The Negative Lawgasm: An Obscenity Lawyer Valentine’s Sex Special
I remember my first Lawgasm with absolute acuity. It came, appropriately enough for an obscenity lawyer, in a criminal law lecture. For those readers unaware of the Lawgasm phenomenon, I can only describe it as that moment of epiphany where you finally comprehend how an individual component of the law functions in practice. Consequently, I can confirm for the record that I have yet to experience a land law-related Lawgasm. This impasse may endure into perpetuity.
Nonetheless, by adapting an old joke it is possible to identify and therefore classify the four unique heads of Lawgasm: The Positive: “oh, yes”; The Negative: “oh, no”; The Religious: “oh, God” and the faked: “oh, [insert your name here]”. It is the second of these heads, The Negative Lawgasm, that I intend to dwell upon here. In many regards this is the most troubling of the four heads of Lawgasm (even more so than the Faked Lawgasm, wherein the subject merely feigns comprehension), as the Negative Lawgasm contains the dawning realisiation that the law is, quite simply, wrong.
I endured my first Negative Lawgasm as an undergraduate reading the former House of Lords’ judgment in R v Brown. I shuddered at Lord Templeman’s statement that: “Pleasure derived from the infliction of pain is an evil thing. Cruelty is uncivilised”. Why was there such a disjunct between the more positive “heterosexual” R v Wilson and the arcane, “homophobic” sub-text of R v Brown?
I experienced my next Negative Lawgasm in court, 15 years ago, as a junior criminal clerk. I had taken to conveying my legal documents to court in a record bag; which proclaimed the name of one of my favourite record labels: Rough Trade. After a perceived slight due to my relative inexperience (violating the presiding judge’s eyeline during the sentencing an offender), I was ordered to stand up in open court and suffer a humiliating dressing-down. I discovered later via counsel that the judge in question had taken against me due to the erroneous assumption that my record label bag was an “open” proclamation of my sexual orientation.
My latest Negative Lawgasm arose during Simon Walsh’s Porn Trial, 18 months ago, where he was ultimately acquitted of being in possession of “extreme” pornography. Whilst the jury were out the judge in question made a comment suggesting that there was a difference between the homosexual and heterosexual age of consent (the law had been altered 12 years previously to make both ages of consent equal). After seeing my facial expression the judge in question swiftly resiled from that statement.
Yet, having recently questioned whether the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) suffers from institutional homophobia, I would be brave to suggest that the judiciary suffers from the same affliction. Nevertheless it seems that at a time of anti-equality and persecution by numerous regimes across the globe, the day of Saint Valentine is an appropriate one for a Religious Lawgasm and to reflect on the true nature of love.
Myles Jackman is the Law Society Junior Lawyer of the Year and a consultant solicitor-advocate at Hodge Jones and Allen.