Blog : Posts tagged with 'pornography'

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Stranger In A Strange Land

In which we watch some films with sex in


It’s been a quiet month on the site this month, as regular readers might have noticed. There have been plenty of things to keep us busy, firstly; and the hot summer days leave me feeling rather drained each evening, not in a mood to sit down and write something. Not to mention that we spent three successive evenings this week going down to the cinema. We heard that The Cube was showing a mini-season of Japanese “Pink Cinema”. Reading the descriptions in the programme, we couldn’t resist any of it.

Pink Cinema” is, not to put too fine a point on it, pornographic. It is: dirty films, made to fit a strict template. An hour of film, with plenty of sex but nothing to concern the letter-of-the-law Japanese censors, made to fill up screen time in specialist cinemas which show nothing else. As the audience, such as it is nowadays, doesn’t really care what’s in the film,* the writers and directors can choose whatever topic or style they want to write about; as a result, pink cinema is an astonishingly broad genre. The season – curated by a chap called Jasper Sharp who is probably the world’s leading expert in the field, having written a comprehensive book about it – included five films over the three nights, but each of those five was radically different in style and contect, from serious drama through martial arts action to political satire.

First up was A Lonely Cow Weeps At Dawn, also known as The Cowshed Of Immorality. Before you start wondering, it had nothing to do with actual bestiality,** but was a sad tale of an elderly farmer who had been plunged into senility by the deaths of his son and his favourite cow. His daughter-in-law tried to take the cow’s place, and his wayward daughter, a prostitute, returned to their village and became involved in a scheme to trick the man out of his land. Hot on its heels came Sexy Battle Girls, which I’ve been assured was a big influence on Tarantino. Made in the mid-80s, its story concerned a man who, years ago, had been humiliated when a rival with a larger penis stole his wife away from him. He brought their daughter up as a martial arts expert who would one day seek revenge using her special superpower: a vagina of inhuman strength. How this superpower emerged, or how it was discovered, wasn’t quite explained; but we did see her father shoving an apple inside her underwear and shouting “Crush it!”, before four neatly-quartered apple pieces dropped to the floor. Scary. The villain of the piece turned out to be headmaster of a prestigious school. In typical villain fashion, he also turned out to be selling delinquent schoolgirls to top politicians. In slightly less typical villain fashion, a small stuffed bird was attached to his shoulder at all times.

Friday night’s films started with another serious piece: New Tokyo Decadence: The Slave. It was, as you might expect, about BDSM; rather like Secretary, it followed a masochist who starts an affair with her boss. It was a subtle film, which carefully showed the title character’s emotions as she struggled to balance physical pleasure with affection. It was followed by a film which wasn’t subtle in any way: S&M Hunter, an almost-slapstick tale of a laconic one-eyed bondage expert commissioned to rescue a gay man from the clutches of a group of rebellious and sex-mad young women. He triumphed, of course, suspending the gang’s leader from a construction crane, despite having lost his other eye in their final duel. The series was rounded off on Saturday night by one of the strangest films I’ve ever seen, The Glamorous Life Of Sachiko Hanai. The title character of the film is a sex worker shot in the head during a dispute between two spies. Running away alive, she accidentally leaves with the object the spies were fighting over; moreover, the bullet in her brain gives her superhuman intelligence and mind-reading powers. She starts an affair with a philosophy professor,*** and then discovers that the object the spies were fighting over is a disembodied finger cloned from George W Bush.**** If you’ve never seen a girl being raped by a bright red finger, apparently able to fly, while the American President shouts things at her from a TV screen in the background, then, well, I’d recommend this movie.

Each night’s programme was followed by a question-and-answer session with the curator, Mr Sharp, which tended to turn into something more of a freeform discussion. Friday night’s, in particular, turned into a slightly vicious debate between a group of people near the back of the theatre who had been giggling, sniggering and reading out the subtitles all through the most serious bits, and a woman at the front who had told them to shut up.***** The let’s-laugh-at-the-dodgy-subtitles group defended themselves on the grounds that the whole programme was Exploitation Cinema, and therefore audience participation should be expected; and that it doesn’t matter if anyone talks over a subtitled film because as you can read the words, you don’t have to be able to hear the dialogue. I don’t really think either argument was particularly strong, and neither did anyone else we spoke to.

I’m glad we went along to the Behind The Pink Curtain season, and the titillation angle was neither a plus or a negative. “It’s definitely porn you can watch with a girl!” I heard one audience-member say during an interval. “Well, indeed,” said the girl he was talking to. I think he might have been missing the point of the films slightly. Unlike most hardcore porn, solely about the mechanics of sex, these films had characterisation, plot and sometimes subtlety. The sex, moreover, was realistic, naturalistic sex.****** Dirty, messy, noisy everyday sex. That, alone, sets “pink films” aside from most of what appears in the media. It makes me think that maybe, despite the offensive and extreme aspects to some of the films, maybe the Japanese attitude to sex is healthier than ours.

