Will the BBFC Block Whores of Yore, A Sex Work History Site?

Whores of Yore is a website, run by academic Kate Lister, which describes itself as follows: “We are proudly sex-positive. An inter-disciplinary, pro-sex worker rights hub, dedicated to exploring the history of human sexuality and challenging shame and stigma.” (Here’s the link – please note it’s a teensy bit NSFW, at least if your boss is a religious fundamentalist or an anti-sex feminist).

Kate Lister

Along with intelligent writing and resources on sex work issues, the site includes a gallery of Vintage Erotica (click at your peril!) which ranges from topless imagery to some quite naughty stuff. Who knew our great-great grannies were getting up to this sort of thing? Few people would consider these images to be pornographic but then, porn is such a tricky thing to define.

Unswayed by this apparent problem, the government has promised (in the current Digital Economy Bill) to block pornography unless it’s behind an age verification check (one that forces you to enter your credit card, mobile phone or other personal details). So what definition of porn does the bill use?

The bill defines porn as video, imagery or audio that the BBFC (the video censor which will now become the Internet censor) would classify at either 18 or R18 certificate. And while R18 refers to explicit, hardcore action, 18 is reserved for the soft stuff: faked sex, striptease and even simple nudity, if the censors decide that it might be titillating. An added level of complication is that the BBFC only currently classifies video, not imagery. And as for audio… what do they consider audio porn to consist of? Well, we’ll soon find out.

The problem is that this breathtakingly broad definition of pornography will catch millions of sites that range far beyond pornography. So how about Whores of Yore? Since it’s a blog that doesn’t (and effectively can’t) age-check its users, will it break the law when it comes into effect? Will it be blocked? Will Kate Lister be paraded naked through the streets of London and pelted with rotten fruit? OK, the last one probably (and disappointingly) won’t happen.

The UK Will Block Millions of Sites
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So Kate contacted the BBFC, the UK’s soon-to-be Internet censor with a simple question: will she be a criminal, and will her site be blocked, under the new regime? After all, these rules are set to become law within a few months, and have been under discussion for years. Predictably, the BBFC responded to say they simply can’t answer:

“Work in this area has not yet begun and so we are not in a position to advice [sic] you on your website.  Pages 23 and 24 of our Classification Guidelines detail the standards applied when classifying sex works at 18 and R18 however and may be of interest to you.”

To save you the time of checking the BBFC’s online guidelines, let me assure you that they’re as useful as a chocolate dildo. Actually, far less useful than that. So either the BBFC really doesn’t know which sites it will be blocking later this year, or (and this seems more likely) it doesn’t want to admit that the law is so loosely drafted that almost anything might be blocked, at a whim.

And the response hints that the BBFC’s remit may soon go far beyond nude imagery (my highlight):

“Under its letters of designation the BBFC may not classify anything that may breach criminal law, including the Obscene Publications Act (OPA) as currently interpreted by the Crown Prosecution Service”

So we need to stop obsessing on the censorship of “niche porn”, which has served as a distraction from the main story. This is a blueprint for a state censor that can block anything it likes.

If you run a website, and are worried it may breach UK law, please contact the BBFC and ask whether you may be criminalised, or have your site blocked. It’s unacceptable, this late in the day, that the BBFC doesn’t know what content it’s going to censor. Let me know how they respond.

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Hookers, Camgirls and Pornstars: Your Country Needs You!

If you are in any way involved in the adult industries, your income and lifestyle will come under attack in 2017. You can support this campaign with two minutes of your time – see below.

Theresa May is Watching You
Install a Secure VPN

Although the Sex & Censorship campaign was founded to counter the “porn panic” – the endless stream of anti-porn, pro-censorship hysteria – it’s about much more than that. There is a rising tide of intolerance to niche cultures, and it is leaking into every part of society. This has been the trend for at least a decade, but rather than show any signs of peaking, the new fascism is gathering pace.

Sex and drugs have been the first in the path of the bulldozer. A string of stupid porn laws has been matched by a parade of equally ludicrous drug bans: from the 2005 ban on magic mushrooms to last year’s laughable ban on laughing gas. These laws aren’t designed to prevent harm, but to empower the state to intrude ever deeper into private lives. This year’s Digital Economy Bill will allow the state, for the first time, to block websites of its own choosing, without the tiresome need to ask the courts for permission.

