Monday, September 30, 2013

The Obituary of Peter Wildeblood in the Guardian

.His notorious trial and outspoken book set in train the reform of Britain's homosexuality laws. 

Peter Wildeblood, who has died aged 76 at home in British Columbia, had the distinction of being one of the few English writers whose first book, Against The Law, published in 1955, was in large measure responsible for a dramatic change in the law.
In Wildeblood's case it was the laws on homosexuality. His book - part apologia, part autobiography - dealt with his life up to his release from prison in March 1955. He had by then served a year of an 18-month sentence following his conviction on charges relating to indecency between males. He had told the truth about himself and his homosexuality, and had held his head high while doing so.
Along with Michael Pitt-Rivers and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, Peter had been charged under a draconian law, which had long been known as a "blackmailer's charter". All three defendants were sent to prison.

In the wake of the trial came a public outcry. The injustice of the law was condemned and the protests intensified with the publication of Against The Law. The book was hailed by CH Rolph in the New Statesman as "the noblest, and wittiest, and most appalling prison book of them all".
Briefed by Peter, Lord Longford and the Earl of Huntingdon led a debate in the Lords, supported by other liberal-minded peers. In 1957 came the Wolfenden Report On Homosexual Offences And Prostitution - to which Pitt-Rivers gave evidence - calling for the decriminalisation of gay sex for over 21-year-olds. In 1967, the law was finally reformed.
 Wildeblood was born in Alassio in Italy. His father was a retired engineer from the Indian public works department; his mother was the daughter of a sheep-rancher in Argentina. The sons of his father's first marriage were grown-up and married, and Peter was brought up as an only child, largely in a tiny Elizabethan cottage on the edge of Ashdown Forest. It was here that he first learned his love of plants, gardens and wild flowers.
His exceptional intelligence earned him scholarships to Radley and Trinity College, Oxford, which would otherwise have been beyond his parents' means. His time at Oxford was interrupted by the war, during which he served in the RAF, largely in Southern Rhodesia, but refused to go for a commission.
Back at university in 1945, Peter graduated with second-class honours. His many friends at Oxford included Kenneth Tynan, who was to prove a tower of support a few years later.
After graduation Peter took a job as a hotel waiter in London, while writing at night. He sold articles to Vogue, Printer's Pie and Punch. Sacked by the hotel, he wrote Primrose And The Peanuts, a play about the north Rhodesian groundnuts scheme. It played for two weeks in Camden Town and won excellent reviews in the national press. Meanwhile, he joined the journalistic staff of the Daily Mail - initially working in its Leeds office, and rising within five years to become diplomatic correspondent. Then, in January 1954, came the case.
Once out of jail Peter found himself penniless and jobless. While writing Against The Law he bought a small Soho drinking club, which was frequented by a bizarre mélange of crooks, prostitutes, pimps and members of Peter's own somewhat different social world.
This was to produce A Way Of Life (1956), a fictional autobiography about the club, and then two novels of London life, The Main Chance (1957) and West End People (1958), which, with a brilliant score by Peter Greenwell and memorable performances from Elisabeth Welch and Millicent Martin, was to prove a huge West End success as The Crooked Mile. Another musical followed, but by this time Peter had been drawn into television, where he became a successful and respected writer and producer for Granada TV. His productions included The Younger Generation (1961), The Duke Ellington Show (1963), Blackmail (1966) and Conception Of Murder (1970).
In the early 1970s, Peter accepted an offer from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and moved to Toronto. He became a Canadian citizen, and for the next 16 years wrote and produced a number of successful series.
He then retired to a wooden Edwardian cottage in Victoria, with views across the Juan de Fuca Straights to the snow-clad Olympic Mountains above Seattle. Here he cooked oriental meals, created a minute garden of exotic plants to attract humming-birds, and photographed an amiable raccoon, which liked to sit in the branches of a pear tree.
Sadly, this idyllic retirement was shattered by a disaster even greater than that which had ended his first career. Five years ago a stroke left him speechless and quadriplegic. His brain was unaffected, and after a brief period of near despair - which eased as soon as he could breathe without the ventilator - he learnt, in an astonishingly short time, to communicate by accessing a computer through movements of his chin.
There was no looking back. Peter wrote letters, gave orders, arranged his garden and, though speechless, was as witty and lively as ever. "After a lifetime of one-finger typing," he observed in his first fax, "I think I can master one-chin typing."
Peter Wildeblood will be very much missed, especially by those who cared for him in his last years and who witnessed the man's inner strength.
• Peter Wildeblood, journalist and campaigner, born May 19 1923; died November 14 1999 
This post completes the series on the Montagu Case.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pitt Rivers Co-respondent in the Montagu Case.

