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Remind me, who was it who banned pictures of anal fisting?

Simon Walsh has today, thankfully, been found not guilty at Kingston Crown Court of possessing “extreme pornography” — primarily images of consenting gay men engaged in legal acts of anal fisting. Had he been found guilty, he would have faced a possible penalty of three years in custody and inclusion on the sex offenders’ register. Damage to his personal and professional standing he will probably suffer anyway — he is a barrister who, amongst other things, prosecutes police officers accused of disciplinary offences (no connection suggested, obvously).

However, Mr Walsh has already been sacked by Boris Johnson as a mayoral appointee to the London fire authority. That was in spite of his not-guilty plea and the fact that no allegedly offensive images were found on his work computer (or his home computer for that matter). Take note anyone with a residual soft soft for Boris.

The question which many are asking is why so much police and prosecution time has been wasted investigating photos of a perfectly legal sex act (one that gets several references though not the heroine’s consent in what is now the best selling series of novels of all time – Fifty Shades of Grey). Or as Ben Goldacre beautifully put it:

What has made you – the police, CPS, a judge – so interested in other ppls bottoms?

Unfortunately, the fault is at least partly that of New Labour which introduced the “extreme pornography” offence in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, which is described by the New Statesman as:

perhaps the most illiberal piece of legislation ever enacted by Parliament.  It was promoted by a Labour government with the support of the then Conservative opposition.

The test of what would make images of anal fisting “extreme” as opposed to common or garden pornography, by the way, is whether or not it is an act which “results (or is likely to result) in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals,” — well, most likely the first of those I suppose. Anal fisting is, of course, not without its risks but according to publicly-funded information available on the internet, these risks can be minimised with the aid of latex gloves and lots of time, gentleness, care, patience and water-based lube. But most importantly, it is something people choose to do.

So what of the damage to those viewing such pornographic images, you might ask. How does anal fisting compare with, say, the pornographic videos the cost of which was claimed as a parliamentary expense by Jacqui Smith who was the New Labour Home Secretary who introduced this legislation? Certainly no-one could argue that images of two or more gay men engaged in consensual anal fisting demeaned women in any way. That’s more than many would say of Jacqui’s husband’s videos. Or much contemporary fashion photography for that matter.

Ironically Jacqui Smith, amitted in the Independent, after making a radio documentary about porn  that she’d changed her view too:

I’ve changed my view on those who work in the mainstream industry. I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of people who make an informed decision to work in the porn industry – they make a choice to stay, based on the money they can earn and some even enjoy it. Of course I understand that I was talking to those at the most “legitimate” end of the industry. I know from experience that there are many other women in the broader sex industry who are far from willing participants. So, does porn damage those who watch it? People use porn because it’s enjoyable. Couples sometimes use it together. Men aren’t turned into monsters by watching a bit of pay TV!

Men may or may not be ‘damaged’ by watching porn but they are damaged by being prosecuted for ‘sex crimes’. Although Simon Walsh has been cleared on this occasion a bad law remains on the statute book, and both the Police and the CPS continue to be willing to waste their time prosecuting cases where no-one has been harmed, taking time away from other more important work as police numbers are reduced.

One Comment

  1. Gary Elsby says:

    But is it about upholding the law to protect the innocents in our society, or is it about getting your own back?
    Embarrasment is a powerful tool to use in the public eye.

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