Feminists Against Censorship

Fighting Censorship in the UK since 1989.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

FAC support for x:talk project campaign

Earlier this month, the BBC reported that sex workers in East London were already experiencing a crackdown from the police in advance of the Olympics (though the Metropolitan Police claimed this was "in response to community concerns" and not because of that).

x:talk are a sex worker-led workers co-operative who offer a space for peer-to-peer networking, translation and information sharing. They provide free English classes to migrant sex workers, with an emphasis on the space as a place of knowledge-sharing between equals, where it is important that the teachers are (or have been) sex workers.

The project is calling for a moratorium on arrests of sex workers in London with immediate effect until the end of the Olympic Games. It highlights that further crackdowns are likely to undermine the safety of sex workers and lead to arrests, detention and deportations. The offences to be included under the moratorium are soliciting and keeping a brothel, where the person suspected of 'keeping a brothel' is a sex worker. These are laid out in x:talk's campaign briefing, which also draws attention to the case of Claire Finch (who was unanimously acquitted of brothel keeping):

"Finch had accepted that she worked collectively from her own home providing sexual services and gave evidence it would be too dangerous for her to work alone. Finch’s barrister, relying on evidence that there had been numerous serious violent attacks on solitary street sex workers in Bedfordshire in recent years. successfully argued that Finch was entitled to rely on the defence of necessity."

x:talk and their supporters are calling on the Mayor of London and London Metropolitan Police to act by suspend arrests and convictions of sex workers under the criminal laws outlined in their briefing paper.

FAC would like to express wholehearted support for x:talk and this campaign. We think it's important because we believe in the right of sex workers to work as they see fit without discriminatory laws undermining their safety for the sake of "community concern" and apparent "protection".

You can access x:talk's briefing paper "Sex Work and the Olympics: The Case for a Moratorium" here.

Edited on 26 April 2012 to clarify that the offences to be included under the moratorium are soliciting and keeping a brothel, where the person suspected of 'keeping a brothel' is a sex worker. x:talk would also ask that sex workers are not arrested and deported during the enforcement of laws relating to clients and third parties, such as controlling for gain offences. In summary, x:talk's aim is for a suspension of arrests of sex workers. They are not asking for the suspension of all laws relating to sex work.

Picture taken from x:talk Facebook page.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

FAC on the Panel at SOAS Porn Debate Tonight

The Women's Society at SOAS are hosting a debate this evening and one of our members, Zak Jane Kier, will be taking part. Sian McGee from SOAS has more at the debate's wherevent page:

Porn: A tool for liberation or oppression?

A Women's Society and For'em Event

January 17th at 7pm, Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS

Can the production of pornography be used as a tool for female liberation? Or does it bind us to passive stereotypes? The role and impact of the porn industry is currently an important debate both within and outside feminist circles. Both women and men are exposed to over-sexualised images everyday and it is difficult to escape the impact that the porn industry is having on our society. We want to ask whether it can be used as a way to reclaim the female body and sexuality or if it indeed causes more damage to the aims of gender equality. Join us on the 17th January at SOAS, listen to those involved in this debate and add your own voice. Hope to see you there.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Networking and support site for proud sex workers and their allies coming soon

This site is for anyone who works in the sex industry - from escorts, porn stars, adult TV staff, sex shop assistants to sex academics, sex researchers and sex journalists - to network and find support. We live in a hostile time against our industries and this site is meant as a place for us to meet new people and share our thoughts about our work.

We also welcome anyone outside of the industries who supports us too...

This site is also the one-stop-shop for anyone researching the sex industry - students, journalists, policy makers, researchers as well as interested members of the public - to read up on, and access all of the major research and readings - as well as relevant media - on the issues related to sex work and its major contributors.

We also run public campaigns fighting for the rights of all sex workers to be able to enjoy equal employment rights and a fair representation in society and the media.

So come on in, membership is free! We welcome you to join us as we tell the world 'We Consent!'

Watch this space.

Dorries' abstinence education bill protest - 20 January‏‏‏‏

Beth Granter and Holly Smith, who are organising against Nadine Dorries' Sex Education (required content) bill, have shared the following details with us:

On 20 January 2012, Nadine Dorries' proposed amendment to sex education, Bill 185, which suggests GIRLS be taught abstinence, is due to get a second reading in parliament.

A demonstration opposing the bill is being supported by Youth Fight For Jobs, The British Humanist Association and Queers Against The Cuts. The demo starts at 10:30am at Old Palace Yard, Westminster, outside Parliament. Details of the demo are at http://on.fb.me/stopdorriesdemo.

The bill is sexist as it positions girls as being solely responsible for decisions about sexual activity and boys as having no responsibility for ensuring that sex is mutually wanted, fully consenting and safe. Dorries even said that teaching children to 'say no' could reduce child abuse. This victim blaming is dangerous, incorrect, and offensive to survivors of abuse.

Abstinence education on its own is ineffective in reducing teenage pregnancies and STI rates. Good quality comprehensive Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) should already explicitly address the option of abstinence as part of decision-making about sex, and safer sex.

SRE should be informative and fact based. Some of the most important bits of SRE, which really helps young people to take responsibility for themselves and make healthy decisions (namely the relationships and communication aspects), are optional for schools and this bill will not change that. If this bill passes, some schools could end up only teaching the biology of reproduction and STIs (within the science curriculum) plus abstinence.

