Thursday, July 01, 2010

Threatened With Arrest

I wrote previously about the death of Sebastian Horsley, who I knew. Because I knew him I was paying attention to what the papers and other sources were saying about him. I suppose I had unthinkingly assumed his funeral would be a quiet nondescript affair. A cremation attended by close family. Of course I was very wrong. The funeral was announced widely as planned for St James' Church in Piccadilly (yes church - that would be the Church of England honouring the man who wrote, and never retracted or apologised for, these words: "I remember the first time I had sex - I still have the receipt. The girl was alive, as far as I could tell" and "I have slept with every nationality in every position in every country. From high-class call girls at £1,000 a pop to the meat-rack girls of Soho at £15, I have probably slept with more than 1,000 prostitutes, at a cost of £100,000.") and featuring an all-star cast of celebrity names: Stephen Fry giving a eulogy, Nick Cave, a member of the Clash. And, to me most sickeningly of all, his coffin was to be conveyed in a horse-drawn carriage through the streets of Soho. Oh and of course the whole thing was to be filmed for a documentary glamorising him and his life and death.

Well it put me to thinking about the other people in the prostitution industry, the ones who didn't inherit vast fortunes, or win big on the stock market as Sebastian did. The ones trafficked into the country, promised legitimate jobs that never appeared. The ones trapped on drugs and in a situation of poverty that leaves them with no choice but to endure night after night of gang-rape in every possible orifice (Sebastian bragged of being an "expert" on anal sex). The ones who try to escape or fight back and end up dead and rotting in some unmarked ditch. The children. The CHILDREN. The average age of entry into prostitution in the UK is 14. Based on the statistics he himself gave and the studied indifference he, by his own admission, practiced towards the sex workers he used and abused it is nothing short of fair to conclude in all likelihood Sebastian Horsley at some point paid to have sex with a woman who was in fact a child.

And it is not a matter of seeing the best in someone because they're dead - where were Stephen Fry and Nick Cave when Harold Shipman died? Being dead doesn't make you a nice person if you were a serial abuser before you died.

So I went and stood outside the church (silently and sombrely) with the sign pictured here. The reaction was interesting. The first person to approach me, who was a mourner, said I was making a brilliant point and she was glad I was doing it. Not long after however people started screaming at me. They were, I was reliably informed, offended and upset. Ironically that is exactly what I felt when I learnt that Horsley would be given this grossly indulgent funeral. Even more ironically having debated Sebastian on matters of porn and prostitution he always insisted he was an advocate of "free speech", no more so than when when a graphic column he wrote about anal sex was published in The Observer drawing large numbers of complaints from those offended and upset by it. I honestly believe he would have defended my right to express my views as I saw fit, and not the "rights" of anyone in the vicinity to not be offended or upset. One particularly aggressive woman loudly suggested to her friends that she would set fire to my sign. She came back (perhaps to do so, or to shout some more) but a security guard stepped in and protected me, saying he would prefer if I moved further away from the church but I was on the pavement so I had every right to be there. He then tried to stand in font of me so my sign could not be seen. So I held it over my (and his) head. From the start lots of people noticed the sign and read it and several photographers took pictures of me holding it.

Then a police officer came over and asked to speak to me. She told me I had to stop holding the sign and give them my details. I explained that since I wasn't in a motorised vehicle I didn't need to give my details unless I was being arrested in which case I would do so at the station to the superintendent there. She told me if I held up the sign again she would arrest me for harassment. I might have persisted but my fear was that the whole process of being arrested and at some point released, given a warning, whatever might happen, would take forever and well, frankly, I have a lot to do today (see me tonight as Super Sandra at Ariadne the Greek WAG's Comedy Bag).

So I abandoned ship and went home just as two beautiful horses arrived followed by the polished black funeral carriage draped in layers of sumptuous red velvet to convey into the historic church, lavishly decorated with sunflowers and a grand piano, the body of a man who bragged that he couldn't be bothered to check if the prostitute he was fucking was alive or not.


Leia Organa said...

What a horrible experience, but well done you for making a stand. I hate to say I'm glad anyone is dead but, well, I'm glad he's dead. :o/

outofprint said...

What you did was amazing and so brave. It was expected that you'd get some grief but police harassment was ridiculous. They don't even know their own laws sometimes. Well done for standing up and standing out. What a sad day but for all the wrong reasons. Chloe

Biskieboo said...

A million thanks for doing this. You are a complete star.


Thank you Cruella for taking a stand against the pro-prostitution apologists. The utter hyprocrisy of having a vastly expensive funeral procession for a man who blatantly boasted of having sexually exploited and raped innumerable women and girls - just shows how white male supremacy operates.

What you did was a very, very courageous act on behalf of all the women Horsley had subjected to sadistic sexual violence because of his insatiable need to sexually dominate and control women/girls.

You were right in ending your protest action because your commitments were an equal priority. But you did not allow this 'overblown extravaganza' on behalf of a now dead male misogynist who believed women and girls exist solely to serve his pseudo sexual needs go unnoticed.

