UK

Extreme Porn Law Must Be Put Back On Agenda, 'Stop Porn Culture' Conference Hears

15/03/2014 16:59 GMT | Updated 15/03/2014 17:00 GMT

Feminists in the UK have dropped the ball over extreme porn legislation, a London conference has heard, with activists urged to put David Cameron's much-maligned pornography filter “back on the table”.

No More Page 3, UK Feminista and Lose the Lads Mags, as well as anti-sexualisation campaign Object were all represented at the ‘Stop Porn Culture’ conference, as well as a number of former sex workers and porn performers.

gail dines

Dines: 'Pornography is fuelled by a demand for increasingly extreme scenes'

Launched by prominent anti-porn feminists such as academic Gail Dines and Guardian columnist Julie Bindel, organisers said they hoped that ‘Stop Porn Culture’ would be the beginning of a new radical British movement aimed at putting legislation of pornography back on the table.

Dines' presentation included images of sites with women being choked by oral sex until they vomited, women that have suffered prolapsed anuses, and women being penetrated in multiple orifices until they bled. The “gonzo” sites, Dines claimed, citing research by US academic psychologist Ana Bridges, were not the extreme exception, but becoming the norm.

"If you had told me 30 years ago what is available now, I wouldn't have believed you, and neither would the porn industry, they'd never have thought they'd be able to get away with this," Dines said.

"Now we are at the stage where the demand for even more extreme porn is so strong, that pornographers don't actually know how they can go any further. They can't do anything that's any more violent that what is available already, short of killing the woman."

“We are a public health campaign raising awareness that all pornography is violence against women,” she continued.

“There is no other industry where women are routinely permanently injured or covered in their own faeces, blood and vomit.”

Dogged by a protest outside the venue by anti-censorship campaigners and porn industry figures, security was tight, with those who would disrupt the conference told that they would be immediately removed. “Our starting point for this movement is that all pornography is damaging, this is not a debate around that,” Heike Diaferia, director of Stop Porn Culture told the group.

“The protesters, the Sexual Freedom Coalition, the International Union of Sex Workers, all of these organisations are dominated by pimps and pornographers,” Bindel said. “They call themselves ‘managers’. What union do you know where managers come in and talk about the rights of their workers?’

Already an active movement in the US, where Dines is based, the sociologist told the audience at a Q&A session that different approaches were needed for Britain, but admitting she did not know how a blanket ban could possibly work.

“What is getting traction in the United States is a public health campaign, we are making links with child protection groups and disease control. We are working to expand that with educators,” she said.

But legislation against violent pornography was not impossible, argued Gudrun Jonsdottir, an activist in Iceland who has been one of the key voices aimed at pushing through a ban on violent pornography in her home country.

“If we cannot accept people having child pornography on their laptops, and we can police that, then why should we accept they having violent pornography against women?” Jonsdottir said. “We cannot stand by and just allow the flow of whatever horror there is out there.

“There are no simple solutions, but one way is to try to define violent porn, so it can be legislated against, another is to target the payment systems of the pay sites. There are ways, the important thing is the will is there.”

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Julie Bindel and Gail Dines discussing the possibility of legislating against porn

Last year, Cameron announced that filters for pornographic content will come as a default setting for all homes, a policy announced by former specialist advisor Claire Perry.

Campaigners at the conference accused the prime minister of now “backtracking” on what was an “excellent” measure, despite being an industry agreement and not bound by legislation. They fear it may fall by the wayside, especially with Perry’s new role in the Commons as Chief Whip.

Tech experts, in New Scientist and Wired to name a few, and civil liberties groups, such as the Open Rights Group, had decried the plans as both as censorious and unworkable.

Vienne Pattison, director of anti-sexualisation campaign Media Watch, said she had had her own site blocked by porn filters, but had it rectified so quickly that she did not believe the filters were an issue for academics.

“This is an industry agreement, and if Cameron moves on, there is nothing in the statute books to keep it there, we need to campaign for legislation,” she said.

“We must organise against this [backtracking by Cameron],” Dines said, adding: “There was a missed opportunity here and you let this fall through the cracks, when you should have been campaigning, and now we need a new one to get it back on the table."