If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Battering rams?

From the always-entertaining Daily Mail:

Police called to a home in a sleepy village were shocked to find a sex dungeon containing Nazi uniforms, whips, chains, sex toys and cattle prods. Officers were alerted after neighbours reported 'unusual behaviour' and 'strange sounds' coming from the four-bedroom semi in Lee Mill, Devon.

So neighbours see some unusual behaviour and hear some strange noises, and report this to the police. And the police turn up for a quiet word to see what is going on, right? Wrong:

Police arrived with battering rams to raid the home but a plain clothes officer knocked on the door and the residents let him in thinking he had an appointment.

Battering rams? Why the heck did they need battering rams? Armed drug dealers? People-traffickers? Somali pirates? No - they were raiding a knocking shop where people came to indulge their rather strange tastes. Still, no point in passing up a chance to look really macho when there's no serious threat to life and limb, eh boys?

The story itself, and the outraged tone of the Mail's reporting of it, show that we haven't really grown up much in the last hundred years. The tone of the report reminds me of how they used to report homosexual activity 30-40 years ago. And it makes me wonder how consistent we are when considering other people's sexual tastes. Look at the array of implements and the baffled face of the police officer:

It's the same look, and the same layout as when they display an IRA arms cache.

I ought to point out here that I don't understand any of this particular predilection. Pain, for me, either receiving or inflicting it, is the greatest turn-off I can imagine in sexual activity. And all that domination/submission stuff is a bit of a mystery too. The whips and the chains and the paddles and the studded leather underwear just make me want to laugh. But people do like this kind of thing and, if my informants are correct, some people like it a lot and can't get satisfaction any other way.

Fair enough. Not my cup of tea, but really none of my business. Even the Nazi armbands are symbolic, a bit of theatre, rather than a sign of the resurgence of a political movement bent on world domination.

So why does the state think it can barge into something like that with battering rams, and arrest two people? Am I right in thinking that if, say, it had been a gay club, or exclusively for Asian customers, the police would have been slightly more circumspect in their approach?

The neighbours objected to the number of visitors, and perhaps running a brothel in the midst of a quiet, respectable neighbourhood is not the best idea. On these grounds, I think I would agree. But there was more to it than that:

One neighbour said: '... It's disgusting. We just want them out and have a nice family move in.'

Ah, there we have it. It's 'disgusting'. The same word was used about the activities in the Spanner trial back in 1987, when 16 men were imprisoned for up to 4½ years for consensual sadomasochistic activity. I can't for the life of me see what justification the state has for punishing people for things they do in private and with others who consent to the activity, however mild or extreme.

That was, after all, the original argument for the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Fifty years ago, most people found homosexuality disgusting. But, so the argument went, if it's something that consenting adults to in the privacy of their own homes, what business is it of anyone else's what goes on? We seem to have got over our institutional 'disgust' about that particular tendency, but for others it seems that the opinions of our neighbours can still over-rule our rights to do what we want with our own rude bits.

I'm with Mrs Patrick Campbell: as long as they don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses, they can do what they like. And if it's a choice between freedom of action with your own body parts and "It's disgusting. We just want them out and have a nice family move in", then pass me the gimp mask.

Wrinkled Weasel has an interesting take on this here.


  1. So this is where the Moselys hang out!

  2. Dear old Max crossed my mind too. If he'd been caught in a gay bath-house, no-one would have batted an eyelid. Even Mark Oaten has been rehabilitated. But being spanked by German women in leather knickers - there's no coming back from that. Poor bugger. There's a hierarchy in these things, and I'm not sure there should be.

  3. I knew someone who worked with one of the ‘Spanner Trial’ defendants (so one removed from a friend of a friend, honest) – the charge was, apparently, ‘grievous bodily harm to himself’. It’s a funny old World.


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