The #PornTrial reveals the prejudices (and possible peccadilloes) of the CPS

Today, a man was found not guilty of a crime which harmed no-one, and should never have been considered criminal in the first place. His offence? He had some porn in his email which involved scenes of consensual fisting, urethral sounding and a man wearing a gas mask. Oh, and he’d pissed off some cops by prosecuting them for disciplinary offences, which I’m sure has absolutely nothing to do with the decision to prosecute him.

It seems ridiculous to prosecute a person for this in the first place, especially considering the last fisting trial ruled that fisting is not obscene. Like bluebottles bashing their heads against a window, the CPS decided this time to prosecute under a different act relating to extreme pornography and harm. Despite evidence from two medical professionals describing the minimal harm involved, the CPS still insisted on pushing the harm line.

The risible excuse for evidence presented by the prosecution was at best wobbly, and at worst, outright offensive, for example:

 CPS – Walsh fantasised about being involved in being in an orgy.

Yes. The defendant’s fantasies were used as evidence against him. A not uncommon fantasy, either. And something which is perfectly legal for consenting adults to participate in, whether in person or on film.

Not content to merely stigmatise what people think about, despite it being thoroughly irrelevant to the case, the CPS also decided to go after people who get regular sexual health checks.

Astonishing that CPS have contended in Court that people who attend sexual health clinics engage in more risky practices.

In fact, regular health checks are a responsible thing to do, and to attempt to use responsibility to smear the character of the defendant is risky as fuck.

As if this all wasn’t offensive enough, the CPS decided to inject a bit of sexism into the case–no mean feat, considering the defendant was a gay man and all of the porn in question was gay porn. For some reason, though, they felt it appropriate to ask a female expert witness if fisting would be more degrading if it involved a woman, and they didn’t much like the answer she gave:

CPS – Dr Smith would not concede images were degrading if it pictured a woman. This is clearly wrong.

Thanks for the paternalism, CPS! Also, apparently it’s selfish and untrue to say that it isn’t degrading:

CPS – Dr Smith’s evidence was disingenuous, self-serving and dishonest.

That clears that up, then.

The case lays bare the societal prejudices against non-mainstream sexual preferences. None of the porn depicted anything non-consensual, and everything is perfectly legal to try in your own bedroom, even if you have invited a lot of people along to watch. After watching all this porn, the jury rightly concluded that no crime had been committed.

It’s surprising that in 2012, the law still has a fascination with trying to restrict perfectly consensual sex and fantasies. The prosecution’s case rested entirely on dated ideologies and stigmatisation of kink, and I’m glad the jury saw right through it.

It made no sense to prosecute this in the first place, in a case which seemed doomed to fail from the start. I can think of three possible reasons why it happened. Only two of them are kinky.

  1. The CPS has a fetish for showing juries fisting porn.
  2. The CPS likes to be humiliated, and is pushing ever harder at boundaries with ever more ridiculous cases.
  3. The CPS have the backs of the police and helped them in their quest for revenge.

I hope it’s the first or the second reason, as in this case, we can work together to help the CPS safely play out its fantasies by finding them some playmates with a thing for being consensually maliciously prosecuted. Sadly, though, the third option seems most likely. The defendant pissed off the state, and the state decided to punish him. Despite the not guilty verdict, the defendant has lost his job and his privacy has been thoroughly violated, with vanilla society knowing about his kinks and judging him for them.

It’s a grotesque abuse of a law that shouldn’t exist in the first place, allowing prejudice to be catalysed into a spiteful smear campaign.

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I’m no lawyer, so if you want more information and analysis on the legal background to the case, these posts from ObscenityLawyer, NoMoreLost and David Allen Green are good sources, and here’s a good write-up of the verdict from NoMoreLost.

Putting the “muffs are unhygienic” argument to rest at last

The Great Pubes Debate, two reasons are usually put forward in favour of shaving, waxing or nuking bush from orbit:

  1. It looks nicer
  2. It’s more hygienic

The first argument is purely subjective, with varying preferences to presentation of genitals. Of course, it’s not entirely a free choice: these preferences are to some extent dictated by cultural beauty standards, and in the west, the dominant image we are bombarded with involves very little, if any, hair at all. Sometimes the hair might even be replaced by little glittery things glued on. Beauty standards are weird. Ultimately, though, bodily autonomy is awesome, and if someone wants to do that, they can.

The second argument, though, has been entirely smashed to smithereens by medical professionals. Far from being more hygienic, shaving and waxing one’s cunt increases the risk of all sorts of nasty infections:

In her practice it is not unusual to find patients with boils and abscesses on their genitals from shaving as well as cellulitis, an infection of the scrotum, labia or penis from shaving or from having sex with someone infected.

Herpes is also an increased risk “due to the microscopic wounds being exposed to virus carried by mouth or genitals.”

