Consenting Adult Action Network (CAAN) 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.
You are invited to join the demonstration: Chain Gang
Tuesday 21st October 12:40pm
Westminster Tube Station, London
Campaigners fed up with the Government's increasingly puritanical attitudes toward sex, will be out in force next week, as fashion photographer, Ben Westwood, takes a chain of slaves for a walk in central London.
The “chain gang” will include models and activists from the Consenting Adult Action Network (CAAN) and all, apart from Ben, will be bound and gagged in a visual protest against recent government legislation restricting adults' sexual choices.
Ben Westwood believes the time for action is long overdue. He said: Government gets away with murder when it comes to “legislating about our sexual behaviour, because we are a strait-laced nation and far too many of us are embarrassed talking
A spokesperson for CAAN added: Our campaign is not just about individual sexuality: it is also about people's livelihoods. Over the last ten years, government has been intruding ever more actively into what adults may or may not do with other
consenting adults in the privacy of their own bedrooms.
Recent legislation on extreme porn is just one instance of that. Far more serious are new laws that mean half the workforce could be fired simply for having sexual tastes that are unacceptable to the prudes in power.
We say: enough is enough. The fact that Harriet Harman finds something uncomfortable or “icky” is no reason for clamping down on personal freedom.
Models wearing chains, stockings and gags have been led around Westminster in protest at laws to make owning extreme pornography
From next year, possession of images such as those depicting a threat to life or serious injury to a person's genitals will be banned even if staged by actors or special effects.
Demonstrators opposite Parliament described this as the government interfering with people's sex lives.
The demonstration, organised by the Consenting Adult Action Network, was led by photographer Ben Westwood, son of fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood.
He paraded two "slaves" - models called Jade and Dolly Blowup - across the road from Westminster underground station and around Parliament Square, with police having to hold up the traffic.
A group of about 20 marchers carried placards with messages including No to thought crime, Penalise crime, not sex and Depiction harms no-one.
Westwood said to the BBC: Why are the government doing this? I think they are just mucking about. They want to seem as though they are doing something to help society, that they must seem strong on law and order.
Coming from a government that lied about going into war in Iraq, that seems strange. There are more important issues to be debated than this.
I think that people might be worrying that what they have got in their video collection might be breaking the law. People are going to get a bit nervous.
I hope our demonstration does change some minds.
Campaigners say the new law risks criminalising thousands of people who use violent pornographic images as part of consensual sexual relationships.
Bruce Argue, of the group Esinem, said: We want to draw attention to what is an unfair and ill-thought-out law.