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Am I a skeptic? Sex & Censorship in the pub

Wed. 25 Feb. 2015

I attended the talk by Jerry Barnett, founder of the Sex & Censorship campaign, in Cheltenham last night, and it was well worth the 50-minute drive up the M5. Jerry was this month’s guest speaker of the Cheltenham branch of the Skeptics in the Pub network; of course, I was already familiar with Jerry’s campaigning work and had a good idea what to expect. I wasn’t disappointed.

Jerry began somewhat unexpectedly by going back around 40,000 years to the development of human physical and cultural sexuality. He moved on to briefly discuss the history of UK censorship and how it compared (unfavourably) with some other countries: it is replete with draconian laws and unenlightened attitudes. Unfortunately, he made a good case for how these laws and attitudes actually seem to be getting even more draconian, authoritarian and threatening to civil liberties: “This is no longer just about porn”, Jerry argues, convincingly. I say that his argument is “unfortunately” a good one because he is the bearer of evil tidings, is he not? It’s bad news that civil liberties are being threatened in the name of protecting us all against porn, and that unenlightened attitudes are driving this trend.

After a 20-minute break, those present, some 30 people, reconvened for question time. I dare say most people attending learned something of importance and came away very happy at having made the effort. It was also an enjoyable event, the informal setting being the function room of a Cheltenham pub, so after the talk some of us gathered downstairs to continue the discussion with Jerry on an even more informal basis. I have been in communication with Jerry for some time and it was good to finally meet him. The campaign organisation Backlash was mentioned, as was the good work, often in conjunction with Backlash, of Myles “Obscenity Lawyer” Jackman, who have been instrumental in successfully defending a number of prosecutions unjustly and often absurdly brought against members of the public and BDSM communities alike, sending the prosecution packing with tail between legs in the process. I’m pleased to have good relations with Backlash.

Jerry is a technologist and he’s also writing a history of online pornography and British censorship. I have a link to the Sex & Censorship site (and to Backlash and to Myles Jackman, and more) on my Links page, and it’s one of the few entities on Twitter that I follow. See the details of Jerry’s talk at the Cheltenham Skeptics in the Pub website: Porn Panic!

Mistress Geo