Archive for the ‘Foucault’ Category

FBerkley

‘Somehow I managed not to be thrown out of his borrowed office (that I was a leather-jacketed male may have contributed to his patience) and was able to shift the topic away from Stone and classifications of madness in the European Middle Ages to ask about his blurb for John Boswell’s Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. My point of entry for the shift to my keener interests was something he said about ahistorical heritage-making of “gay people.” I suggested that one of the most egregious examples, where even rabbits are “gay,” came in a book bearing a blurb from him.

He recommended ignoring Boswell’s first chapter and said that he had been more struck by his initial reading of Boswell’s book than he was later, working through some of the same materials himself. The resolution he proposed was not to regard Boswell’s writings as a sound history of “gay people” but as valuable for understanding the particular problematic of intolerance for sexual diversity. (I rejected that, saying that I read the book as a very tendentious apologia for the moral responsibilities of the Holy Mother Church specifically for persecution of those diverging from its prescriptions for sex. He neither endorsed or rejected this characterization.)’[i]

Stephen Murray met Foucault when he was teaching at Berkeley in the 1970s. He was a student and attended his lectures, but quite critically. ‘Foucault worship’ had not taken hold then. He wrote this account of their meeting in an email to his friend, Sam , many years later:

Stephen to Sam

Hey Sam,

Thanks for your email. I am glad to hear you have a new book coming out. Sure it’s electronic but isn’t everything these days? It won’t be long before we are all fucking robots and men will just be clothes horses. Maybe that day has arrived.

You wanted me to write about that time I met Foucault? Jeez it seems so long ago. Sure you can pass my account onto your contact. I have never been in a novel before. Foucault’s Daughter sounds like she might be an interesting character.

Anyway, excuse the flowery prose. I couldn’t help myself darling! Here goes:

‘It was a bright crisp autumn morning in Berkeley. It is funny sometimes to think of how Fall is called Fall and to actually witness leaves cascading off the trees in the wind. There are not many words that so literally describe what they describe. How about ‘fuck?’ No, that doesn’t work. What about gulp? No. You see it is hard to find one. Winter? No. Passover? I guess but that’s not quite the same.

I was nervous about meeting Mr Foucault. My worst fear: that the eminent philosopher would just slam the door in my face.

I approached the study, the one Foucault was borrowing from a Professor and knocked, a limp-wristed knock on his door. ‘Entrée’ came a voice from inside.

So I entered. Who wouldn’t enter Monsieur Foucault’s inner sanctum given half a chance?

I had been in Foucault’s lectures but nothing had prepared me for being in such close proximity to the man himself. I held out my limp-wristed hand…

He did not take it but pulled out a seat and told me to sit. I felt like a kid.

‘coffee;?

‘oh yes please’ I said a little too enthusiastically.

We sat and drank coffee and I looked at his face which was so alert and alive and his bald pate and his glasses, and it was partly like looking at a cartoon and partly like looking at a lover and partly like looking at my father and partly like looking at…some kind of religious deity?

Anyway. I looked and then I thought it was about time I said something.

‘Um, well, I have always been interested in your separation of the gay’ person from people who do homosexual acts. It seems this ‘’gay identity is gaining more and more currency…

‘It does, yes. But sometimes I prefer to examine power separately from the obvious that is being presented to me. In one sense the ‘gay identity’ is only very partial. It is worth uncovering how sexuality is regulated across the board , no? ‘ he took a sip of his coffee.

‘Yes of course. I guess I was looking at your work over the course of your career and noticing a link between all the theories of how you have distinguished between an essentialist idea of the person.. for example, the ‘mad’ person and the actual systems of discourse by which…

‘Oh I do not make any link between my work over time. I am not part of the canon and I never will have my own ‘canonical oeuvre’ this is ludicrous! And bourgeois!

Foucault slammed his coffee down on the desk hard and it spills onto his papers.

‘Merde!;

This was not going too well.

‘I meant..’

‘I know what you meant! But you are wrong.!;

So I left the talking to him. He explained about how his work would get appropriated and watered down over time and how he didn’t like it and worried that when he is gone there will be such a bastardisation of his writing it could be meaningless.

‘Knowledge is not for knowing. Knowledge is for cutting’.

He looked wistful for a moment, anxious. He said that sometimes he wished he could take his work with him when he died and so everyone had to start again. He did not want to be mis-remembered, misinterpreted.

