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 2003: July-Sept

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September 20th

  Net Censorship

From The Register

Internet restrictions, government secrecy and communications surveillance have reached an unprecedented level across the world. A year-long study of Internet censorship in more than 50 countries found that a sharp escalation in control of the Internet since September 2001 may have outstripped the traditional ability of the medium to repel restrictions.

The report fires a broadside at the United States and the United Kingdom for creating initiatives hostile to Internet freedom. Those countries have led a global attack on free speech on the Internet and set a technological and regulatory standard for mass surveillance and control of the Net, the report by London-based Privacy International and the GreenNet Educational Trust argues.

The 70,000 word report, Silenced, is launched at the preparatory meeting of the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva. The study, undertaken through a collaboration of more than 50 experts and advocates throughout the world and funded by a grant from the Open Society Institute, found that censorship of the Internet is commonplace in most regions of the world.

The 9/11 effect

The report says: It is clear that in most countries over the past two years there has been an acceleration of efforts to either close down or inhibit the Internet. In some countries, for example in China and Burma, the level of control is such that the Internet has relatively little value as a medium for organised free speech, and its use could well create additional dangers at a personal level for activists.

The September 11, 2001 attacks have given numerous governments the opportunity to promulgate restrictive policies that their citizens had previously opposed. There has been an acceleration of legal authority for additional snooping, from increased email monitoring to the retention of Web logs and communications data. Simultaneously, governments have become more secretive about their own activities, reducing information that was previously available and refusing to adhere to policies on freedom of information.

In finding a substantial level of censorship in many countries, the report condemns the complicity of Western nations. Governments of developing nations rely on Western countries to supply them with the necessary technologies of surveillance and control, such as digital wiretapping equipment, deciphering equipment, scanners, bugs, tracking equipment and computer intercept systems. The transfer of surveillance technology from first to third world is now a lucrative sideline for the arms industry. Without the aid of this technology transfer, it is unlikely that non-democratic regimes could impose the current levels of control over Internet activity.

Corporates adopt 'Big Brother' tactics

One of the most important trends in recent years is the growth of multinational corporate censors. The report says: It is arguable that in the first decade of the 21st century, corporations will rival governments in threatening Internet freedoms. Aggressive protection of corporate intellectual property has resulted in substantial legal action against users, and a corresponding deterioration in trust across the Internet.

The report notes numerous instances where Internet users have been jailed by authorities for posting or hosting political material. Such countries include Egypt, China and a number of Middle Eastern countries where the Internet is tightly controlled and heavily monitored.

The Internet is a fragile and easily controlled medium, the report argues. In Africa, governments in countries such as Kenya and Zimbabwe have at times literally shut it down. The Saudi government over a period of just three months blocked access to more than 400,000 websites that were regarded as immoral.

According to the report, a wide variety of methods are used to restrict and/or regulate Internet access. These include: applying draconian laws and licenses, content filtering, tapping and surveillance, pricing and taxation policies, telecommunication markets manipulation, hardware and software manipulation and self-censorship.

Ray of light

The study does however report some positive developments. Countries have established protections, companies have fought for the rights of privacy of individuals, technologies have sustained the ability of dissident groups to speak freely and access content privately. Differences in national laws have sheltered the speech of the oppressed. Technological developments are being implemented to protect a free Internet, but the knowledge gap between radical innovators and restrictive institutions appears to be closing.

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International and one of the report's editors, said: It is clear that democratic nations such as the US and the UK have failed to set an acceptable benchmark for free speech. Non-democratic regimes look to the West for technologies and techniques of repression. The report sounds a warning that we must move quickly to preserve the remaining freedoms on the Internet before they are systematically extinguished.

Silenced is available on the Privacy International website

 

September 13th

  The Horror Of PayPal

Last May, PayPal an Internet credit card payment service announced that it would stop taking payments for most adult-themed merchandise. This was presumed to be a restriction on sex related goods. It started by banning the use of PayPal for downloaded material.

On June 12, PayPal extended its ban from downloads to tangible products, such as magazines, books, DVDs, videotapes and sex toys. PayPal, also bans payments for tobacco, lottery tickets, used air bags and human corpses.

