Thursday, 30 December 2010

2011 and the Year Ahead

Crikey, the bongs of Big Ben will soon usher in another year and with it, our annual few hours of feeling optimistic about the future (coincidentally at the very moment most of us are in a state of some inebriation). What, we might ask, will the cold sober daylight of 2011 bring for law and sexuality? Here are some of my thoughts.

The Coalition

For Brits, the Coalition is the 'new politics' through which all issues pertaining to law and sexuality must be viewed. Their Coalition document suggests some further policy announcements that could be announced and/or initiated in 2011. For instance, improved recording of hate crime and a review of family law to shift the emphasis towards mediation when couples break up (take a look at the Family Law Act 1996 as originally passed for an indication of Conservative thought in this area).

The Government also promised to 'review the criminal records and vetting and barring regime and scale it back to common sense levels', so expect a debate about what levels are 'common sense' - and some fear mongering by the Daily Mail over the safety of children. I would expect the Labour Party - who see an opportunity to be to the right of the Coalition on law and order issues - to hit the Government pretty hard over any relaxation of the law on vetting.

The coalition has also indicated it will bring forth legislation that will wipe convictions for historical gay sex offences. This will, as Pink News indicated, form part of the Freedom Bill and will be brought forward early in 2011. This specific policy pledge formed part of the Conservative manifesto but I can't find it in the coalition document. So, whilst I welcome it, it's interesting to see another policy being introduced that is actually outside the coalition programme (please do correct me if it's in the doc and point me to the page!).

This announcement also tells us that the long anticipated Freedom Bill will be brought forward quite early on in the New Year. However, it's precise contents remain unclear. Expect some constitutional reform and some of the repeals that the public were invited to submit via a website (which was initially hopeless). Will my suggestion for the repeal of section 71 of the Sexual offences Act be included? We shall see.

Speaking of public sex, the Law Commission consultation on 'Simplification of Criminal Law: Public Nuisance and Outraging Public Decency' should also report during 2011 and again, it will be interesting to see what, if any, reforms are recommended and how the Government responds.

The budget cuts announced in 2010 will start kicking in during 2011 and the gay charities and support groups that have grown like Topsy in recent years will come under increased budget pressures and public scrutiny. Expect closures and reductions in service and how this will be greeted in the media will be fascinating to see. I can't see certain tabloids reacting in the same way to the closure of a gay support group for 13 year old boys in the same way as they would the closure of a charity that provides free books of the 'classics' to 13 year old boys. These cuts will reveal much about our true social attitudes and I suspect will reveal a society that hasn't progressed as much as we like to think we have.

The Coalition government is also a reminder that some things are hard to predict - who predicted a coalition government in January 2010? Events, as former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan noted, will intervene and blow things in a unpredictable direction. A child abduction, a horrific hate crime, a high-profile celebrity positioning on gender or sexuality, a major legal or medical break-through can all re-frame the debate. Of course, that's why you'll need to keep reading the blog in 2011 ;-)


It's already been announced that Lord Fowler, the man responsible for convincing Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s to introduce the hard-hitting national AIDS campaign, has been brought back to the forefront of public service by heading-up a committee of the House of Lords to look at the continuing spread of HIV/AIDS. It's a move to be welcomed but could also prompt calls for clear legal guidelines about the criminalisation of HIV (with some campaigning to follow the Canadian model) and will, if given appropriate publicity, serve to reposition HIV/AIDS in the national consciousness. Fowler noted in his comments to the media that the issue has been left to smaller local campaigns since the mass campaign in the 1980s: "It just seems to be crazy to have a massive campaign like that and almost go off the air over the next 25 years." The full select committee membership consists of:

Lord Fowler (Chairman)
Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall
Lord Gardiner of Kimble
Baroness Masham of Ilton
Baroness Gould of Potternewton
Lord May of Oxford
Baroness Healy of Primrose Hill
Lord Rea
Baroness Hussein-Ece
Baroness Ritchie of Brompton
Lord McColl of Dulwich
Baroness Tonge

The committee will examine what improvements can be made in testing and consider evidence of discrimination. A call for evidence will be issued in the New Year. Any evidence submission I make will also be posted on this blog but I'm feeling quite optimistic that the committee will come forward with some sensible suggestions. The Government will then be faced with having to respond to any recommendations.

The re-positioning of HIV/AIDS into the public discourse may also spark a further discussion of sex education. My political tip (although I wouldn't put huge sums on it) is David Laws will return to the Government as Secretary of State for Health in Cameron's first Cabinet re-shuffle. His text on health in The Orange Book indicates his general approach (very in line with the direction the Coalition wants to go in) and he also discusses the need for sexual education to focus on relationships - something the last Labour government agreed on.


Internationally, expect further prosecutions for the criminalisation of HIV and that will feed into the debate in the UK. Expect eruptions in the world of porn when Treasure Island Media bring forward their new line of positive porn films - featuring HIV positive porn performers engaging in bareback sex. Paul Morris revealed soon after Christmas 2010 that he was working on the first film and it seems reasonable it will appear early in 2011. It will no doubt spark further bareback porn regulation debates in the US and beyond.

