In January we told you about the UK’s Digital Economy Act, a 2017 law that requires websites with adult content to verify that users are 18 or older before allowing access. The law goes into effect this April, and it’s already starting to change how gay adult websites do business.
The law punishes any sites that don’t require users to input their drivers license or passport info to verify their age, but not all adult websites have done this. So, to cover their butts (figuratively), one website—Men at Play, a gay adult site which regularly features men in suits—has started taking down all of its publicly viewable trailers and putting them behind a paywall (link NSFW).
Right now, the videos on Men at Play come with a message that says, “In compliance with the ATVOD (Authority for Television on Demand) statutory rules, MenAtPlay will be replacing all our online non-member hardcore previews with softcore alternatives.”
But the site has not yet uploaded softcore previews for all of its videos. And yet, many of its pages still entice users to play videos by displaying sexually explicit images from each scene.
The few Men at Play scenes that do have softcore previews are still quite explicit: They don’t show any butts or genitals, but the sexual action is barely cropped out and there’s plenty of thrusting, moaning and other noises that make it clear what’s happening.
While we’re focusing on Men at Play, the UK law will actually affect all US gay adult sites too. Sites like Sean Cody and Raging Stallion will have to create UK-versions to hide any sexually explicit material behind an age verification check, or else they’ll risk being banned from Her Majesty’s internet or incurring a large fine.
This law has emerged at a time when US websites are censoring adult content under SESTA/FOSTA and state Republicans are trying to ban adult content as a “public health emergency.” Indeed, we are in a new era of digital sex-phobia.