I looked sheepish, being one of those students who was guilty of lifting Foucault quotes left right and centre.

He smiled softened.

‘I am tired of these four walls. He said. J’en ai mar de ces murs’. He gesticulated at the cramped space around him.

‘let’s go for a drink’.

With that he stood up and reached for his leather jacket , which made his attire become remarkably similar to mine.

And then he almost pushed me out of the door, talking as he went, down the corridor out of the building, across the campus, strewn with fallen golden leaves.

SandM

He took me to his favourite bar just off campus. I felt like I was in a dream.

‘what would you like?’

‘a beer please;

We took our beers and we sat at a table. Quiet for a moment. Just two guys in a bar.

‘so do you go out? On the scene?’ asked Michel.

A little I said.

‘I t gets a bit repetitive after a while/

‘and do you go to the s and m clubs?

‘yes. Sometimes’

‘They do not have them in Paris. I think it is amazing to have a public place for such things.

‘I guess so, yes’.

I am very interested in the overt demonstration of power dynamics in the S and M sexuality. It seems, so, so,… honest.

‘I hadn’t really thought of it like that before’ I said. I had really but I decided to be deferential to the don. Despite his protestations I think that is how he liked to be treated, and something was telling me that  beer could turn into something much more interesting.

‘It is fascinating.. the way people, men, enact power inequality in the sexual arena and it produces something new it is not merely reproducing power but creating it, I am sure it can have a liberating effect!’

He was getting very animated now and took off his jacket in the heat. I saw his chest through his poloneck it looked firm, sensual. I started to wonder what his cock was like. Oh god this was Michel Foucault and I was thinking about his cock.

Was he thinking about my mouth, on his cock?

He stopped talking.

What is it? He asked. ‘You were miles away.

‘Oh sorry’  I mumbled. I don’t think Foucault liked it if you didn’t pay attention to him.

‘anyway I was saying about how in s and M the dominant partner synthesises the irreducible element of power, the mythical irreducible element of power and presents a challenge for the bottom. The submissive partner to either conform to that irreducibility, or to disrupt it. Do you see what I mean?

I nodded. I understood perfectly how I would have liked Michel Foucault to challenge me to disrupt his irreducible power by either sucking his cock or not. Or sucking his cock in a way that was not 100% satisfying to him which would challenge him back to reassert his irreducible power, maybe by turning me round and spanking my arse very hard.

Now he sounded angry.

‘You are not listening to me Stephen! What is going on!;

Or maybe I could challenge his irreducible power by mere insolence?

‘I am sorry Michel. I am really interested in your theory it is just.. just..’

‘What? What is the problem.’

‘let me get you another beer and I will tell you.’

So I went to the bar. I walked slowly, breathing in, moving my ass in as seductive a way as possible. He couldn’t fail to see the signs. Could he?

I came back with the beers and he just started talking again.

Talking and talking about fucking power. All theory and no practice.

I tried one last time.

‘S o how would it work, in practice, if the actors were, say, you and me?’

I looked at him as coyly as I could.

‘oh.’

For a moment the great philosopher seemed embarrassed.

‘er.. I don’t know.

And then he said:

‘ you see Stephen, in my recent explorations of power in S and M, I have been most interested in ‘surrendering power.  It is quite  a new experience for me and I have found it, liberating! I think there is an ontological change that comes about .from giving up power to another man don’t you agree?

‘yes’ of course I fucking agreed. That’s what I wanted to do too.

This exchange of power was really not working for me.

And then Foucault returned my coy look with his best coy look and said.

‘I would consider giving up my power to a man like you’.

I started to laugh.

At first he seemed hurt, angry again.

But the man was not stupid.

He got the joke and he started to laugh as well.

We drank our beer and we laughed at the ridiculousness of sex and power, and the impossibility of equilibrium, a pair of cock suckers sharing a private joke.

Outside the leaves kept falling off the trees . There was nothing anybody could do to stop them.

From Sam to Stephen:

Ha. Wasn’t it Edmund White who said he thought all writers are bottoms, really? They must use up all their phallic penetration in their intellectual practice. Looks like I got everything the wrong way round. As usual.

