Free the Woods!
D J Webb
In the novel 1984, Winston Smith was able to escape the intrusive surveillance cameras of Big Brother by going into the woods, where he could have sex with Julia away from prying, official eyes. The activity known as “dogging”—I believe areas where gay men are known to gather for outdoor sex are known as “cruising grounds”—may not be the very pinnacle of cultured behaviour. But human beings are, when all is said and done, part of the animal kingdom. We have physical urges, and only in an unfree society could the state ensure that all such urges are satisfied in locked rooms with the lights out.
Put that way, dogging in the woods is a minor peccadillo—one that all young people should engage in at some point in their lives. Sex on the beach, a fumble at the urinals in a public toilet, a bit of bumping and grinding in the corner of a club where others may stumble over the proceedings, sex with all and sundry in a dark room in a gay club: these are all to be understood under the heading of “living life”. I have made a reputation in libertarian circles for supporting family values: I believe that children should be put first by their parents and parents should not willy-nilly abandon relationships in a way that renders the children fatherless. But to suggest people should never sow any of their wild oats ever would be to deny part of our nature. Single people are more able to behave in a rakish fashion, but in any case the notion that dogging and cruising, by anyone, should be prevented by the state would have to be rejected out of a hand by any libertarian.
Reading recent news reports that a service station near Penllergaer woods in Swansea is taking action to prevent the woods from hosting free love led me to wonder about the legality of the measures being taken by the service station. These include installing CCTV cameras in their car-parks with images of illicit activity, it is claimed, being transmitted for display on large screens. The service station has also pinned up warnings that it will dial 999 if any “lewd” behaviour takes place. The local Forestry Commission has intervened to reduce tree cover in the area, so that there are few open spaces behind which furtive bumping and grinding can take place.
I cannot understand why the local police have not made clear to the service station that wasting police time is a crime—and that if they do dial 999 over “dogging”, they will be endangering the lives of people who need ambulances and the fire brigade, and that criminal charges will always be filed against service stations who abuse the 999 system to pursue a private moral agenda against customers parked in their car park.
Even more serious, in my view, is the deliberate wasting of public money by the Forestry Commission to prevent dogging. The fact that adequate tree cover was available before this news report shows that nothing substantial could be seen by anyone walking through the woods. There is simply no justification for public money to be spent to destroy tree cover and thus prevent dogging. We should not become a country with sparse arboreal vegetation simply in order to prevent sex. What on earth do these people think our cavemen ancestors used to do in order to procreate, and where do they think they did it?
The police have also increased their patrols of the woods area: it is quite amazing how the non-existent police force can be summoned into life for the sole purpose of preventing free love in the woods. The woods belong to our nation. Free the woods. The woods are par excellence a good location for sex, simply because in any free society, and even in the 1984 of Winston Smith’s Airstrip One, sexual activity in the woods will not be monitored by any sane government. The dog walkers—a demographic over the sexual hill in my experience—must be told to find other focuses in life beyond attempting to prevent sexual activity—a normal response to a natural physical urge—from taking place behind bushes. Finally, the local police and Forestry Commission need to have their budgets reduced if they have spare resources to devote to this agenda.