Antony Grey
Antony Grey

Linda: What Sticks in My Gullet!

The prosecution of the publisher of “Inside Linda Lovelace”, at a huge cost to tax payers, gave further credence to Mr Bumble's immortal words, “the law is a ass.” But there are more serious considerations than waste of public money. The censorship lobby is a sinister political force. For, as the author of this article argues, books in the dock are ideas in the dock.

There must be something badly amiss with me. I don't care a fig what (or who) goes on inside Linda Lovelace — but I care intensely what goes on inside Ronald Butt, David Holbrook, Jill Knight MP, Lord Longford, Malcolm Muggeridge and Mary Whitehouse. And inside the aptly named Mr Brian Leary. Mr Leary, you ask? Well, he is the prosecuting barrister who pops up time and again in the more sensational obscenity trials, foaming at the mouth about SEX, which he apparently regards as “debasing” unless it is accompanied by love.
    It can scarcely be denied that this is a distinctly contentious proposition. So for this reason alone (although there are many others) I strenuously object to the State, in the person of the Director of Public Prosecutions employing Mr Brian Leary, taking it upon itself to decide what you or I may or may not read, see, hear or do in the sexual sphere. Which is why I do not particularly rejoice at the acquittal of Heinrich Hanau for publishing Inside Linda Lovelace. I regard it as scandalous that he was ever prosecuted at all for doing so. And whether the cost to public funds was £200,000 or £20,000 (which the complainant, Mr Watts, considered would be cheap to the taxpayer if it started to “clean up Britain”) or £13,000 as the Attorney-General has stated, I consider it a gross misuse of my and your taxes. Apart from all else it has provided a gratuitous selling boost for tawdry trash.
    But even tawdry trash has a right to be published. I do not want to live in a censored society. I agree with John Milton's oft-misquoted statement in Areopagitica that liberty of speech, even if abused, is infinitely preferable to the licensing of printing. And with J.S. Mill that in the market place of ideas truth, logic and virtue have more to gain from a free than a fettered arena.
    So I would defend smut? [ would defend the portrayal of sado-masochistic violence? I would defend accounts of sickening torture? Yes, I would, because these things happen in the world whether we are allowed to know it or not: and because we shall never overcome evil by being kept in ignorance of its existence.
    This is my answer to the splutterings of Ronald Butt, who concluded a lengthy Times article of 5 February (“Pornography: a Question of First Principles”) with an exhortation to book burning worthy of Torquemada: “The exercise of debating skills is no longer relevant. It is time we let ourselves concentrate on what, with the accumulation of human wisdom, we know to be right and act accordingly” (my italics); and to those of David Holbrook, who in the following day's issue alleged in a letter to the Editor that the unfortunate exploited performers in pornographic films who compensated by public acting out for “their inability to understand what sex means” would in their mounting desperation progress to brutal viciousness, rape and even murder.
    Even if one swallows (with genuflections to Linda Lovelace) the alarmist notion now being assiduously peddled by Holbrook, Butt and anonymous Times leader writers that all pornography is potentially an incitement to violence and murder — as valid a thesis, I would have thought, as that all pot smoking inevitably leads on to heroin addiction or that the imbibing of mothers' milk will surely bring you to chronic alcoholism — we are still left with the debateable question of whether pornography or the banning of books is the greater evil. And, with no apologies to Ronald Butt, I shall continue debating it until I am legally banned from doing so.

