A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests
Leo Maguire is a rather wonderful photographer. Known for his controversial documentary Gypsy Blood, it is reported that he has now won a second commission from Channel Four, to produce another documentary for their True Story series, this time addressing dogging. I am fascinated to see the approach he takes. Rather than arranging a series of ‘talking heads’ (my Mum will no doubt sigh in relief that I am unlikely to appear on her television talking about dogging), his style is to observe and record, making the ‘representational’ aspect of dogging all the more important – will we have an attempt to capture a range of ‘types’ of dogger, if so, what types are there? Will it be to show a series of middle aged slightly dumpy characters? Will there be an attempt to have a whole class angle?
Does the type of person willing to feature as part of an observational documentary, especially on a subject such as dogging, skew the construction of dogging that will be presented? My suspicion is yes btw. Moreover, what about the other characters – the chav boy racer who disrupts a dogging scene? The local community citizen ‘outraged’ or stoically responding to dogging (see my recent chapter in Johnson and Dalton, and the wonderful story of a woman taking a dildo to the Police station and advising them to put it in lost property). What about the Police? What do they really think? How do they Police and why? What about the policy aspect? What of the role of pornography in constructing this phenomenon (as I explore in my Rivers and Ward chapter). What of the increasingly important role of the Internet and technology in facilitating – and threatening – these encounters, as I and notably Mowlabocus have written about in the context of public sex more generally.
Some photography he produced documenting dogging from last year, can be seen here. The accompanying text identifies some of themes – darkness, strangers, the Internet, outdoor and exhibitionism:
‘Dogging is British slang for people engaging in outdoor sexual acts in secluded public areas. Lay-bys, woods and picnic spots around the UK often double as dogging locations once darkness falls. Carried out under the cover of night, the practice generally involves sexual acts between people who are complete strangers. Increasingly though, participants arrange to meet at a dogging site via the internet or through social-networking media. Dogging has no rules; it may take place between couples or in groups. Some like to watch, some are exhibitionists, others just like to talk, but most are there for the thrill of having sex with strangers.’
Reading it, and looking at the images I can distinguish them from the daylight based images of Chad States in his photography book Cruising, and am reminded in tone, and style of the artist and pornographer Liam Cole. Cole produced a really quite wonderful scene in Treasure Island Media’s Wild Breed called ‘Woodland Cruising’. It was also shown in a differently edited format as part of an art project (I wonder if Maguire has seen it), and this work from Maguire feels very inspired by that narrative of men cruising, and in this small sample of Maguire’s work, seems to transpose that on to doggers. Fascinating stuff.
There’s actually a vast and complex story to be told here. It’s a tough job, and I wish Maguire well with the project.