CAAN – Consenting Adult Action Network – is a loose-knit network of groups and individuals who believe in the right of adults to express themselves sexually with other adults, without interference from government.
We run campaigns on issues as they arise. Not every supporter of CAAN agrees with every campaign we run. We ask only that supporters sign up to a simple statement of principle:
“We believe in the right of consenting adults to make their own sexual choices, in respect of what they do, see and enjoy alone or with other consenting adults, unhindered and unfettered by government.”
“We believe that it is not the business of government to intrude into the sex lives of consenting adults.”
We are aware that no matter how we draft such a statement, there will be dissent: for example, we believe there is debate to be had on the issue of “harm”; but equally, a society that tolerates two grown men beating each other up in the confines of a boxing ring is not well placed to lecture adults on a shared interest in sado-masochistic sex.
Outwardly, the UK is more open, more sexually liberated than ever before. Behind the headlines lies another story: ten years of government progressively clamping down and criminalising behaviour that harms no-one, but offends the sensibilities of Ministers who are still uncomfortable talking about real sexual activity.
Our aim is to create a counterbalance to the current “moral majority” in government.
Over the past ten years, Government has been passing more and more laws. One consistent theme to this non-stop stream of law-making has been an obsession with tightening up rules that are intended to micro-manage our sexual activity.
- criminalising the possession of images depicting perfectly legal sexual activity;
- putting in place a “Committee of Public Safety” whose job it will be to vet nearly half the workforce – and remove them from their jobs if they possess any porn that is “sexual and violent in nature”
- proposing to make it a criminal offence for an adult
to pay for sex
- clamping down on lap-dancing and other erotic displays
Each of these proposals, in isolation, represents a serious erosion of personal liberty for no better reason than the government are uncomfortable with the activity involved. Taken together, and in combination with a great deal more government tinkering in this area, they begin to look like a serious attempt to return the UK to a “Golden Era” of sex-free purity.
CAAN is currently most active on two of these issues – although in fact they are closely related.
- we are asking the government not to “commence” the extreme porn law, passed in the Criminal Justice Act 2008.
- we are asking the government to think again about its witch-hunt that began with provisions in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 allowing it to sack approximately half the workforce for possessing sado-masochistic material of any kind.
The first of these pieces of legislation criminalises individuals for possessing material that is produced for the purposes of sexual arousal, depicts realistic violence, and is grossly offensive. The legislation itself has already been exposed by many commentators as ludicrous:
- it is believed to breach the Government’s own Human Rights’ Laws;
- it will criminalise individuals for owning pictures depicting wholly legal and consensual activity;
- it is inconsistent, with some of the most (theoretically) harmful material allowed – and up to three years in jail for less harmful material;
- it actually encourages behaviour that is far more dangerous and, if the government’s own publicity is to be believed, more likely to lead to sexual violence.
In terms of its effects on the growing BDSM (Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism and Masochism) communities in the UK it is likely to be equally disastrous:
- it is already souring relationships with the police, and therefore is likely to make future policing of “the scene” far more difficult
- it is having a “chilling effect” on individuals prepared to write about safe practices, thereby increasing future risk
- it is law that will encourage blackmail
- it is replacing material produced by individuals with experience and a genuine dedication toward their activity with commercial material produced by companies that have provided significant financial supporters to New Labour in the past
- worst of all, there is evidence already that the Government attack on this lifestyle is impacting upon safety and leading to greater risk for vulnerable people involved (case studies available on request).
The second piece of legislation is having an even more disastrous effect on individuals whose sexuality does not fall within the norms prescribed by government. At the very last minute, in 2006, government amended the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act to give it the power to exclude from a wide range of jobs anyone with a serious interest in sado-masochistic material.
The effects of this legislation are already being felt, as individuals wishing to pursue a career in areas as diverse as plumbing, teaching and admin find themselves quizzed at interview about their sexual interests. The clear implication is that anyone with bdsm interests is no longer welcome as part of the workforce or as a volunteer.