Banned Books: Oh How Times Change…


Or do they?

In light of yesterday’s article in The Guardian, requesting tougher laws on pornography, (editorial note added today stating that “the intention of the editorial was to propose restrictions on violent and abusive pornography, as opposed to pornography in general.”) could it be that when it comes to the portrayal of sex, in any medium, there will always be a number of people using their position within the media to dictate what the world should or should not be allowed to view?

I respect concerns about specific cases whereby a criminal has been proved to indulge in hardcore multi-media activities, but what about all of those who have experienced the same without committing any crime? Should they suffer the same decline of pleasure? And didn’t we go through this same debate about violent films and video games not that long ago? And what of literature?

Lady_Chatterleys_LoverOriginally written in 1928, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence did not make publication in the UK until 1960, after the Obscenity Law came into effect allowing publishers to escape conviction if the work was found under trial to be of real literary merit. Still, the book caused a scandal just fifty years ago and is now seen as a major part in the sexual revolution.

Fanny_HillGoing back further, Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland was frequently banned and prosecuted for its obscene content. First published in England in 1748, it was a year later that both Cleland and Ralph Griffiths were arrested and charged with ‘corrupting the King’s subjects.’ Pirate editions appeared and were sold underground and it wasn’t until Lady Chatterley’s Lover won the Obscenity trial in 1960 that an unabbreviated paperback finally hit the market. It continued to be revoked though, well into the 1970’s and is now considered one of the most prosecuted books in history. It’s about the adventures of Fanny Hill, a prostitute in 18th century London. Maybe they were concerned then, that anyone who read such a thing would hoist up their full skirts for pieces of eight.

For the majority of us, we are always going to consent to having sex in our lives, including stimulants such as film, art and literature. We absorb fantasy and reality and we lead ‘normal’ lives.

What if these works were never seen? Were never even created? Would that make for a safer society, or would we turn to something else?


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