ShirtGate: Fascism Cloaked as Liberalism

For those with a love of science, the story of the week was, of course, the landing of a robot – launched 10 and a half years ago – on a faraway comet. As someone who is still amazed that I can instantly publish an article from a computer in London, that can then be read globally, I lack the words to express my jaw-dropped amazement at this latest accomplishment of mankind.

The mastermind of the mission was Dr Matt Taylor. Like many ultra-intelligent people, Taylor clearly possesses an offbeat personality and quirky outlook on life. Conformity is for the dull of mind. It was hardly unexpected then, that Taylor chose not to wear a grey suit and tie, but instead appeared at a press conference in a bright shirt made for him by an artist friend – a woman. The shirt featured cartoon images of scantily-clad women brandishing guns.

If Taylor had been paying more attention to politics over the past decade, he’d have witnessed the final stages in the collapse of the progressive left, and its replacement with a new set of intolerant, dogmatic, anti-sex, pro-censorship attitudes. But he clearly had more important things to worry about, so he’d missed the rise of a clique of online bullies using feminist language to achieve a very non-feminist goal: the suppression of the idea that women can be sexual beings if they so choose.

During the attacks on Taylor – referred to online as ShirtGate – the online mob made use of a now-standard logical fallacy to attack the shirt: the idea that an image of any woman is an attack on the rights of all women, and thus, any woman who is offended by an image of another woman has the right to attack the image and call for it to be censored. It was also implied – equally ludicrously – that the shortage of female scientists might somehow be linked to such “sexist” shirts – suggesting that women are incredibly weak individuals (and ignoring the fact that anyway, sex isn’t sexist). The tendency for women to attack women-who-dare-to-be-sexual (brilliantly written about this week by a female journalist) is well known – only the language changes to keep up with the times.

To the rest of us who haven’t had to worry about landing a tiny probe on a small, fast comet, the wave of media bullying that Taylor experienced came as no surprise. Anti-sex feminists have been busy in recent years: closing down strip venues, working with religious fundamentalists to strip all rights from sex workers, advising governments to censor the Internet (because, you know, OBJECTIFICATION), and attacking proudly-sexual womanhood in every medium, from pornography to music videos. The left is guilty of attacks on sexuality that the religious right would once have been proud of.

Online witch-hunts by the new, conservative feminism have become popular in the past year or two: where once, “witch” or “communist” were slurs that meant the end of a career or a life, now “misogynist” and “rape apologist” are labels to avoid at all costs. I myself was labelled a “rape apologist” on Twitter for defending the free speech rights of a comedian this week; but I knew I was opening myself to such slurs when I started this campaign. To fight for free expression is to offend those who hate it.

And so we were treated to a sight that brought to my mind the struggle sessions of the Chinese cultural revolution: an intelligent, gentle man reduced to tears as he made a forced apology on TV (this time wearing a plain hoodie. Fascism hates bright colours).

Once a standard bearer for free expression and reason, the left is now increasingly the home of a rising anti-intellectualism, as well as the most puritanical anti-sex attitudes. The sight of a crying scientist confessing to crimes against the sacred purity of womanhood is symbolic of wider attacks on science from the new left, rather than the  right. This week also saw a scientist (this time, a women, Professor Kate Glover) sacked for simply stating a scientific fact: namely, that there is no evidence that genetically-modified organisms are harmful. Calls for her sacking were orchestrated by left MEPs, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. George Orwell, as ever, understood the nature of fascism better than anyone: “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act”. As if to illustrate the blur as to what “left” and “right” mean any more, a right-wing commentator mockingly compared the intolerant, puritanical attitudes of today’s left with the religious right’s most ludicrous character: When did the left turn into Rick Santorum?

The only silver lining in this is that Dr Taylor, unlike previous victims of the combined feminist-fundamentalist mob, has attracted great sympathy and support from many women and men. Perhaps this time, the “objectification” bullies have overreached themselves. One of the reactions has been a crowd-funding campaign to buy Matt Taylor a gift: click here to donate, and help demonstrate that most people are not nearly as stupid or hateful as ShirtGate might have implied.

