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Laurie Penny: My night at the Shaftas, porn's award ceremony

What I learned at the porn industry's annual ceremony.

"If a girl wants to get into the porn industry, the most important thing is to act natural," says Hannah, 20, fluttering her huge fake eyelashes. We're at the Shaftas, the UK porn industry's annual awards ceremony, in the gloom of an upmarket London strip joint that reeks of power and cheap perfume.

Hannah is plastered in spraytan and crystals, the elaborate porno-drag not quite hiding her natural beauty. She started being fucked on film when she was 18, moving into the industry because her shop job didn't pay quite enough.

"I love doing porn, yeah, love it," she says, brandishing her gloriously tacky award for best sex scene: a golden statue of a woman's hand holding an erect penis. "The gold cock is smaller than last year," complains pornstar Angel Long, 29. "It must be the recession. It's a real wilter."

There has been much discussion, over the past 12 months, of the impact that the $96bn pornography industry has on women and on young people. As study after study has coyly revealed that yes, quite a lot of people downloading naughty pictures on the internet, anti-porn feminists and legislators have suggested that the ease with which pornography can now be accessed might contribute to rape and domestic violence.

Here, at the high end of the British porn industry, men and women dressed like extras from a low-budget remake of American Psycho drink warm beer and plunder the awful buffet. A woman with straining plastic boobs pouring out of a satin ballgown munches on a mini-fishcake. It's like being at an elaborate funeral for the human orgasm.

"What's the difference between having dirty sex in private and having it on camera, apart from the money?" says Hannah, who is slurping a cocktail called a Pussy Bomb. Porn director Dick Bush, 30, chips in. "The difference is that you don't have a bloke like me standing there, telling you to open your legs wider so the camera can get in, five minutes like that, then turn around for doggy style."

"We're all all one big happy family here," he adds, jiggling a drunken Hannah on his knee. He smoothes his hair back like a politician, and smiles. I go to the toilets to apply more makeup. There are bloodstained tissues strewn around the sinks.

The feminist porn director, Anna Span says: "There are no proven links between porn and violence, rape or any other damaging behaviour by men towards women, even though governments have spent millions of dollars trying to find one." She adds: "A third of all porn viewers online are female, too, so it no longer makes sense to discuss the subject in terms of 'men's opinions of women." Watching the Shaftas' endless rolling footage of naked people grimacing as they pummel each other's bodies robotically into submission, it strikes me that Anna is half-right: mainstream pornography is not anti-woman. It is anti-human.

Danny, 21, wins the Shafta for best male performer. He is dragged onto the stage and shouted at until he agrees to take his leviathan appendage out of his trousers. "So much blood goes to his erection that he often passes out on set. We have to hook him up to a drip," says Dick Bush. "The insurance is insane, It's an affliction." Danny waves his affliction dutifully at the crowd.

At the bar, Angel Long laughs aggressively and goes for another Pussy Bomb. "For Angel, doing porn is a competition thing rather than a sex thing," confides her friend. "She has to have the most hardcore scenes, the largest and most frequent penetrations. She's a star."

There is a hollow teenage atmosphere to this place, a desperate striving for status played out over the sort of naughty pop songs that once marked the end of school discos in the 1990s. Sullen-looking waitresses in satin thongs distribute drinks to the strains of No Diggity and Ebeneezer Goode. The guests air-kiss, greeting one another with shrill smiles: they all know why they're here. "It's for the money, and sometimes the fame," says Dick Bush, "although of course, enjoying it helps."

Pornography holds a dark mirror up to our culture. It places a frigid factory-line of violence and competition at the heart of human intimacy. With 92% of 14-17 year olds having seen porn online, a generation of young people is now growing up believing that this this brutally identikit performance is what real sex really looks like.

One doubts that any government ban on wank material will save sexuality from this trough of profit and power. "I love the idea of people watching me, of making money from performing," slurs Hannah. "but I've never had an orgasm from sex. Not from sex, no."

Laurie Penny is a contributing editor to the New Statesman. She is the author of five books, most recently Unspeakable Things.

This article first appeared in the 21 March 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The drowned world

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It's time to rid the beautiful game of online abuse

Kick It Out first started receiving reports of social media discrimination relating to football in 2012/13.

Today at Kick It Out we’re launching a social media campaign called ‘Klick It Out’ – looking to highlight the issue of social media discrimination within football.

Football has moved forward in so many ways over the last 25 years or so. Whilst prejudice and discrimination is alive in society sadly it will continue in football, but improvements have been made at football stadiums and there’s been a shift in people feeling happier to not only report discrimination but to challenge it amongst their fellow supporters as well.

The advances in technology have brought many advantages for supporters as they can discuss the latest football news and revel or wallow in their team’s success or failure. It has brought about problems though and what we see at Kick It Out reflects wider issues online.

For those of you who aren’t football supporters, Kick It Out is English football’s equality and inclusion organisation. Established in 1993 and firstly known as ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out Of Football’, the organisation has grown and in 1997 changed its name to Kick It Out.

Now concerned with tacking all forms of discrimination within the game, Kick It Out looks to use the positive impact football can have to communicate messages of equality and inclusion.

In our role as a third-party reporting bureau, the organisation first started receiving reports of social media discrimination in 2012/13.

A full-time reporting officer was first appointed in 2013 to deal with all discrimination reports, right across English football, from the riches of the Premier League to those who play the game for their sheer love of it in the wind and rain on Sunday mornings. Alongside this, year-on-year reports of social media discrimination have risen.

Some of the comments are truly shocking and many in our office were taken aback by the vitriol and hatred produced online. It has become common place though for too many in the digital age.

A common question is ‘would people say that to my face?’ – and you do wonder if many of the users would approach you face-to-face and be so strong with their views. We have to change the mind-set that ‘it’s OK’ to direct this discrimination online, as if it isn’t real life for some.

Often social media discrimination towards high-profile players will be rightly picked up by the media but we also have to deal with discrimination towards other supporters. It’s when you hear these personal stories that it hits home about the impact it can have on an individual.

This summer’s campaign looks to raise awareness of the problem of football-related social media discrimination and also publicise ways of reporting such abuse, one of which is through us at Kick It Out.

To tie-in with Euro 2016, Kick It Out, alongside Brandwatch, a world leading social intelligence and analytics company, will monitor online discrimination towards those European nations competing, including the full squads from England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Wales.

This follows on from research published in April 2015 looking at direct discrimination towards Premier League players and clubs, which first highlighted the true extent of the problem. Between August 2014 and March 2015, 134.4K discriminatory posts were made on publicly accessible social media platforms, forums and websites.

At Kick It Out we’re determined to continue campaigning for reforms in this area, to ensure there’s greater action from all concerned in the football world, social media platforms and 
and in civil authorities, and for there to be clear penalties for those posting discrimination.

Roisin Wood is the Director of Kick It Out. Visit klickitout.org to find out more about the campaign.