Friday, 31 August 2012

Vacancy: University of Iowa

The Department of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies (GWSS) and the Division of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures (DWLLC) at the University of Iowa invite applications for a tenure-track joint position at the rank of Assistant Professor in Transnational Sexuality Studies. Desired areas of additional expertise include gender studies, literary and cultural studies, and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of topics such as diaspora, translation, migration, and global flows. Candidates must have native or near-native fluency in one of the foreign languages taught in the DWLLC (for a complete listing of these languages see and be willing and able to deliver instruction at all levels of the graduate and undergraduate curriculum. Candidates should apply by submitting a curriculum vitae and cover letter clearly describing their research and teaching interests in Transnational Sexuality Studies.

 The Department of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies, The Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and the University of Iowa are strongly committed to gender and ethnic diversity; the strategic plans of the University and College reflect this commitment. Women and minorities are strongly encouraged to apply. The University of Iowa is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. For more information, see:

Extreme Pornography: Legal Theory, Institutional Reality

Nick Cowen, of the campaign group Backlash, has written a really important piece over at the Freedom in a Puritan Age webzine. He rightly challenges some of the comments by McGlynn and Rackley on the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act.  Whilst I recognise both legal scholars, they have been wrong on this issue.  He also explores an assertion by Paul Johnson (a scholar I nearly always agree with and published a chapter in his latest book early this year) around sending out moral signals - a fair comment by Johnson who draws upon a European lexicon in his argument - but one which Cowen notes the judge in R v Walsh ruled in appropriate (although the defence did put forward the Johnson argument).

The full piece can be read here.

Vacancy: Research Associate in Durham Law School, Durham University

Applications are invited for the position of Research Associate to work with Professor Clare McGlynn in undertaking research, publishing and disseminating research findings and preparing grant applications in the broad field of gender, law and crime. The position is full-time, for two years (grade 7) and the successful applicant will be part of an exciting inter-disciplinary network of scholars engaged in gender-related research within Durham University. You will actively participate in the activities of relevant research groups, including Gender and Law at Durham (GLAD), the Centre for Sex, Gender and Sexualities and the Crime, Violence and Abuse group based in the School of Applied Social Sciences. For further information, please contact Clare McGlynn on Closing date: mid-Sept (check

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Progressive Sexuality

The ever-excellent Paul Bernal at UEA responds on his blog to a call for submissions to Labour Left’s ‘Red Book II’, by Dr √Čoin Clarke, with a series of recommendations for any progressive party regarding digital policy.  As I tweeted earlier, I agree with his suggestions (see here).

Although a Lib Dem member (who is debating renewing his membership) rather than a Labour-backer like Bernal, I thought the idea of setting out a series of progressive socio-legal policy objectives is a useful one, and one that I've found myself thinking about this morning in the context of sexuality.

Here are my initial thoughts/suggestions:

1.  Introduce same-sex marriage but retain Civil Partnerships, extending Cps to different-sex couples.
2.  Repeal Section 71 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (dealing with sex in a public lavatory).  See my previous arguments on this subject here.
3.  Clarify the law relating to public indecency to mean that the likelihood of being seen does not include by members of the Police.
4.  Repeal S63-71 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (dealing with pornography).
5.  A full review of remaining obscenity law (including CPS and BBFC guideline documentation) by a broad-based expert committee.
6.  A full review (and likely new legislation) addressing consent and sexual behaviour and principally responding to R v Brown, Dica and Konzani.
7.  Repeal Section 45(2) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (this would remove the anomaly of being able to have sex at 16, but being criminalised for taking a picture of yourself having sex on your smart phone until the person being photographed is 18).  It would also clarify that a 'child' is someone aged below 16.   A new provision could be created clarifying that 'commercially produced' pornography should remain 18 but I question how effective such a provision would be.
8.  Repeal all legislative provisions relating to prostitution (ie relevant provisions of Policing and Crime Act 2009, Sexual Offences Act 2003, Street Offences Act 1959).
9. Amend the Gender Recognition Act 2004 so as to allow individuals to transcend the binary assumption of gender embedded in the Act.
10.  Amend the HIV Testing Kits and Services Regulations 1992 to allow for home HIV testing, and the purchasing of kits by the public, alongside a clinician-led new strategy for HIV testing.

These are just some starting points...I'm sure I'll think of others!

Beware the Book Burner

Book Burners are rarely on the right side of history.  Authoritarian regimes, and the frightened call for books to be burns when they don't believe they can win against the ideas contained within the pages of a book.

It was therefore with a sense of alarm that I read last week of a bizarre campaign in Sunderland to ceremoniously burn copies of the bestselling fiction book, Fifty Shades of Grey.

According to the Sunderland Echo,  Clare Phillipson, director of the women’s refuge, today called for the trilogy – led by Fifty Shades of Grey – to be binned. “It’s absolutely disgusting,” she told the Echo. “It normalises abuse, degrades women and encourages sexual violence. “With it being in the media so much many men and women have rushed out to buy it, and many have come to me and told me how distressed they are by what’s written. “Passages in it are about women submitting to men, obeying their orders and violence being used in a sexual and erotic manner. It’s disgusting and sends out the wrong message.”

The Charity is collecting the books until November the 5th, when they will burn the books.

The following day, TV 'Agony Aunt', Denise Robertson waded in to the row.

According to the Echo, she said:  “I’m not surprised by the book’s success, but I just feel it’s terribly sad that people’s lives are so empty they’ve taken to going to buy a book that’s designed for titilation. I’m absolutely with Clare in getting people not buy the book. “Unfortunately, the more we talk about it, the more people will want to buy it probably.” She added: “It’s a horrible book. “I wish it had never been written. “It’s making S&M seem cool and dressing it up in frilly clothes, making it seem nice when it isn’t.

Let me begin by saying I've read the first book in the trilogy but not the others.  It took me around five times to get through the first few pages as it was so clunky, and badly written.  However, once past this, I flew through the book and did find it engaging, and enjoyable.  However, the book doesn't really understand BDSM.  It's depictions absurd and the longitudinal storyline (which I've not got to) that all you need is redemptive vanilla monogamy to be 'cured' of BDSM is rather silly, if not downright offensive to those who do engage in BDSM.

So, it's a pretty lousy but successful book.  That's not grounds for burning it.  If the book is so degrading to women, so utterly offensive; it's all the more puzzling that women are choosing to buy and enjoy all three novels (and other similar texts).

Robertson's assumption that S&M is not 'nice' is also bizarre and disturbing that a woman who has such a high-profile is choosing to display her ignorance.  I can recall This Morning (the show Robertson made her name on) promoting riding crops and fluffy handcuffs as part of a Valentines gift show a few years ago - surely behaviours which can fall within the boundaries of BDSM?