So why does shaving and waxing lead to such thoroughly revolting side effects? Most of it comes down to the fact that removing hair from a rather sensitive region leads to little abrasions in the skin, and little abrasions in the skin can get infected. It doesn’t help that cunts are warm, moist areas which are rarely aired. It’s like Disneyland for disease down there, and the skin usually does a good job of keeping it out, unless it has been broken by shaving cuts or yanking hair out by the root. Furthermore, bush itself serves an additional protective function:

“Pubic hair does have a purpose, providing a cushion against friction that can cause skin abrasion and injury, and protection from bacteria.”

That’s a damn sight more pleasant a function than the hypothesis that it evolved for babies to hold on to (“ouch”, “ew”, and “but I’ve never even seen a baby try that”, in that order).

So why is something which opens up the risk of all sorts of horrible infections considered to be more hygienic? It’s probable that it’s in part due to the association with shaving an area before surgery, although there is also medical evidence against that:

Surgeons used to insist on shaving the area of the body where an operation was to be performed in the misguided belief that it reduced surgical site infections. Now official advice is to leave hair alone, unless it interferes with the operation, and where removal is necessary to use electric clippers.

It also might be down to sheer laziness in washing. There’s a lot of sweat glands down below, and if one doesn’t wash properly, things can get a little whiffy. The answer to this is, of course, wash more. It will take less time than hair removal, and you’re less likely to erupt in boils in a very sensitive area.

It’s refreshing to finally see an article about body hair in the mainstream media that isn’t negative, and busting a myth in the dominant narrative surrounding body hair. It’s a baby step towards that free choice for what we do with our bodies. And that can only be a good thing.

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I might as well take this opportunity to plug the brilliant Armpits4August–think Movember, but for women. They’re challenging beauty standards and raising money for polycystic ovary syndrome. So far they’ve raised over £1000 of their £2000 target. I’m participating–why not donate?

In which I feel ever so slightly sorry for Louise Mensch

“Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much” -Oscar Wilde

Last week, I was entertaining the chilling possibility of Louise Mensch one day becoming Prime Minister. Today, in a surprising twist, Mensch announced she would be resigning as an MP.

For a fleeting second, it felt like today might be the Best Day Ever, starting with a robot comfortably landing on Mars and immediately sending back a grainy photo of its wheels on alien soil, and then the resignation of arguably one of the worst people in politics. But my hand stayed on the metaphorical cork of my metaphorical champagne bottle when I saw her reason why.

To spend more time with her family.

Now, admittedly, this is a highly flexible excuse for quitting and can mean anything from “I want to spend more time with my family” to “I just accidentally  destroyed the economy through my sheer incompetence and I’m jumping before I’m pushed” to “I shagged a goat and I want to spare my party the embarrassment”. However, given Mensch’s background, it seems likely that her reasons for resignation lean closer towards the actual wanting to spend time with family end of the spectrum.

And I feel kind of sorry for her over this: her husband lives and works in New York, and she and her three children frequently hop across the pond to be together, until now juggling this with her work as a politician. And of course, living under patriarchy, it was Mensch who had to quit her job to make the move.

Tory feminism has failed Louise Mensch. Even with all of her privileges, she couldn’t have it all.

On Twitter, I asked why Mensch’s husband couldn’t have been the one to quit his job and move to the UK to support his family. While a lot of people agreed with this sentiment, there were two reasons given (mostly by men) that this set-up would make no sense whatsoever.

First was the notion that Mensch’s husband’s job earned more money. Perhaps so, but in the grand scheme of things, the potential career progression for an MP is somewhat better: running a country is arguably better than booking hotel rooms for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Even being an MP has a higher degree of social capital than making sure Metallica get on their plane at the right time. For those who believe in representative democracy–and I’m assuming Mensch did–her job was better and more important than her husband’s.

Second is the idea that the kids weren’t his. This is such a grimly archaic view of families that it doesn’t really require much comment, save to say that if this factored into the decision at all, Louise Mensch would do better to get a divorce.

It was patriarchy that killed Louise Mensch’s career in politics, and for that reason I can’t feel as happy as if she’d resigned for other reasons, such as being a chronic liability due to monumental hubristic failure, or as a post-revolutionary head-on-a-spike. Somehow I doubt she’ll see it that way: the lens of Tory feminism refracts these decisions into nothing more than personal choice.

I don’t know why this nice racist hasn’t got a girlfriend.

Nice guys. They bring the good name of all male-identified people who happen to be decent human beings into disrepute. The nice guy is a whinging mass of benevolent sexism, befriending women in a creepy attempt to get into their knickers then turning hostile as their efforts fail. Usually, they hit the point of tedium where it isn’t even worth commenting on them. It takes a little extra edge to become a truly egregiously awful nice guy.

Last year, I found one who shat in the grave of Pastor Niemöller with a pastiche which began with “When the feminists came for the rapists…” This year’s contender has an image he would like to share with us to explain his emotional state.

The image consists of nine images, arranged in a square.

Panel 1: Picture of a grinning shirtless white man with excessively erect hair doing the double finger-point, captioned “HEY LADIES… HOW’S IT GOING?”

Panel 2: Picture of the same shirtless white man, wearing a patronising expression and wagging a finger, captioned “DO YOU KNOW?”

