BREAKING NEWS

Monday, 28 June 2010

The Right to Public Sex

I'm just about to put together my response to the Law Commission consultation on 'Simplification of Criminal Law: Public Nuisance and Outraging Public Decency'. The consultation document can be viewed here. I'll put my response up on the blog at a later date once done. I'll be arguing for reform of the law on public sex as those of you have followed my work and ideas, would expect.

Yet, this morning Paul Burston, the writer, regular gay talking head and a member of what I would call 'the gay metropolitan elite' has posted a blog post under the title 'OH, PUT IT AWAY!'. His Facebook link to the post was a clearer statement of his position 'Embarrassed by 'The Gays''. He begins by noting that 'a report in the Islington Gazette says that ‘the steam room at a family swimming pool has become a popular "cruising" area where gay men meet for "action".’

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know my immediate reaction - "here we go again". The local press regularly turns to these stories. Reporter looks on cruising site and shock horror, public sex is apparently occurring and we never knew. Yes -WE NEVER KNEW!!! It was going on and nobody noticed! This is not a report of parents complaining on mass, kids traumatised by men unable to stop fucking in the deep end or an OAP swimming to help their arthritis accidentally finding themselves in the midst of a changing room orgy.

So - first off, until a reporter went poking around the Internet, we didn't know. It includes a quote: 'Adrian Kelly, a regular user of Cally Pool, said: "I have no problem with gay people at all but it's a family pool and you don't know who might go in there and see something they shouldn’t."'

A regular user - so Mr Kelly - you - as a regular pool user - were totally unaware of this until we - the local rag - asked you?

Burston goes on to paste in a piece he wrote for Attitude in which he talks about his days at GALOP - the Police monitoring group. I recently looked through the GALOP archives and found that they did indeed receive many complaints as Burston outlines and did offer some helpful advice - although they were comparatively timid on the issue compared with the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) -and much later - Outrage.

Burston comments that:

'It used to be argued that having sex in parks and public toilets was a symptom of gay men’s oppression. Now it’s simply a symptom of our self indulgence. Of course there are some people who are determined to cling onto their ‘outsider’ status, rather like those pre-Liberation types who go all misty-eyed as they tell you how much more exciting it was back in the old days, when you could be banged up for having sex with a guardsman in St James Park. These are often the same people who regard gay marriage as ‘undignified’ and spend their weekends on their knees in public lavatories being ‘radical’.'

I don't spend my weekends (or indeed weekdays) on my knees in public lavatories although I do like the notion of saying to a police officer, when asked "what are you doing", replying "being radical". "And you do that sir whilst fellating this other gentleman?"

Why must we all assimilate into a "play nice" whole? It's not just "The Gays". The straights are embracing public sex through dogging, people in civil partnerships and happy relationships also go cruising and cottaging - people of all ages, people who are out ad well as those still exploring their sexuality. Although it can very much be a political concept - and I theorise it as such - it's ultimately about people feeling horny and expressing those sexual urges.

You will not stop public sex - the debate is simply about whether we accept it as a reality or continue to hide it away, and live the heteronormative dream.

I'm a Feminist but...

Perhaps you could be forgiven for thinking that Julie Bindel would never need to insert a caveat after declaring her status as a feminist, and yet she's written a really thoughtful (and at times quite funny) piece in the Guardian today. See Julie - I don't always have a go at you ;-)

She talks about visiting Glastonbury and her thoughts on the Snoop Dogg gig. I have to confess that his music does nothing for me (The PSB gig was a more my thing - and bloody brilliant it was too) so I've never really payed attention to the lyrics. I do remember being on my student union's executive some ten years ago and debating whether we should ban Eminem songs from all Union property as he was "homophobic" - I was in a minority opposed to the ban but thankfully the majority came round to my view in the course of the meeting. Many other student unions did introduce a ban. I'm anti-censorship so for me it was a simple principled position. I think there's nothing I would ban.

Yet, as in so many things, in this I am in a minority. Most people end up with some fudged compromise that takes account of their positions on issues and the realities of day to day life. Bindel is on the one hand a feminist and on the other a Snoop Dogg fan. She is far more reflective of 'ordinary' society in this respect. She writes in her piece that:

'But of all the deeply controversial gangsta rappers, he is also probably the most charming and has the best sense of humour. Maybe that's why he gets away with it'.

