On Friday at midday, hundreds of people have arranged to meet at Old Palace Yard, next to Britain's Houses of Parliament. Once there, they plan to mimic sexual acts en masse while singing from the classic British comedy Monty Python. According to the Register, the group had been hoping to get the Guinness Book of World Records staff on hand, though they were rebuffed.
It may seem an unusual way to spend a weekday, but for those people planning to attend, the event is designed to highlight something more serious: A shift in Britain's laws regarding pornography that they see as a dramatic infringement of rights.
At the start of December, the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 came into force, amending the 2003 Communications Act. The amendment essentially meant that all online video on demand pornography would be judged the same as pornography sold legally in stores on DVDs, which is subject to the restrictions of the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC).
Outrage over change spread after the Independent picked up the story and pointed to a series of things that would be 'banned' under the law as they could be considered harmful to minors. The list included:
Penetration by any object "associated with violence"
Physical or verbal abuse (regardless of if consensual)
Urolangia (known as "water sports")
According to the Independent, the last three would be restricted because they were considered potentially "life endangering." The plan lead to widespread mockery on Twitter under the hashtag #ThingsNowBannedInUKPorn:
It's worth noting that the change in law is not expected to affect consumers, but could instead cause problems for British pornography producers and websites. And some have criticized the backlash to the new regulations, saying that the BBFC does not issue blanket bans and context will be important.
"In judging material which may or may not be allowed under BBFC Guidelines," Murray Perkins, a BBFC examiner, wrote for the Guardian, "it is often unhelpful to speak hypothetically and in generalizations when specifics of context and potential harm in a given situation are among the considerations which really matter."
Myles Jackman, a lawyer who specializes in obscenity law, disagreed. "Pornography is the canary in the coalmine of free speech: it is the first freedom to die," he wrote in a blog post. "If this assault on liberty is allowed to go unchallenged, other freedoms will fall as a consequence."
At Vice, Franklin Mullin spoke to pornography producers in the U.K. who focused on sadomasochism and female dominance pornography who felt that the new laws would unfairly target them. "The truth is that nobody really knows how this new law is going to be enforced," Itziar Bilbao Urrutia, a dominatrix who also produces femdom porn, told Vice. "Everybody is scared of losing their livelihoods."
For those outside of the United Kingdom who want to be involved in Friday's protest, they will likely be able to follow along online (under the hashtag #pornprotest) – or just sign the petition, if you'd prefer.