Moving forward to freedom in the bedroom

Several years back, I wrote about the UK’s plan to block all pornography by default and, before that, mentioned their past treatment of BDSM activities. I can now say something positive about the UK as they have recently declared that several sexual acts, particularly BDSM related, are no longer classed as obscenity. This is a great step forward which resolves some oddities in UK law where certain sexual acts were fully legal to perform but illegal to show in pornography. It’s especially good as we should not be classing activities as illegal if they have no victim. It’s absurd to suggest that a legal activity becomes illegal once on film.

The bigger issue here is the desire of several governments to control what people can see, say or do, particularly when it comes to matters of the bedroom. A classic example is homosexuality, which is no more harmful or wrong than heterosexual sex but which several governments still treat as a crime and whose depiction is often suppressed. There was a particularly self-serving example last year when the Kenyan Film and Classification Board lifted temporarily lifted their ban of Rafiki. As the film depicted a lesbian love story, it had been banned in Kenyan. After being sued by the director, Wanuri Kahiu, the ban was lifted for seven days; just long enough to make it eligible for submission to the Oscars. Strangely enough, the judge said that she was

not convinced that Kenya is such a weak society that its moral foundation will be shaken by seeing such a film.

If that’s the case, one wonders why the film would need to be banned at all. Presumably if the society is strong enough to survive one week then they are strong enough to survive the film being permanently available? Although, one should remember that Kenya is the same country that had a serious issue with gay sex by lions.

Even in South Africa, a country with legal recognition of gay marriage and laws against discrimination on sexual orientation, depictions of homosexuality can be censored. Homophobia was considered to be one of the motivations behind the change in classification given to the South African film Inxeba. Originally classified as 16LS (restricted to 16 years and older with content warnings for language and sex), it was later classified as X18 (hardcore pornography) which essentially prevented it being shown in cinemas. A judge later ruled that the film was not pornography.

To end on a more positive note, I will mention that since my original post on obscenity both Mozambique and Angola have decriminalised homosexuality, in 2015 and 2019 respectively. I am sure it is a massive relief for members of the gay community in those countries and, along with the UK’s altered stance on obscenity, a positive step to a world in which people’s private lives and non-harmful activities will not be expected to conform with the preferences of others.


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