Let's play around with this position. Hitler - had some dodgy views on Jews and homosexuals but what if you rather liked his painting? (I don't, but stay with me) Is it legitimate to praise his art work but hate other aspects of his life? What are we prepared to fudge and what aren't we? Most of us, if not all, fudge something along the way. As human beings we are a dizzying spectacle of contradictions. Bindel's piece today is simply a statement of the human.

Read the full piece here.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Marriage and the ECtHR

I would argue that the European Court of Human Rights has been a key player in the development of human rights in the UK. The decision by the Strasbourg court in Schalk and Kopf v. Austria (no. 30141/04) on same-sex marriage is a disappointing one. The court released a press release to accompany the decision of the court which is available here. Relying on Article 12, the applicants complained of the authorities’ refusal to allow them to contract marriage. Relying further on Article 14 in conjunction with Article 8 they complained that they were discriminated against on account of their sexual orientation since they were denied the right to marry and did not have any other possibility to have their relationship recognised by law before the entry into force of the Registered Partnership Act. Pink News reported the story here.

In respect of Article 12 (the right to marry) the Strasbourg Court found that Article 12 did not impose an obligation on the Austrian Government to grant a same-sex couple like the applicants access to marriage. It therefore unanimously held that there had been no violation of that Article.

Although this is the bit that's got the media's attention - it's actually the 14 accompanied by 8 bit that's a little more interesting - not least because the court was divided. It is worth reproducing that section of the press release in full:

The Court first addressed the issue whether the relationship of a same-sex couple like the applicants’ fell not only within the notion of “private life” but also constituted “family life” within the meaning of Article 8. Over the last decade, a rapid evolution of social attitudes towards same-sex couples had taken place in many member States and a considerable number of States had afforded them legal recognition. The Court therefore concluded that the relationship of the applicants, a cohabiting same-sex couple living in a stable partnership, fell within the notion of “family life”, just as the relationship of a different-sex couple in the same situation would.

The Court had repeatedly held that different treatment based on sexual orientation required particularly serious reasons by way of justification. It had to be assumed that same-sex couples were just as capable as different-sex couples of entering into stable committed relationships; they were consequently in a relevantly similar situation as regards their need for legal recognition of their relationship. However, given that the Convention was to be read as a whole, having regard to the conclusion reached that Article 12 did not impose an obligation on States to grant same-sex couples access to marriage, the Court was unable to share the applicants’ view that such an obligation could be derived from Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 8.

Given that with the entry into force of the Registered Partnership Act in Austria it was open to the applicants to have their relationship formally recognised, it was not the Court’s task to establish whether the lack of any means of legal recognition for same-sex couples would constitute a violation of Article 14 taken in conjunction with Article 8 if this situation still persisted. It remained to be examined whether Austria should have provided the applicants with an alternative means of legal recognition of their partnership any earlier than it did. The Court observed that while there was an emerging European consensus towards legal recognition of same-sex couples, there was not yet a majority of States providing for it. The Austrian law reflected this evolution; though not in the vanguard, the Austrian legislator could not be reproached for not having introduced the Registered Partnership Act any earlier.

The Court was not convinced by the argument that if a State chose to provide same-sex couples with an alternative means of recognition, it was obliged to confer a status on them which corresponded to marriage in every respect. The fact that the Registered Partnership Act retained some substantial differences compared to marriage in respect of parental rights corresponded largely to the trend in other member States. Moreover, in the present case the Court did not have to examine every one of these differences in detail. As the applicants did not claim that they were directly affected by the remaining restrictions concerning parental rights, it would have gone beyond the scope of the case to establish whether these differences were justified.

In the light of these findings, the Court concluded, by four votes to three, that there had been no violation of Article 14 in conjunction with Article 8.

Judges Rozakis, Spielmann and Jebens expressed a dissenting opinion; Judges Kovler and Malinverni expressed a concurring opinion.

The full judgment is available here. There is also a webcast of the hearing in English here - although I've not been able to get it to work!