This is an extract from my 2011 novella, Scribbling on Foucault’s Walls. You can obtain a PDF copy here

 
foucault
 
I have just joined a Foucault Discussion Group in which we are going to read and discuss, aided by the joys of Google Groups, Foucault’s 1983 Lectures. Entitled The Government of Self And Others, this collection is particularly poignant to me because it represents some of Foucault’s last public work before he died in 1984. The original transcripts are owned by his ‘widow’, Daniel Defert. I still can’t quite get my head round what it must have been like, what it still is like (Defert is now  75) to have been the lover and life partner of such a man as Michel Foucault.
 
Even a casual observer can’t help but convey some of the electrifying moments when seeing Foucault, Live! Journalist Gerard Petitjean wrote in 1975: 
 

‘When Foucault enters the amphitheater, brisk and dynamic like<

someone who plunges into the water, he steps over bodies to

reach his chair, pushes away the cassette recorders so he can put

down his papers, removes his jacket, lights a lamp and sets off at

full speed. His voice is strong and effective, amplified by the

loudspeakers that are the only concession to modernism in a hall

that is barely lit by light spread from stucco bowls. The hall has

three hundred places and there are five hundred people packed

together, filling the smallest free space . . . There is no oratorical

effect. It is clear and terribly effective. There is absolutely no

concession to improvisation. Foucault has twelve hours each year

to explain in a public course the direction taken by his research

in the year just ended. So everything is concentrated and he fills

the margins like correspondents who have too much to say for the

space available to them. At 19.15 Foucault stops. The students

rush towards his desk; not to speak to him, but to stop their cassette

recorders. There are no questions. In the pushing and shoving

Foucault is alone. Foucault remarks: “It should be possible to

discuss what I have put forward. Sometimes, when it has not

been a good lecture, it would need very little, just one question,

to put everything straight. However, this question never comes.

The group effect in France makes any genuine discussion

impossible. And as there is no feedback, the course is theatricalized.

My relationship with the people there is like that of an actor

or an acrobat. And when I have finished speaking, a sensation of

total solitude . . .’

- Gérard Petitjean, “Les Grands Prêtres de l’université française,” Le Nouvel Observateur

1983 and 1975 are a long time ago now.   When Foucault was giving his last lectures before his death, I was too busy trying on ra-ra skirts and buying Howard Jones records to notice. But since I first read Foucault in the early 1990s, I have been quite overwhelmed by the clarity and incisive force of his ‘voice’.  So I strongly disagree with philosopher John Searle, who, like many, describes Foucault’s writing style as ‘obtuse':

CAM00252

‘Philosopher John Searle once asked Foucault why his writing was so obtuse when he was easily understandable in conversation. Foucault told Searle that 25% of one’s writing needs to be incomprehensible nonsense to be taken seriously by French philosophers.’

I think these lectures show that actually Foucault’s speaking and writing styles were quite similar, and his urgency to illuminate and interact with his audience/readers was as strong in both arenas. Beginning to read the transcripts I am already reminded of Freud, and how it is quite easy to switch between his written work and representations of his speeches/lectures. I am also pleased to see that whilst I’ve struggled to find in Michel’s oeuvre, any direct challenge to or description of the function of ‘power’ in academia, the comments on Foucault’s lectures do show he had some issues with the conventions of the university, and the problems of actually having a dialogue between lecturers and students. If I’d been there I have no doubt I’d have been one of the keen young things arranging to meet Michel for coffee off campus to get down to discussing the nitty gritty of his ideas.

The journalist who wrote the evocative passage above called his article ‘Les Grands Pretres de l’universite francaise’ – The High Priests of The University of France. Now I am a critic of the ‘Great Men Theory’ of history which holds up individuals as demigods. But as my novella Scribbling On Foucault’s Walls reveals, I am guilty of embodying it too.

At the risk of completely going into religious mode, a radio four programme last night called  The Voice Of God also seems relevant here.  Participants in the show talk about how, despite all the texts and rituals people use to ‘find God’, the voice of God is actually pretty difficult to hear. In order to get the full benefit of God’s message, you have to put yourself somewhere very quiet and still, you have to meditate and open yourself up to what He might want to say to you.

And it’s the same with Foucault – for me, at least. I think there’s an interesting dissonance between how his work is all about the ‘modern’ (or postmodern, or post-postmodern) age, with its institutions, discourse, power relations and ‘noise’, but the only way to really ‘get it’ is to sit back and stop, to read, to listen, to think.

