Thursday, 6 August 2015

If We Can Do It, Let Us View It

We’re living in scary times.  As many of you will know, UK law changed in December 2014, making it illegal to show a number of (perfectly legal) acts on video if you’re a producer in the UK.  For the record, I disagree with every single one of the bans, but the ones that affect Hywel and me most directly are the banning of showing models who are bound and gagged, and the banning of hard spanking.  Many people more articulate and informed than I have blogged about this; a good place to read more is on Myles Jackman’s excellent blog.  It occurs to me that if we don’t fight back now, there’s every chance that additional laws will soon make it entirely impossible to live in the UK while producing fetish videos.

So, feeling scared and unhappy, Hywel and I started wondering what we could do to help.  It seemed to us that getting a documentary maker involved might help to raise awareness (and hopeful public sympathy) and consequently get changes made to the way in which fetish videos here are censored.

I contacted the splendid Chris Atkins, the BAFTA nominated documentary maker who’s work includes Taking Liberties and Star Suckers, two documentaries Hywel and I had previously been very impressed by.  His kind and lengthy response included a suggestion that we make a short viral video of our own, to hopefully explain the situation we’re in.  We followed his advice.

So I’ve made a little video, with Hywel’s always-tremendous help, and with the support of many friends who made suggestions, watched rough cuts, and helped give the movie as much clarity as possible.  Particularly helpful were Fantasy Dabblers, John and Jill Tisbury, John Forest, Fetisheyes, Cobie, Mistress Zoe, and Michael Stamp. Thanks everyone.

I’d like to show this project to people who previously had no idea the law has changed.  I want to show how crazy it is that people shooting ‘sex works’ like us are held to standards and rules that mainstream movies aren’t remotely affected by, and that this is unfair. For example, using bondage with gags is no problem if you’re making a gangster thriller, but a gentle consensual bondage scene on a fetish website is now illegal.  Showing a bloody execution in a war film is totally ok, but showing a hard spanking in a romantic CP movie like one of Pandora Blake’s is not legal any more.

I began searching for violent scenes from mainstream movies on YouTube, to contrast our work with for this project.  My research was short lived - I’d not actually seen any ‘torture porn’ before, so having watched one compilation of ’10 worst torture scenes’ my eyes were opened, and not in a particularly good way.  I felt quite sickened that the things you can see for regular entertainment (and which you can obviously masturbate to if you feel so inclined) are sometimes so utterly grotesque.  And in contrast, if you as a producer are honest about your intentions to produce something designed to be sexy, you can no longer be trusted to even gag your tied up model and make sure she doesn’t, umm, die, while you’re shooting the scene.  The unfairness of this is staggering to me.

I guess we all know about torture porn - what was perhaps more interesting to me was that it was so incredibly easy to find stuff from 12 Rated, PG Rated, and even U Rated movies that feature bondage with gags.   And once you’ve seen a clip from Disney’s Pocahontas, featuring both rope and a big cloth gag, it feels especially distasteful that such stringent anti-gag laws now apply to even the most gentle of bondage work. 

You can also rest assured that the scenes of mainstream violence I’ve used in this movie are by no means the worst that I found - they were merely the ones I could bear to watch multiple times as I edited.  And it’s worth pointing out that I found all of this easily on YouTube - a site with no age barrier whatsoever to entry.  And I’m not saying that there should be.  But in contrast, now you can’t watch our movies (legally), even if you pass our age verification, pay us, receive a password and enjoy our work in privacy.

So here it is, my tiny little attempt to help the cause of sexual freedom in the UK.  Hope you enjoy it; and if you’re not into BDSM, I hope it maybe gives you something to think about.  I’m worried that by banning certain sorts of pornography and erotica, the message that’s sent out by the ban tells us that our desires to watch it (or to participate in the acts involved) are wrong too.  Which means that our government is basically telling us that being into BDSM is wrong.  And this just isn’t acceptable; once we were told that we shouldn’t be gay, and people bravely fought back - today, you can marry your gay partner here in the UK.   I don’t want to see people with other alternative sexualities marginalised like this.  So please, if you can, do something to help; share my video, donate to Backlash, write to your MP, or just keep supporting your favourite fetish producers as they fight the good fight to stay afloat.  Thank you!


Anonymous said...

Ooooh, I don't want this to be the first comment; I'm not even sure it should be public. So, Ariel, when you moderate this, maybe read it and then don't post it?

First, obviously, I entirely agree with your position on this issue. Censorship is stupid and wrong. The counter-examples you selected for the video make the point perfectly that, in this case, it's also arbitrary AND prejudiced against the "little guys" who have the least money to contribute to political campaigns or spend on production budgets. (How much do we figure Game of Thrones spends in Northern Ireland? Is anyone picking on THEM for sex and violence?)