* other than the sex, natch

** which would now be very illegal to show in a cinema, I understand

*** who shouts out names like “Noam Chomsky!” and “Susan Sontag!” as he climaxes

**** This being a 2003 film

***** As we were leaving, I think I overheard this woman saying she thought she could have taken the others had it come down to fighting. I’m kind of disappointed it didn’t.

****** Well, apart from that one scene with George W Bush’s finger

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Dirty Books

In which we consider the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act


The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act gets its Royal Assent today. And it might have banned extreme porn. It might have banned some quite ordinary books, too. Nobody knows. Lord Hunt, who pushed the bill through the Lords and defeated opposition amendments, stated in the form letter he sent out to correspondants that he didn’t know what pictures would or wouldn’t be banned by the bill he was promoting; that would be up to the courts. The government defeated an opposition amendment which would have explicitly said the bill would only cover material also covered by the Obscene Publications Act. However, at the same time, the Ministry of Justice says that it does only cover this material, in any case, even though the government refused to say this in the text of the bill. Campaigners are celebrating their “fight” to criminalise Things They Don’t Approve Of; but at the same time, The Register is reporting that the law hasn’t yet taken effect, and – when they wrote that, at least – nobody had decided when it would. So, in other words, nothing is certain and nobody knows what is happening. The government hastily inserted a clause to state that it does not cover photos of events you participated in,* but nobody knows exactly what counts as “participation”. There may be more debates on what the bill actually should and should not do, or a select committee. There may, indeed, be jam tomorrow – it would certainly fit in with the general tone.

Meanwhile, people are still hard at work campaigning to get the thing dropped, or, at least, to raise enough of a stink that its unworkability becomes obvious. It’s good to see, too, the effect all this has had on kinky people around the country, too. The public face of BDSM in the UK isn’t a very good-looking one; but with this legislation on the way, lots of sane and ordinary people** put their heads out, went to the press, and said: I’m your ordinary man or woman in the street. There’s nothing wrong with being kinky, or with liking the things I like, and I don’t do anything illegal, so why are you making it illegal to own photos of the things I do?

* assuming that everything is consensual and above-board, everyone else taking part was happy and smiling and so on, of course.

** part of the reason the public face of BDSM is so ugly is that the people who stand out aren’t the sane, ordinary people; they are the ones who shout loudly because they’re in it for the money and their ego. For more on how the UK BDSM “scene” is broken, I suggest reading Bitchy Jones, when you’re not at work of course.

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Vote

In which we lament the state of politics


Politics has been depressing me for the past few months. That’s why I’ve stopped writing about it. The government seems to be going further and further downhill; but there is no alternative that I’m willing to vote for.

Still, it isn’t a choice for me tomorrow, because of where I happen to live. My vote probably won’t make too much difference at the next general election, either. I really should be voting for a party that supports proportional representation, if I can; but as we don’t have it, that would be throwing my vote away. At least I have a few years to worry about it.

I really do feel that there is noone at all, now, to represent me. Earlier today, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill completed its Third Reading in the Lords. That’s the bill which will, the government hopes, ban kinky porn – except that it is framed in such a horribly vague way that nobody, including its supporters, really knows what convictions it might lead to. It is going to ban sexual imagery that is “apparently life threatening”. So, a picture of a normal couple having normal sex, not illegal. If they’re not wearing a condom? Well, you’d think, no difference there. If they’re not wearing a condom and you write “this man has AIDS” over the top of it? Bang, that’s three years in jail for you. Maybe. Nobody really knows. You’ll have to wait and see.

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The truth

In which we are worried about the New Puritans


I’ve spoken several times before about the proposed Extreme Pornography Bill. Which will, it’s planned, criminalise possession of pornographic pictures which appear to show people at risk of serious harm.

There are a few keywords in the proposals which suggest that some of its drafters do care, at least, about trying to make sure the bill only applies to very extreme stuff. Any videos with certificates, for example, would be exempt, because the bill is only intended to apply to things which would be too extreme to pass the censors to start with. The wording is still very vague, though, and leaves convictions down to the whims of judge and jury. Nevertheless, there is plenty of reason to be worried. The bill’s drafters are not those who will use it. Whether people get convicted under it may well end up depending entirely on where they live.

A short digression: Edinburgh has two big seasonal tourist attractions you’ve probably heard of: the Festival season, and the Hogmanay celebrations. You might not have heard, though, of its third big seasonal event: Beltane. Revellers climb Calton Hill to watch a grand fire-juggling performance. Some do treat it as a religious festival, but most are just there to have a good time;* and, like the other two events, people come to watch from all over the world.