Of course having started down the slippery slope, Paypal have rapidly descended into the gutters and cess pits. Carl who runs a horror website describes how they have now decided that horror is another forbidden category:

 I for one will be avoiding the use of this obnoxious censorial service.

As you may know I run a website devoted to the coverage of controversial films and have published a magazine entitled Unrated - Cinema of the Extreme, which I have also sold on ebay, and take PayPal payments for it. Well, to my horror this morning I received, without any notification whatsoever a letter from PayPal announcing the following: As you know, the PayPal User Agreement states that PayPal, at its sole discretion, reserves the right to close an account at any time for any reason. We are writing to inform you that, after a review of your site, and in accordance with PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy, your account has been closed. PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy prohibits the sale of items for mature audiences. After a review of your site/account, you have either received payments via PayPal, or have PayPal referenced on your site. Due to the violation of the Acceptable Use Policy your account will be closed.

Now almost every film in my site is distributed by a company utilising PayPal , and according to this letter it means any other site wither promoting or selling materials that I too cover can and is liable to have their PayPal accounts closed and assets possibly frozen (for up to 180 days). I have heard horror stories before regarding PayPal and their controversial policies, but this really does stink. I primarily use my PayPal account to sell old comics and harmless H. P. Lovecraft books, and buy the odd item off ebay - and have not used it at all for any pornographic materials - so it would appear no-one selling horror movies/magazines/pornography or the like is actually prone to this treatment, as ludicrous as it may sound. Anyway just thought I'd let you, and readers know.

 

August 7th

  Kissing Justice Good Bye

What a ludicrous situation when politicians legislate on a knee jerk, law drafters are left with an impossible situation. They then suggest that a recovery policy is to write a bad law and then ask us to trust the discretion of the prosecutors to refrain from using the law inappropriately. We desperately need some sort of constitutional court to protect us from our incompetent law makers.

From The Sunday Times

Teenagers who kiss and cuddle behind the bike sheds would be breaking the law under new legislation planned to crack down on paedophiles. A bill proposed by David Blunkett, the home secretary, fails to distinguish between innocent teenage fumbling and adult paedophiles when it outlaws “sexual touching” of under-16s.

If the bill becomes law it could theoreticially see teenagers facing up to five years in jail and land their parents with 14-year jail terms if they knowingly allow their underage sons and daughters to cavort with friends.

Blunkett had hoped MPs would approve the new Sexual Offences Bill but now faces a rebellion over its poor drafting when it is discussed this week. He insists he has no intention of outlawing teenage necking, but his officials accept that, technically at least, his bill could have that effect.

The offending text, clauses 10 to 14 of the draft bill, says that a teenager commits an offence if he intentionally touches another person (and) the touching is sexual.

Parts of the bill are designed to address the widespread public disquiet that followed the murder of Sarah Payne, the eight-year-old abducted from a field in Sussex three years ago and murdered.  In response, Blunkett had the bill drafted so that it would impose much longer sentences on convicted paedophiles. The bill also brings under one act a host of disparate offences.

But critics say that no matter how well intentioned the bill, Blunkett has gone too far. In trying to protect children from the attentions of predatory adults, it will criminalise them for innocent behaviour of their own. Barry Hugill, a spokesman for the civil rights group Liberty, said: I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of people in the country will believe this is silly. Most of them know the difference between abuse and teenagers snogging.

The bill has been roundly condemned by the Family Planning Association (FPA) because it fails to distinguish between abusive relationships and consensual sexual activity between under-16s. Rachel Hodgkin, a senior adviser at the FPA, said: “There is a maximum of five years for snogging or sexually touching someone. You could get the trauma of your perfectly normal sexual life as an adolescent being investigated as a major criminal offence. The net has been tremendously widened so that it includes French kissing and touching through clothes. Hodgkin said parents who supervised teenage parties at which under-16s kissed could find themselves at the mercy of the law.

A Home Office spokesman defended the bill as currently drafted: Adults do not have a monopoly on sexual abuse, and it is extremely difficult to come up with a formulation in law that will protect children from abusive sexual activity by children of a similar age while allowing for consensual sexual activity to take place. We believe that the law has to be crystal clear about the age of sexual consent, and any sexual activity below that age is not lawful.”