It's re-assuring to see from the comments on both stories that the public are far more 'switched on', and culturally aware than these two individuals, but any call for a public book burning should always be met with scepticism, if not all-out resistance.

Treasure Island Media Gets Slammed

You could be forgiven for being surprised that Treasure Island Media's new release, Slammed, isn't receiving more media attention.  I suspect, knowing that's what TIM are looking for, media outlets are refusing to play their 'outrage' game.  That certainly seems to be the case over at The Sword (NSFW).

The latest film from San-Francisco based bareback studio Treasure Island Media (TIM) is directed by their British Director Liam Cole, and shot in London.  According to The Sword (NSFW, trailer also available), it depicts men shooting-up Crystal Meth before then engaging in bareback sex.

Crystal Meth is not the same issue in the UK as it is in the States (thankfully) and so whilst the documentary argument of Cole (i.e he's just recording the sex that is taking place around him in London), doesn't make sense for a US-based studio like TIM.  If it's so important to document this, why haven't they done it before in the States?  Why not record the same group of men shooting meth and having bareback sex over three or five years?  Show the impact of the drug on their sex, bodies and mind.  I suspect the films at the end of that series wouldn't sell as the men's bodies increasingly show the ravaging effects of Crystal, but if it's all about documentary, that would have been a logical argument.

You might think it's just a predictable behaviour tactic from TIM.  I don't agree.  I recall (I hope, rightly) studio honcho Paul Morris financially backing a US documentary on Meth, designed to highlight the negative consequences of Meth.  I recall him being concerned about the impact of Meth on communities of men.  Is that position incompatible with releasing Slammed?  It's perhaps a moot point but it does raise questions.  Not least, where is TIM going?

It certainly seems to be a studio that feels a bit lost at the moment.  A website and social-media overhaul has made the online presence slicker and more professional looking, but it has also stripped the studio of a lot of soul.  Nothing more so than the painful use of social media.  Fake Twitter accounts which seem more an attempt at satire than arousal are an awkward miss-step.  The Sword (NSFW) also reported on these fake accounts, singling out the account of Ethan Wolfe.  It's embarrassing and hasn't improved since the story, continuing the dull, almost humorous updates.  I've never been aroused by the tweets, but I've laughed quite a lot.  I'm not sure that's usually the intention of a porn studio.  Contrast this with the genuine account of Jackson Taylor (depicted as a TIM exclusive on their site NSFW), in which his account manages to appear erotic, sincere, and interactive.  That's how you do it boys.

Where would I go?  Well, I think there's still a lot of scope for TIM to document the patterns and flow of sex lives.  This could be done in a conscious longitudinal way, recording the way that individuals frequenting venues/locations transcends the anonymity we often associate with random hook ups.  These hook ups are rarely random, and I think it would be interesting to document a journey into bareback sex (as 'Ryan Sullivan' did from the production point of view), to document the desire of bareback as well as the act.  Then again, maybe I should stick to the day job.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Uncivil Division

I continue to work through Some Dance to Remember (see my previous post).  I've encountered several other passages that I want to share, but I'll limit myself to just one.  This section (page 309) is a really interesting insight on the impact of AIDS.  There's a temptation to talk of the 'gay community' (I too am guilty of sometimes using this shorthand phrase) but this section is a reminder not only of the 'otherness' of homosexuality, but then the sub-cultures within that identity and then the division of sexual practice based identity within those subcultures.  Nonetheless, in the face of a holocaust, it was their homosexuality that re-formed and bound together a community, however momentarily.

'Straight San Francisco treated the Castro like a leper colony as subtly as some has tacitly approved the gun in Dan White's hand.  Almost overnight, fewer and fewer straights dared to come to the Castro for a chic supper and a movie at the Castro theatre.  In downtown offices, straight people gathered around Xerox machines and wondered if they could still go to lunch with the amusing gay men with whom they worked.

'The uncivil tension between the Pacific Heights gays and Castro gays and Folsom gays widened momentarily.  Cocksuckes blamed the fuckers who blamed the piss drinkers who blamed the fist fuckers who blamed the scatmen; and everyone blamed the shooters and their needles.  Finally, even while the panic - and it was real panic - rose in those first months, they all knew they had no choice but to band together to save themselves, because no one else would save them.  Their history had taught them that.'

Monday, 20 August 2012

How to be Gay

American academic David Halperin has a new book out (I've only just ordered it myself) entitled 'How to Be Gay', and the writer/thinker Mark Simpson has an interview with him in Out.  You can check it out here.

The concelebration of pure, raw, priapic manhood

At a recent book launch, I feel into conversation with somebody who asked if I was familiar with the work of Jack Fritscher.  I confessed that whilst the name sounded vaguely familiar, I wasn't.  Fritscher is an influential novelist and the founding editor-in-chief of the landmark publication, Drummer magazine.  He has been described as a queer theorist, decades before queer theory was conceived and congregated around by activists and academics in the 1990s.  His memoir-novel 'Some Dance to Remember' chronicles the years 1970 - 1982 in San Francisco, and can be downloaded for free here or if you prefer (as I did), you can purchase an old fashioned hard-copy here.  I'm hoping to finish the text by the end of the week, but I'm already incredibly moved and inspired by the text.  At times, it's a challenging read with a chaotic style that itself summons a previous age.  Yet, it's also a remarkable time-portal to a period of queer history sometimes forgotten and frequently edited.

Here's one wonderful passage that I just read and want to share:

'I have no father, no brother, no son more than these men gathered here in this time, in this flesh, in tis space more auspiciously than any of us realized at first.  Never on this planet have so many men of such similar mind gathered together to fuck in the concelebration of pure, raw, priapic manhood.  If the mythic Saint Priapus has never been canonised by the Catholic Church, then he has been made a saint in  San Francisco in these halls, in the temples of our conjoined bodies, tangled in passion, slick with sweat, and glazed with seed'.

Priapus is a fertility god from Greek mythology, blessed with an exceptionally large penis.  Saint Priapus (and I had to Google this) was a North American religion founded in the 1980s (and strong in San Francisco) which worships the phallus.  Worship takes the form of a variety of sexual acts.

For me, the extract above is a passage of raw desire, evoking not only that spirt of the 70s, now constructed as 'dangerous', as a congregation of men inevitably cruising towards the vengeful iceberg of AIDS, but also of contemporary queer theory, and radical sexuality.  Amazing stuff.

Law, Culture and Queer Politics in Neoliberal Times

Jindal Global Law Review has published the first of a two volume special issue addressing 'Law, Culture and Queer Politics in Neoliberal Times'.  Check it out here.

I've not yet read the full issue, but heartily recommend an excellent article by Neil Cobb (latterly of Durham Law School, and now at Manchester University).  His article can be downloaded here.