Cory Koons (some pics NSFW), self described 'equal opportunity bottom' for TIM, has been posting some odd stuff on his Facebook page recently and in one posting about TIM, in which he seemed to be critical, later vanished without trace. The post suggested that all does not seem to be happy for Koons aboard the TIM ship. One to watch for potential TIM gossip hunters.

The decision by TIM to launch a series of porn films depicting HIV positive performers bareback - or to be more accurate - 'out' positive bareback porn performers, will cause further division and anger within the porn industry, but for me the more important questions are: will they be commercially successful? Will they be copied and where next for Treasure Island Media.

The company has long fascinated me and became a major pre-occupation in 2010. Once I get this public sex book out of the way, I'd really like to focus on TIM. I'm convinced there's a fascinating book to be written about them and their master, Paul Morris. I know my queer writings on bareback sex will upset some, but I've been touched by the number of young scholars who have written to me in the last six months and found my work to be a welcome addition, and in-line with their own private thoughts. A new generation of queer scholars is emerging and increasingly questioning the established norms of law and sexuality. 2011 will no doubt see more publications and conference presentations by this band of controversial academics. You can read/download a refereed piece here and a short webzine piece on TIM here.

In the English courts, I would expect further cases to be brought under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act concerning 'violent pornography' and further attempts to square this circle of bad law.

Speaking of bad law, the usually equally affable and sensible minister Ed Vaizey seems to have been drafted in to throw some red meat to the Tory back-benchers and will be working hard with ISP providers in 2011 to create new restrictions on pornography. You will not be surprised to learn that I am utterly opposed to such a move. However, I suspect this won't get off the ground in quite the way some of the media talked about but it will once again throw a spotlight on our hypocritical attitudes to sex and pornography.

Sex Work/Prostitution

Whilst I'm on the subject of hypocritical attitudes to sex; the Government is also likely to come under increased pressure to once again take a look at the laws relating to sex work/prostitution. The recent statement by the Association of Chief Police Officers offers some pragmatic and cost-cutting measures that are likely to get the attention of Home Secretary Teresa May. She is due to publish new guidelines in the Spring on policing problems linked to sex work. Read more here.


In the United States, Perry will rumble on and with it the position of marriage in the State of California. What about the rest of America? The division between those seeking change through the legislative process and those believing in change via the courts will continue but an Obama administration having lost control of the House and with a severely weakened grip on the Senate will necessitate an embracing of the court route by LGBTQ activists.

DADT having been dealt with (at least so it appears now - I predict complications in the courts and in implementation), attention will shift to the repeal of the Defence of Marriage Act but given that Obama expressed the view that the definition of marriage contained within DOMA reflects his view (although in true Obama style, he also stated he would support repeal) suggests that campaigners will have to look to the courts rather than Congress for hope. I suspect that such campaigns are overly optimistic. The tea-baggers, newly installed in Congress in January will want to flex their muscles and LGBTQ activists may be fighting for the rights already obtained in individual States and at a Federal level rather than working for further break-throughs. At the same time, campaigning for the 2012 Presidential race will kick-off, and gay rights will prove a source of controversy between and within the Democrat and Republican parties.

On the other side of the Pond, the Equal Love campaign's attempt to bring a challenge in the Strasbourg European Court of Human Rights will get under way. The challenge seeks to end the discrimination that means Civil Partnership's are only available for same-sex couples and marriage is only available for different-sex couples. It's a tough one to call but if forced to, I don't think the action will succeed but it's worth a shot.

Britain won't be the only place talking about Civil Partnerships in 2011. April will see the first Civil Partnerships in Ireland showing that this alternative framework still has momentum in it (and interesting that they didn't go down the US route of 'civil unions'. See more in the Irish Times here.


A second series of Lip Service on the BBC and a gay 'wedding' in Coronation Street offer televisual insights into the lives of twenty-first century British lesbians and gay men. The first series of Lip Service failed to hugely take-off but will hopefully have more success next time around. The Corrie 'wedding' will of course be a Civil Partnership (unless the Equal Love legal campaign scores a very early victory) but it will be interesting to watch how it's talked of in the soap - I suspect it will be a 'gay marriage'; "will you marry me?" is far more likely to be the invite than "Sean, will you enter into a civil partnership with me?". Seen as a triumph, it could actually kick the legs from under legal attempts to introduce gay marriage and straight civil partnerships - with the mass public taking an ever firmer view that civil partnerships and marriage are essentially the same thing and therefore can't see the point of attempts to change the law.


2010 saw Stonewall implode on the issue of same sex-marriage with the actor Ian McKellen appearing a rare figure of sanity connected to the organisation. Durham law academic Neil Cobb commented 'thank heavens for Gandalf' - a view echoed by many. I've not pulled any punches when it comes to Stonewall and I suspect 2011 will bring even more criticism for an organisation that means well but has become woefully out of touch and increasingly an organisation better suited to providing HR advice than as a campaigning force. Perhaps will be the year when Stonewall re-engages with a broad LGBQ community and has a serious debate about its mission and approach.