The spokesman added that guidelines would be issued to the Crown Prosecution Service, instructing it not to prosecute under-16s engaged in genuinely consensual sexual activity.

Blunkett had hoped the bill would face little opposition, but MPs on the standing committee examining the proposals will be told this week that it criminalises the sort of legitimate — if awkward — encounters enjoyed by millions of teenagers as part of growing up.

The bill has already been delayed by resistance in the Lords, where a majority of peers objected to its failure to outlaw sex in public lavatories.

Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner, is seeking an amendment to decriminalise sex involving under-16s where both partners consent and where there is no more than three years’ difference in their ages.

 

August 4th

  Pubic Fringe 

Based on an article in the Independent

It's the sexiest Edinburgh Festival ever. Everyone expects the Fringe to shock, but never before has it offered up such a brazen display of nudity and sex. More than 60 of this year's official Fringe shows have sexual themes, or feature nudity or graphic eroticism.

Among the more outlandish productions to be premiered this week is TalkSexShow, in which festival veteran Paul Davies, posing as a tantric sex guru, will invite members of his audience to join him naked on stage. The show, billed as a "training session in love-making", includes a sequence in which a man and a woman simulate sex acts while dressed in skintight "nude suits".

Also opening this week is The Floating Brothel, a Hogarthian farce about18th-century prostitutes sent to entertain a penal colony at Sydney Cove in Australia. The play features numerous scenes of full-frontal nudity and a narrator who addresses the audience while playing with himself. It has been described by its own promoters as having "more jugs than Jordan" and "more penis than Puppetry" - a reference to the "genital origami" show Puppetry of the Penis, also returning to Edinburgh.

Other shows include The Whore's Tale, in which an actress in a basque and suspenders "romps through the history of whoring" on a heart-shaped bed, and the erotic Dance Japanesque Vagina.

Fringe organisers insist that, whatever their superficial similarities, the majority of the acts performing sexually oriented work will do so in an original and justified way. Some remain to be convinced.

Sir Jonathan Miller, the writer and director who launched his career with the groundbreaking 1960s Cambridge Footlights show Beyond the Fringe, described the reliance on sexual themes as "monotonous". What's happened is that the Fringe has become a much more commercial enterprise than ever before, and sex is what is commercial these days, he said.

 

July 31st

  Complaints Filtered Out

I was initially concerned that we can no longer write to our elected officials about social issues, but on the other hand nor can your typical whinging nutter.

From The Barnet & Potters Bar Times

When emails to Liberal Democrat councillor Sean Hooker inexplicably dried up two weeks ago he assumed it was down to gremlins in the town hall server.

But he was shocked to discover this week that Barnet Council have set up a filter that trashes email with the word "hooker". All council correspondence has been filtered for sexual phrases since the end of June.

Despite the setback, Mr Hooker remains proud of his family name and says he is not going to alter it for anyone. I had people coming into my surgery at Mill Hill Library saying they had emailed me and not heard anything. I was blissfully unaware that these people were trying to contact me. I emailed all the other councillors and said: 'Have you noticed any problems with the system'? and they said they hadn't. Then I got a very nice phone call on Monday (July 28) from the assistant chief executive to explain that an enthusiastic member of his staff had implemented these protocols without testing them and one of the things it excluded was my surname.

Apparently all the emails are in a big pot with adverts for personal services. I have got residents' complaints in-between emails saying: 'Ring Judi on 4929 for a good time', and that sort of thing.

A council spokesman said the protocols were introduced at the end of June as part of a commercial package. It was introduced to tackle the problem of unsolicited SPAM emails and inappropriate emails.

 

July 30th

  UK Law Gets a Kick up the Butt

I was shocked to find that heterosexual anal intercourse was considered a crime in part of the UK. I thought that only backwater countries like the United States of War Criminals had such crappy law on their statute books.

From U.TV

Heterosexual anal intercourse is now no longer an offence in the same circumstances as consensual homosexual intercourse. (I wonder what circumstances are still prohibited?)