That’s what I’m going to be doing over the next few weeks. But as my long suffering readers/friends know, I might find it hard to keep my meditations to myself!

deconstruct

What would Derrida say about us? If I told him that I shall be spending today immersed in ‘texts’ I wrote a year ago? Some of them ‘letters’ to you. Some of them cries out into the ether. That I will be going over my words with a fine-toothed comb, looking for clues, looking for an escape route. That copies of my throwaway texts, some of them casual tweets, are also sat in a file in a drawer in a filing cabinet in a grey office. Waiting to be deconstructed by the little man in his grey suit whose hopes and dreams have amounted to this bureaucratic role as a servant. To the crown. Would Derrida frown and smile that wry smile of his? Would he shake his head and sadly say that you take a text out of its context at your peril? That if you try to consider words and words alone, separate from the sad desperation of the person who wrote them, separate from the blank incomprehension of the person who read them, separate from the cold officious room where the little man in his grey suit will one day be reading them out in a dead pan monotone, you lose all meaning? That deconstruction, inspite of what thousands of English  Literature Undergraduate students may believe, is not an academic exercise? It’s blood and guts.  It’s the opposite of abstract. It’s finding the life that is hidden in every text. The fear. The love.

What would Barthes say about us? He knows a thing or two about this. In his book, A Lovers Discourse, he ripped out his heart, laid it on a table, and ‘deconstructed’ it with a scalpel right infront of us. He reminded us that all those cliches we have come to associate with a trite, sentimental expression of ‘love’, are much much more. Goodbyes at train stations, scented notepaper, whispered ‘I love yous’ are merely cyphers, outward acceptable codes for a torrent of feeling, of loss, of pain, of the fear of death enacted in the scene where our Lover slams the door in our face.  I think Barthes would have some compassion for us.  If he were to join us in the cold, officious room, he’d probably be solemn as he transcribed the words coming out of the mouth of the little man in his grey suit. He’d probably find beauty in the translations of translations of words once written in great anguish. And he would save his wry smile for the moment when we started to argue about who ‘owned’ which ideas, whose texts were whose, he’d cough and mutter something about The Death of The Author. And the fact that, if we’re going to be picky about it, he has some claim to ownership of our ideas and our texts anyway.

What would Foucault say about us? I don’t know. I am not so sure he would be that concerned, no matter how much we wish he would be, about our individual feelings. Our petty struggle. He is more of a bigger picture guy. I suspect that if he too found himself with us in the cold, officious room, it could get quite crowded in there, he’d notice the lay out. Not from an interior design perspective, the State has no eye for style, but in terms of Power. Who goes where, who stands, who sits, who is left behind a glass screen. He might smile wryly too, and he might pull out an old battered copy of Discipline and Punish as he noted that whilst the days of flogging in the public square are long gone, there is still something theatrical about this scene. That the desire for rituals of public humiliation haven’t left us, we’ve just made them less gory. I hope at least, he might also spare a thought for Foucault’s Daughter, and how I said she’d get into trouble one day. How, in my fumbling attempt at fiction, I ended up doing what he does, and dissected, analysed, prophesised reality.

What would Freud say about us? For the Daddy of Psychoanalysis is also the Daddy of Deconstruction. It was he who, before anyone was ready, began to pull apart our words, and showed how words are rooted in thoughts, and thoughts are rooted in base impulses. I expect Freud would say very little. He might puff on his pipe and knot his brow. But it wouldn’t escape his attention, that it is me, not you, and not the little man in his grey suit, who has accepted that this is a psychological drama. That we have been interacting on a subconscious level, and that if I want to make sense of what has happened, I won’t find the answers in the cold, officious room, I’ll find them on the analyst’s couch, in my own mind, through my writing.

And, as much as I may have made out you to be the centre of this story, as Derrida, Barthes, Foucault and Freud know full well, it’s me I am writing to and talking to, it’s my thoughts and feelings and, yes, ideas, I have been ‘deconstructing’ all this time. The girl who wasn’t there is here. And she hasn’t finished yet.

I am utterly honoured to have been interviewed by the inimitable Madame Arcati this week. Not unlike me, she is a bit of a trouble-maker, a character and a lover of the literary arts. Arcati asked me about my recent ‘outing’ by Paul Burston and Julie Bindel, a voodoo spell they arranged for me, and my interest in homosexuals, especially my fascination with a certain Metrodaddy.

This is a selection of Madame’s questions and my responses:

Q: He [Paul Burston] described you as a troll and an anonymous blogger who was ghastly about ‘feministas’ such as Suzanne Moore. A troll in my dictionary is someone who is repeatedly abusive and threatening on the internet – is that you QRG? Has it come to this? And what’s wrong with Suzanne? She has great shoes, loves a glass at night and has a big heart, doncha think?