Hall-Carpenter Archives

Having got back from San Francisco at the start of the week, I spent the end of of the week down in London on more archive work - this time at the Hall-Carpenter Archives, which are based at the London School of Economics. It was the first time I'd used the archives and I was impressed with the diversity and quality of the archive. You can read a history of the archive here. The archive is described as 'the largest source for the study of gay activism in Britain which followed the publication of the Wolfenden Report in 1957'. I'd also like to praise the LSE library staff - they were without exception, incredibly helpful, flexible and supportive. Thanks guys.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Judith Butler Refuses Award and Kicks Off a New Row

Judith Butler (never one to shy away from controversy) has caused a bit of a row over here refusal of the Berlin Pride “Zivilcourage Award”. The reasons for her refusal are a little complex as are the reactions to it. An excellent summary/analysis can be viewed here. I've also pasted video of her refusal speech below (a translation runs at the bottom of the screen).

Cruising and Porn as Documentary (NSFW)

Liam Cole - part of the controversial TIM clan and British director has posted a series of scenes from his latest film - Wild Breed on his blog. The latest set are from the 'Woodland Cruising' scene. Cole summarises the scene below:

'Treasure Island Media's slogan is, "Documenting male sexuality in the 21st century." Never has that been more true than in this scene. Hampstead Heath is the UK's most famous cruising ground. For decades men have met here for anonymous sex under cover of the forest. I took my camera down there one evening to try to document what goes on.'

It is a rare example of the cruising space being 'documented'. There's been an explosion (pardon the pun) in dogging porn films but gay society with it's very different history of cruising and cottaging seems to have been less active in generating porn in this area. The pictures are (perhaps obviously) NSFW so if you're easily (or moderately) offended, don't look here. The actual scene is compelling. I like the way men are depicting leaving at various points - there is a subtlety of behaviour in these moments that has proved difficult to document. It's worth a look for anyone interested in public sex and sexual identity/politics. Of course, it's probably also good if you just want a wank.

In a wonderful twist, the footage had previously appeared as part of an art installation - produced with Matt Lippiatt. You can see shots of the installation at the MRA Project Space in London here. Nothing to frighten the horses. There's also a video of the event which includes some of the footage (called 'Nightcruising).

Porn CEO on the Gay Rights Movement and Family Values

Michael Lucas - CEO of the porn company Lucas Entertainment has posted footage from a recent debate at the Oxford Union on his website and it's been picked up by various porn blogs. Lucas - a law graduate and former porn actor was speaking in proposition of the motion 'This House Believes That the Gay Rights Movement Has Undermined Family Values'. The full speech is below. Annoyingly, I can't find out what the vote was so I'd welcome any info from people on that (I think the proposition was passed). Lucas makes some interesting and compelling points but he seems to send the audience to sleep - which given his speaking style is perhaps understandable. Although a porn CEO, Lucas with his celebrity friends (including the family friendly Graham Norton) is no doubt at the more 'acceptable' end of the spectrum. How would a porn CEO such as Paul Morris have gone down? Would such a figure even be invited?

It might be surprising that I am arguing on the same side as Stephan Greene, whose views I despise. But in this case I am proud to be part of a movement that has undermined family values and continues to undermine them.

To me “family values” is a code word.

Here is what I think when I hear the term family values…. I think of family as “one size fits all”, the Model T of relationships, organized around the holy five: spouse, career, home, church and children, possibly including the occasional dog. I think of my native Russia where it is basically a requirement for a women to get married by the age of 23, which makes them forever neurotic, and insecure. I think of Clinton’s impeachment hearings — because he had an affair with an intern and not for passing “don’t ask, don’t tell”. And I think about many great politicians who lost their careers because of American hysteria over family values.

I also think about St Paul who said, “The husband is head of the wife”.

And we can never escape from hearing daily about family values of sons of Allah, about the treatment of Muslim women by their husbands. The Koran clearly said: “Admonish them to their couches and beat them.” As Borat concluded, ”in my country first is God, then man, horse, dog, then women, then rat”.

So what do the defenders of Family Values really defend, when they repeat endlessly “that the traditional family is the essential building block of traditional society?” They defend the traditional order of society.

