Monday, 3 March 2014

Operation Spanner: Sadomasochism, Law and Culture

By Dr. Matt Lodder

In 1987, a group of homosexual men were arrested and charged with 'unlawful and malicious wounding' and 'assault occasioning actual bodily harm' for having participated in an entirely consensual group orgy involving sadomasochistic sex acts. The judge in the initial case, now known as R vs Brown, ruled that consent was no defence to the charges levelled, and all the men charged were convicted.

The case was appealed by three of the men, Colin Laskey, Roland Jaggard and Anthony Brown to both the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights, but at every stage, the convictions were upheld, despite persistent criticism by legal scholars and human rights activists. The case, whose ruling still technically remains in force despite the obvious lack of interest contemporary police show in enforcing it, had profound impacts on several spheres of cultural life in Britain both within and beyond the initial impacted communities.

This talk, almost thirty years on from the initial arrests and twenty years on from the ECHR ruling, presents and discusses some of these impacts, particularly in the cultural sphere.

"Dominic Johnson's work on Ron Athey and Franko B, 'Intimacy and Live Art', from which Dr Lodder quotes at length, can be found in Histories and Practices of Live Art, ed. by Deirdre Heddon and Jennie Klein (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). 

For more on the case, see The Spanner Trust website at Apologies to both Roland Jaggard and Tony Brown for the inadvertent transposition of their names at the beginning of the lecture.

No comments:

Post a Comment