Friday 13 January 2012

From VICE - Want to watch DVDs of people fisting each other?


By Joshua Haddow

Last week, some men in suits threatened your God-given freedom to wank over videos of men fisting each other's anuses, pissing in each other's mouths and punching each other powerfully in the balls. That you may not have put aside time in your busy schedule to do these things any time soon is beside the point. This is your freedom we're talking about – it's the difference between flying and falling (out of love with the idea of having a fist up your ass).
Luckily this guy, Myles Jackman, and others like him were not going to let The Man have his way. Myles is a lawyer specialising in extreme pornography and obscenity cases. Whilst extreme pornography may not be your cup of tea (though if it's not, that's a pretty confusing array of tabs you have open), Myles and his friends are not going to just sit back and watch you get censored up the arsehole while you're not looking. Especially if you'd rather have a fist up there instead, like Michael Peacock, the man who stood in the dock facing the ire/ confusion/ mirth of the British legal system last week.
Back in 2009, Michael had his house raided and was charged with distributing obscene DVDs after an undercover police officer saw an ad for them online and went to purchase one from Peacock's home in Finsbury Park. However, after watching Michael and other men fisting each other for hours on end, the jury found him innocent (yay!), lighting the way towards a more tolerant and less patronising sexual future for everyone, etc.
Michael raising a "victory fist"
I caught up with lawyer Myles to try to discuss the minefield that is Britain's obscenity laws. I started the interview feeling vanilla and intimidated, but Myles was jovial throughout. He was also extra-happy to talk candidly, having just done an interview with BBC Radio 4, who wouldn't let him say “fisting” or “watersports” on air :(
I tried to find some images to accompany the interview, but even though I looked really hard I couldn't find any images depicting hardcore sex on the internet. So instead, I've peppered throughout the transcript thinly-veiled pop references to fisting that have managed to slip through the morality net and out, onto the verdant plains of mainstream culture.
VICE: Hey Miles. I came across you whilst reading up on the Michael Peacock case. You seem to be the go-to guy when it comes to extreme porn and the law, is that right?
Myles: Well, yeah, I have a niche interest in sexual obscenity and extreme pornography law.
So you've seen a few things, then?
Sure, have you heard of the “Tiger Porn” case in Mould in Wales?
No. What happened there?
I defended that case. The defendant was prosecuted for two viral clips; one of which allegedly showed a person having sex with a tiger.
That sounds dangerous.
Yeah, when the clip was played back with the soundtrack, which the prosecution hadn't listened to, it turned out the tiger was a man in a costume who turned to the camera and said: “That beats advertising Frosties for a living.”
Hilarious. I didn't stumble upon that one, but while I was researching the trial last week I...
Do you mean the trial or the actual obscenities? [laughs loudly]
Erm. The trial.
Yeeeah... [laughs again]
What was your specific involvement in the trial?
I was the litigator for the defence.
Cool, what does Michael Peacock's innocence mean?
We now have an entirely new situation. It's a huge victory for sexual liberties, for consent, for adults. It shows essentially that the Obscene Publications Act of 1959 is not fit for the internet age.

