Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bikes, wanking, and the law


Incidentally, regarding the recent legal case involving a sexual relationship between a man and his bicycle, I have to say I agree with Bristling Badger. Go here.

[Post script: Actually, I may have been hasty. Possibly, the issue is that this chap deliberately arranged "accidentally" to reveal himself in this way. If so, there's a charge to answer. It's not clear, as P says, exactly what the issue was.

However, there's also a question about the appropriateness, shall we say, of any lawyer describing his own client as a "sad little man".]

9 comments:

anticant said...

Anyone who believes that we are living in a sexually liberal and tolerant society should have another think.

Steelman said...

How is society made safer by the convictions in either of the cases presented at the link? I'm a little confused as to what problem is solved or justice done. It seems to me that our court systems need to be able to justify the necessity of denying individual liberties in exchange for the benefit of society at large. In other words, how would other lives be negatively affected, even in a future theoretical sense in general, if these types of offenses were not punished?

This reminds me of how religious fundamentalists argue against gay marriage, here in the U.S. According to that group, fornication is in all ways morally undesirable. Yet, society will suffer irreparable moral damage by mitigating that very thing?

Adam said...

Would you say that this guy is a Pedalphile?!

potentilla said...

Steelman - the guy pleaded guilty to a sexual breach of the peace. That being so, the sheriff had little choice (see here for support for this view).

Why the police, havng been called, decided to nick him is less clear - perhaps because he was not, in fact, in his own home, but in a hostel. It is also not clear why his solicitor advised him to plead guilty, but one would really need to know more about Scottish law involving breaches of the peace before being able to criticise. (And Bristling Badger evidently doesn't).

Stephen Law said...

Actually, I may have been hasty. Possibly, the issue is that this chap deliberately arranged "accidentally" to reveal himself in this way. If so, there's a charge to answer. it's not clear, as P says, exactly what the issue was.

However, there's also a question about the appropriateness, shall we say, of any lawyer describing his own client as a "sad little man".

Ron Murphy said...

"Possibly, the issue is that this chap deliberately arranged "accidentally" to reveal himself in this way. If so, there's a charge to answer."

Why? Assuming the 'victims' were the cleaners and his exposing himself to them was the gist of the charge, what harm has he done to warrant a criminal charge? Assuming again that he didn't attempt, or threaten to attempt, actual sexual assault on the cleaners, their only harm was any offence that it might have caused them in seeing him.

Compare this with the recent issue over the Jyllands-Posten cartoon capers. How is this case different? The cartoons 'exposed' an image which was interpreted as offensive to some people. This man exposed a view of himself which was interpreted as offensive (and I'm sure it must have been).

The laws that proscribe sex acts in public, pornography, prostitution, blasphemy, are all relics of the past that should be scrapped. Blasphemy and some other offenses are conveniently ignored by the police, and is discriminatory anyway. Prostitution is tolerated in the right circumstances - i.e. 'escorts'. Pornography is only really targeted when minors are involved.

Why can't the call for the right to offend apply to exposing oneself? What is it about sexually related incidents that don't involve assault that warrant a criminal charge?

Ron Murphy said...

PS - That last paragraph wasn't a personally felt plea. Just thought I'd clear that up.

potentilla said...

Ron Murphy, you seem to be muddling up what the law actually currently is, with what you think it should be. And I rather doubt that a majority of the population would agree with you that there should be no law against sex acts in public; I don't even believe that you, if you think about it for about 3 seconds, think that it should be legal to wank in a children's playground.

Stephen, I agree with you in principle about the lawyer, but then we appear only to have one out-of-context quote in the Telegraph as evidence about what he actually said. (And I think you're right; it seems most likely that he was not, in fact, having sex with a bike, he was pretending to do so in order deliberately to wind up the cleaners.)

Ron Murphy said...

Pontillia,

No, really. What's the problem?

Let me make one thing clear, before you jump to the wrong conclusion. The abuse of children, whether sexual, physical, or mental, is deplorable. For example, when children are coerced or 'groomed' into participating in sex acts, suffer violence, or indoctrinated with religion. All vary in degrees of harm, but all deplorable.

Now back to the point in question - public sexual exhibitionism or actual sex acts and, since Pontillia brought it up, the potential effect on children that might witness them.

I agree, I wouldn't condone wanking or other live sex acts in a childrens playground - cheap example. I wouldn't condone lots of other practices in the same place either - smoking, drug abuse, wife beating, religious preaching, etc. - but my disapproval of each would vary in degree, and for different reasons. Some reasons I wouldn't condone sex acts in a childrens playground are: you'd have to suspect the motives of the participants; it's still the parents' choice when and how they introduce sex education to their children; it would be bad mannered, etc. The place is inappropriate.

So, to some other examples, say when my kids were younger.

What if I had been walking through the woods with my children and we'd come across a couple having sex? An accidental discovery. No problem, we'd probably giggle at them being caught out and move on, leaving them to their privacy. Maybe they secretly wanted to be 'discovered' - by adults. I'm sure that there are plenty of exhibitionists out there that would apologise and cover up as soon as they realised children were present. No problem.

How about walking on Hampstead Heath with the children and coming across two men at it? Same answer. My children know it happens and they're not homophobic.

How about a catching a man masturbating? Maybe it was intentional. Give him the benefit of the doubt and move on. I might surmise from his demeanor that it was intentionally intended for my viewing, or worse, for the children - I'd respond accordingly - I can't say how precisely as it hasn't happened. If I'd been alone I'd probably have smiled, thanked him for the offer, but made it clear I had no further interest, and moved on. What would I have done if it had been a woman, and I had been free and single. I may have shown more interest, but probably would have declined - if an offer appears too good to be true, it probably is.

The response I feel would have been in proportion to the situation. In none of these cases would I have wanted to bring any charges due to being offended - I'd be more amused than offended.

How about my young son going into a public toilet and coming out saying someone has exposed themselves to him. Different story. This is a case of child abuse, or some other offense and should be prosecuted.


The really freaky religious zealots, and even some mildly religious and non-religious people, may have an issue with sex, but isn't this just a cultural hangup - being embarrassed or offended by issues of sex.

If you're an atheist, so you have no religious hang-ups about sex, from pure reason, what is wrong with sex acts? Granted, there might be cultural issues of appropriateness - I wouldn't attend my knighthood in jeans; I wouldn't carry and drink a six pack during a church service (even though I'm an atheist); and no, I wouldn't wank in a childrens playground.

But if I was pretty sure there were no children around I might let my wife tempt me into sex in the woods - and though I might enjoy the 'risk' of discovery, personally I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want actual discovery. Would you do it? Have you done it?

I'm not advocating 1960's free love - let's all make out in mass orgies in the street. If we all did it where would be the fun for the poor exhibitionist then? My point is why get so strung up about it? Why does it have to be criminalised. What is it about other people having sex that offends? I really don't know. Amusing, sure. In many situations, inappropriate. But offensive to the point of being criminal?

I'm not muddled about what is and what I think ought to be the law. The case described by Stephen and Bristling Badger makes it clear what the current law is - he was successfully prosecuted. My point is two-fold. First, the law should be changed so that these minor issues are not criminalised. Second, even while these archaic laws exist, they could be ignored by the police.

I'm a tax payer. I don't want to pay for the very expensive legal system to prosecute these cases, and I don't want to pay for the offender's time in jail. If you want to talk about being offended, I'm offended that my money is wasted in this way. What he did with his his bike is his business, and if a couple of cleaners stumbled across him and didn't like it, they should have shut the door, from the outside. Did he want someone to catch 'discover' him? Frankly I couldn't give a toss, even if he could.