What do female ejaculation, full bondage with gags, face-sitting and spanking that leaves marks all have in common? They're all now banned in UK porn according to new laws that went into effect last week, the Audiovisial Media Services Regulations 2014.
These regulations apply the existing BBFC guidelines (controlling what can and can't be sold on DVD) to the world of online porn. In other words, an out-of-date set of restrictions to a medium few porn customers bother with anymore are, rather than being brought up to date, now being applied to the internet - the last bastion of freedom of expression for British porn.
The guidelines disproportionately affect acts of female dominance and female sexual pleasure, as well as banning all spanking and BDSM content that produces marks beyond those deemed "transient and trifling". This will affect every spanking site in the UK, and countless more British fetish and feminist porn sites besides.
Dreams of Spanking performer and independent Australian feminist porn director Zahra Stardust is writing her PhD on the legal regulation of pornography. She says, “Those of us who are making queer, feminist, and kinky porn are doing so as an act of civil disobedience, because we know from lived experience that the cost of censorship in our communities is too high. These laws actively produce a heterosexist, misogynist sexuality as ‘normal’, whilst pathologising and closeting practices that are actually life-affirming, consensual and meaningful."
These laws apply to publication, not possession. UK consumers can still legally still access porn produced and published overseas - for now (although expert obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman thinks this is the beginning of a sinister attempt to block foreign sites as well). Meanwhile hundreds of independent British porn producers are being criminalised, including every UK spanking site you can name. We, and many of our fellow fetish porn producers, stand to be closed down if we let this go unchallenged.
You can read more about exactly what's banned and how this will affect UK porn in my post Online porn: the canary in the coalmine, and I've also posted link round-ups tracking the international outcry against these new restrictions.
How does this affect us?
If Dreams of Spanking were to comply with these new regulations, we would have to take over half our scenes offline. Our future production would be heavily censored: we would never be able to film any spanking, caning, birching, belting or tawsing again - anything that resulted in welts or bruises. We would not be able to show any bondage with all four limbs bound as well as a gag. We would not be able to use any outdoor locations which someone might possibly have overlooked. Age play and school uniforms are problematic if there is any suggestion that the actor is playing a character under eighteen. Wrestling is problematic. And on and on.
Here are a select handful of scenes that we would have to delete if we chose to comply:
Drunk and Disorderly - Vincent's cane marks definitely go beyond "transient and trifling" in this judicial police caning scene.
Pandora's Belt Whipping Fantasy also fall foul of the new restrictions - never mind that the film explicitly shows my enthusiastic consent.
Our comic "hammer horror" parody Doctor of Pain features four-limb bondage with a gag - which according to the AVMS means that I, the director, was unable to signal my consent, despite the fact that a) I had written the scene, b) I could still waggle my fingers and bang my hands and feet, and c) I could in fact have spit the gag out and wriggled out of the rope if I'd wanted to - but I didn't.
The whipping Nimue orders her manservant to give her in My Lady's Pleasure is definitely banned - even though she is in control of the scene the whole time and telling him to go harder.
If these regulations are enforced, the only spanking scenes any UK producer will be able to make will be light hand spanking leading to a mild pinkness. No caning, no implements, no bruises, no welts.
Hywel Phillips, who runs UK glamour bondage site Restrained Elegance with his wife Ariel Anderssen (known to spanking fans as Amelia Jane Rutherford) thinks this sort of paternalistic censorship dismisses and denies the consent of porn performers. "The idea that the people who do this for pleasure, or for a living, cannot possibly know better than the father figure censor what is acceptable, what is safe practice, what they want to do and what they want to have done to them. This is called denying their agency- telling them that they cannot possibly know their own mind or make their own minds up."
Another potential casualty of these new regulations is free preview content. The censors want all adult content to be behind a paywall, so that children can't accidentally click through to it. If they start to take a close look at spanking sites, they will demand that we take down all our free video trailers and preview pictures that show spanking or nudity.
