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.


Photo by Robert Mapplethorpe

  1. john smith says:

    QRG: Would you say that the Guardian is heterophobic?

  2. redpesto says:

    I’ve posted my comment over at GraunWatch

  3. typhonblue says:

    My brain seems to have stalled. Um… Just a sec.

  4. Here’s one from my neck of the woods, if you haven’t seen it QRG 😀 Ron White’s not so eloquent as Mr. Simpson, but I’m a bit starved for less than insanely conservative Southern comedians so I’m a fan.

    Ron White- Do Homophobes like Pr0n?

    Ahem. This is a bit tacky since ah, a lot of the QRG crowd has suffered the from the ban-hammer of NSWATM so, my apologies, (trigger warning if you will) but:

    I was just talking about gay porn and feminism too because NSWATM had a commentor point out the absence of sex-negative feminist commentary on gay porn.

    I have read and heard a lot of women, up to and including (maybe even especially) lesbians, claim that they exclusively watch gay male porn because it’s the only ‘pure’ porn since its by men, for men, in a man’s world sort of thing, so they can relax just knowing everyone’s happy. Which is a great way to moralize fetishizing gay men, erase female agency, erase the male perspective of ‘gay-for’pay’ as some sort of excuse to stay in the closet, erase the possibility of victimhood for men in the porn industry, and imply men completely lack cross-gender empathy. 😦 I don’t think I’d really call that a ‘feminist’ perspective as much as I’d call it a stupid one. Every time I hear a woman just honestly admit ‘Cuz two hot guys,” I want to applaud.

    In my darker and more bitter moments I have wondered in the past if it’s because some of them don’t consider men human enough to feel guilty about what they would feel guilty about happening to a woman. But I don’t want to be all misogynistic and accusatory here; in my darker, more bitter moments, before I got out there and started having fun and meeting like-minded people, I wondered if I was a submissive male for the same reason.

    I guess women putting it to men, and men putting it to each other, sort of rattles the ‘men put it to women just to oppress them’ script. As for women putting it to women, well, evidently that’s not even real unless you can make a genuine version of it completely divorced from the concept that it was made with men in mind (a criteria without a gender reverse requirement for the guy on guy stuff.) I’ve seen companies and groups that produce porn by women, for women. But most of the lesbians I’ve known tell me that most of that porn really sucks. (I actually don’t watch a great deal of porn so I’m going on faith here.)

    It always gets a little weird watching people be all ‘I hate porn!’ ‘Well, not gay porn obviously. Well, I’m not gay, no, and of course its er, problematic here and there, but freedom of expression and all that…’

  5. elissa says:

    The contradictions make heads spin. Maybe it’s that big tent thing again….

    As a few others, my eye is more on the tent pole

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