Those of us who consider ourselves liberals in the true sense – pro-liberty, free expression and science – must realise that the political spectrum as we knew it has become meaningless. A new, pro-liberty, pro-reason left needs to be built if we are to stop the slide into intolerance, censorship and authoritarianism being pursued with equal vigour by both left and right.

News Roundup: 2014-11-10

Malmaison, Manchester covers up…

Malmaison gave in and covered their ‘soft-porn babes’ hoarding after pressure from the BBC, Daily Mail and Jeanette Winterson, a University of Manchester lecturer and author.

The ‘Mal’ held strong until the BBC and Construction Industry Training Board cried “sexism” and have now strewn a banner stating ‘we were asked to cover these up while we were changing’.

I walk past the Malmaison on the way home and I admit I was a little more than sad when I saw they had buckled to what amounted to very little pressure at all.

The Turkish Army has banned Game of Thrones and forces Officers to take course on Islam

The Turkish Army has outlawed Game of Thrones as part of its new “protection of students” regulations and require that Officers take lessons on Islam instead.

The Jerusalem Post reports;

The military has been instructed to cease watching the show as part of its new “protection of students” regulations that ban “sexual exploitation, pornography, exhibitionism, abuse, harassment, and all negative behaviour.”

According to the report, Turkish army officers were kicked out of a military academy in Istanbul in 2012 for permitting cadets to watch Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones’ third season (2013) was named the most illegally downloaded TV programme internationally, accounting for a quarter of all pirated downloads from 100 torrent sites. The programme was downloaded over 1.4 million times between January and February this year – nearly 50 per cent more than its nearest rival The Walking Dead.

An advert that may have passed unnoticed…

Well. It seems the BBC and all mainstream outlets have been out in force to demonstrate the power of the Streisand effect.

The first ever advert featuring an e-cig may well have passed unnoticed had the mainstream media not played the drums of outrage and indignation.

The BBC reports that experts are concerned that the ad appearing on TV could lead to “a normalisation of smoking”. Maybe e-cigs could promote a freedom to choose what an individual would like to do with his or her mouth…

ITV chose to air the ad after 21:00 after the video was ruled ‘too sexual’ for broadcast before the watershed.

UK web sites to be forced to verify age under new laws!

New laws and legislation have been drawn up to compel British-based web sites to verify the age of their visitors before presenting age-restricted content after dubious statistics have emerged stating one in twenty visitors to adult web sites were ‘children.’

Whilst PornHub.com, who recently displayed an advert in Times Square, and YouPorn.com can provide access to their vast collections of free hardcore pornography to anyone in the World, including British visitors. UK based web sites will however be unable to serve their content as they always have.

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They failed with the ISP filters and ATVOD has largely fallen flat with over five years supposedly regulating the video on demand sector and showing little progress for it.

The Top 100 web sites visited from the UK feature a number of adult tube sites all of which are outside of the UK and will avoid such legal action by the UK government and ATVOD. With piracy and free porn what it is today, all ATVOD and the Government will do by introducing this new legislation and not tackling International distribution is shut down responsible webmasters who would be happy to come to the discussion table if they were invited and only increase the flow of traffic to the typically more extreme and harder content available on the free sites.

I take issue with the statistics and believe them to be deliberately misleading, ATVOD’s language is all about access to children, in their annual reports they claim we prevented xxx number of children accessing adult content based. The simple fact is they do not know, they treat every debit card transaction that either fails verification or is processed without verifying the customer’s age as a child.

ATVOD and anti-porn media use loaded words to ensure their statistics are the ones that people are absorbing. The Daily Mail reports that ‘some 5 per cent of visitors to adult sites were under 18.’ Despite the legal definition of an adult being what it is, those figures would not be half as shocking if people over the age of 16, the UK legal age of consent, were excluded.

Interestingly you will see that Women are always nearly forgotten about when it comes to quoting porn statistics. There are a number of reasons for this but two fundamental factors are the stigma attached to porn consumption by a female audience. The Daily Mail hates them and it does nothing to help the ‘journalist’ and anti-porners use the stats to their own end.

