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This is just a little part of my response to the new moralism which I am exploring in “Harlots” a new book based on this blog.
As a child of the sixties and seventies I remember well the expectation associated with the idealism of sexual liberation. It was hoped that men and women would be able to enjoy sex and to find sexual happiness with out the centuries old stigmas of guilt and shame. For some this has been true. The recognition of Gay and Lesbian people has superficially in the west at least signalled a significant advance in social liberalism and it could be argued that the relaxation of obscenity laws has recognised a libertarian desire among ordinary people to be their own moral arbitrators of taste and decency. In theory libertarians like my self should have much to celebrate except what little sexual freedom we have is now under threat, in danger. Sexual liberty as a right is not yet sufficiently ingrained within our western society’s consciousness that it cannot be easily snuffed out.
In the west orthodox monotheists’ despair at the influence of secularism with some justification, the west has grown weary of organised religion. Its sins, from paedophile priests to shady financial and political shenanigans are too publicly known. This loss of public trust in the institutions does not however negate the continued influence of orthodox monotheistic notions of morality which remain enshrined within our legislative structures as well as our politics and even within our media.
Few of course who speak against sexual freedom within the modern debate now infer age old notions or ideals of morality. Times they understand have changed and so has their use of language. Politicians, the media, the religious have adapted a new language of sexual repression to fit within modern ideologues of right and wrong. The most influential and oppressive of these modern ideologies has been a corruption within the feminist movement. A contagion of repression has been adopted by a powerful and privileged clique of unrepresentative but never the less influential women. These women have provided a new framework for sexual oppression by supplying a “new moral” justification for repressive legislation. Pornography and prostitution they argue are no longer just immoral, degrading or corrupting but rather they are the vehicles of oppression of “all” women and children. The moral war they argue is no longer a war to save souls from the evils of the flesh but rather it is a war to achieve gender equality, to stop the “sexualisation” of children (whatever that really means).
This is a crusade that has provided justification for the religious right and the politically correct left to find common ground in persecuting sexual liberty. Together they have created a language of oppression that has recharged the tired rhetoric of moralism. The age old idea of saving the” fallen woman” remains however very much a reality behind the political posturing about “prostituted women.” Women (rarely are male prostitutes mentioned) so called feminists argue have to be saved by using the full terror of the law and regardless of their wishes. Women who disagree they argue are either mad, being paid by pimps or are totally unrepresentative. The state these so called feminists insist has to impose by force their ideal of right behaviour for women (and men.)
We hear the excuse for oppression is that sex is special, sex we are told cannot be purchased because you are purchasing a body. What they are really saying however is that sexual consent is only valid within prescribed behavioural norms sanctioned by the state. Sex is not they argue a human right because your body does not belong to you but to them. This is old moralism wearing new shiny clothes?
Sexual liberty is very precious and it is very fragile. We must remember that the battles sexual libertarians have won are tiny. There was no real sexual revolution and as we have already seen in some states even those minor sexual liberties, the right to look at some images, the right to choose who you can have sex with are slowly being taken away. It is often being done very cleverly, almost surreptitiously. The Swedish legislation criminalising clients for example was part of a much larger bill and some argued that it was deliberately hidden.
The argument used that the loss of a few sexual images, the sacrifice of some sexual choices is bearable if our children are safe or if women and men are to become equal (whatever that means in reality) will sound attractive to some. The moralists are very clever in their emotional use of language. The truth however is that the real language that is used to justify this moralism is inherently violent and oppressive and insulting. Women are told repeatedly that they are victims and that they need the state to protect then from men who are universally vilified as rapists, as misogynistic monsters out to oppress all women and girls. Boys especially the new moralists argue have to be re educated.
There is no joy in the language of this new moralism just as there was none in the old moralism. It is the language of oppression and of coerced and prescribed behaviour. It is the language of destroyed lives, as it was in the past and as it is now and as it wants to be in the future.
The libertarian argument is about challenging the inherent moralism behind this new language of hate. The human sexual imagination is something we should celebrate. Sexual equality is not defined by the joy given by another’s human body but rather in our celebration of individuality and uniqueness. The state has no authority over the body of any individual only a duty to afford it protection if and when that individual requires protection. There is much the state could do to protect individual rights. Denying my ownership of my body and denying my right to view images of other consenting adults will not facilitate gender equality but it will deny a shared joy in humanity.