Tag Archives: porn panic

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?

Support Sex & Censorship:
Buy Porn Panic! - The Book

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.

Donate by Paypal, card or Bitcoin
sexandcensorship.org/donate/

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.

Support Sex & Censorship:
Buy Porn Panic! - The Book

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.

 

Podcast 13: Interview About Porn, Identity Politics and Fascism with C-Realm Radio

This podcast contains an interview of Jerry Barnett of the Sex & Censorship campaign, by KMO of C-Realm radio in Vermont. The discussion looks at the history of porn, anti-sex feminism, illiberal liberals, “cultural appropriation”, censorship and the new fascism. It was conducted two days before the US presidential election.

Porn Panic! Reviewed at Spiked Online and Elsewhere

Porn Panic! – my book on sex, censorship and fascism – has been on sale for two months, and is receiving strong reviews. You can support my campaign against censorship by buying a copy, and spreading the word to your social networks. In fact, since Christmas is almost upon us, why not buy copies for your politically-minded friends and family?

Below are three recent reviews of the book.

1. Spiked Online

The latest review was written by Helene Guldberg for Spiked Online:

Barnett recognises that to defend free speech we need to wholeheartedly defend the right of those with whom we disagree to say and think whatever they want. We have the right and capacity to challenge or ignore them, as we see fit. ‘Only a true elitist could try to dictate which ideas other people have access to, rather than join the debate and win by force of reason’, he writes. The most shocking aspect of the new forms of censorship for Barnett was the near silence on this issue from so-called liberals. ‘I found many apparently liberal people were only opposed to censorship of things they enjoyed, but would not extend that principle to things they disapproved of.’

Support Sex & Censorship:
Buy Porn Panic! - The Book

You can read her full review at Spiked

2. Emmeline Peaches

Porn Panic! was also recently reviewed by Emmeline Peaches, a sex blogger, feminist, and social and cultural historian. While she finds areas of disagreement, she concludes:

Porn Panic! is an indisputably addictive read and I loved every minute of it. Porn Panic!isn’t just a book—it’s a call to arms (or activism) for anyone who is truly passionate about the adult industry or our freedom as a nation.

As soon as I was done reading Porn Panic! I couldn’t help but recommend it to others, I want everyone I know to read this book and I want to discuss it with them and hear their own thoughts and opinions. For a book that rails against our culture’s current attempts to keep sex and pornography hush-hush I cannot think of more appropriate nor higher praise than that.

Read her review in full at Emmeline’s site

3. Jay Blevins of Awen Therapy

Jay Blevins is a sex-positive therapist who deals with a wide range of issues including: depression, anxiety, marital and relationship issues, personality disorders, low self esteem, stage of life issues, compulsive behaviors, divorce, parenting and co-parenting issues, physical and sexual abuse, trauma and with  alternative lifestyle clients and issues including transitioning transexuals, coming out, polyamory, fetishes, kink and bdsm.

I’m grateful that he took time out to read and review Porn Panic! He writes:

Barnett’s book is in some ways a brutal, but thought-provoking, read. While much of the focus of the book is on efforts to censor porn, the best part of the book is how Barnett looks at the historical perspectives on porn while it deftly intertwines critical analysis of those perspectives. And when I say brutal, I mean Barnett pulls no punches. He clearly shows how the ongoing battle against porn is fueled by emotion, moral judgment, and religion as opposed to research, evidence and logical, rational thought…

I doubt this book will do much to change the hearts and minds of the most strident anti-porn crusaders. However, for anyone open to critically thinking about the issue, this book is fantastic. It is thorough, thoughtful, and easy to read. Both porn and censorship are important topics of great relevance. I encourage everyone to read this book!

Read the full review at Jay’s website

Britain’s First Official Internet Censor Is… The BBFC

Today’s news, that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will become an official Internet censor, is not so surprising, if you’ve followed the long saga of British state attempts to censor the mass media. The story is long and convoluted, begins in the 1970s, and is summarised in part in my book Porn Panic!

The creation of the new censorship function is part of the “anti-porn” measures in the Digital Economy Bill, which is currently in Parliament. So here’s the first weird thing – the action of appointing the BBFC has taken place before the law is passed. Cart-before-horse, much? But this abuse of process is minor, compared to what has come before. The bill will, no doubt, be passed with little scrutiny, because the UK’s first great step into Internet censorship has been sold under the banner (as I’ve long predicted) of “protecting children from pornography”.

Let’s remind ourselves that, in regulator-speak, “pornography” means “anything we want to censor”. Remember David Cameron’s optional “porn filters” which block 19% of the Internet, for example? In the current draft of the Bill, the definition of porn has been hugely extended from hardcore material to any sexual/nude/erotic material. The old regulations have been extended from covering just video to including still imagery and even audio. Audio porn? you ask… what’s that? Well, exactly. This bill will begin broad and get broader.

As I’ve repeatedly pointed out in the three years since I started this blog and campaign, this isn’t about BDSM, or kink, or porn, or even sex. It’s about everything.

The BBFC was an film industry body until (suitably) 1984, when it was given government-approved powers to censor (as well as classify) video. Ironically, just as it was given this draconian censorship power, it changed the C in its name from Censorship to Classification. George Orwell would be proud. One of the results of the 1984 change in law was an immediate ban by the BBFC (a private organisation) on hardcore pornography, without a debate or discussion in Parliament. Our censorship laws are written by unelected officials with minimal accountability to our elected government. This should deeply worry anybody who cares about democracy.

In 2007, I went to meet a certain Pete Johnson, the BBFC’s Head of Online, who was attempting to set up a programme for regulating online video. Johnson’s scheme failed to get approval, but he was instead appointed head of ATVOD, the video-on-demand regulator, reporting to Ofcom, which (heavily) censors TV and radio. I campaigned against ATVOD’s bullying and arbitrary behaviour for some years.

A year ago, it was announced that ATVOD would be dissolved, and powers returned to Ofcom. This was greeted with applause by campaigners, but as I pointed out at the time – this was a case of jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Now, the new law will give the new regulator (which, we now know, is the BBFC) far stronger powers than ATVOD had. The scope of the regulator (as mentioned above) will be far broader than ATVOD’s “TV-like content”. Any commercial site carrying “porn” (i.e. nude video/imagery/audio…) and not properly verifying the age of its visitors will face sanctions from the BBFC. Furthermore, unlike ATVOD, the BBFC will have powers to sanction overseas providers. (Note – the age verification requirement is onerous, and has been banned by the US Supreme Court as censorship. I previously explained this issue in a post).

For what it’s worth, here’s a little guess: could Pete Johnson, a well known anti-porn activist regulator when he ran ATVOD, be about to make a triumphal return to the BBFC?

Until now, those backing this law have insisted that the sanctions will relate to withholding payment services, and similar. But in Parliament yesterday, the (presumably jubilant) BBFC director David Austin said that “sanctioned sites could find web properties blocked by IP address and de-indexed from search engines”.

I’ve been following the porn panic for almost ten years. For almost that long, it has been crystal-clear where all this is leading, though it has moved like treacle. Cleverly, the introduction of Britain’s first Internet censor has been justified, from start to end, by pornography.

Our cause isn’t helped by sexual freedom campaigners who still think this is about “kinkphobia” or “sexist porn censorship”. It really isn’t, it’s about our most fundamental rights of free expression. We’re witnessing the greatest attack on free speech in generations, and our press and politicians are still asleep on the job. Please help me wake them up.

Please buy my book or make a donation to this campaign. Every little helps. Thank you.

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).

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

Interview with Polyamory.org.uk

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

“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

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.