The arrest of a woman for having loud sex conjures up echoes of George Orwell’s 1984 for the astute, libertarian magazine Reason. Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill reports on the “bizarre and terrifying situation” for the publication, explaining that 48-year-old Caroline Cartwright of Wearside, England was remanded in custody in April for “excessively noisy sex.”
“How did Cartwright’s expressions of noisy joy become a police case, scheduled to be ruled on at Newcastle Crown Court, one of the biggest courts in the north of England?” O’Neill supposes one might wonder. There’s a heck of an answer:
Because, unbelievably, Cartwright had previously been served with an antisocial behavior order—a civil order used to control the minutiae of British people’s behavior—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.
Antisocial behavior orders (ASBOs), introduced in England in 1998, are civil orders pertaining to citizens who do things that cause (or are likely to cause) harm, alarm, or distress. Hearsay evidence is allowed. In O’Neill’s take, “the ASBO system has turned much of Britain into a curtaintwitching, neighbor-watching, noisepolicing gang of spies.”