The desire of the state to control our sexuality seems at times relentless. We have had such things as the ban on ‘extreme pornography’ in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, the legislation under which Simon Walsh was prosecuted for possessing images of wholly legal consensual BDSM activity, we had the imprisonment of men for engaging consensual sado-masochistic activity, (the Spanner case) we have too a parliamentary working group into ‘Trafficking and Prostitution’ which takes as a given that the two are coterminous (they are not). and who would surprise precisely no-one if they came out in support of the Swedish model.
Now we have a proposal to introduce so-called Sexual Risk Orders , which will enable individuals to be labelled or stigmatised as potential sex offenders and subjected to legally binding restrictions for example on contact with children, on internet use, even on foreign travel, the breach of which would be a criminal offence punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. A lower standard of proof would apply to these orders than applies in criminal proceedings so, in effect, anyone could be publicly be branded a ‘pervert’ or a ‘risk to children’ on the basis of opinion and hearsay.
In these grim puritan times you don’t need a crystal ball to see which groups of people, whose sexual activity is only ever consensual, are going to fall into the net: transgender people, kinky people, gay people, sex workers of all genders and all proclivities – in effect all of those who need to keep all or part of their sexual identity secret from all but a few trusted people.
Picture the scene. Letherbridge Magistrates Court is hearing an application to have Miss A barred from contact with children.
‘Your Honour, Miss A is a young lady who earns her living as, erm a professional dominatrix. As can be seen from the photographs in Exhibit A which were published in her website and which themselves are a criminal offence under Section 63 of The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, she engages in the following utterly depraved and sickening activities. She uses a device known, I believe, as a strap on dildo, to erm how can I put this, to sodomise her clients, she erm treads on their genitals in high heeled boots, she erm uses a device to erm milk them of erm semen, she’
‘You seem to be getting rather excited as you recount these perversions Mr. Smith do you need a glass of water?’
‘No thank you your Honour. I am just in shock at the utter depravity of this seemingly pretty intelligent young woman Finally I am told that she urinates on her clients who have to drink, yes drink the urine as it flows from her , from her ‘
‘That will be enough Mr Smith The bench must agree that Miss A is a young lady so depraved so corrupted so in thrall to the power of Beelzebub that …….I still have wet dreams about my last session with her – punish me Mistress, whip me, flog me’
‘I’m sorry your Honour?’
‘I’m so sorry I don’t know what came over me. Yes I agree, she’s totally unfit to be seen with children. Two years’ SRO.’
Puritanism and hypocrisy are rarely far apart. Back in the 1950s closet gay magistrates jailed gay men for gross indecency. This is, in any event, not just about protecting children. Moral panics and hysteria invariably lead to outcomes that have nothing to do with the alleged intentions of the authors of legislation. It is about social control. If you’re different in your sexuality you should be worried about this. Very worried.