Watch out for Part II of this special double issue due to be out in December 2012! It will, among others, address concerns around homonationalism, queer imperialism and pinkwashing with reflections on queer politics in Africa, Europe and North America. It will also address the politics around the representations and constructions of queer sexualities within familial contexts of intimacy. The issue will feature articles by Jasbir K. Puar, Neville Hoad, Jin Haritaworn, Dianne Otto, Fiona Campbell, Aeyal Gross, Marc Epprecht and many others.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Canal Street Fights Back?

How to fight back against the invasion of Hen and Stag Parties and heterosexual 'Zoo' visitors to Manchester's Canal Street?  We know it's a problem from the research of Skeggs and Moran among others, and we know that the Equality Act makes discrimination impossible.  Here's a rather brilliant solution currently on the doors at Via...

Unexplained Discrepancies: The Implementation of the LA Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Ordinance

"we're gonna need a bigger packet..."
I've previously blogged on the hard-line approach of the City of LA to condomless pornography.  They took the extraordinary step of passing the Los Angeles Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act (Ordinance) which you can read here.   It requires any anal or vaginal sex to include the use of condoms.  The Ordinance does not (helpfully) define 'vaginal or anal sex' and thus one could reasonably conclude that it is not merely restricted to a penis.  What of a dildo?  A finger? A fist? Should an esteemed lady of the adult porn film scene be filmed bobbing up and down on a LA City Police cone, is she likely to find herself in bother with some newly appointed 'condom cop'?  Confusingly (someone needs sending to drafting school), a definition is offered of an 'adult film' adn that makes it quite clear that anything can be included:

(1) An "adult film" is defined as any film, video, multimedia or other representation of sexual intercourse in which performers actually engage in oral, vaginal, or anal penetration, including but not limited to penetration by a penis, finger, or inanimate object; oral contact with the anus or genitals of another performer; and/or any other activity that may result in the transmission of blood and/or any other potentially infectious materials as defined in California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 5193(b).

Our hypothetical cone is indeed included.

Having passed this ordinance, city officials - as the San Francisco Chronicle reported this week - were then tasked with making the whole thing work.  They've now published a report which you can read in full here.  The report is merely a set of recommendations so it's now for the city mayor to decide whether to follow them (and whether the city can find the dollars to fund the whole thing).

If you search for the full report, you'll probably come to this link - which you'll note defines on page two anal or vaginal sex as penetrative with a penis, and notes that this is the language of the ordinance.  It isn't as I note above.

A clanger has been dropped you might conclude; some calamitous mistake occurred?  Well, move over to the LA office and search the official records and you are presented with a similar report but with some significant differences.  The incorrect assertion about the law has vanished, possibly suggesting that city officials thought the law was more narrowly drafted than it is.  Something rather interesting has occurred here - and I've not seen a single report that notes or explains this discrepancy between the two versions.  An explanation from city officials would surely draw the enthusiastic attentiveness of many who will be affected by this law.

The report makes a number of recommendations, and here are those listed in the LA County website version (which I'm taking as the 'final' 'official' version):

1. Revise the Film Permit Application Section (5) of the Ordinance requires the City to add the following language to all adult film permits: "If this production is an adult film, Permittee must abide by all applicable workplace health and safety regulations, including California Code of Regulations Title 8, Section 5193, which mandates barrier protection, including condoms, to shield performers from contact with blood or other potentially infectious material during the production of films."

2. Require Licensed Medical Inspections Issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking to contract with a licensed medical professional to conduct the periodic inspections of adult film productions involving "Activities Carrying Risk  of Transmission of Blood or Infectious Materials." If this recommendation is adopted, more information would need to be gathered to determine City enforcement parameters and the CAO should be directed to report back to the Mayor and Council within 90 days with a draft RFP for further action.

3. Contract with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health If voters in Los Angeles County approve in the Statewide General Election scheduled for November 6,2012, the measure (County Measure) to require adult film producers to obtain a health permit as a condition of producing a film that involves non-simulated sexual intercourse, then the City should adopt the County Measure and put a measure on the Citywide primary election in March of 2013 to reconcile the Ordinance in LAMC Section 12.22.1 with the County Measure to rely exclusively on the County health permit requirements and inspections to ensure the safety of performers in the AFI from the risk of transmission of bloodbome pathogens. If this recommendation is adopted, the City Attorney should be requested to report back with an amending Ordinance to reconcile LAMC Section 12.22.1 with the County Measure. 

4. Develop a Fee Structure Direct the CAO to develop a fee structure to contract for the services identified in Recommendations 2 and/or 3 above, and direct the CAO to report back to the Mayor and Council within 90 days with a draft fee proposal for adult film inspections.

Media sites are repeating an assertion in the SF Chronicle that quotes a reference in the report to a study by the Los Angeles Fire Department indicates that more than 100 condom cops might be needed to adequately enforce the law, at a cost of $1.7 million or more a year.

My reading of the report is less clear.  Any figure is dependant upon what options the city chooses, and also varies dependant upon the rate at which licenses are set (and the number then issued).  There is also a degree of guess work about those films which currently fall through the licensing regime and thus would contribute towards the need for policing to stop such films.  The report makes clear this extends to 'student films' in the largest category - Miscellaneous.  

The films don't need to be for profit and so it's quite conceivable that the new 'condom police' could be sweeping into the homes of couples performing on live chat/broadcast sites or a couple of college guys who uploaded a video of some penetrative hazing.   Don't forget, penetration with a police cone could count - it doesn't need to be a penis but it does make reference to 'sexual intercourse', so perhaps our College jocks are safe for now.  If the English CPS were involved, I'd be less certain.

So, we have a crazy law, an intense policing regime and a State that is already financially broke.  This shambles still has some way to go.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Links: What Am I Missing?

My occasional appeal; what links should I have on my blog that I don't?  You'll see they are arranged by broad category down the right hand side.  Suggestions are always welcome to make them a better and more useful selection.  Comment, tweet or private email your suggestions to me in the usual way.  I also need to have a check through them all before the start of term to check for broken links so do let me know if you spot any of those too!

#porntrial - Further Analysis

A number of other reports have emerged following the case of R v Walsh (see this previous post), aka #porntrial.  The solicitor in the case, Myles Jackman, has written a compelling piece on his blog in which concludes:

'It is my contention that the matter is now beyond the remit of the CPS, Met and BBFC and that the subject requires the scrutiny of the Home Secretary, Ministry of Justice and the Law Commission and that questions should be asked in the House.'

Jackman is absolutely right.  The issue of images of consensual sexual acts - both under the Obscene Publications Act and Criminal Justice and Immigration Act should not be decided by more lives ruined, and further costly and clumsy investigations and prosecutions.  We desperately need a sensible review of the law in this area.   Read Myles' full post for his own compelling reasoning.