The Daily Mail also reports that ‘one website alone, Pornhub, was visited by 112,000 boys in the UK aged between 12 and 17.’ Pornhub is by far the biggest web site for UK visitors, if you are not familiar with this site – it’s a tube site, a youtube of porn if you like, their is no subscription or payment necessary – that is to say that it is completely FREE – to view its vast library of clips – some full length and others between four and fifteen minutes. Yet as I say is being left alone, this site will not face any kind of restriction under the UK’s AV laws that are expected this November.

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If the regulators and officials dabbling with regulation of the content available over the internet had any idea of they were doing, ATVOD and others should really be paying more focused attention to the tubes but specifically PornHub as this particular site enjoys a healthy mainstream reputation and in addition to the big-budget marketing campaign it recently launched it is often featured in TV shows and films such as Californication and the site have now launched its own record label.

What does the Daily Mail, the DCMS or ATVOD for that matter think is going to happen to the 112,000 ‘boys’ that visited Pornhub? They should be acting as Pornhub’s marketing team, if they enforce stricter policies on UK sites to verify age the ones that can’t or are unwilling to do so will move to a venue that doesn’t ask for the verification.

Interestingly with this move the government will inadvertently be pushing young porn consumers to the tubes, the torrents and be ultimately responsible for stimulating a renewed piracy market for the adult industry.

The focus tends to be around porn web sites but I would be interested to find out exactly what other sites will be affected by these laws. The Sunday Times reported ‘It would cover pornography sites, as well as those selling guns and other age-restricted material.’

Is Netflix, Amazon, LoveFilm etc etc… be caught by the UK AV legislation? No of course not, for one they are not UK based but it is also unclear whether the ‘age restricted content’ description will just apply to R18 equivalent video which ATVOD stole from the BBFC in order to provide a standard for what constituted adult content which in turn required a secure pay wall with either credit card only payments or debit card payments with additional steps in place to verify the age of the account holder.

Twitter too, twitter will not be caught and anyone who has a twitter can find access to an increasing amount of porn for free through the social media service. There is no filter or age verification step to ‘protect’ twitter uses from embedded media content sent through potentially millions of active Twitter accounts.

Stacey, Nipples Censored

Treat Strippers as Workers, not Victims!

Stripper Activist Stacey Clare is angry…

I have a confession to make. It’s not in anyway salacious, sorry to disappoint. In fact, once I start explaining the background to it, you may well lose interest. But stick with this, because I have a shocking revelation to make about lap dancing and strip clubs. I’m still reeling from it myself.

To add some context, I am co-founder and member of a group of strippers called the East London Strippers Collective. I call myself a stripper activist these days, since someone needs to be. I have been banging on about the state of the strip club industry for almost as long I have been working in it. Since day one, I quickly recognised the injustice of clubs running their business models predicated not only on sales of drinks to customers and door entry fees, but also the amounts of money they can extort from the girls working in them, in the form of house fees and charges.

So, I started educating myself. I made use of my time as a student to make sense of what I was doing. I trawled through decades of feminist theory, explored what little academic research was available, and even bothered to get down to the nitty-gritty legislation itself. Reading actual white paper documents is hardly sexy, but from my point of view, knowing your rights and being able to uphold them is sexy as FUCK. In 2008 I eventually wrote a dissertation about licensing legislation and I had a pretty good idea of what was happening in my industry. The Licensing Act 2003 boosted the night time economy and opened up new markets – one of which was the adult entertainment industry. Lap dancing clubs proliferated under the new licensing regime that allowed them to operate with a public entertainment license. Between 2004 and 2008 lap dancing clubs were popping up in every town across the nation, at one stage opening at the rate of one per week.

Still with me? Ok, great.

I was working a lot during this period, and I remember dancing for the opening weekend of a club in Sunderland. I remember how appalling the management were, and how oversubscribed the club was with dancers – all paying a hefty house fee, making up a reasonable portion of the club’s income. And while we all hustled for private dances among the few blokes who had dared to become patrons of a controversial new business in their town centre, breaking our backs in plastic shoes to scrape together a couple of hundred quid, the proprietors of the club were comfortably watching the money rolling in by the minute. Something was dreadfully wrong with this business model.

