Frankie Mullin on sex work and gentrification – 30th January

Frankie Mullin is one of the most informed and prolific journalists writing about sexuality in the UK today. In her work for Vice, the Independent, and the Guardian, she has challenged media myths around porn addiction and casual sex, and given a voice to sex workers and victims of sexual violence. She has defended the right to family life of asylum seekers and dicussed the lack of qualified psychological support for LGBT people. She was instrumental in raising awareness of the recently defunct ATVOD’s damaging crusade against independent porn producers.

On 30th January 4pm, Mullin will speak at a panel discussion hosted by the Camden People’s Theatre on gentrification and the crowding out of safe working spaces for sex workers for which she has written a number of cutting-edge reports. The event is highly recommended for those who are in or able to reach London that afternoon.

Cross-posted from Backlash

Liberalism and Extreme Pornography

Nick Cowen is a PhD student, who has recently published an academic paper on Millian Liberalism and Extreme s200_nick.cowenPornography. In this, he argues that apparently ‘liberal’ justifications for banning ‘extreme porn’ in the UK are misguided. The Sex & Censorship campaign agrees: trying to justify censorship from a liberal perspective is a contradiction in terms. Below, Nick explains his argument in brief. His full paper can be downloaded here.

In August 2012, Simon Walsh, a prominent lawyer and former aide to London mayor Boris Johnson, was prosecuted for possession of ‘extreme pornography’. The alleged crime was possessing digital photographs depicting ‘fisting’ and ‘urethral sounding’ taken at a private all-male sex party where Walsh was a participant.

The prosecution claimed that the acts depicted were extreme because they could cause serious harm. The jury heard expert evidence from a surgeon that the acts, which are relatively commonly practiced within the LGBT community, could be conducted safely. It took the jury just a few minutes of deliberation to reject all charges.

Despite the ‘not guilty’ verdict, the trial came at personal cost to Walsh. Intimate details of his sex life were exposed in a public forum. Moreover, the Crown Prosecution Service continues to argue that the grounds for prosecution were sound and that the images were ‘extreme’, leaving open the possibility of continued prosecutions. This suggests a particular legal vulnerability for gay men and other sexual minorities. This is a perverse result for a law that was originally intended to address violence against women.

The British government banned extreme pornography in 2008. There are now more than 1000 prosecutions a year in the United Kingdom. We know comparatively little about the circumstances of most cases, possibly because, unlike Walsh, most defendants accept a sanction to avoid public attention and the greater risk of a prison sentence.

Prosecution statistics indicate that many cases involve depictions of bestiality. While bestiality raises real concerns with animal cruelty, many images may amount to harmless (if poor taste) jokes. For example, one failed prosecution in Wales involved possession of an image of a man having sex with a woman while wearing a tiger costume.

I argue that this approach to regulating pornography is disproportionate to any notional public benefit, and cannot plausibly protect women’s interests or improve their social status.   My article highlights some illiberal aspects of the ban. First, ‘extreme’ is defined in terms of what the image appears to depict, rather than any actual harm done in creating the image. This means that records of acts safely performed by consenting adults can nevertheless be criminalised. Second, the law bans possession, not publication. This means that the law respects no boundary between private and public, and does not consider the context in which an image is found or displayed.

These features would have a strong chance of rendering such a ban unconstitutional on first amendment grounds if the law were passed in the United States. It is somewhat less clear whether it infringes European human rights law. Regardless of where positive law stands, I argue that liberal defences of privacy and free expression extend to extreme pornography.

I argue instead that images used to expose or harass individuals (or ‘revenge porn’) are legitimately prohibited.  On my account, consent to view or be depicted should be the key test of legality, a test that the current definition of ‘extreme pornography’ sadly ignores.

Nick Cowen is a PhD student in political economy at King’s College London and a volunteer policy researcher for Backlash

Parliament’s New Sex Work Inquiry Looks Like a Witch Hunt

The more vociferously sex workers insist on their right to work, the more ferociously the anti-prostitution lobby tries to abolish the trade. A new parliamentary inquiry has been set up to look into the issue, but with incredibly biased terms of reference: “whether further measures are necessary, including legal reforms, to discourage demand”. In other words, this is about justifying prohibition rather than finding ways to make life safer for sex workers.

Frankie Mullin writes in VICE magazine…

Source: Parliament’s New Sex Work Inquiry Looks Like a Witch Hunt | VICE | United Kingdom

London Porn Protest This Saturday

It’s a whole year since the London face-sitting porn protest, organised by sex worker activist Charlotte Rose, made global news. The protest was held in response to a new law, AVMS 2014, which heavily restricted which porn could be legally sold by UK businesses. I explained the implications on this blog,

This Saturday at midday, we will gather outside Parliament again to protest. Last year’s law was the last straw for many of the remnants of the British porn industry, and many people have closed their businesses.

But it was just the beginning. The significant law isn’t the last one, but the next one. The bans introduced last year didn’t prevent providers outside the UK streaming their content to British consumers. The ultimate aim of the censorship machine is to create a mechanism for blocking non-UK sites that breach UK standards of ‘decency’. This won’t just apply to porn, but to many categories of content – as we discovered when the ‘porn filters’ were introduced two years ago.