I was born out of the womb of feminism, back in 1970. And ever since then I have been told it is the only way to look at men, women, and gender relations. It took me forty years, but I finally realised it’s not the only dogma in town. And Suzanne Moore once said in the Guardianthat she is a feminist because ‘men do horrible, horrible things’. Which I think is a bit mean to men. I’m not a troll (whatever that is). I am just someone who annoys the media establishment. And takes some pleasure in that.

Q: But you do mention [redacted] a lot on Twitter – and he’s blocked you from his website and Twitter account. Are you trolling the poor mite? Are you trying to push your way back into his affections? You can tell Madame (where to go…).

My subconscious may be trying to get back into [redacted] affections, but consciously no. I have found his work on metrosexuality – men’s ‘desire to be desired’ – to be the most exciting theory I’ve read in years. And I do go on about [redacted] quite a lot it’s true. I also helped him publish his 2011 book Metrosexy , so I have my uses.


Q: Are you quietishly riotous?

Yes, and sometimes not so quiet.

Q: Are you a cunt-cocker or a cunt-cunter or a cunt-cocker-cunter or a cockless-cuntless cunter? Just asking.

I’m a proud cocksucker.

Q: Now I know you’re a conceptual sexual sit-down activist of some sort with an interest in the work of Michel Foucault – you’ve even written a novel that has Foucault’s name in the title. Now, I get confused. Plainly you’re fascinated by queers yet you fall out with a lot of male queers. What’s the story?

My novella is called Scribbling On Foucault’s Walls, and it is about what might have happened if Michel Foucault had had a daughter. Sometimes I think in a previous life I might have been an old-school homosexual, like the marvellous Kenneth Williams or Charles Hawtrey. Much of my interest in homos is identification. But I’m a girl so they (apparently) don’t identify with me. And this can cause resentment on my part.

Q: Do you have a cat?

A cat? No, I’m not a lesbian.

Q: Would you say there is a male queer conspiracy in the media as distinct from a male cock-cunting media conspiracy to turn the world into one big stereotype? (Personally I’ve always felt outside all groups and associations – but I love the word queer)

I think the gay men of the London media set (and their equivalents like Dan Savage and Andrew Sullivan in America) are feeling very insecure at the moment, bless them. Because the fact is people don’t care as much as they used to about who has sex with whom, and how. We actually live in quite open-minded times, and this is not very good for gay men’s sense of being special and specially oppressed. I love the word queer too but that is too subversive for many. And Suzanne Moore actually wrote to me once saying that ‘queer bollox’ (sic) belonged in the 90s where it came from.

Q: Do you like flowers? Which are your favourite?

I’m a big fan of pansies.

You can read the full interview here!

This is a review by Mark Simpson of my novella Scribbling On Foucault’s Walls.

———————————————

Reg­u­lar vis­i­tors to this blog will be famil­iar with the spir­ited, sharp, thought­ful, charm­ing, insistently-infuriatingly rea­son­able — and occa­sion­ally down­right can­tan­ker­ous — com­menter Elly, alias Quiet Riot Girl.

Elly gave me enor­mous encour­age­ment and sup­port in putting together Metrosexy, which in all hon­esty prob­a­bly would never have seen the light of day with­out her. She also proved tire­less in spread­ing the word about it.

Elly is not only extremely enthu­si­as­tic about the con­cept of met­ro­sex­u­al­ity, she’s one of the few peo­ple to really engage with it and grasp its import. Per­haps more so than even Metro­daddy him­self, who remains some­thing of a dead­beat dad.

This is why Met­ro­sexy is ded­i­cated to her.

Now Elly has given birth to her own off­spring. A bounc­ing novella called Foucault’s Daugh­ter, about what might have hap­pened if the famous bald homo French philoso­pher had been a sin­gle dad, jug­gling cruis­ing Parisian S/M sex clubs with school runs. There is of course more than a lit­tle bit of QRG in Dr Foucault’s sprog, who scrib­bles all over his nice clean walls and then spends most of her adult life try­ing to live down and up to her father. Insist­ing that ‘macho fags’ (in QRG’s favourite phrase) acknowl­edge the (lit­tle) lady in their life.

