Governments have become obsessed with sex
- Published: 10 July 2010
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Mandatory internet filters, bans on pornography and Japanese ‘hentai’, and legal rulings outlawing the drawing of erotic images are all examples of an increase in government control of our sex lives – and it’s not on, writes Clair Lewis.
Two years ago people were pointing and laughing in UK forums because Australian courts had convicted someone for possessing child abuse images.
Not usually a funny subject, this case was shocking because the offense was possession of drawing made by grownups: a graphic, incestuous (adapted, not official!) Simpsons cartoon - a form of tasteless adult humour, which has been circulating the internet since it was popularised.
Bafflingly, the ruling judge Michael Adams considered Bart Simpson (who has been aged eight for approximately 30 years) a person under child abuse image laws.
Yes, even though no genuine live human children were involved with the images at any point, even though Bart Simpson has bright yellow skin, does not have five digits, human-shaped proportions or head – and is a fictitious character drawn in ink by adults.
UK activists were warning that as our ‘extreme pornography’ laws banning personal possession were being enacted at the start of 2009 that similar laws concerning drawings would become a reality here before long. People laughed again ... this time at us.
However, the ban on possessing similar cartoons went live in the UK just a few weeks ago – possibly outlawing the possession of reams of Hentai (an entire genre of Japanese erotica made by adults for adults).
My chest is almost entirely flat and if someone drew a cartoon of my 37 year-old frame, I suspect it would be illegal. Ridiculous? It gets worse - real photographs of my chest are already illegal and I have to confess to feeling more than slightly angry and offended about it.
Is my chest putting children at risk? Have people been corrupted into abusive behaviour by my mini mammaries? I haven’t seen any evidence for this and there is no empirical evidence to suggest this either.
In many countries consenting adults are being subjected to increasing interference from governments in our personal sexual choices and this has caused an unprecedented backlash from people involved in sexual interest groups.
In UK we have seen the launch of C.A.A.N. to work alongside specific interest groups like Backlash and Spanner Trust. In Australia we have seen similar activism taking hold with the creation of the Australian Sex Party.
Times are a changin’ and we’re not going to take it lying down. Consenting adults are sick of being criminalised, demonised, bullied and discriminated against because of interests and practices which affect nobody else. Everyone concerned should join the fight-back both for consenting adults’ to right to intimate privacy and our right to self expression – with equal freedom and regulation to everyone else. It’s our human right.
CAAN have just published a book, Beyond the Circle, about the current climate of UK discrimination due to state-sanctioned and peddled prejudice about consensual adult sexualities.
To put our boots on the other feet for a change, I interviewed Fae, who has been reporting the many changes and proposals over the last few years around the world.
On the question of whether there is an international trend towards this obsession with interfering in, and legislating about, the sexual practices between consenting adults, Fae says, “Absolutely. And perversely, the internet has a lot to answer for in this respect. First, because it has helped sexual minorities of every ilk to raise their profile.
“The downside of that is that groups with illicit interests get together – like paedophiles. Otherwise, it just means that sexuality has a higher profile than before.”
According to Fae, this awareness is leading governments and politicians to try and clamp down on things they would never have dreamed of clamping down on before.
“Suddenly their eyes are opened to a range of new and arousing experiences and see the net as a prime driving force behind that: but in restricting the net, they are not shy to extend their clampdown back into the real world,” she says.
Fae also believes that although the agendas differ from country to country, governments are collaborating to push a moral ideology.
“First off is the US reactionary Christian agenda which, under Bush, was able to spread its influence far wider. At least one prominent sex researcher has complained to me that during the Bush administration, getting funding for anything other than research projects showing the ill effects of sex was extremely difficult.
“Following the Jane Longhurst murder in the UK, an agenda to control internet porn was put forward by some UK MPs, which then circulated in the US and beyond. This was a five-point plan including legislation, regulation of ISPs and financial clampdown on individuals believed to be ‘up to no good’ on the internet.
“I think that worldwide, there are a lot of politicians who buy into the ‘sex-plus’ standard of behaviour. That is, add sex to ordinary behaviour and immediately it becomes transgressive: add it to criminal behaviour and it becomes more serious. However, the precise motives in every case differ widely.
“There is a widespread ‘meme’ to the effect that sex is dangerous – and many politicians buy into that,” Fae continues, citing the ‘danger to children’ approach that many politicians buy into.
“This deliberately confounds a direct threat to children (from paedophile abuse) with the more tangential harm that may arise from a child stumbling across an erotic site (equivalent to previous generations of children finding their parent’s stash of porn mags.
“On occasion, this ‘think of the children’ approach becomes pernicious – a bullying attempt to stop debate on the issue.
“In Australia, for instance, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy quite wickedly allowed into public debate the suggestion that those who opposed to his attempts to curtail the internet by introducing a mandatory filter were supportive of paedophilia.
“In the UK, two interesting arguments were raised at the time of the extreme porn laws: that the material in question was aberrant (which presupposes a sexual normalcy) and also abhorrent (which supposes that government has a duty to ensure that what is viewed on the net and elsewhere conforms to what the normal majority consider acceptable.”
But evidence of direct harm resulting from exposure to porn or extreme material is inconsistent and not all suggestive of the same conclusion,” Fae notes.
“If governments were serious about such a link, they would be looking far more seriously at banning films such as Saw or Hostel.”
Many campaigners, including Fae, believe there is a genuine ignorance of new technology by many of those in power.
“In South Africa, new proposals to block all porn from entering the country suggest a degree of technical illiteracy by their proponent, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba.
“I listened in absolute horror to a debate by the UK’s Select Committee on Media and Culture a year or so back in which MP’s – supposedly appointed to act as the UK’s experts on the internet and to legislate against harms arising – queued up to make jokes about how poorly they understood it.
“That is cultural cringe of the worst sort – and raises the question of whether such people should be allowed to legislate on the net.
“There is possibly in some quarters an agenda that likes controls on the net, because such controls could in time be extended to cover copyright breaches: and many politicians find the freedom of expression on the net – in terms of critical blogging – somewhere between embarrassing and downright infuriating.”
Finally there is just sheer me-tooism. “As soon as one country has a shiny new filter, the next country wants to have one too – without thinking too much about the whys and wherefores of their decision,” Fae says.
In essence, it could be argued that the world is going sex mad – but not in a healthy way.