Just as I was handing in my dissertation, a political campaign led by prohibitionist womens’ rights groups Object and the Fawcett Society, resulted in a parliamentary debate and a subsequent change in licensing law around lap dancing clubs. The Policing and Crime Act 2009 gave local authorities new powers to control the spread of the industry and limit the numbers of existing licenses. No longer able to operate with only a Public Entertainment license, lap dancing and strip clubs must now comply with tighter licensing objectives, and an SEV license is now needed. SEV stands for Sexual Entertainment Venue.

Now, SEV licenses have actually been around a lot longer than this, in fact since the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982. Back then SEV stood for Sex Encounter Venue – which sounds a bit clinical and sinister. None-the-less, councils did already have at one stage the power to impose SEV licensing objectives on local sex industry businesses. Quite how the loophole happened and why licensing authorities were handing out public entertainment licenses to strip joints up and down the land, defeats me. It was good for business I suppose. But the actual realities of these clubs appeared to be going right under the noses of licensing officials, who turned a blind eye to their business practises.

So that’s when the feminists got involved. And with the help of some heavy weight journalists and academics, and the voices of several ex-dancers who had quit the industry after experiencing the exploitation going on in it, they won the fight to reclassify lap dancing clubs under the more honest and suitable title of Sexual Entertainment Venue. (Thanks to the hard work and brave efforts of those fighting the side of the clubs, in particular one dancer known as Solitaire, who enlisted the support of the performers union Equity, the term Sex Encounter was changed to Sex Entertainment for the purposes of wording the legislation.)

That’s when things took a turn for the worse. In my mind, there was a major oversight throughout every stage of the consultations that took place during the lead up to the licensing reform. That dancers themselves were not legitimately consulted and represented, that they did not have an effectual voice in the debate, neither in the media nor in parliament, has had a highly detrimental effect on our jobs and working environments. Unsurprisingly, the level of taboo attached to the job, and the marginalisation that dancers suffer as a consequence of doing it, means individuals prefer to remain anonymous and are unlikely to come forth and contribute their views and opinions for fear of judgement and social chastisement. Thus decisions are made on our behalf by those who make assumptions about us. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place – no pun intended.

So here we are 5 years later. What’s changed? Well at first glance not much. And in terms of how clubs operate by charging girls money to work in them and offering little or nothing in return regarding job security or comfortable working conditions, nothing has changed. In fact in some cases, it is getting worse.

This is where my confession comes in. And if you have stuck with me this far, then you deserve something juicy. So, in my capacity as a stripper activist I have known about the licensing reform since before it even happened. I have griped about it ever since. And in this last 5 years that I have been working under this new licensing regime, I have never actually bothered to sit down and read the Policing and Crime Act 2009.

I know right? Lazy girl.

Last week was the first time I finally got round to it – between doing an interview for VICE and promoting our upcoming event (a public talk about licensing) it seemed like the right time.

Boy, did I get a shock. Anyone who either works as a stripper, or engages as a customer should see this. In fact anyone with a vested or personal interest in upholding and protecting the right to engage with any form of sex work should see this.

The Policing and Crime Act 2009, consists of 9 Parts, and 117 Sections, of which Part 2, Section 27 Regulation of lap dancing and other sexual entertainment venues etc. is the new law used to control SEV licensing. Part 2, titled Sexual Offences and Sex Establishments contains 14 sections, each relating to a particular type of offence. For example Section 14 Paying for sexual services of a prostitute subjected to force etc., or Section 16 Amendment to offence of loitering etc for purposes of prostitution. In real language this legislation is talking about the crimes of trafficking and street walking. Section 18 deals with Rehabilitation of offenders, while Sections 22-25 deal with sexual tourists who travel abroad to commit sexual abuse on children, which would be considered a crime in this country. Section 26 handles those who choose to view child pornography online. And then comes Section 27 – lap dancing clubs.

WHAT THE FUCK???

As I reread this document I can feel again the rising sense of disgust and anger… What the hell does my job have to do with SEX OFFENDERS? Rapists and paedophiles in the same category as strippers and punters!!!!?

