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.

The Other Side

The ABZ of Pornography. Edited by Richard Michael, with illustrations by John Kent (creator of ‘Varoomshka’). Published by Panther, 50p.

The first comment I have to make about this book is that it is 10p cheaper than Lord Longford’s thick and wearisome Porn Report. Secondly it’s a good deal more informative about what is said to be pornographic and obscene than Lord L’s effort and is considerably less biased, which is another merit it has over its rival.

Whilst the official Report waffles on endlessly, this book tells you ‘Everything you wanted to know about pornography (but were scared to ask)’, to quote the blurb from the back cover. And writers and editor attempt to shed a little light on this sensitive subject in the only rational way possible – with a little humour. At the same time it answers a lot of questions put by those of you who have been wondering what all the fuss has recently been about, and also provides some historical facts about porn and its rise to fame as the present day moralists need for salvation ‘red herring’.

If the whole overblown issue of porn and its corrupting consequences hasn’t bored you to death yet, and you want the facts without an imposed halo on them, I thoroughly recommend this literary venture that tries to set the record straight without all the righteousness and ‘doom is at hand’ theatricals.

By the way, did you know that Kinsey found ‘one male in twelve seems to have used an animal for sexual gratification at some time…’

The Other Love

Continued from front page

19720914-06This book, like Mr. Montgomery Hyde’s books about Wilde, is really a plea for tolerance from the rest of society towards a group of people who really need no more help from society than for it to realise that we are human beings with a great capacity for love and happiness which is so often stifled by fear; their fear, and its result in us. This study deals with the repression throughout history of this social group through ignorance, stupidity and fear. Because of the Puritan strain in our society they try to make us feel guilty, even now, about the freedom to love. Bernard Shaw said of Oscar Wilde that at the time of his trials he pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the ‘offences’ of which he was accused because he did not feel ‘guilty.’

19720914-07The historical survey covers a range from Saxon times virtually to the present day but deals unfortunately with men only. Apparently women are more difficult to obtain information about. The three really important events were the changes of the law; that of Henry VIII’s time when in 1533 he made ‘the detestable and abominable Vice of Buggery committed with mankind or beast’ a felony and so punishable by death and forfeit of property. This law continued in force until 1861 when the abolition of the death penalty for ‘offences against the person’, was commuted to penal servitude for life or any term not less than ten years at the discretion of the court. This, plus the additional clause in the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, was in force until its repeal in 1967.

The Criminal Law Amendment Act was really a mistake. It was originally concerned with the protection of young girls against juvenile prostitution and white slavery, its principal aim being to raise the ‘age of consent’ from thirteen years of age to sixteen. It was during the committee stage, ‘taken late at night on August 6th, 1885’, that the amendment clause was inserted by Henry Labouchere, a Liberal-Radical M.P.

ANY MALE PERSON WHO, IN PUBLIC OR PRIVATE, COMMITS, OR IS A PARTY TO THE COMMISSION OF, OR PROCURES OR ATTEMPTS TO PROCURE THE COMMISSION BY ANY MALE PERSON OF, ANY ACT OF GROSS INDECENCY WITH ANOTHER MALE PERSON, SHALL BE GUILTY OF A MISDEMEANOUR, AND BEING CONVICTED THEREOF, SHALL BE LIABLE, AT THE DISCRETION OF THE COURT, TO BE IMPRISONED FOR ANY TERM NOT EXCEEDING ONE YEAR WITH OR WITHOUT HARD LABOUR.

The Attorney-General, Sir Henry James, amended the original penalty to two years as a maximum penalty and as soon as the Royal Assent had been given there began a spate of correspondence in the newspapers; both legal and lay,… a learned Recorder dubbed it ‘The Blackmailer’s Charter’, and an eminent Q.C. prophesying that ‘juries would refuse to convict where the alleged acts were in private and not visible to any member of the public’.

‘On the other hand, those interested in the welfare of young girls welcomed the act so warmly (and indeed it was an excellent Act apart from section II), and it was so clearly impossible to do anything except let the law take its course, that after a few weeks the clamour died down and the public interest became centred upon some more savoury topic.’