Changes came into effect when Northern Ireland Office Minister John Spellar signed the Commencement Order on miscellaneous provisions of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2003

 

July 29th

  Persecution in Aberdeen

What sort of bollox charge is this. R18 videos are no longer considered obscene. Human Rights legislation insists that we should not be subjected to the repressive constraints on freedom of speech as enshrined in the Video Recordings Act. It should be Aberdeen Council on trial for denying us our human rights. Shame on the prosecuting authorities for persecuting this 'non crime'

From the Press & Journal

An Aberdeen businessman has admitted illegally possessing adult videos in his city shop. John Baigrie pleaded guilty to having video recordings containing classification certificates which can only be supplied in licensed sex shops.

He admitted possessing the videos at his John Winters premises on the city's Urquhart Road for the purpose of supplying them on January 24 this year. Baigrie pleaded guilty to the charge under the Video Recordings Act 1984, by letter at Aberdeen Sheriff Court yesterday. He pleaded not guilty to a further charge under the same act that he had possessed videos with no issued classification certificates, for the purpose of supplying, on the same date. His plea was accepted by the Crown.

Sheriff Shiona Waldron deferred sentence on Baigrie for his personal appearance on August 13.

Earlier this month, Baigrie applied for permission to open a sex shop selling adult videos and sex toys in the city's Market Street. The move came a year after councillors denied his application in the same street.

Baigrie, who is a former council employee, sells sex items from his store, but remains within the law, as long as they don't form a significant part of his business.

 

July 28th

  Five Loses Faith

From the Guardian

Channel Five is to drop the last remnant of its softcore programming after a deathbed denunciation by the singer Adam Faith.

Kevin Lygo, the outgoing director of programmes, decided to scrap the remaining "erotic drama" output after Faith's remarks threatened to undo his attempts to reposition the channel as the home of arts documentaries and classic US dramas.

Faith's last words before he died of a heart attack this year, made while he was watching television in hospital, were said to have been: Channel Five is all shit isn't it? Christ, the crap they put on there, it's a waste of space. His comments led to a raft of articles about Five's "tacky" output, reminiscent of the period when the former chief executive Dawn Airey identified the mainstays of the channel as "football, films and fucking".

Executives said the coverage did not reflect the "negligible" part of the schedule represented by adult movies: the Guardian has learned that Lygo feels there is no option but to cut them out completely. Since Lygo started at Five two years ago, he has sought to reposition the channel. He cut down on the number of sleazy factual programmes about strippers and alternative sexual practices, and also reduced Five's reliance on films.

Press coverage was favourable, and Lygo boasted about how Five now had less sex on it than Channel 4. But adult movies continue to be shown on Friday nights, aimed principally at a post-pub male audience, and Faith's remarks prompted a return to sneering comment. Executives felt they had no choice but to ditch the output altogether.

 

July 28th

  Raised Kilts

A pleasantly positive story from the Sunday Herald

We've had Highlander, Braveheart, Brigadoon and now we’re getting our own version of Deep Throat. Yes, Scotland can lay cinematic claim to its own porn film – The Scottish Loveknot.

The movie is the latest feature -length video from Private, one of the world’s leading hardcore porn companies. The film was shot secretly in Scotland, but like most Hollywood takes on life in the Highlands, the main stars aren’t Scots themselves. The starring roles in The Scottish Loveknot go to three Hungarian porn starlets called Ginger, Vanda and Violet and a Canadian named Dan Stallion. Englishman Steve Hooper has been cast as the male star.

The producers claim the director is Scottish and the movie is his debut. He’s not keen to go public just yet and is concealing his identity behind the “artistic name” Gazzman.

The Scottish Loveknot is one of the most expensive porn films ever made. It cost a fraction of a mainstream Hollywood movie, but at £200,000 is an astronomical sum for a porn movie. Unsurprisingly, it will not be premiering at the Edinburgh Film Festival, but it will figure at Edinburgh’s new Festival Erotique next month.

One of the key features of Private’s movies is the use of new, exotic locations, said Private Media Group press officer Richard Sharp. We’ve never shot in Scotland before and so the proposal met with great enthusiasm offering a backdrop and aesthetic that has proved to be incredibly popular in mainstream cinema.

“The Private Media Group is a big international company, with headquarters in Barcelona and a public listing on the US Nasdaq financial market. It’s famed for its glitzy events at the Cannes Film Festival.