The Rest of the World

As China and India continue to emerge as economic superpowers, expect further concerns about human rights abuses - and little action by the West. There will be more executions, oppressive actions and abuse inflicted upon gay men in the Middle East - and a Coalition Government with trade as a key focus will be reluctant to speak out. In Africa, the growing influence of China rather than the West, coupled with the continued rise of religion - both Christianity and Islam - will lead to an increase in the oppression of LGBTQ identities. The campaigns in Russia will begin to shift some opinions and make a little progress among the more affluent Muscovites but make little penetration beyond. As Putin looks towards becoming President again, the country will continue it's drift in authoritarian waters.

Expect increased tensions in the popular tourist destination of the Maldives where religious orthodox Muslim views are increasingly breaking out and creating tensions with those citizens (and figures in government) who have embraced tourism in recent years. It must surely be a location high on the list of Islamic terrorists for an attack against Westerners.

These tensions should and I believe will act as a reminder of just how much extraordinary progress has been achieved for LGBTQ individuals in obtaining legal rights and protections in the UK in the space of the last decade, and how quickly we have come to take them for granted.

Happy New Year everyone.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Happy Holidays

I'm afraid it's that time of year when I take a little break from blogging for a couple of weeks during the Christmas period. I need a bit of a break and I've also got stacks of academic writing to do. I'll still be tweeting so if you're not following me, add me - check out the 'follow' tab at the top of this blog for all my other sites.

The blog will continue to be updated with the latest Pink News, Pink Paper and Advocate stories down the right side, and as an official syndication partner of PinkSixty, you can watch the latest news - updated daily - in the video at the top right of the blog. Happy Holidays everybody :-)

DADT Repealed, Now the Backlash?

The US Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy looks set to finally be repealed. It was introduced back in the early 90's as a compromise measure and signed into law by Bill Clinton. Books such as The Clinton Tapes make it clear that Clinton believed this was the best they could get at the time and believed that over time people would be more accepting of homosexuality and come to regard DADT as a hypocrisy. To that extent, Clinton has been proven right, although many LGBTQ activists continue to put DADT in the Clinton 'minus column' rather than as a plus.

Much has been written on the mechanics of repeal and I don't intend to repeat that material here. The historic 65-31 vote in the Senate last night, which included eight Republican senators in support of ending DADT has brought praise and condemnation in apparently equal measure. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker described the move as one of the highlights of her time as Speaker. Let's not forget though that Pelosi will be shortly stepping down as speaker, and will be replaced by the Republican John Boehner. Check out the Advocate here for some excellent coverage.

Work will now need to be done to implement the repeal and I'm confident there will be a few more bumps in the road. Military culture will then take many years to respond to this legal shift. The lines between military banter and homophobia will be disputed and bullying cases could emerge now a a military officer can be openly gay, and thus be a 'legitimate' member of the armed forces to be bullied. You can hardly complain you're a gay man being bullied when there are officially no gay personnel in the armed forces. So, watch out for those bullying cases.

The other aspect of DADT that is worthy of discussion, is how it fits into the wider US political narrative. The Congress that passed this law was a dead duck session, taking place after the recent mid-term elections, but before the newly elected members of Congress take up their roles. As such, it plays perfectly into the narrative that Fox News and the Right have been peddling, that 'they' want their country back from these left wing 'socialists' who are rushing through 'anti-American measures' before the new Congress.

Proposition 8 is an example of the 'backlash' that can occur, and it will be interesting to see how the Right adjusts now the measure has been passed.

DADT also apparently appeared in the context of the recent (and ongoing) Wikileaks controversy in which the army intelligence analyst, Pfc. Bradley Manning smuggled out oodles of US secrets whilst apparently listening and singing to a Lady Gaga CD. The Right wing commentator, Ann Coulter might strike many of us as being a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic, but her views represent a large swath of US opinion. When she slammed the mere act of singing to lady Gaga as a sign of homosexuality, it's fair to assume that many Americans would agree.

It's argued that Manning was in part motivated by his hatred of the DADT policy into leaking the secrets - an offence that has resulted in Manning currently being imprisoned and held in isolation. For Coulter, it is simply that gay men can't be trusted with secrets and she points to the British homosexual and bisexual spies who leaked secrets to Russia as proof. The trouble with evoking the memory of Burgess and Blunt is that they too were in part motivated by legal prohibition and social condemnation at home. The lesson is surely that if you kick a dog enough, it'll bite back.

DADT might be repealed but the story isn't over.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Blog Refresh

As you may have noticed, I've decided to freshen up the blog and shift to a new template - only the third since I set the blog up. I'm trying to simplify the look of the blog and at the same time improve functionality. Please bear with me whilst elements shuffle about and video clips etc will need code adjusting. I'll be back to normal soon! Feedback on the changes are also appreciated! Similarly, if there's an element that you'd like to see added please let me know.

Journal Alert: Sexualities

A new issue of Sexualities has been published on the special theme of 'Sexuality and religion/spirituality'. A special issue on Law and Sexualities has been edited by me and will be published next Summer. As usual, I've posted the table of contents below.

