morgan_dhu: (Default)

Well, now that we have to be able to defend any cultural product, whether it depicts a real or an imagined sexual act involving a person under 18 years of age, I figured that I'd have a look and see what I might need to defend ownership of.

I know that some people will tell me, and all those members of the Canadian artists community, that I'm exaggerating, making a big fuss about nothing, because the law has some phrases in it that would surely prevent them from challenging the status of real "art."

After all, the work has to have "as its dominant characteristic the description, presentation or representation, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years."

And "No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section if the act that is alleged to constitute the offence (a) has a legitimate purpose related to the administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art; and (b) does not pose an undue risk of harm to persons under the age of eighteen years.

One of the big problems with this is that the onus is now on the originator, distributor or owner of "any written material, visual representation or audio recording" that contains representations of sexual activiy involving someone under 18 to prove:

1. that the sexual activity is not its dominant characteristic
2. that it does not have a sexual purpose
3. that it has a legitimate purpose related to one of the specified areas
4. that it does not pose an undue risk of harm to persons under 18

Now I agree that if the nature of the sexual activity is heterosexual and vanilla, and there's a plot in it somewhere, you will likely get a pass - in fact, if there's enough of a plot, it might not even be challenged.

But let's talk about work that involves kink, or queer sex. You really think that a book about a baby leatherdyke finding herself and coming to terms with her sexuality can easily prove, in this society, it does not have a sexual purpose (whatever that means), that does it has a legitimate purpose and that it does not pose an undue risk of harm to minors? Because the Canadian public and their elected legislators may have just barely agreed queers can get married, but lots of them still don't want to think about what queers do in bed (or on the kitchen table, or in the dungeon), and they don't want their kids finding out about it either, lest their kids realise that it sounds interesting.

And who says that a work in which the dominant characteristic is sexual activity involving minors is automatically TEH EVOL? Can anyone honestly argue that Romeo and Juliet aren't filled with teenage lust right up to the very tragic end?

And who decides what is a legitimate purpose? Obviously, the legislation presupposes that auto-eroticism is not a legitimate purpose. Would a book that helps young women who have decided to have sex (as is their right if they're over 14) develop skills for negotiating safe sex issues with their partners be a legitimate purpose? Is writing a political rant that mentions a book about young women aged 14 to 18 who have decided to have sex a legitimate purpose?

Many people are going to tell me, I expect, that these new restirctions are necessary because of the Supreme Court rulings in the case of John Robin Sharpe (more details here). Yes, the Supreme Court found that under the old law people can't be prosecuted for producing written or visual of their own imagination, for their own use.

And you know what? That was fine by me. It was illegal to show these works to a minor. It was illegal to use these works to persuade a minor to agree to sexual acts with an adult or another minor. It was illegal to use representations of real minors in creating these works. And it was certainly illegal to try to do any of the things in these works if a minor was involved. Making it illegal to even create the works is censorship and creation of a thoughtcrime. It may well be regugnant to most of us, but there's nothing demonstrably harmful about anyone wanking off in private to kiddie porn he or she made themselves without any exploitation of a minor person.

We didn't need laws about creative works to convict John robin Sharpe. He was also using porn produced through the exploitation of minors. That was illegal, and rightfully so. But it was his acts that invovled minors, not his solitary use of written porn, that caused harm.

And if you believe that only people who commit acts of pedophillia with minors would ever get off on kiddie porn, think again. Think about all those people who like to do sexual role-playing involving schoolgirls, or infantilism, or want to be leather daddies, or imagine initiating the hot young pizza boy. Think about people who use porn that depicts teenage sexuality (without actually using tennager to produce it) in order to regain the rush of their own adolescent sexual explorations. If people were only honest about it, there would be a great many people who include some sort of fantasy ageplay in their sex lives. Very few of them ever commit sexual acts with minors. Why? Because they know that what they're into is a fantasy. They don't want to really have sex with a minor of any age. They know that would be wrong. They just want the fantasy. Laws like this are trying to turn fantasies into thoughtcrimes.

So I thought about what I own that might make me guilty of thoughtcrime. My partner and I took a casual glance at a couple of our close to 50 shelves of books, and started making a list of books, both fiction and non-fiction, that depict some sexual activity involving a minor or minors. We don't know what "dominant characteristic" means, nor are we sure about "sexual purpose," because we can think of lots of sexual purposes that have nothing to do with wanking.

Here, in no particular order, is the first installment of the books I own that could be determined to be works of child pornography.

Dorothy Allison - Bastard out of Carolina
Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice
Rita Mae Brown - Rubyfruit Jungle
Michelle Cliff - Abeng
Moyra Caldecott - Guardians of the Tall Stones, Daughter of Ra
Frankie Hucklenbroich - A Crystal Diary
Anita Diamant - The Red Tent
Margaret Laurence - The Diviners
Alice Walker - The Color Purple
Anne Rice - Belinda
Anne Marie McDonald - Fall on Your Knees
Marion Zimmer Bradley - The Mists of Avalon
Lauren Greenfield - Girl Culture, Fast Forward
Bernard Lefkowitz - Our Guys
Susan Faludi - Stiffed
Pat Califia - Public Sex
Susan Hemmings (ed.) - Girls Are Powerful: Young Women's Writings from spare Rib

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Oh, I'm such a thoughtcrimer.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

One might think that my joy would be unalloyed today.

