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Extreme Porn

It will from the 1st of January 2009 be an offence to own within England and Wales “extreme pornographic images“. Please read the whole thing. This is an unbelievably weird and draconian law. Essentially it is claimed it is needed to outlaw certain violent pornographic sub-genres. I assume that means that for example rape scenes intended to be “pornographic” are to be made illegal. To call that a can of worms is an understatement. If there is one thing the internet has taught us it is that there is always someone who will get off on something, no matter how weird and no matter how, perhaps, seemingly non-sexual.

America’s favourite blue-haired house-wife, Marge Simpson has a weakness for having her elbow nibbled. Now that’s sort of odd but I’ll bet you dollars to Homer’s donuts that there are folks out their whose deepest fantasy is to do the nibbling. Now, call me conservative but nibbling the elbow of cartoon characters doesn’t fry my onions. Except, obviously, there is no harm in such weirdness. Perhaps there is harm in fetishizing sexual violence and such pornography (or art, or erotica, or filth or whatever you want to call it) is potentially problematic but the way this law is phrased means ‘Staged material would be caught if it “conveys a realistic impression of fear, violence and harm”‘. Now that’s almost vague enough to be meaningless. That could mean almost anything. It potentially criminalizes S&M stuff done by consenting adults. BDSM is a huge porn sub-genre and is probably a more popular (and vastly more fun) participation sport than golf. Of course what exactly is BDSM? Is a film of gentle spanking OK? Are schlocky ’80s horror movies OK (which definitely involve fear, violence and harm and frequently sex – hell we all know the captain of the football team and the cheerleader making-out in the back of his Dad’s Chevy are the first to get slashed)? Is having a sado-masochistic Nazi role-play session with a collection of prostitutes in a basement dungeon in Chelsea OK? And what exactly is harm? Would that include certain body piercings? Or anything that left any other kind of permanent mark or scar? Hell smoking is harmful. Is the possession of risque shots of old stars of the silver screen with cigarette-holders going to land you in the clink and on the bloody sex-offenders register with all the nonces and kiddie-fiddlers and serial-rapists and assorted genuinely dangerous preverts into all manner of nasty, non-consensual preversions?

Everything I know about the BDSM community is that rule one is trust. It is entirely about trust between consenting adults. That is the sine qua non. Of course NeuArbeit doesn’t trust us to trust each other. I of course don’t trust them back.

Bear in mind here that the consensual nature of the activity depicted for real or fake (yes, even CGI) is no defence.

And also bear in mind that this is about the imagery. They are not criminalizing the activity (though certain things already are), merely the images that might be created of it. And this is possession, not distribution even. It might be the video of that session with the missus in your private torture chamber that you made for purely personal, er… use. This is absurd, and this is my most profound objection. How the hell can something be legal to do but not to have images of? How does that make any bloody sense?

This new law merely makes worse one of the rampantly bizarre hypocrises of law in this country. Our age of consent is 16 but any movie depicting sex or porn-mag is barred for under 18s. You can touch but you can’t look. It’s mad. Imagine if you were allowed to get a driving license two years before you were allowed to watch Jeremy and the lads on Top Gear! It’s that raving.

But that isn’t all that really gets me. What really gets me is that wording, “conveys a realistic impression of fear, violence and harm”. The precedent that gets close to setting for making illegal anything which anyone finds offensive is really scary.


  1. CountingCats says:

    Well, that does it for horror movies with sexual overtones. Where does it put the shower scent in Psycho?

    Where does that place NeuArbeit? Given that any image of any member of the government, past or present, certainly “conveys a realistic impression of fear, violence and harm”.

  2. NickM says:

    Ed Balls keeps me awake at night.

    Actually the ban is on “fear, violence and harm” + “pornogrpahy”. Seeing as the first three are, let’s face it pretty subjective and the latter one is notoriously difficult to define.

    The shower scene in Psycho is an interesting case. It shows a lot less than you think it does. So, on something like the Hayes Code or Britain’s infamous Mull of Kintyre rule, it scrapes through. But… This new law is about a “realistic impression” and the scope for interpretation there is phenomenal. It could quite literally land people in clink for things they didn’t show.

  3. CountingCats says:

    Absolutely, the shower scene shows nothing, it is all implication. That is what makes it so charged.

  4. RAB says:

    I Clerked the Court in a porn trial back in the late seventies.

    Some poor spiv of a supplier and Private, um, adult bookshops were joint defendants as I recall.

    Well the goods were so pathetic
    that we should have been doing them under the trades Descriptions Act
    rather than the Porn Laws!

    But much learned verbal wrangling was to be had as to what was, and was not, pornographic.
    Does it have artistic merit yada yada yada…
    It was a titter fest for all of us involved, from start to finish.

    They ended up being aquitted, after the Jury had seen the goods.
    And we asked the police to please stop wasteing our precious Court time!

    Now we have this vagueness and open to any interpretation

    fear, violence and harm”

    Laws, back when I was taught it, were supposed to be tight little instruments, that were passed for the protection of the People,
    Not to beat them over the head with whenever you felt like it,
    or they were not agreeing with your PC view on life.

    Well nothing much will come of it will it?
    Look at the rest of Labours record over the past 11 years!
    Knee jerk reaction to just one Court case,
    if I remember rightly.

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