AN OPEN LETTER TO DAVID CAMERON

Dear Mr. Cameron,

You recently announced sweeping measures to combat illegal child pornography. Let me say that we in the adult entertainment industry applaud any well thought out measures to achieve this goal.

However, in the name of ‘protecting children’ and as a ‘moral obligation’ you also intend to expand laws which make mere possession of some forms of pornography illegal, and to censor the Internet of all forms of pornography in the UK. I am writing to you to let you know why I believe these are mistakes. I speak both from a personal perspective and on the basis of statistics.

I grew up in England, and am the product of a family dynamic where sex was not a topic of conversation. Any form of sexual information — be it pornographic or otherwise — was unavailable to me. I graduated Cambridge University, in a college consisting of 80 percent men, primarily focused on academia. I consider my sexuality to have been repressed until adulthood. My first understandings of my sexuality came — aged 18 — from purchasing bondage and kink themed magazines and videos from seedy london sex shops. I say ‘seedy’ because these establishments had to be prepared to break UK law by selling this material — and still do to this day. It was upon acquisition of this material that I started to understand that BDSM was part of my sexuality and that I was not alone. From there, I identified communities of people with similar sexual tastes. For me, access to pornography was healthy.

My repressed sexuality could only stay repressed for so long. Shortly after moving to the USA, and having identified a need for the widespread availability of kink-centric pornography, I started Kink.com, a business which now employs 130 people. I felt a need to express myself, and in a big way. I felt a need to let people know that expression of sexuality is OK. My life’s journey has taken me wide, far, and back to where I find myself happily married with a child today.

I do not mean to suggest that if I had not been able to access pornography aged 18, I would have committed a sexual crime. However, had the repression I felt lasted indefinitely, had I never found communities of people who shared my sexual desires, and had this lead to isolation, I have no idea where I would be today. As it is, I have explored my desires to such an extent, that my sex life today is probably not obscene, even to you.

The ‘extreme pornography’ laws of the UK which – incredibly – you are considering expanding are ambiguous to say the least. Who is to say what is illegal to possess and what is not? Are a couple who take pictures of their BDSM activities guilty of this law for merely possessing the images?? How will you make the distinction — from a single image — between a heavy S/M scene and what UK law calls “likely to result in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals”? Is the depiction of a woman who consents to being bound and penetrated deemed ‘rape’? Where will this stop? What about educational websites which include elaborate pictures of S/M? You are sending a message that kinky sex is wrong. You are repressing sexual expression. The point of my letter is to tell you that your actions are inherently short sighted, unhealthy, and indeed likely to have the opposite of the intended effect.

My experience is an isolated case, and so clearly not the basis of any scientific conclusion. However, you are guilty of exactly this — considering only isolated cases. You draw the conclusion that consumption of pornography by a handful of sexual offenders actually caused the offense, and then you extrapolate to other forms of legal pornography and assume this also leads to crime. Let me clue you in. Consumption of legal pornography is widespread beyond your wildest imagination — the vast majority of it, healthily consumed. You are using a moral compass to make sweeping policy decisions without any real evidence or analysis of the consequences.

I have yet to see any compelling evidence whatsoever that there are any negative consequences to the proliferation of pornography on the Internet. Indeed, during the period from the creation of the Internet and today, there has been a remarkable reduction in the incidence of rape in western civilizations. Anthony D’Amato, Leighton Professor of Law at Northwestern University argues this point very well in his paper, Porn Up, Rape Down (this paper was written in 2004, but rape numbers have dropped a further 15% in the US during that 2004-2013 period).

Further, If your assessment was correct, it would follow that countries such as Denmark, who prides herself on an absence of censorship of any kind, would have a sexual abuse problem. Far from it. Rape numbers in Norway are one quarter of those in the USA or UK.

From my personal experience and these statistics, I believe you are wrong in this decision. Indeed, I believe that society’s acceptance of sexual expression is fundamentally healthy. Repressed people become isolated, lost and frightened, and that is the real problem we face. Those who use pornography to help explore their sexual tastes end up healthier.

As an Englishman, it saddens me to read of this shortsighted approach to policy making in my home country.

