The British professor and criminologist Michael Presdee (picture right below), told the court that some aspects of bondage, discipline and sadomasochism (SM) date back to ancient times, while others helped shape the modern world, notably the catwalk.
“SM sort of behaviour” could be traced back to Roman times when masters and slaves swapped roles during festivals. “The roles are reversed. The powerless become powerful. The powerful become powerless,” he said. Presdee said SM continued to influence the modern world, especially in fashion, notably the works of French designer Jean Paul Gaultier.
The Professor said he could see “absolutely nothing” like infliction of cruelty in the Fetish Fashion case, which only involved “a great deal of role playing”.
– Positive influence on the community
The American expert witness, clinical psychologist Dr Elizabeth Blurton (picture) told the court that places like Fetish Fashion were a positive influence on the community as they provided people with a place where their sexual fantasies would be accepted. Dr Blurton said the basic principle of SM was for the dominant partner to give pleasure to the submissive, and that it was not about cruelty. “SM is clearly distinct from non-consensual activities such as rape, assault or torture. SM practitioners take great care to ensure that the activities are and continue to be mutually enjoyed,” she said.
After the acquittals on all counts, Ms Scofield has received a “snowstorm” of e-mails congratulations from people both inside and outside the SM community. “Some e-mails were from well-wishers saying they are not in the scene but do care about freedom,” Scofield said. Supporters also included parents of children she had taught drama at Island School before buying Fetish Fashion in 1997.
– A place for self-discovery
In addition to educate people in safe, sane and consensual SM practises, Brenda Scofield will keep the loss-making venture running because it is a place where people can discover themselves. Club members testified in the court that they experience SM as a process of self-exploration. – “It is to discover one’s own nature,” Scofield told the South China Morning Post. Personally she recognized that she had the feeling when she was quite young. “I knew how I felt”, she told the court. “Giving up power for a certain period, if you’re with the right person, is a huge freedom,” she once told Time magazine.
Call for public education
After the trial, which have caused eye-popping testimony across the front pages of Hong Kong tabloids, concern groups and experts call for discussion and public education on bondage, discipline and sadomasochism (SM), which they said is a sub-culture that is too easily misunderstood.
Dr Ng Man-lun, professor of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Hong Kong, said there were many types of consensual adult activities that might result in serious bodily injuries or even death, including boxing and football. “As long as the adults know and enjoy what they are doing, it is none of anyone else’s business. These are consensual adult activities and the government should not interfere”, Dr Ng said to the South China Morning Post. He said the level of danger would be increased if more SM parties were forced underground.
“If they conduct the activities surreptitiously, that will be harmful. We are also losing our multicultural characteristics and stifling the creativity of our society,” Dr Ng said.
The executive director of the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council, Peter Ho Man-hong, said he also had reservations about criminalizing SM activities. Public education and open discussion should be encouraged, he said.
Despite the acquittal, store owner Brenda Scofield have to look for new premises in Hong Kong as the landlord is throwing her out, but she is determined to carry on.
Defence lawyer Graham Harris say he wants the prosecution to reimburse costs estimated at 3 million Hong Kong dollars (U.S. dlrs 385,000).
Sources: Hong Kong iMail, AP, Reuters, Data Lounge and South China Morning Post.