Thursday, 26 August 2010

Degrees of Extreme: Violent Porn Reviewed

Jane Fae offers an excellent review of recent cases relating to the violent porn law. Read the full piece here.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Cory Koon's on Bareback Sex

Treasure Island Media exclusive, Corry Koons has apparently hit back at the implication that he is, through bareback sex, engaging in irresponsible behaviour. The final paragraph is for me, the 'classic' condensed argument for those who take a radical political view on bareback. You can read my informal exploration of these issues here. It's a subject that academics still seem to be afraid of.

Read the Corry Coons response here.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Life at West Point

The New York Times carries a powerful, moving and fascinating piece today, on life under DADT at the US military training 'base', West Point. Read it in full here. It's a reminder for us all that there are still so many people in supposidly free societies that have to lead double lives and hide in the closet.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Public Toilets and the Limits of Freedom

You can now check out my latest webzine piece over on the FIAPA site which can be viewed here. The piece explores the law in relation to sex in public toilets in England and Wales and argues for its repeal as part of the Coalition's 'Your Freedom' review.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Coming Out as HIV Positive

Many of us know that coming out about our sexuality is not a once off event. You come out to friends, to family, the employers and then you move, come out to new friends, new work colleagues, new employers and so on. Yet, to then 'come out' as HIV positive is to create another barrier - the need to 'come out' yet again, coupled with the inevitable fear of rejection at a time when you're trying to get your own head together. The Sword blog has a story on its site about gay porn star Mason Wyler 'coming out' as HIV positive which he first did on his blog earlier today. You can can read his blog post here (NSFW).

Not only does Mason face the personal issues (which he has apparently had the last twelve months to reconcile) but not he has to come out as positive again, with his positive identity defining his porn identity as much as his sexuality. It will determine the work he is offered, the studios that offer it and perhaps even the fanbase he secures. It's a reminder of the complex identities that porn stars have to negotiate and it no doubt heralds the new-found regulatory, legal and social pressures that Mason will need to confront. Stick in there buddy.

Julie Bindel on Facial Hair

Julie Bindel has written a rather funny and engaging piece in the Guardian's G2 today. She looks at the issue of women's facial hair, revealing that she has 'a particular terror of fuzz appearing on my face' and is fairly open about the contradiction of this position with that of her general no makeup rule. Of course, many of us have contradictions in our views (I certainly do) but it's nice when people are honest in this way. She highlights the efforts of the Hairy Awarey campaign (fab name) which seeks to tackle the social assumption that women's bodies should be hairless. Read more on that campaign here.

She also tackles a subject that remains so very taboo and the broader issue of body hair is one that icnreasingly affects men as well as women. It seems to me that men, particularly gay men, are increasingly under pressures to conform to a specific identity and body hair is an impotant feature. The 'bear' is all about the possession of body hair (and often facial hair too) whilst the twink is the opposite. More and more men also seem conscious of pubic trimming or total shaving of their nether regions. A subject that rather like women's facial hair we tend to avoid as a society.

Read the Bindel piece here.

Decline of the Civil Partnership?

The Pink Paper carries the story today that there has been a 12% year on year decrease in the number of civil partnerships and an increase in the number of civil partnership dissolutions. The piece also goes on to report that there have been 40,237 same-sex unions since their launch in 2005. The story is derived from a piece in the Independent which can be viewed here.

Read the full Pink Paper story here. Pink News also covered the stats yesterday with a slightly more positive spin. See their take on things here.

I don't think anyone can say with certainty what is motivating a drop in the number of new civil partnerships (although there was an increase in northern Ireland) but novelty wearing off will no doubt be cited as a reason. I suspect the economy is actually a factor - as with heterosexual marriage but more importantly, the fall probably reflects an easing of built up 'demand'. Those who've waited years to enter in a civil partnership have done so, and thus you would expect figures to start to settle down (with some economic variability). It will be interesting to see how the figures pan out over the next five years.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Re-thinking the Criminalisation of HIV

Zoe Williams has a wonderful piece in the Guardian today examining the issue of the criminalisation of HIV transmission. She does so on the back of the trial of Nadja Benaissa (of the German pop group No Angels). She challenges the approach of various jurisdictions to the issue of criminalising HIV transmission, passionately writing that:

'...this is about retaking the territory of sexual morality, from which the state has been systematically ejected. It is no longer acceptable to pillory the promiscuous merely for existing: if, however, their behaviour can be reframed as a concrete threat to others, rather than a nebulous menace to society, then authoritarianism is suddenly back in the conversation. The agenda of social conservatism – that promiscuity is wrong, that homosexuality is aberrant, that women should be the gatekeepers of sexual activity, since men can't help themselves (unless of course they're homosexual, in which case they should try harder) – is so thoroughly rejected in general terms that this opportunity to revivify it was too good to miss'.

