Child Pornography

Child Pornography and Fast Feminism

Sharpe Trajectory

Sharpe Comment

The Sharpe Decision: A Judgement in Perversity

Artistic Merit : Reading Broadly

Sharpe’s Perverse Aesthetics

(para 61)

Sharpe Interruption

Reading Broadly – A Return

The Sharpe Trial: Testimony of Artistic Merit

Algernon at Eton

Sharpe Comments

An Intriguing Proposition

The Apprenticeship with Hawk Senior

Sharpe Comment

Excerpt from: Shannon Bell’s book FAST FEMINISM: A LEVINASIAN PRAGMATICS. Dr. Bell is an associate professor of political science at York University in Toronto

Chapter Three. The Perverse Aesthetics of an Infamous Child Pornographer: Robin Sharpe

“[M]y only camera was my eyes”

Robin Sharpe was charged with possession and possession for the purpose of distribution of written material that advocated sexual activity with persons under eighteen and of visual depictions of persons under eighteen engaged in sexual activity. Although, according to Canadian law persons fourteen and over can legally engage in sexual activity, sexual representations of persons under eighteen are not allowed. From the beginning of the voir dire decision, January 13, 1999, the case was heard at the Supreme Court of Canada by January 26, 2001, taking a mere two years. The case was sent back to the trial court, the British Columbia Supreme Court; the Sharpe trial ran from January 21 to February 7, 2002.

Mr. Sharpe’s writing was acquitted on two grounds: that it does not advocate or counsel sexual activities with persons under eighteen and that it has artistic merit; some of his four hundred photos were, however, deemed to constitute child pornography and Sharpe was charged and sentenced to four months house arrest between the hours of 4pm and 8am. Robin Sharpe may well be the only Canadian to ever use the artistic merit defence for child pornography: the Canadian government in December 2002 introduced a child protection bill, C-29, that abolishes the artistic merit defence for child pornography (s.163.1 (6) of the Canadian Criminal Code), leaving only the defence of public good (C.C.C., s.163.1 (7)).

One week before Mr. Sharpe completed the 120 days of house arrest for possession of child-pornography photos, he was arrested for sexual assault of one of the boys-come-man in the charged photos. Needless to infer the Vancouver police on the pornography beat went to extra effort to locate one or more of the boys in the photos, as the standard national press, the Globe and Mail, indicates: “An unusual public appeal by Vancouver Police paid off when a man came forward recently to identify himself as the boy in a sexually explicit picture taken by convicted pornographer John Robin Sharpe.” The man alleged that Sharpe had sexually assaulted him between the ages of 11 to 13; the incidents are alleged to have occurred from 1979-1982.

Things had been looking good for Sharpe after Judge Shaw’s ruling that his written work did not counsel or advocate sex with minors and that it had literary merit; his trial which significantly engaged his written work had taken Sharpe’s image from that of the ‘dirty, dishevelled, undesirable paedophile’ to a distinguished extremely perverse literary figure, visually a cross between Bill Burroughs and the elder Sean Connery. Sharpe was looking good (the more standardized alternative literary world opening up to him); his writings, contextualized as a continuation of the Sadean tradition were coming across as perversely respectable by the close of the trial; the sentencing of 120 days which came was more than appropriate for a Sadean gentleman. The photos, those infamous photos, assumed to be some visual depiction of the SM child sexual scenes described in his written work Boyabuse, were surprisingly innocuous, some quite aesthetically beautiful. As a producer of alternative queer and SM sexual images, the defence counsel requested that I look at the images. There were frontal nudes, a kid climbing rocks, teenage boys holding and playing with each others cocks, a kid holding his arms up in muscle poses while his cock bobbed, and there was one European magazine from the 1970’s that showed two teenage boys, 14 or 15, engaged in a series of anal erotic and anal sex scenes.

Nothing is ever as perverse as it is alleged to be, or as it promises to be; that is what fascinated FF about the aesthetics of perversity; the reality usually doesn’t hold up to the image. Relieved and disappointed; relieved because these photos would only merit a short sentence and disappointed because perversity is allusive, socially constructed as that desanctioned, and so often tediously banal when the image is placed under scrutiny. Perhaps that’s the anamorphosis of perversity; the allusive secret held in the image, drawing, writing disallowed. Sharpe, the notorious child pornographer and charged pedophile was a writer with substantial talent in a genre few people desired to read and a non-professional photographer whose studies were mostly boys, from the ages of 11 to 17\18, mostly all over 14; because Sharpe’s writing included sadistic vignettes of children under seven, it was assumed that the photographs would be representative; they weren’t, rather the photographs included images of the boys engaged in sex play with each other, playing with themselves or standing around with their cocks out – sort of a blend of Robert Mapplethorpe and Calvin Klein\Bruce Weber aesthetics.

Mr. Sharpe drew global attention, particularly among children’s rights advocates, child sexual abuse campaigners, censorship and anti-censorship activists, for his challenge to Canada’s child pornography law; Sharpe gained an international reputation, both as a free speech advocate and as a pornographer, during his seven year fight against four charges of possession and distribution of child pornography – two charges for written material and two for visual material. Sharpe was definitely willing to go the distance for his beliefs and take the consequences of his recorded thoughts and visual images; the undaunting stoic willingness to go the distance and take the consequences interested FF way more than Sharpe’s writings and images; the action of doing - writing highly objectionable literary material and using it to form a constitutional challenge was what got FF’s notice; Sharpe’s fortitude held her attention.

FF had two interests in the case; neither had to do with freedom of speech and child pornography – although she was one of the very few people not just to do academic work on the new child pornography law when it came in ten years ago, in 1993, but also to produce pornographic images that challenged both the child pornography law (visually representing herself as a grrrl/boy under 18) and the obscenity law in which obscenity post R.v Butler (1992) is defined as that which “exploits sex in a ‘degrading and dehumanizing’ manner” (visually presenting herself as purposively engaged in violent sadomasochistic acts); she would stand behind this work of hers which Sharpe had used at the voir dire trial. FF was interested in only two things: the potential of using theory to save the ass of the perverse other and a literary perverse aesthetics that goes as far as it can go, and just a little bit farther, and still holds literary merit: she was completely non-interested in low-level, run-of-the-mill paedophilic writing that pops up electronically on obscure and constantly closing, allusive web sites, or the erotic penning by chat room members that narrate fictional man\boy encounters – these were banal, a large proportion cop generated and cops are not know for their appreciation of meritorious literature; while FF didn’t support the right to banality, she also wasn’t of the opinion that the writers of child porn pap should go to jail anymore than writers of other dull words should be incarcerated for inscribing sexual or nonsexual tedium. FF had an arrogant appreciation for originality and Sharpe’s writing was fiercely original, written with a knife and an edge of wit; the closest one could get to touching de Sade, Bataille and Burroughs. There was no doubt that FF would fall in love: she seduced situationally.

FF did the Sharpe trial with Sharpe, always a step to the left and a couple of steps behind the master paedophile; he distinguished in a dark suit and turtle neck, she notable in full leather gear – a visual Sadean backdrop to his craftsmanship – and that’s what, what Robin referred to as “my little stories” were, craftsmanship in the perverse aesthetics; he the master paedophile craftsman: he could write, he had a politics, he was a public icon for a position that did not have a public, those who might constitute this public being afraid to show support for fear of being persecuted for their beliefs, so his visible public were academics engaged in anti-censorship discourse (primarily queer and female) and civil libertarians interested in freedom of speech. But at ‘the Duff’ (the Vancouver Dufferin Tavern – an intergenerational bar and strip club) Sharpe had another public – the men who paid to love boys and the boys who stripped, conned, and shared their body poetry for a price. FF fell within both communities as much as she fell outside them: an anti-censorship fast feminist and meta-boy lover: lover of men-loving-boys; she loved the hypermasculine aesthetics queered in which the boys more often than not occupied the territory of hypermasculinity.

Sharpe’s trail was big news in Vancouver, Canada and the world – the main concern from opposite sides of the censorship fence was could writing that contained explicit sexual scenes and sadomasochistic activities among children, youth and adults be seen as having the minimal amount of literary merit to be officially considered art. Sharpe, of course, was the perfect test case, perhaps the only test case – his charged writings sexually extreme and performatively violent, the way SM is performatively violent, and the boys young, as young as those in de Sade’s Lust of the Libertines; and Sharpe had a track record as a legitimate alternative writer: “Sharpe [in fact is] a writer who had a degree of recognition – independent of his pornographic writings – in the Vancouver literary community.” That is to say, if Sharpe’s writings couldn’t pass the minimal artistic merit test, then no paedophilic writing would be able to; the corollary is not the case if Sharpe’s work passed the test then a flood of paedophilic writing could be considered literary. Sharpe had an unknown eastern backer paying for the case and anonymously hiring Paul Burstein, a Toronto based socially conscious criminal lawyer who was a work of art in the courtroom and the perfect counterbalance to the social image of paedophile – Burstein: young, heterosexual GQ handsome; a dynamic, gracious and forceful court room persona, and a radically acute intelligence. Paul was everyone’s dream lawyer and someone had hired him to represent Mr. Sharpe, a nightmare client know for his contentiousness, and his dismissal of lawyers if they strayed too far from his intentions. The hawks at the Duff liked to think that Sharpe’s backer was a wealthy chicken hawk with a vested interest in supporting freedom of speech; FF preferred to think that Sharpe’s patron was a Sadean woman with a vested interest in taking excess as far as it could go and still retain a legal sanction; that it was the pure beauty in pure perversity that solicited the patron, nothing more, well maybe a sporting love of “just gaming.”

[B] Child Pornography

Child pornography “as a distinct constitutional category” entered legal discourse in 1982 in the American case New York vs. Ferber. What Ferber did was situate “child pornography as a new category of speech” without First Amendment protection, the exclusion of child pornography from constitutional protection was primarily premised on the harm done to children in its production. “The speech lacks First Amendment protection because its creation requires a crime, the abuse of an actual child.”

Canadian child pornography law came into existence in 1993; a contentious legislation from its inception, rushed through in the last hour of a dying conservative government. Except for the possession offence, the key parts of Bill C-128 that became s.163.1 of the Canadian Criminal Code, already existed in criminal law; “the production, distribution and sale of sexually explicit materials involving children was already prohibited, as was possession for the purposes of distribution and sale.” The new child pornography law, s.163.1, added: the possession offence, the category of “written materials that advocate or counsel sexual activity with a children,” the category of sexual representations in which an adult pretends to be a child, and set the category of a child as anyone under the age of eighteen. s.163.1 of the Canadian Criminal Code makes it illegal to possess, produce, sell, or distribute sexually explicit images of a person who is or is depicted as under the age of eighteen in films, magazines, videos and computer generated images; it also makes illegal written materials that ‘advocate’ having sex with a person under the age of eighteen.

The creation of the new child pornography law as a subsection of the obscenity section of the criminal code and the addition of the above four stipulations made the Canadian child pornography legislation one of the strongest criminal child pornography laws in the world. The Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Sharpe is seen as lessening the severity of the Canadian law. As a result of the Sharpe decision three new features are unique to Canada’s child pornography law: the two exceptions that the Supreme Court read into the Criminal Code and an artistic merit defence that is specific to child pornography and distinct from the artistic merit defence under obscenity.

In the United States there is no “exception for works of ‘serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value,’ which is of central concern in obscenity cases [.]” The Court reasoned: “if the point is to protect children from abuse in the production of pornography — it seems irrelevant whether the resulting work has artistic value.” This is quite the opposite to the reasoning of the Sharpe judgement that explicitly states: “To restrict the artistic merit defence to material posing no risk of harm to children would defeat the purpose of the defence. Parliament clearly intended that some pornographic and possibly harmful works would escape prosecution on the basis of this defence, otherwise there is no need for it.” Section 163.1(6) of the Canadian Criminal Code states: “the court shall find the accused not guilty if the representation or written material that is alleged to constitute child pornography has artistic merit or an educational, scientific or medical purpose.”

Contrary to American constitutional law that does not allow the exception of artistic merit, Canadian law after the Sharpe decision gives way more consideration to the defence of artistic merit in child pornography cases than in obscenity cases; with the Sharpe decision, artistic merit, which the law left open to interpretation as to its weightedness in terms of other considerations, solidly trumps harm and the community standards and internal necessities tests; whereas in American constitutional law since 1982 when a work is deemed to be child pornography harm trumps every other consideration.

[B] Child Pornography and Fast Feminism

What lead me to child pornography as a site of fast feminism is far from a version of any existent feminist position, most feminisms tend to equate sexualised writings and images of under eighteen year olds, and in the more lenient versions under fourteen year olds, as child sexual abuse; fast feminism is, rather, a turning of these feminist positions, in that it holds the possibility for the ethical and cultural acceptability of written and visual representations of sexualised youth. The second thing, and the most weighted, that brought me to engage child pornography as a site of fast feminism was the potential to use theory productively, creatively, to do theory-in-action, much like a sorcerer; the sorcerer-theorist Hannah Arendt states “the sorcerer’s apprentice — lacked the magic formula to break the spell.” In the doing/performing of theory, the theorist is often in the position of the sorcerer’s apprentice, able to do the work of theory, but unable to break the spell of social convention.

What does it mean to do theory as a sorcerer and why is the sorcerer-theorist an adjunct of the fast feminist in much the same way as the phallic female and the Sadean woman are? The sorcerer uses theory to save the ass, ‘the face of the other.’ That is, the sorcerer-theorist more than merely being directed by Levinas’s ethics of responsibility, the infinite responsibility of being for the other before oneself, operationalizes Levinasian ethics in terms of the subject of study and the pragmatics of doing. Levinasian ethics is a response, a performative ‘here I am’ to a call from the face of the other. “The Other who dominates me — is — the stranger, the widow, and the orphan, to whom I am obliged.” Yet, it is not enough to give one’s action of theorizing to the widow, the orphan, the stranger; rather, the Levinasian other needs to be conjoined with Bataille’s understanding and living of excess as that which can not be contained and in its noncontainment is transformative. When Levinas and Bataille are brought together what emerges is the pervert widow, pervert orphan and pervert stranger. Levinas’s widow, orphan and stranger are easy to put oneself in the place of; “they are the victims, the disasters, — the powerless ones [.]” For Levinas substitution, putting ones self in the place of the other, is the ethical itself. The pervert is less easy to substitute ones self for, especially those pervert others who Gayle Rubin says society has placed at the bottom of what she calls the erotic pyramid: promiscuous homosexuals, fetishists, sadomasochists, those who engage in sex for money and “the lowest of all, those whose eroticism transgresses generational boundaries.”

