You might recall the name Michael Peacock from our article that was published a few weeks ago. Though we've received plenty of positive feedback on that piece, there's truly nothing better than hearing one's story in his or her own words. This week on our blog, Peacock discusses his landmark victory for freedom of speech and expression, his admiration for Bob Mizer, and much more.
By the time you had caught the attention of law enforcement, you had been working as a male escort and salesman of hardcore films for years. How robust were the sales of these movies, and what genres/subgenres were most popular?
I have been a male escort since late 2004, selling DVD’s kicked off in the summer of 2007 when a client asked if I had any DVD’s for sale. He knew I loved gay porn and would always play a DVD during sessions and still do. It just so happened that I was planning to visit Amsterdam and returned with thirty DVD’s for £2.50 each, the client was delighted and bought twenty, making me a profit of £170.
This set off a blue light bulb in my head! Starting with just a few hundred titles, by the time of my arrest I was offering over 2,100 titles and making more income from selling DVD’s than escorting.
The spectrum of what I offered was extensive virtually every genre of gay, bi, and even some hetro porn was available. By far the most popular was twink/fratboy, bareback and fetish porn.
It was the fetish stuff just 3.6% of the titles offered that got me into trouble.
Please describe your initial feeling when contacted by law enforcement. Were you panicked? In disbelief? What went through your mind?
Unbeknownst to me, an undercover detective masquerading as a customer ‘Dave’ had visited me twice before my arrest, always asking for my most extreme gay fetish porn which included fisting, water-sports and BDSM, it transpired later that this was a way of gathering evidence.
It was just half an hour after the second purchase which had been paid for with marked notes, that my flat was raided. December 14th 2009 is still an indelible memory, when seven detectives arrive mob handed so to speak, at your flat is hardly something you are going to forget. My initial reaction was very calm closely followed by a feeling of being totally helpless and alone, at least I was permitted a cigar. I was described by the arresting officer as one of the most ’co-operative and helpful’ suspects he had ever experienced in all his 20 years of policing.
I then had to endure over two long years including two trial postponements. No doubt the stress led to a diagnosed heart condition.
The prosecution argued that the content of the movies you sold had "the ability to deprave and corrupt," and that your average customer would never have been aware of the "extreme" content of the films. What is your response to the prosecution's claim?
My personal belief was how could I possibly deprave or corrupt any of my customers when all either previewed the material on a 46” flat screen TV or with mail order the genre of content was made very clear in the detailed list of titles. I always went the extra mile to ensure customers were not misinformed. There was no content in the entire collection that I did not feel comfortable with, or would refrain from experiencing myself often with clients seeking my escort service.
How did social media help you throughout the trial in telling your story and spreading your message?
I had terrific support from friends and legal team throughout, which included the two-year waiting period and throughout the trial. It was significant that my trail was the first in the UK to have a permitted live twitter account of the case direct from a supporter, this was a great comfort. The media coverage was also very encouraging. One media outlet made this reference: ‘For two days, Southwark Crown Court was the only unlicensed sex cinema in the country.' Edited highlights from six DVD’s were shown to the jury.
What message do you have for the jurors who returned your 'not guilty' verdict?
I was delighted and overwhelmed by the unanimous verdict. My superb defence team led by solicitor advocate Sandra Paul, the two expert academic witnesses who went into so much detail about extreme sexual acts between men, sharing with the jury about sex clubs - gay and straight – throughout London where the same fetish, niche sexual activities are carried out perfectly legally. My work as an award-winning escort and an awareness that I often participate in such activities with clients, including some with disabilities, even the four-and-a-half hours of DVD edits, all I am sure helped to persuade what turned out to be a very wise jury.
The case's defense solicitor called your victory a "significant victory for common sense." Why was this trial significant for society's understanding of sexuality as a whole? For revealing the outdated nature of the Obscene Publications Act of 1959?
Until my trial there had not been any wider society understanding outside of the Gay community of these sexual fetishes, I was also the first person to challenge the Act with regard to porn films of this kind and win, until my trial all previous defendants had pleaded guilty, so this was quite a significant landmark case. The verdict should have implications far beyond my acquittal, according to press report officials at the British Board of Film Classification ( BBFC ) and police officers involved in prosecuting obscenity cases have already admitted that the current laws may require a major rethink.
From artists and visionaries like Bob Mizer to sex workers who allow their clients to fully explore their sexuality unashamedly and unabashedly, we continue to live in a society that harbors puritanical fears of healthy sexuality. How far have we come since Bob Mizer's time in battling this stigma, and what yet needs to be done?
Bob Mizer for me was a brave hero and personal inspiration. He was one of the very few photographers ever to speak out against censorship more often in his editorials. My not guilty verdict in January 2012 demonstrates that progress is being made; however, in 2017 there are still challenges. For example via a very well known auction site ( Ebay ) I am still being challenged and as to what is considered ‘pornographic,’ this even includes Physique Pictorial, where I am not permitted to share even an exposed naked bottom without g-string, and yet I can find thousands of exposed bums on the same site if I search for a jock strap! Even a (Paypal) payment site linked to this auction site had my account blocked as it had ‘obscenity’ issues with six listings which merely included the word ‘Unzipped’ or ‘Inches.' My account was only unblocked when I removed the listings.
Here is another crazy example. I can list an ORIGINAL Bob Mizer full nude male photo on the auction site and share the image, however the SAME image if it appears in a Physique Pictorial may not be shared as this is deemed to be pornographic. So we need to keep challenging the ‘system’ and pushing the boundaries, just like Bob.