As of December 1, UK-based providers of streaming adult services cannot show a number of activies, including fisting and face-sitting.
Video on demand providers must now abide by the same criteria as studios producing R18-rated DVDs. But what exactly does this mean?
The Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014, an EU directive has been implemented into the UK’s Communications Act 2003. What this means in plain English is that UK adult video on demand providers showing certain activities risk being charged under the Obscene Publications Act 1959.
There’s a bit more to this than just a list of proscribed activities though. If filmed correctly, fans of squirting videos may still be able to get their kicks.
Solicitor Myles Jackman, who specialises in obscenity cases, explains in a blog post that female ejactulation or 'squriting' isn’t banned per se, but it’s verboten if it's not an isolated scene or the liquid falls on, or is consumed by another performer.
Why no squirting?
The reason for this is that because it’s impossible for regulators to distinguish between female ejactulation and urine. The BBFC, the body which hands out R18 certificates, says:
“We may not classify any material which may be subject to prosecution. Among other activities, this includes any repeated focus on urination during sex and urination over any other person, including any act which cannot be distinguished from urination on the basis of the onscreen evidence alone.”
In other words, if the BBFC can’t tell the difference between squirting and water sports - the polite term for scenes involving urine - it can’t be shown. This is complicated by the fact that there’s some medical debate over what female ejactulate actually is. Presumably censors have less trouble distinguishing urine from male ejactulate.
Is face-sitting banned?
Not all. Face sitting scenes can only be banned if there’s a clear risk to a performer’s safety. In other words, if it’s impossible tell if the person being sat on can breathe, it can’t be shown.
The BBFC clarifies: “It would be wrong to assume that the BBFC consequently cuts all sight of people sitting across other people’s faces. But the BBFC will cut sight of clear and deliberate restriction of a person’s ability to breathe during sexual play.
“Breath restriction for the purposes of sexual enjoyment can result in death. Given such a clear and well documented risk of harm, passing such breath play in a sex work would be contrary to the BBFC’s designated responsibility.”
What else is off taboo, any why?
A full list of what is and isn’t OK can be found here. The BBFC, Jackson explained, is concerned with copycat behaviour - it doesn’t want people to ‘try this at home’ and risk injury or infection. There is a concern that inexperienced fistees could end up having to take partners to A&E to treat a prolapsed orifice, for example.
Are there any loopholes?
The recent ruling is confused somewhat by the result of the R v Peacock case. In 2012, Michael Peacock was charged and ultimately found innocent of breaching the Obscene Publications Act. He was charged for distributing videos featuring fisting, watersports and genital torture - acts which may not have earned the videos an R18 certificate.
Despite the not guilty verdict, the Crown Prosecution Service hasn’t updated its guidelines on what’s considered extreme, something which concerns Jackson.
"Guidelines do change over time,” Jackson said, “but the fact they have not changed post-Peacock is worrying. Given the result of that particular case there is clearly room for a challenge to the law."
Can I still watch fisting and squirting on YouPorn?
In the meantime, what does this mean for adult video providers not based in the UK? Can we still watch fisting, whipping and squirting videos on PornHub?
When we learned that Scott XXX, a former UK foot fetish site, had moved operations to France, ATVOD, the body which helps Ofcom regulate UK on demand services, told us that overseas sites could face blocked payments from UK credit cards in the future. For the the time being, you're free to get your whipping and squirting kicks.
We asked ATVOD chairman Peter Johnson if this would stop people from visiting the free sections of tube sites. Johnson was confident that stopping payments would contribute to a decline of the freemium business model.
“If you look at the ‘freemium’ business model of those services, they depend on affiliates providing free content as a loss leader in order to attract customers to their paid subscription services.
“Our view is that cutting off the funds to premium services (including PornHub Premium and RedTube Premium) which use the free sites as a marketing platform would disrupt and undermine the free and unrestricted provision of hardcore porn. Without the underlying payments, the free sites would wither on the vine.”
Are PornHub and RedTube safe havens for outlawed content?
PornHub and RedTube are based in Canada and the US respectively, but they’re both owned by a company called MindGeek.
MindGeek is a Luxembourg-based business that happens to own virtually every major porn tube site out there. YouPorn, Brazzers, PornMD - if you’ve heard of it, chances are MindGeek is behind it.
We asked Johnson what could be done by overseas regulators hosting content that wouldn’t cut the mustard with UK censors.
“We are clear that neither PornHub nor RedTube are provided by a company established in the UK,” said Johnson. “If the regulatory authorities in Luxembourg concluded that the services were provided by a company within their jurisdiction it would be open to them to take action under the same EU directive that sits behind the UK regulations enforced by ATVOD.”
As the directive applies to content that’s deemed to be ‘TV-like’, owners who can prove that their content isn’t comparable to linear TV may be found beyond the scope of regulation.
Itziar Bilbao Urrutia, BDSM performer and client of Jackson’s, successfully argued that her site, the Urban Chick Supremacy Cell, was more performance art than TV and therefore was granted exemption from the rules.
Pending a review of the CPS guidelines it looks like Luxembourg’s regulators and creative dominatricies, will end up being the saviours of Britain’s fisting, squirting and face-sitting fans, at least in the short term.