Michelle Knight is a bondage fan and activist against porn censorship. Despite not being a fan of corporal punishment, she volunteered to take fifty hard cane strokes in protest against ATVOD. Why? Well, as Michelle explains:
“I'm doing this not for my own pleasure, but to help raise the money to take them to court.”
Bravely, Michelle bends over the sofa and calmly takes every single stroke – her first caning on camera. Her reasons for doing so are more complicated than you might think, and her pre-shoot interview gives some fascinating background on the history of UK porn censorship, as well as her personal reasons for taking on this challenge.
Reason 1: Show the truth, not the fiction
“There's a lot of fiction out there,” explains Michelle. She's spent the last twenty years educating people on issues to do with sexuality – running bondage website RealBondage.co.uk and writing books, as well as taking part in support groups for trans people. “There's a lot of fiction out there, and people are making decisions based on that.”
Her website and books are aimed telling the truth about bondage for people who are curious. Michelle explains that, when not given the right information, people are reliant on a fiction about BDSM and sexuality that encourages them to 'panic, panic, panic!'
What better way to challenge that fiction than by showing a real-life caning scene, complete with discussion, negotiation, and occasional breaks for tea and banana cake?
Reason 2: It's not the first time
Protesting the UK porn laws is not new to Michelle, who confesses that “ever since 2008 I've been a thorn in the side of the CPS, Home Office, Lords, my MP – oh boy!”
The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act in 2008 (often referred to as the 'Extreme Porn Law') sought to ban 'extreme' porn, and as you might have guessed, the word 'extreme' includes plenty of bondage, spanking, other forms of BDSM – things which kinksters engage in safely and consensually all the time.
The latest furore, with ATVOD, could see sites like Dreams of Spanking under the jurisdiction of a censor which hates any but the most gentle form of spanking. But it's certainly not the first - just the latest in a long line of attacks on kinky porn.
Reason 3: They haven't done the proper research
That 'Extreme Porn Law' – in 2008 – was subject to a rapid impact assessment before being passed. The key word here is 'rapid' - as Michelle explains, the organisation responsible for reviewing it mentioned that it did not have enough time to do a proper job.
This is a criticism that comes up frequently when looking at how the government makes changes which impact pornography and sexuality – lack of consultation with people whose lives will be affected by changes means that those making decisions rarely – if ever - get the full picture.
Reason 4: It's undemocratic
These are not policies which have been put forward in manifestos, or offered publicly for debate. In the case of the 'Extreme Porn Law', it was buried in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, which tackled a whole range of other topics completely unrelated to porn.
The recent changes are no different – they are primarily being made by ATVOD and the BBFC: statutory bodies which hold no direct democratic accountability.
Michelle explains: “They are operating as a law unto themselves – they are not fit as a body. They're making it up as they go along.” She adds that, from the government's point of view, this is almost certainly not an accident: “They don't want discussion on this. They want to oppress us. That's one of the major things I'm against.”
Reason 5: This is the only way to do this
There are lots of ways you can protest against democratic changes – you can stand in the street with a placard, or write to your MP. And while these things may help raise awareness of the changes, ultimately Michelle believes that the solution is more drastic:
“It looks like the only way we're going to be able to do this is to drag them through the courts.”