Sex, laws and video tape

Yesterday, porn protestors descended on Parliament in what must be the most impressive array of PVC I have ever seen.

Models dressed in gags and chains held up traffic as they paraded around Westminster in a protest against the Justice & Immigration Act (2008), due to come into force in January 2009. This law will make it illegal to possess or disseminate any image in which there is a perceived threat to a person’s body or life for the sake of sexual titillation.

Ben Westwood – Dame Vivienne’s son – whose book of “extreme” photography Fuck Fashion may be banned under the new laws, has taken a stand against the government. He is joined by the singer Gwen Stefani and the burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese.

He writes: ”The way I see it, some people like it and some people don’t. In my opinion S&M is just harmless fun. There is no anger or violence involved.”

Campaigners argue that the new law will criminalize thousands of relationships in which people use hardcore porn consensually in the privacy of their own home. Yet only last month, Max Mosley, the bête noir of the tabloids, was paid out a record £60,000 settlement in a libel case that may challenge EU legislation.

Mosley was famously outed as an S&M connoisseur by a video published by News of the World showing him being shaved and beaten by five women. In the judgement, which has caused equal outrage and smug applause among the British media, the Honourable Mr Justice Eady said:

“It is not for journalists to undermine human rights, or for judges to refuse to enforce them, merely on grounds of taste or moral disapproval.”

It’s a “matter of principle”, says Mosley in an interview with the Guardian, that people “whose sex life isn’t quite the same as the majority” should be entitled to do what they want in the privacy of their own home “as long as everybody involved is genuinely consensual, properly consensual, not just doing it for money or whatever”.

It is not the job of the law to engage in a “moral crusade” against what people do in their private lives, however bizarre or intriguing we may find them. Whatever scrutiny we subject ourselves to outside, we should be able to hope that behind at least one closed door, Big Brother isn’t watching us.


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October 2008
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