So what are we going to do?
First of all, we refuse to censor ourselves. Dreams of Spanking will continue doing business for as long as possible. We won't take half our archive offline pre-emptively, and we won't stop shooting the hot spanking scenes we want to - welts and all. If we are contacted by the censors with a demand to comply with the new regulations, we intend to challenge it.
We have always prioritised performer consent in our films, and you only have to take one look at our blog, performer interviews or behind the scenes videos to see that our films are made with love. All our cast members are genuine spanking enthusiasts, and our top priority on set is that everyone should be well looked after and have fun. We think it is ludicrous to ban depictions of consensual adult spanking, and we don't intend to go down without a fight.
However, we have taken legal advice and we're up for trying one or two things which might help our case. For instance, we've been advised that it might be a good idea to include performer consent in the spanking film itself, as well as in the surrounding contextual materials. So from now on, as well as publishing full-length out-take videos and performer interviews alongside each spanking film, we'll cut some edited highlights from the out-takes and interviews into the scene itself, so you'll get to see an introduction to our lovely performers before and after the in-character scene. Our latest two films, Provocative Housework and Curious Pleasures, are both examples of this new format.
This idea fits in to our existing ethos of being transparent and honest about where fantasy ends and reality begins, so we're happy to make this change if it will help viewers understand without a doubt that all our performers are consenting, kinky adults.
In refusing to self-censor, we aren't standing alone. A number of the Dreams of Spanking cast and crew have joined the outcry against these ridiculous new laws:
Is that it?
Far from it. This is only the beginning. These regulations are a worrying step on the path to total state censorship of the internet in the UK, and we need to work together to get them repealed - and prevent this harmful, worrying censorship of free expression from going any further.
Julian Huppert MP has tabled an early day motion requesting a debate on this issue - only two other MPs have signed it so far. The more MPs sign, the more likely this will be debated in the Commons. We think that if this issue is debated then we are likely to see change. The AVMS regulations were decided undemocratically by an unelected quango, and all the UK media coverage so far has been highly critical of the new law. We need to lobby our MPs to add their names to the motion in order to have a hope of getting this overturned.
So what can you do? Well, if you're resident in the UK, you can:
And if you aren't in the UK? Well, this will still affect you, as if British fetish porn producers are forced to comply with these regulations, you won't be able to watch our films any more.
You don't have to be in the UK to submit a complaint to ATVOD using their own complaints form. This form is intended to be used to complain about "inappropriate" TV content, which just makes re-appropriating it funnier. Let's spam them with complaints about their own regulations.
We at Dreams of Spanking believe that it is perfectly possible for adults to give informed consent to hard BDSM and spanking play, and to ethically create films depicting it. Our films are ethical, consensual, and an authentic expression of adult consensual kink. We refuse to be complicit in the state censorship of the porn we love, and we won't take anything down before we absolutely have to.
The only way we can keep on making the films you want to see is if we get these regulations overturned before we attract the notice of the censors. And we can't do it alone. Whether you are a Dreams of Spanking member or not, we need your help.
If you love kinky porn please share this blogpost, sign the petition, turn up to the protest, complain to ATVOD, write letters, talk to the press, and kick up as much of a fuss about this as possible. And please keep supporting your favourite porn sites by buying a membership - while you still can.
If you’ve read Pandora’s updates from the Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto, you’ll already know a bit about Zahra Stardust. Sexual activist, champion pole dancer, and scorchingly hot porn star, Zahra’s been making waves all across the world. This year, she won ‘Heart Throb of the Year’ at the Feminist Porn Awards (very shortly after this shooting this scene, in fact!) and it’s clearly well deserved, because having been introduced to her through this orgasmic spanking film I have a massive crush on her myself.
Zahra Stardust is utterly gorgeous, with beautiful piercings, tattoos, hot pink hair and a delightfully filthy grin - dressed in sheer knickers and a pink latex microskirt, I can see why Pandora was so excited to take her over the knee.