Read the full article here.

I think she's spot on and I recently wrote on this issue in the Journal of Criminal Law. The full reference is: Ashford, C (2010) ‘Barebacking and the ‘Cult of Violence’: Queering the Criminal Law’, 74(4) Journal of Criminal Law 337.

If you don't have access to academic journals and would like a PDF copy, just send me an email ( or DM me on Twitter (@lawandsexuality)

Friday, 13 August 2010

Italy's 'summer of homophobia'

Alexander Chancellor is on holiday so his Guardian G2 column has taken an Italian theme this week, but in a fascinating and disturbing section he makes to Italy's 'Summer of Homophobia'. Read the article here. Interestingly the paper copy had a very different headline to the online version ('It's a strange summer in Italy: gay people are under attack on the beach. meanwhile, the natives' English hasn't improved').


I've been meaning to mention this resource/all round wonderful thing to you for some time but always put it off as I never feel I have the time to write a post to do it justice. This post won't do it justice but it would be more wrong to keep it from you any longer. In June a new Webzine, SomethingDark or SDk was launched.

SDk aims to take full advantage of an innovative format to deliver its avant-garde mix of dark glamour and eroticism in photography, art and edgy fiction; of poignant nonfiction and criticism; and of exhibition, film and book reviews – all in the social, political and economic context of today’s disturbed world.

SDk additionally strives to be a valuable resource and, concerned with the world around us, is also a forum for re-assessing what is of value in contemporary society.

SDk seeks to be innovative and truly does offer a new format. In some respects it does take some getting used to and it's easy to miss some of the fabulous content tucked away. Unlike most news, magazine- and journal-style websites, which depart from their print-published counterparts in format, look and feel because they were developed with by-now conventional website design in mind, SDk has been developed with the format, look and feel of a print magazine. Yet, being fully html-coded – indeed, pushing that technology to the limit – it also offers the full dynamism of the Internet, especially in a complex system of internal linking, that flash sites cannot deliver.

Check it out here.

After Perry: Legal Reflections

Last week I mentioned on Twitter a conference call that the American Bar Association was organising. The call was to discuss the Perry victory, including analysis of the decision and the possible appeal. The call was led by Kate Kendell, the Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Professor William N. Eskridge, Jr., the John A. Garver Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale Law School.

You can listen to a recording of that conference call here. A wonderful resource for activists and students.

Reflections on Same Sex Marriage

Spiked have published a wonderful piece by Helen Searls on same-sex marriage following the Perry decision. It's a fresh and challenging piece that you can read here. For a more personal but just as worth-while reflection on the same-marriage debate from an international perspective check out this blog. All of this comes as California gears up for the return of same-sex marriages next week.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

New Labour and the Politics of Sexuality

I finally finished Alastair Campbell's Diaries on Sunday night. I'd kept putting it off fearing that having read the earlier Blair years volume and the newspaper extracts, there would be nothing new. Well, the juiciest stuff had been been released but there was still lots to enjoy in the volume. The most interesting aspect only became apparent last night, when I started on Peter Mandelson's memoir The Third Man. Mandelson was the most politically successful gay man in the last government. He reached a position that was deputy PM in all but name and was therefore arguably the most powerful openly gay man in our political history. His years in power coincided with a transformation in the legal landscape for the gay and lesbian community.

So turn to 'homosexuality', or 'gay', or 'civil partnership' in the index and what do you find? Nothing, zilch, not a thing. This contrasts with the Campbell diaries which do detail the debates Labour had in opposition about the man on gays in the military and also some general points - memorably following Blair getting a bit muddled on the Today programme over homosexuality and the concept of the family. Given this volume of Campbell's diaries stop at 1997, it is reasonable to expect lots of useful stuff to come out in the following volumes which I hope will be released soon.

Mandelson's partner is thanked in his acknowledgements section but it's still a bit coded and that seems to be it on the personal front although he briefly mentions the Matthew Parris 'outing' on Newsnight quite late on in the book (and even then rather coldly). It may be that the index is poor and there will be some references - but I'm not holding my breath.

