(Originally posted at http://www.thesafewordsclub.com)
The phrase, ‘I am the Law’ comes from a number of sources, however, my first encounter was the science fiction comic 2000AD in the late 1970s. In fact, on reflection, the odd characters dressed in leather being pursued by Judge Dredd on a massive motorbike may have sparked something in me at the age of 10!
This post, however, is not about the futuristic (or not so now) cartoons of a comic, it is more about the past and where we find ourselves going forward with Kink. I read an article sometime ago written by a first year law graduate at the University of Exeter. In the article they argued that, ‘Judges need to stop being so vanilla — and stop meddling in our sex lives.’
The general concern raised, is that courts of law do not, or struggle to, recognise consensual acts of BDSM with adults. The legal case that was presented as an example was Regina vs Brown 1993. I can assure you that if you prepare a large mug of coffee, or tea as it is English law we are looking at, and take 15 mins to read the legal arguments of the case, it may surprise you. The wranglings the law have with such matters and how much actual understanding they have of BDSM and the application of law to it is astoundingly pitiful. On further investigation I found similar cases where people where prosecuted for carrying out acts, that whilst consensual and imaginable by you or I under strict conditions, they were deemed illegal. For example Regina vs Emmet 1999, where a guy ‘appears’ to have attempted suffocation and fire play, and even with consent was imprisoned under an act of law passed in 1861. One further case, with a happy ending, is Regina vs Wilson where a husband branded his wife with his own initials using a heated butter knife. Despite breaking the skin, see the first case mentioned, he was cleared of all charges because she gave consent, and it was classed as a form of tattoo.
Now there has been a running argument for years that consensual BDSM is no different than tattooing, boxing, rugby, American football or for that matter any contact sports or activities, and I would agree in part, although they are very different in their own unique way. Previous activities that are now outlawed are bare-knuckle boxing and duelling. The days of men sorting their issues out with bare hands are gone, and probably for the best, as such fights led to brain injury, permanent disability and sometimes death. As for pistols or swords at dawn, these were outlawed by a British King across His empire a long time ago, and interesting this was only decreed to stop men from crippling themselves and not being able to lay their life down for the King when called upon to do so! Forsooth, double standards there me thinks!
Now why raise again this long running saga you might think, after all, has not enough already been said on the subject? I would argue that the answer is no, and no again. Being of sound body and mind, I have a right to choose what I do with my body, and so does my wife, within reason. The only caveat I add to this is mental illness, which as many of you know comes in more variations than coffee sold these days. Mental illness can cause irrational behaviour and contradictory decisions related to well being, and in the most, we as a society try to protect and support people in that situation. That is not say that people with mental illness cannot consent to BDSM activities, using the aforementioned coffee/ mental illness analogy, some people come as 99% milk and others make your back teeth vibrate! So a lot of this anti BDSM is about other people and not about me or you fellow kinky person. When reading the legal cases linked to this post you will see mention of it ‘not being in the public interest.’ Murder is not in the public interest, paedophilia is not in the public interest and in fact most anti-social acts that cause harm to citizens of the world, are not in the public interest. The law however, will change eventually, and change it must. Homosexuality was still an offence not long before I was born, magazines with naked women and men were banned, and if it had not been for the likes of Hugh Hefner, many of the taboos of the 1950’s would never have seen the light of day for general debate. Call him what you will, old Hef’ got people talking positively about real world problems relating to sexuality than any medical or legal book ever printed. He addressed the common person, the people to whom it really mattered.
Taking us back to the very start of this post I quoted the title ‘Judges need to stop being so vanilla — and stop meddling in our sex lives.’ There has to be law and order to protect the vulnerable, that I hope is a given, however, laws need to be fit for purpose. I know that basic law is based on religious text laid down a long time ago, and generally speaking, the 10 Commandments cover a lot of best practice! What I cannot come to terms with is where law and religion is bent detrimentally to meet the beliefs of the elected individuals in office at the time. Fortunately for all of us living in (some) democratic countries we have more people taking positions of influence who are the best fit for the job and are progressive. Yes, these people are younger than ever before, yes they are often female, yes some are not white and shock and horror, some are even gay! There has to be a plan and there has to be boundaries if you want to grow a progressive society; we have to examine how people live today and make laws that support them, not victimise them. One thing I have learnt about the D/s in BDSM is that it made me a better person. I am more considerate and communicative to my wife, our public behaviour in front of our children is one of a supportive and loving unit, and behind closed, well behind closed doors is none of yours or the ‘public’s interest!’