The future of erotic freedom should look brighter than it does. A broadening of sexual representation and visibility in mass media has been taking the (first) world by storm since the millennial shift.
Last year, the UK government introduced a bill to ban online videos of sex acts it deems "non-conventional," and suggested the potential for profiling porn viewing habits of citizens under the guise of protecting children. Consensual joys like fisting, spanking and face-sitting would shift from personal freedoms to forbidden privileges. Natural, biological functions like female ejaculation could soon be illegal to film. The ban seems to target practices found in—but not exclusive to—the BDSM scene, a scene often praised for its cathartic, therapeutic benefits, as well as a strong sense of community.
Catharsis and psychological well-being can be applied to all sexual acts practiced by any given orientation or identity. Pleasure, itself, is the equalizer when discussing sex and gender. Access to pleasure is a different conversation, but it shouldn't be. Everyone's access to pleasure is at stake to varying degrees.
If porn viewing habits are policed, regulated, and profiled, what is deemed "normal" and what is "abnormal?" What happens to those who fall into the "abnormal" category? One best-case scenario might mean restricted access, completely oppressing a citizen's liberation, expression and identity. This is not unfamiliar to queers, or anyone not falling under the heterosexual umbrella. However, according to the proposed UK law, even heterosexuals are targeted, for the bill focuses on the act, not the genders of those involved.
Sexual censorship usually is less about the acts themselves, which already have their own legal procedures, but more about what is shared in a public forum, what is written and what is thought. This is where the latest rash of sexual policing becomes tricky. The legalities surrounding rape, child abuse, incest and so on would be on par with consensual acts, heteronormative or otherwise. However, this isn't new. Sex (or what is considered obscene) has always been a cornerstone subject of all hierarchical social structures. The history of sodomy laws, which still stand in many regions around the globe, is a perfect example of a consensual act deemed unlawful. Let us Americans not forget this in the wake of same-sex marriage legalization.
The proposed porn restrictions in the UK—which are considered likely to become law this spring, by the way—could be a foreshadowing of our fate in the USA, with Trump promising to also crack down on "perversions." Back in August, he signed the Children's Internet Safety Presidential Pledge that asked presidential candidates to "prevent the sexual exploitation of children online" and to "make the internet safer for all." The key lies in that second promise. Within context of the pledge agreement, it sounds great—but within the context of the organization that developed the pledge, Enough is Enough, it connotes a bit more. Enough is Enough considers porn a "national health crisis." Enough is Enough advocates "porn-free wifi" that censors whatever it deems pornographic, as well as problematic sexting laws that can (and have) registered minors consensually engaging in erotic correspondence as sex offenders, or even put them behind bars.
Such is the issue with the well-intentioned law enforcement around sex. How can something as ordered and rigid as the law account for the very complex situation that is human sexuality? Laws become arbitrary (Google "the four-finger rule," for starters) or flawed (as with sexting).
Pleasure is a portal—an expression of political, spiritual and biological liberation. Therefore, it is dangerous. While the weaponization and politicization of the body and its functions may not be how we ideally see ourselves, it's certainly how the government sees us. Trump may be "fine" with same-sex marriage, but he is not fine with reproductive rights or Planned Parenthood. Ultimately, the toughest part of the battle is overcoming one's own personal stigmas with their own sexuality, and many politicians seem unable to do so.
As Eric Larrabee states in The Cultural Context of Sex Censorship, "Of all forms of sex censorship, that of the individual psyche—which sees to it that some things simply cannot be said, even to oneself—is undoubtedly the most effective." Our culture's complex relationship with sexual desire is riddled with guilt—religious or otherwise—and laced with a capitalist's gaze of using flesh as advertising scheme, cheapening sexual autonomy. To combat governmental sexual censorship, every individual must first combat their self-imposed restrictions, judgments and fears.
The personal is political, and pleasure is rebellion. Enjoy.