Special feature: Sexuality and religion/ spirituality
Andrew Kam-Tuck Yip
Sexualities 2010;13 667-670

Some queer questions from a Muslim faith perspective
Dervla Sara Shannahan
Sexualities 2010;13 671-684

Confession, sexuality and pornography as sacred language
Brian Duff
Sexualities 2010;13 685-698

Secularism, religion and ‘progressive’ sex education
Mary Lou Rasmussen
Sexualities 2010;13 699-712

Special Feature on Religion: Review Article: Islamicate cultures, sexual intersections: Janet Afary, Sexual Politics in Modern Iran. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. xix + 423 pp. ISBN: 978 0 521 72708 2 (pbk) £18.99; ISBN 978 0 521 89846 1 (hbk). Kathryn Babayan and Afsaneh Najmabadi (eds), Islamicate Sexualities: Translations across Temporal Geographies of Desire (Harvard Middle Eastern Monographs) Cambridge MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2008. xiv + 376 pp. ISBN 978 0 674 03204 0 (pbk) £14.95. Pinar Ilkkaracan (ed.), Deconstructing Sexuality in the Middle East: Challenges and Discourses Aldershot and Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2008. pp. 218. ISBN 978 0 7546 723 5 (hbk) £55.00
Shamira A. Meghani
Sexualities 2010;13 713-722

Sexualization: Have sexualization processes changed direction?
Cas Wouters
Sexualities 2010;13 723-741

Sexualization, sex and manners
Feona Attwood
Sexualities 2010;13 742-745

Comment on Wouters
Peter N. Stearns
Sexualities 2010;13 745-746

Whatever happened to non-monogamies? Critical reflections on recent research and theory
Meg Barker and Darren Langdridge
Sexualities 2010;13 748-772

Living with HIV

Treasure Island Media pornographer Liam Cole has written an excellent piece on his blog under the heading 'setting the record straight'. Cole's comments address some common misconceptions about HIV and answers some of the concerns raised by those who continue to criticise and misunderstand the practice of barebacking. It's well worth a read on his blog. However, some of you may well be delicate blooms and don't want to go to a blog with sexual imagery all around so I've reproduced the post in full below (hope you don't mind Liam!) but as I say, you can check out the blog here.

Setting the record straight

The last post received this anonymous comment:

"HIV and Dying of AIDS is not intensly pleasurable or beautiful. You got insurance? your going to need it...don't forget lots of diareah and wasting away to disfigurement...but go ahead and have this "beautiful" sexual experience. Hey Try some heroin while your at it."

There's a confusion here between description and advice. Speaking honestly about a pleasurable activity is not the same as recommending it. It's up to us to make informed choices of our own.

To answer the points about HIV and AIDs:

"Wasting away to disfigurement" presumably refers to lipodystrophy: body-fat changes including fat-loss from the face and buttocks. This isn't a symptom of HIV or AIDs. It's a side-effect of drugs used to treat the virus (AZT and d4T). Fortunately, newer HIV drugs have been developed without this side-effect (efavirenz, tenofovir, abacovir, etc). For this reason AZT and d4T are no longer recommended to people starting HIV treatment.

Diarrhea is a possible side-effect of some HIV drugs, but it doesn't effect everyone and often only occurs during the first few weeks or months of treatment. Diarrhea caused by HIV drugs can be treated with ordinary tablets (loperimide, Imodium) available at pharmacies.

The aim of current HIV treatment is to reduce the viral load to "undetectable" and prevent AIDs for life. That's becoming possible because of continuing progress in HIV drug development (which we should be celebrating as a fucking triumph of human ingenuity).

Increasingly, the problem is not whether these drugs work, but whether they are available and affordable to all people with HIV, from San Francisco to Sub-Saharan Africa. This is the politics of healthcare, and it requires all of us (poz or neg) to be clear-headed, informed and engaged. So, the commenter is right to bring up insurance, but wrong to cloud the topic with stigma and fear-mongering.

2nd Call for Papers: Gender, Sexuality and Law Stream, SLSA Annual Conference, Brighton UK

Please see the second CFP. As ever , the stream is proving popular and you are urged to submit ASAP - even if it is just a title and an indication you will submit a full abstract by the deadline. Please feel free to circulate this call widely.

Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK, 12-14 April 2011

The stream seeks to draw together socio-legal scholarship from across the globe, featuring scholars from a range of disciplines relating to the broad theme of gender, sexuality and law.

Past papers have considered sexuality and education law, queer theory, same-sex marriage, gender and parenthood, trans identities, sex work, domestic violence, public sex, sexuality and the media, religion and sexuality, international comparisons, and theories of gender but papers pertaining to any area of gender, sexuality and law will be considered.

Previous years have also featured screenings from new film-makers (Susan Potter’s An Ordinary Person in 2009 and Ileana Pietbruno’s Girlfriend Experience in 2010. The stream is keen to maintain a space for film in 2011.

Abstracts should be submitted to Stream Organiser, Chris Ashford ( Abstracts must be no longer than 300 words and must include your title, name and institutional affiliation and your email address for correspondence. Please state clearly in the subject section of your e-mail that you are submitting an abstract for the SLSA Conference 2011.

The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 17th January 2011. Abstracts submitted by this deadline will receive a decision to enable early registration by 31st January 2011.

