The Four Minute Kiss

Photograph: David Hart

LONDON: The Campaign for Homosexual Equality held a promising sounding conference on New Ghettoes for Old, with Lord Arran, Maureen Duffy, Brian McGee and Chad Varah speaking on sexual liberty and the struggle for it.

Lord Arran let on that he was in touch with higher spirits, who, like him, didn’t like the idea of gays kissing in public.

Brian McGee and Maureen Duffy dealt eloquently and informatively on the problems of Gay Liberation for men and women respectively.

Chad Varah said he found it difficult to accept modern ideas of sexual relationships and liberation that belonged, perhaps, he said, to another age.

The possible high-spot was an unplanned speech by a demonstrator in women’s clothes, who used the microphone loudspeaker system in the Conway Hall to tell the audience that sexual liberation could only be achieved after the destruction of capitalist ideals.

For this he got an earful of abuse from Ian Harvey, the meeting’s chairman and enthusiastic applause from the audience. After his speech the radical demonstrator left the stage and kissed a GLF member for four minutes.

1973: EURO GAYS WE MIGHT BE, BUT THE STRUGGLE MUST GO ON

As 1973 dawns it is time for the Homosexual Society to take stock of its position and to decide what action must be taken in the days that lie ahead. The record so far is reasonably satisfactory. It is not as bad as some of the critics and carpers make out: nor is it as good as some of our professing activists and demo-mongers profess.

For those who are fighting for our cause and for those who are only too well aware of the nature of the problems which confront us much of what follows may seem repetitive. But, as a great advertising man, Sir William Crawford, once said, the key to a successful campaign is domination, concentration and repetition. State the message loud and clear, use all the available resources in such a way that that message is got across and go on sending it out until people are forced to pay attention. It is better to say a few things firmly and often than a great many things in the form of a confused dissertation.

The first priority must be to penetrate the political barriers of hostility and inertia and to set on foot further reforms of law on homosexuality. The most important, and the most obvious because the present state of affairs is so patently ridiculous, is to bring the age of consent for men down to 16. To claim that women are so much more mature that a gap of five years is justifiable is plain stupid and not in accordance with the facts of Life. It is time for a bit of Men’s Lib for a change.

The Scots, who are always boasting that they are better educated as a nation than anyone else in Britain, should undertake some effective self-education and press for the existing law to be extended to their own country. In Northern Ireland a bit of sanity would be welcome for once. Now that Westminster is in control, or claims to be, the same conditions should be made to apply.

The social segregation of the Armed Forces and the Merchant Navy is undemocratic and demonstrably absurd as well as being somewhat laughable under all the known circumstances. There will be resistence from the top-brass who always resist change on principle. It should be pointed out to them that such an attitude is an admission of failure on their part to keep order in their own house. And that is a very poor advertisement for the powers of leadership of which they are so proud.

Relationships with the Police must be reviewed at top level otherwise the situation threatens to deteriorate and that is not in the interests of the Force who have quite enough problems on their plate without adding to them. The new Commissioner of Police is a great reformer: this is one reform he should tackle as a matter of urgency.

There must be an end to harrassment and effective action must be taken to stamp out the offensive and immoral practice of “queer-bashing” which is an abuse of civil liberties and worse than “mugging” which is causing much more public alarm. The rules concerning homosexual assembly must be abolished and that involves political as well as police action as also does the whole question of advertising as was made clear by the ‘IT’ case.

Socially, an advance must be planned on three fronts: the education of parents, teachers and children, the improvement of medical training and understanding; the recognition of the existence and position of homosexuals by men of religion.

The Ministry of Education must be approached with a view to discussing the establishment of enlightened sex education, including education about homosexuality, in schools. Until a directive comes from above, local education authorities and headmasters will be unwilling and afraid to act. There is plenty of evidence of that. Parent-teacher organisations must be persuaded to support this move so far as is possible.

Margaret Thatcher may not be everybody’s pin-up girl and the new Under-Secretary, Norman St John Stevas has not been made exactly welcome in every quarter. But they both like to lay claim to being progressive in their outlook. They should be confronted.