This is where they clash with the gay rights movement. Gay rights are profoundly subversive of traditional society. They posit a new identity, which is not accounted for in most traditional societies. If gay identity becomes a possibility, then the straight identity becomes a matter of CHOICE and established Family Values become options rather than the “natural order.” That’s why they hate us so much: because we really do undermine their certainties.

We gay people offer CHOICE in the construction of our relationships, freedom and liberation, which is very attractive to straight people. Our lives challenge their certainties every day.

We gay people are broadening and redefining the values, which govern our relationships. That’s not to say that we don’t value family. But we love our partners because we have chosen them out of pure love — and not to meet the expectations of society.

We also prove that remaining single, with a family made of friends, is a viable option to experience love, caring, trust and commitment in a family of choice. One does not have to be in a relationship and can be happy without a partner; one does not have to have children in order to live a wonderful fulfilling life.

Worst of all, perhaps, for the sex-obsessed family values defenders, we undermine the sanctity of monogamy. Some gay couples chose to be monogamous, and others do not. And we have certainly proven that love for a partner is about far more than sexual exclusivity. We have proven that, monogamy is neither necessary nor sufficient when it comes to love and family. What’s required is something emotionally deeper and more profound.

Studies in the US conclude that three in four long-term, stable, committed gay couples have negotiated some form of open relationship. I think both choices are significant. A quarter has chosen to remain monogamous. And three quarters have chosen to base their relationship on trust and intimacy rather than sexual exclusivity. It’s the word “choice” that’s so subversive – Now, where is the choice, where is the room for negotiation according to traditional Family Values?

This is not to say that the gay movement stands for sex without limits, just like the reality of traditional family is not about monogamy. About half of all married women and 60% of all married men have cheated on their partners. (NOTE: Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy) — and so “family values” support norms that include lying about one’s sexual life. We challenge this by coming out of the closet not just about being gay but by aspiring to honesty about our sexual lives.

In fact family values are so artificial that they do not work for their own proponents:

Jim Bakker -head of PTL (Praise The Lord)-cheated on his wife Tammy Faye with his secretary.

Ted Haggard –evangelical preacher –had sex with a male escort while married.

Mark Foley: US representative sent sexually explicit e-mails and text messages to male pages.

Mark Sanford: South Carolina Governor married with children, who disappeared to continue affair with his mistress in Argentina.

Newt Gingrich: former Speaker of US House of Representatives; married three times; had an affair with women who would become his second wife while married to his first. Then had affair with a woman who would become his third wife while married to the second.

Iris Robinson: Northern Irish member of Parliament who cheated on her husband with 19 year old boy.

This list could go on forever.

And our relationships are more equal— there are no blueprints and no traditions, which determine the powers and economic arrangements between each other. Each couple has to develop and negotiate from scratch, what works for them. And again, there is the element of CHOICE, which strikes at the core of what traditional Family Values are all about.

Speaking of choice, the PACS in France and civil unions has been overwhelmingly embraced by straight couples who are seeking a legal framework for their relationships without resorting to marriage and the traditional baggage it carries. Something similar is happening in the U.S.: many cites and towns in the U.S. are allowing couples to register as “domestic partners.” Politicians are offering this to gays, as an alternative to “marriage.” One result has been that straight people are choosing to declare themselves ”domestic partners,” rather then getting married. As straight couples realize that there may be alternative arrangements available to them, family values rooted in marriage are being undermined.

So to my gay counterparts – don’t be so humble! Our fight produced a very attractive role model that scares our opponents to the point of hysteria; that’s why they are attacking us so vigorously. Sometimes those attacks become ugly and desperate. From Pat Robinson and Jerry Falwell who said that ”gay people helped the terror attacks on 9/11” to Stephen Greene who supports the death penalty bill for homosexual acts in Uganda. People like Greene would be happy to wipe gays off the face of the Earth to defend their lifestyle.

So our opponents are right when they argue that the state must deter public approval of the gay identity in order to defend traditional family values. We are indeed Family Values’ worst enemy. But the point is this: We are winning and they are losing.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Rentboy, Scissor Sisters and the Unmentionable Arse

Pink News (which also has a new logo) is reporting on the latest publicity coup by Scissor Sisters and their front man Jake Shears. He is using a profile on the rentboy website - a site (as the name might suggest) for male escorts or 'rent boys' (119 escorts in the UK - almost all in London).

