United Kingdom

Disturbing the Peace

On the inalienable right to "excessively noisy sex"


"Unlike Winston, [Julia] had grasped the inner meaning of the Party's sexual puritanism. It was not merely that the sex instinct created a world of its own which was outside the Party's control and which therefore had to be destroyed if possible. What was more important was that sexual privation induced hysteria, which was desirable because it could be transformed into war-fever and leader-worship."

So wrote George Orwell in 1984, his dystopian vision of a future world where mankind's every thought, desire, and bodily tingle would be policed by the powers-that-be. Orwell imagined a Junior Anti-Sex League that spied on kissing and cavorting adults, and a ruling Party that sought to squash the "sex impulse." The heroes of his nightmarish tale—Winston and Julia—had to sneak off to a wood in order to explore each other bodies in a bit of peace and quiet.

It turns out that Orwell was suffering from premature speculation. It was not in 1984 that a major Western government made the "sex impulse"—the grunting, groaning sex instinct—into a police matter; it was in 2009. Here in the U.K., to add to our already-existing panoply of Orwellian measures—5 million CCTV cameras that watch our every move; "speaking cameras" that warn us to pick up litter or stop loitering; the government's attempt to recruit child spies to re-educate anti-social adults—we now have the bizarre and terrifying situation where a woman has been arrested for having sex too loudly.

Yes, in modern-day Britain even the decibels of our sexual moaning can become the subject of a police investigation.

At the end of April, Caroline Cartwright, a 48-year-old housewife from Wearside in the north east of England, was remanded in custody for having "excessively noisy sex." The cops took her in after neighbors complained of hearing her "shouting and groaning" and her "bed banging against the wall of her home." Cartwright has, quite reasonably, defended her inalienable right to be a howler: "I can't stop making noise during sex. It's unnatural to not make any noises and I don't think that I am particularly loud."

Pleasurable groaning and bed-banging are common noises in crowded towns and cities across the civilized world. Most of us deal with them by sticking a CD in the stereo. Those who complain are normally told to stop being prudish or to have a discreet chat with the creators of the offending sex sounds. So how did Cartwright's expressions of noisy joy become a police case, which later this month will be ruled on at Newcastle Crown Court, one of the biggest courts in the north of England?

Because, unbelievably, Cartwright had previously been served with an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO)—a civil order that is used to control the minutiae of British people's behaviour—that forbade her from making "excessive noise during sex" anywhere in England.

That's right, going even further than Orwell's imagined authoritarian hellhole, where at least there was a wood or two where people could indulge their sexual impulses, the local authorities in Wearside made all of England a no-go zone for Cartwright's noisy shenanigans. If she wanted to howl with abandon, she would have to nip over the border to Scotland or maybe catch a ferry to France. It was because she breached the conditions of her Anti-Social Behaviour Order, the civil ruling about how much noise she can make while making love in England, that Cartwright was arrested.

This case sheds harsh light not only on the Victorian-style petty prudishness of our rulers, who seriously believe they can make sexually expressive women timid again by dragging them to court, but on the tyranny of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders themselves. Introduced by our authoritarian Labour government in 1998, anyone can apply for an ASBO to stop anyone else from doing something that they find irritating, "alarming," or "threatening."

Local magistrates' courts issue the orders, sometimes on the basis of hearsay evidence (which is permissible in "ASBO cases"). In short, the applicant for an ASBO does not have to go through the normal rigors of the criminal justice system in order to get a civil ruling preventing someone he doesn't like from doing something that he finds "alarming" or "dangerous." Once you have been branded with an ASBO, if you break its conditions—by having noisy sex in your own home, for example—you are potentially guilty of a crime and can be imprisoned.

The ASBO system has turned much of Britain into a curtain-twitching, neighbor-watching, noise-policing gang of spies. The relative ease with which one can apply to the authorities for an ASBO positively invites people to use the system to punish their foes or the irritants who live in their neighborhoods. ASBOs have been used to prevent young people in certain areas from wearing hoods or hats (they look "threatening"), to ban a middle-aged couple from playing gangsta rap (the expletives offended workers and children at a nearby kindergarten), and to prevent a 10-year-old boy from having contact with matches until he turns 16, after he was found to have started a fire.

And now, prudish people who previously would have been told to "put up or shut up" over their neighbors' noisy sex have been empowered to turn one woman's private affairs into a very public trial. This, too, is Orwellian: the creation of new layers of spies and inter-communal suspicion.

