Tag Archives: sephy hallow

Can Sex-Positive Feminism Exist?

When I tell people I am a feminist, I get a wrinkle of the nose. Their face screws up, like they have smelled something bad; it is the expression I pull when the milk has soured.

“But you’re so sensible,” they protest. As though feminism requires the loss of brain cells for participation.

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

For a while, I even shunned the term myself. “It’s too gendered,” I’d say, feeling that my views were about gender equality, and therefore should not be posed as something one-sided. I’d phrase my views awkwardly – I’d call myself a “gender egalitarian”, for instance. I justified that it didn’t have the same ring to it, the same catchy title, but at least it was more precise in representing my views. Then, when I graduated, I sat through an eye-opening speech by feminist writer and critic Linda Grant. Grant had written books on politics and sex, and novels to boot. She was the woman I always wanted to be. And she was a feminist.

“I tried to get a store card in 1984,” she told the audience. “I was declined, because I didn’t have my father or husband present to sign off on the transaction. That’s when I became interested in feminism,” she said. Sitting there, in my mortar board and robes, I felt suddenly far too naïve to be in the ceremony.

I was born only 4 years after Grant’s anecdote took place. I had always considered feminism to be an archaic thing, a movement that brought us the vote and then went off the deep end with fits of misandry, censorship and sex-hating, and that wasn’t me. When I thought of feminism, I thought of Andrea Dworkin. I didn’t think of Linda Grant. I had simplified a complex political movement into a handful of successes and a whole heap of crazy. I had resisted identifying with anything feminist, because I was sex-positive, anti-censorship, totally behind the idea of sex as a fun recreation, someone who enjoyed pornography and vocally supported sex workers. I was someone who saw society’s next goal involving better protection for sex work of all varieties, who wanted consent to be respected by law regardless of whether money or cameras were involved. All this time, I thought that meant I wasn’t a feminist. And all this time, I realised in that audience, I was wrong.

Feminism is a complicated set of ideas, with an equally complicated set of people behind it. Like any complicated ideology, feminism is riddled with nuance and debate, and it isn’t stagnant: there are revelations and evolutions in ideas all the time. I don’t agree with all feminists; I want gender equality, both between the binary sexes and for those who don’t identify in those terms, but I don’t always agree on what that means. For some, it means that removing the idea that women are sex objects means removing women from sex, especially in public expression, and on that note I heartily disagree. For me, and – I assure you, readers who are still scowling, still wondering how such a nice girl ended up here, many people just like me – feminism is about claiming our right to consent. For me, feminism protects my ability to have sex, to enjoy it, and not be shamed; but equally, it protects me from being forced to explain my lack of consent in other situations. Feminism is about my right to say yes or no without being threatened, either by the society that would deem me a slut, or the rejected party who is angered by my audacity to decline.

I am a sex-positive feminist, and I can tell you, we are not on the verge of non-existence – we are not lost dinosaurs, wandering around in a wasteland, looking for creatures of our kind. We are real women, trying to express our views without being shouted down for being “feminist.” If you really want to help gender equality and the progression of society’s view on sex, judge feminists on the quality of their individual content, not the merit of the banner of feminism. Maybe then we can start to get somewhere.

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

Ready, Normal People?

The legendary Avenue Q song asks all the “normal people” to join in for the final chorus of the hilarious song, The Internet is For Porn, and it’s never disappointed: thousands of audience members have, over the years, rejoiced in singing along about their masturbatory habits, relieved that, at least in some small way, they can publicly acknowledge their consumption of one of the world’s most popular entertainment formats – porn.

Surprise, then, when the music fades and an actual debate about internet censorship and sexuality arises, and the general public suddenly falls silent on this very serious issue. It’s like someone cut the music halfway through, and they’re caught warbling along – embarrassed to be singled out, they suddenly shut up and pretend the issue has nothing to do with them. But if we’re honest, most of us are consumers of pornography – and yeah, ladies, I’m including us too. Because I have a confession to make to the world:

Hello, Internet. My name is Sephy Hallow, and I like porn*.

What’s more: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admitting it. Whilst on one hand, I’m not going to openly discuss my particular kinks, that doesn’t mean we can’t have an open, honest discussion about pornography consumption, access to explicit materials, and the importance of a free internet. Because if we don’t, our embarrassment about our sexual preferences is going to have real-world consequences on access to information, sexual health advice and much, much more – plenty of which is entirely non-sexual, safe-for-work, important information, which has been blocked in an attempt to sanitize the web – all in the name of saving the children.

Grown Ups: Grow Up

The internet should absolutely be a space where our children can feel safe to access information and connect socially, amongst other things. However, having default blocks is not the way to go.

Here’s why.

Firstly: it’s not really necessary. The internet has come on a long way since the 90s. If you’re still getting pop-ups advertising horny Russian teens or online Viagra, you need an ad block, not a filter from your ISP. Porn isn’t something you can just innocently stumble onto these days (unless you count Miley Cyrus videos), and it’s even harder to make a fatal Google error with a little parental guidance. Internet filtering is designed to protect children from unwanted exposure to explicit content, and of course we should protect that right – I’m just saying we don’t need to block access to do so.

The internet is a new facet to our sexuality, so it’s up to us as grown ups to provide information, guidance and advice to children and young people about what they can expect to find online. The best way to prevent exposure is to educate your children, so they can avoid such material themselves.

Secondly, we need to open up the debate, and be honest with ourselves. When I say it’s up to the grown ups to offer guidance to young people about sex and the web, I don’t just mean parents and teachers: I mean it’s up to all of us to shape the debate, decide how best we can balance the need to protect children and deny censorship, and provide that safe platform for children without limiting regular access to content for adult consumers. After all, if we can’t talk to other adults in an honest manner about our sexuality and its online expression, what chance have we got in educating young people about sex and the internet?

Allowing widespread internet filtering might seem like the easy option, but if it comes with a caveat of sacrificing our freedom to information – an important civil liberty – how are we making the world better for these children?

Finally, and maybe most importantly, since it encompasses people on all sides of the debate: it simply doesn’t work. Not only does it not work, but it actually fails in two ways: one, that filtering can easily be circumvented; and two, that it blocks other content, much of which is not sexually explicit, and some of which is even political in nature, adding a much more serious problem of censorship to the issue.

Case in point: The Court of The Hague just announced that Dutch ISPs will no longer be mandated to block access to torrent website The Pirate Bay, because the blocks are “disproportionate and ineffective.” If blocks don’t work to curb illegal behaviour, you can bet it won’t stop people accessing something as legal and popular as porn.

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

Ready normal people? Sing it with me:

The internet is for porn … the internet is for porn …

*Please, please don’t send me dick pics. Much though I love a nice bit of wang – or pussy, for that matter, as an openly bisexual woman – I’m quite happy to source my pleasure media in my own time, thanks.