You clearly caused a number of individuals to be 'upset' by your protest which in itself serves to disrupt the male-centric status quo. Well done.

Trisha said...

From the bottom of my heart Thank-you for what you did.
Standing up on behalf of me, my friends who tonight will be sold and on behalf of my friends who have died.
If I were not separated by an ocean from you I would have stood side by side with you.You are brave beyond words, you are held up and cheered on by many you probably never meet.
However,I hope one day I will meet you so I can hug you and look you in the eyes and say Thank - you.

Trisha Baptie

The Pack said...

Thank you for doing that. K xxx.

Octavia said...

Awesome, good for you to stand up. Outrageous that the police harassed you off the street. Anyone who thinks he was a cool guy needs to seriously read this article.

Natacha Kennedy said...

Did you get the number of the police officer? You should make a complaint, under the HRA you are entitled to freedom of expression.

Madame Arcati said...

I cannot see how holding up a sign amounts to harassment: especially when there was one of you versus the rest of them.

Cruella said...

Natacha - yes I did get the policewoman's name and number - do drop me a line (on facebook or via email, or on here if you can't find me) and tell me what I should do next. Keen to take it further.

And thanks to all for your support.

JenniferRuth said...

Your actions were very brave. I am not surprised that you were harassed but I'm glad that there was someone there reminding everyone exactly who Sebastian Horsley was.
I really admire what you did.

Jilly said...

Well done you! We all need to speak out against this horrible trade. The majority wouldn't be in prostitution if they had any viable alternative.

Anonymous said...

Well done Kate, how depressing that this man gets such pomp and ceremony for being such a low-life excuse for a human being. People like you keep giving me hope.

Tim F said...

Freedom of speech vs people's sensibilities and sensitivities is often a tough call; especially at occasions such as funerals, when emotions are raw, and many are doing their best to see the flawed deceased in as positive light as possible. Would you, for example, support the freedom of speech of the Islamists who seek to disrupt the procession of coffins at Wootton Bassett, or the US Christian fundamentalists who gatecrash funerals with their "GOD HATES FAGS" placards? Please understand that I'm not trying to draw any moral equivalence between their views and yours; but the whole point of freedom of speech is that it should be irrelevant whether we agree with the view or not.

Cruella said...

I wouldn't support either of those protests - for rather different reasons. I have some sympathy with the Wootton Bassett Islamists - insofar as they believe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be wrong (though I think many of them have views more extreme than that which I don't necessarily share and which might spill over into my second point, below). I think that there is a better place to protest that and I certainly wouldn't do it myself but I would defend their right to peacefully protest wherever they like against the war. But then I think much of their protest isn't peaceful - it's, as you say, disruptive, and obviously that's a different matter.

The GOD HATES FAGS lot are a bit different because they are quite an overt example of hate speech. They are actively trying to propagate hatred towards a group of people. For me hate speech is where freedom of speech ends.

You will note that my protest wasn't at all disruptive or physical, I was quite silent and still and not in the way of what was going on, just stood nearby. I also was not promoting hate, I was promoting sympathy and compassion towards victims of rape and abuse.

And as to seeing the deceased in a positive light, well that's very much the problem with Sebastian Horsley for me. He was celebrated (in life and death) not for his good qualities and in spite of his bad ones, but overtly FOR his bad qualities, for the abuse he inflicted on others, mostly women. That horrifies me beyond belief and left me feeling compelled to act.

Paul Laight said...

Hi Kate,

I don't usually write on these things but I commend you for your protest. Here is a rich, spoilt, negative parasite who was nothing more than a societal poison. Of course, because of his background he's celebrated as an 'artist' of some kind. If it was someone from a different background - sleeping with 1000s of prostitutes - the spin on the story would be totally different.

I'm glad you didn't get arrested though. It genuinely wouldn't have been worth it. Well done for highlighting the complete hypocrisy of the situation.


Maxim said...

Well, you're right to say Sebastian would have supported your right to say whatever you like about him, alive or dead. I was at the funeral and didn't notice your protest - I suppose I was focussed on mourning a man who was a good friend to me for the past six years. I'm not about to get into this debate, but I will make the point that the 'vastly expensive' funeral was not paid for out of Sebastian's estate - he died penniless - but out of the contributions of his many friends. Also, Nick Cave wasn't there, though Stephen Fry did deliver a very moving eulogy. I'm sorry you were threatened with arrest, but people react very emotionally at times of grief and upset.

kim west said...

Hi Kate

It was me who came up to you at the church to offer my support and appreciation of your stand. It was a brave thing to do and yes, without a doubt, Sebastian would have appreciated your guts and enjoyed the shock value. because it was indeed a bit shocking to see you standing quietly and determinedly right at the entrance to the church with your placard. Amongst all the velvet, corsets, top hats and trussed up bosoms it was you that sent a ripple of shock waves through the mourners. Well done.