It’s low on the front page in some very respectable papers, of course: Law on sex in public places to be reformed”, says the Independent; Last chance to have sex in the garden”, the Guardian‘s Home Affairs Editor warns his readers: the story is clearly too important to be left to a mere reporter. But only the Daily Telegraph goes straight for the really important story. “Sex in to be Legal in Public Lavatories” is the third story on its front page. Is this a way of reaching out to the Tory modernisers? Or does Charles Moore really know what his readers’ interests are?
Apparently, he does. While <Guardian</em> readers worried about the effects on their own sex lives, the <em>Telegraph</em>’s were obviously horrified by the prospect of — well, since none of them are gay — other people enjoying it. The paper ran a <a href=”http://www.opinion.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2003/01/31/dl3101.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2003/01/31/ixopinion.html”>leader</a> on the subject, followed by a Tom Utley <a href=”http://www.opinion.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2003/02/01/do0101.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2003/02/01/ixopinion.html” title=”Young Benn should not be allowed to run our public lavatories”>op-ed column</a> the next day.
The whole principle of the bill, according to a pained letter from Hilary Benn, the minister responsible, was that:<blockquote>The offence of outraging public decency will continue to protect the public from activity that causes or is likely to cause alarm, distress or harassment, including obtrusive sexual behaviour in public lavatories.
The new offence of sex in a public place will work alongside this existing law to provide more certainty and clarity that sexual acts in public places should not be foisted on unwilling spectators.</blockquote>
But <em>Telegraph</em> readers are not shocked by the sight of things like that. They are made of tougher stuff. What outrages them is the knoweldge that it might be going on, somewhere, out of sight, but <em>perfectly legally</em>.