Daryl Champion has written an excellent piece exploring the messy way that the Daily Mail responded to the case.  It is an excellent forensic exploration and worth a read.

Benjamin Gray also has a very interesting piece on his blog exploring the role of the CPS in all of this, suggesting - and I agree in large part - that anger should be focused on the bad law at the heart of the case rather than the CPS themselves.  Read that piece here.

The post can be seen as a response to a mood reflecting on social media and in some media stories such as this piece by Terri Judd published in the Independent, linking together R v Walsh with R v Peacock and the Twitter joke trial (Chambers v DPP). 

RIP Jack Fertig, aka, Sister Boom Boom

Really sad to hear of the premature death of the wonderful Jack Fertig, better know as Sister Boom Boom.  The Bay Area Reporter carried a detailed obituary which can be read here.

2012 Dan Bradley Award Winner: Jennifer Levi

The US LGBT Bar Association has announced that the 2012 Dan Bradley Award goes to Jennifer Levi. Jennifer L. Levi is the director of GLAD's Transgender Rights Project. Jennifer has served as counsel in a number of precedent-setting cases establishing basic rights for transgender people, including: O’Donnabhain v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue which established that medical care relating to gender transition qualifies as a medical deduction for federal income tax purposes; Doe v. Yunits, the first reported decision establishing protections for transgender youth; and Adams v. Bureau of Prisons, which successfully challenged a federal prison policy denying essential medical care to transgender inmates, among many others.

She has also appeared in a number of high profile family law cases arguing the right of same-sex couples to marry, challenging state sodomy laws, and for full parental rights of non-birth parents and has been instrumental in getting transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws passed in the majority of the New England states. Jennifer has also been at the forefront of many legislative victories, including the enactment of comprehensive non-discrimination protections for transgender people in Massachusetts in 2011. Jennifer is a law professor at Western New England University. She serves on the Legal Committee of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, and is a founding member of both the Transgender Law & Policy Institute and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. Jennifer is a graduate of Wellesley College and the University of Chicago Law School and a former law clerk to Judge Michael Boudin at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

 Jennifer co-edited Transgender Family Law: A Guide to Effective Advocacy, the first book to address legal issues facing transgender people in the family law context and provide practitioners the tools to effectively represent transgender clients. Jennifer lives in Northampton, Massachusetts with her spouse, Sue Donnelly, and their two children.

Text chat can be obscene: R v GS [2012]

I am indebted to Jane Fae for alerting me to this important story earlier in the month.  Myles Jackman, aka @obscenitylawyer reported on his blog the case of R v GS [2012].

You could be forgiven for not having heard of it - few seem to, and yet the case has potentially extraordinary implications for English obscenity law. According to the Court of Appeal, private one to one text chat on the Internet can be subject to the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (OPA). This means that anyone using the Internet to discuss sexual fantasies may be at risk of committing a criminal offence.

Myles' blog includes the full law report which is well worth a read.

The Court was clearly determined to bend the law for the purposes of an individual case - concerning paedophile images.  Unfortunately, in doing so the Court has unwittingly extended the law - shifting the meaning of 'to publish' to be just one person (for example, via instant chat).  It significantly expands the scope of material that the Police might seek to obtain in the course of an investigation and also means that conversations individuals might be having via chat - and thus be speculative fantasy exploration - may well attract the law in a way that those individuals may be shocked at.

It's tempting to think, "well, this doesn't concern me".   After all, this case concerned a conversation relating to paedophilia, and few would seek to defend such conversations - regardless of the significant extension of law.

However, take a look at the CPS guidelines on the Obscene Publications Act and the scope of instant chat conversations that could come into focus expands further.  Here are those areas that the CPS would currently seek to prosecute (you will note the continued inclusion of fisting despite R v Peacock)

  • sexual act with an animal 
  • realistic portrayals of rape 
  • sadomasochistic material which goes beyond trifling and transient infliction of injury 
  • torture with instruments 
  • bondage (especially where gags are used with no apparent means of withdrawing consent) dismemberment or graphic mutilation 
  • activities involving perversion or degradation (such as drinking urine, urination or vomiting on to the body, or excretion or use of excreta) 
  • fisting

So, once again, BDSM practices disproportionately fall within the attention of the law, and we also have scat and piss-play 'chats' falling in the scope of potential criminalisation.

It remains to be seen just what impact the case will have, but it is potentially very serious indeed and surely worthy of greater awareness and debate.

UPDATE:  Another great post on this story from Nigel Whitfield can be read here.

Getting it wrong

Sometimes we get it wrong.  I got it wrong yesterday evening in this post about Tom Daley.  With some attempt at humour, I sought to explore the mood of many regarding the 'is he/isn't he' question regarding Tom Daley's sexuality.   I aimed to point out that it is our very speculation (which of course, I was part of) which makes any exploration of a sexuality other than the normative, near impossible for Daley.  Thus, if he is gay - my reasoning followed - we'd probably never know.  Indeed, we would never know what 'label' he ascribes to his sexuality or how he defines himself.  I do think it's important how we define our sexuality.  Anybody who has ever thought "it's only me' needs no further exploration.  Whilst I think that 'gay' and 'straight' are over simplistic labels, I do think open - and public - discussions about our sexuality are important for freedom of sexuality to prevail.

My post received some nice comments, but it also received some very negative comments.  People whose opinion I value found the post ill-judged and offensive.  When certain people say that, it's right to pause and reflect.

I hope, as I've explained above, my intention is clear in that I did not set out to offend.  Nonetheless, I deeply regret any offence caused.  I've reflected on the post over-night and whilst I still think I had a sound reason to post, that rationale did not clearly come across.

Sometimes we get it wrong.  I hope that by holding our hands up and admitting when we - when I - get it wrong, it makes me a better blogger in the long run.  

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Event: Civil Society Strikes Back

The British Institute of Human Rights have released details of a rather interesting tour that some readers may find of interest:

 Human Rights are for everyone. Human Rights are the result of centuries of struggle, by groups and individuals who suffered persecution or neglect at the hands of an often all too powerful state. Human Rights became international law after the horrors of World War II when, thanks to the advocacy of civil society, the international community adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human Rights are under attack. Too many of our political leaders and some sections of the media want to go backwards, not forwards. Join the fight back at the BIHR 2012 Human Rights Tour – coming soon to a city near you!

Human Rights go to the heart of the kind of society we want to be. Learn more, and get involved, at the 2012 Human Rights Tour.

Venues and dates: 

All venues are centrally located. Further details on remaining venues will be posted shortly. Please note: Some of the dates have changed since our initial correspondence regarding the Tour; the dates on this page and the booking form are confirmed.