Other aspects of the 1954 Motagu case appear in the Wikipedia article on Michael Pitt-Rivers, one of the co-defendants.  It is interesting to see that Pitt-Rivers was partnered later in life with a man, who subsequently inherited his estate.  That represents a lot of progress for the gay cause in a few decades.

“Arrested on 9 January 1954, in March of that year Pitt-Rivers was brought before the British courts charged with 'conspiracy to incite certain male persons to commit serious offences with male persons' or 'buggery'.

Pitt-Rivers was charged along with Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and Peter Wildeblood. Pitt-Rivers and Lord Montagu denied the charges and denied also that they were homosexual. After an eight-day trial held at the Winchester Assizes, on 24 March 1954 Pitt-Rivers and Wildeblood were sentenced to 18 months and Lord Montagu to 12 months in prison as a result of these and other charges. Their case led eventually to the Wolfenden Report, which in 1957 recommended the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the United Kingdom.
Michael Pitt-Rivers married Sonia Brownell, the widow of George Orwell, in 1958. They were divorced in 1965. Pitt-Rivers spent much of his wealth on a lifetime of travel, financed by selling the most productive land from the Rushmore estate he inherited in Dorset. In 1991 he began the restoration of the Larmer Tree Gardens, which had been in a state of neglect since the death of his grandfather in 1900. The gardens reopened to the public in 1995. He spent most of his adult life with his partner, William Davis, who inherited his estate on his death.
His role in the 1967 decriminalisation of homosexuality in the United Kingdom was explored in the 2007 Channel Four docudrama A Very British Sex Scandal.
Michael Pitt-Rivers died in December 1999, aged 82.”

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Chad States has published a book, “Cruising.
He writes about his photography or, really about the book he has produced, in positive terms that I really like and that put a whole and new real meaning on casual mansex, that I like.  Chad writes:‘With my photographs of cruising, the search for anonymous gay sex in parks and public spaces, I am interested in confirming and celebrating the sexual intimacy, however fleeting, that happens there. While a majority of the population see quick sex, especially among homosexual men, to be amoral and dirty; I see it as potentially romantic. The landscapes in which these men make sexual connections in are not dark and terrible places but tranquil and beautiful. When the way that people interact in the world is increasingly virtual I want to reconfirm the desire to enter the natural world and make physical contact with a stranger.
‘I feel it is this unknown potential that the landscape holds that is one of the most alluring elements to cruising. It is this sense of possibility that heightens the cruising experience which the photographs resonate with. I am interested in creating a sense of fantasy in which the viewer can be seduced by the romanticism of the landscape yet feel a tension from the possibility of this unknown, a sublime place where one can loose themselves both physically and psychologically’.
That sexual intimacy that happens in anonymous gay sex is truly a value worth cultivating.  Of course, from the aspect of keeping away from trouble with the law it is safer in sex clubs than in the open air.
In an interview Chad has a further interesting comment:

Who are you hoping to reach with the book? Anybody who’s not judgmental about sex. This book is a celebration. I think about how democratic these spaces are. The demographic of people at these parks is across the board. It’s such a unifier in so many ways. There’s rich bankers, broke people. And you’re not going to people’s apartments to see what they own or how nice their house is. Chemistry is everything. Sex brings people together, makes connections. That’s the best part about it.
So good to hear from people who think positively about casual mansex, who want to celebrate mansex, who are not judgmental about sex.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Montagu of Beaulieu – Part 5.

