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Pornography: we need education, not censorship

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Pornography: we need education, not censorshipThe government has got its priorities all wrong when it comes to sex and pornography. 

Last week it was revealed that a Bill currently going through Parliament will stop people in the UK from accessing pornography websites which feature a range of sex acts deemed ‘non-conventional’ by the government.

These include female ejaculation, menstruation and spanking, whipping or caning that leaves marks.

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being quite frankly flabbergasted that my own bodily functions and sexual pleasure are considered ‘non-conventional’.

Then again, I can’t say I was overly surprised – this policy is just another example of the Conservatives’ archaic attitudes towards sex and pornography.

And the most recent amendment to this Bill, called the Digital Economy Bill, is, among other things, unashamedly sexist.

It essentially means that it is acceptable for a man to be seen ejaculating over a woman’s breasts, but for her to return the favour is unacceptable.

God forbid people learn that women enjoy sex too – yes, they actually do!

And as for the ban on menstruation – well, where to begin?

I would rather not have to endure bleeding, pain and discomfort on a monthly basis, but I do, and it seems only fair that men should share in this experience in one way or another. Or, at the very least, not be shielded from it, as society has done since for ever.

There is already a huge taboo surrounding menstruation, to the extent that it is too often a source of embarrassment and disgust, with the result that too many women feel unable to talk openly about it.

Having to try to be secretive about taking a tampon or sanitary towel with us to the toilet at work and lying about why we are feeling unwell or suffering from stomach cramps are struggles that we should not have to endure.

And why shouldn’t we have sex while on our periods? The least we deserve is a little enjoyment during this inconvenient and unpleasant time of the month.

It’s not for everyone of course, but people who do have sex during menstruation and enjoy doing so should not be made to feel ashamed or uncomfortable.

Banning people from watching pornography showing menstruation will not only reinforce and worsen the taboo on the subject, but also serve in undoing the work of women already trying to demolish it.

One such woman is author and photographer Rupi Kaur who last year posted a photo on Instragram of a fully-clothed woman lying on a bed with a – very, very small – stain of period blood showing on her trousers, only to have it removed as it was deemed inappropriate and apparently didn’t follow the social media platform’s ‘community guidelines’.

The portrayal of women in a lot of pornography is, in my opinion, often problematic, and there are certainly elements, including violence and aggression, which should be addressed – but is not.

And for a long time, and not just in pornography, women have been depicted as submissive tools whose main purpose when it comes to sex is to facilitate the pleasure, desires and fantasies of men.

We have been taught that sex is for men and we are shamed when we attempt to explore and take ownership of our sexuality and own pleasure, desires and fantasies.

While the content of some pornography does need to be altered to reflect more positive and equal scenarios rather than being created with solely the male gaze in mind, suggesting that people’s sexual preferences and desires, as well as women’s natural and unpreventable bodily functions, are ‘non-conventional’ and attempting to stop them from being viewed and enjoyed is serious regression.

It will achieve nothing positive – rather, the consequences will be harmful.

As with periods, women are fighting and struggling to dismantle the taboos surrounding their sexuality, desires and role in the bedroom – OMGYes, a website aiming to lift ‘the veil on women’s sexual pleasure’, is a great example.

Censoring porn will make it even harder for us to do this and, while the recent bill amendment is bad news for everyone, it will undoubtedly negatively affect women more than men.

As we here at WVoN have previously said, the government would be far better off investing its time, money and energy into providing up-to-date, comprehensive sex and relationships education – which is still not compulsory in every school – to all children in the UK.

I truly believe that young people should be taught about all aspects of sex, including oral, anal and group sex, masturbation, orgasms and fetishes.

I’m not suggesting we start showing S&M pornography to 10 year-olds, but I think it is important to introduce adolescents to all areas of sex and relationships.

They will discover it all eventually anyway, and educating them and discussing it with them is key to ensuring that they feel comfortable and confident, and can engage in safe, consensual, enjoyable and healthy sex as they get older.

A lot of pornography is unrealistic and misleading and it is far better that teenagers learn about sex, and how it is portrayed online, in a secure, open environment where they can ask questions and are taught the ins and outs in a thorough, truthful manner.

If you disagree with the amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, write to your MP and/or the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport: Karen Bradley.

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