London Porn Film Festival Events

We set up the London Porn Film Festival because we wanted to address two small but significant aspects of the changing political scene. First, the fact that we felt it was high time the culture and spirit of Berlin Porn Film Festival made it to the UK and second, that we started a festival that unapologetically embraced and celebrated sexuality in all its forms. We wanted to do this because we live in strange times. Britain is at the epicentre of a global political shift via Brexit that will change the course of history. The people bearing the brunt of this most publicly are the migrant and Muslim populations, but behind the scenes the structures that govern our society are being subtly and permanently changed.

We are enjoying what appear to be freedoms the like of which have never been seen. LGBT rights are seemingly on the ascent: marriage is now an established fact for LGBT people, Pride is a huge attraction each year and has the support of institutions that once marginalised and maligned us. Trans people have made huge headway in re-defining the narrative and gaining better access to medical care. It’s easy to think the fight is over – that a few loose strings here and there need to be tidied up and then we’re done.

But this is only one part of a much bigger picture. The London Porn Film Festival is not a political outfit in itself, but we are acutely aware of the conditions in which we operate. The steep increase of hate crimes against racial and sexual minorities in the wake of Brexit indicates that a backlash is around the corner, and the climate in which such behaviour is acceptable is being fostered by vague and opaque laws such as the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014, better known as the face-sitting ban; the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, otherwise known as the Snooper’s Charter; and the Digital Economy Bill, which is expected to become law imminently.

These laws work together to form an alarming mesh of powers. The Audiovisual Media Services Regulation means that several sexual acts – including “spanking, caning, aggressive whipping, urolagnia (known as "water sports"), female ejaculation, face-sitting and fistingcan no longer be represented or shown on screen in the UK, and has been roundly criticised for targeting women and queer people. American hardcore pornography remains, for the most part, untouched. But the worrying thing is that in addition the Investigatory Powers Act (which means that unless you are using a VPN your ISP is keeping records of every page you visit for twelve months) and the Digital Economy Bill (which is bad for small, DIY porn businesses because the cost of implementing new age verification requirements could exceed profits), the government has given itself the power to outlaw relatively innocuous acts and to then spy on us.

The implications of these news laws do not make great headlines – it is difficult to splash something so tentacular and obtuse on the front page, or to rouse popular passion when other more spectacular things are happening. And as the obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman put it, “Pornography is the canary in the coal mine of free speech. It is the first freedom to die. If assaults on liberty like this are allowed to go unchallenged, further freedoms will fall as a consequence.”

So the increase in hate crime in this country – both homophobic and racist – is no coincidence. The surge of authoritarian, right-wing rhetoric about “taking back control” is understood very clearly by those on the margins as a desire to erase many of the social freedoms and much of the political recognition we have gained. By narrowing the definition of what constitutes “normal” in one sphere, you can then enforce that definition in another. The London Porn Film Festival stands against that and we hope to be a space in which the insidiousness of these new laws are actively challenged.

The Berlin porn film festival, upon which we are modelled, has over the years developed into a huge, sell-out affair and the centre of a brilliant, fun, imaginative scene developing porn that does not conform to mainstream standards. Indeed, the idea is very different: to focus on sexual liberation, not as a wishy-washy affair, but as a mode in which people from different demographics, walks of life, experiences are presented as valid – valid sexual agents, valid people to desire. We cannot speak about sex without speaking about race without speaking about class without speaking about economics; all of these things are intertwined.

This might seem like an extremely trivial point – after all, who cares about a bunch of queers flogging each other when there’s a migrant crisis and article 50 has been triggered? But to an extent, that question provides its own answer. Repressive laws do not target mainstream populations because there would be too much resistance. Repressive laws begin with people who do not matter. And it is safe to say that if the attitude towards some people is “Who cares?” then they are ripe for being targeted by the state. And the prevailing attitude towards queer people, particularly those who do not conform to homonormative ambitions to be just like heterosexual people, is, increasingly, that we are less important than other, more pressing, issues.

The London Porn Film Festival has been established not only because we like queer porn but because we care about queer porn film. We care about the sex workers, porn performers and producers who make it. We believe that queer, radical porn is a fascinating form of expression that can provide huge political, theoretical and artistic insights, insights that should be available in the blooming cultural scene in what should be a world-leading city of free speech. But the truth is, the laws are so vague, so open to interpretation, that we are not sure where we stand.

And we’re far from the only thing being targeted. The fight for digital liberties is a key part of the future, and the lack of outrage around the digital economy bill is largely due to the fact that most people do not understand the technology that rules our lives. The days of a separation between cyber and meat space are over. The next frontier, perhaps the cleverest, is to curb what can and cannot be viewed online. And they’re starting with online porn; small steps that seem paltry in comparison to the more repressive step of curbing “real life” freedoms. But forcing a business offline because it shows spanking, as in the case of Pandora Blake’s Dreams of Spanking, which was forced offline for ten months? Attempting to bankrupt small businesses by enforcing age verification technologies but providing no support for implementation? And this, amidst a raft of new laws, including one that requires all ISPs to collect and store every website you visit? Unless you are taking precautions, May’s government is quietly but surely collecting information about what you visit, who you connect with, what you read. And you can be sure that at some point in the future, they will have something to say about it.

We’re doing this because it’s important, and it’s a small corner of our broader culture that is under attack. There has always been strong feeling against sexual agency. It is usually the first thing to be attacked during a tide of authoritarianism. How willing we are to let that happen is a signal to the powers that be about how far they can go. Porn is a genre in which we can re-imagine ourselves, our sexuality and our future. Do we think a really hot sex scene will change the world? No. But it’s not about a really hot sex scene. It’s about protecting the margins, showing strong resistance there so we do not allow ourselves to slide into ever more repressive circumstances.

There are currently no live events for London Porn Film Festival on OutSavvy