Apparently our clichéd British squeamishness around sex has not shifted as much as you would have hoped, given a series of events over the past few weeks. First, sexually explicit tweets featuring naked women were favourited by twoMPs' twitter accounts, one of which features elements of BDSM. Cue hugely disproportionate media attention to this clearly earth-shattering moment in history. The shame! The scandal! Heaven forbid a person be a public figure and openly have sexual desires... way too much for the straight-laced British public to handle. Secondly, new legislation has been passed which bans a number of sexual acts from UK-made pornography including spanking, face-sitting and female ejaculation. Apparently consensual sex between adults needs to be reined in, regulated and morally judged. Heck, the alternative is people having fun, shame-free sex! Crazy notion, I know.
There seems to be a tired, frustrating belief in British culture that sex is something that needs to be kept indoors and not talked about, especially if you're a politician or public figure. Supposedly looking at naked, sexual pictures of people is something that we are all supposed to be up in arms about, enraged about, as if the majority of us have never engaged in such activities... As if it is wrong and disgusting, rather than something that can be enjoyed as part of a healthy sex life. It doesn't even matter if their accounts were hacked, as they say in their defence - the reaction from the press is still bizarre and outlandish. Why are we giving this stuff air time? Yes, it may have been unprofessional, but it's not reprehensible behaviour.
Can we stop pretending that this kind of news is a scandal? Adults consensually enjoy all kinds of different sexual acts; it shouldn't be so hard to subtract our own morals and judgements from what they do, if they practise them safely and without causing harm. Otherwise we create a shame-based culture in which people feel guilty and defected for enjoying certain sexual activities. We act as if sexuality and integrity are incompatible: openly acknowledged sexual desires and the viewing of pornographic content are viewed as a stain on your credibility. We stigmatise people who enjoy BDSM as if it is embarrassing and wrong - something that should be someone's dirty little secret, never to be aired in public.
The new regulations on British pornography are mind-boggling too. Acts which have been banned also include caning, physical restraint and humiliation. I appreciate the concerns of people who believe that such activities could be unhealthy and damaging - to some people who do not practice them, they could seem dangerous. However the misconceptions about the harmfulness of these sex acts seem to lie in a misunderstanding around the role that consent plays. People who practice BDSM safely and healthily place consent as the number one priority, in which participants only partake in activities that they feel comfortable doing, and boundaries are respected.
Many people do truly enjoy the kinks on that now infamous list, and the ban seems to patronise the filmmakers and the actors who perform these kinds of sex acts, and the viewers who watch them. Now many UK-based businesses will suffer considerably, with many being forced to close down. The decision to ban female ejaculation and face-sitting also sends out an unacceptable, warped message about the importance of female sexual pleasure. It seems astounding that sexual inequality of this kind could be championed by anybody. The only sexual act on the list that it seems to make sense to ban is role-playing as non-adults - I can see the logic behind this and the detrimental messages that this kind of content sends out.
All in all, it seems we still have a hard time separating morality and judgement from sex between consenting adults. Be it pornography or the people who consume it, our reaction seems to be disgrace rather than embrace. Let's dump the shame and scandal, and leave people in peace to love the kink, or not. Whatever they choose.