One of the most socially demonized others of today is the pedophile; the category pedophile has been stretched to include a person fantasizing about and /or engaged in sexual encounters with anyone under eighteen, collapsing the difference between a seven year old, a twelve year old, a seventeen year old and a three year old. It is precisely this collapsing of age categories that Justice Mary Southin at the British Columbia Court of Appeal acknowledged as problematic: “At some point are you going to explain how somebody between the ages of fourteen and eighteen is a child?’ she asked the Crown counsel.” In the main decision of the Appeal Court Southin clarifies age distinctions that she feels appropriate match the intention of the Canadian Criminal Code: Southin J. states: “In this judgment, when I myself use the word ‘child,’ — I mean those below the age of puberty. — I define a ‘child’ as anyone under the age of 14 years.— When I use the term ‘adolescent,” — I mean anyone between 14 and 18 — By ‘adult,’ I mean anyone over 18.” There are, as Ken Plummer points out in Telling Sexual Stories, some sexual stories whose time has not yet come to be told; consequently they are only narrated by dominant social authorities. Pedophilia is one of the stories that remains “a story ‘out of time’” Ken Plummer observes that even the postmodern literature and theories on marginality, the other, and silenced voices do not open space to the voices of pedophiles.

The assumption of fast feminism is that it is not enough to do theory as an intellectual endeavour, rather theory must have a both a risk value and a use value – it has to be able to be used in concrete and dangerous instances; what it means to do theory dangerously is to risk professional credibility and institutional sanction to save the ass of the other, preferably the highest risk other. If one really wants to make their mark as a theoretical sorcerer and a Levinasian/ Batallian pragmatist one needs an excessively perverse subject; not your regular paedophile looking at picture of sexualised ten year olds, not the people who write anonymous detailed romantic sexual stories involving eight and thirteen year olds and post them on disappearing intergenerational web sites. No. One needs the master paedophile whose work is as extreme as the Marquis de Sade’s and who publicly and politically supports it. Enter Robin Sharpe.

Two months before the Supreme Court decision on the Sharpe case was to be handed down, I received a call from the editor of Constitutional Forum asking me to write an article on the Sharpe decision from the perspective of the artistic merit defence. I telephoned Mr. Sharpe, told him that I was doing a piece on him for a law journal – Constitutional Forum, that I wanted to interview him and if his writings were any good, that I thought I could use theory and philosophy to help him save his ass. I flew to Vancouver, spent three days interviewing Mr. Sharpe in February 2001; read all three thousand plus pages of his unpublished work and his two published novellas and two poetry books; the article, “Sharpe’s Perverse Aesthetics” that I wrote for Constitutional Forum was submitted as an exhibit by the defence in the Sharpe trial. Many of the arguments made by the two defence witnesses, Professor James Miller and Professor Lorraine Weir, two sorcerer theorists willing to do theory dangerously and take the consequences of public ridicule, professional slur, and private harassment which they both were subjected to, are similar in nature to those of mine put forth in “Sharpe’s Perverse Aesthetics.” “Sharpe’s Perverse Aesthetics.” is a subsection of this chapter under the same title. “Sharpe’s Perverse Aesthetics” was written with the intent that it be used as an reputable academic article that showed, using the artistic merit guidelines outlined by the Supreme Court Sharpe decision, precisely how Sharpe’s writings have literary merit. The sole aim of the Constitutional Forum article was to use theory to save the ass of the most notorious and officially objectionable of sexual others.

[B] Sharpe Trajectory

This chapter engages the Sharpe case from the time of the voir dire through its appeal at the British Columbia provincial appeal court, its appeal to the national Supreme Court of Canada and back for trial to the British Columbia provincial trial court. The two appeals were brought about by the British Columbia provincial government at the provincial level and the provincial and Canadian federal government at the federal or national Supreme Court level; partly, the appeals were a response to the public outrage\hysteria that ensued once s.163(4), the possession subsection, of the child pornography law was declared unconstitutional; partly, the governments’ speedy announcement of its appeal fed right into and fuelled cultural hysteria about the absence of possession as a charge for child pornography.

At the voir dire hearing Judge Shaw declared s.163.1(4) of the Criminal Code, the possession subsection of the Child Pornography law, “void as being in violation of s.2(b) [freedom of expression] of the Charter and not justified under S.1” as a reasonable limit. In a two to one decision the British Columbia Court of Appeal upheld Shaw’s ruling and struck s.163.1(4) down. The Supreme Court of Canada, however, retreating in deference to the atmosphere of moral panic around child sexual abuse that has been present, extending and intensifying since the late 1970s, went against the two lower court decisions and upheld the law; Chief Justice McLachlin, writing for the majority, argued that “the defects lie at the periphery of the law’s application” and read two exceptions into the offence of possession of child pornography: “self-created expressive material - written or visual representations, created and held by the accused “for his or her own personal use” and the “visual recording” of “lawful sexual activity” held by the accused exclusively for private use.” The Supreme Court also made the artistic merit defence for child pornography distinct from the artistic merit defence for obscenity.

The texts I read are R.v.Sharpe, the Supreme Court of Canada decision (January 2001), R.v.Sharpe, the British Columbia Court of Appeal decision (July 1999), R.v.Sharpe, The Supreme Court of British Columbia voir dire judgement (January 1999), R.v.Sharpe, The Supreme Court of British Columbia judgement (March 2002), the voir dire hearing transcripts where Mr. Sharpe defended himself, the court room proceeding of the Sharpe trial January 23 – February 7, 2002 which I observed, the Respondent’s Factum to the B.C. Court of Appeal, the Respondent’s Factum to the Supreme Court of Canada, R. v. Sharpe: A Personal Account (Robin Sharpe’s, as yet, unpublished manuscript documentation of his case), Robin Sharpe’s Boyabuse: Flogging, Fun and Fortitude - A Collection of Kiddiekink Classics that he wrote under the pseudonym of Sam Paloc; and, the transcribed interview text of what became a three day on-going interview that I conducted with Mr. Sharpe, February 2001.

[B] Sharpe Comment

Bell: What does the court’s decision to allow the possession of self-created materials (written and visual) for one’s own use mean in terms of your own work?

Sharpe: The exceptions are meaningless. The hypotheticals presented by the lawyers, Richard Peck and Gil McKinnnon, at the Supreme Court, were irrelevant and were based on a false premise in the case of written material that the author does not and never intends to show his\her material to anyone else; this is not how writers operate. Most writers and artists seek the perusal of friends and others they respect.

Bell: Do you think it is meaningless for almost everyone?

Sharpe: Except for lawyers and vanilla civil libertarians, yes. It is a token gesture.

Bell: A token gesture to what?

Sharpe: Freedom of expression. I argue that possession cannot be expression because there is no meaning to convey. If you have a book which you read, perhaps a religious text, but you don’t share it, it’s yours, nobody else is interested. Your ability to possess it relates to the development of your own thinking, your own ideas; it is a matter of conscience. At the voir dire, I argued that freedom of conscience is the foundation of freedom of expression; we need freedom of conscience in order to express any of our own ideas; otherwise a person could only express ideas that he hears or what various other commentators say. Freedom of conscience is to know yourself and it is the right to form, declare and possibly share your ideas and values. It’s essential to the full exercise of freedom of expression.

Bell:Where does possession end and possession for the purpose of distribution begin?

Sharpe: Possession should include private showing and communication. If I have something and I want to show it to you then that is part of possession. The private sharing of things should not be considered distribution.

Bell: If it is published, then it is distribution?

Sharpe: Being published is distribution. Here you are venturing further from conscience. I can see distribution being regulated, definitely.

Bell: What about e-mail distribution and web site distribution?

Sharpe: I should be able to write anything in a letter and send it to somebody whether I write it on paper or send it by e-mail. Anything I say to you in private I should be able to convey to you through mail or e-mail. When someone posts on a web site that’s distribution; web sites are publication; e-mail is not publication. I had a lengthy correspondence with Dr. Edward Brongersma; Brongersma and I were writing back and forth regularly for years. The police seized our correspondence, they went through the correspondence and highlighted things; they were looking for evidence of illegal sexual acts. In their Report to Crown Counsel, the police used extensive and repetitious quotations from my letters, both those sent and received. Their purpose was to show that I had circulated and discussed my writings and offered them to people who might be interested in bizarre boy erotica. This correspondence and the multiple copies of Boyabuse, mostly on disks, is the basis of the possession for the purpose of distribution charges. The police still have Brongersma and my private correspondence amongst the exhibits; whether it is going to be entered at the trial, I don’t know. At the voir dire the prosecutor very astutely limited the written materials I was charged with to only the seventeen Boyabuse stories. The written materials charged at the trial were Boyabuse and Stand By America, 1953.

Bell: What does the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the possession of self-created materials (written and visual) for one’s own use mean in terms of your own work?

Sharpe: The exceptions are meaningless. They were based on a false premise in the case of written material that the author does not and never intends to show his\her material to anyone else. This is not how writers operate. Most writers and artists seek the perusal of friends and others they respect.

Bell:Where does possession end and possession for the purpose of distribution begin?

Sharpe: Possession should include private showing and communication. If I have something and I want to show it to you then that is part of possession. The private sharing of things should not be considered distribution.

[A] The Sharpe Decision: A Judgement in Perversity

[B] Reading in Exceptions

In the Sharpe decision, the Supreme Court of Canada found that the Criminal Code provisions encompass two circumstances in which there is no potential harm to children and read in two exceptions to the offence of the possession of child pornography. To the first exception, “self-created expressive material held by a person for his or her own personal use,” there is very hastily added in the same paragraph “for his or her eyes alone.” There is a significant difference between the phrases for one’s ‘own personal use’ and for one’s ‘eyes alone.’ Personal use includes unpublished private showing and communication; for his or her eyes alone means no one else sees the material. The latter nicely fits the example given, a teenager’s confidential diary; but it is highly unlikely that a teenager’s diary would be material that would come under scrutiny anyway. The other material that fits the first category is “any other written work or visual representation confined to a single person in its creation, possession and intended audience.” What if the author of the material has read the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom, Algernon Charles Swinburne’s The Flogging Block. An Heroic Poem, and William Burroughs, Wild Boys, all of which, in unpublished form, would pass under the new and specific artistic merit defence for child pornography; although it is quite possible that neither de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom or Burrough’s Wild Boys would pass under the artistic merit defence for obscene material, in which the community standards, internal necessities, and degrading and dehumanizing tests and “the risk of harm to society,” which links these three tests, are part of the assessment.

What if you, the author, had read these great dissenting works of literature (de Sade, Swinburne and Burroughs), and in the case of de Sade, philosophy; what if you felt that your written material had similar merit in the same perverse aesthetics? You as a writer would very likely make a number of copies of your manuscript and distribute it to friends and fellow authors to solicit their critical assessment; you as an author might send the manuscript to potential publishers to have it reviewed. This is precisely what Robin Sharpe was doing when the police intercepted ten computer disk copies of his manuscript, Boyabuse in 1995, as he entered Canada via the United States, on his way home from Sri Lanka. Very quickly the reviewers became court professionals - police, medical doctors, a psychiatrist and a couple of government censorship bureaucrats - whose task it is to assess the child pornography content of a work, which it seems they do by applying a word search method. Once your work is accused of being child pornography, your readership is narrowed to those employed by the criminal justice system; criminal assessors are not known for having a background in literature, let alone in a perverse literary aesthetics.

The pivotal question applied to written material in order to determine if it is child pornography is does it “advocate or counsel sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years”? The test is “whether the material viewed objectively, advocates or counsels,” whether it can be seen as “actively inducing or encouraging” sexual offences with children.

“He has a small boy shit upon the paten, and he eats this while the boy sucks him.”

“He only flogs boys aged from fourteen to sixteen and he has them discharge into his mouth afterward. Each is warmed by one hundred lashes; he always sees two at a sitting.” “He wishes to depucelate [deflower] none but little girls between the ages of three and seven, in the bum. This is the man who had her pucelage [virginity] in this manner; she was four years old, the ordeal caused her to fall ill, her mother implored this man to give aid, money, But his heart was of flint…” “He buries the muzzle of a shotgun in the boy’s ass, the weapon is loaded with buckshot; and he has just finished fucking the lad. He pulls the trigger; the gun and his prick discharge simultaneously.”

Clearly these words of the Marquis de Sade cannot be taken as counselling or advocating these sadistic sexual activities. This is obvious because they are so extreme; these are detailed fantasies. With de Sade readers have been given a context; great philosophers such as Simone de Beauvoir, Pierre Klossowski, Maurice Blanchot, Georges Bataille, Max Horkheimer and Theodore Adorno have contextualized his writing as philosophy vis-a- vis the French revolution; de Sade’s writings are in university libraries and taught on university literature, philosophy and political theory courses.

Without this context we would perhaps see only sexual acts that involve three year old children, violence against children, murder of children. Does de Sade’s work “advocate the commission of criminal offences against children”?; does his work “actively advocate or counsel illegal sexual activity with persons under eighteen”? Of course, if someone, say a police official, someone trained in determining child pornography, someone like Noreen Waters, who under cross-examination admits “I don’t read the material other than as part of my job,” were given a computer disk of de Sade’s work, all she would be able to see would be child abuse.

The second exception, private visual recordings of lawful sexual activity, protects auto-depictions taken by a child or adolescent of him or herself, again as in the case of exception one, s.163.1(4) was never intended to target material of this nature in the first place. Where the second exception becomes interesting is the extension: “It would also extend to protect the recording of lawful sexual activity, providing certain conditions were met. The person possessing the recording must have personally recorded or participated in the sexual activity.” It seems that taking a photo of your friends\lovers\sexual partners ages, say, fourteen and twenty-four engaging in a sexual activity, say fellatio, is acceptable providing all parties “have consented to the creation of the record” and “the recording [is) kept in strict privacy [save for police confiscation] by the person in possession, and intended exclusively for private use by the creator and persons depicted therein.” The example that the Supreme Court provides is “a teenage couple… creating and keeping sexually explicit pictures featuring each other alone, or together engaged in lawful sexual activity, provided these pictures were created together and shared only with one another.” According to para 116, it seems that I can possess a picture of a fourteen year old sexual partner\friend playing with her or his genitals, providing he\she agrees to be photographed and we don’t show the photo to anyone else, save for police confiscation; that is, we do not post the recorded image on a web site, we do not e-mail it as an attachment to another friend; that is to say, that no third party will ever see it. Further, one can possess a visual representation that includes the sexual organ or anal region of a person under the age of eighteen, providing the depiction of the sexual organ or anal region is not the “dominant characteristic,” of the photo, according to a “reasonable viewer,” and providing the possessor took the picture and the picture is only seen by the photographer and those in the picture. The possession of a nude photo of someone under fourteen is allowed providing the emphasis is not on the genital region; a frontal shot of a twelve year old with an erection should be acceptable providing the photo shows the whole body and the face, after all an erection is not necessarily the sign of sexual arousal. Naturist pictures, such as, a photo of a ten year old rock climbing in the nude that shows the youth’s buttocks should be acceptable providing the photo does not center on the anal region and a photo of a nude eight year old playing at a waterfall, providing the photo does not focus on the genital or anal region, should also fit the second exception.