It’s a fan­tas­ti­cally, pos­si­bly madly ambi­tious work that self-consciously nego­ti­ates her own highly informed, passionate-but-critical and ulti­mately highly ambiva­lent invest­ment in that very nearly extinct species: The Homo­sex­ual Intel­lec­tual. It won’t be giv­ing too much away to tell you that Foucault’s Daugh­ter, after pro­long­ing the agony of The Homo­sex­ual Intel­lec­tual with its inter­est in him (who else shows any these days?), comes very close to euth­a­niz­ing him.

Many pas­sages in it are beau­ti­fully writ­ten and breath­tak­ingly vivid. The scene, for instance, which rehearses the death of the famous cul­tural critic and QRG hero Roland Barthes in a traf­fic acci­dent stays with you. Even if you feel he is being ever-so-slightly, ever-so-lovingly pushed into the path of the oncom­ing laun­dry van.

So I strongly rec­om­mend you read Foucault’s Daugh­ter (which is free to down­load here). But if you do, you’ll also under­stand why, in the end, QRG and me, alas, had to go our sep­a­rate ways.

——————————

 

http://visualcultureblog.com/2012/01/staring-into-space/

This is an amazing photo of Ed Miliband (UK leader of the Labour Party) staring into space, at a visit to a school. The blog, Visual Culture have analysed it better than I could, so I recommend reading their post here.

It reminds me of Ed’s brother David, being attacked by confetti and caught on camera looking rather stupid:

I think Mark Simpson might be interested in these photos and the commentary that goes with them, because he is forever observing and analysing the ‘look’ of politicians, which, in these metrosexy times, is more important than their policies.

Someone else who may be interested is Michel Foucault. In an interview back in 1974 he said:

Power has an erotic charge. There’s an historical problem involved here. How is it that Nazism-which was represented by shabby, pathetic puritanical characters laughably Victorian old maids, or at best, smutty individuals-how has it now managed to become, in France, in Germany, in the United States, in all pornographic literature throughout the world, the ultimate symbol of eroticism? Every shoddy erotic fantasy is now attributed to Nazism. Which raises a fundamentally serious problem: how do you love power? Nobody loves power any more. This kind of affective, erotic attachment, this desire one has for power, for power that’s exercised over you, doesn’t exist any more. The monarchy and its rituals were created to stimulate this sort of erotic relationship towards power. The massive Stalinist apparatus, and even that of Hitler, were constructed for the same purpose. But it’s all collapsed in ruins and obviously you can’t be in love with Brezhnev, Pompidou or Nixon. In a pinch you might love de Gaulle, Kennedy or Churchill.

But what’s going on at the moment? Aren’t we witnessing beginnings of a re-eroticization of power, taken to a pathetic, ridiculous extreme by the porn-shops with Nazi insignia that you can find in the United States and (a much more acceptable but just as ridiculous version) in the behaviour of Giscard d’Estaing when he says, “I’m going to march down the streets in a lounge suit, shaking hands with ordinary people and kids on half-day holidays”? It’s a fact that Giscard has built part of his campaign not only on his fine physical bearing but also on a certain eroticizing of his character, his stylishness[i] – Michel Foucault.


[i] Michel Foucault (1996) ‘Film and Popular Memory’ in Foucault Live (Interviews, 1961-1984),New York: Semiotext(e), p. 127. French original 1974.

Photo of D Miliband via http://enemiesofreason.co.uk/2010/09/29/pictures-of-david-miliband-looking-stupid/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2012/jan/06/michael-peacock-obscenity-trial?newsfeed=true

In an unusual move, the Guardian, the ‘liberal voice’ of Britain, which is normally the feminist voice, and the puritanical voice, has come out in favour of a man who sells hardcore S and M m/m porn. Why this strange turnaround?

Well, if we look a bit more closely at their discourse, we can see it is not a turnaround at all, but business as usual for the Graun.

Nichi Hodgson, the author of the article, was present at the trial of Michael Peacock. He was being accused of selling and distributing ‘obscene’ material under the Obscene Publications Act (1959). It also related to the famous trial over the ‘obscenity’ of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1960. Hodgson wrote:
‘Why is that so important? For one, Peacock is the only person to have pleaded not guilty to a charge under the Obscene Publications Act 1959(OPA 1959) and won . He is the first person to have challenged the notion of obscenity in law, a law that was last updated in 1964, and has stood since. A law that is expressly designed to tell us what is “deprave and corrupt” – defined by Justice Byrne in 1960 as “to render morally unsound or rotten, to destroy the moral purity or chastity; to pervert or ruin a good quality.”‘

I agree that this is an important case. I am glad the Guardian covered it. But this is the paper that spends a lot of time and energy promoting the idea that pornography ‘depraves and corrupts’ people, especially men. And that it exploits and demeans people, especially women.