Cardiff – 17 September - Cardiff County Hall, Committee Room 3, Atlantic Wharf, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff CF10 4UW

Truro - 20 September - Truro Town Hall, Municipal Buildings, Boscawen Street, Truro, TR1 2NE 

Ipswich – 25 September - Ipswich Town Hall, Cornhill, Ipswich IP1 1DH

Bournemouth - 3 October - Bournemouth University, Room TBA

Brighton – 11 October - Brighthelm Community Centre, North Road Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1YD

Inverness - 17 October - Spectrum Centre, 1B Margaret Street, Town Centre, Inverness IV1 1LS 

Edinburgh - 18 October - Pleasance Theatre (Edinburgh Students Union), 60 Pleasance, Edinburgh EH8 9TJ

Preston – 30 October - The Avenham Park Pavilion, South Meadow Lane, Preston, PR1 8JT 

Manchester – 1 November - Age Concern Manchester, 24 Mount Street, Manchester, M2 3NN

Belfast – 5 November - NICVA, 61 Duncairn Gardens, Belfast, BT15 2GB

Bangor – 15 November - Central venue (TBA)

Leicester – 22 November - Leicester Guildhall, Guildhall Lane, Leicester, LE1 5FQ

Boston – 29 November - Centenary Methodist Hall, Red Lion Street, Boston, Lincolnshire, PE21 6NY

Sunderland – 4 December - Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Burdon Road, Sunderland, SR1 1PP

London - 7 December, Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL

York – 12 December - York University (Room TBA)

More information and booking details can be viewed here.

Tom Daley: Gay Today, Gay Tomorrow?

A couple of weeks ago, a nation sat down to watch their televisions and enjoy an evening of cynical observations, self-depreciation and mild self-loathing.  London 2012 kicked off and Britain was ready for a cock-up of international standards.  It would be a naff opening, transport would grind to a halt, London would be in chaos, it would probably rain quite a lot and a host of unforeseen circumstances would conspire to ensure that everything inevitably went pear shaped.  Of course, there was the odd cheerful idiot thinking it was all going to be brilliant, but they were bonkers.  Examples of British eccentricity.  They probably did rambling or something, or ran charity jumble sales.  They certainly lived with cats.  Lots of cats.  They were always excited at such things.  They'd soon see the shambles.  Oh yes.

Irritatingly, it didn't quite happen that way.  Very early on in the Danny Boyle masterpiece (as we've come to know the opening), a nation of cynics were converted and the already annoyingly cheery optimistic folks were lifted to a plane of bliss akin to a 60s guru floating on a magic carpet of drug-induced delight.  It wasn't just good, it was bloody brilliant.

Then there was London, a city which felt pretty good.  The weather was glorious for much of the time and the gentle buzz of Olympic happiness kept everything bobbing along.

I'm still holding out some cynical hope that the pink sand strewn around London may in some way trigger skin complaints and a spate of litigation, or the prospect of the Spice Girls whizzing around on taxis could be a nod of self-mockery too far, but it looks like I'll be disappointed.  It looks like the games will be a success.  Not just in sporting terms, but in terms of showing the world and ourselves that modern Britain is a place at ease with ourself.  Confident in who we are, and both optimistic and ambitious for the future.

Add into this heady mix of a nation bemused to be at ease with itself, we throw in the athletes themselves.  It's telling that we seem excited not just by amazing Brits, but a Jamiacan runner in the form of the awe-inspiring Usain Bolt, alongside a host of athletes around the world.   Then there's 'Mo' (is a surname needed?), and of course 'Tom'.

Ahh, Tom.  Surely the nation's favourite?  A nice guy, with an amazing and powerful personal story, and a body that evokes a lustful desire among many that suggests Daley should be careful who he gets into a lift with.  Young Mr Daley has curiously been positioned in the BBC media as a 'teenager', and the BBC soundtrack that accompanied a video of him sang of a 'child in his eyes'.   Yet, despite this attempt by the media to re-position Tom as a child and thus make any 'naughty' thoughts about him verboten, a casual glance of Twitter would demonstrate they have failed.

We don't just like Tom and his beaming smile.  We want to roger him senseless.

It's not just me with a rather evident weakness for Tom, a range of high-profile journalists, celebrities, academics and unknown rampant homosexuals are rather fixated on Tom.  The outpouring of homosexual lust is itself a fascinating development.  Gay men are reminding the world via social media that homosexuality isn't just about a propensity for stylish wedding planning, it's about bonking members of the same sex.

Although some might seek to define Tom as 'metrosexual', it's not merely desire that motivates the 'gay' men fascinated by Daley, it's a belief that he is himself gay.  Not just camp, or 'gaying it up', but an authentic homosexual.  People point to his camp mannerisms, his tendency to wiggle his bum when walking from the pool to a showers (which some uncharitably have termed a 'mince'), and his fondness for camp music.  For straight credentials, folks point to his Cheryl Cole calendar and his promise last night on Twitter, that he would DM her to fix up some private diving lessons.  As women go, this is one rung down from Kylie Minogue in the butch-stakes.  

Daley does indeed seem to play to his image.  His fondness (apparently unique among competing divers) to spend significant periods between dives looking seductive under the pool-side shower led to me branding to these moments as 'shower porn'.  Here I use porn in the legal sense - images designed primarily to create arousal.  The ease with which shots are available on the web suggests I wasn't alone in noticing.

Whether Daley ever finds himself being bonked into oblivion by some chap in the not-to-distant future is largely irrelevant.  Daley is and probably always will be a homosexual in the minds of many.  He's an example of identity being formed in isolation from sexual acts.  When we say Daley is gay, it's not merely wishful thinking.  After all, whether he is gay or not makes rather minimal difference to the chance of most of us discovering whether Tom really is the much believed power-bottom some regard him as.  Yes, there is perhaps a sense of ownership, claiming him as 'one of us', part of the clan.  A cute homo to inspire a generation.    After all, look at Matthew Mitcham, comfortably gay and camping it up with aplomb in the Aquatics Centre last night.

No, we believe Tom is one of us.  Not quite in the Tom Cruise stages of alleged denial but at the point of eager discovery.  This creates ridiculous pressure on Daley.  An experimental mutual masturbatory session with another guy would leak to the tabloids with depressing predictability.  So too, an appearance on Gaydar or a furtive visit to Plymouth's gay scene.   Coming out for Tom is extraordinarily difficult.  Never mind coming out to a wider population, coming out to himself is next to impossible.  The formative experiences that can confirm, or define identity are next to impossible.

Thus, whether he is or is not gay, we may not know.  He may not ever know either.  So, we are in all probability locked in this dance of believing that he is with roughly the same certainty that we know we'll probably not know.