There is no mention of collateral material in the exceptions; that is, if one possesses each one of these photo scenes, the fact that the photo of the fourteen year old engaging in fellatio with the twenty-four year old is kept in the same photo album as the photo of the nude eight year old at the waterfall does not in itself place the latter photo in a sexual context. There is the ambiguous claim that “placing a photo in an album of sexual photos and adding a sexual caption could change its meaning such that its dominant characteristic or purpose becomes unmistakably sexual in the view of a reasonable objective observer”; it is unclear, however, whether context without a sexual caption is sufficient to define a photo as sexual; this it appears is left to the discretion of ‘a reasonable objective viewer.’ In order not be viewed by a third party visual representations would have to be personally recorded videos, digital photos, polaroids or self-developed photos; the amateur photographer is more apt to have a simple make-shift darkroom facility that can develop black and white photos.

The role and testimony of the crown experts presents a serious problem: if a photo of someone under eighteen includes an erect penis, the eyes of the expert are trained to immediately zero in on the sex organ or anal region, because their job is to determine whether these two regions constitute “the dominant characteristic of the representation.” It is, perhaps, their task, the task of determining the dominant characteristic, that isolates, freezes and thus fetishizes the sex organ even though the semi-erect or erect penis is in the presence of a total body - face, knees, hair, arms. toes, torso, thighs, feet, neck, hands. Once the claim that the sex organ constitutes the ‘dominant characteristic’ has been made, subsequent viewers will tend unquestioningly to reproduce this reading of the images. Amy Adler maintains that the experts are viewing the material with what she terms “the pedophilic gaze.” Alder contends: “As we expand our gaze and bend it to the will of child pornography law, we transform the world into a pornographic place. Our vision changes the object that we see. Child pornography law constitutes children as a category that is inextricable from sex.” The Supreme Court decision not only does not establish criteria for determining what constitutes the ‘dominance’ of a characteristic but even refrains from establishing “the meaning of ‘sexual organ”: “Prudence suggests leaving the precise content of sexual organ’ to future case-law.”

Images digitally shot and downloaded to a computer pose a problem for exception two: theoretically, at least, the digitally shot and computer developed images could only be permitted on the computers of the person taking the picture and the person or persons in the picture,

perhaps with back-up computer disk copies. The question, then, would be how many disk copies of an image would qualify as possession “for the purpose of distribution,” when does possession become distribution? When an image or text is given to a third party would seem to be the answer; thus, theoretically, one could possess twenty copies of the same image on twenty different disks and providing these disk copies were not given away, this would still constitute possession and not possession for the purpose of distribution. As any academic knows, multiple disk copies do not necessarily imply intent to distribute.

It is computer images that the second exception will have the most difficulty controlling. This is why the Canadian government, as part of an omnibus bill called the Criminal Law Amendment Act, has proposed legislation that makes it illegal to e-mail child pornography and post or access child pornography on a web site; the maximum sentence for transmitting (e-mailing and posting) is ten years; people caught intentionally accessing a child porn web site will face up to five years in jail. The police claim that with computer technology the boundary between possession and distribution has been eroded and therefore the two possession laws are necessary to combat distribution. This was the gist of the director of Project P[ornography], the joint Ontario Provincial Police and Metro Toronto Police anti-pornography unit, Robert Matthews’ affidavit that was admitted as new evidence during the British Columbia Court of Appeal hearing. Matthews

— believes that the offence of possession of such material is an essential police tool that assists police officers to discover who is creating and distributing child pornography and to locate and seize child pornography, often by the use of a search warrant, more easily than would be the case if investigations were confined solely to offences of importing, producing and distributing child pornography.

The Criminal Lawyers’ Association (CLA) factum to the Supreme Court questions the ethicality of “punishing one class of persons — [to] assist the prosecution of a separate class of persons.” The Supreme Court notes the CLA’s objection but justifies possession as an offence on the grounds that it “aids prosecution of those who produce and distribute child pornography.” (para 90)Frank Addario and Michael Lacy, the authors of the Criminal Law Association Factum, however, point out that

It is not necessary to make possession of child pornography an offence for the police to obtain a warrant for its seizure in furtherance of an investigation of manufacturers or distributors. The test for issuance of a search warrant is “reasonable grounds to believe that there is in a building, receptacle or place — anything that there are reasonable grounds to believe will afford evidence with respect to the commission of an offence [.]

The example of digital images transferred to the computer shows the ludicrous nature of the second exception. Exception two could have avoided this by allowing the production and possession of explicit sexual images of youths fourteen and over who are engaged in legal sexual activities as permitted by s.s. 150-153 and s.212(4) of the Criminal Code. Of course, in a picture the viewer cannot tell if the person taking the picture happened to buy the fifteen year old person in the picture lunch, give her a cigarette or two, make her a disk copy of a computer chess game, or lend her $5, all of which can be construed as payment for sexual services; payment is illegal under s. 212(4). Since these are normal activities of friendship, this means that one can have sex with people fourteen to seventeen years old, but one can not engage in acts of friendship with them until they are eighteen.

There is, of course, the question I pose in “Female Sexuality at the End of Gender,” and in “On ne peut voir l’image [The image cannot be seen]” and this is how can we know “how old is that pussy in the picture?” Of course, there is the expert opinion of people like Dr. Jean Hlady of the Child Protection Service Unit of the B.C. Children’s Hospital, who does age determination by applying the Tanner Scale of Human Development, a pictorial development scale based to a large extent on pubic hair growth in conjunction with sex organ development; this supposedly enables one to determine age according to which of the five stages of development the person in the image falls into. Needless to say, the test is ridiculously imprecise, so much so that Dr. James Tanner himself cautions against using the Tanner scale to estimate chronological age. In a letter published in Pediatrics, Vol.102, No.6, 1998, Dr.Rosenbloom and Dr.Tanner state:

no equations exist estimating age from stage, and even if they did, the degree of un reliability in… staging the independent variable would introduce large errors into the estimation of age, the dependent variable. Furthermore, the unreliability of the stage rating is increased to an unknown degree by improperly performed staging, that is, not at a clinical examination but through nonstandardized and, thus unsuitable photographs.

Therefore, we wish to caution paediatricians and other physicians to refrain from providing “expert” testimony as to chronological age based on Tanner staging, which was designed for estimating development or physiologic age for medical, educational, and sports purposes… The method is appropriate for this, provided chronological age is known. It is not designed for estimating chronologic age and, therefore, not properly used for this purpose.

It was the Tanner Scale that was used to determine the age of the persons in the photographs taken by Mr. Sharpe.

What the Tanner stage test and the test of whether the ‘dominant’ characteristic of a nude image of a child or youth is the depiction of the child’s sexual organ or anal region, and what the court experts applying these tests bring to mind, is Michel Foucault’s claim that there are two types of pleasure in the codification and regulation of perverse sexualities: the pleasure that comes from exercising a power that monitors, searches out, spies, questions, exposes; that is, the pleasure taken by medical and legal experts in their power; and the pleasure experienced by those subjected to observation: a pleasure in fleeing from observation, resisting it.

[B] Artistic Merit : Reading Broadly

The most radical part of the Sharpe decision, and precisely what that the Canadian government moved to legislatively remove from the Criminal Code, is the Court’s upholding and interpretative enhancement of the artistic merit defence. What is most bizarre about the reaction to Judge Shaw’s trial judgment that Sharpe’s written work does have artistic merit is the panic fear by legislators, child rights advocates, and censorship feminists that artistic merit is a loophole which literary pedophiles are going to use to get their tombs of charged material off the legal hook. How many literary pedophiles have their really been – de Sade, Nabokov, Burroughs; perhaps, given that, following the Supreme Court of Canada decision, only the ‘smallest’ of literary merit is required, one could add some unknown names. But there isn’t a horde of writerly pedophiles out there sighing a sigh of relief that their little stories now can be possessed and distributed; perhaps there is another Robin Sharpe in existence possessing the requisite minimum of literary merit who could benefit from the Sharpe decision, but not likely; its almost as if the Sharpe decision was written for Sharpe’s work – really objectionable, sexually explicit, SM child porn written by someone who has spent years developing and perfecting a particular pornographic style, but then Sharpe is as rare as de Sade – that’s his attraction.

“Simply put, the defence must be construed broadly.” Chief Justice McLachlin does two things, in the most radical part of the decision: first, she accepts Sopinka J.’s advisement in the Supreme Court Butler decision that “[a]rtistic expression rests at the heart of freedom of expression values and any doubt in this regard must be resolved in favour of freedom of expression.” She clarifies what is meant by artistic merit, left unclarified by Sopinka. McLachlin C.J. states: 1) “[A]rtistic merit should be interpreted as including any expression that may reasonably be viewed as art.” 2) “Any objectively established artistic value, however small, suffices to support the defence.” 3) “[A]rtists, so long as they are producing art, should not fear prosecution under s.163.1(4).” 4) “[A]rt includes the production, according to aesthetics principles of works of the imagination, imitation or design[.]” 5) “The subjective intention of the creator will be relevant, although it is unlikely to be conclusive.” 6) “The question of whether a particular drawing, film or text is art must be left to the trial judge to determine on the basis of a variety of factors.” 7) “The form and content of the work may provide evidence as to whether it is art.” 8) “Its connections with artistic conventions, traditions or styles may also be a factor.” 9) “The opinion of experts on the subject may be helpful.” 10) “[F]actors, like the mode of production, display and distribution, may shed light on whether the depiction or writing possesses artistic value.”

Second, McLachlin C.J. reads against McCombs J.’s interpretation of community standards and harm in Langer. McLachlin C.J. states: “I am not persuaded that we should read a community standards qualification into the defence.” Her reasoning is threefold: 1) Parliament has not specified this qualification for child pornography. 2) “[R]eading in the qualification of conformity with community standards… run[s] counter to the logic of the defence[.]” The logic of the artistic merit defence for child pornography is “that artistic merit outweighs any harm that might result from the sexual representations of children in the work.” Therefore, [t]o restrict the artistic merit defence to material posing no risk of harm to children would defeat the purpose of the defence.” 3) “Parliament clearly intended that some pornographic and possibly harmful works would escape prosecution on the basis of this defence; otherwise there is no need for it.” Procedurally, the onus is on “the Crown to disprove the defence beyond a reasonable doubt.” The accused, when using the defence must “point to facts capable of supporting it” and these facts must entail “something more than a bare assertion that the creator subjectively intended to create art.”

From this, I, as did Sharpe’s expert witnesses, his defence counsel, as did the presiding judge at the Sharpe trial, Judge Shaw, conclude that the accused’s body of work, the work charged and the work not charged, must be looked at simultaneously and that the accused’s charged work must be placed inside the broader context of writing or images of a similar aesthetics genre; for example, fictive works of the imagination need to be situated in relation to other similar fictive works of the imagination by other authors; one needs to assess works of the imagination that involve children, explicit sexual activity and sadomasochistic practices in the context of other published works of the imagination that include the very same themes.

McLachlin C.J. adds as a footnote, a further qualifier: the “defence of artistic merit to a charge of child pornography is conceptually different from the defence of artistic merit to a charge of obscenity under s. 163 of the Criminal Code”; in the latter both “the meaning of obscenity and the defence of artistic merit are… judicial creations.” As such, these works are subject to the community standards of tolerance test and to the internal necessities test (whether the work as a whole has a broader purpose than sexuality). She argues that “the definition of child pornography… stands independent of the defence of artistic merit[.]” That is, a work is already charged as constituting child pornography, as a work containing explicit representations of under eighteen sexuality. This, reasons McLachlin C.J., makes “the language of internal necessities, and the logic of either obscenity or art, inapposite” irrelevant. In subsection eight of the decision, “Summary of Material Caught by section 163.1(4),” McLachlin C.J. reiterates what is caught as child pornography - “written material and visual representations advocating the commission of criminal offences against [real and imaginary] children,” “visual material depicting [real and imaginary] children engaged in explicit sexual activity,” “material featuring, as a dominant characteristic, the sexual organ or anal region of a [real or imaginary] child for a sexual purpose,” and writings that “actively advocate or counsel illegal sexual activity with persons under the age of eighteen.” McLachlin C.J., after itemizing what is caught, then repeats: “Works of art, even of dubious artistic value, are not caught at all.”

What became extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the crown applying the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the artistic merit defence, and for both of the crown expert witnesses, was the cognitive ability to separate harm from child pornography; they simply could not believe that “artistic merit outweighs any harm” in a genre that was deemed to be harmful in its very nature; their belief that child pornography was inherently harmful rendered them cognitively incapable of mounting a defence based simply on whether the work under consideration “advocated or counselled sexual activity with children” and whether the work had any literary merit; because the crown and crown witnesses could not break the reverse paedophilic cognitive distortion, their arguments were discredited by Judge Shaw. Since child sexual abuse became a dominant public discourse in the late 1970’s child pornography has been seen as synonymous with child sexual abuse, harm and child pornography are seen as one and the same. In a sense, the Supreme Court’s decision is has a very postmodern logic at work: a written work can be child pornography and as a result inherently harmful and it can have artistic merit: “the logic of ‘either obscenity or art’ is inapposite.”

Sharpe’s Perverse Aesthetics

Were my writings a threat to children, adolescent boys in this case? I know most people would find the tales shocking, disgusting and highly offensive but would anyone be tempted to act out harmfully as a result of misinterpreting my Boyabuse stories? I certainly did not think so although I am aware that works of great moral authority such as the Bible have had that unfortunate effect… The stories contain much that would be considered obscene and abusive but they were my stories and I felt they had some literary merit

Sharpe’s writing was assessed by Detective Noreen Waters, (the police expert witness for the Crown at the voir dire), and two individuals from the provincial Film Classification Branch. Some of the most bizarre, disturbing, ecstatic, innovative boy erotica ever written was given to the upholders of what Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari would call the mommy/daddy/me triangle, what I refer to as the morality of appropriate oedipalization.

Reading is a political act: people read from positions in the world, whether these positions are acknowledged or not. How the reader produces meaning is the result of an interaction between all the texts he/she has read in the past, his/her positionality in the world, and the text of the moment. A number of meanings can be appropriated and read from the same text; the meaning of the text is produced by the reader through a process of grafting: the reader’s meaning is grafted on to the text at hand.

Those, like Waters and the two individuals from the Film Classification Branch, are reading from the position of censorship and detection of child abuse, reading with the mantra ‘all sexually explicit depictions of children, youths under eighteen are child pornography.’ Of course, a text that combines child sexuality in which the children have agency with sadomasochistic ritual rites of endurance and flagellation is going to be considered “the cruelest pieces of writing I have ever read” by someone like Mary-Louise McCausland, the Director of Film Classification for British Columbia, who states:

These stories convey, through a sense of the narrator’s satisfaction, that the sexually violent acts being carried out both against the children and by the children are pleasurable, satisfying and beneficial for all involved. It is this theme, and the fact that the abuse of children is presented in all three cases (“Timothy and the Terrorist,” “The Rites at Port Dar Lan: Part One” and “Tijuana Whip Fight”) as being nontraumatic, that led me to determine that these works of fiction counsel adult sex with children and are therefore child pornography as defined by Section 163.1 of the Criminal Code.

Sharpe observes that “none of the reviewers could see any artistic merit.” Perhaps the grossest example of this is Detective Water’s description of Sharpe’s novella Life on the Corner: The Moon Eyed Beggar’s Tale. Waters sees the novella only in terms of sex: “The book is a story about a young boy prostitute. A number of young boy prostitutes in Manilia and other areas— It describes sex acts. It describes children being portrayed in child pornography.” An anonymous reviewer in issue four (1997) of Broken Pencil, an online magazine that reviews zines and chapbooks, however, provides a very different and nuance reading.

