I’m honoured to have been nominated for a Sexual Freedom Award in the “Ally” category. The awards ceremony will take place this coming Monday. Grab a ticket if you can make it!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 email@example.com
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.
For those trying to follow the increasingly bizarre story of ATVOD – a small, private organisation that is using regulatory powers to attack the UK porn industry – here’s a good read from Ben Yates.
You may have heard of an authority tasked with the regulation of video-on-demand content across the whole of the Internet. It is ATVOD, and it is from its basement offices in Windsor that the team of four permanent employees work to police video content on the web and enforce their regulations where they find breaches and violations.
I’m featured in this programme: Journalist Nichi Hodgson asks whether there’s scope for an ethical code for producing porn
Trans activist Jane Fae has been blocked from speaking at the Feminism in London conference, because she holds positive views on pornography. This, despite the fact that her speech had nothing to do with porn. Read Natacha Kennedy’s scathing article…
Myles Jackman is a lawyer driven by the need to overturn Britain’s ludicrous and censorious laws about sex and sexual expression. He often works pro-bono and is now reaching out for support in order to continue his work. Please follow the link below for more details.
Stripper and activist Edie Lamort appeals for funds to support the East London Strippers Collective’s upcoming London exhibition. Please support!
Go on, Put a Pound in the Jug!
Let me introduce the (ELSC), that’s if you haven’t already heard of us, and tell you about our next wildly ambitious but amazing project. We have been together for about a year and a half, putting on talks and parties and generally self-organising. We are part event production team and part political organisation, with a social media following and press interest.
What are we doing? As we are all creative types, we are putting on an exhibition called the , at the Red Gallery in Shoreditch, from 22nd October to Halloween. We are holding this event to celebrate the art that has been generated by the East London strip scene. The costume, the dance and the visual arts that have been created by dancers from their experiences. There will be photography, film, installations, costume and performances along with events, workshops and a closing party. Artists will include:
There will also be a program of events during the time we are at the gallery to educate people about our world and celebrate the talents of the dancers. These will include a fashion show, as costume is very important part of our experience, an as we are frequently studied, a , the class, an with the artists and , a and a .
Why are we doing this? For several reasons; we are visual artists, who also happen to be strippers, and want to show our art, we are creative performers who want a platform to do our thing and we wish to challenge stigma. The striptease industry that we all know and love is unfortunately in a sorry state now. This is for several reasons including recession and a very badly written and punitive law that came about in 2009. This was designed to wreck the industry and is doing exactly that, but was drawn up with no thought given to those working as dancers, our rights and working conditions were ignored. Ultimately we’d like to see this law reviewed however the first thing we have to do is combat the negative narrative around us, a tough call I’m sure you’ll agree! But what better way to do it than to run our own event celebrating our art and performance?
People talk about things being ’empowering’ and the ELSC is exactly that. We have all stepped up to the mark as producers, filmmakers, marketers, photographers, costume designers and all round businesswomen.
What can you do to help? In short, donate to our fund and then share it far and wide. We have 1780 plus Facebook followers and if they put a pound in the jug we’d be laughing however they don’t all get to see our posts. We are on the Facebook naughty step after having been reported for side-boob and banned twice therefore we are not allowed to advertise as we have been classified as ‘adult’. In reality our photos and shows are no more risqué than burlesque but misinformation and prejudice abounds.
You may have just read this with interest, you may click on the links (I hope you do, click away!) but whatever you do don’t just ‘like’. If you think this is a good idea contribute some money, we have a pound in the jug option if you are skint or a £1000 option if you are a fancy pants high roller, and share all over to help us beat our advertising ban.
Thank you darlings! X
Yet another academic study has cast doubt on a commonly made accusation against pornography: that it causes misogynistic attitudes. This accusation is often thrown to imply that porn leads to sexual violence – although many studies have already dismissed this idea.
For entertainment value, the quotes from comedy anti-sex feminist Gail Dines are worth reading. Among other things, she’s concerned that people might be having threesomes.
Many fans of pornography might even be ‘useful allies’ in women’s struggles for equality in work, income and public office, the researchers argue
See below the video for text that inspired the making of this film.
He wrote to me;
“Why am I writing to you? Beauty, nakedness, curiosity. Or a thousand other reasons. I don’t know, really. That I’m selfish is a big part of it. And also that desire makes me – not just me, I think it goes for everyone – feel more alive.”
I nicknamed this customer Nosferatu. He was tall, skinny, lanky and dressed in a funereal way, but more than that, he had an intense, preternatural stare. One of those people that looks at you and you feel like they are reading your mind, looking straight into your soul and you cannot hide from them. A laser beam stare. You can ‘feel’ their gaze even with your back turned. It was part disturbing, part flattering, he was highly intelligent and could see through all the smoke and mirrors of the role you play as a dancer.
“I think we’ve evolved to treasure female beauty because it’s so potent and also so transient. Cultures all over the world have this metaphor of flowering or blooming. Men’s physical capacity for action has the same characteristics. It’s compelling, and it runs out. Male strength and female beauty in their prime are existential, I’d say, if I were pretentious, which I am. They symbolise what it is to be alive in a way that childhood and old age don’t. We’re drawn to them when we see them in others. That’s my excuse, anyway.”
‘I hope you don’t mind me coming in and talking to you? It’s just there’s no one else I can talk to like this?’ he said to me one quiet, mid week shift. He’d been my customer for a few months by now and was a clever and interesting man but not happy at all. ‘Can I have your email address? Can I write to you, I used to write for a living.’
