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2014 VICE News Awards: Least Sexy Legislation — The UK's New Porn Laws

Britain's Parliamentarians banned fisting and urination in UK-produced internet porn. But the public did not take it lying down.
December 25, 2014, 8:05pm
Katie Engelhart

Perhaps the sexiest protest in the world this year came in the aftermath of the least sexy legislation. It was advertised as a mass "face-sitting" — in which women would simulate the sexual act, which is now restricted in British porn, before the United Kingdom's members of parliament. And indeed, around noon on December 12, a few pairs of erratically dressed men and women gathered outside Westminster to lie on the grass and sit on each other's faces.

"They don't ban blow jobs," shouted one young woman, who did not give her name, but later stripped down to a black bra and panties. "Lots of women choke on dicks. They're taking the fun out of it!"

The new regulations came into effect on December 1— and essentially, by government order, subject the country's video-on-demand internet porn to the same restrictions that are already imposed on the country's porn DVDs sold in traditional sex shops. The new Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 ban depictions of sexual acts that are "in breach of criminal law," even if those acts are scripted and performed with consent. For instance, it is prohibited to simulate rape or to show "adults role-playing as non-adults."

But the very un-sexy regulations also ban "material judged to be obscene" under the Obscene Publications Act. Britain's obscenity laws were first drafted in 1857 — and have not been amended in half a century. Peter Johnson, CEO of ATVOD, the body that regulates VoD programming, told VICE News that he must now prohibit material "likely to deprave and corrupt."

UK porn producers are now banned from showing:

"The infliction of pain or acts which may cause lasting or physical harm."

"Penetration by any objects associated with violence."

"Strong physical or verbal abuse."

"Portrayals of sexual violence which makes this violence look appealing."

"Bondage."

"Activities involving perversion or degradation (such as drinking urine, urination or vomiting on the body, or excretion or use of excreta.)"

"Fisting."

Photos by Katie Engelhart

Myles Jackman, a lawyer who purports to specialize in "obscenity and extreme pornography" warned that the restrictions were a harbinger of further state-led censorship.

"Pornography is the canary in the coal mine of free speech: it is the first freedom to die," he said. "If this assault on liberty is allowed to go unchallenged, other freedoms will fall as a consequence."

But ATVOD's Johnson insisted that there "is no blanket ban on face-sitting and there is no ban on female ejaculation."

With respect to female ejaculation, Johnson told VICE News that the act itself is not proscribed. But he argued that liquid appearing to be female ejaculate in porn is often urine — which _is _banned under the new measures. Johnson said that ATVOD would evaluate porn films on a case-by-case basis, to judge whether they show "natural female ejaculation" or, simply, pee.

On December 11, Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament Julian Harper called for the new laws to be debated in parliament. Evidently, the British public will not take these regulations lying down.

_Follow Katie Engelhart on Twitter: _@katieengelhart