A forty page novella written from the point of view of a deformed beggar named Jun. Jun lives in the Philippines and lives off the remnants of the burgeoning street boy scene of the early 1990s. I say the remnants because Jun never actually gets to have sex with any of the pedophile foreigners cruising the streets. Disgusted by his deformities, they ignore Jun and select his young friends to take to their hotels… But, as Sharpe accurately, methodically and successfully shows us, Jun does not consider himself lucky. He wants to go to hotels and have sex with the foreigners… Instead he’s reduced to sniffing glue, drinking cough syrup and waiting for the drunk foreigners to drop a few pesos his way as they head back to the hotel, Jun’s buddies in tow. Sharpe’s portrayal of Jun’s psychology is extremely convincing. The book… is a straight-forward third person narrative written more like an ethnographic study than a fiction. The language is plain, the descriptions and motivations clear... Sharpe has command of his narrative; like Jun, the story doesn’t dwell, or vacillate. It is what it is.… An engrossing read.

Court system experts will never be able to see merit in writing like that of Mr. Sharpe because they just don’t have the context; of course, they can count up the number of acts of child-child and man-child cock-sucking and ass-fucking, but the only genre they have to contextualize the work is child porn. Sharpe’s work, for a reader like myself, a reader schooled in the counter-psychoanalysis of Deleuze and Guattari, the classical literary sadism of the Marquis de Sade, the more contemporary literary sadomasochism of George Bataille and the ethics of the Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, is a masterpiece of sadistic compassion. Perhaps Sharpe’s intent was to create masturbatory material. Yet his writing is too complex, intricate, detailed and sophisticated; it draws on too many literary conventions to be merely masturabatory material. But then, as the Sharpe decision, stipulates: “the subjective intention of the creator, although relevant is unlikely to be conclusive.”

(para 61)

Sharpe sees the right to possess child pornography as a freedom of expression issue; freedom of expression was narrowed along the way (via the Appeal Court, via his lawyers’ factums) to primarily an overbreadth of the law argument by the time it reached the Supreme Court. For Sharpe himself, whether child pornography has artistic merit or not is not terribly relevant to the freedom of expression issue; one should equally be able to possess the poorly written quick stories immediately electronically disseminated and the masterpiece that has taken years of reworking. It just so happens that Sharpe’s writing fits the latter category; Sharpe began writing the stories that eventually were collected under the title BOYABUSE in 1983. In his summary at the voir dire Sharpe explains: “These are stories I began writing many, many years ago, exploring certain — perverse interests — coming out of my childhood.”

Kobena Mercer, writing on Robert Mapplethorpe’s black male nudes, identifies what he terms the perverse aesthetics: the perverse aesthetics, in addition to being sexually explicit, contains a textual ambivalence that ensures the uncertainty of any one, singular meaning; it is Sharpe’s fivefold transgression across age, sadomasochism, homosexuality, race and sexual commerce that potentially disturb the reader. Sharpe repeatedly conjoins in one story those sexual populations that Gayle Rubin says society has placed at the bottom of what she calls the erotic pyramid: promiscuous homosexuals, fetishists, sadomasochists, those involved in sex for money and “the lowest of all, those whose eroticism transgresses generational boundaries.” According to the conventional wisdom, the reader encountering such works must be revolted, must voice one’s disgust otherwise one could be mistaken for a pedophile. Sharpe uses the strategy of perversion in which the liberal humanist values of autonomy, self-possession, self-development, self-worth, individual freedom and empowerment are writ large, but on small bodies. Sharpe is a true libertine, who like de Sade’s Coeur-de-fer “lays down the following alternatives: “Either the crime, which makes us happy, or the scaffold which prevents us from being unhappy.” “Those who do not learn to love the whip, learn to take pride in their fortitude.”

Like de Sade, Sharpe has “subordinated his existence to his eroticism because eroticism appeared to him the only possible fulfilment of his existence.” At his voir dire Sharpe argues that self-fulfilment, one of the core values of freedom of expression, includes the right to masturbate. His argument is not given serious consideration by any of the three courts; sexual self-fulfilment is dismissed by the Supreme Court as “base.” (para 24) Sharpe explains in his voir dire summary:

[P]eople have the right to masturbate.... For some men, sex fantasy with children may be necessary to achieve successful masturbation. For others, it may be fantasies focusing on pain, humiliation or fetish objects… [S]ome people may have difficulty masturbating without pornography. We know that pornography, fantasy and masturbation are closely connected. To deny pornography can deny some people the opportunity to masturbate and its benefits to their health… mental… and… physical… [I]f we’re looking at child pornography, we are looking at certain men without partners, and… we are looking at old men who use it as a form of self therapy... [I]n the lives of these people, it may be quite important, their access to pornography for them might be on par with another person’s value on the right to attend church.

Sharpe’s argument on masturbation and self-expression is lost: “Nobody wants to say that masturbation has any value. They don’t want to become tainted by anything that describes any positive characteristics to masturbation; all three decisions balance harm and the perception of harm against the triviality of the right involved in self-fulfilment as a core value of freedom of expression. Sexology research, needless to say, substantiates Sharpe’s argument on the value of masturbation: “Sexual activity is not a commodity that can be stored and saved… Rather, it is a physiologic function that tends to deteriorate if not exercised, and it is particularly fragile in the elderly.”

Sharpe’s, like de Sade’s, strategy of saying everything about what must be kept silent, steps outside the law - a law that, in the words of Southin J. of the British Columbia Court of Appeal, “bears the hallmark of tyranny“ What is Sharpe’s crime? It’s twofold: primarily it is the portrayal of “incorrect,’ improper, oedipalization; it denies, overrides, the ‘proper’ identity formation of the modern subject: individuation as a process that places the child in subordination to parental authority as preparation for later subordination to societal authority. In Sharpe’s work, the children are masters of their own bodies and souls; they are not oedipalized. “Oedipus informs us: if you don’t follow the lines of differentiation daddy-mommy-me… you will fall into the black night of the undifferentiated.” It is precisely here ‘in the black night of the undifferentiated,’ written in the broad daylight of the mythical and mystical Port Dar Lan that Sharpe’s detailed fantasies take place. “The pervert… resists oedipalization… he\she has invented other territorialities to operate in.” For Sharpe, this other territory is the imaginary realm. De Beauvoir’s observation of de Sade that “he attached greater importance to the stories he wove around the act of pleasure than to the contingent happenings; he chose the imaginary,” applies equally well to Sharpe. However, Sharpe’s libertine turn inward into his “beliefs, opinions, thoughts and conscience,” out of the necessity, brought about by the charging of his material, has been articulated with a libertarian political strategy that demands freedom of expression, particularly the right to concretize and possess in tangible material form the intangibility of one’s own thoughts, one’s own fantasies.

Sharpe’s second crime is not being Sadean enough; specifically he transgresses the great transgressor de Sade. Sharpe violently disrupts de Sade’s work from its point of excess; silence; that is “from the beyond of the bedchamber.” Sophie, in The 120 Days of Sodom, emerging from the closet, the offstage chamber, “uttered a piercing scream.”In his sadomaasochistic writing, Sharpe, like Georges Bataille, is attempting to write the scream, the narration of the human exposed to pain. Sharpe, like Bataille, is concerned with the moment in which the self is torn open and exposed to what is other to it; the boundary between the self and other liquefy; in a sense Sharpe, in the tradition of Bataille, is delivering the words\feelings of those who remain speechless and thus are merely victims in de Sade’s imaginary world. For de Sade there is no other as bounded being, only the sovereign man: but in Sharpe’s writing this sovereign man comes apart as bounded being when his partners in crime are boys with agency and not the silent child victims of de Sade. Sharpe is writing the scream as a combination of the will to laughter, “those moments… that make one gasp,“ “moments when the ceaseless operation of cognition is dissolved,” the moments privileged by Bataille, and the will to endure, the practice of the art of fortitude. Sharpe is combining play, laughter and fortitude; his boys are having fun with the men and with each other having sex and engaging in sadomasochistic activities. Victim and executioner, man and boy, laughter and feats of endurance, pleasure and pain slip into one another.

[B] Sharpe Interruption

“I had only fleeting thoughts of de Sade when I was writing. He is not a favourite writer of mine. I had read 120 Days of Sodom, along with other smuggled writings in my twenties, but only for prurient interest. Racy writings in those days usually circulated with the “interesting” passages already marked. I found 120 Days is pretty gross and more of a curiosity —. I did get from de Sade the idea that one could write about such things. Some might claim that I picked up a cognitive distortion. Only much later, I think after reading Simone de Beauvoir’s essay, “Must We Burn de Sade?” did I have anything more than a pornographic appreciation of the Marquis.

My favourite adolescent sado-erotica was the tales of boys in Ancient Sparta. I imagined my middle class classmates, and myself, in their roles. (A friend once sent me a translated boy sadoerotic excerpt from one of Roger Peryfitte’s novels based, I believe, on an account by Petronious concerning the Spartan rites at the temple to Artemis.) I have often sought out information on Spartan society, and other past and present exotic cultures with “interesting” sexual and fortitudinous rites. I have developed a deeper interest in ethnology and cultural anthropology as a result. I would make at least a weak claim that literary appreciation can evolve out of pornographic interest”.

[B] Reading Broadly – a Return

Sharpe’s stories fall into what I refer to as postcontemporary sadomasochism. De Sade, the excess theorist of Enlightenment reason, destroyed the objects of his desire. Sadism is replayed in the postcontemporary and in Sharpe’s writing, not as the Sadean negation of other, but as respect for the other’s limits. The other is neither a victim or the executioner but a partner in a power exchange of erotic energy. “Each partner serves as an audience, [a witness] to the other, and in the process, contains the other.” One has “the Other in one’s skin,” the “Other within one’s self,” to quote Levinas. The victim and the executioner, the master and the slave, the dominant and the submissive, the boy and the man, are set face to face, endowed equally with the same power.

There are moments in which the caress of a whip, the burning piercing of a needle, takes the players to what Levinas refers to as the mystery of alterity, “always other— always still to come… pure future… without content.” The moment of s/m climax is described as “an ecstatic mind\body release… [in which] the building of pain\pleasure so concentrates… awareness into the here and now… [that] you spin away… into no place and no time”and no age and no being. This disembodiment is the pure power and joy of s/m in which one reaches the ecstatic moment of simultaneous escape and presence. Sharpe narrates this moment of touching God through the transformation of pain in his “rather autobiographical first novel” Rupert: Unexpurgated; he does so with de Sade’s love of precise detail.

I will worship God in my own way. After all, I’m eleven now and the church says you only have to be seven to know right from wrong[.] — [M]y crucifixion pose prayers are getting better— And then I found these big headed roofing nails— And are they ever sharp! — They sure make my crucifixion pose more realistic. I can squeeze them a little bit harder or softer, just as I want, and feel the nail pain in my palms. I can concentrate longer and get closer to Jesus.

I was squeezing the nails harder and harder each day and getting braver and braver. Then one day I squeezed real hard and blood started to run down one hand, just like in my Jesus picture. It sure hurt but I was so thrilled I kept squeezing harder and harder still. Wow, I was just shaking and my peeney was throbbing. I’d never felt that close to Jesus before. The blood was almost squirting out so I rubbed some on my other hand and on my side like where Jesus was stabbed. I looked at myself and my Jesus picture and then I smeared it all over me. It was like I was right there with Him, just the two of us, Jesus and me. My peeney was aching and I remembered they’d done something to Him down there so I smeared blood on it. Oooh! It felt real funny, it sort of tingled. I got back into a proper crucifixion pose right away. Was this a sign. I wasn’t sure but something had happened. It was the type of feeling you get when you’re baptized[.]

Rubert, a fictionalized version of Robin Sharpe, is one of the most sensitive, naive, intelligent, spiritual, passionate and ethical boys in literature. Rupert Unexpurgated is a coming of age story documenting Rupert’s wonderment at the world, at the inappropriate behaviour of his friends, and at his changing ‘peeney.’ The novel contains the obligatory pubescent boy circle jerks with the unusual addition of Oscar’s chizz bottle for collecting the fraternal discharges. Rupert struggles with his desire for his friends - “I wanted to tell him no and I wanted him to jack me” - and his own correct code of ethics derived from devout religious beliefs enacted in devout but innocently desolate religious practices. I suspect what has prohibited the more general publication of Rupert Unexpurgated is the Bataillean worship scene in which Rupert’s boy energy and boy blood is mixed with god energy. For Bataille “God is a whore;” for Sharpe God is a little boy.

There remains a scandal of s/m, but not the obvious scandal. Rather, the scandal of s/m is, according to Anne McClintock, “the provocative confession that the edicts of power are reversible — The economy of s/m is the economy of conversion: slave to master… pain to pleasure, [boy to man, man to boy, profane to sacred, self to other, other to self] and back again.” S\M stages the signs of power in church, state, home, school and in so doing delegitimizes these; it can also delegitimize the differentiation of adult and child. Sharpe combines the scandal of sadomasochism which reverses power differentials with the scandal of intergenerational intimacy that crosses age appropriate behavior boundaries. He presents both as completely consensual activities. “Sometimes the very appearance of consent makes the depicted act even more degrading or dehumanizing.”

The most contentious of Sharpe’s seventeen stories in Boyabuse are “The Rites At Port Dar Lan: Parts One, Two and Three” and “Tjuana Whip Fight.” “The Rites at Port Dar Lan” pushes all censorhip buttons. The three part story, set two years and then one year apart, is structured around “boys’ initiation rites” that take place in imaginary Port Dar Lan, “a very isolated settlement on the coast of Borneo.” Sharpe is drawing on two codings of sadomasochistic actual or imagined practice: ritual and a designated sacred\profane space located outside time, a place beyond societal and moral restraint for the time one is there. Ali, a veteran of Dar Lan, informs the protagonist, on his first visit:

To enjoy the unique delights of Dar Lan to the fullest your mind must be clear and free from the constraints of ordinary morality. Dar Lan is a land of suffering and noble courage, of endurance and sweet agony, of drama and pathos where outrageous lusts and fantasies find satisfaction and fulfilment in both loving and torturing boys. They are here to please you within their rules. The pleasure’s in the hurting, rejoice in the pain you inflict, for here we make a mockery out of mere perversity. It is a dangerous place for the normal mind[.]

“Dar Lan was a refugee settlement” of boat people mostly from Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The age specific initiation rites, the penultimate rite being circumcision “provide the only hard cash and chance for people to buy their way out” of the poverty and isolation of Port Dar Lan. Sharpe informed me that he has discussed at length with young friends their own circumcision ceremonies in the Philippines and has written about these in his published book Manliamanic: Vignettes, Vice and Verse (1994).