If you make money from sex, your lifestyle is under particular threat. 2017 will see countless adult websites blocked in the UK. You can support this campaign by sparing two minutes of your time: print this image of the Porn Panic! book cover, share a selfie, and ask your fans to buy the book. It’s available from Amazon and all the other usual places.

Or simply share the book link: bit.ly/pornpanic

Thanks – Jerry

Censorship in the Identity Era

In these unpredictable political times, one thing is certain: there isn’t any campaign (even the US presidential election) that can’t be hijacked and trampled by identity politics. As I wrote previously, identity politics is the vehicle via which the privileged middle-classes make everything about themselves. And so inevitably, and depressingly, every important issue gets quickly taken over and turned into an identity issue. If the issue isn’t actually sexist, homophobic, racist, or whatever, never fear: they’ll say it is anyway.

So of course, no sooner does the government announce that it will giving the BBFC the power to block websites (a power virtually unheard of in democratic countries), than identitarians are elbowing their way to the front of the victim queue, determined to make it all about them.

A particularly bad example of this is floating around social media – an article in Dazed by Jake Hall, entitled Why the UK’s new laws could destroy queer & female-led porn. The premise is basic nonsense – there is nothing in the new laws that could justify this claim. In fact, there is no evidence given in the article that this is true either, other than a couple of vague quotes that support the headline. In an attempt to nip this sort of stuff in the bud (I failed), I wrote a piece a while back to explain why the BBFC’s rules aren’t sexist – they’re much worse than that.

Furthermore, Hall’s article is literally riddled with inaccuracies and confusion. The very first sentence repeats an old myth: “According to recent figures, the global porn industry is currently worth around $97billion.” This is a claim I cover in my book Porn Panic!, and is one that was fabricated some time ago, and is regularly used by by anti-porn campaigners. Hall doubles down on his mistake by sourcing his claim to fightthenewdrug.org, a notorious anti-porn site with religious links.

Hall also states that “[t]hese acts are yet to be officially defined” – this isn’t true – the BBFC guidelines for porn have been in place for years. He goes on to repeat more anti-porn myths, such as “Anybody with any experience of porn knows that a vast majority of it depicts muscular men and petite, shaven women” (well, at least we know what Jake likes to watch); and that old favourite of anti-porn activists, stating that it is… “true that our porn use does need to be monitored – there’s a lucrative market for child and non-consensual pornography growing daily” (Really Jake? Please provide some statistics to back that – preferably ones that don’t come from a religious anti-porn site).

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So under the guise of being all nice and inclusive to “oppressed” identity groups, Hall ends up apparently supporting the worst aspect of the new censorship laws, age verification, under which millions of sites containing sexual imagery may be blocked under the bogus excuse of “protecting children”.

Although the new left likes to imagine that it challenges the “status quo”, it has failed to notice that is has become the status quo. Much of today’s censorship regime is crafted by the left’s identity-and-diversity obsession, rather than by the Tory establishment of old. Today’s censorship organisations have diversity built it to their very cores. Every body that makes censorship decisions today – especially Ofcom, the UK’s super-censor – has been created for an era of identity politics, and are impeccable in their meeting of diversity targets.

And many of the censorship rules imposed by Ofcom and the BBFC are specifically targeted at protecting women and minorities from “offensive” language. The BBFC guidelines state:

Potentially offensive content relating to matters such as race, gender, religion, disability or sexuality may arise in a wide range of works, and the classification decision will take account of the strength or impact of their inclusion. The context in which such content may appear also has a bearing. Works with such content may receive a lower category where discriminatory language and behaviour is implicitly or explicitly criticised; or the work as a whole seeks to challenge such attitudes”

The reality of the new laws is that a massive censorship regime is under construction to increase the state’s control over free expression; not in order to oppress women and minorities, but partly under the pretext of protecting them. Tragically, the great equality battles of the 1960s have been turned into yet another excuse for state control and middle-class bullying.

My book Porn Panic! details the rise of the authoritarian new left and its determination to censor everything.

Podcast 14: Jerry at BBFC HQ

For a long time, I’ve predicted that the “porn panic” was leading to mass website blocking. Recently, this very measure was introduced to the draft Digital Economy Bill. Britain is set to be the world’s first democracy with a powerful Internet censor. So I went to BBFC HQ in Soho Square to rant about it. This is the audio version – the video is on our YouTube channel.