Amazingly, the story doesn't mention the fact that Shears profile on the site features as it's first pic a teasing photograph of Shears' arse. I'm waiting for the first cock-shot album advertisement - or maybe it's already been done? On the question of 'safe sex', Shears plays it safe in every sense and responds 'always safe'. He doesn't complete the cock size or position options so don't get too excited folks. The profile links through to the album - which I hear is very good and will no doubt be downloading myself at some point.

I'm curious to see how this story gets picked up -will it be treated in the same way as if a female X-Factor winner set up a fake sex-worker online profile to market an album? I suspect not.

Shears also gives a brilliant interview in the latest issue of Attitude which is well worth checking out if you've not seen it.

Read the full story on the profile at Pink News here.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Endings and Beginnings

Well the archive work is going well although it was a little packed with researchers today. I freely confess one researcher distracted me for all the wrong reasons. His tight denim shorts revealed that he wasn't so much in possession of a trouser snake as being engaged in a remake of Anaconda..but anyway...on to more cerebral thoughts.

It' a day of endings and possible beginnings. Here in San Francisco, the California Supreme Court heard the closing arguments in the Perry case. I've seen some of the protests on the news but when I headed over to the Supreme Court this afternoon it was just a scene of satellite trucks. I didn't see a single campaigner - except an ACLU guy down on Market Street near Abercrombie & Fitch. Maybe it was just bad timing but I thought the city would be buzzing with it. It wasn't. Yesterday I was stopped by someone from Equality California - a group that does some great work. I cut him off saying I buy the Prop 8 argument, he doesn't need to explain it, just tell me what he wants, and I'll see if I can help. On he went with his script (which annoyed me greatly) and then he asked me for my credit card to pay $150. They must be mad or am I under-estimating the wealth and generosity of people walking the streets?

Meanwhile, back in the UK, Home Secretary Teresa May (she of star trek suit and extensive shoe collection fame - not to be confused with Imelda Marcos) has made an announcement on the coalition government's LGBT legal agenda. It was in the coalition agreement so I'm a bit puzzled by the re-announcement but let's roll with it. The full story can be viewed on the Pink news site here.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

GLBT History and SF Visit

I've already mentioned I'll be in San Francisco next week. The main purpose of the trip is to spend some time in the GLBT archives looking at some material for my forthcoming book on public sex. I've been working through the online catalogue so I pretty much know what I want to see when I get there but there's so much amazing material! You can gain some insight into the archive in the video below. You also see the Castro exhibit that I visited along with some of my students as part of a field trip in 2008. Hopefully, the new permanent exhibition will be open when I next take students over. The GLBT Historical Society also maintain a fantastic YouTube channel with oodles of material/resources that you can check out here.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Who'd be a blogger?

Slight change of focus but I just wanted to flag up this post on Iain Dale's blog. It's a really good insight into the blogger mind - and it all rang true to me!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Sexualities: Table of Contents

A new edition of Sexualities has now been published (1 June 2010; Vol. 13, No. 3). I've listed the articles below:

Drag Queens and Drag Kings: The Difference Gender Makes
Leila J. Rupp, Verta Taylor, and Eve Ilana Shapiro
Sexualities 2010;13 275-294
http://sexualities.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/3/275

Nuns, Dykes, Drugs and Gendered Bodies: An Autoethnography of a Lesbian Feminist’s Journey Through ‘Good Time’ Sociology
Elizabeth Ettorre
Sexualities 2010;13 295-315
http://sexualities.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/3/295

Remembering Foucault: Queer Theory and Disciplinary Power
Adam Isaiah Green
Sexualities 2010;13 316-337
http://sexualities.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/3/316

The Construction, Maintenance, and Evolution of Gay SM Sexualities and Sexual Identities: A Preliminary Description of Gay SM Sexual Identity Practices
E.R. Chaline
Sexualities 2010;13 338-356
http://sexualities.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/3/338

Sex, Postfeminist Popular Culture and the Pre-Teen Girl
Sue Jackson and Elizabeth Westrupp
Sexualities 2010;13 357-376
http://sexualities.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/3/357

Sexual Ethics and Young Women’s Accounts of Heterosexual Casual Sex
Melanie A. Beres and PanteĆ” Farvid
Sexualities 2010;13 377-393
http://sexualities.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/3/377

San Francisco Visit

I'm off to San Francisco next week (14th June) for a week so if anyone is around, do get in touch. It's always nice to meet and chat over a drink with blog readers, academics, activists and other interested parties.