I expect an attempt to introduce Internet censorship in 2016. In fact, one attempt is currently in the House of Lords: the Online Safety Bill.

This is the year to join the protest – please come along on Saturday if you can.

And please consider making a Xmas donation, big or small, to Sex & Censorship.


Taxing Sex Workers

Here’s a slightly strange announcement from HMRC: they’ve formed an ‘adult entertainment taskforce’ to clamp down on evasion by people in the adult industries. On the surface, this is reasonable. One can assume that some sex workers, especially those part-time/lifestyle ones, may not be declaring their full incomes, and this could provide valuable extra tax revenue. People should pay their taxes, regardless of how they earn their money, simple.

But there’s something just a little odd about this, especially in light of the moralistic climate that reigns right now. For example, the article estimates the size of the industry at a whopping £5 billion, which should yield BIG returns, but says HMRC have set an initial target to collect a miniscule £2.5m.

I’m somewhat cynical. Is this a new excuse to carry out raids on legal businesses that upset prudes? The Soho brothel raids of two years ago were done under the banner of ‘rescuing trafficked women’, but were in fact a cover to find (and deport) illegal immigrants, look for drugs, and clear prime property for redevelopment.

I’ll be on BBC Radio 5 Live this afternoon around 17:45 to discuss.

Source: HMRC adult entertainment taskforce to get to the bottom of tax fraud

Introducing The Ethical Porn Partnership

Nichi Hodgson is a journalist and founder of the Ethical Porn Partnership. Here, she outlines her goals in launching the EPP and appeals for volunteers to help her take the project forward.

The Ethical Porn Partnership is a collective of conscientious pornographers, performers and viewers who want porn made to a certain ethical code. The EPP wants to start a progressive conversation about how we reshape the industry into one that reveres healthy bodies and minds, while prioritising free sexual expression. The EPP also wants to ensure consumer confidence in a product that is so readily available yet little understood.

The project takes its inspiration, in part, from the Fairtrade movement. While there are obviously many brilliant companies working to a responsible business model, there’s no one, single industry-wide standard being practised by them. This makes it confusing for performers to know what’s expected of them from set to set. It dilutes the concept of ethical porn. And for the viewer, it makes the idea of picking porn clips ‘responsibly’ seem like an impossible – and futile – task.

Of course, there are already rules about age verification and health testing. But the viewers have no idea about what these are. We want the EPP site to feature information about these, and the other values of our proposed code which include transparency around pay rates, clear and accurate labelling of the content, and consensual and explicit conversation about what acts are to be performed before the cameras start rolling. At the moment, we are fine-tuning the code, available by email from, and invite anyone in the industry with opinions on it to feed back to us. The agreed code will then be displayed on our website, and we can start creating the actual ‘stamp’. We also intend in having a Board of Expert Directors who will help to steer the project.

This partnership project certainly isn’t about teaching the industry to suck their Tenga eggs. Rather, it’s about highlighting the good practice already going on within the industry, about making that explicit to an increasingly anxious viewership, and about showcasing those who strive to make high quality, innovative content that prioritises its performers’ pleasure and comfort.  Women are porn’s future viewers but many of them still need convincing that the females they see on-screen really are enjoying themselves in a consensual, body and mind safe way. EPP provides the perfect opportunity for the adult industry to reassure its new and potential female consumers that this is the case.

As well as the code and stamp, the EPP site aims to contain behind the scenes videos, explanations, debriefs, and revelations; a blog on which to share ideas about what makes for great porn, and an open debate forum where viewers can ask questions about how what they love to watch is made.  EPP also aims to raise money for anti-sexual violence initiatives and better sex education.

As such, we’re looking for more volunteers to help us build out our site – and our dream. So whether you have social media skills, web editing, writing, or canvassing ability, we’d love to hear from you. If you have plentiful industry experience, business experience, medical insight or some other professional experience that would like to bring to our board, please get in touch. Visit www.ethicalpornorg for more information or email


In a surprise move, Ofcom and ATVOD have announced that the regulation of video-on-demand services will be removed from ATVOD (to whom it was delegated) and brought in-house in Ofcom from 1st January.

This is potentially very significant, although the ramifications are unknown at present. Certainly, ATVOD has failed to offer value for money: at a cost to industry of around £500,000 per year, its only action of note has been to force a number of small porn companies out of business, and drive others out of the UK. Although it claims a remit to “protect minors”, it is hard to see how it has achieved this.

Ofcom is a huge and powerful regulator, with TV censorship among its many roles, and is very likely lobbying for a strong Internet censorship role: something this campaign was brought into existence to oppose.

So a cheerful farewell to ATVOD, which most certainly won’t be missed by the porn industry. The question remains though as to whether this move will be for better or worse.

Source: Ofcom to take over VoD regulation from ATVOD » Digital TV Europe

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The UK is sleepwalking into censorship

  • Thousands of websites blocked by filters
  • Porn is just the starting point
  • Free expression is under threat!

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