Holy Porn
    Books in the dock are ideas in the dock. And ideas in the dock — even ideas which may deprave and corrupt — are the hallmark of the totalitarian State. (The Bible, incidentally, has probably corrupted and depraved more people into religious fanaticism, intolerance and cruelty than pornography has into sexual vice, violence or murder, while its highly subversive doctrines of loving one's neighbour and forgiving one's enemies have been widely ignored by professing Christians; so on balance it may well have done the world more harm than good. Messrs Butt and Muggeridge will doubtless be delighted to know that nonetheless I have no desire to ban it — and indeed, that I on occasion read it with enjoyment and profit, as I also do pornography.)
    But in these so called “obscenity” trials, it is not only the published word or picture that is placed in the dock. The prosecution's customary conduct of these cases, from Lady Chatterley's Lover through OZIT and the Little Red School Book to Inside Linda Lovelace, endeavours to place “unorthodox” sexuality and “alternative” life styles in the dock. The grotesquely medieval and paternalistic notion that the Courts are the watchdogs of personal, private morals which was so unblushingly unearthed by the Law Lords in the Ladies' Directory case, and which — though it has been scotched by the Law Commission — is still not Parliamentarily dead, is taken as read by Mr Leary and his prosecuting colleagues in each new trial.
    Oral sex, for instance — known by most competent sexologists to be a widespread and harmless practice — was denounced by the Linda Lovelace Judge Rigg as “unnatural”, and by the omniscient Mr Leary as liable to cause death, (Perhaps the Registrar-General would kindly oblige with figures of the numbers of deaths caused through oral sex during each of the past 20 years?) And Judge Rigg — though hastily disclaiming any expertise when he got embroiled in a passage at arms with defence witness Marion Boyars about what constituted sado-masochism — announced at one point: “We all know what God created us to do.”
    Do we? If only it were as simple as that! Once again, I resent my taxes being misspent to pay the stipends of people who are capable of making such asinine remarks.

Sexual Totalitarians
With variant sexuality in the dock, your and my privacy and freedom are in the dock. If you or I want to fuck, suck, bugger or masturbate with whom we like, how we like, or to stimulate ourselves with “blue” films, books or photographs, what the hell business is it of Messrs Holroyd, Butt, Rigg and Leary, or of Mesdames Whitehouse, Knight or HM The Queen, so long as we don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses? Yes, I agree, these people have a right to some protection from being offended by public displays of sexuality or its depiction — but they have no business at all to deny anyone else the freedom to do, see, hear or read whatever they want to in the company of other like-minded people. As the Sexual Law Reform Society's working party has pointed out, it is high time that this was made clear by Parliament, once and for all.
    Where the sexual totalitarians err is that by elevating sex from a natural, mundane activity into a “sacramental” one, they paradoxically defile it by making out that at least 85 per cent of what human beings actually do sexually is dirty and degrading. They are so threatened by other peoples' free and spontaneous enjoyment of sexuality that they are impelled to ban not only its depiction or description, but also (wherever they can get away with it) sexual performance itself, on the far-fetched pretext that freeing sexuality leads to rape and murder — which are in fact far more likely to result from enforced sexual repression than from over-indulgence.
    All this tells us far more about the morbid psychology of the prurient prudes than it reveals concerning those of us who enjoy watching — or creating — explicitly sexual books and films without feeling ourselves to be “corrupted or depraved” thereby.
    Yes, love is beautiful and uplifting: so is human sexuality in all its varieties when mutually desired and sought — and the latter just as often inspires the former as vice versa. So provided that it is unforced and freely responded to, let us reassert the positive, life-enhancing properties of LUST, and sweep aside the snivelling, canting purveyors of sexual guilt and deprivation with their humbug about a “morality” which is an insult even to the sub-standard brand of “Christianity” that they profess.

This article was published in The Freethinker (London) some time in the early 1970s. Unfortunately, I neglected to jot the date down on my photocopy and can't find the original. — John Lauritsen

* Anthony Grey (1927-2010) was one of the most important gay rights campaigners of the 20th century, deserving much of the credit for passage of the British 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which decriminalised sexual activity between two consenting adults. Grey joined the Homosexual Law Reform Society in 1958, and later became Secretary of the Albany Trust. His books include Quest For Justice: Towards Homosexual Emancipation (1993), and Speaking Out: Sex, Law, Politics and Society (1997).

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