Woman with handcuffs

Photo via artfotoss / GettyImages (Licensed)

Apparently, 'non-conventional' includes spanking and female ejaculation.

The U.K.’s new digital economy bill has raised concerns about privacy and surveillance, but it could also mean drastic changes to anyone who enjoys going online to look at porn. According to the Guardian, the bill would force internet service providers to censor sites hosting content that doesn’t meet the standards of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). Which includes quite a lot of content.

The BBFC classifies R18 films as “to be shown only in specially licensed cinemas, or supplied only in licensed sex shops, and to adults only,” but includes much that is not allowed even at the highest restrictions. The BBFC bans “the portrayal of sexual activity which involves real or apparent lack of consent,” “the infliction of pain or acts which may cause lasting physical harm,” and “sexual threats, humiliation or abuse which do not form part of a clearly consenting role-playing game.”

It also bans “material judged to be obscene under the current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act 1959,” which defines “obscene” as any content that would “tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see, or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.”

So, how does this apply to internet porn? There is no list of prohibited acts thus far, but the bill would put a pan on “non-conventional” porn, which includes a lot of pretty conventional things. According to the Guardian, consensual spanking, whipping or other BDSM activities would be censored, as would fisting and “sex acts involving urination, female ejaculation or menstruation.” Ejaculation through a penis is, presumably, still acceptable.

The bill could also have ramifications for sites that occasionally host porn, like Twitter, Tumblr, and Reddit. It would also require an 18-plus age verification on any site that hosts porn, and for those sites to censor any of that “non-conventional” material, even if they’re not based in the U.K. The bill also opens up the possibility of, with age verification, compiling a database of citizens who want to view porn.

Last year, the EU was drafting rules to block then-PM David Cameron’s proposal to block internet porn, and so far the bill is only in the report stage in the House of Commons. At a recent hearing, David Austin, the chief executive of the BBFC, said, “I would argue that Twitter is an ancillary service provider, as are search engines and ISPs. One of the things that we plan to do in the next weeks and months would be to engage with everyone that we think is an ancillary service provider, and see what we can achieve together, to try and achieve the maximum protection we can through the notification regime that we are taking on as part 3 of the bill.”

A ban on any site that hosts porn seems nearly impossible to enforce effectively, so there may be nothing to worry about just yet. However, a spokeswoman for MindGeek told the Guardian that “many of the sexual activities prohibited from R18 are normalised and accepted aspects of healthy sexuality, and are proudly celebrated by the feminist, queer, and ethical porn movements internationally.” Those sites could be the most at risk. 

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