News Feed: An end to Obscenity Law?

This afternoon’s comprehensive not guilty verdict, in the case of Michael Peacock, charged with publishing obscene material that featured fisting, urination and heavy-duty sado-masochistic activity is a good result – but what comes next could be a real challenge to those who see this as ushering in a new era in sexual liberation.

That was the view of Jane Fae, writer on IT and the Law and an expert on the working of obscenity law in the UK, discussing the outcome of the case in and Index on Censorship.

The verdict was broadly welcomed by Myles Jackman, solicitor at Hodge Jones Allen with a special interest in obscenity law, who provided support for the defence case.

Myles said: “This could be the final nail in the coffin of the OPA in the digital age. The jury’s verdict shows that normal members of society are entirely used to consensual adult pornography and see nothing obscene about it.”

This sentiment was echoed by Chris Ashford, who lectures on Law and Sexuality at the University of Sunderland. He said: “The case brings some much needed clarity to this area of complex criminal law. I understand that the Metropolitan Police will be sitting down with the CPS and the BBFC and this is a welcome step. There will obviously need to be some revision to the CPS guidelines on prosecution in light of this case.

“Longer term, there are sure to be questions about the continued appropriateness of the law in this area, and whether we still need this obscenity law”.

While generally accepting this analysis, Jane Fae was more cautious about what comes next. She said: “the OPA has been on its last legs for a while, as far as prosecutions were concerned. However, it still had a great deal of social influence through its influence on the policy of organizations such as the British Board of Film Classification.

“This has been an ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ moment, with the fiction that the OPA was actually doing anything finally blown out of the water.

“However, opponents of censorship need to be very cautious indeed: what comes next is likely to be a thoroughgoing review of obscenity and, in the current climate, my expectation is that that will see a widening and toughening of existing restrictive laws such as the Criminal Justice Act (2008) – more colloquially known as the “extreme porn law”.

“That is not at all necessarily a progressive move.”

The CPS and BBFC elected not to comment at this moment in time.

Jane Fae

Note: The attention of news organisations wishing to make use of this content is drawn to the conditions of use. Failure to comply is likely to result in a large bill!

13 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Don’t really get this as I don’t use pornography. That said my personal experience of the porn industry is that it does operate in an atmosphere of slimy old men exploiting models. After much experience of the BDSM scene it would appear also there is a covert type of exploitation and coercion which no legal system could ever cope with.
    It’s all rather sad and no easy to explain to outsiders. All in all it’s no an industry which can be regulated and by and large it’s always going to be the sad, cowardly voyeurs who like to look but would never have the guts to participate who will get busted with the occasional ‘porn baron’ getting banged up as well.
    Taking into consideration the dire state of things and much more important issues many of us face at the moment I can’t see the relevance of some pornographer being found not guilty.

    • 2

      janefae said,

      Is it relevant to anything much…mebbe not. After all, in the scheme of things, porn is a pretty negligible sort of thing (albeit it with pretty big global budgets).

      I gues one reason i write about it is because its an area i know about and have studied to the point where i can and do happily lecture students on the topic, have written a short book on ditto and may be writing another in the next year (so it sort of has a personal economic interest for me).

      The other is that, irrespective of the subject matter, this result is/was quite significant…marks the end, possibly, of an era for obscenity law…which is why i will have written about five different articles on the subject for five different magazines by the end of the weekend. And why it is being covered on the Beeb tonight.


      • 3

        The British obscenity law imho has is an anachronism which at some point was bound to be challenged and subsequently overturned.with the bizarre emphasis on porn’s power to deprave and corrupt. However, as a said the ruling will have little impact on me, not being a user of porn. I do have one reservation, in the guardian’s chattering class report there was mention of a depiction of ‘abduction and rape’. Now I’m sure that these subjects fascinate a certain type of ‘person’ and I used to scoff at the media assumption of ‘monkey see, monkey do’ but personal experience has taught me that for some men this is a reality. For example, the recent study which found the language used in so called ‘Lad’s mags’ and that of convicted rapists difficult or impossible to differentiate between. Now if we extrapolate this down a little then the depiction of rape etc might well be seen to precipitate the same behaviour in porn users. Let’s face it, many men who use pornography do so to experience something that they imagine they’d like to do themselves.

