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UK Porn Stars Debate Today's "Mass Face-Sitting" Protest Outside Parliament

BuzzFeed News spoke to British adult performers about the Westminster demonstration.

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Hundreds of people are expected to take part in a "mass face-sitting" outside parliament today in protest against new UK pornography censorship laws.

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The Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 created an amendment to the 2003 Communications Act, making Video on Demand (VoD) porn produced and sold in the UK subject to the same regulations as DVDs.

The result is that VoD pornography must now adhere to an R18 classification, meaning acts such as "female ejaculation", "aggressive whipping", and "face-sitting" are effectively banned.

Today's demonstration is being organised by sex worker and sexual freedom campaigner Charlotte Rose.

Charlotte Rose / Via Twitter: @_Charlie_rose

BuzzFeed News spoke to a number of UK porn stars and an anti-censorship campaigner about the mass face-sitting and what they think it will achieve.

Are you planning on attending the protest on Friday?

Tanya Tate: Unfortunately, no. I am back in the US at the moment. If I was in the UK I would be there.

Lexi Lowe: No I won't be there. I'm all for protesting about the new laws but a "mass face-sitting" is not something I want to take part in.

In some ways I think it's a clever way to maximise press coverage about both the existence of the new laws and the protest, as I can't help but think mainstream media would be interested in a story about a bunch of slightly agitated, fully clothed people hanging around outside parliament for the day.

On the other hand, it trivialises what is actually a very serious issue of censorship. For me the problem runs far deeper than something like face-sitting being singled out in porn: The real problem is that a precedent has now been set for more of our freedoms to be taken away.

Itziar Bilbao Urrutia: No. But Backlash [a group campaigning for freedom of sexual expression that she's involved with] volunteers will be at the demo.

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Tanya Tate is a porn star from Liverpool now living in LA. She is a 10-time MILF of the Year award-winner.

Do you think it will actually achieve anything?

Tate: I hope so. But the reality is the people who make the decisions have little regard for the adult industry and any show of force will be dismissed. The protest will surely grab some headlines, which can be good for creating awareness of the UK's war on porn, but I do not believe it will make an impact as far as changing laws or opinions.

Lowe: If a mass face-sitting is going to achieve anything it's guaranteed press coverage, which can only serve as a good thing to make sure that everybody in the UK is aware that these new laws are now in place. I just hope that people can see past the circus show and see the bigger picture about why people are out there demonstrating like this. As far as making an actual stir in parliament, I don't think the protest alone will manage that. It will only be when the general public start speaking up about this that we will start making any progress, hopefully the press from the protest will work to continue to inform people.

Jerry Barnett (founder of anti-censorship campaign Sex & Censorship): Yes [it will achieve something]. It is the first time people will have protested against against an anti-porn law in the UK, and demonstrates a change in culture. It has also attracted a lot of attention and will pave the way for something bigger.

Urrutia: I support peaceful protest if it helps drawing attention to this unfair legislation. My only reservation would be that the anecdotal, the spectacle, could easily silence the real issues and turn it into a freak show in the eyes of the general public.

What else can be done to highlight the problems with the new porn laws?

Urrutia: Debate and engagement with evidence, not disgust or fearmongering.

Tate: That is tough to answer. If it were up to me, I would create a viral campaign to further create awareness and have knowledgeable people speak as to what this savage curtailing of our freedoms mean. We Brits enjoy a bit of kink. When people realise something they enjoy has been taken from them for nothing more than political posturing, I think there will be hell to pay. We NEED to be taken seriously to get anything done.

Lowe: I think the media are key in highlighting the problems with the new porn laws. Most people don't care much for the opinions of those in the adult industry – porn is there for entertainment value, but nobody wants to take political advice from a porn star.

The media have focused too much on the acts themselves that have been banned and not enough on the actual act of censorship. Instead of headlines like "Squirting now banned in UK porn", we should be seeing headlines like "Internet censorship now in place in the UK". Simple changes like this could make all the difference to highlighting the real problems.

The fact that these new laws currently only apply to porn is irrelevant; they are a form of censorship over acts that are not illegal. It is [a] dictatorship over what consenting adults can and cannot do. These laws were rushed through parliament in less than a month and ultimately kept quiet until they were passed. Where was the media coverage before the laws were passed, when we could have had a chance to fight them? There should be public outrage that the UK can be censored so easily.

What is the general mood among the UK porn industry regarding the new censorship laws? How concerned are people you've spoken to?

Tate: People are concerned. This is a very bad situation whose ramifications run very deep. This will affect a lot of people's livelihoods and the way they produce content.

Barnett: Very mixed. Typically, small businesses are concerned, and many are closing down, while larger companies actually see business benefit from censorship as it will reduce competition.

Urrutia: The independent UK adult video producers that I have spoken to are confused and bewildered at the legislation itself, and scared of losing their livelihoods.

Richard James is acting head of news for BuzzFeed Australia and is based in Sydney.

Contact Richard James at richard.james@buzzfeed.com.

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