Life After IML - June 2004

Photo of John in Oslo, May 2004
In Oslo, Norway. May 2004
Photo credit: Øivind Aamodt

IML 2004 has come and gone and Jason Hendrix is your new International Mr Leather. If you want to see which events he'll be attending please check out the official IML travel calendar. Please be patient if you do write to him - I remember how snowed under I was in the first few weeks after winning the title.

Apologies to anyone who wanted to meet me at IML this year. I was one of the nine judges for this year's contest and we worked up to 12 hours a day judging 57 contestant interviews and three public shows. In my spare time I was also stepping down, so I was kept doubly busy addressing the contestants as the outgoing IML, answering press interviews or putting the finishing touches to my speech. I had little time left over for socialising - sorry!

So what happens to me now?
I'm still keen to travel to leather events as an SM presenter or contest emcee (though not as a judge). My first engagement will be Minneapolis Leather Pride from June 21 to 28. On May 18 I also became a trustee of the Spanner Trust. They received half the proceeds from the raffle of my Harley Davidson, along with the Leather Archives & Museum. The Harley draw raised over $21,000 which will be split equally between the two causes, so a huge thank you to everyone who bought tickets.

What do the Spanner Trust do?
They are campaigning to change the law in Engand and Wales which states that it is illegal to cause or receive any injury for sexual pleasure which is more than "transient or trifling". These words from the Operation Spanner trials (Regina V Brown and Others) of the early 1990s are highly subjective and open to interpretation. The following could be considered illegal: beatings which leave lasting marks, and any activities which leave scars, bruises, welts, burns, cuts, rope marks etc. even if they heal in a short period of time. Theoretically even a lovebite (hickey) is against the law. It means that if you ask for a body piercing for decorative purposes then it's legal, but if you ask for a piercing (for example a Prince Albert) for sexual pleasure then it's illegal. Or if you are mugged in the street then you have done nothing wrong, but if you ask someone to hit you in a playroom then you have aided and abetted an assault!

Has anyone been jailed for this?
Sixteen gay men were convicted in the original Spanner case in 1990 and some of them received prison sentences of up to 4.5 years. (The prison sentences were reduced on appeal but the convictions upheld.) None of the men required medical attention following his injuries and all of them consented throughout. Since then a heterosexual male has been convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm based on the evidence of the doctor who treated his female partner. However, whether or not the police bring any more convictions is not the main problem. Our community is now censoring itself as a result of the law. SM Gays run educational Discovery nights once a month in London, but they don't have a membership or mailing list. Another group runs weekend courses called "Bondage for Beginners" and "SM for Beginners", but you can't use a pen, paper or any recording devices during the course. There are some activities in the UK, like whipping another person safely, which are impossible to teach legally. It makes SM education, running SM events or getting medical attention if a scene goes wrong very difficult indeed.

Does the law cause any other problems?
The current law makes SM players in England and Wales open to blackmail and abuse. Hard core players have to go abroad to play (or hide their activities). There is a great deal of SM negativity in our society and within our community - this law legitimises that negativity. Research has shown that people who have less self esteem or who feel bad about themselves are more likely to engage in unsafe sex. If you can't teach people about SM then there is increased risk they will injure themselves or their partner, or unwittingly pass on sexually transmitted infections. Also, if the law does not recognise when someone has consented to an assault, then that means that a masochist could be assaulted for real but then be threatened that if they go to the police they too will be considered a criminal.

Does this just affect the United Kingdom?
Unfortunately as long as this remains on the statute book it has the potential to spread to other countries. The Spanner ruling has already been quoted in court cases in Germany, Canada and during last year's Texas sodomy trial. The longer we leave it unchallenged the more chance it has to spread to other countries.

What is the Spanner Trust doing?
The main activity of the Trust is political lobbying. Trying to educate Members of Parliament why this law needs to be changed, and looking for new legislation which could be used to legalise consensual sexual sadomasochism where 'non serious injury' takes place.

The Trust is also investigating whether the present law on SM is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, which was incorporated into UK law in 1998. If the two are incompatible then we could ask for a judicial review. However, this may result in a costly court case, especially if any decision in our favour is appealed by the Government to the highest UK courts. We could even win the case but still have to pay all the costs.

What can you do to help?

  1. Hand out leaflets at leather or BDSM gatherings. You can download the Trust's latest campaigning leaflet here. (Adobe Acrobat .pdf file)

  2. Volunteer your skills. Especially if you have experience in web design, graphic design, publishing, fundraising, political lobbying, PR, networking or knowledge of the legal system.

  3. Hold fundraisers. Trustees are not allowed to be paid for their time so all the money you send to the Trust will be used for political and legal campaigning.

  4. Network with other civil rights groups. We're much stronger when we work together, but some campaigning groups don't want to help because they don't understand the issues or think this is too low a priority. We need kink-friendly members of human rights organisations to explain the issues clearly and promote networking.

  5. Ask your local leather club or social group to discuss the issues of abuse vs. consent (for example the difference between acting out a rape fantasy and an actual rape), injury vs. harm (you can consent to an injury, such as body piercing, without necessarily being harmed) and SM negativity. Until we've dealt with these issues within our community we can't expect the rest of society to understand them as well.

  6. Help with a research project aimed at gathering information on the extent to which injury of any sort occurs during sex. This survey is aimed primarily at people living in the UK, only takes a few moments to complete and is anonymous. If you would like to complete the online questionnaire please click here.

  7. Contact the Trust if you've heard of a recent court case in the UK where someone has been charged with assault because of injuries which occurred during SM sex.

  8. Contact the Trust if you are an SM practitioner living in the UK, willing to take part in a legal challenge in the High Court. The Trust would provide necessary legal and financial support. There's more information about this in an open letter from the trustees.

  9. Please add a banner to your website using the following HTML or by copying the animated gif below:

    <a href=""><img src="" width="468" height="60" border="0"></a>

Click through to Spanner Trust website

For more information contact:
THE SPANNER TRUST, Norvin House, 45-55 Commercial Street, London, E1 6BD, UK
To receive updates on the Trust's work email subscribe (at)
Click here to make an online donation in UK Pounds, US Dollars or Euros
Or click here to download the latest campaigning leaflet (.pdf file)

I'll keep you informed of the Trust's progress. In the meantime have fun, play hard and please support Jason Hendrix, your new IML.

Best wishes,

John Pendal
International Mr Leather 2003

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