On friday by chance we were discussing fire control equipment which uses something called Argonite, this is a trade name for a 50/50 mixture of argon and nitrogen which is used as a fire extinguishing system. One of the students talked about suffocation with Argonite, I then pointed out that lack of oxygen (Inert gas asphyxiation) has totally different biology in humans to suffocation which involves a high level of carbon dioxide in the lungs and blood.
Now while reading the news I read that a man in Sweden has been convicted of a crime against the person relating to erotic asphyxiation (strangulation). The Swedish court of appeal has upheld the man’s conviction but they downgraded the crime. I think that the court should have considered the man’s actions to be very grave crimes. Alex Comfort in his book (The Joy of Sex) strongly condemes this practice as very dangerous, so I am not alone in being opposed to this activity.
Some years ago (1987) in the UK there was a case known as the “spanner case”. As this blog is a family show I will not tell you of the worst of the sexual tortures which occurred during S&M sex, But this case revolved around should a person be able to consent to an assault committed against them. One of the judges who had to deal with the case commented “Society is entitled and bound to protect itself against a cult of violence. Pleasure derived from the infliction of pain is an evil thing. Cruelty is uncivilised”, he also expressed the view that the convictions of the S&M fanatics should be upheld.
One argument is that a person should be free to consent to what ever they like, I have an alternative argument. While the people do not intend to seriously injure each other there is a problem. Their conduct is jolly reckless and it should be clear to a “reasonable man” that a large risk exists of a fatal outcome or another outcome which causes some permanent disability.
I assume that a lot of people will find the sexual practises in both cases offensive and very immoral, but if we leave our morals out of it for a moment another compelling argument exists for banning “choke sex” and the dire extreme S&M seen in the spanner case.
A citizen does not live in isolation, those who work should all pay into a common fund (through tax) which allows society to take care of people who need help. It provides funds for fire fighting, police, hospital treatment for ill people, education for children, pensions for old people and other social care. If a person takes a reckless risk with their wellbeing such as riding a motorcycle with no helmet then they place themselves at risk of changing themselves from a person who generates money to run society into a person who is a drain on society.
A brain injured motorcyclist may well need expensive special health and social care for the rest of their live, while I do not advocate a refusal of care for people who injure themselves doing something I think is stupid or immoral I do think that it is reasonable for the state to use criminal law to deter or punish people who place themselves in grave danger under some conditions.
The key thing is that riding a motorcycle with no helmet, driving a car without wearing a seat belt and the horrible S&M sex are reckless acts which offer no reward to either the individual or society which outweighs the risks. So I think that we should use criminal law to ban these activities.
On the other hand, cheese rolling contests, sleeping in a bed and dog ownership are all activities which do carry a risk of physical harm but the rewards to society and the individual strongly outweight the risks. We should not allow “health and safety” to be used as an excuse to ban these things.
For example it is possible for me to roll out of my bed and crash onto the floor breaking some part of my body this is a remote but plausible risk, the reward of sleeping in a bed is that I do not have to sleep on the floor and get cold. I think that the majority of my readers would agree that the benefits of sleeping in a bed outweigh the risks. So we should never have a law banning normal beds, maybe beds which are surrounded with spikes or lethal 2000 volt fences should be outlawed but my normal bed should remain legal !
While performing emergency repair work on my dog (pulling a bone which was stuck in the dog’s mouth out), I have been slightly injured by a panicking dog (a couple of small cuts to the hands). This is an example of a risk of dog ownership, on the other hand the social and emotional benefits of dog ownership outweigh the risk of a minor injury occurring during ECM (emergency canine maintenance not electronic counter measures).
The cheese rolling is clearly an activity in which people can get hurt, but the cultural significance of a pack of men (and women) chasing a cheese down a steep hill is so great that it should remain legal !