Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019
“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.
Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” — Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, along with the others who founded this country, was very smart. He realized that government, any government, would likely devolve into tyranny over time, and it was vitally important for the people to mount an armed opposition. Now don’t misunderstand me. “Armed” doesn’t necessarily mean armed with guns. It can mean armed with unfettered freedom of the press and expression. The pen was mightier than the sword — today the Internet may be mightier than the guns of the would be oppressors. That’s why I’m denied Internet access in prison. My ideas are dangerous to my oppressors.
Today, all of the laws of the Federal and state codes and courts would fill a large library. Law has become so complex that no one person can possibly be familiar with all of it, and it gets worse every time the legislatures meet, and the hundreds of courts hand down decisions. In the resulting quagmire, something that is perfectly legal in one state becomes a. crime, sometimes a serious crime, the instant you step across an invisible state border.
In the late 1960s, I lived in Washington, DC. I was in my early twenties and my girlfriend, who lived with me, was sixteen. That was perfectly legal in DC, where the age of consent was sixteen, but if we visited my friends in Virginia, we’d better not sleep together, because she was illegal in Virginia. We did anyway, but I could have been in serious trouble if the police found out and chose to enforce that particular silly law.
When I was going to Germany regularly, I did nude photo shoots with professional models, one of them a friend’s daughter, who were sixteen and seventeen. Those photographs are potentially illegal in the USA. If I’d gone over to the Czech Republic, the legal age was fifteen. These weren’t erotic images in my opinion, just artistic nudes shot outdoors in public parks, but as long as we have judges and juries that find any nude images at all intolerable, no one who photographs nudes is safe. Were these idiots born fully clothed?
After what happened to Jock Sturges and my friend Lee Higgs, both raided by the FBI, I was afraid to take the chance and bring my European nudes home, but it did me no good, because the judge and jury I went before found my perfectly legal images offensive.
BTW, neither Sturges nor Higgs was ever charged with anything, but homes were raided, wives and children terrorized, and confiscated photos and equipment returned damaged, or not returned at all.
Sturges had photographed young nudes in France, where no one cared. Higgs had proof all his models were legal, but that didn’t prevent the raid. His cool book Generation Fetish is a classic, but 100% legal.
If nothing is done about silly laws and our crazy “justice system” soon the volume of laws will be so great that almost anything you do will violate at least one.
Just like those who can justify anything with a quote from the Bible, you can find good, valid law to support just about any premise.
Worst are what I call anti-pleasure laws, laws against having fun.
The Honorable Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, recently said:
“We need to accept that behaviors and actions of others that are not aligned with our own mental perspectives do not need to be turned into criminal offences.”
What a perceptive and succinct statement of the problem. Our society has become more and more intolerant of those who choose to be different, and I’m in prison solely because of that intolerance.
Unfortunately, those men who wrote our Constitution and Bill of Rights did not spell out a right to privacy, a right to be left alone. The U. S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, in 2007, said that any private sexual activity between consenting adults was none of the government’s damned business, and struck down the Texas law against “sodomy,” taking with it similar laws in a number of other states.
OK, let’s analyze that a bit. If I decide I’m horny and in need of some company, and call an escort service, and a young woman (or man, depending on my sex and orientation) comes to my residence or hotel room and we have sex, so long as we’re both consenting adults, there’s no crime, right? Nope, they can still bust us. “But the Supreme Court said it was OK,” we argue. “Yes,” they answer, “but you can’t charge for or pay for it.” Where’s that in the Court’s ruling? Read Lawrence v. Texas, and you won’t see that anywhere. I have a copy of the case right here, and it quite plainly does not say that.
The problem is that local police, prosecutors, and judges have a habit of ignoring court rulings they don’t like. After Lawrence, prostitution should have been legal throughout the USA, and not just in a few places in Nevada.
My friends and I, so long as we’re all consenting adults, should be able to hold S & M orgies in private without the fear of some idiot puritans busting us because they’re terrified that someone somewhere might be having sex for reasons other than procreation. Someone might be having too much fun. In his dissent in the Lawrence case, Justice Scalia worried that the ruling might legalize drug use in private by consenting adults. So fucking what if it did? So long as no one is forced to participate, and no children are involved, why should it be anybody else’s business?
And, with young people maturing much earlier, we need to revise our definition of “child.” I’ve known thirteen year olds who were already sexually active with partners their own age, and whose parents got them birth control pills. Those were children?
About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348. Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-the-loss-of-a-fine-photographer/
Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.