Last year, the Gender, Sexuality and Law Stream filled up very fast and a number of would-be presenters were sadly unable to be accommodated within the stream. Early submission is therefore suggested and aids with conference planning.

Further details about the conference/booking and registration details can be found at:

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Youth Parliament Member Suspended for Being Normal

I've always aimed to avoid merely repeating the usual 'big stories' such as the recent stupid and offensive remarks by the allegedly corrupt, and evidently ignorant Sepp Blatter regarding his advice that gay men attending the World Cup in Qatar should "refrain from sexual activity" (read here). There are countless bloggers and journalists writing about that story and I have little to add. There aren't so many writing about this story that appears on Pink News today and the story has me so annoyed.

The story revolves around Reace Mcdonnell, a 19 year old member of the UK Youth Parliament, and a gay activist who has now been suspended from the UK Youth Parliament. What can bring upon such a move you might ask? Apparently, he has posted a profile on a "porn networking site" - whatever that is. I suspect it's just a networking site such as Gaydar, Fitlads or such like but why let details get in the way of a good story. The Plymouth Herald broke the story and you can read it in full here.

It includes a quote from Cllr Joan Watkins, the city's Cabinet member responsible for children and young people, who said: "If this is true I would view it with great disappointment. We want young people to be involved in democracy and the life of the city but you have to bring certain characteristics to the role."

What are those characteristics Cllr Watkins? Presumably you are a human being (subject to tests), and as such were in probability the product of two people fucking. You, Cllr Watkins owe your existence to sex. Sex is rather crucial to our biological and psychological existence. Amazingly, nineteen year old boys in particular enjoy sex - a lot. It is not uncommon to seek out sexual encounters wherever possible and that may well be through sites such as the networking site Reace was on. He was acting within the "norms" of many 19 year olds. Should he have instead merely restrained his relationships to affairs with a secretary, or perhaps a rent boy in a football outfit? What exactly, are the political standards on which Cllr Watkins' remarks are offensively based? What are the norms of behaviour that she expects?

If we want politics to be attractive to "normal" people, and we want our politicians to be honest, to connect to our lives, don't attempt to knock them out when their testing the water at the age of nineteen.

In any case, Reace himself suggests on his Facebook profile taht the story is untrue anyway, but the willingness of elected officials - what were you thinking Plymouth? - like Cllr Watkins, and the stupidity of members of the public coupled with a media desperate for anything to flog a paper makes for a heady mix of hypocrisy and bile.

This is the same kind of nonsense that means public figures, from nurses and teachers through to civil servants and elected politicians are confronted by a media onslaught for posting sexual images of themselves online or *bloody hell*, having sex! It assumes that a teacher engaged in a sexual encounter with her husband or who posts erotic pictures of him/her self online one day, will inevitably start disciplining their students with a silicone dildo the next.

Reace's Facebook profile reveals a profile of a typical nineteen year old, stressing about hair and clothes, coupled with posting gay-rights related posts. He sounds like a great normal kid - and he does not deserve this. If I was a Plymouth resident, I'd be more worried about this Cllr Watkins. Her council profile reveals she is up for re-election next year and I suspect she couldn't resist this attempt to play to the crowd but I hope sensible folk will give her the push. She is also a Conservative member of the council - surely this isn't an indication that David Cameron's party still has some old fashioned homophobes in its ranks?

In truth, she's probably safe in her seat but I would ask that she follows the advice that Plymouth Conservatives offer to wannabe councillors on their website, and 'learns' about what it is she is commenting on rather than reaching for the nearest populist sound-bite. Cllr Watkins, your constituents deserve better.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Burlesque and the "Iron-Knickered Feminazi"

Feminist writer Laurie Penny has a piece in the Guardian today in which she critiques burlesque. Her final paragraph begins "Call me an iron-knickered feminazi..." and that seems a fair description to me, disagreeing as I do with her analysis. Nonetheless, it is an interesting piece and some of you may well find it persuasive. Read the full article here.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Curious Case of Derrick Burts

Earlier this week, the LA Times revealed that Derrick Burts was 'Patient Zeta'. Zeta was the porn performer who tested positive for HIV back in October and who sparked some degree of panic in the US porn industry and a minor moral panic in the media.

Twenty-four year old Burts, who has appeared in both straight and gay porn tested positive after previously being diagnosed with a string of STDs in his first month of working in porn. He apparently found out with his girlfriend beside him. The LA Times piece includes a video with Burts as Burts calls for all porn to use condoms.

It's been followed by various comment pieces such as this one in the New York Post today - and the target seems pretty universally to be the porn industry with porn industry news sites suggesting the problem lays with the clinic. Certainly, it seems to clinic acted bizarrely if Burts' account is true - but the AIM clinic disputes his version of events.

If it was the British media dealing with this, there can be little doubt that they would have questioned the actions of Burts himself. One month in to working in porn, three STDs but hey ho he thought, let's keep cracking and not wear condoms. One word folks - choice. He chose the life and the work. He chose to keep going eve though the risk of contracting an STD was evident not once, not twice but on - according to Burts - three occasions.

