Monday, August 13, 2012

boycott the bigot

Last weekend was Pride across the UK. Despite the best efforts of the Mayor of London, hundreds of thousands of people paraded in towns and cities across the country.

Here in Leeds the celebrations were tempered somewhat by a Twitter storm emanating from a homophobic outburst by the proprietor of several city centre venues. Lewis Cuddy is co-owner of two pubs, The Wrens and the Central, as well as late-night bar Milo's.

So once again it's time for lots of people to celebrate the fact that they are all socially unable to be normal.Well done. When is Leeds first peado pride event? Or is it just the same thing. Bonkers.

Instantly confronted and insulted, he made no retraction. With his privacy settings turned right up, he thought his comments wouldn't be seen by the wider public and his customers. He seems unaware of the ability to tweet a screengrab.

As his comments circulated one or two of his friends defended him saying he had apologised, yet couldn't provide a link or quote to prove it. Challenged on Facebook about it he did not apologise in any way.

It's my bad for writing what I did but it was a status that was meant for my close friends. I assumed all my friends would take it in the same humour as all my other posts. I write constantly on my facebook wall with stupid comments and sometime close to the bone comments (as todays post) which sometimes get a reaction. No harm meant but I can see why a few people have taken it personal. I feel saddened if this cas caused any genuine hurt to anyone.

As Tom Flay points out, 'close to the bone' implies that there is truth in saying all LGBT people are unable to be normal and may well be paedophiles. He does not retract his sentiment at all, nor explain why he feels that way. He merely regrets that is has been made public, as tags on being saddened if - if! - it has been hurtful to anyone.

Like a man deciding to redouble his digging rate to get out of a hole, several days later Cuddy posted on Leeds Music Forum.

Good morning. My name is Lewis Cuddy and I am responsible for writing the said comment on my private Facebook wall.

I have tried my best to keep out of this whole saga but as someone who posts on here I think it is only fair to explain my actions.

Any of my close friends know that I have a massive problem with gay pride, not because of gay people but the attitude of the council to street parties. I asked the council last year after the leeds pride even on how I would go about closing the street outside milo for a massive band day. I was told in no uncertain way than unless it was for a minority event would this be allowed.

This is what angers me, why should a minority have different rights to the majority. Maybe saying that paedophiles should get their own minority event was a bit strong but clearly the people who my comments were aimed at would understand.

Grabbing a screen shot of something I wrote and taking it out of context is not only rude but a betrayal of friendship. Safe to say this person has been removed from my Facebook friends.

So quite simply that is it. Nothing more I can say.

Ps. To anyone who thinks I ruined the wrens, sorry. Without my investment and hard work the wrens would have been stripped out and closed down over a year ago. Probably just a rotting mess right now.

If we are to believe this reasoning - unmentioned for days in the aftermath of the initial tweet - then it shows an extraordinary ability to do logic gymnastics.

If his issue really is that Pride gets road closures of the kind he would like to have, surely his ire should be directed at the council who decide on these things, rather than one of the beneficiaries.

More to the point, why does he single out only one beneficiary? Many events get road closures in Leeds. There are far more LGBT people than amateur long distance runners, yet Leeds Half Marathon or the 10k Race For Life gets much greater road space. Where is Cuddy's bigoted rant about runners?
He says that maybe - maybe! - saying a paedophile event is equivalent to Pride is 'a bit strong'. He didn't only say that, though. He suggested they could already be one and the same thing. This is not just a homophobic attack but one that uses the darkest, most malevolent stereotypes. He maximises his contribution to the cancer of homophobia that ruins and even claims lives.

Later this month streets in Chapeltown will be full of the carnival. Will Cuddy be tweeting 'send the raping thieving n*****s back'?

As it stands, it seems his apoplexy at events in the city centre unorganised by is confined to Pride, and Pride alone. There is a well-known piece of pop psychology that says we know what virulent homophobia really says about a man's inner life.

But irrespective of who he is when he turns out the light, on the outside Lewis Cuddy is an unabashed homophobic bigot. As a publican he has a privileged position serving the community. It is incumbent on such people to serve everybody well. If you want to run a B and B but are a homophobe, tough. By the same token, public facilities such as pubs have no place in the hands of people who direct hate speech at a serious proportion of their clientele.

Beyond that, it's not about the LGBT people who walk through the doors at the Wrens or Milo's. It is, contrary to what Cuddy says, not something to 'take personal'. This isn't about individuals, this is about equality and freedom from fear and repression. An attack on the rights of anyone for their colour, sexuality, gender or any other aspect is an attack on equality itself.

That Cuddy seems too dimwitted to grasp that concept is disappointing. That he is not only prepared to add weight to bigotry but defend it is unforgivable. Whether he is an ideological bigot or just an overconfident, loudmouthed, hard-of-thinking bigot is irrelevant.

By his steadfast refusal to apologise, let alone examine his discriminatory position, he proves himself unworthy to hold a place in a community that wants to have tolerance and equality. Anyone who shares those values should not be giving him their money. It's time to boycott his pubs and get anyone who isn't a homophobic bigot to to the same.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

legal sex is a sexcrime

A couple of years ago I interviewed Tom Robinson about his 1976 song Glad To Be Gay. He told me of the police repression being meted out to gay men in London at the time he composed it.

Outrageous shit was going on. There were Surrey bankers dressed up in leather getting handcuffed and kicked in the backs of Black Marias, who’d then plead guilty to causing an affray so as not to cause a fuss and get their face in their local paper back home. Running in a gay man on trumped-up charges was apparently known as a ‘soft’ arrest – they could be pretty sure of a conviction and no trouble afterwards.