Were there any highlights during the court proceedings?
I think the quote of the trial was when the prosecutor asked one of our experts, “Would you welcome an anal prolapse?”
It was fucking awesome.
Did the jury have to watch Michael's DVDs?
The jury and the judge did. The public gallery were allowed to, as well.
What was their reaction to the fisting?
I think to start with they were uncomfortable with having to watch a number of hours of gay fisting in front of 12 complete strangers. By the end, though, they were thoroughly bored.
They were bored by the fisting?
Yeah, I had to watch the full amount at Charing Cross police station, too. After 13 and a half hours, I discovered it's probably better in 20 or 30 minute bursts. Frankly, after 13 and a half hours, it began to get a bit too much.
Was it all male-on-male fisting?
It was all, in inverted commas, “gay”; so yeah it was all male-on-male. There was no vaginal fisting, or women fisting men.
Would vaginal fisting have been OK, too?
The prosecution and the police have said they wouldn't have distinguished between anal fisting and vaginal fisting.
What measures were previously in place to regulate this kind of thing? When does fingerbanging become fisting, for example?
Pornographers tended to follow the “four finger rule”.
There's a “four finger rule”?
There was a “four finger rule” that pornographers operated by, where it would be difficult for them to represent fisting of five fingers beyond the wrist. So they had a rule where four fingers was OK, but five: bang out of order.
Kit Kat was fine, but you couldn't lose your watch?
Good lord, no. It was a simple rule of thumb.
Look at this guy, he's full of gags.
Yeeeah... [laughs again]
Let's get serious for a second. Michael's case was like a "test case", right? If the jury had returned a guilty verdict last week, what would the consequences of that been?
The Crown Prosecution Service would have continued to prosecute the distribution of representations of acts that are listed on their website, such as fisting, watersports and some BDSM material. They would now be illegal to distribute.
You said some BDSM?
That's a really complicated question...
I have all day.
It's related to the offence of Actual Bodily Harm, which denotes something greater than harm that's deemed to be transient or trifling. Essentially they draw the line at drawing blood, so stuff like knocking out a tooth or a cut which requires stitches would be illegal.
Why do the fuddy-duddies at the Crown Prosecution Service keep trying to stop people watching what they want?
They simply do not understand it. They don't get porn.
So what is still illegal? It's still against the law to have sex with a dead body, right?
Actual necrophilia is prohibited, and I have no problem with that because a cadaver can't consent. You've got cadavers, animals, children and people of a mental incapacity, none of whom can give effective consent. Also, the age of consent is 16, but unless you're 18 you can't be on film. So if two 16-year-olds have sex: no law broken; if they make video on their phones they have produced child pornography, if they send it to a friend they have distributed child pornography. Why is that?

You tell me.
Theoretically, they would be in possession of child pornography. It's to do with international treaties on the age of sexual representation. In some countries, like Australia, if you look under age it is illegal to be depicted having sex.
What? How does that work?
They have a breast law in Australia. Women with small breasts are deemed verboten. It's “breastist”, you could say.
I'd say it definitely was. You must have a real beef with the state of the law on all this?
All obscenity is inherently ridiculous in the sense that it's so arbitrary, it's so conflicted when we're talking about representations of consensual adults. Why is it that I could watch al-Qaeda beheadings, but previous to last week I would be committing an offence if I distributed fisting pornography, which is about consent and sex and love?
How did you get to be an obscenity lawyer, by the way?
I think the way that society defines itself through sexual representation is fascinating. I've always had an interest in visual representation, in the erotics. All media has been driven by sexual content from cave-paintings to the battle for VHS formats and between Blu-Ray and HD DVD, or whatever the hell it was called. I used to make films as well. One of them was set in a future where everything was synthetic and a manufacturer started making penis flavoured condoms. I made another one that was about self-harm.
Do you just love pornography?
Whilst I am pro the right to pornography, that doesn't necessarily mean I agree with the means of production or all of the finished products. Classifying all pornography as the same is like condemning all music because you don't like opera.
I can see what you're getting at.
In the Lady Chatterley case it was remarked “You wouldn't want your women or servants reading it,” and the internet has changed all of that and deeply confused the authoritarian classes. Now almost any consenting adult has access to pornography. Besides, I think it's important that we discuss sexuality and pornography for many, many reasons.
I guess that's a point we can all get behind. Thanks, Myles.
Myles Jackman is a solicitor with a niche practice in obscenity at Hodge Jones and Allen. He tweets@ObscenityLawyer.

This article originally appeared in VICE UK here: and is re-posted with kind permission.

Saturday 7 January 2012

Is using euphemism to render the simple obscure yet another sexual problem?

I was interviewed by Carolyn Quinn on the Radio 4 PM programme today about the implications of the verdict in the R v Peacock obscenity trial. The radio interview can be found here, 13 minutes and 24 seconds into the programme.

The background to the trial is that defendant Michael Peacock was unanimously acquitted of publishing obscene DVDs under the Obscene Publications Act 1959. These DVDs depicted male-on-male fisting, urination and consensual BDSM activities including sexual whipping, electrocution and saline injection into the scrotum.

As I identified in a comment piece for Guardian Law, urination and fisting (both anal and vaginal) are sexual acts that are legal to perform in real life. Yet when these acts were represented on film, the distribution or publication had been previously deemed to be obscene under the Crown Prosecution Service’s guidelines. Thus I was asked to appear on the PM programme to comment on this disjuncture.