Gail Dines in the Guardian in December 2011, very aware of the charges against feminism and its puritanical approach to pornography wrote:

‘But feminists who organise against pornification are not arguing that sexualised images of women cause moral decay; rather that they perpetuate myths of women’s unconditional sexual availability and object status, and thus undermine women’s rights to sexual autonomy, physical safety and economic and social equality.’

Hmm. Me thinks the lady did protest too much.

In another Graun article in 2011, about a porn industry conference where feminists protested, Gail Dines was quoted as saying:

“You cannot have a massive industry built on the sexual torture and dehumanisation and debasement of women. If you want any gender equality in a society you cannot have this industry steam-rollering into men’s psyches, sexuality and identity,”

So why is the Guardian now supporting pornographers?

The only way I can see that this case has received positive attention in the Guardian is because it relates to ‘gay’ porn. If no women are involved, the Graun does not care so much about its crusade against the ‘degrading’ effects of pornography. Hodgson wrote:

‘Throughout the trial, the court had carefully warned the jury against sentencing out of any impulse of homophobic disgust. So it was disturbing to hear the prosecution lawyer invoke towards the end of his address the following example of the likely audience for the “obscene” material: “a man, in his 40s, married, with a wife who doesn’t know of his secret sexual tastes”, especially considering the defendant’s testimony that his customers were mostly gay men.’

As [redacted] has written, incidentally in a blogpost that got threatened with censorship by his webhost company, straight men enjoy watching men’s cocks in pornography. They may not be the main clientele for hardcore m/m s and m porn, but this divide between ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ porn is false. Also, many women watch ‘gay’ pornography. Again as Simpson has told us, Manlove for the Ladies is a big market and getting bigger.

Hodgson placed this case as a victory for ‘gay rights campaigners’ and ‘everyone who believes in social and sexual liberty’.

‘How ironic that the defence had begun his closing by trying to distance this case from the R v Penguin Books (1961) trial (commonly known as the Chatterley trial), which the recorder had already referenced to as precedent. That trial, in which the infamous test of the book’s obscenity was whether you would let your wife or servants read it, exposed everything that was wrong about the way those who held power and privileged pronounced on the sexual tastes and liberties of the population. Here was that same example of the white middle-class, privileged patriarch, no longer guarding against the sullying of his goods and chattel, wife and servants, but fearing for his own depravity.

Thankfully, the jury did not fall for it as a tenable argument. For gay rights campaigners and for everyone of us that believes in social and sexual liberty, it’s a day to make a five-digit victory sign.’

However, during the trial I did not see any ‘gay rights campaigners’ speaking up for Peacock (with the single exception of  Chris Ashford of Law and Sexuality Blog).  Maybe this was because ‘gay rights’ activists are often puritanical themselves, as they try (and succeed) to separate the ‘gay’ identity from ‘homosexual’ sex, and to make it respectable and almost ‘heterosexual’.

I wrote previously at Graunwatch about how gay activists such as [redacted] have taken a dim view of men demonstrating their homosexuality in public. I am not surprised this case was not taken up by ‘Teh Gayz’.

I am also disappointed that Hodgson used this damning phrase to describe the the hypothetical man who this case is suggesting is the focus of the law:

‘white middle-class, privileged patriarch’.

Patriarchy is always the ‘enemy’ in the Guardian (an imaginary one in my opinion). And this word enables the paper to come across as ‘liberal’ and caring in a case such as this, whilst maintaining its crusade against ‘patriarchal’ pornography and the ‘pornification’ of culture that feminists claim demeans and exploits women.

I rarely identify my own sexual orientation. I take the view summed up so eloquently by Steven Zeeland, that ‘sexual identity is a joke’.

But I do identify with and even practice ‘sadomasochism’. And, whilst I welcome this verdict, I do not think it represents a big shift,  in our culture which still separates ‘good sex’ from ‘bad sex’, ‘normal’ people from ‘perverts’, or in the Guardian,which remains puritanical, misandrist, and conservative.

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Photo by Robert Mapplethorpe