Tag Archives: lgbt

Poppers to be Spared UK Ban

The British government has announced that poppers – a recreational drug – will be exempt from the coming clampdown on “legal highs”, to be introduced next month.

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Poppers are popular for use during sex, and are especially widely used by gay men. In a recent debate on the bans, gay Tory MP Crispin Blunt outed himself as a poppers user. The government reversal comes following an intervention by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), which advised that poppers may not be a drug under the definition used in the new law.

It is to be celebrated that at least one drug will be spared the ban, but the exception only serves to highlight the ludicrous nature of the law. At a stroke, thousands of diverse substances will be made illegal to supply. The law is not drafted to deal with harmful substances, but all psychoactive substances, regardless of whether they are harmful or not – this makes a mockery of government claims that the bans are an attempt at harm reduction.

In fact, such bans tend to increase, rather than reduce drug harm, by criminalising the supply chain and reducing government ability to regulate drugs. Users often substitute one drug for another – so for example, cocaine usage fell when mephedrone was legally available. This fact didn’t stop the then Labour government from banning mephedrone (against the advice of the ACMD), no doubt to the relief of the cocaine trade.

British governments have a long history of pointless – and often dangerous – drug bans. Questionable decisions in recent years include the bans on magic mushrooms and khat – neither considered to be dangerous. But they have never, until now, tried to ban so many substances at a stroke. The repercussions are impossible to predict; but one can guess that again, the cocaine trade will benefit.

We can be relieved that some common sense was seen in the poppers exemption. But common sense and government drug policy are rarely found in each other’s company. At a time when cannabis is being legalised in a number of countries, Britain feels increasingly backward.

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The Kiddle Search Engine: Anti-Sex Censorship Dressed as Child Protection

The new Kiddle Search Engine is ‘protecting’ teenagers from learning about sex, sexuality and the human body.

Readers of this blog will be aware that attempts at anti-sex censorship are usually dressed up as ‘child protection’. You might remember, for example, the ‘porn filters‘ that were rolled out by ISPs to protect the little dears from all that horrible pornography; yet in practise blocked everything from sex education to drug information and self-harm support: things that are vital for teenagers to access.

Again, the current government consultation on ‘protecting children online’ is actually aimed at preventing everyone – including adults – from accessing porn that doesn’t comply with UK censorship laws.

In short: when you hear ‘online child protection’, you can expect the exact opposite: defining teens as ‘children’ and then blocking access to vital information and resources is NOT protection: it’s abuse.

So when the new ‘child protection’ search engine from Kiddle turned up, I was suspicious. And, it turns out, rightly so. As Jane Fae writes in Gay Star News (link below), the search engine believes that any terms related to homosexuality are unacceptable. This is not accidental. Searching for ‘LGBT’, for example, returns:

“You have entered an LGBT related search query. Please realize that while Kiddle has nothing against the LGBT community, it’s hard to guarantee the safety of all the search results for such queries. We recommend that you talk to your parent or guardian about such topics”

But the restrictions aren’t confined to gay or trans issues. Searching for ‘breast cancer’ returns:

“Oops, looks like your query contained some bad words. Please try again!”

We live in a country so determined to stop teens seeing nipples that they can’t learn about breast cancer. This isn’t child protection: if a young person is old enough to search for LGBT information, they’re old enough to read the results. To tell a young person exploring their sexuality to “talk to your parent or guardian” is beyond insensitive.

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Read Jane Fae’s article here: The new ‘Kiddle’ search engine for children is homophobia at its most creepy and dangerous – Gay Star News

Frankie Mullin on sex work and gentrification – 30th January

Frankie Mullin is one of the most informed and prolific journalists writing about sexuality in the UK today. In her work for Vice, the Independent, and the Guardian, she has challenged media myths around porn addiction and casual sex, and given a voice to sex workers and victims of sexual violence. She has defended the right to family life of asylum seekers and dicussed the lack of qualified psychological support for LGBT people. She was instrumental in raising awareness of the recently defunct ATVOD’s damaging crusade against independent porn producers.

On 30th January 4pm, Mullin will speak at a panel discussion hosted by the Camden People’s Theatre on gentrification and the crowding out of safe working spaces for sex workers for which she has written a number of cutting-edge reports. The event is highly recommended for those who are in or able to reach London that afternoon.

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Cross-posted from Backlash

Censorship Laws Used To Attack Homosexuals

In September 2011, a man accessed a legal gay porn site from a hotel room’s computer. A subsequent guest saw the site listed in the browser history and (for reasons best known to herself) complained to the hotel management. Six months later, the man was arrested and his computer seized. Police later charged him with making indecent images of children and possession of an image of a child being abused.

This week, the charges were dropped. The images were all found to come from legal web sites and were of young-looking men, but not of children. What is truly bizarre is that the police had not bothered to carry out the most basic checks on their evidence before presenting the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Neither had the CPS questioned the poor state of the evidence before deciding to take the case to court. Meanwhile, a man had been publicly linked to child abuse – a slur that ruins lives, whether or not it has any substance.

The case collapsed because the man’s lawyer, Myles Jackman, carried out the basic evidence-checking that the authorities had failed to do, and found that the images came from a site that had retained model identification information under America’s USC 2257 law. Even when he presented this evidence to the CPS, they failed to drop charges for several more months. After two years of having his name dragged through the mud (during which time his father died, never seeing the outcome of the case), the man was exonerated.

Jackman believes there is strong evidence that the CPS uses its powers to persecute gay men. The same appears to apply to the police. Indeed, after homosexuality was legalised, the police continued to raid gay venues, using the Obscene Publications Act (OPA) rather than the previous laws that had allowed them to directly target homosexuals.

In the infamous Spanner case of 1987, police prosecuted gay men who had videoed their sadomasochistic parties. Although their acts all took place in private, and between consenting adults, they were convicted of causing wounding and actual bodily harm; the judge ruled that a person had no right to consent be assaulted (although this ruling doesn’t seem to apply in TV shows like Jackass, which are deemed suitable for UK TV broadcast).

In the 2012 Michael Peacock case, another gay man was prosecuted, this time under the OPA, for distributing “obscene” gay S&M videos. OPA prosecutions usually result in a guilty plea to avoid the publicity and cost of a trial, but Peacock chose to defend himself (Jackman was his solicitor), and was found not guilty by a jury, in a decision that left the very basis of UK obscenity law in tatters.

Also in 2012, Simon Walsh (who is, you might have guessed, a gay man) was charged under the ridiculous 2008 “extreme porn” law, for possession of images of sex between consenting gay men; again, he was found not guilty, but only at the cost of his career and at huge personal expense.

The state, it appears, has not yet accepted that homosexuality is legal. Furthermore, the existence of a series of badly written censorship laws has given the police and CPS the power to harass people at will, whether for homophobic or other reasons. Laws drafted to protect children from abuse,  and to “protect” the public from obscene material (whether or not the public needs or wants such protection) are used as tools of persecution.

The original British censorship law, the OPA, seems to serve no useful purpose. Denmark scrapped its obscenity laws in 1969, yet Danish society failed to collapse. But in recent decades, an endless stream of new censorship laws have been added to the statute books, most of them more illiberal than the OPA, which at least allows the accused to request a trial by jury.

Somehow, most democracies survive without the weight of state censorship power that the British authorities have at their disposal. Indeed, some of these laws would be unconstitutional in the United States. Perhaps it is time to join the dots: Spanner, Peacock, Walsh, as well as this week’s events, as well as many others. Censorship appears to gain us nothing as a society, but it erodes the rights of law-abiding citizens, and especially those of sexual minorities.