The Medical Profession should be challenged with regard to its failure to implement the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee. At a meeting held at Guys Hospital in 1972, the Chairman, a distinguished physician, declared at the outset that he knew nothing about homosexuality. That was not any sort of a joke. The answer to him and to those like him is physician heal thyself. The campaign must be carried into the medical camp and there must be more meetings not only at hospitals but local doctors and psychiatrists should be invited to address meetings under the auspices of homosexual organisations.

The Churches must be clearly asked to state their attitude to homosexuality and homosexuals. This must be done not only at the level of parish priests and the like but also at the top. The veiws expressed by Dr Norman Pittenger in his book “Time For Consent” should be put to them and their reactions to them should be sought. Unlike Pilate we have time to wait for our answer – but not for ever. The meeting of Jewish homosexuals in London, despite the snide remarks which appeared in Gay News, was a courageous and heartening occasion. It is hoped that progress will continue to be made in that field.

Also on the credit side for 1972 have been the activities of CHE, SMG and GLF. It has been asserted in certain quarters, including in the correspondence columns of Gay News, that such organisations tend to promote a ghetto mentality and to increase, rather than decrease, the division between homosexuals and the rest of society. That is poppy-cock. To begin with, if society had behaved in a more intelligent and rational manner such activities would not have been made necessary. Such considerations apart, they provide important and essential grounds for homosexuals to meet one another and to exchange views. They are also of the greatest social and psychological value for those homosexuals who are lonely or depressed.

Gay News, a product of 1972, is a courageous venture which deserves to succeed and prosper in 1973. It is a forum for opinions of all kinds by homosexuals and others and that is healthy. Because not enough space is provided by the main media of communication it fills the gap and it may well encourage its colleages in the Press world to pay more attention to the subject. Every homosexual should support a publication which speaks out fearlessly for the cause. This is no time for reticence or silence: those days are over.

On the political front CHE held fringe meetings at all the Party conferences in the autumn. In 1973 it holds its own conference at Morecambe. These public appearances are important because they help to make clear that we are not an element to be disregarded with impunity. There are over a million and a half, probably more, of us. Politically that is something which should not be forgotten. It is particularly something which the Liberal Party, which is aiming at a national revival, should note. All political candidates from now on should be sent the questionnaire which was prepared by CHE and sent out at Sutton and Cheame by-election. Gay News should be encouraged to publish the answers so that we may know who are our friends.

A fringe meeting was held at the Conference of the National Union of Students at Margate. It was a constructive and stimulating occasion. It seems likely that one outcome will be a closer association of all University Homosexual Groups and that is all to the good as it will increase their influence. After all the ultimate future is in the hands of youth and that means our future.

In 1973 it is important that all homosexual organisations should increase their activities and their membership and that they should work as closely as possible together. We all have the same object in view: the achievement of our rightful place in society. It is essential that more people should be willing to take part in these activities. In the past too much has had to be done by too few at too great a cost both mentally, physically and financially. The time has come for all homosexuals to stand up and be counted. The only thing to fear is fear itself. Our campaign is on the march. In 1973 we must aim to go farther and faster and there must be more of us.

National Jewish Talk In

Picture has been edited as the age of the subject is not clear.LONDON: It was a bit of an anti-climax, really. Eight hours devoted to the subject of homosexuality and the Jew was enough to put off even the most devout Jew — or devout homosexual for that matter.

There we were, gathered in Holborn on a wet Sunday afternoon, each ready to bare his or her soul to the distinguished speaker who was constantly on the verge of appearing but never seemed to arrive.

The first half of the epic length debate consisted of Ian Harvey giving his famous Dunkirk speech that everyone has heard before, and dear old Anthony Grey looking for all the world like the undertaker to the gay world, and saying how much he liked being in with all his Jewish friends.

Things didn’t improve when a show of hands revealed that less than half the people present were actually Jewish. But never mind … Simon Benson was obviously enjoying every moment of it, and everyone agreed that it was very good of him to have arranged the whole thing.

There were the usual stories of How I Told Momma – spiced on this occasion by a few leaden Jewish jokes. The break came as a great relief.

In the interval the Star Turn appeared – looking very biblical with his long beard and eating sandwiches wrapped in tinfoil. He held out much promise.

