The U.K. has effectively banned female orgasms in online porn

The Internet has made it ridiculously easy to find any fetish porn your heart desires, from clown sex to face-sitting to rosebudding. But in the U.K., that’s no longer the case, thanks to new rules regulating online porn. 

According to the 2014 Audiovisual Media Services Regulations, online porn producers must adhere to the same restrictions that govern DVD porn distributors, meaning they’re no longer allowed to show BDSM, fisting, facesitting, or “squirting,” among other acts. In other words, if you want to find a video of a female orgasm in the United Kingdom, as of today you’re out of luck.

While this might sound a bit confusing, in essence, the guidelines require that online porn producers must adhere to the regulations of R18 certification (essentially the U.K. version of an X-rating), as determined by a British film censorship board. R18 guidelines prohibit, among other things, the depiction of non-consensual acts (whether real or staged), the use of bondage, and “penetration by any object likely to cause physical harm.” The guidelines also prohibit “water sports,” or urolagnia, including female ejaculation.

Previously, R-18 guidelines only applied to content that was distributed on DVDs in brick-and-mortar sex-toy stores, but now, the guidelines also apply to video-on-demand (VOD) online porn. If you want to pay for, say, a custom clip of your favorite femdom cam girl, you can no longer legally do so.

Putting aside the question of whether anyone in the U.K.—or in the world, for that matter—actually pays for porn anymore, the new regulations are troubling, in part because the guidelines ban sex acts that are predominantly safe and consensual. While one could conceivably argue that some of the acts on the list, such as “extreme” rape porn, encourage violent sexual fantasies and behavior, these acts remain simulated, and not everyone thinks government should determine what consenting adults should and shouldn’t fantasize about.

There’s also the fact that the guidelines determining whether a sex act is “obscene” seem completely arbitrary. For instance, fisting and female ejaculation are illegal, but depictions of blow jobs are not. Consequently, acts that show men receiving sexual pleasure are legal, while acts like fisting and female ejaculation, which depict women receiving sexual pleasure, are forbidden. The reasoning is unclear, but either way, the language determining which sex acts are and aren’t permissible strikes many observers as absurd. (Fisting, for instance, is only considered illegal if “all knuckles are inserted.”)

“There appear to be no rational explanations for most of the R18 rules,” Jerry Barnett of the anti-censorship group Sex and Censorship recently told Vice UK. “They’re simply a set of moral judgements designed by people who have struggled endlessly to stop the British people from watching pornography.”

In truth, the rules governing VOD porn in the U.K. are no different than the rules governing DVD porn in the United States. As we reported earlier this year, certain sex acts, such as fisting and water sports, are technically illegal under U.S. obscenity law, as outlined by the Cambria List, an informal compilation of sex acts that are considered prosecutable. While many of the acts on the Cambria List are outdated, and obscenity laws are rarely enforced, DVD distributors still typically shy away from such content, afraid of being held criminally liable.

While “obscene” sex acts in porn are technically illegal on DVDs in the U.S., there is no such prohibition on Internet porn. 

Who will be hurt by the new British regulations prohibiting “obscene” porn? Primarily kinksters, producers of fetish content, and other people with non-normative desires, as dominatrix Ms. Tytiana told Vice UK. “While mainstream porn will be peddled without fear by the large studios—often owned by the same media moguls who denounce the ‘sexualisation’ of our culture—more niche, less clichéd sexual interests will disappear,” she said.

Even British people whose sexual proclivities are more vanilla than those of Ms. Tytania’s fans should be worried about the new porn regulations, particularly in light of the British government’s ongoing war on online pornography. In the past few years, the U.K. has adopted sweeping legislation to combat “extreme” pornography’s supposedly dangerous effects on British youth, from a mandatory but ineffective age-verification system to the widespread adoption of U.K. porn filters, which automatically blocked porn unless subscribers chose to “opt out” (which they overwhelmingly did).

Barnett sees the new regulations as a clear harbinger of increasingly restrictive anti-porn legislation, telling Vice that he’s “worried this will help build the case in the future for wide-scale blocking of ‘illegal’ sites.” Despite the growing movement calling for an update to archaic obscenity laws—such as the restrictions on BDSM porn—the nationwide campaign to criminalize safe sex acts between two consenting adults seems to be prevailing.

H/T Vice UK | Photo by Franco Giminez/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

EJ Dickson

EJ Dickson

EJ Dickson is a writer and editor who primarily covers sex, dating, and relationships, with a special focus on the intersection of intimacy and technology. She served as the Daily Dot’s IRL editor from January 2014 to July 2015. Her work has since appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Mic, Bustle, Romper, and Men’s Health.