I'm very pleased and excited to confirm that McFarland have agreed to publish my second book, working title To Deprave and Corrupt: Britain's Battle with Obscenity. I'm about halfway through writing it and the deadline is mid-November 2017.
So, what the dickens is this new book all about?
Well, 2017 marks the 160th anniversary of The Obscene Publications Act, which amazingly, still controls freedom of expression in the UK. The Act defined obscenity as anything “with the tendency to deprave and corrupt,” yet no one has ever been able to agree on what this actually means...
In the 1600s, you could be thrown in the stocks for criticising the king or the Church, but the law was less bothered about smutty literature. Occasional prosecutions for publishing risque books occurred, but generally the term "pervert" was synonymous with "atheist" until relatively recently. It wasn't until 1857 that an actual law on obscenity came into play, but this didn't stop erotica flourishing during the Victorian era - sample book titles included Lady Bumtickler's Revels and The Story of a Dildo!
The trial of Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1960 is a well-known example of literature winning out against obscenity law, but there is no book that tells the story of what led up to this landmark case, or what came after it - hence me deciding to create it. The modern version of the Obscene Publications Act came into force in 1959, yet it still governs what we can and can't see on TV, film, online, in magazines, books or on the radio. You might well ask; how can such an old law still be relevant?!
Through interviews with porn performers, online safety specialists, magazine editors and free speech advocates, I'll look at how we've arrived at our current situation--which is much more censor-happy than most people realise--and what needs to change.
Provisional chapter titles include:
- Saving Face (-sitting): The Current Situation
- Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children? Justifying Censorship by “protecting innocence"
- Shoving it Down our Throats: Homophobia and Obscenity
- How Did We End up Here? Obscenity in British History
- Women Don’t Want That Sort of Thing: Gendering Obscenity
- That Special Relationship: Britain and America’s Parallel Journey Through Obscenity
- Trial by (Social) Media: The New Obscenity
Blog posts that give you a taste of the kind of material I'll be covering can be found here and and here.I think this is a story which really needs telling in an accessible manner, not least because of its implications for free speech and the regulation of sexuality.