As a believer in liberty, I believe the government should restrict our freedom only when necessary to protect someone. Who do the politicians think they are protecting? The producers of this content -- protecting them from themselves, from their own bad life choices? Forget that stuff. Go protect someone who wants it. Certainly they are not protecting the audience -- you demonstrated that quite effectively by showing what's still allowed.

I believe, with Jefferson, that we should swear "eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind" of humanity. And this is a good example.

So I hope this video is very effective, and with your target audience it may be -- that being the British, the people who have an MP to whom they can write.

But I'm sorry, I couldn't make out half of what the bears were saying, and with squeaky-voiced Lady Bear, it was more like ten percent. The combination of a cartoon voice and a British accent defeated me almost entirely. I felt like I was watching "Sweet Sixteen" (the only movie I know of that is in English with English subtitles, because the accents are so thick), but without the subtitles.

On the other hand, I didn't understand half the dialog in "Billy Elliot," and for that matter a good deal of what Ron said in the Harry Potter movies only became clear to me when they were on home TV and I could turn on the closed captions. So I may be uniquely lousy at understanding accented speech.

So, assuming your target audience can understand what's being said, I think you did a splendid job, and I hope it has the desired effect. The people of the UK should not take this interference with their liberties lying down.

Your friend,

Michael (from Texas)

Alan said...

Good stuff! Note to Michael: the target audience is, I think, British, since we are the people affected by this nonsense. Hence, British English is easier for us to follow. (For what it's worth, it took me about thirty tears to work out why American comics of my youth sometimes spelled "figure" phonetically as "figger" in speech bubbles. We ALWAYS pronounce it as "figger".)

This comes just as we receive the devastating news that the toxic shower of jobsworths at ATVOD have closed down Pandora Blake's "Dreams of Spanking" site.

Anonymous said...

Thought provoking and intelligent, I hope this has some effect.

Sabrina said...

Wow. I did not realize that the UK had passed such a stupid law. Can I ask who made this a law or how this became law? Was there a vote? If so, the ones voting for it are most likely horrible hypocrites that go home to watch their private stash of DVD's.

Horrible! I wish you the best in getting this changed. In the meantime (and of course I mean this jokingly), we would love to have you here in sunny Florida. Not joking that we would love to have you here - but people should not have to change countries to continue their business.

Take care and keep up the good fight! Dallas says hi!


Anonymous said...

Sabrina, I'm the wrong person to answer your question; I live in the US, so all I know about UK politics is what I have been told or can find online. However, I don't want your question to go unanswered, so I'll give it a try. I hope if any better-informed person reads my post and sees something wrong, that person will post a correction.

To avoid repetition, I'm not going to keep saying "As far as I can tell" or "It seems that" or "It looks like." Assume that everything in the next paragraph is preceded by a phrase similar to those.

The European Union (EU) (of which the United Kingdom [UK] is a part, except when they're not; for example they don't participate in the Euro currency) issued a directive in 2003 about regulating television-on-demand. That regulation wasn't voted on because the EU consists of a bunch of bureaucrats; it's not a true democracy. The UK later passed a law to issue such regulations; it WAS voted on. What happened recently -- what all the shouting is about -- is that the quasi-governmental agency responsible for making those rules decided to extend them to video-on-demand. The rest of the EU doesn't interpret the regulations that way; they only apply them to streaming TV shows. But in the UK, they took the regulations that already applied to DVDs and applied them to streaming websites. Those regulations are heavily biased; they claim to be based on safety but actually have nothing to do with it. For instance, face-sitting is banned on the premise it can cause suffocation, but deep-throat fellatio is not. Female ejaculation is banned but male ejaculation is not (is it even possible to have a porn industry without cum shots?). In the US we have a saying that obscenity is whatever gives the judge an erection. In the UK, banned erotica is whatever squicks the bureaucrats. It's that simple; they ban whatever kinks they don't personally enjoy. And no FURTHER law was required. As in the US, the legislature handed over the power to make regulations to the bureaucracy; there IS a law that authorizes regulations, but the content of those regulations is up to faceless clerks. The Parliament can refuse to allow regulations to go into force after they've been proposed, but they have to take affirmative action to STOP them; if they do nothing (as legislatures tend to do), the regulations become law, which happened here.

I said it at the beginning and I'll say it at the end; that entire paragraph is educated guesswork. If someone knows better, PLEASE say so. But for now, at least Sabrina's question as been answered. With a guess.

Michael (from Texas)

PallidBust said...

There is only one minority: the individual.

Sabrina said...

Thank you Michael. I appreciate the info. Such a sad state and hopefully something that can be reversed.