The publicity surrounding the case also cost him his engagement. He says: 'That was very much a sad situation. I seem to remember I was very honest with Anne. I didn't try to hide anything and she accepted that. She was a very lovely girl, very loyal and supportive to me but the situation got terribly difficult for her and she had no alternative. I haven't ever spoken to her about it since.'
Lord Montagu was the only one of the three to protest his innocence. Why? He looks at me curiously. 'Because I was,' he says simply. 'It was guilt by association.'
On March 24, 1954, all three of the accused were convicted. Wildeblood and Pitt-Rivers were sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment, Montagu to 12.
The police, anticipating a hostile reception outside the court, kept the three men in the cells for two hours after the verdict was read. But when they eventually emerged, they were greeted by cheers.
'I was amazed when the crowd cheered. It was rather comforting, actually,' Lord Montagu recalls.
Public opinion had reached a tipping point. The outcry in the aftermath of the convictions led to immediate movements to reform the law and the proposals of 1957 Wolfenden Committee eventually led to the legalisation of homosexuality.
Does Lord Montagu feel proud that he was instrumental in its decriminalisation? 'I am slightly proud that the law has been changed to the benefit of so many people. I would like to think that I would get some credit for that.
'Maybe I'm being very boastful about it but I think because of the way we behaved and conducted our lives afterwards, because we didn't sell our stories, we just returned quietly to our lives, I think that had a big effect on public opinion.'
Lord Montagu returned to his stately home to continue building up his motor museum and to the House of Lords where he remembers being thrown a lunch party by the Conservative peer Lord Brabazon.
'I did feel bitter for a while but I learned to rise above that. I just felt all the time that the better I could succeed in life, the better I could deal with it.'
He went on to marry twice, first in 1958 to Belinda Crossley, with whom he had two children, Ralph, now 46, and Mary, 43. In 1974 he married his current wife Fiona and he has a 31-year-old son, Jonathan.
I like the way he says that the law has been changed for the benefit of so many people.  But the fact is that the prejudices are still fairly vigorously with us, fired by the so-called "religious minded."  The reform of the Church, as the Pope says, has to begin with attitudes, changing the legal structures will not get us very far without that.  But the attitudes that knock mansex are more in society in general than in the Church.  The work of benefitting the multitude of men who like sex with men is an ongoing task.  I wish it early success!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pope Francis Interview

I have taken some time to absorb what Pope Francis presented to the Jesuit reviews in his interview with Antonio Spadaro.  There are some very important principles mentioned there which are very liberating relative to the way we have formerly been taught to think in our Catholic mould.  I see lines of thought that re-inforce the position I have taken with regard to Enhanced Masculinity.  The Pope talks, for example, of the need to move with man’s understanding of himself which is always in development.  He says that the Church can suggest doctrines and teachings but a person’s way of running his life remains entirely his own.  That the Church take over the “ingerenza spirituale personale” is not not possible.  

 It seems rather a new thing to hear an authoritative voice in the Catholic Church say that its members should think for themselves.  The Pope goes on to say that the Church should not dissipate its energies insisting on conformity to a multitude of tiny precepts.
His response to the question: “Do you approve of homosexuality?” is particularly masterful.  He says he replied with another question: “When God sees a homosexual does he affectionately approve his existence or does he condemn him?”  He develops the idea, saying that we, members of the Church, members of society, have to be like God in this.  We have to accompany the person, enter into the mystery of each one’s particular make up and stage of development, and accompany them with compassion or mercy.  Significantly, the Pope leaves it to the priest on the spot to guide the homosexual person.   

He has already said that we all know what the Church’s teaching and guidance is, but he is really saying that applying this rigidly and a priori is not what is called for.  It is in the context of talking about the abortion, homosexual marriage and contraception that the Pope implies that the Catholic Church has an obsession with these things and talks about them continually and out of context.  He says we do not need to be continually talking about these things.  Especially he says clearly that domatic and moral teachings are not all equal.  

 He would see homosexuality as among a host of doctrines that it is not necessary to insist on their observance in an isolated way.  The Church’s preaching of the gospel, he says, should stick to what inspires, and attracts, what makes people’s hearts burn within them.  The gospel presentation should be simple, deep and enlightening.              

 In that way, I would say, the Pope disapproves the misery that the Church’s traditional approach on homosexuality brings to people.  The idea of man’s understanding of himself being always in development I find very creative in our enhanced masculinity context.  The more modern understanding of the male integrates all his mansex tendencies without regarding them as criminal or as an illness, the Church has only to integrate them into her own anthropology.