However, before the pre-recorded interview was conducted, I was asked to discuss the language I was likely to deploy to describe these sexual acts. The producer explained that as the PM show is broadcast before the 9pm watershed it attracts a family audience of all ages and therefore it would be inappropriate to discuss fisting and urination without, you know, actually using the words fisting and urination. Whilst this led to a slightly uneasy and surreal conversation; we initially agreed that the blanket euphemism “extreme sexual acts” might be permissible.

It was only immediately before the recording commenced that I realised that the word “extreme” has a very specific legal context in relation to pornography; as section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 creates a specific offence of possession of supposedly “extreme pornography”. Secondly, the notion that describing a sexual act as extreme would seem to render it potentially illicit or other; and therefore prohibit it from entering mainstream discourse.

After the pre-recorded segment had concluded a number of friends enquired as to what euphemisms I had utilized instead of urination and fisting. Whilst the paraphilia of sexual urination can be described variously as urolagnia, urophilia or simply, in the more vulgar phrase, watersports; I simply did not know of another word for fisting apart from, you know, fisting.

More significantly, another friend sagely suggested that using euphemism to make “the simple obscure is one more sexual problem”. That in anonymising the names of the actual activities that the jury in R v Peacock deemed not to be obscene, it may have had the unintended consequence of rendering the entire interview absolutely opaque to the casual listener.

This also raises the issue that by not discussing legitimate sexual acts frankly, within the appropriate context, we perpetuate a lack of understanding. It could also be argued that not providing simple and easily comprehensible information on such practices does nothing to reduce potential health risks.

Obscenity Trial: the law is not suitable for a digital age

I welcome the news that a jury have returned not guilty verdicts in a landmark obscenity trial before Southwark crown court on Friday. However, despite the jury's unanimous decision, the legislation under which the trial was brought is still effective law.
The defendant, Michael Peacock, was charged with distributing DVDs featuring male fisting, urination (watersports) and BDSM. Peacock ran a gay escort site called "Sleazy Michael" and advertised pornographic DVDs for sale on the website Craigslist. He was charged under theObscene Publications Act 1959 (OPA) with six counts of publishing obscene articles likely to "deprave and corrupt".
While some of the sexual acts depicted in the DVDs are legal to perform, such as fisting and urination, the representation of them is potentially criminalised under the OPA. The Act features the contentious and ambiguous deprave and corrupt test, whereby an article (for example a DVD) is obscene if it tends to deprave and corrupt the reader, viewer or listener.
As the recorder, James Dingemans QC, emphasised in his summing up, it was a matter for the jury to decide whether the acts depicted were obscene if they "deprave and corrupt" the viewer. He also emphasised that: "in a civilised society, lines must be drawn".
However, the OPA has become an anachronism in the internet age. While previous cases speaks in terms of pornography being covertly accessed by men in "rugby clubs" and at stag parties; now it is readily available to people of all genders, orientations and social classes. Hence this jury's verdict - in the first contested obscenity trial in the digital age - which seems to suggest "normal" members of the public accept that consensual adult pornography is an unremarkable facet of daily life.
The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 shifts the burden from the producers and distributors of "extreme pornography" to the viewers who merely have such images in their possession.
Furthermore, the House of Lords' judgment in R v Brown [1992] that individuals cannot consent to sexual assault which is greater than transient and trifling (essentially the drawing of blood) remains effective law.
In Brown, colloquially known as the "Spanner case", Lord Templeman stated:
"I am not prepared to invent a defence of consent for sadomasochistic encounters which breed and glorify cruelty[...] Society is entitled and bound to protect itself against a cult of violence. Pleasure derived from the infliction of pain is an evil thing. Cruelty is uncivilised."
However, sexual depictions, as with the arts and sport, allow consenting adults to explore such "uncivilised" pleasures within the context of a safe and recognised framework.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidelines: "It is impossible to define all types of activity which may be suitable for prosecution". The types of material most commonly considered to be obscene and therefore prosecuted include sadomasochistic material which goes beyond trifling and transient infliction of injury, torture with instruments, bondage (especially where gags are used with no apparent means of withdrawing consent), activities involving perversion or degradation (such as drinking urine, urination[…] on to the body…) and fisting.
Irrespective of this, Peacock is to be commended for his courage and conviction in challenging these charges; as are colleagues Sandra Paul and Nigel Richardson for persuasive advocacy and diligent litigation.
While the OPA still stands as law, the state is still capable of acting as a voyeur in the bedroom by maintaining the notion that the depiction of consensual adult sexual acts can be criminalised. Following the verdict, the branch within the Met responsible for investigating obscene publications pledged to meet with the CPS and the British Board of Film Classification to review current guidelines on obscenity. I urge legislators and the Law Commission to reconsider the law surrounding consent to sexual assault.
As Marlon Brando's character in Apocalypse Now suggests:
"We train young men to drop fire on people. But their commanders won't allow them to write "fuck" on their airplanes because - it's obscene!"

