No rough sex please, we’re British
A new law banning so-called ‘extreme’ pornography is a nonsense, argues Sean Thomas
Hard cases make bad law" is an aphorism much beloved of legislators. It is also a motto that could be usefully tattooed on the foreheads of British MPs. Because right now the British government is about to pass a very bad law, rooted in one tragic case.
The tragedy in question is that of Jane Longhurst. Five years ago Ms Longhurst, a Brighton-based teacher, was brutally murdered. At the trial it emerged that her killer, Graham Coutts, was a fan of violent porn websites with names like Rape Action. The content of such sites reflected their titles.
Following the life imprisonment of Coutts, Jane's mother Liz began a campaign to ban the possession of violent sexual imagery, or 'extreme pornography'. This campaign got support from her local MP, Martin Salter, and then Home Secretary, David Blunkett.
Now the campaign is near its end. The final fruit is a clause, inserted in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, which should receive Royal Assent on May 8.
What's wrong with this clause is its bizarre, catch-all wording. The law does not simply outlaw the making of obscenely violent sexual images. It prohibits the passive viewing of images of violent but consensual sex. It also prohibits, quite astonishingly, the viewing of images that merely appear to be sexually violent - but are actually staged.
The absurdities thrown up by this are obvious. Under the law it will be illegal to look at images of someone freely engaging in rough sex. That is to say: the act itself will be legal, but looking at a photo of it will be verboten.
Even more stupid, under this law you could be prosecuted for looking at an image of yourself performing an act that did not actually take place which you faked at home.
George Orwell had a word for this remarkable legal concept: thoughtcrime. ·
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