either fully understand or strongly oppose fascism, and so in the 1930s many progressives (including Albert) joined the only strongly anti-fascist force, the Communist Party, which became a mass political party for the next two decades. During WWII, Albert fought in the RAF against fascism, and was among the returning soldiers who voted for the most left-wing government in British history. The Labour victory of 1945 secured the foundation of the National Health Service, the welfare state and universal education, institutions which Albert fought to defend for the remainder of his life (although, like many former Communists, he was eventually repelled by Stalinism and found his lifelong home in the Labour Party).

Albert’s stridently progressive views politicised his daughter, my mother. She was of the 1960s generation of young people attracted by second wave feminism (known at the time as the Women’s Lib movement), which campaigned for equal rights for women, and in particular for sexual liberation. Some of the first sexual writing I encountered, in my prepubescent years, was in the pages of my mum’s feminist magazines, such as Spare Rib. In such publications, women were told that they had a right to sexual pleasure, and were advised on how they might achieve it; men were teased for not being able to locate clitorises.

Post-Women’s Lib, many women were no longer ashamed to reveal their bodies, and sexual imagery became more daring and less censored. In more liberated countries than Britain – led by Denmark in 1969 – pornography was decriminalised. Social and religious conservatives watched in horror as carefully constructed walls of censorship and anti-sex morality were swept away.

In her father’s footsteps, my mum was also involved with the anti-fascist movement. In the 1970s, support for the National Front was surging, driven by concern about mass immigration. My mum took me to marches with her; the first I remember was a counter-protest against a march by an obscure far-right group, the British Movement, which had gained some popularity in West London. Perhaps a few hundred fascists had turned up, but there were tens of thousands of us, of all races, standing against them, and we prevented them from marching. On a smaller, gentler scale, I was repeating my grandfather’s experience in Cable Street, four decades earlier.

In the late-1970s, the Rock Against Racism movement was combining the music of my generation – reggae, punk, ska – with anti-fascist politics, and mobilising a new generation into politics. We went to music festivals and on political marches. Rastafarians danced to the same music as skinheads, and racial divisions began to break down. The transformation of Britain’s race relations was remarkably fast: the 1990s was a palpably different era from the 70s.

My political upbringing and my own activism meant that I spent my teens surrounded by activists from around the world: leading ANC exiles, fighting Apartheid from their temporary base in London; the children of left-wing activists who had fled state terror in Chile; political refugees from Zimbabwe, Mexico and dozens of other places. It was a dangerous, unsettled period, but an exciting time to be young, and in London. The alternative comedy scene was born, in small comedy clubs and rooms above pubs, giving us a welcome antidote to the stuffy, state-approved comedy on TV. The new comedy was left-wing, sweary, anti-establishment and sexually explicit. I joined one of the many Trotskyist organisations, the Militant Tendency. Riots erupted in inner cities; first in 1979, then more widespread in 1981. The early-80s felt like a revolutionary era, and we believed we were the vanguard of a socialist revolution that was about to sweep the globe.

But we were not, and it did not. Margaret Thatcher’s historic defeat of the miners’ strike in 1985 marked the end of the power of the proletariat, which was supposed to overthrow global capitalism. The industrial working class was vanishing. Many of the left-wing activists of my generation drifted away from politics. By then I had a young son, a family to support, and the beginnings of a career as a software developer. I felt, a little guiltily, that I was abandoning the revolution. As it turned out, I was joining it.

Porn Panic!, an examination of porn, censorship, and the collapse of the progressive left, is now on sale.

Podcast 11: Porn Debate at Birmingham Salon

This podcast features a debate on pornography between Jerry Barnett of Sex & Censorship and Luke Gittos of Spiked! Online. It can also be heard (with photo slideshow) on the Sex & Censorship YouTube channel.

When Feminism and Science Collide

Among the signals of fascism is a deep anti-intellectualism; and in particular, a backlash against scientific reason. So one of the most frightening twists in modern politics is a rising anti-science trend in discourse. Even more worrying is that, over the past half-century, this anti-science trend has firmly established itself in parts of academia, the mass media, and in politics. While the political left was once wed to progress and to the science revolution, now it is the left that has turned most strongly against science.

In this extract from my book Porn Panic!, I look at one of the most popular and dangerous attacks on science of all: the idea, popular among feminists since the 1960s, that behavioural differences between men and women are primarily due to recent social developments rather than ancient biological ones.


“To understand why porn viewing might be linked to a decline in sexual violence, it is worth visiting some simple questions about sex itself. Sex is such a deeply politicised subject that, despite the fact one can find ‘expert’ comment everywhere, few people understand the most basic aspects of our sexual behaviours. Sex has always been a subject where the science clashes with deeply-held feelings, and so the science of sex regularly comes under attack for reasons of superstition and dogma. The rapid recent decline of religion has (unfortunately) not been matched by a rise in scientific literacy. New, God-free myths about sex have been created to replace the old religious ones.

This was perfectly illustrated when I participated in a 2015 porn debate at Cambridge Union. Three comments from participants summed up the current mythology surrounding sex, even among those presenting themselves as experts. A student speaking from the floor demanded I apologise for claiming a correlation between porn viewing and a decline in rape; then, an anti-porn speaker pointed out that the vast majority of rapes are committed by men, and presented this as evidence of insidious patriarchal influences; and finally, a pro-porn feminist speaker declared that the world could never be equal until women watched as much porn as men.

All three statements are based on the same popular myth: that differences in sexual behaviour between men and women are entirely social rather than biological in origin, and can therefore be ‘fixed’ – in much the same way that the American religious right declares homosexuality to be a choice, and therefore curable. Just as religious zealots cannot imagine a God who would create homosexuals, so certain feminists cannot tolerate a Mother Nature who would make men and women in any way different from each other.

The demand that I apologise for mentioning the reverse correlation between rape and porn was not issued on the basis that my information was inaccurate. My crime was far more serious than one of merely getting my facts wrong: I had blasphemed. It has become an article of feminist faith that ‘rape is about violence, not sex’. The student’s reasoning was correct: if (as she had been taught) rape is primarily motivated by a misogynistic desire to harm women, implanted in young men’s minds by an entrenched system of patriarchal oppression, then porn-aided masturbation should not result in a steep decline in rape. Here was a classic problem: fact clashing with dogma, the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.

There is, of course, no contradiction between human biology and the classic feminist demand for equal rights. Whether or not men and women are biologically different is irrelevant: equal rights are an ethical construct, not a natural one, and do not depend on people being identical. However, once equal rights had been won in law by the mid-70s, sections of the left set out to go further and demand equal outcomes. This required a belief that significant biological differences between sexes did not exist, which set feminism – or at least some strands of feminism – on the course from political movement to religious one. Now, any scientific research finding differences must, of necessity, be denounced as heresy.”

Porn Panic! is available in paperback and ebook formats. Donors to this campaign will receive a signed copy.

The UK is sleepwalking into censorship

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  • Porn is just the starting point
  • Free expression is under threat!

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