So wrote Sir Travers Humphreys in 1948, one of the junior counsel during the trials of Oscar Wilde.

The new act was used extensively during the 82 years of its life, but apart from the Wilde trials which set several legal precedents and were until 1948 surrounded by an aura of mystery to all but the collector of rare books or privately printed editions, the period which I find the most intriguing is that of the early fifties, which some of us will remember slightly, but whose intrigues and scandals meant very little more than salacious newspaper reading.

It was in March 1951 that the drive against homosexuals became really intensified. This was due to the defection of the two British diplomats, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, to the Soviet Union. Maclean had been serving in a senior position in the British Embassy in Washington and is believed to have been blackmailed by Burgess and ‘Kim’ Philby – both Burgess and Maclean being homosexual, into handing over ‘top-secret’ information, to which he had access from American sources, to the Russians.

The Americans, apparently very concerned over Maclean’s sudden disappearance with Burgess, which had resulted from a ‘tip-off’ from Philby. They approached the British to weed out any of the known homosexuals from Government Service as bad security risks, as was being done also in the States. Macarthyism was ‘in full-swing’ over there too. The British campaign reached its height in the latter part of ‘53 and early ‘54, getting a good boost from the New Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Nott-Bower, who swore he would ‘rip the cover off all London’s filth spots’, according to one report. In October 1953 it was reported the Home Office had instructed the police to institute ‘a new drive against male vice.’

The new Home Secretary, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, (later Lord Kilmuir), had this to say in December 1953;

Homosexuals in general, are exhibitionists and pjoselytizers, (i.e. makers of converts!) and a danger to others, especially the young. So long as I hold the office of Home Secretary, I shall give no countenance to the view that they should not be prevented from being such a danger.

In the months that followed, many young men were trapped by the use of AGENTS PROVACATEURS. Peter Wildeblood in his excellent book, Against the Law, quoted here, witnessed two in action:

One night, when I had been working late at the office, I was walking along the Brompton Road towards my flat. Outside a closed public-house in a side turning I noticed two men loitering. A man aged about seventy, with white hair, walked past them and went into a lavatory at the side of the public-house. He was followed in by the younger of the two men. Almost immediately there was a sound of scuffling and shouting, and the older of the two men whom I had first noticed also ran into the lavatory. He and his companion dragged the old man out, each holding him by an arm. He was struggling and crying.

My first thought was that they must be local ‘roughs’ who were trying to rob the old man, so I went towards them and shouted at them to let him go, or I would call the police. The younger one said: ‘We are Police Officers.’ A woman who had joined us on the street corner asked what the old man had done, and was told that he had been ‘making a nuisance of himself’, He had now begun to struggle violently, and the two detectives pushed him up against the railings of the Cancer Hospital, outside which we were standing. His head became wedged between two iron spikes, and he started to scream. The detectives asked if one of us would ring up Chelsea Police Station and ask for a van to be sent: ‘Just tell them we’re at the top of Dovehouse Street, they’ll know what It’s about!’

The woman said: ‘You can do your own dirty work, damn you.’ It seemed to me, however, that the old man might be seriously injured if he continued to struggle, so I went into a telephone box a few yards away, telephoned the police station and spoke to the duty sergeant. He was evidently expecting a message, because the van arrived almost immediately. The old man, who by this time was lying on the pavement in a pool of blood, was picked up and taken away …

Of all the many cases which came before the courts, none caused as much stir as that involving Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. Others involved were his cousin, Michael Pitt-Rivers, a film director, Kenneth Hume and Peter Wildeblood, at that time diplomatic correspondent for the Daily Mail.

Lord Montagu and Kenneth Hume appeared before Winchester Assizes on December 1953, accused of indecently assaulting two boy scouts (employed at his stately home as guides) who had gone with him and Hume to look for a camera he’d left at his beachhut. While there they had a bathe. He reported the loss of his camera to the police and while they were questioning the two boys they elicited an accusation of indecent assault from the two men.

While ‘enquiries were going on’ and rumours were making social life difficult for him, and particularly his sister, about to get married, Montagu went away to France and then to America. As soon as he heard there was a warrant out for his arrest he flew home, surrendering himself and his passport to the authorities. This proved to be an unwise move.