I MEAN, WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK????

This stops here. And I mean it stops.

From what I can see, the very fact that licensing legislation for lap dancing clubs is included in a law that deals with crime and disorder is a clear move towards criminalisation of lap dancing. There is a clear moral campaign that seeks to stamp out all aspects of sex work by criminalising it, and lap dancing is now on the target range. Being lumped in with a general list of offences is not only misleading but degrading – as if somehow all acts of sex work are indicative of abuse. To conflate stripping with trafficking, and acts of sexual violence effectively means that strippers are by law represented as victims of abuse, which is turn sets a very dangerous precedent. When we allow this type of merger it eventually becomes all the more difficult to discern and distinguish those who are genuine victims of abuse, and those who aren’t.

In all the years I have been working as a stripper, I have never, not once in any of the clubs I have worked in, seen evidence of strippers being trafficked. I do know however that there are girls working in some clubs who are being coerced and controlled by club owners and bosses. I know which clubs have the tell tale signs,

I hear the rumours because I am in that world. Yes, there are abuses in my industry, yes there are poor working conditions and exploitative business practises. So, who asked me what I thought about changing the law? Who offered to help us when all this evidence was coming out in Parliament? Who gave us a voice?

Oh yeah, they did give us a voice. They let us change 1 word – from “encounter” to “entertainment”.

Our group, the East London Strippers Collective, has come together out of a shared grievance over the problems in the industry. And as we start to scratch beneath the surface, we discover that these issues are compounded by empty licensing that offers no help, no protection or security, and, thanks to the further stigmatisation of our workplace, pushes us further out onto the fringes of social acceptability, leaving us even more vulnerable than before.

To truly tackle problematic conditions in any industry, governments should use employment law to uphold the rights of workers. So long as strippers have no rights, and continue to fall through the net of employment protection, they will be exploited. Even self-employed people have rights to negotiate with their business associates and clients, yet the industry we work in affords us none of these freedoms, as we scrabble around doing our best to look sexy while we fear for our jobs from one day to the next.

We demand a revision of the current licensing law, and for the voices of those who choose to work in the industry (not just those who have left it) to be reconsidered. We need to re-examine the motivations of those who seek to stigmatise and criminalise our profession, and remove the venues in which we do it. We want to be recognised as workers like any others, and to be acknowledged by law as independent autonomous citizens with free will, who have consciously chosen to walk the controversial path of sex work because, believe it or not, there is some benefit for those who do it.

We have a long way to go, but there is no doubt in my mind that if we do not challenge the aspects of society that seek to destroy beauty and creativity, we are a very sick society indeed. Licensing may be dull and exhausting, but when we fail to engage, laws like this one sneak through Parliament. Suddenly we find ourselves defined by terms we have not chosen and certainly don’t want.

Not only that, but if there’s one thing I know in my bones, it’s that when I can do it on my own terms, when I want, where I want, for whom I choose… I bloody love to strip.

Coming Soon: The UK Sexual Freedom Awards 2014

If you are a sexual freedom activist, or a supporter of sexual freedom, the place to be is west London on Monday 17th November, for this year’s Sexual Freedom Awards. Coming at a time of increased conservatism and attacks on sexual liberty, these awards are more important than ever.

Come and mingle with the cream of sexual society and witness the naughtiest live acts you can see anywhere!

The awards will celebrate the best in striptease, sex work, and sexual activism. Attractions will include:

… performances by Charlotte Rose, Empress Stah, the Sex Workers Opera, Miss Carios as Jessica Rabbit, with a finale live on stage by international Hip Hop artist and BBC3 TV reality star from “Boom Town” Cream, pole dancing, a wild sexy area for networking and chatting with side shows including a striptease on a piano, erotic strip auction with Kaz B and Charlotte Rose, dj by Chris Tofu, a huge bar, a restaurant, and not forgetting visual displays of our nominees and much, much more! .

For more information, join the Facebook event page, or order your tickets here.

