The UK wants all adult sites to verify the age of visitors in order to protect children. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing my thoughts on age verification and the new censorship regulations as someone that has worked in the adult industry for three years and media for 10. To kick things off I want to discuss the business realities of age verification. I want to explain why it’s good for us but bad for the industry as a whole.

We are very lucky at Harriet has built one of, if not the most popular UK owned adult site. Over 300 000 people visit each month. And only 13 per cent are from the UK.

That means that the new UK laws don’t affect us much. We have the numbers to take most things in our stride. What’s more, we have the in-house expertise to cope with any technical development that must take place in order to comply with the new laws.

Once we know the full details of what is required in order to comply it becomes a simple cost-benefit analysis. Will it cost us more to comply than we are currently getting in revenue from UK users?

If it proves too expensive to comply then we will simply block all UK traffic. It’s better than being blocked by the UK government and risking our ability to re-enter the UK market at a later date.

The regulations are good for business

The chances are that will be able to comply with the law without too many problems and that it will be good for business. In fact as a purely business decision and if we ignore liberty and moral issues, it could be a fantastic opportunity for us.

Currently the biggest trend in pornography is the rise of independent studios like We suspect that only the bigger websites will be able to comply with the new law in an affordable way. Thankfully we are one of those bigger sites now.

We fully expect the law to shut down most of our current UK competitors. In fact, after attending a recent UK Adult Producers meeting people were almost resigned to losing their businesses. One even seemed to be entering semi-retirement preemptively.

Most people online search for porn from their native country so we expect to grow our business in the UK through this measure meaning less British competitors.

What’s more, this regulation increases the cost and complexity of launching an independent adult site.

One of the most inspiring things about the industry today is that instead of working for other producers, today’s adult industry is more democratic. Porn performers can start their own studios. They do everything on their own terms and compete toe-to-toe with big studios, just as does.

Shutting out potential new rivals can only be a good thing for us and other larger sites and big studios. We got lucky that this site was started before the new regulations were proposed.

Subsidising porn

Another benefit to the new regulations for us is that age verification actually lowers our hosting costs. It costs a lot of money to transfer terabytes of data over the web.

I do not know the full details yet but my understanding is that the government will create a huge database. That will mean over 18s will have a sort of government issued porn ID which they have to enter in order to see our site.

The government is effectively filtering our unprofitable traffic for us. Amazingly, this increases our bottom line while someone else picks up the bill. Please note that this is my understanding based on various media reports. I’m not aware of how this will work in practice yet.

I could be mistaken but my gut instinct is that this is good for business and bizarrely other people will have to pay to lower our costs!

The wider industry

The saddest part of age verification for me is that many of our friends will lose their businesses and jobs as they won’t have the scale or technical expertise to comply with the new regulations.

It will mean the industry is less competitive, which will mean less work for performers, camera operators, makeup artists and all the other support staff that keep the adult industry going.

I hope they will be offered some support because getting a civilian job is not so easy after spending time in the adult industry. We all have friends who have lost civilian jobs because of their past.

In my opinion these regulations will create a more top-heavy industry, particularly in the UK. I expect there to be more money in the hands of big studios and the most popular performers. The rest will probably struggle earn enough to make it a viable full time career.

I suspect the UK industry will become a lot less diverse and much less fun. I even think there could be a shortage of British porn performers as the amount of work shrinks.

Given how most people search for porn from their native country, that could make spending some alone time with your laptop a lot less exciting for many Brits. They should enjoy as much British porn as they can while it’s still available!


  • NeilW

    There is so much to think about in this very interesting piece, so huge thanks, Cameraman. Kudos to you and Harriet for your forward planning.

    As a UK internet user, and as someone who has moderated his views on morality in general in recent times, I am incensed at the way the establishment seeks to impose its moral judgements on me. I am also dismayed at the way it never learns that once Pandora’s Box was opened, she couldn’t get the lid back on. I’m all for looking after kids’ best interests, but kids are far more internet savvy, and quicker to react, than those who seek to impose controls. They will find ways round.

    This article is of some relevance.

    Interesting to note the seemingly contradictory attitudes of a) competition and b) mutual support within the porn industry.

  • huffnpuff

    This isn’t just about porn though, it’s about the policing of the internet for ‘adult content’ (i.e. anything that could be deemed of as critical towards the government). That and the fact it’s also being used as a way to police sexuality, not just morality. I mean, do you notice how a lot of these restrictions seem to be focused on suppressing female domination of men and not vice-versa (i.e. facesitting is apparently off-limits, whilst bukkake is considered perfectly fine).

    Also, what does this mean for the LGBT community, and especially for those wanting to learn more about themselves, free from the less than savoury moral judgement of others? But you know; at least it’s good for your business. Thanks for the help guys, it was nice knowing you…

    Anyway, there’s a petition going round if anyone’s interested:

    • Yes, I’ve actually addressed that side of things in the article I wrote on the subject.

      I wanted to cover both sides of this issue. In this specific article, we touch up on how as a business we’re able to manage the change. It would be dishonest of us to not admit that. It’s written by the technical side of the team and ignores the moral dilemmas.

      The other piece which I have linked DO go into the moral dilemmas and I think makes it pretty clear how we personally feel about the censorship.

  • Tommie, i’m not so sure that what is proposed will actually be implemented by the UK government who will be going up against international internet use laws developed ages ago when US DARPA created the thing in the 90s.

    Right now, in the US, technically all adult sites should have age verification because of Child Safety laws & US 18 2257 laws. This is why institutions like RTA / ASACP / FSC / BPAV / WIA were created and why you see those badges/links on most major porn sites. HarietSugarcookie.ocm can get away without age verification because it lives in a gray area, a lot of its content is news, informative, stories (real or not), and reviews which would be considered protected content under US 1st amendment, and the NSFW content that should be kept out of reach by minors is for the most part protected by age verification by Credit Card purchase. Most sites will not do FREE PREVIEWS of adult content unless you are signed in under a basic account (verified by a $1 credit card charge) and then given full access once membership upgraded to VIP. This ensure that minors don’t access to content they may not understand and that sites comply with both current national and international laws. This model would actually work for overall, and would save bandwidth costs by free previews plays from people who aren’t taking the next step of getting a membership. Then all the SFW & protected content can be available to the average site visitor.

    It’s also why you mostly see (You Must Be 18 to enter this site) message popup on major sites. It’s this same popup message which I believe is what the UK will require, and if not present then they will have right to block the site traffic in UK (Which just screams out illegal & unenforceable). You shouldn’t worry about competitors as all that will happen is they will just move servers outside UK to US where most of the world’s sites are hosted anyway (usually cheaper hostings costs overall), outside of Cyprus & Belize who have sites hosted that just want to skirt US DMCA laws, or onto the DarkWeb via a .onion address and users using Tor Browsers where there are no laws & regulations to stop them again. .