Irony alert: how a protest about porn turned into a lot of men gawping at women

At the porn protest outside parliament today, the people sitting on other people's faces behaved impeccably. So why did I come away feeling slightly dirty? Oh yes, because of the way some male cameramen behaved.

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Excitable anticipation of today’s “Face-Sitting Demo” has been flying around Westminster all week. Journalists were enthusiastic about a fun Friday afternoon writing colourful copy about porn industry insiders and fetish fans carrying out a particularly demonstrative demonstration against new porn laws. With face-sitting.

The anger, in case you’ve missed this particular incident of government tomfoolery, is due to the arbitrary, and sexist, nature of new regulations some civil servants and politicians have cooked up for the UK’s porn industry. The regulations ban showing female ejaculation on screen, restrict things like fisting and face-sitting, and only allow for “gentle” spanking, whipping and caning.

Jolly protesters held humorous banners (“We cum in peace”, “Life will be fine if we both 69”, etc) and sang a jaunty face-sitting-themed song to keep morale up during the uncomfortably cold, and sparsely attended, demo. Here’s the first verse:

Sit on my face and tell me that you love me,

I’ll sit on your face and tell you I love you too,

I love to hear you oralise,

When I’m between your thighs,

You blow me away.

However, something didn’t feel quite right with what should have been a sharp, witty and necessary protest. A huge throng of mainly male cameramen and reporters in their anoraks and scarves surrounded a small number of demonstrators, who were mainly women, as they engaged in the kinky protest. And there were far more journalists covering the demo than there were people demonstrating.

The irony of this was made all too clear when one woman sitting on another woman’s face was told by a cantankerous cameraman to “move backwards a bit, because I can’t see her face”. “That’s kind of the point, mate, it’s face-sitting,” said an incredulous woman standing next to me. “It doesn’t work visually,” he replied, looking disappointed. “Is this what it’s supposed to look like?”

How ironic that the protest itself reminded us of the shortcomings of the porn industry.  For too long, it has been geared towards men, and just as it is slowly making progress on this issue, the government has dived in with a raft of measures blocking women's opportunity to be seen as active participants, or enjoying themselves.

The irony of women performing for a crowd of male onlookers with cameras issuing instructions to them was not lost on some of the female protesters I spoke to.

“I wanted to turn the cameras round from us on to the cameramen,” a woman with dreadlocks holding a whip tells me. She describes herself as being “on the fetish scene”. “There are a lot of men journalists standing around looking very happy,” she sighs, shaking her head.

Another woman in a long leather black coat adds, “I wonder how many photos they are taking for their newspapers and for their own personal wank bank? Is it really work-related? PUT YOUR HAND UP IF YOU’RE AN OFFICIAL CAMERAMAN OR IF IT’S FOR YOUR BANK!”

I speak to a woman wearing a red rubber ball gag around her neck about her disappointment with the protest. “There aren’t as many people here as I would have hoped.” She tells me “it’s ironic” that the event has turned into men watching the protesters and telling them to perform for their cameras, and finds their gaze “offensive”.

“Pornography has always been aimed at men: bang, bang, bang, done," she says. "Cum shot. Over the last decade, this has been worked on and is better than it has ever been. These laws are taking us all the way back.”

And is coverage like today's helping it?

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.