Peter Acworth
Founder, CEO, kink.com

13 thoughts on “AN OPEN LETTER TO DAVID CAMERON

  1. cbreiko

    I am English, I subscribe to Kinkmen’s Bound Gods and to Naked Kombat. It will be extremely simple for those who wish to, to opt in to receive porn. It may be embarrassing in some cases, but then life is often like that!
    Two little girls died in Britain in 2012, April Jones, and Tia Sharp at the hands of pedophiles whose computers were found to contain graphic pictures of children – sexual pictures. Nothing can bring these children back they are dead. These murderers were to my mind inherently evil (I’m not suggesting that seeing the child porn created these monsters they were already monsters who found an online source to feed their sick appetites), however they were able to feed their twisted fantasies of abusing children via the internet and God knows how much worse the suffering of those little girls was as a result.
    But opting in to receive porn and any inherent embarrassment is a small price to pay if it can prevent such monsters feeding their sickness,
    I don’t disagree with a lot of what you say, I don’t think there is anything wrong with internet porn providing the participants (and viewers of it) are over 18, and providing it is consensual and safe. I don’t agree with censorship for censorships sake and I don’t believe that porn leads to other sex crimes. Those that perpetuate such crimes would likely do so regardless of porn on the internet.
    There does however have to be a limit to what is acceptable, children deserve protection in this world as they cannot provide it for themselves. Adults can be educated and should learn about the world and how to protect themselves from the dangers in it. There is an element of self responsibility for adults that just isn’t there for children.
    I don’t like that I have to opt-in, but I will, if it protects children. If it saves one little girls life its worth every bit of embarrassment for every single person who has to speak to their internet provider to ‘opt in’.

    Reply
    1. Peter Acworth Post author

      We agree that these crimes were evil beyond description, but this debate confuses completely different issues. 1) cleaning the Internet of illegal child abuse photos (we all agree on this!!), 2) making some forms of legal porn illegal, and 3) blocking *all* porn by default.

      The criminal in question would certainly have opted to receive porn, so how does implementing 3) solve anything relating to the tragedy of the crime in question? What relevance is 2) to this this crime?

      Reply
      1. cbreiko

        I’m sure they would have chosen to receive porn. However everyone receiving would be known. That puts another dimension on things. Activities can be monitored more easily. Yes there will be still be huge numbers receiving porn and yes some things will still go undetected but it lessens the chances. There were two murderers in these cases (two little girls died), a different murderer for each crime. In the case of one of these murderers this wasn’t their first crime of this nature and their crimes escalated – until a little girl was killed. At the very least it is much more likely that this would have been prevented. The geographic locations of the crimes compared to the geographic location of those registered to receive porn would have made detection much more likely. And yes the crimes were perpetuated near where the monster lived but even if future child molesters/murderers got cleverer and tried to commit them further away the complications of this make it harder for them to commit the crimes without detection.
        To the best of my knowledge according to news reports you can opt in to watch porn. I haven’t heard that certain types are banned completely. That is not what has been reported by the BBC. I haven’t read newspapers since this policy was announced so I cannot comment further on this.
        As to the blanket ban, as far as the reports I have seen yes that will exist in as much as you have to ‘opt in’ to receive porn but it is a simple enough procedure to do that. Embarrassing maybe, as discussing ones sex lives with strangers can be, but in this case sometimes you have to stand up and be counted for the greater good, in this case the protection of children.

        Reply
        1. Peter Acworth Post author

          Cbreiko, I do not think you grasp the gravity of the implications of what David Cameron is suggesting.

          There is existing UK law which makes mere possession (not just distribution) of extreme pornography (please read this link) illegal. This appalling law was enacted in 2009 as the result of a single defendant having talked about viewing extreme pornography prior to commuting a murder. David Cameron now wishes to expand this law by adding ‘rape porn’ to the list.

          Cbreiko, do you have pictures of men tied up and being fucked in the cache of your computer? I cannot tell you for certain that you are not already personally in violation of this new UK law as proposed by David Cameron.

          Again, we’re ALL in favor of outlawing child abuse images and ALL in favor of stiff penalties for possession of such material. Bravo to David Cameron for taking such a stance. However, the other aspects of what David Cameron is suggesting — criminalizing possession and blocking all adult materials by default — make no sense…

          Reply
    2. Mike

      There are plenty of reason to be wary of the argument that “even if it protects one little girl’s life” it will be worth the embarrassment. One, we’re not talking about child porn, which is already outlawed. Two, the porn ban sweeps up a lot more in a ban like this — these bans routinely block sex-ed sites, gay and lesbian sites, and public health sites. People should feel free to “opt-out” of seeing “adult” (and extraneous) material, but it’s more likely that this will cause more people harm than good. The evidence — which Peter outlines — demonstrates that sex crimes actually decline with the availability of sexual materials.

      So turn it around, if switching to an “opt-out” saves even one person’s life — from HIV, from suicide, from anti-gay bullying, indeed from sexual assualt — we should do it. Sexual ignorance kills, too.

      Reply
  2. Mark M.

    Peter,
    Your open letter is well reasoned and I tend to agree with your dissent at Cameron’s public policy (but I am not English so my opinion is less relevant). That said, does the porn industry fund research about the potential negative or positive societal implications of porn? Where does the industry leadership come from? It seems myopic to focus only on underaged sexual abuse and rape as the dimensions of porn’s impact. As big as the porn industry is and no funded research? I hope I am wrong.