In Orwell's dystopia, "the sexual act, successfully performed, was rebellion." So it is in Wearside in 2009, where the excessively noisy exploits of Cartwright and her possibly very talented partner are a form of rebellion against the arbitrary and interventionist nature of the ASBO-wielding powers-that-be. They are screwing for liberty.

Brendan O'Neill is editor of spiked in London.

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  1. As more and more legitimate power has flowed from the town councils to westminster, and then from westminster onto Brussels (EU), the portfolio-ridden MPs, and councilpersons seem to want to signal that they are still in control, and controlling minutae of ppl’s lives and just general petty tyranny seems to be the favorite activity.

  2. The Ya?nomam? tribe of the Amazon have a myth explaining why men and women are to copulate discreetly. I will share it with you, but be forewarned, it’s from memory:

    In the beginning there were nymphs of the river and god-brothers who hung out there. So this one brother spends all his time down by the river where there’s this beautiful nymph. And he wants to bone her pretty bad but any time he gets close to her she morphs into a fish or a hummingbird or some shit. Eventually he asks his older brother for advice.

    The brother gives him a recommendation that I don’t remember but unfortunately I think it involved coercion.

    So they get the nymph somehow and she’s ready to go but first the older brother remembers something and gets this really excited priapic monkey to make first contact. So he starts in on her but then her cooter has like a bear trap crab in it and it snaps off his dick and he goes screaming off through the jungle.

    The brothers laugh.

    Then the younger brother starts trying to fuck her but he sucks at it and makes a lot of fapping noises and wheezing and the nymph laughs at him. Then the older brother throws him off her and shows him how it’s done: quiet and discreet, but at the same time passionate and athletic.

    And THAT is why, even to this day, the Ya?nomam? peoples are renowned for the propriety of their lovemaking.

    1. Have you been taking Obama’s Lieagra pills again?

  3. Also, props to Mr. Cartwright.

  4. the bear trap crab only works once? I would think it could be reset to snap off multiple phalli.

  5. Damn, those Ya?nomam? are freaky.

    Also, Britain sucks.

  6. England is sooo fucked.
    Not literally, of course.

  7. Loud sex? 99.9% of the British are perfectly safe from harassment of this type.

  8. Not literally, of course.

    At least one inhabitant is.

  9. God I fucking hate the Brits!

    But to be fair — they get the government they deserve.
    Most Brits I have spoken to actually like living in an Orwellian society.

    I guess when you still pay tribute to kings and royalty
    Freedom and Liberty are concepts that are looked upon as suspect.

  10. Okay, so this means that Kim Cattrall’s “Lassie” character from Porky’s would do hard time?

  11. would do hard time?

    Yeah, she would. Hard time. On my penis. While it was hard. Hard penis time. For her. Her time on my hard penis. Yeah.

  12. Loud sex? 99.9% of the British are perfectly safe from harassment of this type.

    Got a close-your-eyes-and-think-of-England story to share, Sug?

  13. That woman had best refrain from watching When Harry Met Sally in her home. At the very least she will need to turn the sound off and read the closed captions for the deaf.

    Click my name
    or cut and paste:

  14. “Anti-Social Behaviour Order?” Wow, that’s really disturbing. How long before we get those in the U.S.?

    It’s not like making too much noise isn’t actionable all by itself, without bringing anything else into it.

  15. Mrs. Garrison: Oh yeah scissor! Scissor me, Alison!

    Allison: Janet, you’re crazy!

    Mrs. Garrison: Oh this is hot scissoring! Oh scissor me timbers!

  16. You have to be careful with scissors!

  17. But teacher, my penis never slips out of my pants, except sometimes when I’m wearing pajamas!


  19. The Royals have very little to do with the sorry state of affairs, their position needs reforming, but the 58/59p they add to the tax burden per person doesn’t affect anyone that much. Especially when you compare them to our MPs who are recently in a bit of bother over the fact they’ve been claiming expenses for memorial wreaths, dog food (in the case of my local Conservative MP) and chocolate santas.
    As soon as this ridiculous labour government gets booted out the better. I will be quite pleased to spend my first vote throwing them out. The conservatives have made some promises towards civil liberties, though I’m not sure that they’ll follow through.
    The sooner we all move to… erm….oh…wait a second…any suggestions?

  20. Jeebus, SugarFree. Who adjusted your meds?

  21. The pain threshold is around 130 decibels, so depending on how loud this fuckers really is, some duct tape might actually be appropriate.