Buy Some Free Speech This Xmas

The UK state will begin censoring the web in 2017 – and almost nobody has noticed. Online free speech as we’ve known it for over 25 years is about to come under fundamental assault. The Digital Economy Bill, currently going through Parliament, will become law in 2017. It contains a little section about “protecting children from pornography”. And who could disagree with that? But this isn’t about porn, or child protection: it’s a power grab by the state, which wants to control the Internet as it does TV and video.

From next year, a state-approved private company (the BBFC), funded with £millions of taxpayers money, will have the power to block websites that it considers pose a “threat to children”. Initially, this related to sites containing sexual or erotic images, video or even audio. But we know it won’t stop there. Porn is the testing ground for one of the greatest attacks on free speech in British history. This campaign has worked for three years to inform the press and public about a disguised threat to Internet freedom.

It is vital that we continue to educate journalists, politicians and the public on what this law is actually about: censorship. I can’t continue this work without your help. Please donate to support Sex & Censorship – donations above £20 will receive a signed copy of my book Porn Panic!, which documents how the “porn threat” is used as an excuse to attack sexual freedom and free speech in the UK.

Jeremy Hunt’s Curious Sexting Ban

(This article first appeared in the i newspaper under the title “A proposed ban on teen sexting is just another excuse to spy on our phones”)

Taken in isolation, Jeremy Hunt’s suggestion that teenage “sexting” should be banned might seem like one of those quaintly out-of-touch things that fuddy-duddy Tory ministers tend to say. After all, a generation of teens have had access to camera phones and smartphones, and have (unsurprisingly) used them to share photos and videos of their naughty bits. And teens were the first adopters of SMS 20 years ago, and (also unsurprisingly) used the technology to send each other dirty messages. Hunt’s target group, everybody under 18, is an odd suggestion, given the age of consent is 16.

And then, when you take a moment to consider how such a ban could be implemented, you realise just how ludicrous the suggestion is. Does Hunt seriously think that mobile phone networks, WhatsApp, Apple, Facebook, Gmail and a plethora of other platforms should all install technology to ensure that under-18s don’t send each other sexual content? And if they do, then what happens when they catch a repeat offender? Do the morality police arrest them, and perhaps take them away for a programme of modesty and decency training?

But although the temptation is to gently mock politicians who say such silly things, such outbursts should be taken seriously, especially in the current authoritarian climate. As I outline in my book Porn Panic!, sex is regularly used as an excuse to justify attacks on both privacy and free speech (terrorism being another favoured excuse). The Snoopers’ Charter represents the greatest attack on online privacy in any democratic country, ever. And the recent announcement that porn sites are to be blocked is also unprecedented in a “free” country. Britain is trying its best to become China.

If you’ve been paying attention for the past few years, you’ll have seen multiple government attempts to spy on, or block, Internet communications, using a variety of excuses. Perhaps the first example came during the 2011 riots, when the government and police blamed services like Blackberry Messenger and Facebook. Then in early 2015, in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris, David Cameron threatened to block encrypted services like WhatsApp and iMessage. Twitter, a popular platform for free speech, regularly comes under attack by assorted moralists and control-freaks for not censoring its users enough. So far, these companies have – to their credit – largely resisted UK government attempts at intrusion, and even strengthened their encryption. They are mostly US-based, and protected by the US Constitution. This infuriates the UK authorities.

To implement Jeremy Hunt’s apparently simple anti-sexting proposal would require wide-scale automated spying using intelligent text-recognition and image-recognition technology. Such technology would, of course, be able to spot a far broader range of thoughtcrime than sexting. And once in place, of course mission creep would set in. Why not use it to identify drug users, tax evaders, or racists?

Some would argue that this is desirable: after all, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide, right? But if we are to introduce automated policing of speech and behaviour, and erode our right to privacy on this scale, we need a serious discussion in Parliament and beyond. Instead, our rights to privacy and free speech are being eroded step-by-step, in a series of small, quiet nudges.

In The Press

It’s been a busy week for me, following the (totally unsurprising) announcement that the BBFC will be getting the power to block websites that breach its own rules. Or to put it another way, a private organisation is going to be writing its own law and applying its own punishments without oversight from Parliament or the courts.

