Video: Book Launch at Waterstones, Greenwich

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

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

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

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Interview with Polyamory.org.uk

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at polyamory.org.uk

The Battle of Cable Street Matters

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

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

From the opening of my book Porn Panic! –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I wrote Porn Panic! – a Book About Porn and Fascism

My book Porn Panic!, which was published in August by Zero Books, is an unusual book, and has had strong reviews – from those on both sides of the porn debate. The book charts attacks on pornography – in part from a personal perspective – and then takes a big step back to take a broad look at the state of our society today; and concludes that we’re not in a good place, nor moving in a good direction. This is more than a book about pornography: it’s a book about fascism.

It’s no secret that authoritarians will always target sexual libertines, nor that authoritarian states consistently attempt to suppress the sexual urge. This is a lesson that has been learned repeatedly through history; every spike in sexual freedom has eventually been met with a conservative backlash. The pattern is so marked, and so consistent, that it almost seems burned into our DNA. And of course, it is: sex is such a fundamental part of the human psyche that it plays a hidden role in most of our behaviours. Sex is about far more than either reproduction or pleasure. It forms a vital role in our economic and social life; it is probably the most valuable commodity we as humans trade, and it was certainly the first. Sexual freedom offends, because it threatens so many vested interests.

So when, as a tech entrepreneur in the mid-90s, I built some of the earliest Internet porn sites, I was uniquely positioned to watch the backlash unfold. Indeed, I fully expected the backlash, and watched with interest. After all, I live in the UK, a country that has gone through more contortions than almost any other to stop its citizens watching smut. Would our prudish authorities simply roll over as the digital network swept away their carefully assembled powers of censorship? Not a chance.

And similarly, the grassroots backlash was to be expected. What took me by surprise was the nature of the backlash. In a country where religion has withered to a point of virtual irrelevance, a Christian campaign for decency would be simply laughed off. Instead, the anti-sex fury came from my tribe, the political left. A conservative strand of feminism, born in the USA in the 1980s, was at the core of the anti-sex reaction. Its first victims were strippers in east London, who fought back as feminists and trade unionists attempted to put them out of well-paid work and kill a niche culture. One of the strippers, who features in Porn Panic!, referred to herself as the “canary in the coalmine”. She understood like few others that a tsunami was building.

From strip clubs, the movement surged forward, attacking sexual expression in all forms, and then expanding to attack free speech in general. It was a movement of the left that embodied all the worst attributes of the old conservative right: it began to attack concepts of racial and sexual equality that had been the outcome of the liberal revolutions of the 1960s. It was inherently anti-science, preferring to create new facts that suited its ideology. This was a new fascism, and its ideas were entering the mainstream.

Porn Panic!, by Jerry Barnett, is published by Zero Book, and available through all good book outlets.

Podcast 11: Porn Debate at Birmingham Salon

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

When Feminism and Science Collide

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free Tickets to Mary Millington Film Screening

Porn Panic - The Book
Porn Panic – The Book

On 27th September, the Naked Truth Film club is screening Simon Sheridan’s acclaimed documentary Respectable: The Mary Millington Story. The screening will take place at 6pm at the Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square.

Naked Truth are offering a pair of free tickets to anyone who buys (or has bought) my book Porn Panic!

I will be taking part in the panel discussion following the screening. Also on the panel are the film’s director Simon Sheridan, activist pornographer Pandora Blake, and model, pornstar and Page 3 girl Linsey Dawn McKenzie.

How to Get Your Free Tickets

If you’ve already bought Porn Panic!, take a selfie with the book or mail me a proof of purchase. Extra kudos for tweeting a selfie and tagging @PornPanic. If you haven’t yet bought the book, you can get a copy direct from this campaign for a £20 donation; or you can buy at all good book shops. I’ll be signing copies of the book at the screening.