By the second half, many had left, and the Jewish element in the audience had the strange experience of being a minority in an establishment run primarily for them.

The Star Turn gave us hard stuff about the Jewish attitude to the homosexual. Jewish law does not recognise the existence of homosexuals — only homosexual acts; these are forbidden. If I followed the talk correctly, the soul was regarded as being bisexual, and could only attain full unity when partnered with its other half, which, I gathered, could only happen within heterosexual marriage.

When asked what he would say to a Jew who asked him how to be a good Jew and a practicing homosexual as well, the distinguished speaker was at a loss, Finally he said that he would have to say “do your own thing…” Ten years ago that would have been a fairly radical statement, and the distinguished speaker thought that it was still a radical point of view, because he asked the reporter from the Jewish Chronicle not to report this part of the proceedings.

When the understandably flabergasted reporter asked why, she was given a pathetic string of implausible horrors that could befall Jewish teachers who step out of line. I was depressed, and I left soon after.

On my way out I saw Anthony Grey coming up from the loo, still looking for all the world like the undertaker. He gave me a short, tight smile and went back to the meeting, obviously bored beyond words..

STOP PRESS: Heathmen and Younger Men

BLACKPOOL: More than 30 delegates from the Conservative Party conference turned up for a discussion on homosexuality run by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality during the party’s annual conference here.

Most of the delegates at the meeting were Young Conservatives and an informal resolution was passed asking the Government to think of lowering the age of gay male consent from 21 to 16.

Among those taking part were Toby Ryde, CHE’s vice-chairman, Gini Bone, of CHE’s London Women% Group and Ian Harvey, former Tory MP for Harrow, and non-executive vice-president of CHE.

Although no firm proposals came out of the meeting, a spokesman for CHE told Gay News: “We were very pleased with the meeting.”

Lord Porn Lashes Back

Pornography, Obscenity and Gays

19721001-01The law as it stands makes certain kinds of published material ‘obscene’, and therefore illegal, if, in the opinion of the jury, that material tends to ‘deprave and corrupt’ the people who might read it or see it.

There has been considerable dissention, not least in legal circles, over what depravity and corruption is, and how its effects can be measured. I would contend that propaganda which, in order to make a case for certain views, distorts what truth it sees where it does not ignore it outright, which would contain and condemn sexual expression within confines pleasing only to its authors, which seeks, in effect, to pervert natural, free and honest human sexuality in literature, art, the cinema into the narrow confines of heterosexual marriage only, is pornographic within that definition.

19721001-03The Longford Report on Pornography is just such a book. Although the enquiry was a totally independent one (ie set up by individuals not a government body), it has received assistance from government sources and has been aided (for which thanks are offered) by the police.

As regards gays, the book is a total distortion of the truth and perpetuates all the myths about us, despite evidence from CHE in the person of lan Harvey. The only suggestion offered as regards gays is that, if we are prepared to seek it out, we ought to be allowed our wank literature. We are one more ‘perversion’ along with prostitution, bestiality pederasty, sado-masochism, though none of these are explored, but accepted as such. Likewise, the terms ‘normal’ and ‘decent’ pepper the book without any exploration of their meaning or implication. They are taken to mean heterosexual intercourse within marriage and chastity before (despite the fact that more than one ‘witness’ underscores the impossibility of this).

The inquisitors themselves clearly state the propoganda intention of the inquiry, and therefore the book.

HOW FAR CAN WE GO ?

“These were the terms of reference of the committee: ‘to see what means of tackling the problem of Pornography would command general support’.” In short, they accepted the existence of a problem and the ‘need’ to do something about it. Their only concern was ‘how far can we go and get away with it.’ (my quotes). That alone destroys any confidence one might have had in any conclusion they might produce. This is not a serious enquiry into porif and its effects – it is a political exercise by a minority in an attempt to impose their views on the majority, and should be read as such. As should Mein Kampf, and Das Kapital. This is the Festival of Lighters handbook.

“Hard pornography is intended to appeal to the person who wishes to go well beyond simply acquiring some erotic literature. It builds its own market by appealing quite unashamedly to various groups of inadequate of sexually maladjusted people.” That, among others, is us, of course.