They shot the whole film on location last summer without contacting either Scottish Screen or Scottish Highlands and Islands Film Commission. They probably wouldn’t want to go through official channels, said Highlands film officer Trish Shorthouse. I would be interested to know their locations and how they got permission. But the film-makers will say only that it was in the Loch Ness area. It was all shot on a private estate, the exact location of which is a trade secret, said Sharp.

Far from being outraged by the film, local reaction seems muted. Donald Skinner, owner of the Loch Ness Lodge Hotel, said: There’s no such thing as bad publicity in this game. If we get on CNN with this, good and well. If we get naked women on Loch Ness-side, well and good.

 

July 26th

  Towering Human Rights Abuse

Thanks to Peter:

My local council, Tower Hamlets in London,  have just decided o censor all publicly accessible Internet machines. So, whilst I can do depraved things like surf for information on civil liberties, gay rights and the downsides to Internet filters, people without the money to afford their own PC cannot.

Now as I recall, the European Convention of Human Rights states. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

I understand that the state can still impose censorship if they justify the harm that would otherwise be caused if they did not censor. Now given that the most obvious internet filter is to filter porn and the state no longer contend that adult consensual is harmful then surely this most basic of internet filters is illegal to impose on an adult viewer.

Perhaps a first year law student could be given an end of term project to prosecute Tower Hamlets council for gross abuse of Human Rights. It would surely be a doddle.

 

July 19th

  Worthless Last Words

The BSC were set up with a remit designed to place the pro-censorial pressure groups. They only accept complaints about eg too much sex or violence in specific programmes. If you try to complain that there is too much censorship on TV it was turned down as being too general and outside their remit. If you tried to complain about excessive cuts in a particular programme they would not act as they felt that a broadcaster had the right to cut material as they deem fit.

So a resounding Melon Farming good riddance to a worthless bunch of censors.

Based on an article from the Guardian

A rise in "intense and protracted" violence during soaps like EastEnders and Coronation Street has prompted television regulators to issue a toothless warning to broadcasters.

In its final report before being wound up, the broadcasting standards commission said the number of complaints about soaps increased in the 12 months to March 31 2003, but singled out scenes in the two most popular soaps.

It expressed a worry that broadcasters were finding ways of portraying violence in subtler ways, and said its concerns should be addressed because soaps were watched by so many children.

The BSC acknowledges that soaps are well known for tackling sensitive issues in a realistic manner, but it was concerned about the increase of scenes featuring intense and protracted scenes of violence in domestic settings broadcast before the 9pm watershed, given the large young audience they attract, the wortless watchdog said in its 2003 review.

An episode of EastEnders featuring Phil Mitchell's attack on nephew Jamie after he first threatened teenager Sonia Jackson, attracted 31 complaints; while the Coronation Street scene in which Richard Hillman killed Maxine Peacock brought complaints from 21 viewers.

The BSC's director, Paul Bolt, confirmed the regulator had received more complaints than ever about soaps in the last year, and said it was unacceptable to insert frightening and adult scenes in pre-watershed programmes, particularly those popular with under 16s.

Our continuing caseload and our research both show how much people still care about broadcast standards. The new regulator will need to take that concern on board in preparing its own approach to content regulation, said Bolt. The BSC's duties are being taken over by the media regulator Ofcom.

The BSC's chairman, Lord Dubs, said he thought broadcasters recognised they had to be particularly careful with portraying violence in soaps because they attracted a family audience. Soaps are realistic and often helpful in enabling parents to raise issues that are harder to raise without them having been dramatised in a soap first. But sometimes they go too far"  he added.

An episode of the BBC1 drama Spooks, in which Lisa Faulkner's character was tortured and killed by having her head shoved in a deep fat fryer, attracted more complaints than any other TV show last year. The episode, broadcast in May 2002, attracted 154 complaints. The BSC ruled at the time that the scene was editorially justified, but criticised the BBC for not giving a better on-air warning before the drama began about the level of violence it would contain.

Nearly one in five complaints about the channel concerned just two shows - the Spooks episode, and an edition of Casualty in February 2003 that featured a gay kiss between two men, which attracted 119 complaints.