        You say porn is an area you know about Jane. Possibly you do from the academic standpoint but I assume by your support of deregulation of the industry you have never worked in it. My premise is that an academic view is never anywhere near the real view. I have watched friends being exploited by the (in my experience male) monsters and spend years desperately trying to have material they were conned into performing in removed so they could get on with their lives. Do you explain this to students you lecture? I believe that at least some enforceable form regulation is essential to cure at least the worst excesses of the porn industry and a model should be able to withdraw their permission to use material if they wish. The wide use of model release is often used by the pornographers to con the naive into signing away their future.

        Look, the reason I’m here is that I’m a bit off colour and grumpy at the moment. I find any academic or journalistic interest in the sex industry and porn a bit nefarious and voyeuristic. You are aware of my background and, now I’m trying not to be offensive, but you say you have studied pornography to the point you feel qualified to lecture and write on the subject yet in another blog you admit to never having seen a willy which did not belong to you. More so you also expressed a deep fear of engaging in a sexual act with, I can’t remember the exact words you used but a MAN, gulp. From this I will make the assumption that you have indeed never worked in the sex industry. I do on occasion read your articles and blog.and it seems to me that you do carefully select your sources in order to reflect and support the opinion or stand point you are trying to put over. We obviously have our own points of view regarding these subjects but I do in general question the validity of many academics and here is the reason. I studied history at uni and in a conversation with a lecturer I hold in the highest regard the subject of whether we could ever contextually understand historical events he made the point that this would be largely impossible without actually being there, the same goes for this subject.

      • 4

        janefae said,

        Nope. I don’t claim to masses of knowledge in respect of PORN. I claim to know a fair bit about the legal framework in which it gets published and censored. Very different.


    • 5

      Mark said,

      If there are more important things, why waste the time prosecuting people for porn DVDs being sold to people who want to watch them? This case is clearly important in the context of obscenity and censorship law in the UK. No one’s saying this is the most important thing – but that argument could apply to almost every blog and news article out there 🙂

      I don’t know if “slimy old men” is something that should be illegal. I think regulation of commercial porn is fine, but it should be about employee rights and production, not criminalising things deemed “obscene” whilst letting mainstream exploitative porn be okay. The OPA is the latter.

  2. 6

    […] Jane Fae: News Feed: An end to Obscenity Law? […]

  3. 8

    Hi Jane
    My comments under posts about the Obscenity Trial at Freedom in a Puritan Age website haven’t been published so I won’t try and comment on your post there.

    I am finding the word ‘freedom’ in their name a bit ironic as a result.

    I have a post going up tomorrow on it I’ll drop the link here and join in the discussion then.



  4. 9

    […] Jane Fae has indicated, maybe we should keep the champagne on ice.  On her blog she […]

  5. 10

    My apologies for my slow reply to your post, I’ve had to catch up since being a bit poorly. After reading your response thinks make much more sense as I didn’t have you down as a one handed typist sort spending your evenings wading through mountains of eye watering porn 🙂 I do wonder sometimes if the establishment sees that by trying to police the un-policable they make of themselves farcical Canute like figures. However they are clearly areas such as child pornography, some of the more idiotic BDSM’ers etc where limited resources and capabilities might be better employed. One question, is a lot of public money used to implement the OPA? As yourself and others have pointed out it is clearly not appropriate to artificially enforce some Victorian moral code. BTW, I was actually quite surprised that activities such as fisting and watersports were on the list as neither really pose much of a moral outrage, do they? 🙂

  6. 11

    Ross said,

    I was prosecuted under this victorian ACT! Act, that’s part of a play & what if you don’t want to play??? Can the government through the use of force, make you NOT make/watch obscene material…because thats illegal in itself, that makes us SLAVES “Do as I say or I’ll send the coppers around to do you”.
    The act when I was prosecuted in 2002 states “Any material that is LIKELY to corrupt & deprave a significant proportion of people, having relevant regard to all information” … so how likely? How much is significant? They are 2 questions you are NOT allowed to ask ina OPA trial…why? My barrister wouldnt let me call on the state to produce a corrupt & depraved witness either? If this material does TEND to corrupt & deparve…what about the judge in the case? what about the 12 members of the jury? What about the CPS? What about the police? Are they saying that these people dont get corrupt & depraved, but the people who are looking for it do?????????

    whats Obscene is seeing innocent people, woman & children from another country being killed by OUR government & then replied 24/7 on the MSM…BBC News 24, Sky, RT etc etc. this is telling me that murdering people is fine, but consenting adult material for consenting adults is not!!! WTF?

  7. 12

    […] As Jane Fae has indicated, maybe we should keep the champagne on ice.  On her blog she wrote: […]

  8. 13

    […] post was first published at Republished here with […]

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