She's not just a pretty face, but an exceptional activist too - she’s run for parliament three times in her home country of Australia, and is currently doing a PhD on pornography.
Zahra's mission is to change the world, one orgasm at a time. Through artistic porn depicting authentic queer sexuality and female pleasure, her work celebrates consent, bruises and bodily fluids, and self-deterministic representation. And in this spanking video, with a firm helping hand from Pandora, some slow and hard strokes with the strap, and her Hitachi Magic Wand, she does just that.
I think one of the things I love most about Zahra is that when you watch her you get these amazing hot kicks of lust at each moment when she expresses pleasure. She’s never stoic or silent: she gasps and sighs with arousal, gripping the pillows tightly as the strap bites into her flesh, with blissful smiles and happy moans when she’s being pleasured in just the right way.
This scene isn’t just a spanking (although of course there are plenty of opportunities to admire Zahra’s gorgeous bum as she gets spanked through sheer knickers and in just a tantalising pearl thong), it’s the build-up to an explicit and delicious orgasm. We get to watch Pandora squeeze and touch Zahra all over, see what she loves and how she reacts to the spanking sensations she was so curious about. And for those who - like me - enjoy a bit of consensual choking and breath play, the climax to Spanking Zahra Stardust is off the end of the hotness scale.
So far this has been a good year for Dreams of Spanking in the media. We've had a few mentions - even if the promised Guardian article which we spent ages chatting to Zoe Williams for never actually made it to press.
First there was this mention in the Sun newspaper:
I can't link to the full article as it's pay-walled, but interviewee and journalist Nichi Hodgson has reposted the full text here.
Pandora Blake has a brilliant spanking website which shows you how to do it. Women like these more educational porn sites, so they can put it into practice in real life and let fantasy bleed into reality. Men tend to use porn in isolation, women want the porn experience to enrich sex with their partners.
I do have some issues with the gendered generalisations in that paragraph, which I explain in more detail here. But it was good to see a positive take on ethical porn for women, even in a conservative right-wing paper. And I'm glad our instructional videos are getting attention! We have two so far, both with Molly Malone - one on how to use the cane, and the other on effective communication and negotiation in spanking scenes. Let us know if you have any requests for future demos!
The second press mention was even more exciting - in a piece for BBC News Magazine on the Feminist Porn Awards this year, by Daniel Nasaw. It's a very positive article about the awards and the feminist porn movement, which mentions Dreams of Spanking performers Zahra Stardust and James Darling as well as the submissive solo shoot with Ms Naughty which Daniel sat in on.
"The internet has democratised porn in a big way,” says Blake, who that morning shot a solo spanking scene with Ms Naughty, the Australian founder of BrightDesire.com. “It’s empowered a lot of performers to produce their own content – it’s empowering performers, which means its empowering women."
Finally, Dreams of Spanking and feminist porn are the topics of conversation in the latest spanking podcast, or "spankocast" by This Week In Spanking. Joe and I talked over Skype for an hour about the feminist porn awards, sexuality, queerness, diversity, my video with James Darling, the spanking scene, the new hardcore project I'm working on with Nimue Allen, and more. You can listen to the whole interview on This Week In Spanking. Enjoy!
The first shoot of the weekend in Toronto was with Australian porn star Zahra Stardust. I hadn't heard of Zahra before we made contact in the run up to the feminist porn awards, and I have to wonder why. She's a Penthouse Pet, Australian pole dance champion, and the owner of her politico-sexual riot grrl site The Explicit Diary of Zahra Stardust. She has run for Parliament three times as a Candidate for the Australian Sex Party – for House of Representatives, Senate, and for Lord Mayor of Sydney. She's worked for the United Nations and she's doing a PhD in pornography. I think I'm in love.