At a time of apparently transformed legal sexualities, it is perhaps worth noting these cultural barriers that remain not only in seeing somebody else's sexuality but in coming to understand our own.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Reflections and future legal directions after #porntrial

Many superb commentators have already entered the fray of commenting upon the decision in R v Walsh.  Heresy Corner,  Myles Jackman, Alex Dymock, and David Allen Green should all be read at once, if you've not already done so.

I also need to declare my own interest, in that I had a very tiny role in the case as an expert witness, alongside my wonderful Sunderland colleague, Clarissa Smith.  The CPS must be wondering what they put in the water at Sunderland Uni.

Brit readers should also check out the lovely and eloquent Simon Walsh speaking last night on the BBC's Newsnight programme.  It's a very balanced interview and strikes a friendly, sometimes light, but never flippant tone.  A tribute to the presenter Eddie Mair (who is also gay).

I do not propose to re-state the facts, as they have been stated elsewhere, but whilst those descriptions have constructed the images as representing fisting, urethral sounds and one astonishing accusation of child pornography, I've been struck by the lack of mention of scat, which also featured in the fisting images.

Shit-play or sexual play incorporating excrement also characterised the fisting images and whilst the focus has been on injury, I always felt that the issue that might affect a jury more was that of 'disgust' - a term utilised in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, and part of the tests a jury must satisfy.  Representing - quite literally - the 'dirty', the 'unclean', this was for me the issue that a jury might find the most difficult to comprehend, and the most likely to cause discomfort.

Oh ye of little faith.  The jury demonstrated - in a unanimous verdict - that they did not find such an image 'grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character' (within the meaning of S63(6)(b)) and so whilst the focus has been on fisting, I think the acceptance of scat images is just as  - if not more - significant.

If we position R v Walsh alongside the case of R v Peacock, concerning a prosecution (again, for fisting images) under the Obscene Publications Act 1959, we might conclude that fisting has now been rejected under both frameworks.  It would however, be a mistake to assume that the CJIA has been neutered.

The defence expert witnesses (myself and Dr Smith) both argued that the images of urethral sounds and fisting were not pornographic.  This is the first element that needs to be satisfied under the CJIA 'extreme' porn law.

Section 63(3) states:  An image is “pornographic” if it is of such a nature that it must reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal.

The images concerned in this case were of an amateur nature, described by the defendant of mementos of private parties.  As such, they were documenting encounters which were of themselves, entirely legal.  They were not solely or principally produced for the purpose of sexual arousal.  Consequently, they failed this first test.  The CPS in contrast argued that it was obvious "as a pikestaff" that they were pornographic images.  The languages of the Act means that it is far from clear (and arguably non-intuitive given our broader cultural understanding of pornography).  Moreover, the same argument could not have been advanced if these were images/video produced by a porn studio - that would clearly be 'pornographic' but might still fall outside of the other tests aspects.  In Peacock, the fisting porn was commercial so we are arguably still clearer about where fisting stands in relation to the OPA than under the CJIA.

On we move to the second issue of whether the image is 'extreme namely grossly offensive, disgusting, or otherwise of an obscene character'.  Here we have a judgement for a jury and a legislative section which is appallingly drafted.  'Extreme' does not - I would suggest - equate to 'disgusting'.  I am 'disgusted' when I see sick in the street, the residue of someone having consumed a dodgy kebab and/or too much booze the night before.  I would not however regard an image of the said vomit as 'extreme'.

The law was designed to criminalise a particular type of image.  It had been the successful lobbying by radical feminists on the last government and a tragic murder which led to the current bad law.

Back in 2003, Graham Coutts was convicted of murdering Jane Longhurst. Wikipedia picks up the story... 'At his murder trial, Coutts confessed to a long-standing neck fetish and obsession with strangulation. His testimony, confirmed by other witnesses, stated that he had engaged in breath control play with several consenting partners on many occasions without incident over several years. He had spoken with his GP about his fixation and sought the help of a psychiatrist three years before the killing. Eventually, he started to access violent pornography on the Internet (especially simulated strangulation, rape and necrophilia). He had downloaded a collection of strangulation images the day before Jane's death. This, according to the prosecution, had caused his dangerous sexual behaviour and murderous intent. Critics of the prosecution's argument doubt this explanation, since the behaviour preceded the exposure to such pornography by about five years. No evidence of premeditation was presented to the jury. Mr. Coutts testified that he wrapped a pair of nylon tights around Ms. Longhurst's neck as part of a consensual sexual practice known as erotic asphyxia, which he had undertaken on numerous previous occasions with several different partners. The prosecution claimed that he had invited her to his flat under false pretences, then attacked her.'

Coutts was found to have 69 violent pornographic images on his computer and the argument was that it was this violent pornography which had fuelled his desire, and thus led to the killing of Jane Longhurst.  The logic therefore of a new 'extreme' porn law was to prevent other people being murdered by someone who becomes stimulated into such desires via pornography.

However flawed that rationale - and it seems pretty flawed to me - it is a similar rationale to child porn laws, but has had a far wider application.  You might - quite reasonably - assume that Parliament did not intend to criminalise men consensually fisting one another when they passed this law, but Walsh  - and the failure to demonstrate any regrets abut bringing the case by the CPS - highlights that the CPS do not accept such a narrow focus of the legislation.  The very fears that those who campaigned against the legislation expressed, have been realised, and will I fear, be subsequently further demonstrated.

The third element for consideration is whether 'the image portrays in an explicit and realisitc way any of the extreme acts sex out in section 63(7).  These consist of:

(a) an act which threatens a person's life,
(b) an act which results, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts or genitals,
(c) an act which involves sexual interference with a human corpse, or
(d) a person performing an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive),and a reasonable person looking at the image would think that any such person or animal was real.

In R v Walsh, (b) was arguably the relevant provision and this is for a jury to decide within the ordinary meaning of the term.  Consequently, opposing medical evidence was marshaled by both sides in Walsh, although the CPS expert seemed to suggest that penetrating the anus with anything beyond six inches was akin to taking one's life in one's own hands.   A line which the less-well endowed men of a gay village near you might be trying out soon:  "you don't want that hung like a donkey stud over there, my 3 inches of moderate pleasure are within the safety parameters".  On second thoughts, perhaps not.

It is of course easy to joke about the case.  So much about it was utterly absurd.  Yet, at the heart of the case was a man whose life was turned upside down.  Throughout the case, Simon displayed remarkable fortitude.  He was of course represented by a terrific team, and Myles Jackman in particular should be congratulated for his work as the solicitor in the case.  Whilst we comment and reflect, Simon must pick up the pieces of his life, and try and glue them back together.

Where now?