Below are some press links from the Guardian, Huffington Post and the Independent. These are article I’ve written or in which I’ve been quoted. I’ve also been on the radio, and have made a video on this subject.

 

Jerry Barnett on the Radio

The government announced last week that the BBFC is to be given powers to block websites. Regular readers of this blog (or of my book Porn Panic!) won’t find this announcement surprising.

This will create unprecedented powers for an internet censor in a democratic country; I’ve been discussing this on the radio – you can hear me at:

  • Today Programme debate vs Claire Perry MP, BBC Radio 4 (starts at minute 50)
  • Interview with Julia Hartley-Brewer for talkRADIO

To support my campaign work, buy Porn Panic! or donate to the campaign,

Donald Trump, the Identity Candidate

Watching the past four years unfold in western politics has been like watching a train wreck in ultra-slow motion. It’s been painfully obvious where all this is leading, and equally painful that the people who created the wreck were – and still are – utterly oblivious to what they were doing. President Donald Trump (and Brexit, come to that) could have been avoided, in theory.

I fully woke up to the sickness on the political left in 2012. My awakening had been coming for many years – I can look all the way back to the 1980s, and see the sickness there – the signs were there for all to see; but as the working class gradually abandoned the left, so the left gradually abandoned the working class. As progressive class politics died, regressive identity politics filled the void.

I’ve witnessed so many signs of this growing problem. I vividly remember one moment: a huge anti-Apartheid march and rally in Hyde Park, circa 1989. This was a moment in British history when, for the first time, gay men could openly hold hands and kiss in public. It was a warm summer day; I was sitting on the grass with my young son. And nearby, a gay man was viciously assaulted by a young black man for daring to kiss his partner in public. Marchers were confused; surely blacks and gays are both oppressed groups? Why would they turn against each other, at an anti-Apartheid rally of all places? Perhaps the black man had been programmed by the white supremacist state to hate other minorities? Here was the white, middle-class identity-obsessed left in action, unable to see the simple truth: a bigot (colour irrelevant) had assaulted a man for being gay. They couldn’t see the black man as aggressor, because they could only understand black people in one role: victim. They couldn’t see that a black bigot is every bit as responsible for his actions as a white bigot. They couldn’t deal with the bigot, because he was black. They couldn’t see beyond skin colour. Here was an early sign of something that is today rampant: left-wing racism.

But 2012 seems to be a particular turning point. At that moment, it became generally acceptable – for the first time in generations – to openly express bigotry. New, racist ideas suddenly became fashionable: among the most dangerous was that black people were incapable of being racist: only whites were afforded this right. Although I’d been involved in the anti-racism movement since 1979, I had never before heard such a divisive idea. Racial bigotry had never been tolerated on the left, by anyone, or towards anyone. And yet now, for the first time, the left was creating a racial hierarchy, and assigning different rules of behaviour to different people based on nothing more than their skin colour. The most fundamental value of the civil rights era, racial equality, was under sustained assault by white, middle-class people masquerading as liberals.

Although this superficially looked like an attack on white people, it wasn’t. It was an assault on that most hated of all groups: the working class. The mostly white, middle-class new left – which had long ago been rooted in the industrial labour movement – had declared class war. Even the anti-racism movement joined the fight against the working class. I had been heavily involved in countering the anti-Islamic propaganda of the English Defence League, but I became uneasy with the people who I thought were on my side. As I recount in my book, Porn Panic!

[Many] EDL supporters apparently joined simply for a social life. Coaches were chartered from working-class towns and estates to take supporters to each protest. Thanks to the wonder of Twitter, one could see them on their way to demonstrations, boasting about how many cans of beer they were bringing, how many lines of mephedrone or cocaine they had consumed on the way. Here were young, white, working-class people finding a rare opportunity to assemble and feel pride in their own beleaguered identities: hatred of the white working-class is, after all, the last acceptable prejudice. And online, I began to feel uneasy about my own Twitter followers. I saw middle-class student leftists mocking working-class people for their poor spelling rather than their racist views, telling them they were scum; those EDL supporters who tried to explain why they were uneasy about immigration were told they were racists, and blocked. Many of those I spoke to were clearly not racists, though they had absorbed lies about Muslims that needed to be countered. How were we to defuse the EDL if we refused to speak to them?

