As of this week, the laws surrounding the production of porn in England and Wales have changed. Where previously it was illegal to own or distribute “obscene” pornography, now it is “not for the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) to decide what is considered good taste or objectionable”. Previously, the word obscenewas followed by a list of examples, such as instrumental torture, sadomasochism, etc. However, for years, people have been suggesting that this is out of touch with modern tastes, and pornography’s depiction of ‘sexuality’ should be much freer.

With this new law, there are no longer specifically prohibited acts, but guidelines on the parameters under which it is unnecessary to prosecute: clear provision of consent, no serious physical harm, no other links with criminality. Though this could open-up more conversations about just what is and is not acceptable to buy, sell, and actively promote, I fear this could regressively blur lines. 

In many respects, it is entirely reasonable for the CPS to admit that they have little right in dictating sexual taste – everyone’s preferences are different, people often have kinks that they are embarrassed by, and therefore only have access to satisfying them via porn, or prostitution. Whilst wanting to be urinated on by a sexual partner (previously listed as forbidden within porn) is undoubtedly an unfamiliar desire to most, it doesn’t cause harm. Needless to say, getting your kicks from watching the ‘torture with instruments’ of another real-life human being is harmful. Maybe you would never actually do that to someone, but why are you enjoying it?

My intention is not to criminalise people for their own personal desires, but to question where these desires come from. Becoming aroused from depicting, or executing, extreme violence, and enjoying consentual rough sex, seem entirely different to me. In my view, allowing pornography that is so questionably violent, so demeaning and centring on domination, causes so much more harm within society than people credit it with. Katie Buckley wrote about the problem with porn and the problems of the sexpectations it creates, and these can be factors as seemingly small as images of vaginas that go so beyond what millions of vaginas actual look like, to problems of inciting violence. 

It would be naïve to think that the world could be rid of extremely violent porn overnight, but I don’t think it is naïve to hope the country would choose to uphold laws that prevent people being tortured with the goal of arousing a viewer. Again, everyone has different tastes, and nobody is weird for their unique kinks, but I personally think we should question why people get intense pleasure out of watching someone undergo instrumental torture. Surely, making this acceptable within regulated porn, leads to people wanting to try this in real-life, to people getting hurt, and to sexual violence. How can the CPS feel secure in their decision to relax such regulations, and consequentially, relax people’s ideas of what ‘isn’t actually that bad’ to do to someone else, for your own pleasure?