Alex Dymock has suggested this evening, that 'It becomes difficult to imagine, after Simon Walsh's landmark acquittal on all counts, under what circumstances charges relating to possession of extreme pornography may be brought to the crown court again, but it seems the CPS has a rather prurient interest in bringing other people's private sex lives to light and persecuting them for it.'

I'm not so sure.  As another law colleague, Gary McLachlan noted in a comment on this blog earlier this evening, it's possible that the CPS might bring a case in which HIV transmission is depicted so as to constitute extreme pornography.

It's certainly easy to envisage a scenario under the CJIA - and one which would attract few defenders.  Two consenting male adults.  Both are HIV negative.  Both desire to become 'pozed up'.  Both enjoy bareback sex.  They organise a bareback party, at which only HIV positive men are invited.  They record the party in photos and video in order to share it on their blog for other men who are aroused at the prospect of becoming HIV positive.  One of the 'couple' becomes HIV positive from the encounters at the party.  The video is retained on the hard-disk of the negative partner and the pair split up.  The negative partner retains his sexual desire to become positive and regularly watches the video - alongside other similar videos that friends share on websites and through file-sharing sites - while he masturbates.  The said individual comes to the attention of the police following a child pornography prosecution.  Our negative man was a Skype contact for a man charged for being in possession of child pornography.  The police raid the property of our negative man.  They find no child pornography but do find a series of videos of videos and photographs from the party described above and footage from other parties.  They also discover that the defendant has been hosting a website for the images.  He is charged under the extreme pornography provisions.

Does it sound that far-fetched?  Are you certain of what would happen?

I do however think that Dymock is write in that R v Walsh does reduce the scope for cases under the CJIA.  That could however force the CPS to look more at the OPA.  Following R v Peacock, a number of people - including myself - expected the CPS to revise their guidelines on prosecution.  They didn't.

Let's therefore revisit those guidelines - which are available here.  Here's the key section:

'It is impossible to define all types of activity which may be suitable for prosecution. The following is not an exhaustive list but indicates the categories of material most commonly prosecuted:

  • sexual act with an animal 
  • realistic portrayals of rape 
  • sadomasochistic material which goes beyond trifling and transient infliction of injury 
  • torture with instruments 
  • bondage (especially where gags are used with no apparent means of withdrawing consent) 
  • dismemberment or graphic mutilation 
  • activities involving perversion or degradation (such as drinking urine, urination or vomiting on to the body, or excretion or use of excreta) 
  • fisting 

Unless any of the factors listed above are present within the given case, the Crown Prosecution Service will not normally advise proceedings in respect of material portraying the following: actual consensual sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal) oral sex masturbation mild bondage simulated intercourse or buggery fetishes which do not encourage physical abuse. Previously buggery involving humans (whether consensual or not) was regarded as suitable for prosecution under section 2 of the Obscene Publications Act 1959. Now, buggery per se between consenting adults is not regarded as suitable for prosecution under section 2. This includes consensual anal penetration in a situation involving simultaneous double penetration (anal and vaginal) between two men and a woman. However, a depiction of buggery would be regarded as obscene for the purposes of section 2 where one or more of the aggravating features set out above are present. Therefore, depictions of non-consensual buggery will still be regarded as section 2 material.'

So, we know fisting images would not now proceed to prosecution, but the guidelines need amending.  We do however have explicit reference in the guidelines to scat play - a feature of the images in R v Walsh.  Although that case was brought under the CJIA, it will be interesting to see if it influences the CPS in their interpretation  -and any revision to - their guidelines in relation to the OPA.  The CPS barrister did after all argue in Walsh that the images were 'degrading' and would be more so if they involved a woman.  If a scat photograph - this time comprising of a woman - formed part of an investigation, would the CPS now feel it inappropriate to bring a case (on the basis that they are unlikely to secure a conviction)?  I'm still not sure.

Walsh is a significant, and welcome, decision.   It is a victory, but the battle goes on.

Bring On the Anal, Take off the Condoms...GMFA Porn Survey

Sexual health campaigners GMFA are really making an impact with the latest issue of their magazine.  As Pink News reports,  a survey of over 1,000 gay men by sexual health charity GMFA suggests just under 7 percent believe they were led to having unprotected sex after watching bareback pornography, but more than half thought it led others to do the same. 98 percent of the respondents said they watched porn.

The magazine makes the following summary of their findings:

You lot are a horny bunch.

You LOVE watching anal and oral sex.

Muscle guys turn you on the most.

A good chunk of you like to watch bareback porn but do not think it affects your sex decisions.

But you think younger guys and people with less intelligence copy what they see in porn. l 7% of you say watching bareback porn has led you to taking risks.

Some of you like to put yourself in front of the camera.

And some of you have put this stuff on the internet (links please?).

9% of you have had videos uploaded to the internet without your consent.

You like lots of different porn stars but a lot of you wouldn’t date one.

You wouldn’t care if someone you were dating did porn in the past.

You don’t care if a mate has done porn - and the majority of you would be happy to watch them.

The summary points are a little biased.  A 'good chunk of you like to watch bareback' suggests what? 20%, 30%?  The figure in the study is 95.8% so saying 'almost all' seems a fairer description.

Interestingly, the magazine also made use of bareback voices in the form of porn filmmaker, Liam Cole, of Treasure Island Media who commented that;  “If you can find true pleasure in condoms themselves, and record that honestly, the viewer will recognise that authenticity...but an artificial ‘sexing up’ is only going to fool the most gullible people.” “I don’t believe they need to be ‘sexed up’,” adds English Lads’ Nick Baker. “We just make them part of the scene from putting them on to removing them.”

So Cole prima facie appears to accept a role for condom porn  - as documenting 'authentic' sex.  However, given this kind of sex is rarely seen as 'authentic', it's pretty hard to imagine 'authentic' condom porn, as it pre-supposes pleasure and desire which - for some - is hard to equate with condoms.   Although  - as you would expect - the piece does maintain a safe sex emphasis, it is perhaps the comments of Cole which are most supported by this survey.

FS magazine can be downloaded for free from the GMFA website here.

If you go down to the woods today...

Who among us hasn't worried about a precious beauty spot being spoilt by its own popularity?  Crowds flocking to one Lincolnshire beauty spot is causing a particular stir, as its become a popular dogging spot.

Curiously, the reaction to lots of people visiting is to try and stop them, which is a particularly Alice in Wonderland scenario.  We also have the usual press reports of someone suitably outraged: "It's sordid. I used to take my granddaughter there but I wouldn't do that now. You don't know what you will find, or who you might find."