The prosecution sought to prove that instead of flying direct from Paris to New York on September 25th, as he swore in his evidence he had done, he had returned to England for a brief visit of a couple of days and had flown to America from England on September 25th. In support of this the prosecution pointed to an entry in his passport which seemed to indicate that he had been stamped out of Boulogne by the French Passport authorities on September 23rd. Montagu vigorously denied this, saying that he had not been in Boulogne for several years, and on examining the passport the judge pronounced that the date had been altered, the figure ‘5’ having been apparently changed from ‘4’.

Montagu was acquitted on the serious charge of committing an unnatural offence but on the lesser charge of indecent assault the jury disagreed and the Director of Public Prosecutions decided that he should be tried again.

Three weeks later the arrests of Pitt-Rivers and Wildeblood took place, the police searching their premises without warrants. They were charged with several specific indecency charges and of ‘conspiring’ with Montagu to commit them. This was highly prejudicial to Montagu’s pending second trial. This practice had been severely condemned by the Court of Criminal Appeal in 1948, when Mr. Justice Humphreys had remarked:

– if the law of criminal conspiracy is to be invoked, then each count of the indictment should be framed so as to enable the jury to put their fingers on the specific point of the conspiracy as to which they are satisfied that the particular defendant is proved to have been implicated and to convict him of that offence only. It is an essential feature of the criminal law that the accused person should be able to tell from the indictment the precise nature of the charge or charges against him so as to be in a position to put forward his defence and to direct his evidence to meet them.

Wildeblood and Pitt-Rivers were specifically accused of offences with two R.A.F. men, Edward McNally and John Reynolds, again at the beach-hut near Beaulieu, and at the Pitt-Rivers estate in Dorset. Wildeblood, his friend McNally and Reynolds, used the hut for a holiday in 1952 and on their First night, Montagu gave a party to welcome them

It was a small party, consisting of Montagu and some friends he had brought down who were at a house party at Beaulieu. It was this that the Press built up into a Bacchanalian orgy while reporting the trial.

Montagu, Pitt-Rivers and Wildeblood were tried together at Winchester Assizes in March 1954. The charges in respect of the boy scouts .. were not included in the indictment, since neither Pitt-Rivers not Wildeblood had nay-thing to do with these .. The principal witnesses against the defendants were the two airmen, both of whom had been thoroughly intimidated:

It also came out that Reynolds was interrogated by the police for a total of eighteen hours and that McNally had been persuaded to ‘confess’ on being told that Reynolds had already ‘squealed’ … ‘The fact that neither of them was charged with any offence’, Wildeblood afterwards wrote, ‘proves, I think, conclusively that the Crown in this case was not even concerned with the administration of the law as it stood. It was simply out to put Montagu behind bars.’

It did, Pitt-Rivers and Wildeblood got 18 months, Montagu 12.

Some good came out of this, however. One thing was Wildebloods own book which I have been forced to read again after reviewing this book; a very powerful evication of the period: the other was that the Sunday Times devoted its leading article in the next issue after the conviction at Winchester entitled Law and Hypocrisy. This was followed by an equally powerful article in the New Statesman on The Police and the Montagu Case. These were not before the Church had put in a plea for the reform of the law, even when the charges were still pending at Winchester – a blow for the police. This had come from The Church of England Council for Moral Welfare.

The Government eventually bowed to the storm of criticism. Just a month after the Montagu trial the Home Secretary, along with the Secretary of State for Scotland, agreed to the appointment of a Departmental Committee to examine and report on the law of homosexual offences and the ‘parallel’ problem of the law relating to prostitution!

Questions in Parliament seem to have given Conservative peers virtual heart attacks. In the House of Lords, Earl Winterton, then in his seventies, after apologising for bringing forward ‘this nauseating subject’ castigated the Church of England for publishing the report of its Moral Welfare Council and praised the police for their recent actions, barking back to Wilde: ‘It may well be said that the Oscar Wilde case was a moral purge, and it may be that certain recent cases will have the same effect. If this be so, the whispering campaign against the police, which is going on very strongly, and sometimes in circles which ought to know better, should cease..’