You’d think Edinburgh City Council would support Beltane, it being one of the main tourist-attracting events outside the main season. They’re generally not very supportive at all, though – their support has always been lukewarm, if visible at all. And the reason for this, it is rumoured,** is the strong evangelical Christian faction on the city council. They see the Beltane celebration as Satanic and Evil, and definitely not something to be encouraged. They may be completely wrong, but they have positions of power.

BDSM isn’t evil, but there are certainly people who think that it is. If a high-ranking police officer was of that opinion, he could easily try to use this bill to push forward his own personal opinion on it. He may think that pornography itself is evil – certainly, there are people out there who say they want to ban “all pornography”*** There’s a high chance that such a hypothetical policeman would waste an awful lot of time and money aiming this bill at harmless Sensible Pervs, just because he doesn’t like what they do in the bedroom.

A lot of people on the BDSM scene are worried that this bill isn’t just a move against pornography, it’s a move against them personally; a move by a puritan government towards directly attacking people who don’t fit their own straitlaced morality. Maybe some of the bill’s supporters do indeed think that. You might not care about that, yourself, either because you’ve never had a kinky thought in your head, or you’ve never admitted that you do. The Sensible Pervs, though, are ordinary people just like you and me, ordinary people whose acceptance of their own psychological makeup has led some of them into wonderfully deep and supportive relationships. The bus driver who drives you to work, the signalman signalling your train, the IT guy fixing your computer or the shopkeeper of your neighbourhood shop – they could all, for all you know, have sex lives far kinkier than anything you can imagine. But, moreover, at the same time they’re all ordinary people just like you. And an attack on any of the ordinary people in our communities, is an attack on everybody.

(this post was inspired by Blogging For Backlash)

* like all the men who hang around Calton Hill on all the other nights of the year, it being Edinburgh’s closest equivalent to Hampstead Heath

** but it’s likely to be pretty close to the truth, because I heard it from a senior Beltane Fire Society official a few years ago

*** and they tend to think that the definition of pornography, too, is self-evident.

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Campaigning

In which we are supportive


Anti-authoritarianism campaigning group Backlash is organising a blog day today in support of their campaign, which is primarily aimed at stopping the government’s proposed laws to outlaw pictures that look dangerous, and might turn people on. This could include practically anything, of course, according to the whims of local police.

I’ll talk about this more later, but if you want to read what other people have to say about it, there’s a list of other posts on the subject here.

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Follow-up

In which we care for hedgehogs


A couple more links about yesterday’s post. At least one BBC editor was surprised that not everyone has believed the government’s line on the issue. Meanwhile, a Guardian blogger points out that the proposals are based on people who believe they don’t need any evidence, and it could be the thin end of the wedge.

Enough of all that. Direct campaigning clearly works: McDonalds has finally given in to the Hedgehog Preservation Society’s hedgehog preservation campaign, and is going to redesign its McFlurry cups to make them less hedgehog-toxic.* Hurrah! Clearly there’s something in this campaigning thing; I just need to find something of my own to campaign for. Suggestions, please.

That’s enough for this week, I think. It’s gone by far, far too fast.

* link via BoingBoing

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Pressure group

In which the government panders to the moral minority


“Violent” pornography is back in the news again, as it has been on and off for the past year. Now, the government has announced that it is going to ban the stuff, however impossible it is to define, thanks to a single-issue campaign group who are already crowing about their success. If it’s that easy to get the government to do what you want, I think I should start up my own single-issue campaign group. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to campaign for, but I know I’ll think of something. On the other hand, the government doesn’t exactly listen to what most people say. They carried out consultation on the “violent” porn law, and found that over 70% of responses were against introducing it; but they’re going ahead with it anyway. It was pushed for by people who believe that porn on the internet can induce people to carry out fantasies they wouldn’t have tried otherwise, even though there’s no evidence at all that that happens. In essence, this is faith-based legislation.

As I said a few days ago, there’s an easy solution to the problem of people with dangerous fantasies. It’s education, helping them find safe releases. If you ban “dangerous” pornography – leading aside the question of whether it is truly dangerous or not – you don’t do anything to dissipate people’s fantasies, the fantasies that make them look for the stuff to start with. The solution is to make it easy for people with unusual fantasies to discover that there’s a huge crowd of Sensible Pervs out there, who will help them learn how to carry their fantasies out safely.

All that, though, is besides the main problem with the bill: that it will be impossible to tell whether or not something is pornographic, or dangerous, just by looking. On the first point: look at people with a “splosh” fetish.* Internet sites for that sort of thing regularly feature clips from children’s telly, or entertainment telly, where people get covered in gunge. Is that pornography, just because some people get off on it? Is it dangerous, given that you could drown in the stuff? You could easily take a photo of a couple in a lovely, romantic-looking pose, one person holding their partner’s head in both hands. There’s a specific pose I have in mind that could look fine on a photo, but would cause the partner to faint if held for more than about 10 seconds, and die if held for longer still.** Would you be able to recognise it on a photo? It doesn’t look dangerous to most people.

