Dominant State, Submissive Populace

Spanking. Consensual physical or verbal abuse. Physical restraint. Female ejaculation. Strangulation. Facesitting. #ThingsBannedInUKPorn

No, it’s not an anarchist’s Christmas wishlist. The above is a selection of the #ThingsBannedInUKPorn this month. There are many angles people have taken when criticising these recent restrictions on pornography production, all of which can be thought of as anarchist in some sense.

Because market anarchists are inherently sceptical of power structures, it may seem surprising for me to adopt an unashamedly accepting stance towards pre-agreed extreme power imbalances in the bedroom. In fact, I wholeheartedly support individuals who engage in many of the behaviours that have been banned. Even if I was appalled by BDSM practices, a top-down imposition of limits to sexual behaviour between consenting adults is an exercise in power of far larger magnitude.

As the Everyday Analysis Collective write in their excellent column on the subject, “it is … important to bear in mind the fact that the regulation of pornography is not a simply repressive act.” Cries of repression may be cause for alarm, but in order to properly evaluate the restrictions we must examine the consequences of such repression. Treating adults like children — infantilising them by curtailing their pornographic choices – renders the BDSM community even more of an outgroup. It legitimises the disgust and derision of those who do not partake in its practices. A growing body of research suggests that those who engage in BDSM do not fulfil the pernicious stereotype of being psychologically damaged, and are in fact no different from the general population in this manner. Though we should not ignore the marginal cases, one influential 2013 study found that BDSM practitioners are less neurotic, more open to experience and possess higher levels of subjective wellbeing.

Also of primary importance is the flagrantly sexist aspect of the restrictions. The UK government is expressing its opposition to female pleasure by banning the depiction of female ejaculation, but leaving the male equivalent untouched. It is railing against the possibility of female dominance by preventing the portrayal of facesitting. The specific activities that have been restricted fit into a wider narrative, and the Everyday Analysis Collective further draws our attention to this in the aforementioned article: ” … a major problem with the current regulations is that they disproportionately restrict pornography that allows something else, whilst leaving intact that material that reinforces the unequal status quo.”

Whilst I may have used BDSM vocabulary in the title of this piece, it’s worth highlighting the difference between S&M and the state. One places a heightened emphasis on consent and is quite possibly beneficial for us. The other prioritises violence and is demonstrably harmful.

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