The 1967 Sexual Offences Act

1967 act

Just a short post to note that today is the 50th anniversary of the day that the Sexual Offences Act (1967) received the Royal Assent (27th July 1967). This Act partially decriminalised sex between two male adults provided both were over the age of 21 at the time. I’ve emphasised `partially’ because the number of prosecutions of men for consensual sexual acts actually went up in the years following this law. It was not until 2000 that the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 equalised that age of consent at 16 for both homosexual and heterosexual behaviours throughout the United Kingdom. The 1967 Act was problematic in many ways, but it was a start…

3 Responses to “The 1967 Sexual Offences Act”

  1. Jon Roberts Says:

    It is eye-opening to look at the language used at the time by the promoter of the 1967 Act, Leo Abse, MP for Pontypool and Cardiff solicitor, who referred in the Commons to the “lamentably different” direction of homosexual behaviour and the “terrible fate” to be a homosexual. These words need to be seen in the context of the times, and I don’t mean to denigrate the work he did. It is a measure of how society has changed for the better that these words now jar.

    • Indeed, what seemed progressive at one time might seem hopelessly hidebound a few decades later. Two examples spring to mind. First, Hilbert did a lot to support Noether getting a position in Göttingen. When some colleagues objected on the grounds that it would be inappropriate for a woman to work in the same rooms as men, he replied that they worked in a university and not a public bathhouse. In Göttingen today, there are no segregated public baths, and, like in the rest of the German- and Dutch-speaking world, public saunas (in public bathhouses and otherwise) are mixed with nudity required (and with about the same number of women and men in attendance). (Similar was Planck’s reason for why Meitner couldn’t work at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute: there were no female toilets. A bit later, female toilets would have been progressive; today, they are quaint compared to unisex toilets.) Second, the crew of the starship Enterprise in Star Trekwas one-third female. Progressive at the time (as were a Russian and a Black woman on the bridge (one episode was banned in the UK due to an interracial kiss)), but another example of “the way the future was” (for similar reasons, this is the name of Fred Pohl’s autobiography). Interestingly, producer Gene Roddenberry originally planned a 50/50 crew, but the network objected that “the viewers will think about all the fooling around going on up there”. Again, this shows the thinking of the age: viewers would think about sex if there were an equal number of women and men (for similar reasons, for a long time on television even married couples were not shown in the same bed unless at least one had a foot on the floor), but presumably no-one saw a “danger” in two-men-one-woman threesomes and/or half the men being gay.

  2. blog feminino

    The 1967 Sexual Offences Act | In the Dark

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