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Sunday 13 November 2016


Sexual Freedom: What If...?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 4th November 2015

Suppose that LGBT legislative reform and social history had gone down another route instead. What would it have been like?

Of course, even if the current focus of LGBT research and legislative objectives centre on transgender rights and educational policy (comprehensive antibullying reform), some traces of the road not taken are still visible. During the nineties, New Zealand censorship policy became liberalised and broadly inclusive. If sexual activity involved consenting adults, if it did not constitute a criminal act and if it did not tangibly harm others, then it was let through with an R18 certificate, which benefited the BDSM and fetishist communities, most of which catered to those above forty years of age and were predominantly childless, or else had adult children.

Meanwhile, other Commonwealth jurisdictions had ignored Britain's Operation Spanner case, in which several heavy-duty gay male BDSM participants were convicted of aggravated assault after police intervention, upheld by the European Court of Human Rights. The ambiguity of illegality or otherwise allowed a serial killer to prey on London leathermen until he was apprehended, possibly causing the Major administration to back off any further criminalisation of BDSM that might have ensued. The case and its consequences aroused concern throughout BDSM academic and magazine journal articles before it ultimately subsided.

After that, initiatives in Northwestern Europe, Scandinavia and Canada spread to the western world and relationship equality and same-sex parenting became the predominant focuses of the LGBT legislative arena during the last two decades, apart from the perennial question of HIV/AIDS and its management and containment. Of course, this focus hasn't been complete- witness prostitution law reform debates across New Zealand, Australia and Canada during the same period.

What if a sexual freedom agenda had prevailed? As well as decriminalisation of sex work, BDSM would have occupied a greater role, whether fighting criminalisation on spurious "aggravated assault" grounds or lobbying for the addition of leather communities to antidiscrimination laws. However, this would have lasted only a brief interim period, however beneficial for the civil liberties and human rights of BDSM communities it might have been. Instead, the prior spousal and parental responsibilities and rights focus of the last two decades has benefited a greater number of community members.

And now, the focus must be intensively on transgender rights. It has been neglected for far too long amongst lesbian, gay and bisexual New Zealanders and it is time that we organised solidarity with transgender equality lobbying efforts.


Craig Young - 4th November 2015

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