Thoughts on Tolerance 2: Sexuality

Wednesday, 11th February 2009 at 9:00 UTC 5 comments

I wanted to take this series forward and address something which pushes the issue to the very limits. A few weeks ago, I saw a poster in Manchester Victoria station warning potential offenders that police were cracking down on the public sex once quite common in the Gents toilets there. Aha! Behaviour doesn’t get much more intolerable than that, does it? But I found myself facing some quite tough questions about this intervention, and so made a mental note to blog about it sometime later.I would have had a copy of said poster, but the person who offered to photograph it for me lost their bike lock, and I’ve broken a bone in my elbow, which has delayed this even further. But the general guist went something like this…

  • Should the government really have the right to jail people for having sex in public?
  • What counts as public, anyhow?
  • Surely if this is something people want to do, they should be able to set up places to do it? It would then be really obvious that if you go in, you will see stuff some would call offensive.
  • Of course, in some countries, there are clubs and bars for this purpose. Why do we not allow those sorts of places as a way to distract people from using station toilets, which are, after all, really bad places for this kind of activity.
  • Why does the government decide instead that it should just crack down on activity like this, without any question of context (of which Victoria is a bad one)?
  • Why is watching your friend’s have sex a crime, but watching a porn movie a relatively normal thing people do?
  • Why does society take this view that says “what disgusts me must be wrong”? Why can’t we just let people do their own thing, and get on with doing what we enjoy? Shouldn’t the state, in as much as it is part of our present reality, be facilitating this, rather than creating a monotonously sanitised world?

I’m sure people will want to rip this to shreds, but we all have preferences for things others don’t like. Surely its about tolerance and compromise.

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Entry filed under: Sexuality.

Thoughts on Tolerance 1: Religions and Politics Thoughts on Tolerance 2.5: Censored for trying to cope

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. tiggs  |  Wednesday, 11th February 2009 at 12:32 UTC

    Possibly because sex has the possibility to be something very important between two people, and doing it in public somehow degrades it’s specialness? (Inelegant I know, but I thought saying the ‘sanctity of sex’ would get me lynched)

    Also, a known place to have sex in public is a brothel.

    Just my dull little conservative opinion. (note small ‘c’, please)

    Tiggs

    Reply
  • 2. Sophia  |  Wednesday, 11th February 2009 at 16:46 UTC

    Tiggs, I don’t see how some people having sex could make it any more or less special for others.

    Sticking to the theme of potentially romantic acts, singing a love song can be really special for people in private but that is not in anyway diminished by other people singing love songs in public.

    Reply
  • 3. Peter  |  Wednesday, 11th February 2009 at 18:01 UTC

    * Should the government really have the right to jail people for having sex in public?

    Of course, if it is viewed as a problem – which it is. Parliament can pass whatever laws it likes.

    * What counts as public, anyhow?

    Soliciting sex in public toilets is pretty public.

    * Surely if this is something people want to do, they should be able to set up places to do it? It would then be really obvious that if you go in, you will see stuff some would call offensive.

    Such places exist – they’re called sex clubs.

    * Why does the government decide instead that it should just crack down on activity like this, without any question of context (of which Victoria is a bad one)?

    Because it’s nice to be able to do a wee or poo without some weirdo hanging around trying to give you the eye, or having to wait to use a cubicle in an emergency because it’s being used for bum sex.

    * Why is watching your friend’s have sex a crime, but watching a porn movie a relatively normal thing people do?

    It’s not a crime to watch your friends have sex, as long as you don’t do it in a public place, where other members of the public will have no choice but to watch it too.

    I guess it’s more normal to watch a porno, because not many people would let their friends watch them have sex – they’d tell you to find your own partner to have sex with, or watch a porno.

    * Why does society take this view that says “what disgusts me must be wrong”? Why can’t we just let people do their own thing, and get on with doing what we enjoy? Shouldn’t the state, in as much as it is part of our present reality, be facilitating this, rather than creating a monotonously sanitised world?

    It’s not about “what disgusts me is wrong”. Rather, we live in very crowded cities – lots of people, lots of lifestyles. People can get up to whatever they like behind closed doors, but it’s important to be neighbourly to each other in public. That sometimes means restraining our passions for the sake of all getting along.

    Plus, public space is a place for children. And our society has taken a view that it’s inappropriate to introduce children to sexual activity. As long as a significant minority of people hold this view, public sex will not be legalised.

    Reply
    • 4. Graham Martin  |  Thursday, 12th February 2009 at 15:03 UTC

      Yay for people actually commenting on blog posts.
      I think you’re confusing ‘normative’ with ‘right’. Real democracy is surely about pleasing everyone as far as is possible, not just the majority?
      And I entirely agree with Sophia about specialness. We all hold different things as important, and have to learn to tolerate others even when they don’t act like we want.

      Reply
  • 5. Greg  |  Saturday, 14th February 2009 at 23:22 UTC

    Yes, it’s about pleasing everyone as far as possible. And for as long as only a minority of people want bum sex in public toilets, rather more people want to be able to poo in peace without someone having bum sex next to them (and to not have a cubicle occupied by people doing that), and children want to be able to go into public toilets without having bum sex rammed down their face (eww), then potential cottagers will just have to tolerate the foibles of the masses.

    Reply

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