If Dorries really wanted to help young women to stay safe and healthy she would be advocating for statutory, comprehensive sex and relationships education for all young people, of all genders, and in all schools whether they are faith schools, academies, free schools or community schools. Her party in Government has already stated that they have no intention of making SRE statutory.

More information on the campaign can be found at http://facebook.com/stopdorries and the demonstration at http://on.fb.me/stopdorriesdemo.

Belated Congratulations to Michael Peacock

Things have been pretty quiet over here at the Feminists Against Censorship blog, as lots of us have been busy on other projects and not reporting back here about our FAC work. However, we couldn't let the opportunity to mention this recent landmark obscenity trial pass by so here are some links to some of the best reporting on the story in case you missed it:

Nichi Hodgson (who also live tweeted during the trial) writing at The Guardian's Comment is Free about how Michael Peacock's acquittal is a victory for sexual freedom and at The New Statesman, arguing that obscenity law robs us of agency

Dr Brooke Magnanti at Sexonomics calling out the way some people talk about kink (scroll down past the picture of her with Michael)

Myles Jackman welcoming the verdict but pointing out that the Obscene Publications Act means that the state is still capable of acting as a voyeur in the bedroom

A detailed piece over at Freedom in a Puritan Age from queer theorist Chris Ashford, mentioning that those hoping this verdict will simply mean the sweeping away of the existing law may need to be careful what they wish for

Friday, September 17, 2010

New CAP newsletter available

Campaign Against Censorship has a new issue posted on the web for September (.pdf).

Monday, March 01, 2010

In Memory of Jo Opie

We are very sad to announce that our dear friend and Feminists Against Censorship colleague Jo Opie has died. An early supporter of Gay Pride, Jo joined FAC in 1990 and was active up to date. Founder of Islington MIND, Jo worked there as a volunteer until she became ill in August of last year and played a major role in their continued development, including co-founding the organisation's Crisis Line, serving on planning groups for local mental health retreats and presiding over a major drop-in facility.

Jo was also a member of Women in Prison and, in 2006, contributed to an enquiry into Deaths in Custody and Bereaved Families in the Corston report.

We will miss Jo very much and always appreciated her liberated and refreshing approach to relationships, freedom and feminism.

If you have any anecdotes or publication details you can share related to Jo as a person, her life, work or her anti-censorship, feminist and LGBT activism, please send them over to facnews at googlemail dot com or comment here.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Erotic Film With Feminist Aims Wins Award Despite Ban

The film Matinée, directed by Jennifer Lyon Bell, has been given the “Best Short Film” prize by an official jury at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival 2009. The August 26 scheduled screening was halted by the OFLC (Australia’s Office of Film and Literature Classification) banning it from the festival and, interestingly, it was the only R-Rated film in the festival to receive such treatment:

The OFLC cited “sexual content” as the reason. Matinée includes an erotic, explicit sex scene between the film’s two main characters, Mariah and Daniel. Matinée is the story of a reserved stage actress who decides to improvise her onstage lovescene in a bold attempt to inject creativity into the play. Their improvisation evolves into actual sex onstage in front of a live audience. Matinée’s themes involve trust, ambition, and creative risk...(Blue Artichoke Films Press Release)

The Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF) are said to have opposed the ban and seriously considered defying it. They have also pointed out that the OFLC has "historically privileged violent and misogynistic representations of explicit sex over the type of unabashed female sexual pleasure shown in Matinée".

I've not seen any of Jennifer Lyon-Bell's films myself yet but I certainly like what I've read about her approach on the Blue Artichoke Films website's About page:

Jennifer’s mission to create better sex film is an integral part of her feminist sexual expression. She believes that sexual freedom is an essential component of women’s freedom. And that creating beautiful, hot films that turn women on is possible, safe, and necessary...

...Part of our appeal to modern women is that our stories and situations aren’t bound up in monogamous romance. Pop culture is rife with messages for women that sex is only awesome once they’ve found True Love. Love is lovely, but we think that hot, meaningful sex can also happen between total strangers...

...It’s of the utmost concern to us that the actors and (particularly) actresses we work with be knowledgeable, thoughtful, and enthusiastic about doing films with us. Jennifer meets personally with every actor and actress even before allowing them to audition, so that she can be sure they have like-minded motivations and understand what the risks might be. Also, everyone on the cast and crew is encouraged to ask questions. We think that’s the only way to create a safe space for people to experiment sexually."

Matinée was released May 1 and the next screening will take place at the Strasbourg International Film Festival in France in early September. Along with the MUFF award, the film has also won the CineKink/NYC film festival’s jury award for “Best Narrative Film”, an Honorable Mention at the 2009 Feminist Porn Awards and was selected for the number 4 spot in the “5 Best Sex Films For Women” in the July 2009 German edition of Cosmopolitan magazine. Jennifer Lyon Bell's letter to the OFLC and open letter to the press can be found on the Blue Artichoke Films website.

Meanwhile, The Local has news on the Swedish government helping to finance a Swedish feminist porn film. Mia Engberg's film, Dirty Diaries, shows a selection of women using mobile phones to film their faces as they masturbate. While I think this particular use of female images could possibly be critiqued, I also think the responses Engberg talks about when explaining the thinking behind the film are very telling:

The film was put onto the internet and provoked a strong reaction. A lot of the reactions were negative, with comments like: "Damn, they're ugly. Could they not at least have put on some make-up." I found the comments interesting. They showed that we're still living with the age-old belief that a woman and her sexuality should please the beholder above all else.

Cross-posted at The F-Word.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Pornsaints will be in London For the Fetish Weekend on 2-5 October.