Immediately what Sharpe accomplishes by introducing cash as early as paragraph two in “The Rites at Port Dar Lan, Part One” is to link consensual s/m and commercial s\m; by establishing that the boys are supporting the community through sexual and s\m activities with paying sponsors from the outside Sharpe inverts the usual and appropriate power\authority relation in which adults are responsible for children and adolescent’s well-being. Here Sharpe has introduced the foreign (the refugee boys of Borneo and their exchanges with western male tourists of the exotic); the Port Dar Lan stories remain open to the possibility of a racist reading.

It is perhaps Sharpe’s ingenuity, an ingenuity shared with Mappelthrope in his 1982 publication Black Male, that he is able repeatedly to take the reader close to making charges of racism and then to have the reader refrain. The boys speak in broken English: Jean suggested “Maybe you like to go to sandbar, see boys play rape tag. Just like ordinary tag but after tag you fuck boy too.” Like Mapplethrope’s work, Sharpe’s could be read as racist; it pushes racist buttons. Mercer recounts: “I was shocked by what I saw: the profile of a black man whose head was cropped - or ‘decapitated’, so to speak - holding his semi-tumescent penis through the Y-fronts of his underpants, which is the first image that confronts you in Mapplethrope’s Black Males.”

Like Mapplethrope’s work, Sharpe’s work ambivalently falls short of the charge of racism. Perhaps this is because the boys are in charge, perhaps because they are equal to (although not the same as) their adult sponsors, perhaps it is the writer’s profound respect for the boys, fortitude or perhaps Sharpe’s work, in a manner that is almost unheard of in such extreme sexual literature, contains what one finds in the work of the Levinasian philosopher Alphonso Lingis. This is, Sharpe like Lingis allows the trace of God to show through as he exposes us to the faces of the foreigner, the stranger outside the economy of the same, as he exposes us to the sexualized other: foreign, child, sadistic, masochistic, homosexual. Lingis, in chapter eight, “Fluid Economy,” of Foreign Bodies, a text I taught in my graduate seminar Speed Theory, theorizes the semen exchange culture of the Sambia of Papua New Guinea documented by the Stanford anthroplogist Gilbert Herdt. “I receive from the other settlement… a young wife... I enter into a pact with her family. Her younger brothers will daily kneel before me, and will open their mouths for my penis, and will drink my male fluids.” Lingis explains:

For the Sambia, the vital fluids transubstantiate as they pass from one conduit to another. They are the scarce resources of the life, growth, strength, and spirituality of the clan. Among the Sambia, body fluids do not flow; they are transmitted from socius to socius… The abundance of male fluid produced in the men is transmitted to the mouths of boys, where it masculinizes them by being stored in their inately empty kereku-kerekus [semen organs]. It is marriages… that determine which boys have access to the fluid of which men.

If this factual anthropological description were fiction, it would, I suppose, be considered child pornography. The most shocking sexual vignette in Boyabuse actually mimics tongue-in-cheek the central sacred masculinity rituals of the Sambia. A stranger, Simon, takes the protagonist to his home. The following scene unfolds:

[T]he sister was nursing a sturdy two year old and ruffling his genitals… his sister offered tea. The child was reluctant to give up his teat… The two year old sulked briefly and then waddled over to his brother watching TV, and tugged on his shorts. The five year old ignored him for almost a minute but then without taking his eyes off the screen he half rolled over, pulled down his shorts and let his brother suck on him... “Soon,” Simon observed, “he’ll want his brother to fuck him, but he gets fed up doing it when held rather be screwing kid his own age, but I don’t want to discourage the little one from trying.... The five year old was now disinterestedly fucking his brother, his eyes still glued to the TV screen. “My late brother fucked me from infancy and I tasted my uncle’s milk while I still suckled on my mother’s.

Only the profoundly humorless who have never encountered anthropological studies of sexual initiation rites would take this for advocacy. The description is remarkably similar to actual Sambian rites:

The first three initiations, [for Sambian males] at ages seven to ten, at eleven to thirteen, and at fourteen to sixteen, function to forcibly break the boys from their long association with their mothers, and their milk. At the first initiation, the seven-to-ten year old boys are weaned from their mothers’ milk and foods to male foods and the penis milk of youths of their brother-in-law’s clan. After the third initiation, they will serve as fellateds to feed semen into first- and second-stage boy initiates. The fourth initiation purifies the youth and issues in cohabitation with his wife.

Lingis argues that “[b]efore [and] beneath the rational another community, the community that demands that the one who has his own communal identity, who produces his own nature, expose himself to the one with whom he has nothing in common, the stranger.” This other community, the shadow to the rational community, is realised “in exposing oneself to the one with whom one has nothing in common: to the Aztec, the nomad, [the Sambia] the guerrilla, the enemy. The other community forms when one recognizes in the face of the other, an imperative.” The imperative is Levinas’s imperative, and it seems to be Sharpe’s: one is responsible for the Other before oneself. Mr. Sharpe when questioned ‘Are you comfortable with the term pedophile?’ replied:

It is a technical term applied to prepubescents who don’t interest me; I didn’t want to go into the court and try to defend hebephiles, to always be making distinctions, trying to establish ‘I am not one of them.’ This was a political move; I chose to become a generic pedophile. I know people who are pedophiles, who like boys from eight to twelve. I think the important thing is the appropriateness of behavoir; if you are attracted to someone ten years old you do not relate to them the same way as you would to someone who is fifteen or eighteen. I believe in defending people’s freedom rather than trying to carve out a niche for myself.

By the third paragraph of “The Rites At Port Dar Lan: Part One” the rules of the ritual, very similar to those classified by anthropologists as “savage puberty rites,” are set out: “The boys had to undergo severe tests of their manhood including heavy whippings which left them scarred and the initiates were circumcised slowly and painfully with a crude stone knife. This the boys had to endure silently without flinching.” Here four main codes of sadomasochism are explicitly set out: severe tests, heavy whipping, cutting, silent endurance. Taking one beyond one’s limit is prohibited; this is an explicit postcontemporary s/m rule. “Those who abuse the boys beyond their limits are not welcome back.” However, if you want a boy’s respect, “push him to his limits.” Sharpe is careful to state: “The boys do not allow themselves to use drugs[.]” He doesn’t state that they are not allowed to use drugs. The control lies with the boy. The boys participated with a Doctor Swartz in designing the rituals. “He and the boys set out the rules and standards... the boys… run the show. Those who have been through the entire process, the cutlings, form a Council who make the rules and rule on exceptions.” There are different endurances, different feats for different ages beginning with the minor torments of the stinging thong and light cane at seven and culminating with circumcision at fifteen. At each stage the boys seek a foreign sponsor who gets to perform these privileges for a price.

Providing a trace to similar feats of youth in ancient Rome, documented by Plutarch, Sharpe points out that the boys don’t compete “under the whip as happened in the temple games of Artemis Orthia in ancient Roman Greece” where “boys died before they’d yield.” Ali informs that “some of the boys love the whip just as I can remember the cane. I came across the cane in one of the last great schools in England.” Here Sharpe is connecting the rituals at Dar Lan with the long tradition of flogging at English boys schools that so fascinated the Victorian poet Algernon Charles Swinburne that he wrote an anonymous lengthy mock-epic poem The Flogging-Block: An Heroic Poem, about it.

How those great big ridges must smart as they swell! How the Master does like to flog Algernon well! How each cut makes the blood come in thin little streaks from that broad blushing round pair of naked red cheeks.

The faces of Sharpe’s imaginary boys shine through his writing. Sharpe is no paternalistic adult author patronizing his boy characters; rather, he is the boys he has created; they are parts of himself that can be traced back to their genesis in his own boyhood self-inflicted sadistic, masochistic ordeals (as documented in Rupert Unexpurgated).

Ali leant over Paul and placed his hands on the boy’s shoulders looking him in the eyes, and kissed him on the forehead. And then without haste Ali began inserting additional sticks between those already there. The holes started tearing through to each other, ripping the flesh. Paul was exhausted from the pain but he made no move to struggle or cry out. There was only ten minutes left. After the last stick had been shoved through only a few strands of skin still connected the foreskin to the shaft, these Ali snipped, and he took the now detached ring of skin and slid it onto his finger holding up his hand so all could see. “A souvenir of your courage my friend” Ali said respectfully to Paul. Then taking one of the buddies bolos Ali deftly sliced off the ring of bruised and torn skin of Paul’s remaining foreskin to make it a clean cut and blood flowed at last. Paul was able to smile as the money was counted out and he shook Ali’s hand firmly before his buddies walked him down to the sea to wash off in the surf. He had probably just purchased his freedom from the stifling confines of Dar Lan.

Port Dar Lan is a rule-bound, highly ethical fantasy space; it is anti-Sadean: the so-called victims have set the rules and make the perpetrators abide by these. Sharpe conveys respect,love and real tenderness and affection for his imaginary boys of Port Dar Lan:

Halfway through the double ordeal of whip and weights blood began to diffuse into the sweat glistening on his chest and belly. He looked magnificent, heroic... I continued to work on him, his chest and belly.... He had four strokes left and lashed his half limp form with all my strength… only his proud boy spirit kept him from pleading and collapse… I tried to prolong it but the evening had honed my lust and I soon came, came gloriously in the spunky boy’s butt. I took him to the bed hugging and cuddling his sticky boy form. I caressed his hair, licked the sweat from his forehead, and my tongue cleaned his tear streaked cheeks and around his melancholy eyes. I kissed him, and kissed him again, and the lips of that amazing boy pressed back against mine. And his boycock, I’d nicked it nicely once, became aroused at my approach. A few little licks and then I blew him quickly as it was sore. And I digested the manna of his come.

It is as if Sharpe, even at the level of fantasy, has taken Gayle Rubin’s radical pluralist sexual ethics to heart, or perhaps soul, as his personal code of ethics. Rubin argues that sexual acts should be assessed by “the level of mutual consideration, the presence or absence of coercion and the quantity and quality of the pleasure they provide.”

The boys feats at Dar Lan, their spirit, their ability to endure, their strength and wildness, the absence of social conventions link Sharpe’s boys to William Burrough’s imaginary wild boys; Burroughs eighteen short stories are collected into a book under the title The Wild Boys, which is the name of the fifteenth story. Oddly, the very first line of the first story Tio Mate Smiles is “The camera is the eye of a cruising vulture;” the very last line of Sharpe’s “Rites At Port Dar Lan: Part Three reads “What a pity my only camera was my eyes.” Burroughs begins his wild boys story with

They have incredible stamina. A pack of wild boys can cover fifty miles a day. A handful of dates and a lump of brown sugar washed down with a cup of water keep them moving like that- The noise they make before they charge[.]

The wild boys, “in their early-and-mid teens,” originate out of the violence of French colonialism in Morocco, but the phenomenon catches on.

The legend of the wild boys spread and boys from all over the world ran away to join them. Wild boys appeared in the mountains of Mexico, the jungles of South America and Southeastern Asia. Bandit country, guerrilla country, is wild-boy country. The wild boys exchange drugs, weapons, skills on a world-wide network.

Wild boys all over the world are united by the goal of total revolution: “We intend to march on the police machine everywhere —The family unit and its cancerous expansion into tribes, countries, nations we will eradicate at its vegetable roots.” Tender, magical and romantic as the boys are with one another;

His hands mold and knead the body in front of him pulling it against him with stroking movements that penetrate the pearly grey shape caressing it inside. The body shudders and quivers against him as he forms the buttocks around his penis stoking silver genitals out of a moonlight grey then pink and finally red the mouth parted in a gasp shuddering genitals out of the moon’s haze a pale blond boy spurting thighs and buttocks and young skin.

this does not exclude the violence of Burroughs wild boys who play with one another’s genitals and afterwards “bus[yl themselves skinning the genitals” of captured soldiers whose “heart, liver and bones” are removed for food. This reveals by contrast the fair play of Sharpe’s boys of Dar Lan and Sharpe’s gladiator Tijuana whip fighting boys, who fight for money and for the pleasure of their mixed audience of boys, locals and foreigners. The Wild Boys is legal; BOYABUSE is illegal. “The opinion of experts on the subject may be helpful.” (para 64)

“In my stories s/m is a form of fortitude; the boys of Port Dar Lan and Tijuana Whip Fight have endurance and the pride or self-knowledge which comes from the ability to take it. You will notice an absence of humiliation in the stories; one of the rules in Port Dar Lan is that there be no master-slave relationship; the boys have autonomy. The stories really are about fortitude and calculating fortitude; the interaction is all negotiation; the boys agree to something for a price.”

That Sharpe’s work has literary merit is unquestionable; it no more advocates the actions depicted than does de Sade’s work or Burrough’s work. Sharpe’s detailed fantasies relate as the dark underside to his published work Manilamanic, a slightly fictionalised ethnographic narration of the street hustling scene on the boy corner in Manila’s now defunct sex zone. Manilamanic is a book about street youth - boys, hustlers and beggars as seen through the eyes of the western traveller who spends time with them. Sharpe’s respect and love for his semi-fictionalised characters recuperates their lives; lives outsiders would portray as merely, deprived and at points quite horrendous. Sharpe is able to show the agency of the so-called victims and their joy of life even in often dire material circumstances.

Perhaps the real power and beauty of Sharpe’s published and unpublished writing is that is unrecoupiable, not cooptable; for it both fits and in some ways goes beyond the genre that Deleuze and Guattari term “strange Anglo-American literature:” literature from Henry Miller to Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs. Sharpe’s home is with these “men who know how to leave, to scramble the codes, to cause flows to circulate, to traverse the desert.” Like the writing of Miller, Ginsberg and Burroughs, Sharpe’s writing “overcome[sl a limit, shatter[sl a wall;” but unlike that of his literary neighbors Sharpe’s writing does not “fail to complete the process.” Deleuze and Guattari argue that although these writers ‘shatter the wall’ “the neurotic impasse again closes - the daddy-mommy of oedipalization” and capitalism close in and they become counter-cultural icons, despite themselves. Sharpe’s work resists appropriate oedipalization and mocks the capitalist free market by portraying boys as sexual entrepreneurs supporting an extended community, in the case of Port Dar Lan.

[A] The Sharpe Trial: Testimony of Artistic Merit

The testimony of the two defence witness, English professors James Miller (University of Western Ontario) and Lorraine Weir (University of British Columbia), was crucial in determining artistic merit. Both testimonies constitute the pragmatic application of theory to a site considered the other of philosophy: pornography.

This section reproduces the testimonies of Professors Miller and Weir in detail, particularly that of Miller, for two reasons: First, it needs to be publicly recorded just how difficult it is to “objectively establish artistic value, however small” contrary to the belief of Canadian legislators who after Judge Shaw’s ruling engaged in a discussion of Sharpe’s work in parliament that lead to the inclusion in the child-protection bill, Bill C-20, of an amendment to the child pornography law that eliminates artistic merit as a defence. Second, Miller’s testimony provides both an in depth education in Sharpe’s work and in the genre of transgressive literature. Weir’s testimony documents the relationship between Sharpe’s charged and non-charged works, and the relationship of Sharpe’s work to an extrinsic genres. Because the defence of artistic merit for child pornography will, in all likelihood, be legally removed from the criminal code, Miller and Weir’s texts constitute a temporary and original moment in legal history. Professor Miller and Weir’s testimonies are reconstructed from courtroom notes and Judge Shaw’s inclusion in his judgment of what he deemed to be relevant from witness testimony.