I'm curious what the LA Times paid him - if anything. As an out of work positive porn performer he probably needs the money and the interview has the air of a lawyer in the background testing the water. Maybe I'm getting carried away but these stories don't appear on their own.

The Post article shifts the focus to gay porn - even though we don't know if it was whilst shooting straight porn that Burts seroconverted - and picks the usual target of Treasure Island Media. Yes, gay porn fits the HIV narrative better than straight and if you're going to have a Pinata to whack about, you may as well go for the bid daddy. The Post piece once again flags up the decision by TIM to shoot porn with openly HIV positive models barebacking. Casting TIM founder Paul Morris and the whole company as some kind of 'bogeyman' merely serves to create further publicity for a company that enjoys playing the bad boy of porn. Moreover, it shows a failure by journalists and health professionals to understand the transformation in sexual attitudes that has happened and continues to occur. Condoms are out, fucking raw is most definitely in.

I remain if the view that HIV will only really be tackled when one of two possibilities occur. The first, the drugs that have transformed the lives of those HIV positive cease to work. Millions die from AIDS and the 1980s 'plague' is seen as just a historic taster of what was to come. This seems highly unlikely. The second, a vaccination is developed that confines HIV to the dustbin of history - at least in affluent Western societies - like other illnesses such as Polio. This seems the most likely but we're a way off it yet.

So we end up continuing with this phony war of condom usage in which the radicals that seek to move beyond a narrative of decay and disease - such as Treasure Island Media - continue to be cast as the "bad guys", profiting from encouraging people to be HIV positive. When it comes to TIM, I fear this charge is way off the mark. Morris was born into a wealthy family, he was a millionaire before TIM came along and didn't need porn for money. TIM has always been about doing something more interesting than making profit - and that makes them immeasurably more powerful and threatening to those groups that want condom only porn.

Law, Sexuality and the Screen

With the Christmas break looming, I thought I'd post some film and TV suggestions for students and indeed anyone interested in sexuality, to look at over the break. The films are a mix of those that provide background to issues discussed on my course, or films that address a specific topics that the module addresses. I'm sure I've missed many worthy titles off, so please feel free to post your suggestions in 'comments' at the bottom of this post.

*UPDATE* I've now added a trailer link where available - just click the film title.

A Single Man
A Taste of Honey
An Englishman in New York - TV mini series
Angels in America – TV mini series
Beautiful Thing
Body Without Soul
Boogie Nights
Born in 68
Boys Don’t Cry
Brokeback Mountain
College Boys Live
Dogging: A Love Story
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Irina Palm
Lip Service – TV series
Notes on a Scandal
Queer as Folk – UK – TV series
Queer as Folk – USA – TV series
Rick and Steve - TV mini series
Tales of the City – TV mini series
The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert
The Children’s Hour
The Dreamers
The L Word – TV series
The Laramie Project
The Marquis de Sade's Justine
The Naked Civil Servant - TV mini series
The People vs. Larry Flint
The Times of Harvey Milk
Y Tu Mama Tambien

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Documenting Barebacking 'Truths'

In the past I've blogged about Ryan Sullivan's Island and more generally about Treasure Island Media (use the search box on the right to have a peek). The latest episode of Island (there's also a film of re-edited episodes that was recently shown at the Berlin Porn Film Festival) reveals that Sully (Ryan Sullivan - the filmmaker/pornographer behind the series) is now HIV positive (we don't know how - his own sexuality remains ambiguous) and a video interview follows with a guy that TIM had brought in, talking about his own contraction of HIV. Whether this video represents authentic truth or manufactured truth, it is a 'truth', the 'truth' that Sully is seeking to project as 'documented truth', as the authentic sexual testimony of seroconversion. As such, it offers an interesting insight into the contraction of HIV and barebacking through the lens of TIM.

It's also one of very few episodes that doesn't feature porn so I can embed it below. I'm curious to know what you think.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Fifty Years of Corrie and the Outsider Perspective

Coronation Street is 50 years old today and has all week been celebrating its anniversary with a dramatic tram crash story-line. Corrie's creator, Tony Warren has a nice little piece in G2 today in which he talks about the importance of his sexuality in developing the show. Check it out here. For those (particularly abroad) who have no idea what I'm on about, the trailer for the drama this week is below.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Sexualisation of 'Children'

One of David Cameron's 'issues' was the apparent 'sexualisation of children' -padded bras and Playboy stationary and such like. Yes, one day your charming 7 year old Felicity might be playing with a playboy pencil and the next day she would be playing with a penis - her mind polluted by naff looking stationary products. A Playboy 2011 diary will turn you into a veritable slut.

I do think we need to get a grip of ourselves (as you can hear a minister saying without irony). Well today the LibDem minister, the plucky Sarah Tether, has launched a review of the 'commercialisation and sexualisation of children'. She's the Children's Minister but thanks to a post-election Whitehall re-structure she sits in the Department of Education (which seems a bit odd to me but what do I know).

For all my gentle mockery, I do think there are some issues that need exploring but I think it needs to be done on a rational measured basis rather than asking a load of ranty yummy mummies off certain well-known websites. The review is going to look at the following areas:

* risks of harm and barriers to parenting
* principles – what is acceptable in this area and what is not
* consumer voice
* corporate social responsibility.

