Anti-Climax

12.03.14 6:00 PM ET

Why Has Female Ejaculation Been Banned in British Porn?

What has the British Board of Film Classification got against women’s orgasms? Unsurprisingly, sexist double standards are at play.

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall in the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) when it composed the list of DVD porn regulations that, as of this week, now apply to all video-on-demand (VoD) online porn.

I wonder if the Board’s members realized there would be such an outcry when they banned urolagnia (or that across the pond a naïve reporter would have to ask what “water sports” means). I wonder if they realized how much people enjoy watching fisting or facesitting, or at least support people’s right to enjoy watching fisting or facesitting. But mostly I wonder why they felt compelled to specifically ban images of female ejaculation.

The list of banned items from the BBFC seems altogether ridiculous and excessive. If consenting adults spank or cane each other on film—and if people get off watching them do so to each other—then god-speed. Any attempt to restrict sexual acts between legal-aged people who want to participate in them or watch them seems downright puritanical from a country that aired Skins—a fabulous show filled with butt-naked teenagers doing tons of drugs—on network television.

Yet, the specific ban on female ejaculation is even more egregious. The fact that female ejaculation is even considered to be in the same category of offense as the abovementioned acts that are, one could argue, potentially physically harmful, is ludicrous and pretty plainly sexist. It doesn’t take too many logical leaps to get the message: physical expressions of female sexual pleasure can be dangerous and are certainly illicit.

The targeting of female pleasure is only heightened by the fact that male ejaculation is not on the list of banned acts. Of course, banning the sight of jizz in pornography would be like banning explosions in a Michael Bay movie: pretty much impossible and wholly disappointing to male viewers. In fact, the money shot is one of the most consistent hallmarks of free and widely accessible pornography.

Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon wrote about the significance of external, visible male ejaculation and expounded on the possible reasons for its status as standard porn fare: it can be an expression of male dominance, it provides evidence of porn sex’s “realness,” and perversely, it’s a substitute for the more difficult to portray female orgasm.

Regardless of the reason for male cum shots ubiquity in pornography, the exclusive singling out of female ejaculation is the epitome of a double standard. There’s no rational and non-sexist way to justify its placement on the BBFC’s list of banned acts.

I understand that the uproar is quite a big fuss over a single sexual expression when there are obviously far graver issues of gender inequality, such as women in huge swaths of my country not having access to reproductive services, and young girls across the world are denied basic schooling.

Moreover, as with so many acts shown in porn, squirting is a double-edged sword. An expression of female sexuality can be twisted into a pressure to fulfill the desire of men who came of sexual age thinking what they see in porn is the norm rather than a choice (or serendipitous in the case of female ejaculation).

But the banning of female ejaculation in porn by the BBFC speaks to the much larger problem of prohibited expressions of female sexual pleasure in mainstream entertainment. There is a long history of the Motion Picture Association of America slapping NC-17 ratings as soon as a man is seen performing oral sex on a woman, though not the other way around (as Marlow Stern wrote, this year’s Gone Girl is one of the very first departures from that standard).

Cindy Gallop, the founder of Make Love Not Porn—a site that showcases real people rather than actors having sex and tries to create dialogues around pornography—agrees that the BBFC ban speaks to a larger problem of sexism in the porn industry but also all media.

“I think it’s [the ban] sexist, but I don’t think that’s deliberate because it’s precisely what happens when any single industry is dominated by men,” she tells The Daily Beast. “If the porn industry were controlled 50-50 equally by men and women and therefore targeted 50 percent of its output on women and made 50 percent of its money from women, we’d have a porn industry that’s very different. It’s true of every other industry, too: television, advertisement, journalism, movies.”

The BBFC ban on female ejaculation codifies restrictions on women in more socially acceptable venues of everyday life while reinforcing media standards aimed at fulfilling men’s desires. It may be just a squirt but it stands for a whole lot.