Despite cancelling my papers, I returned to a mountain of newspapers. On the plus side, it’s meant I could catch up with all things relating to gender,sexuality and law in the news over the last week. Sunday saw the Oscars over in the US, and although Slumdog Millionaire grabbed the headlines, Sean Penn scooped best actor for his role as Harvey Milk in ‘Milk’ whilst Dustin Lance Black won best original screenplay for ‘Milk’. Andrew Sullivan, who writes a kind of ‘letter from America’ piece in the Sunday Times has become regular fixture in my Sunday reading, He wrote a particularly personal piece this week which is worth reading in full. He writes this week: ‘In America, the bigotry you face is real, unvarnished and in the open. In Britain, it can come masked or euphemised or deflected into humour. It hurts much more to punch a brick wall than to punch a deep velvet cushion. But if you punch hard enough, the wall will one day crumble, while the pillow will constantly absorb the blows.

Just before I flew out the story of Warrington railway station banning kissing was starting to percolate through the media. Leo Benedictus wrote a lovely small piece in The Guardian last Wednesday commenting that the ‘initiative’ had ‘provoked mild outrage among some travellers, who fear a return to the 70s and 80s when “no petting” signs, with helpfully suggestive diagrams, were routinely used in swimming pools to control the sexual urges of bathers’. There is something very British about ‘mild outrage’. Not really annoyed, just sort of on the way to annoyed. Surely in the midst of the economic miserablism, a bit more snogging on station platforms would be a good thing?

British film censors got rather hot and steamy (nice work if you can get it) earlier this week when it was reported that staff at the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) are in uproar at plans to reduce the requirement for two people to watch any film, down to just one person. It seems to be a result of the “explosion “(rather an unfortunate term to use don’t you think?) in R18 porn. My favourite line in the whole story was: ‘some are concerned that viewing pornographic content alone will increase the chances of being sexually aroused by the material’. Fabulous.

On to an interesting story about a Soho brothel, closed by the Police by using anti-social behaviour laws (what could be more sociable than a brothel?). Justice Riddle (you can’t make it up) sitting at Horseferry Road Magistrates Court refused to shut the brothel down, enabling it to re-open for business. Given our laws that explicitly ban brothels, it is an interesting decision, although in my view a welcome and sensible one. The judge commented “I am not satisfied that any person has engaged in antisocial behaviour on the premises’. He has a point.

On Sunday, The Sunday Times Magazine talked to Jean Johnson, who, as a member of the Women’s Institute, ahs become an unlikely champion for sex workers, calling for prostitution to be legalsied in the UK. The piece can be read here.

In a good example of research that states the bleeding obvious, The Guardian reported on Tuesday of last week that ‘sexy pictures turn men’s heads’. According to research conducted by psychologists at Princeton University, men are more likely to think of women as objects if they have looked at sexy pictures of females beforehand. According to the piece: ‘researchers used brains cans to show that when heterosexual men looked at pictures of women in bikinis, areas of the brain that normally light up in anticipation of using tools, like spanners and screwdrivers, were activated’. You’re not telling me that the author of the piece, Ian Sample, wasn’t giggling when he wrote that, or is it just me with a school boy sense of humour?

On Wednesday of last week, the new pay ‘This Isn’t Romance’ was reviewed. Interestingly, the play, currently at Soho, London explores incest but explores issues of mixed race and life in Korea.

Finally, the Guardian reports today on growing pressure inside China for gay marriage. It also explores the difficult issues facing gay men and women inside China. The full story can be read here.

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