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Tiger Porn: “Extreme Porn” Law to be Challenged

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the dangerous proliferation of content possession laws that have sprung up in the UK. These have resulted in a series of draconian rulings, including one that decided a teenage girl was a sex offender for taking a photograph of herself naked. This conviction was made under a law designed to prevent child abuse. Such badly drafted laws surely do nothing to achieve this, and plenty to tie up police resources that could be better directed elsewhere.

Content possession laws are dangerous, regardless of what they criminalise, because content possession is such a vague idea. How many people realise that receiving a photograph by email or WhatsApp constitutes possession, whether or not you even look at it? Or that browsing to a web page containing a banned image will store that image in the web browser cache, making the user a criminal? And most important, how can members of the public know what images might or might not be considered “extreme” by the prurient British state?

 The “extreme porn” law, introduced by the last Labour government in 2008, is perhaps the most dangerous of them all, criminalising a vast array of content, from bestiality to acts that might “result in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals” – this would cover consensual and legal acts like fisting or the use of a large sex toy.

One of the most ludicrous prosecutions to arise from this law was the infamous “tiger porn” case, in which Andrew Holland was prosecuted for possessing a video of – it was claimed – a woman having sex with a tiger. This would certainly represent a dangerous sex act!

The police and prosecutors decided there was a case, and proceeded. When the case finally reached court, the judge requested that the video be played with sound – something the police hadn’t thought of doing. During the scene, the “tiger” turned to the camera and said “that’s grrrrreat!”, in the style of Tony, the Frosties tiger. It’s clear that police and CPS training doesn’t include the skills to distinguish between a real tiger and a pretend one. Holland was acquitted.

But during the legal process, he had been branded a sex offender, experienced vigilante attacks, and been prevented from seeing his daughter for a year. He suffered a heart attack during this time.

The obscenity law specialist Myles Jackman announced yesterday that Holland would be launching a judicial review against the extreme porn law.

This is good news indeed; besides potentially overturning an atrocious piece of legislation, it may also help disrupt yet another bad law, the impending “rape porn” legislation, which, rather than criminalising porn featuring rape (as it sounds), will leave police and a judge to decide whether a sex act looks like it might be non-consensual, and would thus criminalise bondage and other non-standard – but consenting – sex acts.

In the mean time, millions of people risk being branded sex offenders simply for receiving a message from a friend (or enemy) or browsing the web. They can, to some extent, protect themselves by using private browser settings, and asking their friends not to share any kind of sexual imagery. But it is ludicrous that they should have to.

Report: Debate vs Julie Bindel at Essex University

Those familiar with the state of anti-porn argument will know it’s pretty comparable with anti-climate change argument: very little in the way of evidence, but plenty in the way of noise, indignation, conspiracy theory and “it stands to reason”-type arguments.

The foundation of today’s anti-porn rhetoric was laid by Catharine Mackinnon and Andrea Dworkin (“the Macdworkinites”) in the 1980s, and the arguments appear not to have evolved greatly in the intervening decades; today’s anti-porn feminism lacks the flair and (evil) genius of the Macdworkinites. For this reason, it’s increasingly easy to demolish claims of harm caused by pornography; the problem is that the media is still largely in the sway of the “OMG what about the children?!” brigade. It’s for this reason that I founded Sex & Censorship: to present evidence-based argument against the combined religious/feminist weight of porn panic.

University debates are a rare opportunity to be heard equally in a fair environment (rather than the 90 seconds of shouting allowed by the news media), and I take every opportunity to participate in these (contact me if you’d like me to debate or speak at your university or college). I therefore seized yesterday’s opportunity to debate the radical feminist Julie Bindel with glee.

Things warmed up on the day before the debate, with the publication of an article in the student newspaper that managed to disparage both myself and Bindel at once, referring to her as a homophobe and transphobe, while I was simply branded a “multi-millionaire”. Sadly (for me), this claim wasn’t true, but even if it had been, I failed to see the relevance in this context: surely “sexual freedom advocate”, “free speech activist” or even just “blogger” would have been more useful.

So when I met Bindel on the train to Colchester, we were able to find some common cause, and jokingly speculate about which one of us might be more protested-against: her, the transphobe; or me, the spokesman for patriarchal oppression.