Zahra contacted me before our trip to say she'd seen Molly Malone doing a spanking demo in Melbourne with Artemisia de Vine, and came away craving a spanking. Would I be willing to oblige?
It's not every day you get a request like that in your inbox and there was no way I was letting this opportunity slip through my fingers. We set up a content share shoot with Ms Naughty and her husband Luke, the good folks at Bright Desire, behind the camera.
The only time all of us were available was Thursday morning at 9am. I'd arrived into Toronto at 8pm Wednesday night after an all-day transatlantic flight, and pretty much fell straight into bed. The next morning I got up early to get clean, have breakfast and knock on Zahra's door to say hi. It's quite rare for me to not meet people until the moment arrives to work with them - normally I only set up shoots with people I've already met in person. But even at eight in the morning Zahra was relaxed and radiant, and I could tell we were going to get along just fine.
It's always tricky to come up with believable scenarios for shoots in hotel rooms, and I make a point of coming up with storylines that fit the location. We decided to make the scene semi-candid, just Zahra and Pandora, only with a slightly edgy twist as I come to her room to surprise her with the spanking she craves. Ignoring her protests that we'll be late for the gala, I invite myself in and take her over the knee.
Zahra has had a stellar career filled with sexy, kinky adventures but she hasn't often had the experience of a thorough, old fashioned over the knee spanking. We'd talked beforehand about her preferences and I knew she liked it thuddy, and I'd promised her a lovely long warm-up. Her panties fell to her ankles and I told her to spread her long, athletic legs and hold them taut.
We moved to the bed and she lay face down for a taste of the strap. Her bottom marked up quickly, even bruising a little under the soft leather, but her appetite for sensation runs deep and she could have taken far more than I was able to give that day, given her other shooting commitments. I put the strap down while we were both still hungry for more.
But things weren't over yet: I told her to fetch her Hitachi and bring herself to orgasm while I slapped, squeezed and caressed her upraised cheeks.
Zahra describes her work as changing the world one orgasm at a time, and it was a pleasure to be part of her revolution.
The scene will go up on both our sites in a few weeks. After jumping into the deep end on the first morning we chatted a lot more over the next few days, and I'm certain this won't be the last time we shoot together. Keep an eye on her explicit diary: this lady is definitely one to watch.
In a few short days I will be in Toronto for the Feminist Porn Awards and Feminist Porn Conference. It's a dream come true, and my chance to finally put spanking porn on the global map of feminist, ethical porn. As a feminist spanking pornographer I'm on the crossover between two parts of the industry that don't ever talk to each other, although they have more in common in some ways than they might realise. My aim is to foster dialogue and mutual understanding, as well as demonstrating the ways I try to make spanking porn that is female gaze, gender egalitarian, feminist and fairtrade. It's an honour to be able to represent the genre I've always preferred personally, to the movement I'm proud to support politically.
With perfect timing I've just come down with flu, but preparations were already underway and hopefully after a couple of rest days, I'll be well enough to pack and catch my flight on Wednesday.
Dreams of Spanking has been nominated for the Honoured Website award for the second year running. I'd be thrilled to get a mention this year.
I also submitted six films for consideration - Kinky, My Inner Little Girl, Pandora's Belt Whipping Fantasy, The Loose Hem, Puppy Play and The Galleristas.
It's hard to know what might be considered eligible for a feminist porn award, but I wanted to include a mixture of male/female spankee scenes, and a mixture of enthusiastic consent scenarios (eg Puppy Play) with non-consent scenarios (Belt Whipping Fantasy), as well as films with feminist or empowering themes (My Inner Little Girl, The Galleristas) and live, on-screen negotiation (Kinky). I don't know what I was expecting but when the nominations were announced I was surprised - and delighted - that the film selected for inclusion was The Loose Hem.
