Occasionally, there are news stories that at first sight seem so ridiculous, that on first impressions you just laugh. But then, on closer inspection, they send chills down your spine and really make you wonder, just how far can the state now go. What, if anything, is left sacred.
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.”
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.
Welcome to 1984.
Update: I should also probably add the following quote, in case you weren’t horrified enough: “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.”