Obscenity has been a hot topic of late – just last month Michael Peacock was found unanimously not guilty of 6 charges brought under the Obscene Publications Act. The case itself was both hilarious and terrifying for me to follow, as a kinky kind of chap who enjoys material of a similar kind to the sort he was arrested for selling. Surely the very fact that someone could be arrested and charged for publishing videos of acts that are entirely legal in themselves is surely ludicrous! And in what we claim to be a civilised society, too.
Apparently the jury were asked to decide whether the material in question would ‘corrupt or deprave’ the viewer. Can anyone tell me what those archaic words really mean in modern society? Surely if ‘corrupting’ people is the yardstick against which we should measure whether or not to censor things, then the creators of Big Brother should have been arrested long ago? Isn’t the entire idea of ‘corruption’ completely out of place in a culture where we acknowledge each individual’s responsibility for their own actions?
This whole debacle brings to light a glaring inconsistency in the way our society views sexuality. Namely, that everything consenting adults do in bed (or on the kitchen top, or wherever you prefer) is perfectly acceptable, yet once it’s been put on film it’s not only disgusting, but illegal!
Is it just me, or should we not have gotten over this obsession with trying to limit what people can read, watch and listen to in the second decade of the second millennium? Have we not realised that the best way to encourage immorality is to drive people away from the eyes of society by making what they wish to partake of illegal?
The same argument for completely legalising even the more extreme forms of pornography, such as BDSM, goes along much the same lines as the argument for legalising drugs that is so well-tread: When something is legal, it can be regulated. If we stop this charade of trying to “protect” consenting adults from themselves then we actually end up with a very clear line between what’s allowed and what isn’t – unlike the farce of the current laws.
You see, I’m not saying people should be able to make absolutely anything they want and publish it. If someone wanted to publish a collection of bestiality videos then I would most certainly support prosecuting them; but I don’t think we have to enforce any kind of censorship laws to do so. You know why? Because bestiality is already illegal!
Our current laws were shown to be out of date just a year after they were published, when Penguin Books won the right to publish Lady Chatterly’s Lover in 1960. Back then the prosecution was arguing that swearing – particularly the frequent use of the word “fuck”, was enough to render the book “obscene.” Unfortunately, there are still people in the world – and more worrying, the legal system, who would probably agree.
Originally published in The Skinny February 2012