It’s obscene, no buts …

As far as I understand, anal intercourse between a man and a woman has been legalized for many years. If heterosexual people in Singapore view an image that vaguely represents anal intercourse without depicting genitalia, an image clearly meant to carry a political message than to represent sexual activity, and somehow want to try out anal sex as a result, they are merely fantasizing about engaging in an act that is legal in Singapore. If the image does inspire deviant behavior, the behavior is in itself not an instance of criminal deviance. Of course, it may be regarded as deviant by various conservative people out there, but it is my opinion that the legal system should refrain from taking a stand on acts that are legal in the eyes of the law. It is possible to say that the depiction of rape could corrupt minds, but it is another matter to say, for instance, that the depiction of premarital sex could corrupt minds.

To complicate the matter by saying that the image is posted by a teenager who is likely read by other teenagers and who might cause his peers to experiment sexually or corrupt their minds raises further questions. Perhaps no one is saying that an older person who is unlikely to have a young teenage audience base could get away with posting an obscene image more easily than a teenager doing the same thing, but one might wonder if assumptions about potential audience that have yet to be concretely proven could be an undeserved influencing factor when it comes to determining the effects of the image.

Furthermore, assuming that there are enough teenagers who get so titillated by an image (specifically one that comprises the faces of two dead politicians superimposed on a poorly sketched image of two figures seemingly engaged in anal intercourse) that they want to try out anal sex and assuming that the rest of Singapore is in a position to judge others for whatever sort of consensual sexual activity they want to try, perhaps the solution is to have proper sex education for these teenagers rather than to make it criminal for such images from being posted online. If we cast aside the political sensitivities of using the images of two politicians in the image, the image is merely a vague depiction of anal intercourse without any explicit depiction of bare breasts or genitalia. It seems to me ridiculous that someone can be guilty of obscenity because of such an image — even the verbal descriptions of anal intercourse by a certain ex-NMP in the Parliament actually seem to me more explicit. I am by no means saying that the judgement passed on Amos Yee is wrong. In fact, I assume that the judgement passed is in accordance with the law, and it is the law that needs to be changed to safeguard people’s right to free expression.

Much more direct and sexually suggestive images can be found in popular culture. If “deviance” as defined by ultra conservative standards is the concern, can we have any assurance that a rather innocent image of two men or two women kissing will not be regarded as obscene in the eyes of the law? After all, such images could cause young people to experiment sexually and corrupt their minds, could they not? How about rape scenes featured in TV shows and movies rated PG? If someone takes a still from such productions and posts it in his blog, perhaps we should haul him to court for circulating an obscene image given that a single still taken out of an entire work would likely hold none of the artistic value of the original work. After all, what if teenagers see the still and start going on a rape rampage? In fact, one might even call for a ban on sex education that does not preach abstinence as the sole decent behavior – an introduction to stuff like condoms and graphics that depict sexual penetration in greater detail than Yee’s pathetic picture could well cause teenagers to experiment with casual, if not unprotected, sex. (Just let those silly teens wonder what they are supposed to abstain from!)

Perhaps there are those who do not actually care about a teenager they deem arrogant and in need of a tough lesson. No one is obliged to sympathize with Amos Yee, but it pays to remember that, if the laws remain the same, Yee’s case could set a legal precedent and stifle free expression further in Singapore. Even if people do not always get reported to the police for posting provocative images with a political message, the climate of fear will persist and it does not bode well for Singapore’s democratic progress. (Then again, who am I kidding? How many people here give a buttfucking damn about democratic progress if they could talk about bread-and-butter issues or demand that Edz Ello be jailed for sedition after protesting about Amos Yee’s sedition charge?)

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