Letters: ‘Fifty Shades’ on the last sexual frontier?

These letters appear in the February 14 edition of The Independent

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If Fifty Shades of Grey  promoted sadism – the infliction of unwanted pain to pleasure the aggressor – Andrew McLuskey (letter, 12 February) would have a case for its suppression. If it celebrates shared gratification then it is to be welcomed for acknowledging an acceptable sexuality formed without reference to EL James’s novel.

Non-adherents would understand the paradox whereby the receivers, who are ultimately in control, are also having their needs met.

Mr McLuskey invokes the spirit of Mary Whitehouse, one of whose targets was gay expression. Now that we are done congratulating ourselves on accepting homosexuality, perhaps we can start acknowledging  the many, many other expressions of the human libido.

Chris Barton


Although not personally involved in a BDSM relationship, I understand that in a true BDSM relationship, everything is negotiated beforehand and that limits are set and adhered to and that the submissive, whether female or male, holds all the power and can end everything by saying their safe word.

Remember how homosexuals were afraid to “come out” and still are in some cases, and how certain people really believed that homosexual men were paedophiles who targeted under-age boys? Hopefully, most people have a better understanding of homosexuality these days.

Are we not in danger of treating people whose sexual preference is for BDSM in the same way by equating their lifestyle with physical and sexual abuse? How many people in the public eye have dared to  come out and admit that their sexual preference is for BDSM?

Is this because they fear it will cause damage to their careers and leave them open to personal attack in a similar way that homosexuals in this country used to?

If Fifty Shades of Grey helps to reduce intolerance and raises public awareness of what a BDSM lifestyle actually entails, in just the same way that certain influential films and books have helped people to a better understanding of homosexuality, then surely that is a good thing? BDSM, the last sexual frontier?

Lesley White
Wokingham, Berkshire


How Lib Dems betrayed their supporters

I do not know what planet Jeremy Browne is living on, but it must have a delightfully hallucinogenic atmosphere (“Ex-Lib Dem minister slams ‘insipid’ Clegg”, 13 February).

For many, the Liberal Democrats were dead in the water the moment they joined a coalition with the Tories. For many others, their utter failure to moderate the most savage, extreme right-wing policies ever inflicted on the British explodes his claim that were the Coalition to be standing as a party in the forthcoming election it would be a shoo-in.

I live in a constituency (Stratford-upon-Avon) so safely Conservative that were the party to select a rock as its candidate it would win by a mile.  Hence, I have voted Lib Dem on the grounds that since, round here, Labour is about as effective as an ashtray on a motorbike, that party stands the best chance of upsetting any applecart, even though that is no chance at all. 

I shall not vote for the party again. And if there are many like me, that will leave it with a core vote of true believers and very few seats, if any, after the election. 

Michael Rosenthal
Upper Brailes, Warwickshire


The rest of us pay for tax avoidance

Why is it any surprise that HSBC and PwC have been offering tax avoidance and/or tax evasion services to their clients in Switzerland and Luxembourg? Both avoidance and evasion have the same effect. The majority of taxpayers, unable to indulge in either because they pay their taxes through PAYE, make up the shortfall in tax collections in the UK or wind up enduring inferior public services. The cause of chronic under-spending in care for the elderly, a crumbling NHS and a defence budget that must be a joy to the Kremlin is the year-on-year shortfall of revenues not collected from those who want to reap the benefit of the UK way of life but want others to pay for it.

Until this conduct is stamped out, government should ban financial institutions involved from tendering for work in the public sector. In the meantime, whistleblowers who have brought these issues into the open must be rewarded financially as in the US. The largest single reward by the US regulator, the SEC, is $14m. The SEC pays between 10 per cent and 30 per cent of the amount collected as a result of the information received.

Keith V Potts
Solihull, West Midlands


Lord Fink claims that “everyone” is involved in tax avoidance. I don’t think he’s right. But in any case, there’s a categorical difference between a little off-hand tax avoidance and paying other people lots of money to do your systematic tax avoidance for you.

Brian Palmer


I object to being called “rich” or “wealthy” because I can buy pensioner bonds. I have put most of my savings into them – but I am middle-class, not rich. “Rich” these days means millions, not thousands.

John Hawgood


Churchill and the Rhondda strike

As neither Richard Humble (letter, 4 February) or I was present in the Rhondda in 1910, we must rely on reported information. Much of this information has been edited and skewed over the years, depending on the allegiance of the reporter.

With regard to the Metropolitan Police, their presence in the area could only have been with the permission of the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill. The unit of the Metropolitan Police sent to Tonypandy was not a foot unit but the mounted section, and my maternal grandfather was a witness to their charge at the demonstrators in the narrow confines of the then minuscule Tonypandy “Square”.

Troops were sent into the Valleys, and one unit was based at the Clydach Hotel, Clydach Vale, and was still stationed there during the 1911 census. There is a local tale that when the troops paraded along the road they were the targets of “night soil” thrown from bedroom windows of the terrace houses.

As a small boy my father witnessed troops pursuing demonstrators up the mountain slopes of Craig-yr-Eos, Penygraig, only to withdraw under a barrage of boulders rolled down the slopes. One large boulder embedded itself into the railings above the local school, where it remained for a number of years.

Churchill’s decisions in 1910 may have come back to haunt him in the 1945 election. Until 1910 the Liberal Party had held sway in the Rhondda as the Socialist/Labour groups were regarded with circumspection by the strong non-conformist chapel population, but after “the Riots”, the Liberals (then Churchill’s party) were deserted for Labour.

Ann Coles
Fareham, Hampshire


Nuns really could teach

What on earth makes Terence Blacker, in support of Tristram Hunt on Question Time, assume that religious sisters who teach are unqualified (9 February)? Few now teach but those who do, and did, are, and were, properly qualified.

Moreover, until quite recently women’s religious orders actually ran a number of distinguished teacher training colleges throughout the country for decades, among them Roehampton, which is now a university.

In addition, as a historian Tristram Hunt should have been aware of the pioneering work in education done for centuries by women religious for the poor, and especially women. Many women religious hold prestigious academic posts all over the world, too, in many subjects, including education itself.

In their facile judgment on teaching sisters these gentlemen have revealed their own deficiencies, not the nuns’.

Jackie Hawkins


Where to view Magna Carta

In reporting the discovery of a Magna Carta fragment in the files of Kent County Council, paired with the Charter of the Forest in a Victorian scrapbook, you state that there is only one other such pair in the world, owned by Oriel College, Oxford (9 February).

In fact, Lincoln Castle is the home of both a complete original copy of Magna Carta and of the Charter of the Forest that followed it. It is the only place where the public can view both documents together. From next April, both will be on display in a splendid new visitor centre in the castle’s grounds.

David Head
Navenby, Lincolnshire


Tudor times of social mobility

I am very much enjoying the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall. What are the chances of the son of a butcher or the son of a blacksmith rising, in the 21st century, to become the most powerful figure in the land?

M T Harris
Grimsby, Lincolnshire