“I’m writing to you because you’re very pretty and it’s good for my ego. Because, you’re clever and funny. Because women’s beauty is a precious thing that, as a man, you feel absorbed in and to some extent entitled to when you’re in your twenties and thirties. Then in middle age it ebbs away from you. Some men cope with it by using emotional maturity or some other magic. I don’t know where they get it from. I’m one of those men who really, really misses it.”
And so he began sending me the most well written and intriguing emails to my dancer address. He had previously worked as a screenwriter for BBC, ITV and HBO. He was thoughtful, articulate and prolific and would come to see me dance regularly, both for the erotic visual thrill and warmth that was missing in his life, but also reaching out to connect on a intellectual level, finding us girls who dance fascinating.
We spoke at length, it’s always nice to have an intelligent customer, you are actually interested in what they say, as opposed to fake giggles and feigned interest. I told him about the campaigns we’d done to defend striptease and it conjured the image of Marianne, like it had done with us. She seems to be our mascot in many minds.
“You remind me of that famous painting from the French Revolution. The woman Marianne leading the mob to righteous slaughter, Delacroix I think. It wasn’t just the public sexuality. There’s something about the way you hold your head, the inquisitive-but-knowing gleam in your eyes. You scared the shit out of me. The moment I saw you I wanted to spend the rest of the night talking to you. Maybe it was the lighting. Maybe it was the supernatural powers that come with being a dancer. (Maybe it’s A Tale Of Two Cities being on the radio that’s made me think of that painting.) You looked bonkers and the only sane person in the room, all at the same time. That sounds bad, probably. But it felt like charisma.”
After working as a writer for a few years, he followed the rules. He got married, had kids and then retrained, getting a sensible yet unfulfilling job in IT. He was a bit of a polymath, with a masters degree in pure maths from Cambridge but a talent and track record for writing aided by a very clever mind. Perfectly articulating the thoughts of the middle aged lonely customers who come to strip clubs on their own. His emails were like the echoes of the lonely, mixed in with guilt and lust.
“Every now and then I get a flashback to the first time I saw you, at Charlie’s bar. You’re looking sideways and I can’t tell if you’re going to throttle me or just wait for an accomplice to stab me in the kidneys. I’d take either as long as you were paying me attention.”
I started replying to his emails, they were interesting, and this provoked a slew of prose and poetry, musings and theories, that I have archived, noting that they clock up to over 50,000 words. That’s how much he needed to talk. He felt his life was in a feedback loop that he would never be able to climb out of. This air of despair and reluctant acceptance of his fate added to his peculiar and intense ways.
“Fifty years after the Salem Witch Trials and halfway round the world, a Wittenberg professor called Georg Bose was making a name for himself with public experiments. I heard about him on the radio this week. He’d stand a beautiful woman on a cake of resin and hook her up to an electrostatic generator, then invite men in the audience to kiss her. When they did, a spark would fly from her lips. Or he’d gradually charge her up in a darkened room. The air around her would ionize and glow with a saintly blue light. He’d deck her out in a pointed tin hat and the light would focus to a halo. Bose embellished the stunts with wacky poems and crackpot theories. The shock of the spark was male, the gentle luminosity female.
“Animal electricity” became a hip term for lust.”
Funny how stuck we all are on the Madonna/whore thing. Here it is again as halo/spark. In The Crucible it’s wife/witch or something, I can’t remember. While men are just men. There’s something pretentious I could say about this twoness of women and oneness of men and how it affects you and me but I don’t know what it is so I’ll shut up.
We all have to make choices in our life and by doing so you may need to sacrifice a part of you. He had the family, the nice home, a wife and three kids but at a cost to himself. However he loved his kids and would never leave them, but the strip pub was the place he could come to reconnect with that part of himself he thought he’d lost. In the end his foray into our demi-world, answered his questions and saved his marriage. He stopped coming in.
“For me, the most interesting aspect of the whole debate is this: there are women who like to undress in front of men they don’t know. How should these women be regarded by the rest of society? How are they different from women who write for a living, or men who sing? All these people are drawing attention to a part of themselves that they love, and working hard to make the best display they can.
Should authors be stigmatized for selling their psychological truth on the open market? Isn’t what good writers are offering every bit as intimate as a bare bum? Men might read Jeanette Winterson and then go home and expect their wives to bare their souls too. Why is soul stripping respectable and body stripping not? I’ve watched you on stage and I’ve read your emails. When you dance you might not have any clothes on, but when you write you’re truly naked. It’s always baffled me that fear and hate, loneliness and longing, greed and love are seen as less shocking than boobs and pubes.”
A less interesting question but one you might want to have a pop at is if beauty is commodified, where does that leave the ugly people? Speaking on their behalf, I think I can say it leaves us where we’ve always been: reliant on our wits. Not great for the stupid ugly people, but no one suggests shutting down the universities to level that playing field, do they? And the commodification is an effect, not a cause.”
Sex sells because people really, really want it already. I don’t think ugly people mind beautiful ones, anyway. They’re nice to look at, after all. We just wish there was one in the mirror.
All this rich conversation has not gone to waste. Another dancer and I are in the process of filming the world of strip pubs and one day at someone’s house, the subject pulled out a box of letters customers had written to her over the years. She’d kept hers like I’d kept mine.
We put the message out ‘has anyone got any letters from customers?’ Many came back with saved letters, poems, cards and emails. The need to connect, the cry of please listen to me.