Ryan Sullivan's Island

'Island' is the final film produced by young film maker Ryan Sullivan (pictured right) and it is drawn together from the various episodes that have appeared as Ryan Sullivan's Island - the blog and later the website. Check out the blog here and the website here but both are NSFW and not appropriate for those 'easily offended'. Think that's all the safeguards out of the way!

I've been captivated by the films that were originally about exploring the bareback porn company Treasure Island Media (TIM) (again, NSFW!). As the episodes progressed, they became more about Ryan or 'Sully'. I've recently presented some work on the blog/website he created and the videos that made up that site. I'm working up a full article which I hope to fire off later in the summer. It's briefly touched upon in a broader bareback article due out in the next month with the Journal of Criminal Law. I know already that the JCL article will annoy a lot of people for the fact I don't condemn Morris, bareback porn or bareback as a social practice but more about that once it's published. You can have a look at my slides from the recent presentation on Ryan Sullivan's Island here.

So anyway, we now have the final film. Ryan is now a TIM employee and porn maker and this transformation was for me one of the most exciting aspects of the series which is sadly less clear in the full film. When Sully offered copies of his DVD for free to followers I asked and (much to my surprise) a FedEx parcel came along. Pretty generous given it came all the way from SF. I sat down and watched it and found it to have a very different feel from the series. Inevitably - you're not waiting for the next installment. Episodes are drawn together around themes - but this pretty much works. The brother storyline remains but it seems to sit uneasily within Island - although it has a clearer rationale in this film than in the episodes. I still remain a sceptic about the authenticity (although as I argue in my paper, this is largely irrelevant in conventional terms and authenticity is rendered more complex). I thought the style of captions - and Sully rendered 'silent' at least in verbal terms would become a little dull over a full film but it works.

Moreover, the film as a whole works and will no doubt be an important contribution to film and the wider social context of barebacking. It's certainly a must see for anyone embarking upon an academic exploration of bareback sex and I hope it does well at the film festivals it is entering. The question remains - what now for Ryan? Perhaps more importantly for RSI followers, what next for his brother? The recent announcement by Paul Morris about an HIV 'only' line could include his brother who is openly HIV positive and as we see in RSI has performed in some footage for Morris. The Island still has many stories within it.

HIV+ Porn

Earlier this week, Paul Morris - head honcho at Treasure Island Media revealed via a tweet that he was starting a new line that only featured men who are HIV positive. TIM remains a hugely controversial brand (and they seem to relish this label). Love them or hate them, I do think they are one of the most important companies around from a social phenomenon perspective. More about which - in my next blog post.

It was striking that the first tweet response to Morris was 'fuck yeah!!'. other comments consisted of: 'Awesome! Always ahead of the curve... I know whatever you make I enjoy :)' and 'should be interesting to see...' It was hardly an outpouring of anger or pleasure so it will, as one tweeter put it, be interesting to see and I await the activist reaction to this.

Texas and the Sex Toy

Texas does seem to love a bit of case law about sex toys. Any why not? Back in 2008 I blogged about the case applying Lawrence v Texas so as to enable inhabitants across the great state of Texas to reach for their dildos, vibrators and butt plugs without fear of breaking the law. Now, intellectual property law has come to the forefront of the Texas sex toy jurisprudence - yes, never have patents been this interesting!

According to this story, a company invented a massager (this has SATC overtones) which it turned out could be used as a sex toy. So, like any sensible business they started selling the same product re-packaged as a sex toy. The trouble was that it was patented as a medical device and so when cheaper imitations started popping up in the sex toy market, the original company found themselves in an intellectual property maze. It's not yet clear whether the case will proceed to trial.

