Felt-Filled Sex Shop Challenges U.K. Censorship Laws

Nov 5, 2015 6:30 AM PST

LONDON — Craft artist Lucy Sparrow recently challenged U.K. censorship laws with a sex shop made entirely of 5,000 felt products, some of which featured hardcore fetish and BDSM acts that were outlawed by the U.K. nearly a year ago.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) grants R18 classifications to films or videos that are within British 'obscenity' laws, but go beyond what the BBFC considers acceptable for minors under 18.

R18 permits the depiction of most consensual sex acts, such as vaginal intercourse, masturbation, anal sex, oral sex and mild BDSM. However, it forbids more 'hardcore' content including aggressive whipping, female ejaculation, spanking, strangulation, fisting and penetration by objects "associated with violence."

Sparrow decided to test the boundaries of the laws with her "Madame Roxy's Erotic Emporium" art installation, which was open to the public for 10 days in October and featured 5,000 felt-based sex products sewn by hand.

"Sparrow seeks to challenge the rights of sex workers, fetishists and consumers of porn with the creation of a complete sex shop which, were the exhibits not made from felt, would be illegal," reads a description of Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium. "Sparrow’s latest works seek to test the boundaries of legality. Does a porn magazine created from felt and hand-stitched break Britain’s new porn laws?"

Although the exhibit is over, products from the project can be purchased here.

"R18 is a strange thing," said Jerry Barnett, founder of anti-censorship campaign Sex and Censorship. "It's a set of weird and arbitrary censorship rules decided between the BBFC, the police and the CPS. There appear to be no rational explanations for most of the R18 rules — they're simply a set of moral judgements designed by people who have struggled endlessly to stop the British people from watching pornography."

Even with the recent outlawing of porn filters by the European Parliament's net neutrality laws, the U.K. government has vowed to continue censoring porn content with strict legislation.

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