I had always hoped that the various New Labour books would shed some light on the big sexuality decisions coming out of government but thus far, most of the books released have avoided the subject completely. It will be interesting to see if Tony Blair addressees the subject in his forthcoming memoir.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Gaydar in Youth Drive

You've probably noticed my blogging is starting to drop off a bit. I'm desperately behind with a book and in order to avoid my publisher chopping my balls off I'm focusing my efforts on writing at the moment. That said, I wanted to share the latest move by the networking site (i.e hook-up site) Gaydar. became the definitive place to create an online gay identity and arrange a quick fuck but which seems to have been displaced in recent times by newer sites such as fitlads - particularly among young gay guys. Young gay guys inevitably pull in older gay guys and as more and more of Gaydar's features have vanished behind a pay wall in recent years, the site needs to keep pulling in people who will pay to spend hours of their life sitting online waiting for their dream slim smooth twinky guy to message for a quick fuck (...or so I imagine...). How, the guys at Gaydar must have thought, can we get them to keep giving us their money? Then someone had an idea - target the students- give them free membership!

And so it came to GaydarU, the site for students aged between 18 and 23 to join the site. Like student banking, thwe hope is no doubt that they will stick with the site when they graduate and cough up to access everything. In the meantime, the vultures will be re-incentivised to keep paying to circle.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Victory for Same-Sex Marriage Campaigners

If you're on this blog you probably already know by now that Proposition 8 - the California ban on same-sex marriage - was overturned last night by Justice Vaughn Walker in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger. It's all over the press although the various reports can't agree on the length of the judgment - some say 136 pages and others 138. Read the full judgment here and decide for yourself (it goes up to 136 pages but the page numbers don't start on the first page thus it is 138 pages if you can't the actual number of pieces of paper).

You can read the Bay Area Reporter summary here, the New York Times here (and their editorial here), and the San Francisco Chronicle main story here. They have some fantastic coverage. You can get a UK take via the Guardian here (I can't find it on the Daily Mail site for some reason).

This case was concerned with constitutional law but Justice Walker recognised the realpolitik of the situation and undertook a detailed examination of marriage - rendering the case more in line with public expectations and attempting to ensure that all avenues were explored, thus avoiding (or hoping to avoid) recriminations at the time of his judgment. The case goes back to 2008 and the elections of that year (when Obama was elected president). California enables the introduction of 'Propositions' - something alien to UK audiences, but an idea that the current Coalition government is kicking around. This means that citizens can get a proposal on the ballot paper that people can then vote on. This particular proposition - proposition 8 asked 'Shall the California Constitution be changed to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry providing that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California?' 52.34% voted in favour and thus the proposition was passed which ultimately led to this legal action. You can read more about the background, the vote and the arguments advanced int he original ballot here.

Let's not forget that it was originally hoped by the California courts and by Justice Walker that you would be able to see him make the judgment. It was originally planned that the case would take part in a trial of televised cases but those opposing same-sex marriage took their arguments to the US Supreme Court in a bid to stop it. They won as I previously blogged (much to my surprise at the time).

However, this led to a bunch of California based actors taking up the cause and creating video re-creations of the trial. Their site, is a fantastic resource. You can watch the full judgment be read out by the Justice Walker actor in their most recent post and you can see the summary of the findings (edited as a separate clip) below:

Given that understanding how many pages the judgment has can be a little confusing, you can imagine how confusing the law might seem to others. However, this is an incredibly well written judgment and you don't have to be a legal expert to understand and read the judgment. The detailed examination of the witness testimony renders this judgment a must read for law students whatever now happens with this judgment. The US academic historian George Chauncey emerges as a really important influence on the final judgment.

A couple of things struck me about the judgment as soon as I read it last night. Firstly, the judgment is an extraordinary passionate defence of marriage - it praises the unique place that marriage has in our society. For those campaigning for marriage equality, you couldn't want more. Sections of the Walker judgment that distinguish civil unions from marriage will be of use for those campaigning for full marriage equality under the law in England and Wales. However, this isn't so helpful for those wanting a greater range of different relationship models and those who want to see marriage stripped of its privileged position. In order to combat the arguments of the right, Justice Walker firmly drives the gay marriage tank onto their lawn in this judgment.

The aspect that I had perhaps not fully appreciated last night, but I sense as I read through the coverage this morning is just how powerful this victory is. Crowds gathered (some say thousands and the separate SF Chronicle images seem to support at least hundreds) to march from the Castro to the Civic Centre. You can see the crowd outside the Civic Center (City Hall) below. You can watch video footage here. Other pictures can be viewed here. It's easy to forget that this is a decision that will affect people's lives in a very deep and profound way.

Chad Griffin, Board President American Foundation for Equal Rights spoke about the decision and you can see his statement via CNN in this clip:

Fox News and right wing homophobes were quick to cast this judgment as the "arrogance of one man". Presumably, a bit of an issue with most of the court process but never mind. For them, this was a court overturning the will of the people. In a sense, they are right. Maggie Gallagher, the chairman of the National Organization for Marriage has written a powerful op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle today outlining these arguments. Read it here.

