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30. Are SM people subjected to political or social harassment?

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This article is from the Bondage FAQ, by numerous contributors.

30. Are SM people subjected to political or social harassment?

Like all alternate sexualities, SM is stigmatized in many ways by most
of society. In extreme cases, SM players are prosecuted legally. or
persecuted by people who would _like_ to so prosecute them. This section
of the FAQ describes some of these ongoing battles. (See another
question for a brief mention of one recently-vanquished challenge.)
*The Spanner case*

First, the most serious anti-SM action in years: the Spanner case. In
Britain in 1992, sixteen men who had attended an SM party were convicted
of assault, despite the fact that everything that happened at the party
was fully consensual. The sentence was four to six years in prison.

The defendants appealed, and eventually reached the highest court in
Britain, which issued a judgment rife with the worst and most inaccurate
popular misconceptions about BDSM, ignoring everything that is now
widely known about how it is safe and consensual. This judgment is a
travesty of human rights, and flies blindly in the face of medical and
psychological fact, in favor of prejudicial ignorance.

The men involved are now pushing to take the case to the European court
of human rights. They need any and all assistance. An organization named
Countdown on Spanner was formed to pursue the appeal as far as
necessary.

Countdown on Spanner can be reached via Snail Mail; C/O Central Station
37 Wharfdale Road London N1 Great Britain Please include a SAE. Or
contact via e-mail: phas@siva.bris.ac.uk. There is also a
{http://www.csv.warwick.ac.uk/~esrhi/span1.html} Spanner web page.
*Canadian censorship*

Another situation demanding attention is the censorship being practiced
by Canadian customs. Canada has no First Amendment, and Customs has been
seizing gay and lesbian erotica, especially SM-related material, and
preventing it from reaching bookstores in Canada. This arbitrary action
has made it very difficult for many of these bookstores to survive. The
Canadian government, via Customs, is silencing the voices of those who
want to talk about their sexuality.

Little Sisters Bookstore in Vancouver is suing Customs, asserting that
Customs should not have the right to seize books on suspicion of
obscenity. If the case is won, obscenity will have to be determined by
the courts, not by Customs. It is not at all certain that the case will
be won; a recent Supreme Court decision in Canada used language from
American anti-porn activist Catherine MacKinnon to define pornography as
material that is "violent" or "degrading" to women. Such laws can be
used to keep ANY SM-related material from ever being published--which is
exactly the intent. MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin have repeatedly pushed
for such legislation in the United States as well. The Canada case is
thus very relevant for Americans into SM.

If you can contribute, please write to Little Sisters Defense Fund, 1221
Thurlow Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6E 1X4. The case
will be expensive, and help is badly needed. *America*

America has its share of official pesecution of SM, though not so
seriously as in the Spanner case. SM clubs are still associated by the
media with unsafe sex, whether or not the club requires safe sex (as
almost all do). Of course, the current ignorance of consensual SM in
America leads to regular prosecution of people producing erotic
material, whether videos, magazines, or pictures. Legal fees from
obscenity proceedings brought by the government can put a small producer
or publisher out of business before the case ever comes to trial. For
example, movies involving bondage together with sex are essentially
censored in this country, because of such government action.

Most of all, learn for yourself about the realities of SM, as opposed to
the myths. And speak out against oppression born out of ignorance.

 

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