 

July 17th

  Walking Off

From the Independent

The censorial Evening Standard film critic Alexander Walker died a couple days ago after a career spanning more than 40 years.

Tessa Jowell said that Walker's understanding of the world of cinema was unparalleled. He demonstrated his love for film in many ways, including his role as a governor of the British Film Institute, his contribution to public debate, and, of course, his years of service as a leading and influential film critic. His passion and commitment to film will be greatly missed.

Of course the Melon Farmers disagree with 99 % of his views but do recognise his achievements in bringing the ludicrous nature of censorship into public debate.

 

July 5th

  Nottingham Abuse Overruled

From the Nottingham Evening Post

This week a court gave permission for nightclub Isis to show nude table-dancing in Nottingham. Until now the city council has strongly resisted the opening of table or lap dancing clubs.

While most major cities nearby already have them - Birmingham has 12 and Leicester three - Nottingham's only venue so far is in Radford. But Conrads is a private members' bar which means it is not subject to city council licensing powers.

On Thursday the Evening Post told how the Isis nightclub, on Lenton Industrial Estate, appealed to magistrates after city councillors refused to let the venue vary its public entertainment licence and convert its first-floor to a separate table dancing club.

The council said the proposed 'Crocodile Lounge' would be too close to nearby family-orientated businesses and too isolated if the shows provoked attacks by men on women in the area. Police did not back the council, though it was supported by a petition, largely organised by the Nottingham-based Christian Centre and letters from members of the public also opposed the plan.

But city magistrates ruled the location was fine, there was no clear evidence that table dancing provoked over-excited men to attack women and they would even allow Isis's application for nude, not just topless, dancing.

Senior city councillors have registered their disapproval. Coun Derek Creswell, chairman of the city licensing committee that threw out the initial application in March, said after the court case: Legally they've won the case, but morally no. He felt it not likely the city council would try to fight the decision.

City council leader Jon Collins said: I'm disappointed that the magistrates didn't feel they could uphold the original decision of the licensing committee."

Asked if he thought that further applications would follow, Coun Collins added: I hope not, I think the council has made its position clear.

During his leadership of the city council Coun Graham Chapman oversaw a lengthy and costly battle to prevent a lap dancing club opening near Midland Station.

Today Coun Chapman said the council's stance wasn't a case of prudery.
We are trying to lift Nottingham up and this takes it in the opposite direction, Of course there will be other applications now.

 

July 5th   Human Rights Abuse in Glasgow

This is a piece written by US feminist Andrea Dworkin on the subject of lapdancing/strip clubs. It's in response to the position taken by Glasgow city council to refuse all applications for lapdancing clubs on moral grounds. Andrea Dworkin, the notorious US feminist nutter, applauds Glasgow City Council's campaign against lap-dancing. The Melon Farmers abhor Glasgow City Council's campaign as corrupt and a gross abuse of power.

Glasgow needs to be thanked. Through consistent and effective feminist organising for the equality and dignity of women over a 30- year period, a new lexicon has reached responsive politicians who are willing to ban lap-dancing because of its affront to the integrity of women. Objectification is recognised for what it is: the dehumanising of a subordinated group for the purpose of civil and sexual dominance. Commodifying the sexuality of women is recognised for what it is: the abuse of women's bodies as if women were products for mass consumption. Lap-dancing is seen for what it is: living pornography.

The struggle for this consciousness has been long and hard. It is joined now by the Glasgow City Council, and a licensing board. The recognition that sexual exploitation is incompatible with equality is shared by a community of people in the mainstream. This community has demonstrated courage by refusing to give in to the pressure of those who organise lap-dancing and the johns who consume it.

The primary issue is the status of women, who are inevitably demeaned by being treated as less than fully human, as objects who can be used and misused. It is only when defending sexual objectification in prostitution and its sister phenomena (lap- dancing, stripping, pornography) that women get to be "consenting adults". Giving up one's body for money is the signature of a woman's consent.

Glasgow City Council and the licensing board refused to accept this patriarchal axiom. Instead, the concern was the well-being of all women, including those who did lap-dancing: commercial sexual exploitation was seen as a gateway to violence against women.