Miller utilized what could be identified as a postmodern approach in applying the criteria of artistic merit set out in the Supreme Court ruling; Weir identified the approach she applied to Sharpe’ writings as traditional or classical hermeneutics.

Although Miller didn’t explicitly state he was using postmodern literary criticism – he took Sharpe’s stories apart, located them in relation to existing literary genres, showed how each of the seventeen stories in Boyabuse and how Stand By America, 1953 constituted parodic traces with a twist to existing genres. Miller organized his testimony according to the terms spelled out in the artistic merit defence by the Supreme Court. Miller suggests, “you could argue that my (covert) approach was thoroughly postmodern in that I spun a dense intertextual web of allusions around Sharpe’s stories such that to condemn Boyabuse would have meant condemning western literature as a whole.”

Professor Miller teaches companion comparative literature courses entitled “The Literature of Taboo” and “The Literature of Transgression”; the first is a study of holy books that establish the set of taboos upon which a culture is based, the latter is a literature of unholy books that deliberately breaks taboos. Miller situates Sharpe’s writings as a literature of transgression which has a genealogy traceable through Bataille and de Sade back to Dante – “the most transgressive author in the western tradition and the originator of libertine counter forces.” “Dante’s Inferno was the first great example in western culture to articulate blasphemy, transgressive defiance and sacrificial rituals from the viewpoint of the damned.”

Miller pointed out that “Dante’s Inferno has scenes in which sinners are punished in a variety of sadistic ways, including flogging, submersion in excrement, burning and mutilation of the body by sword.” Miller said “some scenes in the epic poem are shockingly violent and nauseating,” causing him to ask himself: “what is the literary function of such repellent images?” “I find myself asking the same question, again and again, while reading Mr. Sharpe’s work,” Miller claimed.

“A libertine refers to anyone who vigorously and even violently rebels against the moral strictures and political regimes of his age; libertinism commonly denotes an extreme aesthetic rejection of any prohibitions imposed on the freedom of a human will; theologically, it is the extreme limit of immoral voluntarism. De Sade, of course, is a self proclaimed libertine.” Miller sites The Lust of the Libertines, the final section of the much longer 120 Days of Sodom, as an example of de Sade’s most libertine work and most pertinent to the Sharpe case as in it de Sade writes about trangressions with children. “Transgressive literature,” Miller stated “is deeply satiric in its design and often uses shocking imagery.”

After locating Mr. Sharpe’s writing inside a literary tradition, Professor Miller applied to Sharpe’s writings the eight criteria set out by the Supreme Court in para 64 of the Sharpe decision: 1) the subjective intent of the creator, 2) the form of the work, 3) the content of the work, 4) the work’s connection with artistic conventions, traditions, or styles, 5) the opinion of experts, 6) the mode of production, 7) the mode of display, and 8) the mode of distribution.

Form, Professor Miller, explained, “refers to three things: 1) the details of physical production, 2) the kind of literature – epic, epistemological novel, sonnet, allegory, and 3) structural form – prose or poetry, narrative or non-narrative; is the work in plain language or rhetorically elaborate metaphoric terms, is the viewpoint in the first person singular or third person.” Content, Miller, explained, “includes table of contents, character development, conflict, closure, theme, setting, intertextual allusions.”

Miller then subjected Boyabuse to the features he identified as constituting form and content. “The materiality of Boyabuse is a computer print-out of an extensive textual manuscript; the text is organized and edited; there is a title page and a table of contents which lists the seventeen stories and the page numbers in which each of the stories begin; the manuscript is copy righted. The verso side of the title page reads: ‘Any or all parts may be reproduced or transmitted by any means electronic or mechanical without permission in writing from the publisher.’” Miller contended that “This unconventional statement indicates the author perceives the collection as a book.”

Miller suggested that Stand By America, 1953 is a computer print-out of a story to be added to Boyabuse or to be rejected. “Although Stand By America, 1953 is in paragraphs, consists of complete sentences, and is divided into section” Miller stated “I sense this work is not complete or has not been brought to a state where the author would like to publish it because of certain passages with repeated question marks indicating that the author was not quite satisfied with the wording.” As Judge Shaw, writes in his judgment: “In respect of both Boyabuse and Stand By America, 1953 Professor Miller found evidence that they had been organized, edited, revised and conceived as publishable works.”

Miller stressed that there was “no difficulty in recognizing the genre” that Boyabuse fell into; “its genre is first an anthology of linked short stories” – “linked chronologically ‘Ricky’ is linked to ‘Leo’ as its sequel”; “The Rites at Port Dar Lan appear as a three part story labeled part one, two and three.” Another genre that Sharpe’s work falls into is parody; Miller explained that “parody is a technical term in genre theory that means ‘road beside’ or ‘parallel route.’” Miller continued: “This journey refers to a text that follows or closely imitates the rhetoric of a well-known genre in order to mock it for satirical or comic effect.” “Mr. Sharpe,” Miller contended, “parodies many non-transgressive genres as well as transgressive genres, each story in Boyabuse parodies a different genre.” Miller went through the seventeen stories pointing out what genre each story parodies. “On a Cold Winter’s Night” Miller identified as “parodying a particular type of fairy tale, a winter’s fairy tale in which once upon a time is replaced with ‘on a cold winter’s evening’; the winter tale is told by old wives around a fire place and usually involves a visit from the supernatural or an encounter with elves and fairies. In Mr. Sharpe’s tale there is a fireplace, instead of old wives there is an older man and the boy Randy is twice described as an elf – a ‘magic elf” and a ‘naughty elf.’”

Professor Miller situated the second story “Platinum and Gold” which involves the journey of three characters form North America to the Philippines as “a parody of a cheerful travel log used to advertise the major sites of interests to tourists; what cues the reader into the parody is Sharpe has one of the characters read an in flight magazine on route to Manila.”

“The Spanking” is “a parody of contemporary parenting guides designed to teach parents how to discipline their unruly children; contemporary guides which recommend no use of corporeal punishment are an inversion of Victorian guides; Sharpe’s is an inversion of the contemporary, returning to the Victorian,” Miller suggested.

“Let This Be a Lesson” Miller proposes is “a complex parody that imitates two kinds of texts - a sermon on the evils of pornography and the kind of writing found in pornographic texts such as Hustler magazine or Hot Action.” Miller contends that “Let This Be A Lesson” “sends up the didactic texts of anti-porn feminist authors such as Catharine MacKinnon who Sharpe refers to by name in one of his published poems”; “Let This Be A Lesson” has the father who is flogging the boy repeat MacKinnon’s position when he asks his son; “What must your mother think finding you with filth like this that degrades and insults all womankind.”

The story “Suck It – A Devotee’s Lament” follows “the tradition of sadomasochistic gay male erotic stories published in Drummer;” “Suck It” can also be read “as a queering of the master-slave relationship in Lolita.” Miller indicated that “parodists work by inversion; in ‘Suck It’ it is a particular kind of parodying known as queering, instead of a nymphet dominating the erotic interaction, a fawnlet is substituted.”

“Timothy and the Terrorist” is “a queering of a boy’s adventure tale found in teenage boys’ periodicals of the 1940’s and 1950’s; it is also a queering of the nineteenth century Gothic: the Gothic involves the capture of a vulnerable maiden by a menacing male power figure, sometimes a king or sultan; the heroine is exposed to many dangers as she tries to escape, sometimes she escapes through a noble suitor or triumph due to maidenly virtue.“ In striking contrast,” Miller pointed out, “Timothy is transformed by his experience into a rebel, a political freedom fighter and eventually into a legendary figure – ‘the Golden Running Angel.’?” Miller said that “Timothy like Ganymede undergoes a queer divinization.” Miller pointed out that “this complex story also parodies tabloids of the white slave trade; the reader is clued in by the preparatory note: ‘Young, innocent white boys sold as sex slaves to a sadistic and murderous sultan plot their own freedom and overthrow a corrupt and hated regime in the process.’” Miller contended that this reminds him of “teasing headings in tabloid.”

“Tijuana Whip Fight” has “a similar theme to the Russell Crowe film Gladiator and this is the vicious cruelty of the ancient gladiator sport which was popular in Roman romances of the sword in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in works like Ben Hur.” Miller suggested that “the same tests of Stoic fortitude in a brutal arena of masculinity have been displaced from ancient Rome in their original context and transferred to a Mexican arena, but the narrative of such gladiatorial displays is the same.” “Hollywood has created and honoured with Oscars a Roman coliseum whip fight and spear fight”; in ‘Tijuana Whip Fight’ the boys turn this activity into an erotic spectacle.” Miller said that “he is reminded of Victorian underground erotic literature in which an outwardly respectable gentleman narrates his secret underworld of erotic adventures.” Miller contended that “what makes Tijuana Whip Fight a parody of the flogging episodes in My Secret Life is the complete absence on the part of the narrator of any sense of Victorian probity – a sense of living a double life, outwardly respectable, but inwardly dedicated to the theatricality of sadistic sport. The narrator in ‘Tijuana Whip Fight’ leads no such double life.”

Miller suggested that “The Rites at Port Dar Lan, Parts One, Two, and Three” are “a parody of writing central to anthropology, this is ethnography which is a writing about a people, its rites, economies, social kinship structures, marriage ceremonies, sexual morays.” Miller cited Gilbert Herdt’s Guardians of the Flute as a possible source for Sharpe’s ethnography of a fictive settlement in Borneo. Miller explained “Herdt’s ethnography analyzes the culture of a remote New Guinean tribe who had developed an extraordinary homoerotic rite of passage for young men; boys at a very early age, eight or nine, were removed form the company of women for ten or eleven years during which time they engaged in an intensive education in masculinity which included and may still include exchanges of semen from older adolescent males to their younger tribal brethren through the sexual practice known as fellatio.” Miller continued: “Herdt’s ethnography is a work of non-fiction in which the narrator represents himself as an objective, scientific spectator of the culture of the semen eater. What makes the ‘Rites at Port Dar Lan’ an immediate parody of Guardians of the Flute is that the narrator is a direct participant and initiate in the homoerotic rites and the many diverse dispossessed refugees and boat people who have come to the island to expand the tribe.” Miller contended that “the blatant fictionalisation of the ethnographic fieldwork alerts the reader to parodic nature of the three stories.” Miller stated: “There is no place on earth where Palestinian refugees, boat people, and representatives of every other oppressed people fleeing from tyrannical regimes have culminated to be organized into a sado-masochistic culture with the aid of a senior anthropologist.” Miller likened “the discipline present in Dar Lan to that found in the kingdom Dante calls purgatory. The multitudes of bodies, whipped, pierced, forced to cry, but also proving throughout their discipline that they have the fortitude to survive and enter into a better life. Like the souls in purgatory, the bodies of the whiplings, cutlings, and pledglings, though they undergo elaborate torments which leave marks, welts and wounds are nevertheless, strangely, supernaturally healed. For the most part hardly a scar remains”. Miller contended that “nothing in these stories more strikingly reveals their fictional quality than the speed and predictability of these healing bodies.”

“Ninja Option” immediately directs the reader’s attention to a pulp fiction novel of the 1980’s, The Ninja , by Eric Van Lustbader; Sharpe’s parodic rewriting of the pulp fiction novel queers the original text. “In the parodic rewrite, Philip discovers himself at the very limit of agonised resistance, possessing the very strength to hate and resist the Ninja’s SM dominance of him. The law of the SM universe fictionally created by de Sade is that two dominating masters can not occupy the same scene. As a result the adult ninja as soon as he witnesses Phillip’s fortitude immediately and almost mechanically commits hari kari, or ritual suicide; thereby completely inverting the power dynamic of the pulp fiction original.

Miller situated Stand By America 1953 as a trace to the film Stand By Me; the film is narrated as a flash back by an adult who recollects his youthful experiences. The boys of the film learn to stand by each other in a period of being lost in the wilderness; there is a scene on a bridge in which the boys dare each other to prove fortitude in crossing the bridge while the train is coming. Professor Miller pointed out that “Mr. Sharpe’s Stand By America 1953 parallels the narration in the film. Jacky, Lance, Bert and Robby, the boys in Mr. Sharpe’s story, go on a hike outside town in Texas. They go to a railway bridge in which they attempt to cross in search for a missing briefcase of spy documents. The boys in Sharpe’s story have their fortitude tested and come to an understanding of their masculinity identified as solidarity with American patriotism. The narrative parallels between the film “Stand By Me” and Sharpe’s story are “suddenly and irrevocably inverted by the kinds of tests the boys in Mr. Sharpe’s story must endure. Marco and Steve have set up a trap with the brief case luring the boys to a farm house where they must endure SM trials. Part of the game is that the adults are KGB agents; the boys are flogged and raped and forced by the false KGB agents to have sex with each other. During the experience they resist their abductors by affirming their allegiance to democracy.” Professor Miller noted that “ironically, the love of country is inverted so that the boys transfer this love – what they really love is not the political game of allegiance to the country, but the SM game of power relations between master and slave.” Miller cites the “overarching conflict of the cold war, American democracy versus communist tyranny, as another example of allegory and noted the careful dating of the piece as 1953 when the cold war was a political fact.” Judge Shaw noted that “Professor Miller spoke of allegory as a veiled allusion which, in writing, has come to mean an extended comparison — it is a narrative constructed so as to clue the reader to other meanings, themes, topics or events besides those expressly articulated.”

Miller then assessed the content of Boyabuse and Stand By America 1953 in terms of character, plot, conflict, theme and setting. In terms of the method of representing the character in fiction, Miller noted that Sharpe uses a method similar to Charles Dickens, that is, Sharpe’s characters are located within Victorian literary models. For example, “Leo,” in the story of the same name, “develops in the course of his tale from a defiant, unresponsive delinquent bad boy into something close to a romantic loving hero comparable in a parodic sense to Pit in Great Expectations. While Miller agreed with the crown expert witness Professor Delany’s claim that Sharpe’s characterization is crude, not representing significant formative experiences or psychological depth, with only shallow emotional responses, in the early stories of Boyabuse; Miller disagreed strongly with Delany in terms of the latter stories such as “The Rites of Port Dar Lan” indicating that “in the fictional world the development of Jojo is strikingly elaborate.” In “Timothy and the Terrorist, Timothy develops from a complacent ordinary first world teen through an extraordinary sequence into a political rebel, a cult hero, and finally a man able to survive the most horrendous conflicts before being returned to the bosom of his family.”

Miller explained plot: the events are plotted when they are arranged in a strategic sequence, or in a non-chronological plot the events might move backwards and forwards in time by flashbacks and flash forwards. Miller observed that the Dar Lan stories reveal chronological ordering and that we see a further plot device known as a sequel which marks a return to a situation or set of characters established in Part I; Mr. Sharpe has created two sequels in Parts II and III. Professor Miller took exception with Professor Delaney’s claim that all the stories have the same basic plot presented badly without literary skill, without complexity, without significant variations. Miller agreed with Delaney if only the first five stories were taken into account, but contended that “starting with ‘Timothy and the Terrorist’ Sharpe grows as a writer; there is an elaboration of conflicts and a differentiation in endings. Miller stated “I read Boyabuse as evidence of Mr. Sharpe’s development as a writer.”