Sensible Pervs are still campaigning hard against the violent porn bill. There’s still a good chance it will never appear, given the constraints of the parliamentary timetable. It looks, though, that in a couple of years’ time there might be another ill-thought-out, hard-to-enforce law on the statute books.

* getting turned on by getting covered in messy, gooey stuff.

** no, I’m not telling you what it is.

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Permissive Society

In which the government wants to ban things


I know it’s only a few days since we last had a “the government are taking away your rights!” post on here, but I’m afraid it’s time for another one.* This time it’s not just about politics, though, it’s about sex too.

Over the past few months, the Home Office has been running a consultation exercise on what it calls “extreme pornography”, with the intention of trying to ban it. They were pushed into it by a single-issue campaign group called The Jane Longhurst Trust, who mistakenly believe that criminalising violent sexual images will make people less violent.

It would be nice if this were true, but it’s very clear that when you’re dealing with sexual fantasies and gratification, pushing things under the carpet doesn’t help. For years homosexuality, for example, was barely represented in the mainstream media, but that didn’t stop people being gay. Banning images of violent fantasies won’t prevent people having those fantasies and wanting to act them out. If the Jane Longhurst Trust’s members actually want to do some good, they would have to go out and educate the people with the violent fantasies, instead of pretending that if you can’t see the pictures, they don’t exist. Out of sight, out of mind, just doesn’t work.

Anyway, many many people have written in to the Home Office trying to point this out; and the summary of the results is due to be published. Whether they will be promoting it very heavily probably depends on whether or not they’re minded to go ahead with the proposed law very strongly, or if it will be quietly allowed to run out of parliamentary time. Whatever the government’s publicity machine does, there’s one group of people who will be publicising it heavily: the group set up to campaign against the new law. They’re called the Backlash, and if you want to learn more about what the government is trying to propose, and why it is a bad idea, they have written about it in far more depth than I have room to here. If you want the freedom to do what you like in the bedroom,** go and support them.

* Why? Because I promised someone I’d write about it.

** subject to what your partner tells you to do, of course

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Inescapable

In which I dream about work


Work must be getting to me. I know it must be, because I’ve started dreaming about it every night. Bizarre, twisted, warped dreams it’s true, but still dreams about being in the office and with all the co-workers.

I do my best not to think about work when I’m not there. I don’t always manage it – if I’m on a long weekend I usually log into the office network to check my mail at least once – but I do try. I just wish I could stop the office popping up in my dreams too. Last night was a bad one: one of the company directors discovered I had a list of People At The Office Who Regularly Download Porn and came over to my office to ask me to explain how I’d discovered it all. The only problem was: he brought all the people on it with him.

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Drawing lines

In which we discuss pornography, consent, and legal proposals


Today’s Top News Story: the government is planning to ban extreme pornography.

Now, as this idea goes: where’s the downside? It’s going to be a vote-winner, and the Opposition are bound to take the “well, we would have done this years ago!” line. But it does open up a rather nasty can of worms which, being your stereotypical Woolly-Minded Liberal,* I have no idea what to do about. The question is: what is porn? More importantly, what is extreme?

There’s no doubt that an awful lot of the stuff out there on the internet is only going to be attractive to a tiny minority of people. If you think you’re the only person out there with your particular fetish, then you’re wrong: someone somewhere will probably already have created a website devoted to it. The problem with that, of course, is that some people’s fetishes really are not things that anyone else is going to approve of. Now, I personally have no problem with what anybody wants to do in private, but the keyword there is consensuality. Where fetishes involve doing things without the other person’s consent, it’s not acceptable to me.

The can of worms comes into it, though, when you consider that the proposed law would outlaw pornography that shows illegal acts. The problem is that in British law, the legality of a lot of S&M sex is a very grey area. Even if you want your partner to do certain things to you, it might not be legal.** The second can of worms is that, looking at downloaded graphics, it can be impossible to tell if consent was given at the time. Indeed, some writers and campaigners would claim that no porn is consensual at all, because of the cultural context surrounding it.

There’s a lot of stuff out there, and a lot of it makes me sick to the stomach. But, even so, I’m fully expecting that this law – and it will become law – will go too far, and that we will see people being prosecuted for downloading images that, to my mind, are entirely harmless.

* I’m even a Guardian reader.

** The most famous legal case in BDSM circles is the Spanner Trial, in which a group of gay men were convicted and imprisoned for actual bodily harm even though the “victims” had consented; it is not the only one, though.

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