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Feminist Porn Director Gets Big Spanking Win for Fetish Sites

Jun 6 2016 12:55 PM
Feminist Porn Director Gets Big Spanking Win for Fetish Sites

Pandora Blake (left) in "Dreams of Spanking." Photo courtesy of Pandora Blake

In a landmark freedom of speech case, authorities ruled that Pandora Blake's fetish site did not violate the rules on porn. As Dreams of Spanking wins its appeal, Blake explains why she was the victim of sexist censorship.

Kinky devotees of Pandora Blake's Dreams of Spanking website were drawn there for its varied, ethically produced fetish content. You could share fantasies on discussion forums, listen to audio stories, and keep up-to-date with the fetish community through Blake's frequently updated blog. A $28 monthly subscription would give you access to queer-friendly, kink-and-spanking-focused videos such as Slight Damage to the Rear End.

"We had a really varied demographic, but shot for the female erotic gaze. Bisexual people; queer guys who loved the fact I had male-male content, and women who loved the male-male content too! A lot of switchers [BDSM enthusiasts who 'switch' between dominant and submissive], which you don't see represented in porn that much," Blake tells me over the phone. Then, in August 2015, now-defunct UK internet regulator Authority for Television on Deman (ATVOD) came after Blake.

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Acting under widely condemned legislation, Dreams of Spanking was taken down. The all-male ATVOD regulatory panel had deemed that videos such as Ariel's Sponsored Caning, a 27 minute caning film featuring adult performer Ariel Andersson, caused "lasting harm" and that the site violated UK porn laws. Andersson tweeted a photo of her healed ass to let regulators know she was just fine, actually, but to no avail. Dreams of Spanking was no more.

After a lengthy appeal process, the British regulatory authorities overturned their decision on a technicality this week. In a statement, media regulator Ofcom told Broadly they "found that the site was not a video on demand service and therefore it was not subject to regulation." In effect, ATVOD didn't have jurisdiction over Blake's site, and she was free to resume normal spanking services. But the laws which ATVOD were acting under continue to apply in the UK to this day.

Dreams of Spanking also hosted queer-friendly content for men and women. Photo courtesy of Pandora Blake

In 2014 the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations (AVMS) 2014 changed the landscape governing online porn produced in the UK. Many thought the BDSM scene would never recover. Acts no longer deemed acceptable included spanking, caning, female ejaculation, face sitting (a suffocation hazard, although blow jobs were fine) and whipping. Members of the fetish community, Blake included, organized face-sitting demonstrations outside Parliament to protest what they saw as anti-feminist and kink-shaming regulations. Blake regularly appeared in the national media arguing that the AVMS regulations were sexist and regressive. Then the regulators shut Dreams of Spanking down.

Although pleased with Monday's judgement, Blake feels that she was a victim of government-backed censorship. "There are loads of other spanking sites in the UK run by old white men, and when the AVMS regulations came in I was the only site to be investigated. I'd been on TV saying I thought the regulations were sexist, and it was around the time I was doing a lot of press that I first got the tap on the shoulder from ATVOD. By sticking my head above the parapet, I'd made myself a target."

Myles Jackman is a lawyer specializing in obscenity and censorship cases, and was Blake's legal representative throughout the appeal process. "This was utterly illiberal behaviour, really," he tells Broadly. "It's not the behaviour of a developed nation that people who criticize government offices for censorship—like Pandora did—end up being censored themselves."

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While Ofcom declined to comment on whether they agreed ATVOD unfairly targeted Blake, Jackman welcomes today's ruling. "I hope this heralds a new direction in how adult content is viewed by the UK regulatory authorities. But it doesn't change the fact that they unfairly picked on female directors... This was a patriarchal regulator trying to control female sexuality."

For now, Blake lives to spank another day. But the damage—financial and emotional—caused by ATVOD's decision continues. "It's been a year of hell, really. Trying to keep my business going while knowing any day it would be taken down. Financially, it was catastrophic.

"But at an emotional level, as a kinky woman who's fantasized about being spanked since I was tiny, for me to be criminalized felt like a personal attack. I was being told by this patriarchal state agency that as a kinky woman I was unacceptable, that my sexuality was disgusting and dangerous to children, even. It really made me question whether the UK actually is a progressive country."

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