It seems that when it comes to the feminist porn awards, live negotiation or spanking as a healthy, empowering fantasy are less interesting than cross-dressing and female dominance. I'm not sure I agree that this is the most feminist film of the bunch, but it's interesting to get a sense of what the judges might be looking for. The Loose Hem certainly benefits from an intriguing, well-woven storyline that includes a number of twists, courtesy of script writer joolstheman, and superb performances from Vincent Brennan and Molly Malone. Both stars well deserve the nomination, and I hope they are as excited as I am about having their film screened at an international awards ceremony!
It's going to be a whirlwind few days, attending not only the awards but also the Feminist Porn Conference at the University of Toronto, where I'll be speaking on a couple of panels and attending lots more.
I arrive in Toronto on Wednesday night, and I've got a room booked at the Holiday Inn, sharing with @ChrisLowrance and @RiseUpOpossums. Thursday morning I've booked a content share shoot with the super hot Zahra Stardust, who is keen to shoot a spanking film after being inspired by a demo given by Molly Malone in Melbourne last week (that girl gets everywhere!). We've booked Ms Naughty and her partner Luke to film the scene, and I'll also be shooting a solo content share scene with Ms Naughty the following morning for her site Bright Desire.
But even without shooting, there'll be plenty to keep me occupied. On Thursday there's pre-screening cocktails followed by Public.Provocative.Porn: The Year’s Best in Feminist Porn, at which I will probably be found at the back, making critical notes on all the offerings - and hiding behind a cushion while my film is played. Afterwards I'll be able to drown my sorrows and swap notes with all the other filmographers at The Official FPA Screening After Party.
On Friday I've signed up to take part in a press conference after my shoot with Ms Naughty, talking to the media about feminist porn and the work I do. Then Friday evening is a "VIP pre-party" followed by the 9th Annual Feminist Porn Awards and Gala.
The Feminist Porn Conference opens on Saturday - and this is the real reason I'm going. I've been invited to participate in two sessions, the first alongside Sophie Delancey, Gala Vanting and Madison Young:
Consent & Authenticity: Interrogating Two Feminist Porn Tenets
Non-consent fantasies pose problems for ethical pornographers. How do viewers differentiate between non-consensual fantasy and consensual reality? How can producers make this distinction more explicit, and reassure viewers that non-consent scenarios are produced safely, ethically and consensually? When performer consent cannot be portrayed within the text, the onus is on the producer to show it in contextualising materials. As a creator of spanking/punishment films, my methodology employs not only performer interviews, but also behind the scenes videos, out-takes, marketing copy, blog posts, links, comments and social media – particularly contributions written by performers in their own words, and own time.
That was the presentation I submitted, and is obviously one very close to the mission of this site. Check out this blogpost for a preview of some of the material I'll be covering, among other things.
Pornographers Without Borders
Jennifer Lyon Bell, Pandora Blake, Ms. Naughty, Ovidie
Although feminist porn in North America has gained a lot of media attention in the last few years, it is growing and thriving in Europe and Australia as well. This panel features filmmakers who live and work in France, the Netherlands, the UK, and Australia. Panelists will explore how their aesthetics, agendas, and challenges overlap with and differ from American and Canadian feminist porn; they will also address how their work is received by international audiences. They will discuss distribution channels and strategies with an eye toward growing a global feminist porn movement.
This panel was a last-minute addition and I was pleased to be included. I do sometimes feel like an outsider as one of the few UK pornographers who is explicitly engaging with feminist politics, and the feminist porn community can sometimes seem irritatingly US-centric. If nothing else I'm completely thrilled to be sharing a panel with three superstar feminist porn directors, all personal role models of mine.
There are afterparties and play parties every night, but I'm not sure how many I'll get to; on the Friday and Saturday evenings at least I might well choose to get early nights. I have no desire to be exhausted or hungover when giving my presentations!
However, it's pleasant to discover I'm not particularly nervous. I've had a little more practice at public speaking over the last twelve months and I've discovered it's something I genuinely enjoy. I guess that means I really am an exhibitionist at heart.