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