I am in Budapest. Good Sex, Bad Sex: Sex Law, Crime and Ethics is the first conference I’ve been interested in attending in a long time. I swore off the whole conference genre for a while, but the description of this one caught my eye, so I got in touch with two very interesting minds and we proposed a panel. It’s a small event, 35 or so people, and no competing sessions, so you can actually relax and reflect on everything you hear. Our session is:
Session 2: Breathing New Life into Old Fears: Cultural Studies of Prostitution, Pornography and Bad Sex
This panel will explore continuing impulses to criminalise and prohibit forms of ‘bad’ sexual practice. The three papers examine continuities and transformations in recent regulatory impulses to ‘protect’ the ‘innocent’ and the public from individual instances of bad sexual conduct. We ask whether fixed ethical frameworks, with concomitant laws, are appropriate in an age where diversity, autonomy and agency are prime values.
The Evil is in Paying: Sex with ‘Trafficked Women’
Prominent politicians and feminists have come to maintain that paying for sex with a ‘victim of trafficking’ is a heinous crime equivalent to violent rape. All migrant workers in the sex industry are considered subject to ‘serial rape’ and ‘sexual slavery’. The movement purposely conflates all prostitution with ‘trafficking’ and attacks those who disagree as pimps and anti-feminists. The justification is Gender Equality, a utopic vision that defines good sex as symmetrical, mutual, personally close, loving and equitable. Resulting laws criminalise the buying of sex on the grounds that introducing money creates a power relationship antithetical to the right kind of sex. This paper posits a different ethical vision in which money is not granted defining status in sexual acts.
Going to Extremes: Understanding New Online Pornographies
Online pornographies increasingly provide a focus for debates about permissible and impermissible sexual practices and about good and bad representations of sex. They have also become the focus of broader concerns with ‘extreme’ images of the body, for example in the horror subgenre which has been dubbed ‘torture porn’, in images of real violence and conflict (sometimes referred to as ‘warporn’ or ‘atrocity porn’), and in the wider set of ‘shock’ images which proliferate online. This paper considers the significance of contemporary concerns about extreme online pornographies in a cultural context where norms of sexuality and notions of obscenity are fiercely contested and where the circulation of sexual imagery is more prevalent than ever before.
Five Dominatrices and a Thrashing: the Classifications of Sadomasochism
During 2008 two of the UK’s most august institutions resounded to discussion of activities involving pain and sexual pleasure: the House of Lords debated the rights of British citizens to possess images of ‘extreme’ sexual practices and the High Court was regaled with tales of supposed Nazi orgies starring Max Mosley (Formula 1 President and son of British wartime fascist Sir Oswald Mosley) and five women he had paid to beat him. The rights and wrongs of sadomasochism, consensual violence and the commodification and commercialisation of sexual desire were thoroughly aired across the media. This paper will consider the multiple meanings of sadomasochism and other ‘extreme’ sexual practices in public discourse and the continuing failures of the legislature to understand such practices as anything other than evidence of deviant or irrational impulses.