The struggle was carried on by a number of people who met incredible opposition on all sides. In their speeches at the time they said things which are now liable to strike us quite amusing or amaze us with their naivete. But the most important thing to remember is that they were fighting for our future dignity. Even so I still can’t help smiling when I read phrases like:

‘These people are self-eliminating. They do not breed. They do very little harm if left to themselves .. ’ (‘makes us sound like rabbits.’) On the other hand we had remarks like this from Field-Marshall Montgomery of Alamein:

To condone unnatural offences in male persons over 21, or indeed in male persons of any age, seems to me to be utterly wrong .. – My main reason is that a weakening of the law will strike a blow at all those devoted people who are working to improve the moral fibre of the youth of this country. And heaven knows, it wants improving! Lord Kilmuir spoke of ‘the proselytisation which goes out from sodomitic societies and buggery clubs which everyone knows extsts,’ while Goddard expressed the conviction that if Arran’s Bill were passed it would be ‘a charter for these bugger’s clubs, ‘and they would consequently be able to spring up all over the place.’

Apparently no evidence could be discovered to prove the two distinguished lawyer’s statements about the existence of the bugger’s clubs, and when invited by the Homosexual Law Reform Society, ‘declined or were unable to do so.

The Departmental Committee, known as the Wolfenden Committee eventually produced its report in 1957 and although the Conservative Government of the time showed some reluctance to implement its suggestions, a prominent Labour front-bencher, Lord Pakenham (now Earl of Longford), spoke in favour in the House of Lords.

Things were still moving too slowly and so in 1958 the Homosexual Law Reform Society was formed with many famous supporters. Th They sent a letter to The Times in March, with about thirty well known signatures. More letters followed. However the Government still continued to take its time. Eventually, over a year after its publication after some prodding at the beginning of the session, the Government put down a motion in the Commons ‘that this House takes note of the Report,’ an ineffective and inconclusive motion expressly designed to avoid a vote.

In 1960 the Society held a meeting at The Caxton Hall in Westminster. Shortly before it, Mr. Butler, The Home Secretary received a deputation from the Society and informed its members that, since:

‘the public had not shown its feelings in the matter,’ it would be premature for the Government to introduce legislation.

Matters were further complicated by another spate of ‘spy cases’; the Vassall affair in 1962 seemed to be the culmination of them which had included Gordon Lonsdale and the Profumo affair. At the end of this period Mr. Macmillan resigned. He was succeeded by his Foreign Secretary, Sir Alec Douglas Home; He saw ‘no reason to think there had been a significant change in the balance of opinion since that time (the motion was heavily defeated in a debate in 1960), and I know that the Home Secretary, who has been keeping the matter under view, agrees with me.’

Further interruptions included the General Election when Labour was returned with a majority of five. We all know that it was not until July 27th 1967 that the Sexual Offences Act received the Royal Assent.

In moving that ‘this Bill do now pass’, Lord Arran said:

When we first debated these affairs – and how long ago it seems! – I said that your Lordships had it in your power to remove fear from the hearts of men. This you have done. It was this House that gave the lead. Because of the Bill now to be enacted, perhaps a million human beings will be able to live in greater peace. I find this an awesome and marvellous thing … My Lords, Mr. Wilde was right: the road has been long and the martyrdoms many, monstrous and bloody. Today, please God! sees the end of that road.

Mr. Montgomery Hyde’s book is a good account of the years leading up to the passing of the Act in 1967 and the years immediately following but I would now like to see a sequel dealing with our hopes for the future and the way these achieved. Many older homosexuals think that now the law has changed they do not need any thing further. They are free to live together as they choose, so long as they are over 21 etc., and can do so now without fear of summary arrest and search without warrant. But it is very important that the element who are dedicated to general liberation should agitate for those who are to come later. There is certainly nothing to be complacent about. We are bound to be unpopular. Oscar Wilde, writing quite some time before his trial had this to say:

Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent among them. That is why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance towards civilisation.

This book is about an advance towards civilisation. We have come a long way since the | days of the capital offence but we have a long way still to go.