The original version of this article appeared on the Guardian Law site yesterday, here.

Monday 2 January 2012

Obscenity Trial of the Decade

Today, the 3rd January 2012 marks the first day of the most significant obscenity trial of the decade; which will ultimately clarify the law on the representation of gay fisting, urolagnia as well as BDSM.

The defendant in the case, Michael Peacock, is charged on indictment with numerous offences under the Obscene Publications Act for distributing supposedly obscene DVDs.

The Obscene Publications Act 1959 features the contentious and ambiguous “deprave and corrupt” test, whereby an article (for example a DVD) is obscene if it tends to deprave and corrupt the reader, viewer or listener.

The Test is defined in Section1 of the Act as:

"An article shall be deemed to be obscene if its effect or (where the article comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it".

In this trial, which will be heard before the Southwark Crown Court, the films in question feature: gay fisting (the insertion of five fingers of the fist into the rectum of another male); urolagnia (in this case men urinating in their clothes, onto each others’ bodies and drinking it); and BDSM (in this case hard whipping, the insertion of needles, urethral sounds and electrical “torture”).

According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS’s) guidelines: “It is impossible to define all types of activity which may be suitable for prosecution”. The types of material most commonly considered to be obscene and therefore prosecuted include:

·“sadomasochistic material which goes beyond trifling and transient infliction of injury”

·“torture with instruments”

·“bondage (especially where gags are used with no apparent means of withdrawing consent)”

·“activities involving perversion or degradation (such as drinking urine, urination[…] on to the body…)”


However, this is merely a list of what the CPS currently consider to be obscene.

Ultimately, it is a matter for a jury to decide whether these acts are obscene by virtue of whether they deprave and corrupt the viewer.

Perhaps illogically, of these sexual acts, fisting and urination are completely legal to perform in real life; and thus it is only the representation of these acts on film which may be considered obscene and therefore attract criminal liability.

Consequently many pornographic film producers operate a “four finger rule” to avoid the risk of criminal prosecution. This means that in such films only four fingers are inserted into the performers’ vagina or anus, rather than the entire fist.

It could be argued that this is an entirely arbitrary distinction as the act of fisting itself is not illegal.

However, many pornographic film producers remain risk-averse and therefore the presumption that urination and fisting are obscene has endured as it seems that no previous defendant has been prepared to test the law in this area by electing jury trial.

Interestingly this case seems to have found unofficial tacit support from the British Board of Film Classification (the BBFC rate and classify both mainstream films and “adult” productions in the “R18” category); and the Metropolitan Police’s Abusive and Extreme Images Unit (the Met’s old obscene publications squad is now part of SCD9): on the basis that this case will establish whether fisting and urination pornography is legal or not.

Hence, if the jury decides that such pornography is not obscene, on the basis that it does not deprave and corrupt the viewer; then it is entirely likely that both the producers and distributors of pornography will make such material available for sale, for example via licensed sex shops.

It may also clarify what types of material it is legal to possess under the “extreme pornography” clauses in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008; as under Section 63 (7) (b) fisting may be: “an act which results, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts or genitals”.

The extreme pornography legislation shifts the legal burden from the producers of pornography to the possessor (viewer). Thus, merely being in possession of, rather than actively distributing, fisting pornography could be illegal.

Consequently, this significant obscenity prosecution will either reaffirm or rearrange the boundaries of obscenity law.

As Mr Peacock is represented by my firm, Hodge Jones and Allen LLP, I will post an update once the outcome becomes apparent.