Miller established that conflicts generate plot, conflict can take the form of a competition or clash between characters or within a character’s nature. Miller provided three example of conflict in Sharpe’s stories: In “Stand By America” the story focuses on the conflict between American boys and KGB agents, sometimes the contest takes the form of a contest or competition as in the story “Tijuana Whip Fight,” sometimes its is an erotic struggle between boys undergoing initiation and adult organizers of the initiation rites, as in the circumcision rituals of the Dar Lan stories, in other instances the narrative is propelled by the dynamic struggle to maintain mastery in the scene between a master and a slave. Are the conflicts the same as suggested by Professor Delaney; there is a recurrent conflict between master and slave, but Miller indicated that he was ‘struck by the multitudinous variation that Mr. Sharpe has imagined of that elemental contest.”

Miller pointed out that the theme of Mr. Sharpe’s writings are familiar to readers of sacred literature, that is, Stoic fortitude as displayed by Milton’s character Samson. Miller stated that “the spiritual virtue of fortitude becomes primarily visible in the physical endurance of the beaten and whipped boys.” Miller suggested that Sharpe’s stories are “designed to provoke a controversial response at least to unsettle fixed or traditional understandings of the virtues and the vices.”

Setting refers to “social context in which a narrative is played out”; for example Victorian London was the setting for Oliver Twist. The context can be a religious setting, family setting, institutional setting and so on.“ Miller pointed out that Tijuana Whip Fight is set within the broader cultural context of the Mexican gender system. Miller contended that Sharpe’s recurrent critiques of the global economic system are strengthened by setting the SM contest in different points on the globe: Sri Lanka, the Muslim world, the Philippines, the Canadian north, the basement of the bourgeois household. Port Dar Lan narrates the operation of the global economic system at a direly material level – the boys graduation from agony is into successful business careers in Singapore. Miller contended “that Mr. Sharpe reveals the seismic ironies in the new world order associated with globalization”; in which much of the third world is a backdrop for the pleasure of the first. According to Miller, “the three stories of sadomasochistic sex involving boys at Port Dar Lan, a fictional South Pacific island, is symbolic of the economic relationship between the western and third worlds; the literal relationships on the erotic level between the adult and the child are an embodiment, a symbolic incarnation of economic relations at a higher cultural level.”

Miller locates Sharpe’s writing in the tradition of Sadean literature. Professor Miller defines the Sadean tradition as that which “focuses attention on transgressive sexuality; it represents a defiant breaking of the very taboos controlling sexual relations and practices established by the holy books in the literature of taboo; Sadean works locate conflict in the struggle between a cruel sexual aggressor and an usually passive sexual partner. It recounts in endless variations the possibilities for sexual torment far beyond what one would suspect is actually practiced by the majority of its readers. It is an imaginative literature rather than a journalistic report of criminal acts. The Lust of the Liberatines, the final section of 120 Days of Sodom consists of an inventory of several hundred minute narratives of sexual cruelty. These acts are all committed in the imaginary gothic space of a remote chateau.

“The degree of violence in Sharpe’s writing is extraordinary,” Miller said. He continued: “First, I agree that the Boyabuse and Stand By America 1953 display a striking relentlessly elaborate degree of violent scenes, certainly in contrast to authors like Jane Austin. Readers who have even dipped into the Sadean current of writing will not be surprised to find numerous and unimaginable cruel acts of flogging , piercings, rape. That is exactly what one expects from a Sadean work. Having read all the authors listed – de Sade, Bataille, Burroughs (Wild Boys), Dennis Cooper (Frisk) I would say that Mr. Sharpe’s writings on a scale from one to ten are only about a five as anyone will quickly sense after reading a few pages of 120 Days of Sodom. Almost no one dies in the stories in Boyabuse and Stand By America. The notable exception being ‘Ninja Option’; death by strangulation of the girl and death by ritual disembowelment by the Ninja are exceptions.”

Miller noted that “in Sharpe’s stories an ethos of fortitude results frequently in restraining the narrators from whipping the boys to the point of unconsciousness, irreparable mutilation or death. The important thing is the display of extreme Stoicism. A display impossible if the character is unconscious or dead. Mr. Sharpe’s stories vigorously conform to the conventions of the Sadean tradition, except his special ethos of fortitude which appears to be his special twist on the tradition.”

Professor Weir indicated that she chose to use hermeneutics to assess Sharpe’s work as it is and is recognized in the discipline of literature as an “objective method for determining whether a text has merit.” Weir explained “hermeneutics is derived form the word to interpret. It is a method of interpretation of literary texts which traces its roots back to Aristotle and his works entitled The Poetics and The Rhetoric. Hermeneutics makes a fundamental distinction between literal language and figurative language. It sees literary discourse as figurative. This distinction between the literal and the figurative is fundamental to the analysis of evidence. Traditional hermeneutics is judged by scholars to have been normative and objective in its approach.” Weir indicated that hermeneutics is one of the most widely used techniques of literary analysis. She stated “we use hermeneutics everyday in university English classrooms to give our students a fundamental training in interpretation. It is also used in literature reviewing; it is used in published journals such as The New York Review of Books and Times Literary Supplement.

“A literary scholar would look at content and context in two senses. The first is internal or intrinsic to the text under consideration. This involves an analysis of the literary skills present in the text. The second is external or extrinsic to the text. This looks to other writings of the same author, relevant works of other authors and knowledge of the subjects dealt with in the text subject.”

Weir “found context for Mr. Sharpe’s works in Boyabuse and Stand by America, 1953 in Victorian literature.” Weir noted that “the Victorian phenomenon of flogging schoolboys was drawn into the subject texts.” Weir stated that “her review of the Victorian genre in the extrinsic sense balanced her interpretation of the theme of fortitude which is central to Sharpe’s works”.

Weir noted considerable irony and craftsmanship in many of Sharpe’s stories. As examples of irony she cited and discussed passages from “Timothy and the Terrorist,” “Let This Be a Lesson,” and “Suck It – A Devotee’s Lament.” In the latter, Weir claimed that “Sharpe’s very ironic title alerted the reader to a story of ironic role reversal where the boy plays the role of master and the male narrator plays the role of slave. The child instructs the adult about sexual technologies and his own pleasure. The adult narrator ironically uses submissive language, for example the last sentence of the first paragraph – “USE YOUR TONGUE MORE LIKE YOU USUALLY DO. Sorry Master.” “Here the adult enacts the role of the submissive one; the narrator ironically mocks his own role”. Weir observed that “the larger case print expresses the wishes of the boy and is used to distinguish these from the adult.” The story is written with a “joyous and whimsical role reversal that is beautifully controlled throughout,” Weir contended.

Weir pointed out that “Mr. Sharpe used different kinds of speech in the dialogues, ranging from colloquial language of children to mature description language by adult narrators.” Weir indicated that “this adds to the literary value of the stories and demonstrates the author’s control of identification of different characters.”

Weir placed Boyabuse and Stand by America,1953 in the context of two of Sharpe’s other works: Rupert Unexpurgated and Algernon at Eton. Rupert Unexpurgated, Weir, explained “was written in the form of a biography relating to the maturation of a boy from early childhood to adolescence.” Weir indicated that “a novel of development or maturation is a difficult genre to work with”; she noted that “Mr. Sharpe’s use of the young child in the early part of the story captured the child’s view of the world”; she indicated that “as the story progressed, Mr. Sharpe continued to use age appropriate language and sentence structure so that by the end of the story, the vocabulary, the sentence structure and the entire rhythm of the language shifted to reflect the maturation process.”

Reading passages, Weir pointed out that Rupert Unexpurgated, “shows that Mr. Sharpe has a level of expertise in his craftsmanship and in his controlled use of different literary forms. His craftsmanship and use of divergent literary forms are present in many of the Boyabuse stories and in other works of Mr Sharpe.” Rupert Unexpurgated, Weir said, “shows me in a very elegant fashion the skill as a writer which Sharpe reveals in different ways in many of the stories in Boyabuse. Weir indicated that she “found themes of fortitude and initiation in most of Mr. Sharpe’s works.” Weir examined Algernon at Eton, a novel in process by Mr. Sharpe. She said that “in this novel Mr. Sharpe endeavors to shape his literary material and draws upon the Victorian historical context described by the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne. That context included the practice of flogging in Victorian boys’ schools, as well as themes of apprenticeship and fortitude.” Weir stated that “Sharpe’s Algernon at Eton enabled her to understand the theme of fortitude and its significance in his work as a whole, as well giving an insight into the English vice of flogging which was a practice commonly used for disciplining purposes in Victorian boys schools.” Weir suggested that “what the poet Swinburne and others of his persuasion created out these disciplinary practices was an aesthetics which construed flogging in terms of a process of apprenticeship or what Sharpe calls fortitude”.

“Through Algernon at Eton Sharpe draws attention to the historical context of flogging as not only a disciplinary practice but also as a practice of the technology of pain; what is meant by technology in this context is from the Greek word techne which means practice or skill as one might think of a craftsman who has served his apprenticeship and knows how to perform what is required of her.” Weir read a passage from Boyabuse to illustrate technology of pain:

I’m anxious for my appointment with Raj and my latest experiment in the technology of pain. I give Jojo and Ling some spending money to entertain themselves, I hear they now have video games in the village, and I make them both promise to stay away from Raj’s cutting. — Raj removes his improvised but regal tribal attire and stands facing the sun. A buddy hands him a spear and he holds it in his right hand the butt end resting on his foot below. The fingers of his other hand just barely touch those of Ebo beside him. I kneel in front of him holding my instrument of torture as he looks on in calm anticipation. I stroke his big boycock first stretching out the foreskin gently and then running a finger around the inside of the silky skin, knowing it. I begin stretching out sections of the rim. Taking the cutting pliers I’ve carefully dulled I snip a quarter inch into the edge of his foreskin not cutting but crushing, squishing the sensitive membrane. Then as close as I can get to the first I make a second mashing snip and I can see it’s going to be a bloody affair. Raj stares off into the distance as if in another world. The boys, crowding closer than is comfortable, watch in silence many fondling themselves beneath their clothes. Methodically I continue the close spaced snips until Raj has a frill of loose mangled skin all the way around the rim of his prepuce. When the blood is rinsed off it makes a rather pretty embellishment to his already handsome cock. Subtle reactions tell me that Raj is not as unaffected by his ordeal as he pretends to be.

Algernon at Eton

Weir claimed that “Rupert Unexpurgated eloquently displayed Mr. Sharpe’s skill as a writer, and that this skill is revealed in many of the stories in Boyabuse.”

The crown expert witness Professor Paul Delaney, also a professor of English (Simon Fraser Univeristy), could not separate his repulsion at Sharpe’s work from an analysis of it based on the criteria for assessing artistic merit set out in the Sharpe decision. In fact, Delany prefaced his discussion of artistic merit in his written report with :

Even where artistic merit exists, this does not mean that ethical issues automatically become irrelevant. —

Society routinely decides that artistic properties should be subordinated to ethical or legal properties. For example, we do not allow speeding drivers to avoid punishment by appleaing to the aesthetics of an intense, thrill-seeking experience. The danger presented to the community by high-speed driving outweighs whatever ‘artistic’ pleasure attaches to speeding. Similarly, we do not allow artists to be destructive of our lives or property. —

The regulation of hate literature in law and in social practice is further proof that there is no such thing as a purely artistic realm exempt from consequentialist (i.e. ethical) thinking. Sharpe’s work is not immune to consequentialist thinking, because one of the implied goals of his work is to encourage pedophilia.

When the questioned by the defence attorney, Paul Burstein, whether she would teach Sharpe’s writing on a university course, Weir replied “if I was teaching a course on the history of gay and or transgressive writing in Canada, I certainly would.”

As Judge Shaw correctly observes, Delaney “erred by applying what is in effect a community standards of tolerance test in assessing Mr. Sharpe’s work. This is the very test that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled ought not to be applied.”

The second expert witness for the crown, Dr. Lohrasbe, a forensic psychiatrist, had considerable experience in assessing and treating sex offender (1500) and by his own admission no expertise in literature. Lohrasbe remarked that “in most pornography involving violence, an element of regret or ambivalence is usually present, but in Mr. Sharpe’s writing there was none. Sharpe’s writings were celebratory, showed little remorse and conveyed the idea that violence and sex are enjoyable.” Lohrasbe, interestingly, contended that “most pedophiles would be turned off by the violent sadomasochistic writings of John Robin Sharpe; most men cannot maintain an erection if the sexual object is suffering; Most pedophiles would find them repugnant.” Lohrasbe, not schooled in transgressive literature, or literature at all, used the context of writings by sex offenders as a context for Sharpe’s writings. Of course, in de Sade, Bataille, Burroughs, one does not find remorse or regret; remorse and regret are not transgressive responses, rather the opposite. Oddly, although the crown’s main argument was simply that Sharpe’s stories did not have artistic merit because Sharpe intended them to be pornography; Lohrasbe testified that few of his client population of sex offenders, who are predisposed to child pornography, would find Sharpe’s writings arousing.

The Crown attorney, Terrence Schultes, premised the bulk of his summary on one claim, Schultes stated:

The theory of the Crown in this case is a simple one: the stories do not have artistic merit because they were never intended to be art. Their purpose and nature was always non-artistic. They were written and distributed as pornography for those who are sexually attracted to male children (pedophiles) and who enjoy an element of extreme sadism as part of their sexual arousal. They were intended to sexually arouse pedophiles with these particular preferences in order to facilitate masturbation.

It was as if the crown did not fully comprehend or refused to acknowledge the Supreme Court’s judgment which explicitly states “the subjective intention of the creator will be relevant although it is unlikely to be conclusive” and “the language of either obscenity or art is inapposite.” Consequently, the fact that the material is child pornography and\or the fact that the creator intended it to be pornographic does not legally prohibit the material from also having artistic merit. A work can be both child pornography and have artistic merit. As Judge Shaw stated in rejecting the Crown’s theory:

I do not accept the Crown’s theory. In my opinion, it attempts to draw a distinction between pornography, on the one hand, and artistic merit, on the other. — In my view, the defence of artistic merit under s.163.1 of the Criminal Code does not depend upon whether the written material is considered “pornography.” The question to be answered is whether the writing has artistic merit, irrespective of whether the work is considered pornographic.

The Court’s view, the view of Judge Shaw, is resemblant of the arguments on Sharpe’s written material put forth by defence attorney Burstein’s in his summation; Burstein’s argument that the Crown could not conclusively prove that the boys in the photos taken by Sharpe’ that were seized at the border were under the age of consent was rejected. Judge Shaw, following Burstein’s argument, ruled that Sharpe’s work does not “advocate or counsel” the engagement in sexual action with persons under 18. Shaw reasoned:

While Boyabuse and Stand By America, 1953 arguably may glorify the acts described therein, in my opinion they do not go so far as to actively promote their commission. The description may well be designed to titillate or excite the reader (if the reader is so inclined) but these descriptions do not actively advocate or counsel the reader to engage in the acts described.

