Jerry Barnett On Censorship

In our first issue, the anti-censorship campaigner Jerry Barnett writes

It would seem unfair to label the British prudes, yet , the establishment in Britain has always seemed to be particularly determined to keep us far from erotica, pornography, and other instances of sexual expression. For a nation that prides itself as a global beacon of liberty, the UK has a multitude of censorship laws; a disproportionate amount of which are dedicated to keeping us all ‘safe’ from sex.

He goes on to argue that, far from simply keeping the people from sex, such laws represent – and underpin – the UK government’s large and powerful censorship machine. Earlier this week, a had a brief chat with Jerry about the issues raised in his article.

Jago: When did you become involved in anti-censorship activism, and why?

Jerry: It was a gradual process beginning in the late-90s. I ran some pornography sites, and gradually became aware of the extent of censorship in the UK, and that more was coming. I became a campaigner around 2006, and started the Sex & Censorship campaign in 2013. This was about more than just defending porn: I realised porn was being used as an excuse for wide-ranging censorship.

Jago: Why did you decide to focus your activism, primarily, on issues around pornography and sex work?

Jerry: Firstly because I was directly involved with the industry (though I no longer am), but also because I despise bullying, and I began to see the anti-sex activists as bullies.

Jago: In which ways is censorship particularly bad in the UK?

Jerry: Particularly around sexual expression. We are one of the few Western countries that still bans explicit porn on TV for example. As a people, we will surrender almost any liberty if we’re told it’s to protect children. So of course, censorship usually comes wrapped up as child protection.

Jago: Is there another national model of speech legislation that you admire?

Jerry: America’s First Amendment is something we should all admire and strive to replicate. Even though America is far more religious and conservative than the UK, it has far better protections against censorship.

Jago: Can you understand the concerns of your opponents?

Jerry: To an extent. Sex arouses powerful feelings in everyone: both positive and negative. However, I have little sympathy for anyone who tries to control other people’s private lives. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it!

 – Jago Rackham

Read Jerry Barnett’s article in issue 1, subscribe and support our Kickstarter here.

Image: Amedeo Modigliani, Nu couché with breasts and naval obscured for television.