Twin narratives – feminism and black nationalism – declared identity war, and the left became apologists for an outpouring of bigotry from these two groups. For feminists, “patriarchy” (i.e. men) was to blame for everything. For black nationalists, “white supremacy” (i.e. white people) was the cause of all evil. In practise, the two narratives borrowed heavily from each other. Feminists would silence men by accusing them of “mansplaining”; and then black racists would attack people for “whitesplaining”. Ultimately, the identity fascists united around a belief that white men were the greatest evil in the universe – and their class bigotry was hidden beneath this veil.

The left became obsessed with the idea that sexism and racism were everywhere, based on the flimsiest of evidence. Racism was found where none existed: Twitter storms raged over imaginary problems, such as the alleged under-representation of black people in the 2016 Oscars (actually, it turned out that black people were slightly over-represented, but screaming had taken over from fact).

A growing, once united movement against police brutality was suddenly hijacked by identity fascists, and became Black Lives Matter; and yet, 76% of police shooting victims were not black. Police brutality affected poor white men as well as poor blacks, but an opportunity to create common cause was lost. In this Kafkaesque nightmare, to suggest that All Lives might Matter became “racist”. And so the anti-racists had become the racists.

Many liberal black commentators tried to speak out against the rising black racism, but were screamed down. Racist language was deployed against black people who refused to accept their victimhood. They were told they were not “pro-black”, or that they were “self-hating”, or (in the UK) they were labelled “coconuts” (an old term of black-on-black abuse, suggesting they are white people in black skin). Morgan Freeman suggested that the way to end racism was to stop talking about it, upsetting those who were revelling in their self-declared oppression. Whoopi Goldberg mocked the “cultural appropriation” idea, again to derision from black people who were using the idea to attack white people for their musical or clothing tastes. And when the actress Raven Symoné decided she no longer wanted to be labelled as African American, she was again attacked by bullies who refused her right to self-determination. Black self-pity was increasingly mocked by black people (such as in this amusing video by the rapper Doc Brown); but identity fascists missed all this, because it didn’t match their deep belief that people are mostly defined by their race or gender. Like all authoritarian movements in history, they rejected individuality for group identity.

And meanwhile, rage grew among some of America’s poorest people, who (in the new left narrative) were dismissed as privileged and entitled, on account of being white. There can be few sights more vile than a wealthy person attacking a poor person for their “privilege”, but this was now becoming normal.

And nobody understood all this better than Donald Trump. His racist and sexist remarks were designed to mock an identity narrative that was (for good reason) becoming widely hated beyond the liberal echo chamber. His “pussy grab” comment was ugly and childish, but the hysterical response to it was laughable, and only bolstered his position. Liberals assumed that no woman would vote for someone who talked in this way, which only underscored how completely out of touch liberals had become. Many women did vote for him, because women didn’t see themselves as the downtrodden victims of patriarchy that feminists had declared them to be. Many Hispanics voted for him, because (to the surprise of identity fascists) people are defined by more than their race and colour. Even a good number of black people voted for him, perhaps sick of being told how black people should behave. And many working class white Democrats who once voted for Barack Obama now voted for Trump. Predictably, liberals are accusing these people of racism or sexism, only underscoring how out of touch they are with reality, and helping to demonstrate why Donald Trump won.

Rather than sit back and wonder why voters didn’t behave as they were told, identity zealots have doubled down, deciding that the Trump victory proves that everybody is sexist and racist. A particularly silly post in (supposedly liberal) Slate attacks white women for betraying “the sisterhood”; demonstration, if any, of the left’s loss of class consciousness.

Trump is a deeply dangerous man, and not because he’s racist or sexist. He is dangerous because he intends to attack free trade and disrupt the world order. He is dangerous because he denies climate change, because he will empower dictators in Russia, China, and other countries. He is dangerous because he will undermine the global shift towards democracy and international law. His election unleashes a new era of nationalism that ends the globalist era of the past four decades.

I warned in a post in June that identity politics was fuelling fascism. We learned the truth of that with Trump’s election, and will continue to learn it as fascists triumph in Europe in the coming years. This will continue until the left rids itself of identity politics and nationalism, and once again learns the lesson of the liberal movements of the 1960s: to treat people as equals, irrespective of race, colour, gender or sexuality.

My book Porn Panic! is available from Amazon and all good bookshops

(Image By Transition 2017)

First they came for the pornography…

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