The debate took place in a packed lecture theatre; Bindel had been scheduled to speak first, but the chair asked if we could switch places, for fear that protesters would shout her down and end the session early.

In my introduction, I made mention of the importance of free speech on university campuses, including (in fact, especially) speech that we might consider offensive or otherwise unpleasant. Universities are supposed to be hubs of free thought, but there is a disturbing, and rising, trend among student unions to shut down “bad” speech, from bans on the Sun newspaper, to closing down a rugby club for speech crimes, to multiple bans on Bindel herself.

I then took a statement from a piece Bindel had written about pornography, and set out to demonstrate that it is not backed by solid evidence; indeed, it runs counter to the known evidence:

There is … a direct link between violence against women and pornography

I made the following points:

  • The term “pornography” tends to refer to all sexual/erotic imagery, so that arguments deployed against porn are then used to attack  Page 3, music videos and other media that most people wouldn’t consider pornographic.
  • To claim that large numbers of women are abused by the porn industry, without being able to point to any actual arrests or prosecutions is strange indeed. Where are the victims that anti-porn campaigners so often talk about?
  • Why are only women (supposedly) harmed by sexual expression, and not men? This seems to perpetuate the old fashioned view that sex is something men do to women, rather than something both men and women can enjoy.
  • The sexual objectification concept – the curiously vague idea that men who view sexual imagery become more dangerous towards women – is backed by no statistical evidence. To the contrary, the availability of porn widely correlates with a declines in sexual violence.
  • Why does “objectification” only seem to work in sexual contexts? Why can men see a woman run a marathon but not assume that all women must be marathon runners?
  • To blame porn for sexual violence is to remove blame from rapists.
  • Although the porn industry is often painted as a male-dominated one, there are many female, and feminist, porn directors.
  • Nobody could judge whether “women are demeaned by porn”, except for pornstars themselves; I then read a series of statements from pornstars in answer to the question “Do you find working in porn to be demeaning?” – they all answered no, of course.

Short on time (I actually overran the 15 minutes allowed), I had little opportunity to go through much of the evidence; but I pointed out that the UK government (via Ofcom) has conducted its own research into whether porn is harmful, and could find no evidence of harm. It also polled 20 other European governments about their own research into whether porn might harm under-age viewers, and stated:

No country found evidence that sexually explicit material harms children

Despite this, the government has introduced various censorship laws and regulations, just in case…

Julie Bindel’s contribution (thankfully not shouted down by protesters) was packed with familiar claims and anecdotes, many obviously drawn from her campaigning colleague Gail Dines, and the UK anti-sex group Object. Various scare words and stories were dredged up; the term “porn baron” was thrown around, and links between the porn industry and organised crime were hinted at, but not backed with evidence. Choosing an ad hominem attack, she suggested that I currently make a living from the porn industry (actually, I closed my website business in 2012).

Although there was no formal vote at the end of the session, the chairman asked for a show of hands partway through on the question of whether pornography should be banned; no more than half a dozen, of an audience of perhaps 150, raised their hands. I hope that my contribution had made many change their minds.

But perhaps the culture is simply changing. Maybe young people, having grown up with the Internet and pornography, no longer fear sexual expression, and cannot easily be persuaded to. This would be good news indeed!

Object Reject “Rapist” Allegations As False

Here’s a quick update regarding my recent letter to Object (the human rights organisation/hate group – take your pick), in which I questioned Object’s frequent accusations of rape against the sex entertainment industries.

The letter was written on 1st October. Four days later, Object tweeted the following response:

We would, of course be horrified, if these allegations were made in error, and look forward to Object’s reply with interest. Watch this space for more updates.

Coming Up: S&C in Debate

I will be involved in the following events over the next month, both close to London:

  • On 22nd October, I will meet the journalist and radical feminist Julie Bindel to debate the question: “Does Pornography Degrade Women, and If So, Should It Be Banned?” This will take place at the University of Essex in Colchester, at 2pm.
  • On 13th November, I will be taking part in a discussion on pornography at Royal Holloway University of London, at 6pm.

Neither are public events, but outside attendees may be admitted by request. Please let me know if you would like to attend.

