Pornography, Anarchy and the Queen

Back in July I posted a link to a reprint of an article from the Winter 1994 issue of the anarcha-feminist zine From the Flames. Unfortunately, that blog has now been taken down by the author.

I’m going to post the original From the Flames article here. If anyone involved with From the Flames (Googling draws a blank) wants me to take this down, please get in touch.

Pornography, Anarchy and the Queen, by Marianna

As part of the London Anarchist Festival 21st-31st October we organised 10 days of women-only space. My main interest was the anti-pornography events at the end of the week, especially that there should be a successful direct action.

Thursday 27th – The Serious Theory and Discussion Bit.

I came up to London in time for a mixed discussion on why anarchists should oppose pornography, organised by the Cambridge anarchists’ group. Around 50 people came and the level of discussion was good, centring on two main issues – censorship and gay and lesbian porn.

Virtually everyone in the room agreed that the multi-million pound, multinational, mainstream porn industry aimed at heterosexual men was an oppressive, capitalist industry which abused women and had a massive impact on all of our socially and politically constructed sexualities. What made things more complicated was:

1 Censorship

As anarchists we traditionally oppose censorship and some saw anarchists against porn as a contradiction. However many people argued that we are not interested in law reform but in challenging oppression, that anti-racist campaigners aren’t accused of censorship and neither are anti-McDonalds campaigners. I see the issue of censorship as a complete red herring, a dead end. There is a huge market for porn because the porn industry has created it by aggressive marketing (CAP [Campaign Against Pornography] is currently supporting a newsagent in a legal battle with WHSmith’s distributors – he refused the porn and was billed for it anyway as it is supplied as ‘compulsory’ if other mags are wanted).

I think we should challenge porn by exposing an industry which a) abuses poor women by taking advantage where economic necessity dictates their lives. b) teaches men and boys to abuse women by objectifying them eg to see them as “consumables” by picturing them as food. c) rapists and child abusers use porn as “resource” material and to reinforce their pathology ie new ideas on how to abuse women and children and no ethical questions asked.

2. Gay and Lesbian Porn.

The people I spoke to felt there were different issues here because the stuff wasn’t produced at a multinational level and it wasn’t mainstream – that it could be seen as challenging heterosexism. I feel unclear about this and I don’t have strong feelings, but know that to not challenge the mainstream industry because of my lack of clarity here is to abandon all those abused directly and indirectly by the porn industry – arguably all of us.

I spent a while talking to a young Swedish man who I felt greatly heartened by. There are individual men out there who are prepared to challenge the misogyny we live with, but where are all the all-men direct actions against the porn industry? (I digress – I’m generally pissed off with the so-called men’s movement).

Friday 28th – The Exciting Action-Packed Bit – or Royal in Oxford Street Porn Outrage.

Women had been leafletted throughout the anarchist festival that an Anti-Porn Direct Action Event was going to happen. The response had seemed good, but I was delighted to see I hadn’t dragged my chains across London for nothing when 30 women showed up to execute our cunning plan. We somehow organised ourselves in one hour to be clear about our roles, support and legal position. We were a bunch of Feminist anarchists from Britian, Sweden, France, Spain and Germany, one of whom was dressed at the Queen.

We realised 30 of us couldn’t all get on a crowded bus after one attempt, and then had a right hoo-hah at the tube station when several women jumped barriers (bloody anarchists!) and got caught. However, somehow we arrived in Oxford Street during a packed lunch hour as planned.

Our guided with megaphone began, “Ladies, ladies, gather round. To our left we have shops, and if we look to our right, we have many more shops. I’ll translate into Swedish shortly.” “Morning Your Majesty,” called a man selling jewellery as we moved off, our Greater London Radio reporter in tow (looking is shock by this point as if she’d never done anything naughty before in her life). “All those who want to go to a CHAIN store please lead the way, all those who want a RIPPING good time please bring up the rear.” We entered the Plaza shopping arcade, with WHSmith directly in front of us, for it was our destination.

I was one of the first in and quickly chained myself to a magazine shelf. We filled baskets and refused to pay, ripped up all their porn mags into very tiny pieces then started on the Sun, we screamed, chanted, shouted and laughed our heads off, we held up signs saying, “Porn degrades women,” and “Rapists use porn”, we leafletted and talked to people, we broadcast facts and figures about the industry with the megaphone and were there for an hour while first Smith’s security and staff and then the police watched us while TV and radio journalists did their stuff (the Greater London Radio reporter giggling uncontrollably by this point). The shop had to be shut because the Great British Public grasped the opportunity and shoplifted a thousand pound’s worth of stock while attention was elsewhere, and the police refused to remove us while it was open.

17 of us were arrested, 6 for Criminal Damage and 11 for Breach of the Peach, and taken in 3 vans to Marylebone Police Station where we were all released early evening with NO CHARGES brought (the 6 women arrested for Criminal Damage all refused to be cautioned). Apparently Smiths wanted no more publicity. HOORAY, it was brilliant. Some say the highlight of the Anarchist Festival.

7 responses

  1. brilliant, inspiring, thank you thank you

  2. I thought it was just too good to let disappear!

  3. This is very excellent and let’s hope there is some discussion of it at the Anarchist bookfair. I remember From the Flames, it was a very good autonomous feminist mag in the 90s.

  4. Great stuff! Was just wondering how you refuse to be cautioned, as you said the women charged for Criminal Damage did?

  5. Sorry if it’s not clear, but this is a re-print from a 1994 feminist zine, neither I nor anyone I know was actually involved in the protest (although I wish I had been!), or in writing it up for the zine, so I’m afraid I can’t answer your question.

  6. Hi All,

    We at the yahoo group “direct_action_against_lags_mags” are organising something similar at the moment, please do join or contact us if you’d like to get involved.

    x ali

  7. I see nothing contradictory about an antipornography anarchist – anarchism is about self-determination and the sex industry is about domination and subjugation. That is to say, the sex industry is capitalism in true form.

    If I wore a hat, it would be off to the protesters, the original author, and antiplondon for spreading the word about this action. I only wish charges had been brought – depending on the media in the UK, it may have been a great opportunity for publicity for this _extremely_ important movement.

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