Men did not get to use money to justify exploiting the downtrodden. And though the people I consider to be exploitative will claim that middle-class women are racing to sex emporiums, the fact is that lap- dancing is for the poor, the abused, the hopeless. The work so- called is more deadening and boring than any assembly line in any factory, and then there is the question of vulnerability: the naked are vulnerable, the clothed waving pounds are not. And men are so big and strong.

The one argument for lap-dancing is the economic one. Even though women do not consent to poverty, women are poor, none the less. Lap- dancers are described as self-employed. They pay the boss £80 a night and 15% of the tips they make for the privilege of being sexual commodities. They are said to make a whopping £25,000 a year.

Every woman, said the women's movement, is one man away from welfare. Lap-dancers require considerably more than one man. Women working in the same jobs as men still get paid less than their male counterparts. But no-one would expect to see an epidemic of male lap- dancing. Some forms of degradation are female-only. As with most so- called sex work, the lap-dancers are closer to indentured servitude than to capitalist pigdom.

It is hard to imagine a time when men will run out of ways to exploit women's bodies for sexual entertainment. Lap-dancing is the craze du jour, a hair-breadth away from prostitution, or conjoined with it. It might be better to bring back bear-baiting as a public spectacle than to make each man's lap a kingdom on which the glamorous serfs will perform as dancing girls to bring him the pleasure of the pornographic nude in action . . . and for him, all for him. He is king of the world.

The sexual proletarian has to convince him that she is on his lap, of all the laps in the universe, because she wants to be. His lap is special, don't you see, as each and every time she goes through the ordeal of making him twice his natural size. Virginia Woolf did not imagine that the an would have mirrors of this sort . . . live, naked, dancing lap-women . . . with which to enhance and enlarge himself.

He's a greedy piece of work, this consumer of other live human beings. He thinks the females exist for him and the new game in town is that they come this close, so very close, to his erect penis without touching it and then he gives them money. In the game, as the rules are written, he flirts with the contin-uum between impotence and masturbation. Of course the implicit logic is that the females do touch it if he wants and then the women get more money (at that moment) and cross a line; no longer dancers, they become prostituted women, the genuinely marginal women to whom anything can and will be done. Lap-dancing is a rung above the bottom. Prostitution is the bottom.

The fall is inevitable because lap-dancing is foreplay in lieu of the main event. The men are excited by the novelty of having female strangers so close, purely sexual, expecting nothing but a few bills. The men are excited by the rush of having naked, living pornography so close. The men are excited by their own agency, the domination of "the girls" by money that they have and "the girls" don't. Each individual man is king of the world as he flashes cash.

In order to advocate or consume lap-dancing a man must think he is a fascinating sexual figure; thus it is plausible for him to argue that he is fulfilling the woman's need to be naked and undulating for him. The arrogance of the assumption is staggering. The sheer boredom of man after man after man should be self-evident, but apparently, along with celebrating his own sexual charisma, the man thinks that women have no brains, no hearts, no lives worth living. He's enough. He is reason enough to condemn her to a degraded life. To accept a woman as a sexual commodity means the man has no brain, no heart, no life worth living.

Think about it: the average idiot (included in this category are the prominent men who use lap-dancers) has a right, which he and his cohort presume, to use up the life of a woman, to have her touch or not touch at his behest, to have her naked and gyrating, to appropriate her sexuality for money . . . but not only her sexuality, also her vitality, her energy, years of her life. It's as if the bear has been let out of the cage because finally a bunch of bears has been taught to lick, not bite.

The women are throwaway women, and most do end up in outright prostitution, visited by these same men, now playing a harder, more forceful, more depraved game. In lap-dancing, as in prostitution, the male has the illusion of having bought the female body . . . it's his for three minutes, or five, or 10. He has the illusion of having a right to buy that body.

He has no responsibility for what happens to that body after he is done with it. She is an "it", her body standing in for her humanity. One has to ask: are men really this stupid? Then one grasps the sinister principle that has allowed all the banal boys to turn into nasty but gratified men: commodifying a human body is the base principle for all forms of systematised cruelty: trafficking in women, selling slaves in the Sudan, using violence against another group, identified by race or gender or national identity or class. The big, brave men who want lap-dancing could use some lap-slicing in its place.

 

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