    Reply
  3. Linda B. Pitts

    There is no settled definition of pornography, either in the United Kingdom itself, or in the multi-national environment of the Internet, where cultural, moral and legal variations all around the world make it difficult to define ‘pornographic content’ in a way acceptable to all. What is considered simply sexually explicit but not obscene in England may well be obscene in many other countries; conversely what is considered lawful but not pornographic in Sweden may well be obscene under the current UK legislation.

    Reply
  4. Serge

    Hello, Peter!

    I live in Russia and here is also people can’t buy or legally sell fetish or bdsm magazine and society is still very conservative. I can’t fully expressed my sexuality and I feel that my sexuality is repressed too like you in England.
    Maybe I can work for you Kink Company as film director in some new project 🙂
    Is it possible?
    I haven’t got experience in BDSM but I have so many ideas and fantasies that can be converted in film scenarios. I want to learn and I have enthusiasm. I can drop you a line through e-mail if you interested in.

    Reply
  5. Razz

    I believe the question of whether a couple recording their own sexual play (or someone recording it for them) has been settled by the common law – they wouldn’t be liable.

    When my sexuality was forming there was a mantra in BDSM that activities were supposed to be ‘safe, sane and consensual’. This has been lost and many of the younger kinksters I know have not heard of this. What’s more, whilst Kink.com goes out of its way to show the consensual nature of its films, many do not.

    My view is the proposed law is a mess. It means a ban on porn in its entirety to some, a restriction on consensual activity to others. I also am of the view that this is an attempt at social engineering that will have far reaching consequences for the future.

    Reply
  6. Zeb roberts-natali

    good job peter. What is the very the essence of democracy but freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of action. If anything the conservative party in England has no argument when one of their own, one Stephen Milligan, who was found dead in his London flat in 1994 with an orange in his mouth self-strangled el a autoerotic asphyxiation. Thanks Zeb

    Reply
  7. Graham Marsden

    I was heavily involved in the “Backlash” campaign which was organised to object to the original “Dangerous Pictures Act” (ie the Extreme Pornography laws) that were sold to a gullible public on the idea that “if it stops just one death it will be worth it” since Graham Coutts had viewed this sort of material before an act of Erotic Asphyxiation resulted in the death of Jane Longhurst.

    The argument was that, because he had seen this material, it had driven him to commit murder, even though, at the trial, one of Jane Longhurst’s friends confirmed that a) JL had told the friend about participating in such acts previously and b) that it was clear that she wasn’t being forced into participation.

    Unfortunately, just like these proposals and the equally ridiculous ones which are attempting to ban “rape porn” (even if simulated), there is no proof (and can be no such proof) that this Precautionary Principle argument that “banning this sort of material would stop a death” has any validity and the only “evidence” that could be provided to support the original laws was a “Rapid Evidence Assessment” produced for the Government by three feminist anti-pornography campaigners!

    You cite the work of Anthony D’Amato, another authoris’ work which is well worth a look is that of Professor Milton Diamond PhD of the University of Hawai’i who also demonstrates that a rise in the availability of “hard core” and “extreme” pornography is correlated with a fall in violent sexual crime see http://www.hawaii.edu/PCSS/online_artcls/pornography/prngrphy_ovrvw.html

    He concludes: “It is certainly clear from the data reviewed, and the new data and analysis presented, that a massive increase in available pornography in Japan, the United States and elsewhere has been correlated with a dramatic decrease in sexual crimes and most so among youngsters as perpetrators or victims. ”

    Unfortunately people like cbreiko above appear to be being seduced by the “Won’t Someone Think of the Children!” arguments, not realising that he is supporting the idea that the Nanny State not only has the right to tell adults what they can or cannot see or read or view, but that it should also have the right to *actively monitor* people’s viewing and reading choices for fear that it might make them do bad things!

    There is a term for this, which is “Thought Crime” and this is the sort of Big Brother world that David Cameron wants to lead us in to saying that although we are adults, we are such spineless, conscienceless individuals that we cannot be trusted to be allowed this sort of nasty material.

    Reply
  8. Richard

    This media/government obfuscation of the truth gets on my wick!

    Human sexuality comes from the heart, soul and mind… as does the need to protect your children. I have a 17 year old niece. I’ve done my best to shield her through childhood but where she goes from 18 is her personal destiny.

    There are two types of people in this world. Those who admit their feelings and use them to make the world a better place… and those who take their embitterment and thought-control out on this world. The former are the likes of Peter Acworth, Richard Branson etc. The latter can be found in sections of the government and mass media.

    Vision, love and fellow clear thinking to you all, R x

    Reply

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