  22. How long before we get those in the U.S.?

    I’d gamble that it’ll be within Obama’s first term.

    Of course, he’ll tell us he’s not doing that to be ideological or partisan. Nope, not him. No sirree, not one bit.

  23. At least SugarFree didn’t bring up his dungeon this time. Or finger-nail-less slaves.

  24. BTW, is the fingernail thing a reference to Silence of the Lambs or something? Or is SugarFree conducting field research?

  25. It’s disgusting to see how far the police state in Britain has come along in the past decade. These neo-fascist psychos are making a serious push for dominance, but I don’t think people are going to stand for it ultimately.

  26. There’s no one to talk to while you’re having an orgasm.

  27. Loud sex? 99.9% of the British are perfectly safe from harassment of this type.

    Since I’ve only boffed about 0.1% of British women, that seems about right.

  28. “”Anti-Social Behaviour Order?” Wow, that’s really disturbing. How long before we get those in the U.S.?”

    My administration is strongly opposed to adopting what are often called Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. ASBO’s are an affront to personal liberty.

  29. Today, I have asked Attorney General holder to consider the matter of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders.

  30. woah, J sub, that’s like, 3,000 chicks. good for you.

  31. “woah, J sub, that’s like, 3,000 chicks. good for you.”

    Ain’t shit.

  32. Time to purchase a howler monkey to mask the sex. Or just blair 80s hair band music. May I suggest some Twisted Sister.

    “I WANNA ROCK!!!”
    “CALL ME DADDY!!!”

  33. BTW, is the fingernail thing a reference to Silence of the Lambs or something? Or is SugarFree conducting field research?

    Go over to his house and find out. I would suggest going into the basement without a flashlight or gun.

  34. JW Gacy,

    Now be fair. It was Haley Barbour’s fuck dungeon, not mine. And Joan’s fingernails were removed by mutual consent.

    For those keeping score at home, Buffalo Bill used an oubliette to hold the girls until their skin had loosed enough for easy removal. Oubliette is such a pretty word.

  35. Jeebus, SugarFree. Who adjusted your meds?

    The semester is over, R C Dean, and I am free. The weather is beautiful here and I’m operating on about 4 hours of sleep. I feel like I’ve eaten the heart of a god.

  36. Who passes this shit? If it was me, I would find that person, then stalk them until I caught them having sex, come in and detain them and their partner, and then videotape me slowly torturing them to death.

    The videotape would end with me saying “Now, that’s anti-social behaviour, fuckbags.”

  37. I feel like I’ve eaten the heart of a god.

    Or possibly stabbed it with your black, rune-covered sword that is actually a demon from another dimension but takes the form of the sword in this dimension and then transfers the life energy of your victim to you, infusing you with strength and power, all the while broadcasting a black radiance and screaming?

    I totally know that feeling.

  38. It’s more of Jerry Cornelius effect, in that I also feel quite well dressed.

  39. It’s more of Jerry Cornelius effect, in that I also feel quite well dressed.

    And you do have such an ambiguous sexuality, so I guess that makes sense.

  40. You have such a problem with male beauty.

  41. Only with others’. I’m just fine with mine.

  42. One thinks of that Meg Ryan scene so many yrs ago…the simulated orgasm. What if you’re watching that movie (or real porn for that matter) too loudly?

    Britain needs to reexamine the ground-breaking work of its own John Wilkes.

  43. to ban a middle-aged couple from playing gangsta rap (the expletives offended workers and children at a nearby kindergarten)

    Is it just me or is this reasonable?

  44. I guess when you still pay tribute to kings and royalty
    Freedom and Liberty are concepts that are looked upon as suspect.

    Where’s Oliver Cromwell when you need him?

    Seriously though, the royals are just figureheads who happen to be some of the most opulent welfare queens in the world. The parliament and the bureaucracy are the problem.


  45. God I fucking hate the Brits!

    Apparently, the question is whether you hate Brits fucking…

  46. OK, for the sake of discussion allow me to be a contrarian here. Do people really have an “inalienable right” to make excessive noise anywhere at any time? Don’t individuals have some sort of right to be free of annoying noise? Couldn’t this be seen as an extension of the basic libertarian principle of “your right to throw a punch ends at my nose”?

    And if you read the linked articles, it’s not like she got arrested for making noise once. According to the BBC link, she had paid a fine for breaching five noise abatement orders, then got arrested three more times in the next ten days.