Fast forward a generation and, whilst being gay drew less state opprobrium, it was only if you kept it to yourself, were in private and not kinky. In the early 1990s £3m was spent on Operation Spanner, investigating and prosecuting a group of sixteen gay men for having pretty extreme BDSM sex. It had all happened in private, it was all consensual, nobody had complained of any injuries, or of anything else for that matter.

The judge ruled that consent was not a defence, therefore the men had assaulted one another and they were found guilty. He handed down sentences of up to four and a half years. Lives were ruined.

We can now jump the same timespan again and, with all the legal and social changes in the status of non-heterosexuals, you might have thought pointless persecution was over. But last year Michael Peacock was prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act for making DVDs of extreme gay sex.

None of the acts were illegal but like a fussy old aunt from the 1950s the Obscene Publications Act says, 'I don't mind them doing it but I don't want them to talk about it in front of me'. It is making material likely to 'corrupt and deprave' that is illegal, even if what it shows is not illegal in itself.

As Johnnie Marbles said at the time

the men were shoving their hands up each others arses, pissing in each others mouths and using each others inflated balls as punching bags, and having a brilliant time doing it.

I’ll happily admit that the detailed descriptions of these acts, tweeted from the courtroom, made me feel squeamish on several occasions. But so what? Each time I so much as hear about X Factor I’m overcome with a deep, nauseous sense of despair, but for some reason I can’t fathom, nobody ever suggests banning it. Which is odd as, if you live in Britain with functioning eyes, you’re pretty much forced to know about X Factor, but anal fisting mostly keeps itself to itself.

If men were having their urethras dilated on the cover of More magazine, or the screams of men having their bollocks electrocuted was Christmas number one, I might understand the prosecution. Instead, Simon Cowell’s abomination (the show’s pre-production title) assaults me at every turn, while my first knowledge of Michael Peacock’s sex life came from his trial.

These kinds of prosecutions have been going on all the time as a modern equivalent of the 70s soft arrests Robinson talked about, the charges themselves serve the required purpose irrespective of the verdict, as Marbles astutely pointed out.

Michael Peacock has been severely punished for not committing a crime. The vagaries of the process itself – the soul-churning moment of arrest, the months of worry that followed, the endless meetings with lawyers... These are standard ways the process punishes people, but in Peacock’s case they were coupled with revelations about his private life which must have been excruciating. Even the most vanilla of you probably wouldn’t want your mum hearing every detail of what you do in bed, particularly not if you were telling her from the dock

They know you're likely to plead guilty and keep your head down. But Michael Peacock was the first person to plead not guilty for this kind of stuff and go for trial by jury and win.

His acquittal should have been a death sentence for such intrusive prosecutions that are nothing more than prudishness with a nasty seam of homophobia.

But there are people in the police and CPS who specialise in this stuff. They'd be out of a job if we let consenting adults do what they want with their own bodies in private. Having had Michael Peacock's smackdown for the Obscene Publications Act, the state has rummaged through the statutes laws and hit back with the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.

It's a law from the last Labour government. Section 63 outlaws the possession of images depicting sexual violence, carrying a sentence of up to three years imprisonment. The definition is a sexual image that shows – or realistically appears to show – something that threatens a person’s life, or is likely to result in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals. As the whole point of much BDSM is to play out extreme roles, photos of it could certainly appear to show such violence.

Home Office minister Vernon Coaker explained at the time

the vast majority of people find these forms of violent and extreme pornography deeply abhorrent

In other words, if most people don’t like doing it then we should jail those that do it. The Act inconsistently failed to recriminalise homosexual acts or ban the eating of brussel sprouts, even though most people don’t like doing these things.

As it makes crimes out of things that aren't a crime, it was only a matter of time before the law was used against consenting adults for filming acts that are not in themselves illegal. That time has come.

Simon Walsh must have seemed like a soft target. Just as 1950s blackmailers would approach prominent men with secret gay lives, just as 1970s police would arrest those Surrey bankers in gay bars, so a contemporary gay barrister with what he himself calls 'a strange sex life' is ripe for the nicking.

If you're wondering why he was targeted by police, consider the fact that he was a barrister who prosecuted police officers accused of disciplinary offences. Let that be a warning to anyone who wants to challenge police corruption.

Walsh's lawyer Myles Jackman has blogged a clear rundown of the charges and legal aspects of the case. No pornography was found on any of Walsh's work computers. No pornography was found on his home computers either. Police had to go into a Hotmail account that Walsh used for his sexual activities, looking for anything to charge him for. Initially this included a picture of a man in a gas mask, supossedly illegal on the grounds that such a breathing aid might actually might cause death by asphyxiation.

As Heresiarch's Dungeon describes, Walsh did not make DVDs or websites. There is one picture sent to him of a young man who, the prosecution allege, may be under 18. It is not clear if Walsh even saw that picture.

Apart from that solitary contested image, we're talking about consenting adults photographing themselves committing legal acts, then sharing the pictures amongst themselves them and keeping them in a way that nobody else has access to. What proportion of the adult population do you think that could apply to?

For this, Walsh has had his career demolished and is currently on trial. He is being splashed across the press including allegations of paedophilia in - of course - the Daily Mail. As with Michael Peacock, even if he is acquitted he has been almost as severely punished as if he were found guilty.

Rather like Robert Stewart, convicted for masturbating alone in his locked bedroom with a bicycle, the law is used to punish people whose sexual tastes don't conform to what we are told is normal.

But, as the internet era has proven, exclusively normal sexual tastes are actually so rare that they constitute a kind of deviant fetish in themselves. If this kind of attack and social dismemberment can happen to Robert Stewart or Simon Walsh, it can happen to most people you know.