3 min

Touch, but don’t look

It's illegal to show perfectly legal sex

I realize that most men are led around by their dicks, but you know, we all have brains and they do kick in from time to time.

Not according to Canadian law, however. In two recent instances, Canadian rulemakers have decided that if men are merely exposed to stuff that turns them on – sexy pictures or stories, for example – there’s a pretty good chance they will be compelled to go out and perform the acts they’ve just seen or read about. Monkey see, monkey do. And so said sexy materials are verboten.

Of course, the rules aren’t only about male sexual predators – that would be discriminatory. But it’s men, and maybe the odd psycho killer bull dyke, that the laws want to protect you from.

The laws are just as insulting in their portrayal of women and children as weak and susceptible victims of male cunning. If men are like monkeys, women and teenagers are more like lemmings, or perhaps sheep. When they are shown other women and teenagers performing a certain sex act, they’ll be easily convinced that, hey, it’s a good thing for them to do, too, and they’ll promptly follow.

Now, any link between people seeing things done and being compelled to do those things themselves is a highly suspect and generally depressing assessment of the human condition. But the most bizarre and disturbing aspect of both rules is that many of the acts in question are perfectly legal.

That’s right – you can do it, but you can’t watch it or read about it. Touch, but don’t look.

The recent Supreme Court Of Canada child pornography decision is one instance of this nonsense. The court decided it’s alright for teens to, say, make a sexy video or take a sexy picture of themselves, or of themselves having sex with others. The age of consent is 14, so teen sex is legal. But it’s illegal for anyone other than the teens involved to see it.

In another part of that decision, the court says it’s all right to write about or make a drawing of teens having sex – as long as you never show it to anyone else. So, if I write a sexy story about one of my teenaged adventures, it’s illegal for me to show it to, say, my current boyfriend.

The other nutty instance is a new set of Canada Customs guidelines, which set out what is obscene and forbidden from entering the country. To its credit, Customs is merely trying to be specific about a vague category of sex the Supreme Court has decided is degrading and harmful. But like the kiddie porn decision, Customs has declared that depictions of legal sex acts – like fisting or watersports – are unwelcome in our land. You likely even legally watch a video of people fisting, if it was made here. Foreign fists and foreign urine, however, are a danger to you and your fellow Canadians.

The rules are a testament to our contemporary neuroses about sex and imagery.

We are so fearful of our own libidos that we single out sexual imagery to be banned. Images of murder, torture and all manner of maiming are accessible by all, from the tiniest tot to the walking time-bomb psychopath. But we’re convinced that if we get sexually aroused, we just may not be able to control ourselves. It’s illegal, in a sense, to get turned on.

And we ascribe strange, magical powers to representations. We believe that the image of something is more powerful than the thing itself. Words and pictures are more dangerous than the acts they describe or portray. It’s illegal, in a sense, to show others what you’ve done or to communicate your desire.

Here’s the logic: You can do it, but you can’t watch it or read about it, because then you’ll want to do it. Even though you can do it. Yikes. Not very logical, is it?

We fear sex. And we fear images. Most of all, we fear images of sex. Personally, I fear Customs bureaucrats and Supreme Court judges.

David Walberg is Editor-in-chief for Xtra.