A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests
I’m just about to put together my response to the Law Commission consultation on ‘Simplification of Criminal Law: Public Nuisance and Outraging Public Decency’. The consultation document can be viewed here. I’ll put my response up on the blog at a later date once done. I’ll be arguing for reform of the law on public sex as those of you have followed my work and ideas, would expect.
Yet, this morning Paul Burston, the writer, regular gay talking head and a member of what I would call ‘the gay metropolitan elite’ has posted a blog post under the title ‘OH, PUT IT AWAY!’. His Facebook link to the post was a clearer statement of his position ‘Embarrassed by ‘The Gays”. He begins by noting that ‘a report in the Islington Gazette says that ‘the steam room at a family swimming pool has become a popular “cruising” area where gay men meet for “action”.’
Those of you who read my blog regularly will know my immediate reaction – “here we go again”. The local press regularly turns to these stories. Reporter looks on cruising site and shock horror, public sex is apparently occurring and we never knew. Yes -WE NEVER KNEW!!! It was going on and nobody noticed! This is not a report of parents complaining on mass, kids traumatised by men unable to stop fucking in the deep end or an OAP swimming to help their arthritis accidentally finding themselves in the midst of a changing room orgy.
So – first off, until a reporter went poking around the Internet, we didn’t know. It includes a quote: ‘Adrian Kelly, a regular user of Cally Pool, said: “I have no problem with gay people at all but it’s a family pool and you don’t know who might go in there and see something they shouldn’t.”‘
A regular user – so Mr Kelly – you – as a regular pool user – were totally unaware of this until we – the local rag – asked you?
Burston goes on to paste in a piece he wrote for Attitude in which he talks about his days at GALOP – the Police monitoring group. I recently looked through the GALOP archives and found that they did indeed receive many complaints as Burston outlines and did offer some helpful advice – although they were comparatively timid on the issue compared with the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) -and much later – Outrage.
Burston comments that:
‘It used to be argued that having sex in parks and public toilets was a symptom of gay men’s oppression. Now it’s simply a symptom of our self indulgence. Of course there are some people who are determined to cling onto their ‘outsider’ status, rather like those pre-Liberation types who go all misty-eyed as they tell you how much more exciting it was back in the old days, when you could be banged up for having sex with a guardsman in St James Park. These are often the same people who regard gay marriage as ‘undignified’ and spend their weekends on their knees in public lavatories being ‘radical’.’
I don’t spend my weekends (or indeed weekdays) on my knees in public lavatories although I do like the notion of saying to a police officer, when asked “what are you doing”, replying “being radical”. “And you do that sir whilst fellating this other gentleman?”
Why must we all assimilate into a “play nice” whole? It’s not just “The Gays”. The straights are embracing public sex through dogging, people in civil partnerships and happy relationships also go cruising and cottaging – people of all ages, people who are out ad well as those still exploring their sexuality. Although it can very much be a political concept – and I theorise it as such – it’s ultimately about people feeling horny and expressing those sexual urges.
You will not stop public sex – the debate is simply about whether we accept it as a reality or continue to hide it away, and live the heteronormative dream.