I don’t get paid (other than expenses) to take part in these events, but consider it essential that moral panic and misinformation are countered with evidence-based argument. The alternative is to see sexual freedom and free speech continually eroded based on fear and ignorance.

If you would like to support the campaign and help us grow, please make a donation, large or small!

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Letter to Object Regarding Rape Allegations

This is an open letter to Roz Hardie, CEO of the campaign group Object.

Dear Roz,

It was good to meet you on London Live TV last Wednesday, if only briefly, where we discussed this past weekend’s XBIZ EU conference for the adult industry. It was an extra, unexpected pleasure to see you in the Hilton prior to your anti-porn protest on Thursday, and again at your protest outside the Spearmint Rhino strip club on Saturday.

Although we don’t seem to agree on much (you think all expressions of sexuality are evil, I don’t, etc.), I’m contacting you to suggest an alliance in one area where we seem to agree, and where we can work together against one of the great scourges of society: rape.

You see, in all the years I’ve been following Object, I’ve noticed your frequent claims that women in the sex entertainment industries are being raped as a matter of routine. When I debated against your colleague Julia Long at UCL some years ago, she claimed to know of cases where women had been abused on porn sets – although she declined to provide any detail.

You made similar points about sexual coercion in pornography during our TV appearance last week, but again provided no detail. It seems this behaviour isn’t new; the veteran anti-sex campaigner Mary Whitehouse claimed to be in possession of letters from victims of the porn industry, although oddly, she chose not to share these with the authorities.

Object seem to have one core tactic: to shout “rape” in the context of pornography and other sexual entertainment. At one protest I witnessed outside an Internet porn conference, your supporters were shouting about the mass rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which took place during its long and brutal war; although it remained a mystery to me as to how Internet porn could be held responsible for this, in a country with few roads, let alone broadband connections.

At your protest last Saturday, your supporters were screaming “rapist” at men walking into Spearmint Rhino. There were also women going into the club, and curiously your people called them “losers”. I would have expected that, if you believed women were being raped in Spearmint Rhino, you would be extending an arm of support to them, rather than screaming childish insults.

It has long troubled me that Object are prepared to make endless claims of rape and sexual abuse against the sex entertainment industries; and yet, to my knowledge, you have filed no police reports. Nobody has been arrested or taken to court. Shouldn’t rapists face the full might of the law? As we know, rape convictions are difficult to get, because it often comes down to one person’s word against another. But you’re claiming that industrial-scale rape is taking place ON VIDEO! Surely, convictions will be easy in these cases?

So here’s my proposal: if, as you have long claimed, Object have evidence of sexual violence associated with the sexual entertainment industries, then let’s approach the police with it. I will help you identify the publishers, producers and performers involved. We recently discovered that we both live in the same London borough – shall we fix a date to meet at Lewisham police station?

As a “feminist human rights organisation”, I’ve no doubt you will leap at the chance of bringing rapists to the attention of the law. If, on the other hand, you are merely using rape accusations as a tool of panic in order to further moralistic, pro-censorship aims, then you are taking the fight against sexual violence backward rather than forward. By labelling random men as rapists, and by referring to consenting sex between adults as rape, you are redefining the concepts of rape and consent to suit a conservative, anti-sex agenda. By harassing women who work in the sex industries, while telling the media that you are “saving” them, you divert attention away from sexual violence and towards the stigmatisation of healthy, adult sexual expression.

A female business owner who witnessed your behaviour on Saturday wrote the following to me:

Object’s attitude towards anyone, whether they are remotely affiliated to the adult industry or directly involved in it is absolutely disgusting. A couple of guys were horrified when they arrived as they had the term ‘Rapist’ shouted at them. It is irresponsible to use such terms so candidly when a number of women and some men even have been subjected to such horrible crime. It is dangerous and potentially damaging to society when people start using such labels so lightly. Most will agree that this is not a rational way of putting across any sort of argument, this is quite simply verbal abuse because our ideals of sexual freedom and freedom of speech are not line with theirs.

I look forward to hearing from you, and helping you ensure that the violent criminals you regularly invoke are brought to justice.

Sincerely,

Jerry Barnett
Founder, Sex & Censorship

 

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