Interestingly for a Tory led coalition, the review is based on the notion that the market has failed - and that state intervention is needed in order to influence the development of gender and sexuality, with tether quoted in the press release as saying:

"We’ve all read the headlines about high-street shops selling inappropriate products for children and many of us are worried about some of the marketing practices that are being used specifically to target children. By reviewing commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood we want to better understand not only how we can help parents resist these things, but also how we encourage all businesses to take their responsibilities as seriously as the best ones already do."

I'm really curious to see if the report will result in legal change. The BBC reports on the story here (overseas readers might not be able to see the video).

The terms of the review and a written ministerial statement can both be viewed here.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Treasure Island Media, Bareback Porn and Beyond Assimilation

I'm thrilled to have an ever growing blog audience but it seems obvious that the folks at the Bay Area Reporter aren't among them. Back in October, I posted a post on a Treasure Island Media couple - James Roscoe and Brad McGuire - revelaed that Roscoe was inf act HIV positive and would feature in a new line of films that TIM head honcho, Paul Morris, is launching. Read that original post here. On Thursday of last week the Bay Area Reporter realised and posted this story. It's actually a pretty balanced piece with some interesting quotes. British writer, and editor of the Gay and Lesbian section of Time Out London, Paul Burston weighed in on Facebook. He further elaborated on his blog which you can read here.

Burston blasted: 'Way to go Treasure Island Media! Barebacking gay porn stars as role models!! One is positive, the other negative!!! For now!!!! Just the message we need as we mark World AIDS Day. Gay commercial interest versus gay community health. Don't it make you feel proud?'

He later added: 'the minute you explicitly refer to these men as role models, you're acknowledging that gay porn has a reach beyond the realm of fantasy. It's how many gay men first learn about gay sex, ie it's educational. Which makes this all the more reprehensible.'

This is despite Morris addressing the very point Burston makes. Morris argues (as he has done several times previously) that porn isn't about education - and this is a key aspect of understanding TIM porn. It's about examining sex as is, and as men want it to be, rather than what it 'ought' to be. The 'ought' is increasingly within a normative framework. Gay men = safe sex only. Straight couples = pop a pill and fuck. Most of us choose not to use condoms at some point - we manage risk in different ways. Tim Dean in his Unlimited Intimacies text notes the importance of positioning - being a top or bottom in 'high risk' situations. We might be versatile, but only fuck as a top bareback when in higher risk situations (eg at a sauna) for example.

The idea that gay porn must only use condoms as an 'educational' tool is an absurd measure that seeks to censor the reality of gay men's sex lives. Burston's idealist assertion is born of living through the AIDS crisis of the 1980s but it doesn't match the reality of modern gay life. In the 80s people were falling like trees in a logging zone. Today people might become positive, they take medication and get on with their life. The complications and cost issues are complications that don't compare to people you knew, loved and fucked no longer being around because they are dead. The reason HIV rates are rising is simply because for gay men in western lives (especially in ours with the NHS), HIV is no longer scary. It's an occupational hazard that may or may not occur following fulfilling 'authentic' bareback sex. This is different from those men who bareback explicitly to contract HIV - bugchasers. Even that category of individuals has a logical rationale to their behaviour but that's for another time. Burston went on to turn his attention to the HIV charities:

'this from the government on Dec 1 - "I have been approached by those who are unhappy about the promotion of DVDs and other material promoting "bareback" sex. We need to address such issues and I know that a lot of people and organisations, ...such as the Terrence Higgins Trust, are doing all they can to stop the promotion of such material."

Doing all they can? Really? Try going to the THT website and searching for "bareback". "No pages were found".'

In addition to just searching my blog for bareback or Treasure Island Media, you can check out this piece I wrote for FIPA on the company and bareback porn.

Eyes on San Francisco as Prop 8 Goes to Appeal

Legal eyes will once again turn their attention to San Francisco tomorrow. At 10am local time (6pm British time). The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit will consider Proposition 8 (the California ban on gay marriage) via the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case. Unlike Perry, it will be televised which is a major step forward. As the Advocate explains, a three-judge panel will consider two main questions before the court: whether a federal judge erred in ruling the anti-gay marriage initiative unconstitutional, and whether a coalition of Prop. 8 supporters who defended the ballot measure at trial have standing to appeal the case.

The Advocate site will stream the trial but the official channel is the US network C-SPAN (sort of like the BBC Parliament Channel). You can check out their live channel page here.

The trial is also being viewed as an important learning experience for law students. In a Press Release, the Court quotes Joan Hollinger, a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law as saying: "The Ninth Circuit is providing a wonderful opportunity for law students to observe appellate arguments on both sides of this controversial issue".

"It's an invaluable learning experience," said Hollinger, who is mentoring students who are studying and blogging about the Prop. 8 case. The blog, called "Prop 8 on Trial," is available here:

Other law schools planning to show the proceeding on campus include New York University School of Law; Yale Law School; Harvard Law School; the University of Chicago Law School; the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona; Stanford Law School; the University of California Hastings College of the Law; and the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law.

WTF is it with Stonewall?

