Monday, 9 May 2011

Super-Injunctions, Privacy and Transgressive Sexualities

I think it was on the News Quiz that I once heard someone remark that 'super-injunction' implied it had some super-hero like qualities. Personally, I always hear some 50s American male voice-over saying the words whenever I read them (think b-movie intro) "We present Suuuuper-Injunction". Anyway, that American voice has been whirling around my head recently (yes, I'm hearing voices), especially yesterday as I, and thousands of others read the super-injucntion feed on twitter which was doing the rounds.

Today, the mainstream British have begun reporting on the tweet feeds and in one case, the denial of the story. That denial comes from the least plausable rumour (regarding Jemima Khan and Jeremy Clarkson). Khan also suggests on twitter that it's believed to be students who have published these allegations.

The slightly absurd thing is, that you can't report the others if there is a super-injunction, and the impression is left dangling in the air that the other rumours are true. Certainly, the Telegraph suggests the other rumours are all true, and this whole faff therefore amounts to the biggest media attack on super-injunctions that we have thus far seen.

As a reminder, super-inunctions are where, not only do you have an induction against the media to prevent them reporting a story, but the 'super' bit stops them reporting the fact that they can't report the existence of the super-injunction. Think of a Jedia Knight lawyer gesturing his hand and saying "we were never here, now go about your business" to a journo and you're more or less there.

There are five other rumours or leaks on the original twitter account. It struck me that all concern sex. Excluding the Khan tweet (which was also about sex), two concern heterosexual extra-marital affairs, one combines sex-work with BDSM (surely, many a media's mogul's wet dream), one heterosexual sexual harassment, and another sex-work.

I have no idea whether the rumours are true or not, but as I say, the Telegraph story seems to effectively accept that the other stories are true. If they are, it is remarkable that we seem to be developing privacy laws on the back of sex (think Mosley case too), or rather transgressive sexualities.

Two of the tweets refer to sex work/prostitution. Punishing the client rather than the worker has long been the mission of law - certainly post Wolfenden - and along with legal punishments come social shaming. Yet the irony here is that it seems the law is being used to prevent the reporting of a criminal act, which seems doubly odd to me.

These stories reveal that celebrities pay for sex, and maybe ordinary people also pay for sex, maybe sex-work is not merely something that 'other people' do but something that 'we' do. Coming out about sex work could be vital in shifting our understanding and social construction of this form of commercial sexual activity.

A similar argument can of course be made about BDSM. These remains, I would suggest, the 'darkest' sexual desire in the public consciousness after inter-generational sex. Those who are revealed to engage in this practice (as in Mosley) are seen as 'working through issues', defective in some way (in much the same way as 'homosexuals' once were), and it is always seen as involving leather and whips. Of course, BDSM might not always involve such tools/toys and the complex continuum of sexual behaviour that might fit into the label BDSM is rarely discussed in the mainstream media. Again, would it really be that shocking to discover we're kinkier than our social morality tells us we are? Would civilisation crumble at such a revelation?

Finally, we come to extra-marital affairs. Please tell me we are not STILL shocked at marital infidelity. The failure of monogamy and our attempts to cover it up are one of the lasting sexual puzzles of the modern age. Law is used firstly to define the nature of a relationship between two individuals (for like Noah's ark, we apparently only go in twos), and then law is further used to preserve the illusion of pure monogamy. It is perhaps the most vivid example of the law being used to express heteronormative power.

These stories, whether true or not, tell us much about the role of law, sexuality and silence in modern Britain. We're going to hear more about them.

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