Posts tagged obscenity

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.

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News Feed: dwarf porn goes down down under

Australian Customs Agents have confiscated two volumes of “dwarf porn”.

They are believed to be cracking down on this type of content on the grounds that it represents an “offensive fetish”.

The two US titles – Midget Mania, Volumes 7 and 8 – are believed to feature vertically challenged people.

They were seized last month in Brisbane: however, despite protests from the importers, the titles have not yet been returned.

Eros Association Statement

Accusing the Customs Authorities of themselves practicing discrimination towards short-statured people and quite possibly breaching the Federal Discrimination Act, Eros Association CEO, Fiona Patten, said: “One of the main hallmarks of adult films has been the fact that everyone and anyone can get a go. Black or white, fat or thin, short or tall – unlike Hollywood, everyone is celebrated for their own unique talents and styles.

“It appears that Customs are trying to insinuate that when a large male adult actor has sex with a female dwarf or midget, that there is an element of coercion involved because of the size difference. If they have other reasons, they should let industry know instead of shrouding these decisions in secrecy”.

According to Ms Patten, Customs were now routinely ‘red-lining’ all shipments of adult material, spending many hours watching porn on the docks and looking at adult magazines under magnifying glasses.

This represented a complete waste of taxpayer’s money since Customs officers were there to stop drugs, weapons and exotic organisms and not to try and set the moral tone of the nation.

She added: “We call on the Minister to put in place a moratorium on seizures of adult material (unless child pornography is suspected) while the Australian Law Reform Commission review of the Classification Act is being completed.

“The convergence of media has meant that Customs are now prosecuting people for importing material via a boat or a plane, that is perfectly legal to import on a telephone line”.

    Analysis

Although there will be some individuals quietly sniggering at any linkage of “dwarves” and porn, this seizure raises serious issues that, in one way or another, also afflict the policing of imported material elsewhere in the world.

Legal models

Within the UK, for instance, there are three standards according to which material may be banned or withheld from public viewing. Domestically, there is a range of laws that determine whether something may be published, distributed or possessed (Obscene Publications Act, the law on “extreme porn”, and various statutes governing indecent material featuring children).

A second line of defence lies in the various mostly voluntary bodies (such as the British Board of Film Censors) who will decide whether material meets their standards and is certifiable for UK publication. Mostly, these standards align reasonably closely with domestic law – although in some cases, such as films featuring the urolagnia fetish, it is arguable that the BBFC goes a step beyond existing law.

However, layered on top of this is something called the Customs Consolidation Act, which allows a Customs and Excise Officer to seize material that they consider offensive or obscene: bear in mind that the test in this case is not whether it IS obscene, but whether an individual officer deems it to be such.

This has, in the past, led to some odd istuations where Customs have seized films on import which nonetheless are perfectly legal to possess and exhibit within the UK

However, HM Customs’ influence was seriously diminished following a ruling in the 1980’s that their attempt to block a shipment of sex dolls from Germany was in breach of the EU fair trade obligations. Since then, therefore, Customs have not involved themselves in passing judgment on material arriving from the EU.

Australia has no such pressure – and it does look as though their Customs Service is now increasingly involving itself in passing judgments on issues that, as Ms Patten says, should be left to domestic bodies to pronounce on.

Policing fetish

Their approach also raises questions about fetish material in general. The “dwarf” fetish is just one fetish that the general population may find hard to understand or condone. However, it is there, and it is not unlawful. Equally, there are fetishes for people of a certain size and colour. There is also a large literature devoted to “t-chasers” – individuals who have an erotic interest in transgender subjects.

Then, too, there is the largest “fetish” group of all: women!

Each of these interests could be argued to be offensive: in some instances, they may be. But they are not unlawful – and if various Customs Services around the globe are now to start determining what fetishes are OK, which ones are “demeaning”, they are going to be making a lot of work for themselves.

Jane Fae

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