More About the Film

In the 1970s there was a pretty English girl-next-door who personified ‘glamour’. Her rise to the top was meteoric, controversial and scandalous. Mary Millington’s fame brought her a lavish lifestyle and an affair with the Prime Minister Harold Wilson . Her success had its pitfalls. Persecuted by the authorities, police corruption and tortured by self-doubt, she died at the height of her fame in August 1979 at just 33. Mary’s life unfolds as a capricious tale of Seventies’ Britain, documenting a young woman’s courage and determination as a trail-blazing sexual liberator, but thwarted by a society morally conflicted to accept her.

The Naked Truth Film Club is proud to bring you an exclusive screening of the documentary movie Respectable- The Mary Millington Story and a Q&A with Simon Sheridan, the film’s director, and guests to draw parallels with the 70s and discuss where we are 35 years later with the rise of the internet, porn stars and webcam girls.

Keith Vaz, Brothel Clampdowns and Dark Clouds

When, a few weeks ago, a parliamentary committee – chaired by Keith Vaz MP – declared its support, in an interim report, for decriminalising sex workers, I was sceptical. My scepticism was based, not on inside knowledge of the committee, but on two main things:

  1. The declared purpose of the inquiry was to determine whether clients should be criminalised for paying for sex. But this point was ignored in the interim report. So why was an interim report issued before even considering the most important issue? This remains unclear.
  2. Over recent years, I’ve documented a rising ultra-conservatism which is permeating society, and is prevalent across the entire political spectrum (see my book Porn Panic! for details). Could it be, just as the pendulum is so clearly swinging away from liberal values, that we are about to see sex work fully decriminalised? Much as I’d like to believe that, it seems unlikely.

In the mean time, a couple of things have happened. The sudden downfall of Keith Vaz, following a tabloid sting, has led to him stepping down from the committee. The sting (which involved recording his alleged encounter with two young Romanian men), exposes him as a potential hypocrite (MP IN HYPOCRITE SHOCKER!) and has led to him stepping down from the committee. This was immediately seized upon by abolitionists, who called for the entire review to be scrapped.

Whether it is, in fact, hypocritical to pay sex workers while chairing a committee on sex work, will be left for another discussion. Can one imagine “Hypocrite MP who chaired football enquiry discovered to be Arsenal fan!”? Me neither.

Even more creepy than the carefully planned sting on Vaz was yesterday’s call from the “anti-slavery commissioner” (ugh) for Londoners to shop suspected brothels to the Metropolitan Police. The “sex trafficking” narrative has been escalated to a “sex slavery” one. The new campaign has been accompanied by hysterical language: “…sex workers in the capital were being beaten, raped and sometimes starved by the men controlling them in a form of human slavery that was blighting the capital”.

The coverage neglected to mention the almost total failure of the police to find “sex slaves”. In fact, raids on brothels have been used to arrest and humiliate sex workers, bust them for drug possession, and identify (and then deport) illegal immigrants. In short, the sex slavery hysteria is yet another new cover for the recently merged anti-prostitution and anti-immigration movements. “Rescuing” has become code for “harassing, criminalising and deporting”.

This new, Stasi-type attempt at citizen spying also ignores the fact that Vaz’s parliamentary committee has recommended the decriminalisation of brothel keeping. The police are ramping up anti-brothel raids under a law that is now widely seen – including by parliamentarians – as outdated and redundant.

Not only have illegal immigrants been targeted in this way, but even legal migrants have been targeted for deportation. In May it was reported that Romanian sex workers – EU citizens – are facing deportation on the basis that they are criminals. And their crime? This is unclear, as prostitution is legal in the UK.

So while we appear to be looking at isolated incidents, these events take place in an atmosphere of rising authoritarianism, anti-sex prudery and xenophobia. While Keith Vaz is in no way a libertine, one can predict with confidence that he will be replaced (on the Home Affairs committee) by somebody more socially conservative.

As I document the rising fascism in British society, I frequently check myself: am I cherry-picking to fit my narrative? Have I been swayed by conspiracy theorists? I’d like to discover that my pessimism about the state of society is misplaced. But sadly, I don’t think it is (feel free to reassure me in the comments section below).

First they came for the pornography…

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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