The Civil Marriage Act was passed in the Senate last night, and received Royal Assent today. Canada now officially in all provinces and territories defines marriage as a union between two people.

In a particularly bizarre bit of last minute asshattery, Conservative senators attempted to introduce an amendment "stating the traditional definition of marriage is between a man and a woman, but that civil marriage is between two people."

Said one of the amendment's supporters: "It would have brought a great deal of comfort to same-sex couples that they would not be perceived as having somehow gained their legitimate rights at the expense of those for whom the traditional marriage of a man and a woman was so terribly important," said Conservative Senator Noel Kinsella, who supported the amendment.


Yeah, right. All us queers and queer-friendly allies would have been so comforted to know that even as Canada finally acknowledged the rights of any two people to get married, the Religious Wrong was trying to have it enshrined in that very law that same-sex marriages might be legal, but they weren't really "real" marriages like those that happen between a man and a woman. Because nothing is real unless there’s a penis in it somewhere - as long as it's nowhere near another penis, of course.

But let's move on. I'd much rather my last thoughts on this Parliamentary struggle be about Senator Nancy Ruth, who danced in the Senate Chamber, and said "the whole country should be dancing."


Unfortunately, the Senate has also given us a very good reason not to dance, but rather to start the next fight for civil rights.

Yesterday the Senate passed Bill C-2, AN ACT TO AMEND THE CRIMINAL CODE (PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AND OTHER VULNERABLE PERSONS) AND THE CANADA EVIDENCE ACT. In an attempt to disprove Stephen Harper's allegations from the last election, Paul Martin's government has now passed an anti-child porn law so vague in it's attempt to catch all the child porn in the world that it may even be illegal to discuss what's in it, unless I can prove in court that I am doing so for a "legitimate purpose related to the administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art."

So humour me, folks, I'm educating you. Legitimately. Right?

In the Library of Parliament's Legislative Summary of Bill C-2, one of the problems that has cultural workers and arts organisations across the country up in arms for their right to write is discussed as follows:

Bill C-2 eliminates existing exemptions for material with "artistic merit or an educational, scientific or medical purpose," leaving the statutory defence of a "legitimate purpose related to the administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art." Bill C-2 further specifies that the material in question must not pose an undue risk of harm to persons under the age of 18. Amendments also broaden the scope of the offence by eliminating the need to show that written materials advocate or counsel illegal sexual activity with children. To satisfy the definition of child pornography, it will be sufficient to establish that the "dominant characteristic" of any written material is the description, "for a sexual purpose," of sexual activity involving a person under 18 that would be an offence under the Criminal Code.


Representatives of cultural workers, particularly writers, have been vocal about this legislation. From a Press Release released by the Writers' Union of Canada, dated June 20, 2005:

"Real abuse of real children deserves zero tolerance," said Brian Brett, Chair of The Writers' Union of Canada, "but this proposed legislation forces an accused writer to prove that his or her work does not present an undue risk of harm to children. What has happened to the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty'? We are urging the Senate to hold hearings on these issues and not rush through such important and sweeping legislation."


A spokesperson for the Quebec Writers' Union said this week:

"They're trying to clamp down on child pornography, but they're going too far by making too loose a definition of it," says Charles Montpetit, chairman of the freedom of expression committee at the Quebec Writers' Union. "Any description of sex involving people under 18 will be considered child pornography. It's absurd because the age of consent in Canada is 14. Between 14 and 18, teenagers can legally have sex but we can't talk about it because that would be child porn."


And let's not for a moment forget that it's young women and young queers of all kinds who often have the most need to be able to explore a variety of writings and imaginings about sexuality, because there's not much representation of sexuality from these perspectives in the mainstream culture.

Canada has a bad history of targeting queer writings with its porn laws. If anyone has any doubts that important explorations of queer sexuality and coming out among youth will be particular victims of this law, then you need to look at the kinds of works that have been challenged in the past and think again.

Just last night I watched an interview with author Susan Swan talking about the indignity of having to defend her well-known bookThe Wives of Bath from accusations of child pornography under the previous laws, which allowed for a defence of "artistic merit." For those unfamiliar with the book, it explores, among other things, the sexual awakening of two girls in a boarding school. It was a finalist for the Guardian Fiction award and Ontario's Trillium award, and was the basis for the film Lost and Delirious

To say nothing of writers and readers using literature as a way of discussing and dealing with issues of child sexual abuse. Will anyone in Canada be able to see the film based on Dorothy Allison's Bastard out of Carolina ever again, let alone read the book?

Arggh. I’m disgusted and appalled.

Next up: Watch this space for future posts in which I list the books we own that may well be child porn under the new law. Just to make it easier for the cops to find me. Any other Canadians out there feel like telling everyone what evil works of child porn they're hiding on their bookshelves or among their collections of DVDs?

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