You too can own your very own Aneros here. Is this a good time to mention that I'm always open to freebies being sent my way? Address on the contact Chris tab ;-) That said, this might make an unusual end of module student prize.

Sexuality and Frontline Politics

Thanks to @adamfishpoet for flagging this story up with me. Junior Minister and Conservative MP Alan Duncan has written in the New Statesman about the David Laws incident and argues that 'I know what Laws has been through'. He begins be recounting a story of his selection that any Duncan watcher will be very familiar with but he then puts forward quite an interesting piece. There are some (@adamfishpoet included) who will criticise Duncan's article for not recognising that the Tories were themselves a major barrier to the change that brought about the social and legal shift that Duncan alludes to. Duncan does however acknowledge Tony Blair (although Labour would have been more accurate - I have it from Gov insiders that Blair was weak on reforms, particularly the Civil Partnership Act). He comments:

'What looked like a huge leap then prompts increasing bemusement today among a generation that wonders what all the fuss was about. It is much easier these days for someone to declare their sexuality. At least, it is if you are young and growing up among your friends, and much credit for the change must go to Tony Blair. His social agenda lowered the gay age of consent to 16, and brought in civil partnerships and gay adoption. Public attitudes have changed for the better.'

Duncan was an openly gay Tory when others didn't exist. He stuck his neck out oncCivil partnerships and although he remains at times a bit pompous, a bit posh and a bit too right wing, he remains a likable guy who has made a valuable contribution to the law on sexuality in this country. The piece is available in full here.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Law Commission: Simplification of Criminal Law: Public Nuisance and Outraging Public Decency

When I get a moment I will be knocking together a response to the latest Law Commission consultation on 'Simplification of Criminal Law: Public Nuisance and Outraging Public Decency'. The Report is available here. I'll post my response on here when I submit it. It's a welcome opportunity to re-consider the law relating to outraging public decency and as the document makes clear - it's an opportunity to review both the common law and statutes regarding public sex. The report aims at clarity and simplification and those are positions I've previously argued with the House of Commons Select Committee on Communities when they considered public sex in lavatories.

Poz & Bareback Pride

We're into the Pride season with various events held across the UK and indeed the world. Recent years have seen an apparent growth in the number of sites that apply the term 'pride' to being HIV positive and to the fetishisation of bareback sex. This site sells a lot of T-shirts and additional gear with Poz Pride/Bareback pride logos and it left me wondering if they will make an appearance at any Pride events this year. I suspect they would go down badly (even though I suspect a significant number - perhaps even a majority - present at these pride events bareback). If anyone does see them please add a comment/send me a tweet. Would you wear one of these t-shirts?

Sunday, 6 June 2010

A Spot of Feet Licking with the Troops

My old Twitter logo comprised of feet sticking out of a tent. It was designed to suggest the sexual whilst being ambiguous about gender but quite a few of you apparently just enjoyed the feet.

Clearly, I've been neglecting you as of late with the absence of feet. Feet remain one of those fetishes we don't talk about. Leather, rubber are getting there, slowly progressing - leather more so than rubber. BDSM is becoming more maisntream - the idea of oral sex is mainstream today (I would suggest) but other 'fetishes' remain silenced - foot worship amongst them. The blog - The Sword (may be NSFW) has just posted a YouTube click of an alleged soldier licking another soldiers foot, apparently in Afghanistan. My favourite moment is when someone says "just imagine it's a cock" as if straight guys fellating another guy is far less of a taboo than licking a foot which when you think about it, is kinda interesting. It's also rather interesting how behaviour becomes acceptable in certain circumstances. There's a whole porn business based on the storyline of bored soldiers end up fucking around but it's interesting how behaviours shift from the taboo to the acceptable in these settings and the exploration of identity than take place.

Constructing the Family

Another interesting post from Gary McLachlan on his blog - this time about the family. Check it out here. I broadly agree with his thoughts although I think family is an even more fluid concept that McLachlan suggests. I would suggest that our construction of identity shifts as our own emphasis of 'who' we are shifts - thus in moments of personal crisis - our conception of family can shift from one minute to the next. It is a constantly flowing river with eddies, rapids and falls.

