UK pulls U-turn on obscenity laws, but is pushing ahead with age verification


The UK government has changed its guidance on the legality of certain sexual acts depicted in adult material or in online live shows, which it previously had the power to prosecute, such as fisting, watersports, BDSM and female ejaculation.

Now, due to pressure from free speech campaigners, there have been changes to allow for a wider range of sexual activity to be shown. Obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman says that, broadly speaking, if it’s aimed at adults, doesn’t cause harm, and is fully consensual – and it can’t be linked with other criminality, then it’s likely allowed under the new laws.

Jackman told SEXTECHGUIDE that the turnabout is a significant milestone for adult content creators (and viewers) in the UK.

“In free speech and privacy terms, these changes represent the most significant public changes of attitude by an institution of the state towards consensual adult sexual content since the Wolfenden Report in 1957.”

Pandora Blake, a UK-based porn maker that has been lobbying alongside Jackman for the changes was also (unsurprisingly) pleased by the news.

Indeed, while the change of course is long-overdue and welcomed more widely, there’s still likely to be some bumps in the road ahead as the regulations are tested by real-world cases.

Meanwhile, the government may well have decided that adults can decide what consensual, non-harmful sexual acts they wish to perform or watch, but it’s still pushing ahead with plans to make everyone in the UK add their name to a register if they want to watch porn at all – or indeed, access other adult services.

It shouldn’t need saying – not least because we, along with many, many others, have said it already – but keeping a hackable, leakable list of people that access porn is a bad idea for so many reasons, and not least of which, because it simply won’t work.

What’s unfortunate, however, is that the provision in the new obscenity law could be used as justification for needing strict age verification methods by default – a key part of the rules state that it’s legal if “the likely audience is not under 18”.

This in itself is obviously a lot easier to prove legally if there’s a log of everyone that has accessed a site or service, which could lead to some additional perceived value to using age verification measures.

Read Next: ‘Unworkable’ age verification plans set to cost UK taxpayers at least £4.5m

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