So sordid, this individual has not seen anything, and not seen anyone.  It is the idea that offends, not witnessing an act.  The newspaper also dispatched a plucky journalist to investigate.  They reported that they saw people in 'luxury' cars and wearing smart clothes.  A sure sign of dodgy criminal types if ever I heard it.  We also read that people visiting this popular wood beauty spot ca be seen entering and exiting the said wood.  Which, I'm sure we can all agree, is something of a shock.

Read the full report here.

Danish entry quits Mr Gay Europe

GayStarNews carries a story this evening which is just frankly bonkers.  According to the news service, 'he Danish entry for this year's Mr Gay Europe has pulled out of the contest in Rome because it is 'too sexual'. Jobbe Joller says he withdrew from the beauty pageant, being held in the Italian capital from 7-12 August, because he was being asked to take part in events which conflicted with his moral principles.'

They point to a statement on his facebook page in which he states:  'I believe that I won Mr Gay Denmark 2011 and was sent to Mr Gay Europe 2012 due to my message that we should be proud and happy the way we are — whether you are homosexual, bisexual, transsexual or anything else in this life.' 'I don't think that I need to put myself in a situation where I need to undress with sexual undertones,' Joller added.

What planet is he living on?  People do not get selected in this pageant events because they have a message that 'we should be proud'.   People win because they manage to combine likability with fuckability.  Otherwise, the winners of these competitions would look more like me than him.

Leaving this - what seems to me - delusional/idiotic assertion by Joller, there is also the idea that it is in some way demeaning to gay men to demonstrate that they might be sexual.  If the only image of gay men is of sexy car cleaners (the scene Joller apparently refused to take part in), he might have a point.  But, the reverse situation  - in which scantily clad car cleaning is banished - is equally as undesirable.  The continued desire by some - such as Joller - to de-sex the homosexual identity is academically fascinating, and personally disturbing.  This embracing of what I've termed the emerging homonormative identity - shaped in large part by the law - threatens to re-closet the sexual in the homo.  Desire becomes restricted to the domestic, the monogamous, the 'good'.   We might have very good fashion sense, but don't whatever you do mention the fact that we have been known to suck dick like a Dyson.

Men must nod sagely, deny the hard-on in their pants and confirm that they selected Joller because of his human rights championing.  Seriously?  It's tempting to assume that attacks on sexual identity always come from the 'straight', the right-wing or the religious extreme, but sometimes we do the work for those very groups.

R v Walsh: 'Extreme' Pornography on Trial #porntrial

I promised last night to post a full post of my take on the historic R v Walsh decision, and that will follow later today.  I did however want to explain for any non-Twitter followers why I seemed oddly silent during the whole case.  A few people got in touch asking me what my views were and I'm afraid I was less than helpful.  As you've probably now realised, I was an expert witness in the case which prevented me from commenting on what was going on.  Sorry for not being more helpful but I hope you now understand.

There's an excellent summary and analysis of the case from Alex Dymock which makes a really useful initial briefing on things.

You can read a little more in this piece.

This piece examines R v Walsh alongside R v Peacock and asks if the law is 'homophobic'. There's a nice mention of some of my work published earlier this year (those REF chants in my sleep must be paying off).

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Remembering Gore Vidal

I was so sad to hear about the death of Gore Vidal last weekend.  This interview in the Guardian on Saturday had me chuckling and re-enforced what a wonderful, and often bonkers, rude, randy and prickly man he could be.   Now, Jonathan Katz has had a dig around his archive and published some wonderful material relating to Vidal.

In 1982 historian Jonathan Ned Katz initiated a correspondence with Gore Vidal that lasted, intermittently, until 2001. To mark the death of Vidal on July 31, 2012, is reproducing the texts of Vidal’s brief, humorous thirteen letters to Katz, often on the theme of heterosexuality and, sometimes, homosexuality. The publication also includes descriptions of Katz's thirteen letters and his accounts of a telephone call from Vidal, and one meeting with him. Commenting on Katz's efforts to recover the history of same-sex and different-sex intimate relations, in one late letter Vidal exhorts: "Keep the war going" (Vidal to Katz, postmarked ?-18-1996). OutHistory also includes the publication of the essay that Katz first sent to Vidal, "Melville's Secret Sex Text" (about the novel Redburn), that initiated their correspondence.

 Gore Vidal / Jonathan Ned Katz Correspondence: April 28, 1982 - 2001 

 Jonathan Ned Katz: "Melville's Secret Sex Text: Decoding His Novel Redburn", April 1982

Saturday, 4 August 2012

2012 Frank Kameny Award Goes to Stephen Whittle

The US LGBT Bar Association announced this week that the 2012 Frank Kameny Award was been given to Prof. Stephen Whittle, OBE, Ph.D.

Stephen Whittle is a Professor of Equalities Law at Manchester Metropolitan University where he has taught for almost 20 years. He transitioned from female to male in 1975 at age 19 and began decades of activism on behalf of the transgender community. Prof. Whittle set up the Manchester TV/TS group, the first local and mixed trans group in England. He also co-founded Press For Change, the UK’s transgender lobbying group which fought numerous cases through the national and European Courts. In 2005, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list. He has also received the Sylvia Rivera Award in 2002 for ‘Respect and Equality: Transsexual and Transgender Rights.’ The Frank Kameny Award is presented to a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community who has paved the way for important legal victories. The recipient need not be an attorney. The award was created to honor the memory of Frank Kameny, a tireless advocate for the LGBT community and the only recipient of the LGBT Bar’s Dan Bradley Award who did not have a law degree.

 Before there were lawyers representing LGBT clients, there was Frank Kameny. Kameny submitted the first gay rights legal brief to the Supreme Court in 1961, demanding legal recognition for gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals. He tirelessly petitioned on behalf of the gay community, using the law to his advantage despite having no formal training in the field. Stephen Whittle followed in Kameny's footsteps, tirelessly working on behalf of the transgender community. Prof. Whittle adopted Frank Kameny and the Mattachine Society as his unnamed heroes when he was just 14 years old. He began corresponding with experts on the LGBT community, including Kameny, renting a post office box and sending plain, brown envelopes from the UK to America to further his education. Prof. Whittle was shaped by his early correspondence with Kameny, becoming an advocate for transgender equality and the leader of a worldwide community.

 Prof. Whittle has used the court of law to file amicus briefs and lobby for transgender rights. He stood before the European Court of Human Rights in 1996, demanding to be recognized as the father of his two children. Like Kameny before him, Prof. Whittle has remained undaunted and continued his fight for equality no matter the obstacles that stood in his way. The National LGBT Bar Association is proud to present Stephen Whittle with the Frank Kameny Award in recognition of his unprecedented advances for the transgender community.

The award will be presented on August 24th at the ever-excellent Annual Lavender Law Conference, which this year is being held in Washington DC.  Congratulations Stephen  - a very well deserved award.
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