Do you like porn? As the UK’s much discussed porn ban looms ever closer this year, you need to start saying so…

 

When was the last time you shared something sexy on your social media? I’m not talking about accidentally sending a nude to a group WhatsApp, I mean when did you last deliberately share a link to porn, or a sex blog, or an erotic book? I’m betting that you haven’t. Although the vast majority of people enjoy erotic material (read: wanking), we tend to keep our porn passions under wraps. We’re told sex is embarrassing, after all, and few of us want to explain a penchant for rimming to our Mums.

 

But this inability to embrace the hornier parts of our online lives means we either ignore or shrug off some pretty serious problems. 2018 saw a drastic and troubling rise in online censorship of sexy material. In June, crowdfunding site Patreon – which had previously been supportive of sex workers and other erotic creativity – started suspending adult creators. To most that’d seem like a shame, but to the people who relied on Patreon for their income, it was catastrophic.

 

Later in the year Tumblr – previously an oasis of sexual discussion, LGBTQ+ communities and black-and-white gifs of hot people doing it – announced it was going to ban all adult content from its platform. Under the headline ‘a better, more positive Tumblr’, the site announced it would become terrible and boring. Tumblr users – many of whom had been uploading sexy pictures to the site for years – had just two weeks to transfer their content before the nudity purge began.

 

While people were still reeling from that, a few eagle-eyed perverts such as myself spotted a change in the Facebook Community Standards. Apparently you’re no longer allowed to detail ‘a state of sexual arousal (wetness or erection’ or ‘an act of sexual intercourse (sexual penetration, self-pleasuring, or exercising fetish scenarios.’ This is open to interpretation, but my own interpretation is ‘if you talk about fucking on Facebook, you’re fucked.’

 

If you think that’s worrying, brace yourself because the next part’s even worse: later this year, the UK government will implement age verification, where you’ll have to prove how old you are before you get to see porn. Sounds like a sensible idea, until you think about any of the detail whatsoever. Like the fact that the current plan for ‘proving your age’ will involve you typing credit card details into a porn site – a plan that seems tailor-made for every Tom, Dick and Scammy to try and steal people’s cash. Or the fact that even with the best intentions in the world when it comes to data, your habits as a regular visitor to DressLikeABearAndFistMeWithVigour.com make age verification info a juicy and tempting target for hackers. Even if those problems could be solved (which security experts say is very tricky), we’re still left with the fact that the government’s magical porn block will be easy to circumvent just by using a VPN. Perhaps these problems illustrate why, despite being made law back in April 2017, age verification implementation keeps getting delayed, as politicians debate the finer details of the internet with as much competence as my Dad trying to reset the wifi after a boozy Sunday lunch.

 

It’s all very well me waving my hands and screaming ‘we’re screwed!’ like a scientist trying to hammer home the importance of climate change, but what can we actually do about it? There are campaigns you can support to try and fight terrible laws, and petitions you can sign when social networks start to ban sex workers, but we need to see a broader societal change if we stand a hope of being able to enjoy porn in a normal way in future. And by ‘normal way’ I just mean that we should be able to consume porn the way we do other content: without being made to feel deviant just because we like looking at tits and bums. But it’s a vicious circle – the more society tells us ‘porn is bad’, the harder it becomes to put your hand up and say ‘actually porn’s pretty popular, watching it is common, and as long as you’re making ethical choices about what you watch and when, porn can be a healthy and enjoyable addition to your sex life.’

 

Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but the truth very rarely does. If you enjoy porn, you need to talk about it. You need to share it, and show that it’s not weird to want to watch people getting naked and shagging.

 

When reporting on the new porn laws recently, Sky News tweeted that the government had paused age verification in order to ‘work out some kinks.’ This hilarious joke was recycled from an article they wrote in July last year when the legislation was originally delayed, so whatever they can be accused of, it isn’t originality. But rather than getting up in arms about porn censorship, most people’s responses on twitter consisted of ‘lols’ or crylaugh emojis. When we publicly talk about porn, people tend to turn into twelve-year-olds: giggling at the back of a sex ed class because someone mentioned the word ‘kinks.’

 

Treating porn as something to giggle or whisper about does a disservice to porn, as both an art form and an industry. You may have read a bunch of headlines about porn addiction, but what you rarely read are articles pointing out that the vast majority of us who watch porn do o occasionally, for fun, without harming anyone – including ourselves.  While there are certainly problems with the mainstream porn industry, the fact that we’re wary of discussing our own habits makes it easier for governments and platforms to ignore the problems in favour of fake solutions like mass censorship. While we’re laughing in public, our wanking stays private, and it becomes much easier to strip away our rights as adults to watch legal, adult material.

 

So how do we reverse this trend for online censorship? The key, I think, is to talk about it. Magazines like LondonX provide platforms for people to share information and opinions on all things sex, and if you want that to continue you need to make sure you’re joining the discussion. So open up a browser tab now, navigate to your favourite porn performer’s Twitter page, or sex blog, or subscription site that you think makes excellent filth, copy paste the link and then share it with people you think might be interested. I’m serious – do it now! This alone won’t change the world, but if we all start sharing and recommending and talking about porn, rather than hiding it away in a drawer like it’s something we could take or leave, we send a powerful message to the websites that track us and the government that rules over us: we like our porn, and we will fight for it.

Girl on the Net blogs about sex at girlonthenet.com where she also makes accessible audio porn, and occasionally rants about sexual politics.