Nor in my view, do Boyabuse and Stand By America, 1953 send “the message” that sex with children can and should be pursued. If that were the case, then literature describing murder, robbery, theft, rape, drug use and other crimes in such a way as to make them appear enjoyable would likewise be said to advocate or counsel the commission of those crimes. In my opinion, such literature is not what the “advocates or counsels” requirement is intended to capture.

Shaw finds that Boyabuse and Stand By America, 1953 “simply describe morally repugnant acts.”

Turning to the artistic merit defence, after outlining the difference in the artistic merit defence for child pornography and obscenity and putting forth the main content of the four expert witnesses testimonies and the Crown’s theory, Shaw notes that “[t]he scenes portrayed are, by almost any standard, morally repugnant.” However, in considering the material submitted as evidence “a work by the Marquis de Sade describing scenes of sexual torture of women and children, scenes which in terms of sadistic cruelty and horror go far beyond those written by Mr. Sharpe.” Shaw J. states: “I refer to the 447 methods of sadomasochistic torture set out in The Lusts of the Libertines, which forms part of de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom. According to all of the literary scholars who testified, the passages in de Sade’s work have artistic merit.” Shaw, noting that Sharpe “uses parody and allegory”; characterization that goes from “thin” to reasonably “skilled”; plots that are “imaginative and sometimes fairly complex” finds “that Boyabuse and Stand by America 1953 are properly termed transgressive literature.” Shaw indicates that “[a] reading of Mr. Sharpe’s other writings put in evidence, both prose and poetry, reveals that he is not devoid of literary skill.”

The question becomes, given the necessary thoroughness of the expert testimony and the rigorous application of the criteria of the artistic merit defence, how many persons writing pedophilic pornography would possibly be able to pass the test. Media headlines following the announcement of the decision read: “Child Porn Ruling Horrifies;” “children’s rights advocates were appalled by the decision” claiming that “the ruling would encourage pedophiles to write and distribute material that encourages sexual exploitation of children”; thirty-eight members of parliament held an informal meeting with police, prosecutors and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Collins, “the state’s expert witness on the question of harm caused by child pornography,” before denouncing the Sharpe decision in the House of Commons, questioning Judge Shaw’s competency – “as for the judges who argued Sharpe’s material has artistic merit, a board of inquiry should look into their competency to sit on the bench” - and introducing a motion that called on the government to “immediately introduce legislation to protect children from sexual predators including measures that raise the legal age of consent to at least sixteen, and measures that prohibit the creation or use of sexually explicit materials exploiting children or materials that appear to depict or describe the children engaged in sexual activity.” The second of these provisions and the House of Commons discussion became the basis of the proposed amendments to the criminal code on child pornography law in the child-protection bill, Bill C-20, introduced December 5, 2002. Proposed legislative changes include:

1) the addition of (c) to subsection 163.1(1) “In this section, ‘child pornography means: “(c) any written material the dominant characteristic of which is the description, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offense under this Act.” 2) The replacement of 163.1 (6) which reads “Where the accused is charged with an offence under subsection (2), (3) or (4), the court shall find the accused not guilty if the representation or written material that is alleged to constitute child pornography has artistic merit or an educational, scientific or medical purpose.” The proposed replacement reads: (6) “No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section if the acts that are alleged to constitute the offence, or if the material related to those acts that is alleged to contain child pornography, serve the public good and do not extend beyond what serves the public good.”

What these two changes in effect do is remove the question of whether a sexual description of a person under eighteen advocates or counsels sexual activity and abolish the artistic merit defence.

[B] Sharpe Comments

The new child pornography provisions are a panic reaction to the Sharpe decision. Firstly, it extends the definition of written child pornography beyond material that ‘advocates or counsels” illicit sex involving minors to include “any written material the dominant character of which is the description, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years[.]”

Secondly, they abolished all the former defences, including artistic merit and replaced them with one rather amorphous defence of the “public good.” But this is only to the extent that the offence was necessary to serve the public good. —

By abolishing the artistic/literary merit defence only a simple enumeration of the illicit acts described and the ages of the participants, would appear relevant for court purposes. Are the acts sexual offences involving minors? Are they the dominant characteristic? Police and psychiatric witnesses will be the sole judges of literary works — Traditional literacy qualities such as content, plot, style, psychological development and drama become meaningless. The type and frequency of sexual acts, and the ages of the participants, will be all that matters.

[B] An Intriguing Proposition

FF strapped her 15 centimeter cock on, she and Hawk Senior headed for the Duff – downstairs the hawks watched the boys strip; FF would make a point of going up to each boy afterwards and ever so carefully putting a $5 in whatever apparel remained on the particular fine young body. A legal, but young, beefy Tom of Finland kind of hustler, kind of guy, was hanging around FF and Hawk Senior; they bought him drinks – that’s the thing you do with hustlers – you pay; into the evening as Matt disappeared to the john with the other boys, FF queried Hawk Senior ‘you into him or should I take him home, or do you want to both take him home?’ Hawk Senior smiled – ‘the latter’s an intriguing proposition.’ FF nodded and smiled: she was into Hawk Senior, Matt merely the bait, good bait that he was. FF negotiated a price with Matt for a threesome in which she wearing a smaller strap-on would ass fuck him while Hawk Senior gave him a blow job: Matt was in and FF threw in a another $20 to the deal - just for Matt’s good spirit and willingness to pursue a bisexual, ménage a trios. They grabbed burgers first – hustlers are always, hungry, as are Hawks – just being an older version of hustler and FF, well FF was a past working class girl who could eat or not eat anything, anytime, anywhere. The situation went pretty uneventfully; at her hotel, the landmark Dominion, where one had to sign in, identity card guests, and pay $15 a guest’s head after 11pm, FF took her clothes off and headed for the shower- ‘whichever of you want please join me’ – in came Matt, soon to be followed by Hawk Senior – “we all shower off together”; FF on her knees mouth brushing against both cocks, hands firmly on each set of balls; she got out of the shower leaving the male bodies to explore masculinity: “The Jap drags the confused lad into the large tiled shower compartment in the bathroom and makes him meticulously lather and rinse, slapping him smartly for alleged lapses.”

FF got her cock and joined Matt and Senior Hawk back in the shower; “whether it was business, boredom or simple boys’ lust I am not sure but soon they were both fondling me” – Matt went down on her pussy while Senior Hawk stroked her cock; she came double and doubly loud. They progressed to the bed – Matt bent over Senior Hawk who had positioned himself at the right angle for Matt’s cock, FF took Matt from behind, lubing her small 4 centimeter cock and entering him; FF thrust, circled, fucked the sky through Matt’s ass; she would like to say that Matt exploded into orgasmic contractions shooting hot cum from his throbbing member into Senior Hawk’s mouth – but rather, Matt kind of imploded his member going pretty lifeless; no matter, sex for money is about time, negotiated activities, and good will, not performance. Matt, having oodles of good will, offered FF ‘I could eat you out, if you’d like’;’ FF declined, having other plans. Hawk Senior and FF thanked and paid Matt, all three exchanging hugs at the door and hugs again all subsequent times they ran into one another at the Duff. FF turned to Hawk Senior, turned Hawk Senior, FF on her knees, his very large member in her hand; ‘nice cock, really nice cock’ she told Hawk Senior.’ ‘Matt was a decoy, I wanted you,’ she told Hawk Senior; he smiled, he’d known all along. FF continued: ‘This is what I want, teach me how to give pain, to do all the things Sharpe writes about in Boyabuse, not with a boy but with a man, an old style masochist who has made fortitude his way of life; teach me how to put pins through the nipples, through the foreskin, the balls, teach me how to spank and flog and whip – I want to apprentice.’

[B] The Apprenticeship with Hawk Senior

‘If you would be so kind as to consider this offer: After showering you, I desire to put a pin through your left nipple with a small padlock on it, a pin through your right nipple with a duplicate weighted padlock on it; 17 large needles circling you foreskin, 12 pins on the underside of the penis shaft; the balls I want to keep free for striking with a hard leather strap; when the pins are in place, I want to gently put your cock in my mouth, moving my mouth back and forth, moving the pins back and forth as I play with myself and ejaculate. If this arrangement interests you, please meet me in the lobby of The Dominion Hotel. Sincerely, a Sadean woman.’

FF passed the note to the distinguished gentlemanly masochist. As the trial resumed, FF saw the gentlemanly masochist reading the note, no visible response, perhaps a slight narrowing of the left eye into a glint, but not discernable really. FF sat through dinner with the gentlemanly masochist and others not knowing if she would have the pleasure of giving him pain later in the evening; she and the gentlemanly masochist walked home entering The Dominion at precisely 9pm, they looked at each other and headed up to her abode. The sound of the large safety pin pushed through rubbery tit flesh, cork on the other side to provide resistance, was intoxicating, the sound of the second tit, stilling; the gentlemanly masochist just happened to have brought along his kit of tools. “[P]ins pierced the dark swollen cones and —.[FF] twisted, twisted almost a full turn in each direction, the surrounding skin[.]” The tremor of pain inflicted by her hand on the large masculine body was beautifully invigorating; “The pleasure’s in the hurting, rejoice in the pain you inflict.” The body would tremor, shudder, but never cry out; it was a body trained in fortitude.

FF put the first small needle through the gentlemanly masochist’s foreskin, the sound of the needle hitting flesh and going through was more subtle than the thicker steel of the pin, but equally as beautiful – a music of the flesh – FF resting his large and growing member on her left knee, using her left hand to press the rim of the foreskin to the skin of the penis shaft just behind or before the glans (depends how you approach it); her right hand pushed the needle through the foreskin and the shaft skin: repeat 17 times, SM is about detail, repetition and precision. She put in place 12 slightly larger needles in a row on the underside of the penis, she place 27 small safety pin in scattered locations on his scrotum; each skin location – tits, foreskin, shaft skin, scrotum – had a different acoustic accompaniment. Steel in place: FF removed the strap from its locked drawer — now for the first time I examined closely the instrument of punishment, it was made of black rubberized industrial belting and when I flexed it I realized what a cruel, damaging weapon it could be. And I found myself unexpectedly thrilled at the prospect of putting it to use on the — flesh of a” hawk. The gentlemanly masochistic turned onto his stomach, putting body pressure on the needles in his foreskin, he instructed FF to begin to strike first his right buttock then his left, each to receive “two dozen strokes of the lash”; the sound was to be even and plump; if it rang flat the hit was too low and too light. Completed, the gentlemanly masochist offered FF his cock for her to use as she willed.

FF carefully placed her mouth around the 17 needles, she moved them back and forth with her mouth, the needles cold against the walls of her mouth; with her left hand, she began to play with her clit, then her urethra, putting her own 15 centimetre member inside, she pulled solidly on the gentlemanly masochists balls with her right hand, pressing hard into the pins covering the sac, she “drew his nuts out to the end of their sac almost gently,” ran her hand up, the steel needles on the penis shaft cold in the tightly clenched palm of her hand; she removed her cock from her cunt, as she pushed out, her mouth closed on the needles; she sprayed down the large mirror she and the gentlemanly masochist had positioned to reflect their actions; taking the gentlemanly masochist’s cock out of her mouth, FF noted that she and he were blood bonded. “Then [the Sadean woman] started biting the foreskin, pulling it out with [her] teeth and chewing on the end. [S]he continued biting and chewing slowly drawing out the torment. Blood flowed — as the skin was mangled and shredded[.]”

Removing the pins and needles, reverse action, produces a different sound; FF was fascinated with the sounds of flesh pain, no vocalization, just the sounds of flesh pain without language – it had a clean honesty to it that nothing else did. The sound of leather hitting flesh – different flesh sites; the difference in the sound of leather on the scrotum, leather on the buttock, leather on the shoulder, leather on the penis; FF leaving her mark. FF harbored this notion that you owned that which you marked until the marking faded. “A month allows more than enough time for the marks of even a thorough thrashing to disappear so that their skin is fresh for new assaults.”

The sound of Professor Weir, in her deep authoritative professional lecture voice reading from “SUCK IT – A Devotee’s Lament”:

SUCK IT he demands. Oh this ridiculous phallic worship. Oh that I was free, from the slavery, that a skinny boycock, can wiggle over me. SUCK IT FASTER. Yes Sir Master. Oh the years I never touched you, honourable and scared. You weren’t no fag and hated queers, and all I got for several years, was to occasionally measure your prick’s progress as it grew from close to two, to a quarter short of four. USE YOUR TONGUE MORE LIKE YOU USUALLY DO. Sorry Master…

- sent a flash of fire snaking up and down FF’s spine, finally settling in the base of her clit, causing her internal member to contract steadily ; FF glanced at the gentlemanly masochist wondering if his “sore and swollen flesh — dark and purplish” from her hand, burned the way her clit did. There was something dead sexy hearing Professor Weir read SM gay male kiddie porn in a courtroom; “[c]hild pornography law requires us to take on the gaze of the paedophile”;something equally sexy in hearing defence lawyer Paul Burstein quote from Sharpe’s writings in his closing ‘submission,’ and knowing that beneath his civilized attire, on his skin, the gentlemanly masochist wore the marks of the Sadean woman’s gift of pain.

[B] Sharpe Comment

Bell: How would you characterise your writings?

Sharpe: They’re detailed fantasies.

Bell: Detailed fantasy. I have never written about anything I haven’t done.

Sharpe: [laughs] In that case I would have written nothing.

Bell: I am not a fiction writer. How does one, how do you write fantasy?

Sharpe: The fantasy creates the interpersonal situation and this situation expands. The way I write is a jig-saw puzzle method. I don’t set out an overall plot and then start at one end and work through it. Rather, I start, then other things fit in; there are implications from these and it ends up as a complete story.

My favourite authors are Carson McCuller - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Reflections in a Golden Eye, George Orwell because of his ruthless honesty, and Algernon Charles Swinburne, the English Victorian poet who was a flagellant. I have started writing a novel about the school days of Swinburne when he was at Eton which was a flogging school. It’s a story of a love affair, a non-sexual love affair, between his tutor who is a historical person and Swinburne. They never had sex. The tutor gets off from beating Algernon and Algernon gets off on the beatings. They both have orgasms but they never touch one another except at the end when they split. The split is because Algernon demands sex and the tutor refuses. The manuscript is about half done. I have one hundred pages but I haven’t been able to work on it since the court cases. I did a lot of my notes when I was travelling. I became interested in Swinburne reading English Vice: Beatings, Sex and Shame in Victorian England by Ian Gibson. There is a long chapter on Swinburne; here is where I got the basic background. I have gone through a dozen or more books on the British public school system and the use of corporal punishment. I’ve done quite a lot of reading on the nineteenth century, the century that interest me most because it is the formation of the modern world; it’s when social industrial history became important. So my interests in school flogging, socialism and labor all come together.

Bell: What motivates you. Why do you write?

Sharpe: Because I get off on it, I enjoy it, I get high on it, I laugh and cry while writing; it’s thrilling when you get so into something and reach a level of consciousness that’s sort of ecstatic.



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