Panel 3: Picture of some American money (at a guess, and for the groaning pun to work, I think it’s a dollar bill), captioned “YOU’RE SINGLE BECAUSE…”

Panel 4: Picture of a white heterosexual couple frolicking on the beach. The woman is wearing a bikini and is smiling at her faceless lover, who is fully dressed and a bit of a hipster. Captioned “YOU WANT LOVE LIKE THIS”

Panel 5: Picture of six black men wearing street attire, captioned “YET GO AFTER GUYS LIKE THIS.”

Panel 6: Picture of the man from the first two panels, thankfully clothed and wearing glasses. He has a smug look on his face and is holding his chin in a superior fashion, captioned “INSTEAD OF A GUY LIKE THIS”.

Panel 7: Picture of a crying white woman androgynous person, who is apparently called Chris Crocker, captioned “AND END UP LIKE THIS”.

Panel 8: Picture of a frustrated-looking Asian man, who Twitter has informed me is Jackie Chan, captioned “LEAVING US GOOD GUYS LIKE THIS”.

Panel 9: Picture of a black man, who I think might be the rapper Xzibit, smiling. Captioned “AND THOSE GUYS LIKE THIS!”, which neatly clarifies that our nice guy picture-maker seems to have a problem with black people having sex with white women.

I literally have no idea why this charming little racist doesn’t have a girlfriend. Must be women’s fault, somehow. Perhaps more finger-wagging will teach us the lesson we need to learn.

In which I actually write about the Olympics: sexism and racism in the Ye Shiwen doping allegations

My plan for an Olympic-proof bunker has failed. I have been exposed to London in its full dystopian horrors, and been unable to avoid news and stories about a bloody sporting event. I even willingly watched the men’s synchronised diving the other day, though I had to turn off the sound to avoid the Nuremberg-style cheering from the British crowd every time a British person did something that should have been entirely expected of them.

It didn’t escape my notice, then, that a 16 year old Chinese woman has caused rather a bit of a stir. Swimmer Ye Shiwen smashed world records in the 400m individual medley. In the final 50m of her race, Ye managed to swim faster than some of the fastest-recorded male swimmers! Rather than celebrate this achievement, whispers of doping immediately began.

In a statement that smacked of sour grapes, the swimming coach for the USA team did his best attempt at media spin, avoiding an outright accusation of doping but banging on for paragraphs and paragraphs about how Ye’s swim was “impossible” and “unbelievable” while sticking in the occasional “I’m not saying she’s doping, but…”. He then manages to drop this seethingly sexist clanger:

Leonard, who said Ye “looks like superwoman” added: “Any time someone has looked like superwoman in the history of our sport they have later been found guilty of doping.”

That, right there, is the crux of the matter. The fact that if Ye Shiwen had been thrown in a pool with men, she would have beaten them too. Supermen are fine and dandy, and to be expected from a sport. It’s when a woman is as good, or better than a man that something must be wrong. This is made abundantly clear if one compares the Chinese tit-for-tat suggestion that American male swimmer Michael Phelps must be doping, which nobody seems to be taking particularly seriously.

The sexism of the whispers surrounding Ye Shiwen are reminiscent of the story of runner Caster Semenya, who ran so fast that the sporting authorities decided she must be a man in disguise and subjected her to invasive gender testing. It seems completely implausible to society at large that women can be as capable as men of sporting feats.

Indeed, sometimes it seems as though society is actively trying to keep women from reaching their true potential: an example of this comes from the incident which saw runner Paula Radcliffe temporarily stripped of her marathon world record because she had male “pacemakers” who she was racing (and beat). In the end, Radcliffe was allowed to keep her record, but the governing body ruled that women’s records must be set in women-only races.

Arguably, Radcliffe and Semenya are “superwomen”, as constructed by the US team coach. In fact, they are just women with the capacity to beat men. This is likely to be true of Ye Shiwen, too, given that the Olympics are generally pretty stringent in testing athletes for drugs.

Ultimately, the US coach’s beef lies in the fact that a woman from a different country swam faster than a man from his own country, and this does not compute. Clearly, there is a tribalism at work here, too, a patriotic belief that his country is better than any others (especially their rival China). It’s the implicit us-and-them mentality which disguises racism.

Some of the reporting, though, is less thinly-veiled in its racism. The Daily Mirror attempts to kindly say that Ye might not have been doping, but unfortunately the only way they can do this is by drawing on stereotypes about China in the most cartoonishly, embarrassingly, excruciatingly racist way possible:

The disturbing truth is that, while her performance may not be drug-enhanced, Ye Shiwen and her Chinese teammates have been manufactured like ­automatons on a cynical human production line, forged by training techniques many say border on torture.

This might not be cripplingly racist if China had a literal athlete upgrading factory, but unfortunately that’s not true. The rest of the article goes on to describe the training techniques which do not sound that far removed from how athletes train. They select promising youngsters, they start young, they train hard.

Then they win, and everyone freaks the fuck out.

That’s all there is to it: someone performed well at a sport. Time will tell if Ye Shiwen was doping, but the rumours and rush to find out speak volumes about prejudice.