It’s time to scrap our Victorian approach to BDSM

bdsm

Over the last few years, especially with documentaries and films like Fifty Shades of Grey, acts of BDSM have become less taboo. However, 25 years ago today, a ruling in the House of Lords was made that effectively criminalised such acts even between consenting adults.

In the case of R v Brown (1993), judges in the House of Lords, the then highest court in the UK, ruled that consent was not a valid defence to acts that cause actual bodily harm (hurt or injury interfering with health or comfort, which doesn’t need to be permanent but more than merely transient). One of the judges in the case, Lord Templeton claimed that such behaviours breed cruelty, adding:

“The violence of sadomasochistic encounters involves the indulgence of cruelty by sadists and the degradation of victims. Such violence is injurious to the participants and unpredictably dangerous. Society is entitled and bound to protect itself against a cult of violence. Pleasure derived from the infliction of pain is an evil thing. Cruelty is uncivilised.”

This judgement, which still acts as a legal precedent in England and Wales, presents an attitude that is Victorian in nature, from its imposition of moral standards on the public, and is out of kilter with modern Britain and the will of its people.

It does not make sense that people are able to consent to activities, such as boxing and body piercing, which can cause pain, but not to BDSM.

And the interference of the state in the bedroom has increased under the Tory government, with the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 censoring facesitting, fisting, physical restraint and sadomasochistic content.

Politicians should have no place in regulating what goes on between two consenting adults behind closed doors. These antiquated laws and rulings impose moral standards on all of the public, regardless of whether people agree to them or not, and also show a misunderstanding of the BDSM community – many of whom subscribe to the principle of having activities be ‘safe, sane and consensual’.

It’s time for the government to step out of the bedroom and abolish such archaic laws.

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