UK porn legislation: What is now banned under new government laws

BDSM, spanking and other sex acts are now subject to tight restrictions

On Tuesday 1 December, the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 introduced a series of restrictions on the pornography produced and sold in the UK. This means some sex acts have been banned from content produced and sold in Britain. Here is a quick guide to what actually happened today and how it affects what porn people can consume.

What actually happened today?

Pornography produced in the UK was effectively censored on Tuesday after an amendment was made to the 2003 Communications Act. It banned a list of sex acts by demanding paid-for video-on-demand (VoD) online porn is regulated by the same guidelines set out by the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) that DVD pornography (R18 films) must adhere to.

Three banned acts were deemed life threatening: strangulation, facesitting and fisting.

Other acts banned included spanking beyond a gentle level, full bondage and restraint (in conjunction with a gag and all four limbs restrained) and - bizarrely -  female ejaculation.

Abusive language during sex is now also banned, alongside depictions of non-consensual sex. 

You can read more about the acts banned today here.

Myles Jackman, a UK-based obscenity lawyer, said urinating (known as watersports) will only be acceptable if not performed onto another person or consumed.

You can read more about the new rules surrounding what is now deemed acceptable on his blog.

Who does this affect?

Those hit the hardest by the changes will be independent UK porn producers, particularly those producing BDSM, LBGT and female-dominatrix focused pornography. For example, ‘trampling’ and pain play are now subject to restrictions.

Female-centred pornography seems to have been hit particularly hard, with female ejaculation completely banned, but male ejaculation remaining unrestricted.

Erika Lust, an erotic film maker, said she was "saddened" by the way the restrictions will affect film makers. In a piece for The Independent, she said: “As an erotic film maker, I'm saddened by what I hear, not only because my fellow producers will suffer as businesses, but because what is most apparent is the enforced restriction on what appears to be acts from which women derive pleasure.”

How does this affect me?

Fans of British porn will be the most affected by the change. However, anyone wishing to access online videos featuring the sex acts banned today is still free to watch porn films from abroad featuring them. This legislation only affects UK paid-for VoD films.

 

What consequences does this have?

Mr Jackman said the bans will impose an unnecessary trade barrier for independent UK pornography producers, many of whom have already been forced to shut down.

He said the ban will also result in a loss of revenue for the Treasury, with porn producers likely to either stop production or relocate to other countries where similar restrictions are not enforced.

For Mr Jackman, the most concerning aspects of the new restrictions are the potential implications it could have on internet freedom, such as any moves towards blocking access to some foreign websites. 

He said: “Of particular concern in terms of loss of freedom is the underlying intent to allow undesirable foreign websites to be blocked under UK ISP’s filtering systems. This has immeasurable implications on freedom of information and net neutrality.

“Pornography is the canary in the coalmine of free speech: it is the first freedom to die. If this assault on liberty is allowed to go unchallenged, other freedoms will fall as a consequence.”

What would happen if I did watch porn with these acts in?

Nothing, according to Mr Jackman. These restrictions specifically target the UK producers of adult films.

Why have the restrictions been introduced?

Regulators say the legislation has been introduced as a method of safeguarding children and to bring in line VoD content with the R18 sex shop sales.

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