  47. Fortunately, most british people only have sex once a year, so this problem will be minimized.

  48. ‘to ban a middle-aged couple from playing gangsta rap (the expletives offended workers and children at a nearby kindergarten)

    ‘Is it just me or is this reasonable?’

    What would be reasonable to me is bringing these people before a jury or a Justice of the Peace (I believe England still has these) on charges of disturbing the Peace. I don’t know if this would a jury matter or a Justice of the Peace matter, but in any event it would be a criminal charge adjudicated by lay decision-makers (JP or jurors) under the safeguards for those accused of crimes.

    And in the event of conviction, the punishment would be a fine or maybe some jail time.

    (And JPs used to be able to bind people over to keep the peace, but I don’t know if this is still done.)

    This is the system of the good old English common law, and the English people lived with this system for centuries, without having the country blanketed by spies and injunctions.

    It seems that the ASBO procedure is more abbreviated, and less respectful of defendants’ rights, than the good old common law. And it leads to what I understand is a permanent injunction supervised by the bureaucracy of the administrative state.

    Casting common-law procedures, formerly the proud birthright of the English, into the trash can (or ‘dustbin’ as they call it) in favor of the assembly-line procedure of administrative law.

    Here is where libertarians and conservatives can unite – the limitation of the right to fair hearing can excite libertarians, and conservatives can be outraged by this *and* by the arbitrary uprooting of traditional judicial procedures in favor of ill-thought-out innovations.

  49. –== Cougarster.Com ==– It’s where Cougar (women who are mature, rich and experienced) and men who like them can meet.

  50. Wilt said, “woah, J sub, that’s like, 3,000 chicks. good for you.

    Ain’t shit.”

    Quite right. Talk to me when you have 16 million descendants.

  51. Well, this will do wonders for Europe’s low birth rate problem. That whole continent is toast.

  52. Anti-social behaviour? You can’t get much more social than that.

    At least, not without a midget with a Polaroid.

  53. How do you people tolerate this?

    If you don’t try to stop this orwellian insanity now, perhaps no one will later!

    In Sweden we at least have political resistance in form of the pirate party.

    FOr gods sake stop this! It scares me! ='(

  54. If Gary Coleman has taught me anything, it’s that you can be as loud as the hell you want when you’re makin’ love.

    “You’re not allowed to be loud at the library,
    at the art museum, or at a play. But when you and your partner are doing the nasty, don’t behave like you’re at the ballet!”

    Do they not have Avenue Q in the UK or something?

  55. Cougarster.com spambot is my new favorite spambot

  56. So they’re REQUIRING bondage?

    Gotta gag ya honey, don’t want ya getting arrested for being loud.

  57. ASBOs??? –

  58. Oh my. Stuff like this makes me wonder why I’m such an Anglophile.

  59. Like so much coverage of modern human rights issues, this post is meaningless without an extended YouTube video.

  60. I should like to get one of those for our Great President against showing me his nipples. Those photos really annoy me as my own nipples just can’t measure up. Maybe Wanda Sykes will co-sign with me.

  61. So.. can the woman here apply to have an ASBO filed to forbid whoever filed the one against her from filing any more ASBOs? I’m sure she finds it annoying if not “dangerous”….

  62. The parliament and the bureaucracy are the problem.

    The parliament and the bureaucracy are the symptom. The people who elected them are the problem.

    Back in the 90s we told the English that if they banned guns other civil rights would follow. We were laughed at.

  63. Reminds me of the time I decided to go down the up escalator….
    British Guy: You know if this were England you could be arrested, we have laws against that.
    Me: Wow you gotta know your country is too old when you have laws about escalators

  64. I think part of the problem in the UK is that people do think that there are laws against going down the up escalator. A lot of the stupid health and safety things you get on the news are pretty much always made up by an individual idiot working in the in the public sector.

    Getting back to the origional story and ignoring the ASBO aspect wouldn’t most people get really annoyed if their neighbours ( middle aged and unattractive) made a huge amount of noise pretty much everyday whilst having sex?
    Surely this could just be treated like any other excessive noise issue with the neighbours having to prove it?

  65. I left the UK in 1977. Been living in Australia ever since, with a couple of visits back. The first to check if I had made the right decision. Now this utter bloody stupid nonsense convinces me beyond any doubt. Why the hell would I spend a fortune to travel to the UK and experience this kind of self righteous crap even for a week or so?

  66. Perhaps if these unsociable types didn’t intrude into their neighbours homes, then their neighbours wouldn’t complain about it?

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