Don’t look at me like that, the government started it. Besides, it’s in all the papers. The Telegraph has a complete list and analysis, so I’m definitely allowed. Needless to say, this post is going to contain a number of unsavoury topics, so read on at your leisure.
The UK government announced this week that UK produced porn was not allowed to portray certain sexual acts and practices. While the official line is that they are promoting safer sex, there is a depressingly familiar theme running through a lot of the new rules.
Female ejaculation is banned. Male ejaculation, and its consumption is not.
Facesitting is banned, on the grounds that it might obstruct airways. Deepthroating, and gagging, is not.
The idea that women experiencing sexual pleasure is somehow extreme or radical, or even dangerous, is so old hat that it’s actually just boring. Besides, these guys need to be careful, the first time society attempted to clamp down on us crazy women and our crazy impulses, they accidentally invented the vibrator. So beware.
And it’s not just women who are getting a hard time. Spanking, full body bondage and verbal or physical abuse (whether consensual or not) are also banned. Mainstream porn already consistently shows one type of sex over and over and over. So obviously, what we really needed from the porn industry was for it to become even more heteronormative, male centric and vanilla than it already was. It plays into the idea that some types of sex are wrong, or weird, or disgusting. And you know what? Some people might think that they are. But the amazing thing about sex between two consenting adults is that it is nobody else’s goddamn business what you get up to within the confines of your own bedroom. Restricting porn like this is going to encourage people to be ashamed of their kinks and desires, and god knows, we really don’t need any more of that in Britain. From fairly softcore things like female pleasure, to more out there things like consensual abuse, this is sending the message loud and clear that some acts are simply not the done thing, darling. This conversation has become about what is and is not acceptable to do in the sack, what is and isn’t “normal” according to the Grand High Council of Sexual Normalcy (bet they’re all straight guys), when in fact it should be about consent, communication and talking to your damn partner to find out what they do and do not like in bed. I know, talking is gross. Better just ban everything instead.
I could write massive essays on why shaming people for being sexual is a rubbish idea, as well as hugely conflicting posts on my opinions of the porn industry in general, but that actually isn’t even what I wanted to talk about.
What most annoyed me about the announcement is that it was accompanied by the bog standard “BUT THINK OF THE CHILDREN” justification. We can’t risk teenagers seeing these acts portrayed in porn, going home, giving it a go and hurting themselves. Guys, I want you to listen to me very carefully, because this is important. Are you listening? Okay. Porn should not be the primary point of sex education for teenagers.
We need to stop pretending that you can just throw abstinence at teenagers, tell them not to Google naughty words and hope for the best. Time for a horrible truth: kids are going to have sex. They are. One of my high school friends lost her virginity when she was 13 years old. Whether they do it because it’s expected of them, because it’s not expected of them, because they’re madly in love or because they’re just curious, they are going to do it. And even if they’re not having sex, they’ll be doing even worse…thinking about it.
When you’re a teenager – or if you’re a girl, from when you’re about 9 – your body starts to do some pretty crazy things. What would be really super awesome is if we stopped telling adolescents that their bodies and feelings are icky and dirty, and if we started telling them that their bodies are amazing and normal and loads of fun. We need people teaching sex education who aren’t embarrassed to say the word clitoris to a group of sniggering 13 year olds. We need someone to teach girls that they’re allowed to take pleasure from sexual activity, rather than splitting the boys off to talk about masturbation and the girls to talk about periods. This is an actual thing that happened in my school. I didn’t hear a woman talk about masturbating until I stumbled on Vagenda magazine aged 18. 18! I had to ask my mum what orgasm was, after seeing it written on a billboard for Lipton’s Iced Tea, years after getting sex ed in school.
THIS IS ALSO A TRUE ACTUAL THING THAT HAPPENED.
We basically need Laci Green to go around every school in the world and tell teenagers how to have great, consensual sex, when they feel like they’re ready for it. Teenagers are sexual, because people are sexual, and that means that some of them are going to be into some pretty kinky stuff. What would be great is if instead of telling them not to do those things because they’re wrong and weird, we taught them how to do them safely and respectfully. A lot of hardcore BDSM relationships are actually the most respectful, because safety and consent are emphasised all the time, and are never, ever assumed. If you’re afraid a teenager is going to watch porn and then go home and hurt their girlfriend by trying to fit their entire hand inside her, put it in the curriculum. I’m not even kidding. If you’re worried about it, talk about it. It probably doesn’t even need that level of detail if you’re feeling squeamish (and let’s be honest, wouldn’t we all). Just a simple “Hey, if you’re having crazy sex, be sure to check in with your partner that they’re enjoying it as much as you are”.
Oh, and just to set a pernicious little myth to rest. It’s not the nineties anymore. The internet has evolved. If your kid has “stumbled upon” porn, it’s because they were looking for it.
Kids don’t need to be protected from sex, they need to be educated about it. And if we are leaving it to porn to educate them, we are doing a damn shoddy job.