11/07/2009

Jacqui Smith knew of husband's porn viewing habits

Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who stepped down from the Government earlier this year, has admitted that she knew her husband watched pornographic films before the scandal that arose after the press discovered that she had put in an expenses claim for two examples he watched on pay-per-view television.

Now, we're not going to go into a discussion over whether or not porn is OK - there are several convincing arguments both in favour and against from writers of both sexes, a fair percentage of whom would describe themselves as feminists.

Jacqui Smith is the former Home Secretary. Is she a former feminist too? Recent comments and actions seem to suggest so.
Copyright-free image from Wikipedia.

What interests us is that when asked by the Guardian if she had ever watched porn with him, Ms. Smith replied: "No, no, no. In fact, I would argue with him. I would say to him I think porn is wrong because of my feminist background."

Is this the same Jacqui Smith who, when she was asked in an interview with Elle magazine if women "should be worried about we drink?" replied: "We know that the excessive consumption of alcohol by young people can cause real harm to their health, but we also need to consider the impact it has on women's personal safety - one in three rapes occur after the victim has been drinking." That sounds rather as though she feels that rape victims are at least partly to blame for their rape - excessive drinking is, as we all know, bad for us but any woman who chooses to get drunk has the right to do so without fear of rape. Drinking is not the cause of rape in any way at all.

Elle was also interviewing author Anna Blundy, who was asked whether she thought that concerns over women drinking were disguised misogyny. "I think there is a horrible misogyny," she said. "In general, it is not women committing crimes when they are drunk - they're more likely to have crims committed against them." Ms. Blundy is quite rightly saying that rapes carried out on drunk women are not the victim's fault, but of the attacker and the society which creates people who feel they are entitled to exert their physical dominance over others. Ms. Smith scores: 0 Feminist Points.

Where would you feel safest at work: in this dark street...
Image by Thomas Claveirole, used in accordance with Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 license.

With her Policing and Crime Bill, Ms. Smith sought to transfer legal blame from prostitutes onto their clients, especially in those cases which involve what the report terms "a prostitute controlled for gain," presumably with the aim of enabling prostitutes to report crime carried out against them to the police without fear of being prosecuted themselves. However, while prostitution remains an illegal activity this is likely to drive it further underground where it will be even further from police scrutiny as the pimps and the johns try harder to escape attention for fear of harsher penalties. There are already thousands of prostitutes in this country - some of them brought here from other nations - who are kept as sex-slaves, never allowed to leave the brothel within which they are imprisoned so that they cannot seek help. The crimes and suffering that these unfortunate human beings must regularly be forced to endure do not bear thinking about. The only way to make prostitution safer for the women and men who sell sex is to stop pretending we can make it go away, stop pretending it doesn't exist and for the trade to be legalised and licensed. If prostitutes worked in licensed brothels, where they would be subject to regular health checks and protected by law and security, the numbers who suffer beatings, murder and disease would be all but wiped out. Ms. Smith's law, though well-intentioned, will only increase suffering and so she scores: 0 Feminist Points.

...or in this clean, licensed, legal brothel where you are protected by both law and large security guards?

The bill also seeks to tighten up legislation on pole-dancing and strip clubs, which have noticeably increased in the last few years (many of the so-called burlesque events, which seem to have become considered almost family entertainment recently, are burlesque in name alone and in actuality little more than strip joints), making it harder for establishments of these types to be created. We can fully understand Ms. Smith's point here - they are thoroughly unpleasant, seedy little places and most of us would far prefer it if they didn't exist. But enough people want them, and so they do. You may be the sort of person who wouldn't dream of walking into such a place or you may be a regular, but either way it is obvious that they are by far the least harmful aspect of the sex trade. The people who work in them are not forced to do so and can leave at any time. To keep hold of their licenses, the proprietors must ensure that all of their performers and customers are over the age of 18. Few people want to be strippers but for those that are the job is an easy, if unpleasant, way to make money which can be abandoned whenever they want or as soon as they've made however much money they need. What happens if we criminalise strip clubs? Precisely the same as happens with criminalised prostitution and drugs or the prohibition of alcohol - it goes underground, where it is run by shady characters far more interested in lining their own pockets than the welfare of their employees. Of course, we are not suggesting that all owners of legal clubs are philanthropic altruists (we rather doubt that any are, in fact), but at least while their activities are out in the open air where we can see what they're getting up to the police and health services can keep check on them. Ms. Smith scores: 0 Feminist Points.

So all in all, we very much doubt that Jacqui Smith can reasonably call herself a feminist at all. While we have no doubt that she is not an Acid Rabbi reader and as such will not defend her statement here, we hope that this post will inspire comments from those that do read it - especially women - and would particularly like to hear feminist support for her and her bill.

With thanks to Feminist Bite which picked up on the Elle interview and published an article on it. It's a fascinating site full of intelligent opinions and arguments that is well worth a click.

2 comments:

  1. I have to say who actually took that news story (about Jacqui Smith's husband watching porn) seriously? I just laughed, and I'm pretty sure most of the rest of the country did too. Her coming out and saying how she tells her husband it's wrong just creates even more of a comic image in my mind.

    Rob (www.thebigqs.co.uk)

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