You know, I want to like them. I want to praise them for the good work they do, but Stonewall seems increasingly demented. Like a blind Dalek directionless and unable to recognise friend or foe, it seems to spin increasingly out of control. As I write, Twitter is beginning to whirl into action reporting this story about a visit Ian McKellen made to a school - organised by Stonewall - and which Stonewall then attempted to censor. Moreover, their response to this cock-up, also fails to realise the severity of their error. Come on guys, you're better than this.

Read the story here.

Socio-Legal Perspectives on Gender, Sexuality and Law

So, here's another article upload. This is actually the opening piece to a special issue of Liverpool Law Review I edited with the same title as my opening piece. You can view the full contents list of that issue here. It's packed with really great articles. As well as considering the meaning of socio-legal, I offer my take on the emerging 'field' of Gender, Sexuality and Law. The full reference for the piece is below. Check it out, and if you like it, cite it! :-) Thanks.

Ashford, C (2010) ‘Socio-Legal Perspectives on Gender, Sexuality and Law’, Liverpool Law Review, 31(1): 1.

Being a Dominatrix

I've flagged up the wonderful Laura's Diary before but she's posted a fantastic piece on her recent experience with one client who liked being a sub. Laura is an escort and her blog offers a fascinating and often humorous insight into her life and job.

Read the post/blog here.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Manliness and Capitalism

Mark Simpson has had a really interesting post on his blog (as ever) for a few weeks but I'm ashamed to say I've only just noticed it. It's a great piece exploring manliness in an American context (Simpson is British). Simpson briefly touches on the role of capitalism and class. Great piece - check it out here.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Bent - Dec Issue

You can download for free the December issue of the ever excellent Bent magazine here. An interesting series of profiles on Saunas including Newcastle's newest addition - REM Sauna,

GLF and the Nuclear Family

The latest issue of GT has a really interesting couple of pieces in its 'Big Debate' section considering whether 'we have destroyed the nuclear family'. The two pieces ('yes' and 'no') are written int he context of the Gay Liberation Front and despite a dreadful introduction by Martin Popplewell, are written in a very intelligent (perhaps too much so for many readers) and engaging way. If the lower half is 'fed' by the 'naked' celeb photos earlier in the mag, this section feeds your mind. Well worth a read.

Abuse by Under 18s

The Today Programme on Radio4 carried a fascinating little interview today. It featured an anonymous father and also a spokesman from Stop It Now. The interview comes in the wake of new evidence that shows about one-third of all sexual offences are committed by people under the age of 18.

The anonymous father found himself facing the issues that law and society present when his 12-year-old son was accused of touching inappropriately an eight-year-old girl at a party.

Well worth a listen.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

World AIDS Day, Barebacking and the Criminal Law

It's World AIDS Day although if you were watching the Prime Minsiter's Questions earlier you could be forgiven from not knowing as there was a distinct lack of red ribbons on the government front and back benches (lots on the Labour benches). All the usual mantras are everywhere and a little bit later I'll post a second 'podcast' of my thought on World AIDS Day and barebacking.

In the meantime, Edwin J Bernard reminds us on his blog of the over-zealous nature of the criminal law in other parts of the world - particularly Canada. He writes:

'A judge in Quebec has remanded a 32 year-old gay man in custody after the Crown prosecutor branded him a "danger to the public" following allegations that he did not disclose that he was HIV-positive with men he met for sex on the Internet using the pseudonym bbackbottom31.'

On a day of preaching, lets also pause and realise how the law is translating that preaching in parts of the world - it is criminalising people like this latest 32 year old. Read the full blogpost here.

The End of Camp & The Search for the Great Dark Man

Kevin Troughton wrote an interesting piece in The Guardian yesterday in which he suggested the demise of the camp man. Troughton suggested that the tanned, hair dyed effeminate male was on the wane, unpopular and undesirable. He notes (without irony and in a line that had me nearly choking on my cup of tea when I read it) that one camp man he was observing in a gay bar "isn't going down well." Well quite. I'm not sure I agree completely with Troughton's assertion. I encounter lots of camp students still, and there are also gay men in a range of other shapes and sizes - but wasn't it ever thus? The gay chav is perhaps a more recent identity and one wrapped in its own conflicts and tensions. The prosperous selective city-based homosexual that Troughton suggests is another identity but has always been around in some way.

I think Troughton has a more persuasive point in the idea of the "market" of identities - the search for a sexual partner. Here I'm reminded of Quentin Crisp's search for the "great dark man". Alas, that's also my type. Preferably with a hint of arrogance, bordering on being a bastard (psychologist blog readers will enjoy that revelation). Crisp noted that the great dark man can not exist for him, deterred as any true masculine male would be from someone effeminate and the very concept of homosexuality. A "true" man can not be a homosexual. Thus, the idea that Troughton puts forward - the demise of camp -suggests (if it is happening) that gay mena re refining their identities in a quest to be more attractive. We are collectively butching up in order to be more alluring to the great dark man. Well maybe. It's one to ponder over a few glasses of vino (or "manly" beer). Read the full piece here.

For more of a glimpse into Crisp, check out the Naked Civil Servant below. Student sin particular will find it interesting and useful.

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