As regards children, they accept the common attitude that a child’s introduction to sex is the prerogative of the parent. They know, but hardly take account of, the refusal or reluctance of most parents to undertake this duty. They nowhere mention the obvious point that a child ought not to need ‘introduction’ to sex, but that it ought to be an open and freely stated part of his/her life from birth onwards. On the contrary, they seem to want to keep the child unaware of any sexual relationship between his/her parents, until the child becomes disturbed enough about his/her developing sexuality to want to ask about it. They stress sex as essentially a private and family matter, not a subject for public discussion or display. They want parents to have the right to keep the child in ignorance by withdrawing them from sex-education lessons.

Great play is made at one point of the fact that the BBC sex education series gave no stress to moral standards, to the point that the pregnant woman in the film wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.

In short, they want the right to pervert, repress, and distort a child to suit their politics. They would destroy a child’s right to freedom, development and love.

Their definition of pornography is wider than most of us would accept. They see no value or service in magazines such as Forum, since these do not moralise as they would. They see ‘sex-aids as a further ‘corruption’. They see the whole field of sexual education and pornography as an addiction, leading happily married men and women (who defines their happiness?) to experiment with other forms of sexual activity which, without porn, they might have remained ignorant of. They see it as ‘perverting’ children away from ‘normal’ (ie hetero/married) sex to experiment with ‘perversions’. They ignore the diversity and richness of the human-sexual spectrum, and would repress and confine human development.

Despite the confusion in the evidence, and the examples of the American report and the Danish experiment, they cannot accept that pornography can suffer from over-exposure, and that it might in the process do some good. They point out that, since pornography is ‘bad’ (which they have failed to prove), it must have a bad effect.

After all, they say, who can argue that what people see and read does not affect them? Why else, they ask, do advertisers spend millions of pounds on television time and display space? Why do parents and the state spend so much to educate a child? Because all these have an effect.

Firstly, as I have noted, they have failed to prove any conclusive effect one way or other in the majority of cases.

Secondly, advertising is designed to persuade – porn, along with other kinds of depiction, merely shows. Of course literature has an effect – there would be no point in writing it otherwise. But if a display of pornographic material affects someone (ie arouses them), that arousal or offence is their reaction, it comes from them, not the porn. It does not create that person’s sexuality, simply exposes it.

As a second line of defence. they point out that even the people who deny the corrupting effect of pornography agree with the sanctions preventing the ridicule and abuse of coloured people, so doesn’t that prove ‘an effect’? They ignore the fact that such sanctions exist to prevent damaging lies from creating a damaging effect on the way people live together. Do they regard the depicted sex-act as a lie? Even if a woman wears a wedding ring?

Perhaps the nastiest and most unreasonable part of a thoroughly nasty and unreasonable book is the attack that Malcolm Muggeridge, disguised as the Sub-Committee on Broadcasting, perpetrates upon the BBC. The report itself, in other sections (notably Frank Gillard’s refutation of the Sub-Committee report) shows up the lack of investigation, thought or concern for truth of Mr Muggeridge, so I do not propose even to discuss these lies. Unfortunately, they are well-phrased;

“‘Family viewing’ (the practice of placing more adult programmes after 9pm), therefore, like family planning, more aptly describes a
process which is destructive of family life.” Need I say more?

The result of this superficial and prejudiced ‘enquiry’ is a proposed Bill to change the law on obscene publications. These changes would appear to have been discussed with the police beforehand.

A publication (or programme, or film) would become obscene if “its effect, taken as a whole, is to outrage contemporary standards of decency or humanity accepted by the public at large.” In other words, once more publishers will not be able to discover whether they are breaking the law or not until the jury decides. Thus the police will have an even freer hand to close things they do not like. To them, the existence of a gay newspaper could be an outrage.

It would remove the defence of literary merit or public good – on the grounds that if it is well written it must be more effectively corrupting!

It would increase the penalties for everything.

If it ever became law it would be an artistic disaster.

I note with apprehension that shortly after the publication of this report the police chose to raid the least offensive of porn – the Paul Raymond magazines.

The only thing I can say in conclusion is that the report continually equates porn with Nazi anti-semitic propoganda. I would have thought that this report itself was open to a not unsimilar charge. More than that it is not necessary to say.