So where now? For those more familiar with the law in England and Wales, the US system can seem somewhat baffling. You can see the stages for the Perry case below - following a federal track.
So, given both parties indicated before the judgment that whatever the decision, they would appeal we've long known the case was heading for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal. Commentators expect it will then end up before the US Supreme Court. Pro same-sex campaigners want this in many ways because then there will be a Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage.

However, this is only a cunning plan if the Supreme Court says they are in favour of same-sex marriage. If they don't, it could be fairly disastrous - potentially sinking the marriage cause in other states rather than aiding it. I'm hoping to get more of a feel for the mood/aims of the LGBT legal community when I'm back in the States later this month, and will blog my impressions then. In the meantime, you can read more about the court structure here.

It's terrific win but there's a long way to go.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Can Gay Rights be Human Rights?

UCL Law Journal to Host International Gay Rights Panel

The UCL Jurisprudence Review, the first student law journal of the United Kingdom, is proud to announce an international panel on Friday 15 October 2010 to look at whether gay rights can be imagined as human rights.

In view of the ongoing gay rights debates in India, Uganda, Europe, America and elsewhere, the panel will explore some reasons behind the marginal status of gay issues within legal rights discourse. What engenders the relative invisibility of such issues within national and international law? Can arguments based on cultural relativity and sensitivity justify opposition to gay equality?

A panel of distinguished speakers will address these issues to an audience of students, academics, lawyers, and the broader public at the University College London’s Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre.

Speakers include:

Peter Tatchell, global human rights activist, a co-founder of the LGBT direct action group OutRage! and regular contributor to The Guardian’s Comment is Free section;

Hayley Gorenberg, deputy legal director for Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest gay rights organisation in the US. Gorenberg was lead counsel in legal action against Cirque du Soleil on behalf of performer Matthew Cusick, which resulted in the largest award ever for an HIV-discrimination complaint settled with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission;

Leslie Moran, professor at Birkbeck College, London. Moran is the author of The Homosexuality of Law and recently delivered the ninth annual Stonewall Lecture;

Mayur Suresh, a practicing lawyer in Delhi working closely with the Alternative Law Forum in Bangalore. Suresh is representing the Voices Against 377 collective in the legal action against India’s sodomy law; and

Robert Wintemute, professor at King’s College London. Wintemute has participated in gay and lesbian equality cases before the European Court of Human Rights, the European Union Court of Justice, and the Supreme Courts of Argentina, Massachusetts and the United States.

The UCL Jurisprudence Review is an annual collection of essays in jurisprudence published by an independent student group at the University College London Faculty of Laws. The panel celebrates the launch of the sixteenth volume of the Review, which has been published since 1994.

For information about this event, please visit or contact Yuvraj Joshi at

For information about the Review, please visit and follow 'UCL Jurisprudence Review' on Facebook.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

In other news...

Couple of other minor stories. First off, as Joe McElderry pops out, actor Tom hardy runs back in. The Advocate reports that he is now suggesting remarks he made about past same-sex sexual experiences were taken out of context and he's strictly hetero. The Advocate notes there seem to be some flaws with his statement. Read more here.

Thanks to Sean for flagging up this next story. The BBC have reported that the High Court ruled this week to ban sex parties at a mansion. Worth a read. It seems a perfectly reasonable decision given the facts presented in this story. So long that is, as the next round of political fundraisers or other such activities held in neighbouring or nearby properties are equally banned.

More from the Australian Sex Party

The Australian Labor Government looks to be in a bit of bother during this election campaign but the Australian Sex Party are getting some decent coverage. The Australian Sex Party's Fiona Patten will go up against Family First's Wendy Francis Monday, 2 August, 7.15am on Sunrise to take part in a debate about sexual and moral issues. Sunrise is 'Australia's Number One breakfast Show' so it should give both the ASP and these issues a bit more of a focus.

You can also now watch the ASP campaign launch for Western Australia in the video below. I love candidate Bret Treasure discussing seeing a campaign stand at a sex party and how that motivated him to get involved. As much as I admire the honesty, the trouble is lines like that scare off the general public and such is the vital importance of the issues ASP is campaigning on that they need to appear - as horrid as the term is - 'normal', and appeal to the similarly awful term 'everyday Australians'. Fiona Patten's pearl necklace (no not that sort!) is a prime example of cultivating a wholesome image. The depressing truth is they need to be as cynical as the other parties to make headway, or maybe I'm just too embittered? Shame the media are looking a bit thin on the ground at the campaign launch.

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