Beyond the Circle

A wonderful book by Jane Fae (published under her old name of John Ozimek) has now been published. I've ordered a few copies for the University of Sunderland Law library and I'm sure other academics will find it an asset to include in their own libraries. It's written in a very accessible style and is aimed at the 'lay-reader' rather than an academic. It's a bargainous £6.50 and you can order it here. The book summary is pasted in below:

This book argues in no uncertain terms that the entire approach to sex and sexuality in Britain today is discriminatory, in that it presumes a normal and “correct” (heteronormative) way for individuals to conduct themselves - and therefore sees all alternative forms of sexual conduct as needing to be subject to strict legal "safeguards". The latter may carry the stamp of outward respectability from an essentially white, middle class and male psychiatric profession: however, they are little more than old-fashioned puritan morality dressed up as rational standards.

As religion's hold over society fades away, so the modern pseudo-science of psychiatry tightens its grip on the law-making process!

Were this the case in any other field of human endeavour, there would be a national outcry: but because the discrimination under scrutiny is in respect of sexual conduct, and the British attitude to debating sex and sexuality has rarely raised its head above the level of seaside postcard humour, almost all attempts to engage in discussion of this issue are met with polite put-down.

Nonetheless, discrimination victimises against individuals for doing no more than engaging in perfectly legal and consensual activity with other adults. This book documents cases where individuals have lost job, home life and family as a direct result of societal prurience.

It highlights how the current approach to Equal Rights - about to be strengthened through the Equality Bill - does little to protect anyone who falls outside recognised minority groups. As one academic comments: "Equality is the framework that makes discrimination possible".

It proposes an alternative and radical Human Rights-based approach, in which discrimination itself is redefined not in terms of groups affected, but relative to the harm done to innocent individuals.

Catching Up

I'm sorry I've not posted anything for a little while. It's all go isn't it? Obviously, I was preparing for Chicago when I last posted. Wonderful conference in a brilliant city - and I was blessed with lovely hot weather whilst there. As I say, good conference, lots of interesting papers and managed to see quite a bit of the city too. Stopped by the Leather Archives and Museum - about a 30min ride out of the centre on the "L". Worth a visit but don't expect to need that long there -it's relatively small and I thought the displays too text based. That said, I did learn something and would recommend it to others. Also managed to pop along to the International Mr Leather (IML) market with a straight colleague who was also at the LSA conference. Well, talk about interesting! Typically, my straight colleague was the eye candy and I was just cast as a slutty bottom (literally I was greeted with "if you'd like to check the cum in your arse in over there"). Meanwhile, my straight friend and colleague was told he was wearing too many clothes and should strip off given his hot bod. Story of my life. We also watched a bit of 3D porn, which as I've already tweeted didn't seem to work. It was a bit of a culture shock to return to an academic environment after that I can tell you.

IML 2010 was significant for crowning a disabled trans man as its winner. Tyler McCormick can be seen winning in the video below. Lance Holman, Mr San Francisco Leather, took first runner-up, and Jack Andrew Duke, Mr. Texas Leather, took second runner-up.



Meanwhile, back in blighty, poor old David Laws got himself into a bit of bother. A talented Minister, his loss was undoubtedly a blow for the coalition and although I think he had to resign politically, I don't think he did anything that wrong - in fact had he applied the rules people wanted him to, he would have cost the taxpayer more so go figure. Those like the former labour minister (and out gay man) Ben Bradshaw who criticised Laws for being closeted in the modern world just didn't "get it". Public figures still have families and personal circumstances that conspire to ensure they remain in the closet. In the circumstances, it would have been nice if Bradshaw had been a little more supportive of Laws at what is no-doubt a painful and difficult time.

I think there's more to the Laws story than has been in the press- particularly regarding the nature of the relationship and that alone may prevent Laws - clearly a deeply private individual - from returning to public life despite all the predictions that he will. Time will tell.

The other event I missed out on was of course Eurovision. The campest event that unites homosexuals around Europe. It's like a giant Europe wide Pride sing-a-long. I've just watched it thanks to Sky plus and thought Germany a worthy winner but I adored Iceland and Moldova. I've embedded them below - gosh I do spoil you.



 
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