Thursday, July 01, 2010

From the archives: Max Mosley and the policing of sexuality

In this celebration week one thing I'm going to do is to take a look back at the archives and repost some of those forgotten classics. Here's something I wrote for Stroppyblog in 2008 in the wake of revelations that Max Mosley had been visiting a sex dungeon.

Frankly all the papers have been very naughty. Very naughty indeed, and I have a basement flat that they must proceed to immediately for their proper chastisement. It really is not on plastering what are private goings on all over place. What's the use of being a fabulously wealthy son of Britain's most prominent wartime fascist if you can't have a private life, eh?

The term public interest is a strange one in the context of the Max Mosley sex scandal. Of course the public is interested, we all want to know whose bits and pieces have been going into whose whatchamacallit, but there does not seem to be a compelling democratic requirement for us to know the first thing about Mosley’s proclivities “sick” or otherwise.

Some of the discussion in the press seems to be of the opinion that because Mosley does the kind of things that only former Blue Peter presenters would contemplate he is not fit to be in charge of that stupid game where ridiculous looking cars whiz about until time itself seems to be standing still. For instance the Telegraph’s Kevin Garside thinks that the revelations around the case “paint Max in a deeply unflattering light, and more readily associates him with the kind of behavior unsuited to one running an international body like the FIA.”

Really? Frankly I could do with that one being spelt out for me because I'm not getting the connection. Perhaps he's called for the driver who comes in last to be stripped and lashed around the track and it's only now people have realised he had ulterior motives beyond simply spurring the others on to do better. However, unless this is so I am nowhere near convinced.

Admittedly when Garside describes Mosley’s sex life as “rich and varied” it’s difficult to know whether he is referring to the fact that Mosley’s five “friends” cost him £500 each and therefore he is regularly indulging a habit beyond the reach of most - even as a Christmas treat. That doesn’t include the reported £ 35,000 yearly upkeep of his fully equipped oubliette either. Yes, obscenely "rich" even.

Incidentally, there seems to have been very little focus on the prostitution angle of the case (and some of the evidence seems to be casting him in more of a pimp than a client) but there has been a great deal of censorious frowning about the so-called Nazi connotations of his ritualized abuse. As if the real social conditions of the women involved is far less interesting than the make believe games they were being paid to indulge in.

Mosley denies there were any Nazi overtones to his orgy, even though one of his captors was wearing a Luftwaffe uniform and a fellow prisoner pleaded with her guards that they were “Aryans” and so did not deserve to be harshly treated. Obviously there were Nazi overtones – but so what? They weren’t organizing a BNP branch, daubing local shops in swastikas or running for office as far right candidates – they were (or at least he was) having fun, mucking around – and they were not to know they were being videoed, so any sensitivities about other people’s feelings are irrelevant because for five out of six of them this was a private function, even if one of them was the wife of an MI5 agent. They just weren’t to know that the News of World would be posting selected highlights on the net.

In “Spanking good fun” I described the common “old stereo type of the elite white male in a powerful job by day and lashed to a dungeon rack by night” and that seems to fit our Max rather neatly. But the stereotype holds our attention because of the contrast between real world power and the make believe powerlessness - not because it reveals the old white guy's true nature, but because it reveals an unexpected side to it.

Some political people seem to be confused because they’ve mistaken sexual games for real oppression. Now obviously slap and tickle without the tickle is not everyone’s cup of tea. Fair enough, but that’s no excuse to go around tutting and getting sniffy at consenting activities you were never meant to find out about, let alone invited to.

In fact it’s worse when people start talking about BDSM as if it’s some sort of bizarre acted out therapy where he’s been working out “issues” with his father. I don’t get turned on by going round building sites, tapping pipes and then shaking my head sadly (which is how I imagine my Dad at work, perhaps the reality was different) and I don’t think it’s an appropriate way of sorting out any father/son issues that may or may not exist. Maybe it’s just that he’s into a particular form of kinky sex, and so he does it. I don't think you'll be getting any great psychological insights just from the press reports though.

Obviously there are some personal ethical issues involved. He’s been getting up to this for decades and forgot to mention it to his wife. That, dude, is not cool. There’s also the prostitution thing, I don’t think it stops being prostitution just because they’re getting paid large amounts of money and appear to be rather happy about the whole thing (which is perfectly possible). So there are power issues here, but it isn't the caning that's the issue.

Whatever the wrongs and rights of this I still find it difficult to get excised and start ranting about his deviance or immorality. I mean he’s not one of those back to basics Johnnies is he? He’s never openly nailed his personal morality to the mast – that just isn’t his kink - so I don't think it's our place to lash him for it. No matter how much he begs.

But still some want to send in the Nazi sex police. The weird thing is the press appears to be taking the position that kinky sex is alright, but German kinky sex? That’s just sick!

Take this from the Guardian when it was put to the reporter that in fact it was just an English dungeon fetish and had nothing to do with the Nazis the journo's patriotic feathers are ruffled and he replies "I know of no English prison that beats its inmates with a stick until their buttocks bleed. I know of no English prison where the warder will deliver those blows and count them out in German. I know of no English prison where the inmates then have sexual intercourse with the warder who has just given those blows." Whilst, of course, the real Nazi regime was just like the fantasy played out for Mr Mosley. Maybe someone needs a history lesson.

We should reject the policing of sexuality even by people who are progressive on other issues. The simple fact is that something can be an expression of a deep desire without being a literal exposition of what you’d like to really happen. Dressing up in a Nazi uniform for kicks does not make you an advocate of genocide – even if you’re a member of the Royal family.

Ah, I’ll go further, because I see some thin ice I’d like to skate on. Some people have rape fantasies, they do, it’s a fact. It does not mean they actually want to rape or be raped they are simply drawing from the deep, dark well of sexuality and if you are one of them it does not make you a bad person and you shouldn’t spend even one second feeling guilty about those fantasies.

Just as a dream does not mean you actually want to play strip poker with William Shatner at the local library (although, actually, that might be pretty cool) a fantasy or a fetish is just that and is not *real* in the sense that you're likely to act it out elsewhere. If you can’t see the difference between being caned by someone in a sexy uniform and the historic horrors of the Third Reich then you have officially left the building of free thinking and joined the temple of dogma where they burn the mention of "incorrect things" because they think that means they will no longer exist.


Anonymous said...

Don't get anywhere near me with a Swastika or Nazi uniform on you pretentious dozy middle class twat.

Never mind what you "really mean" by it

Jim Jepps said...

a) I probably am pretentious, and I certainly am dozy before my second cup of coffee.

b) I'm not middle class.

c) No one is trying to go near you with anything - you're not invited.

d) You seem to think I'm for some postmodern reclaiming of the swastika, which means you can't read.

e) the point about the post is that sexual fantasies are fantasies, not reality. People like yourself who want to police other people's sexuality are on a hiding to nothing. Get it? Hiding to... oh never mind.