In the news today: the Max Mosley trial continues. Note for readers from the future: he enjoyed a BDSM session with a group of women, who have been described widely as “prostitutes” by the media. He had these regularly, and so wasn’t expecting that one day in spring, one of them would pop a video camera down her cleavage and sell the footage to the News Of The World. Oops. So he’s suing for exemplary damages – in other words, he doesn’t just want recompense, he wants retribution.
I have to say, though, that I don’t think he deserved much sympathy. Not because he’s rich and powerful. Not because of who his father was, or because he has his own murky right-wing past. I don’t think his sex life deserves to be exposed because he has a prominent job: what he gets up to in the bedroom should have no effect on how well he can carry out his job. What does give me a moral twinge, though, is that he’s apparently been hiding his sex life from his wife for almost their entire marriage. According to his statements in court: he’s been involved in the BDSM scene, safely and without exposure, for 45 years – in other words, since his early 20s, when he was a law student active in far-right politics. However, at the same time, he said, his wife had no idea of his kinky inclination until the NotW revealed all. Mosley married in 1960, around the age of 20; from what he’s said, he must have been getting his kicks from the BDSM scene since the early years of his marriage, going behind his wife’s back for decades.
Mrs Mosley is, apparently, devastated by Max’s exposure in the press. I can imagine. It’s a lot to take in. I can’t think to imagine how she feels.
Everyone’s entitled to keep their life private from the general public – but I’m not so sure that they’re entitled to keep it private from their partner quite to that extent. It’s common, though – especially online – for men to approach the BDSM scene with an “I have these urges but I can’t tell my wife” attitude. In the general scene – what you might call the non-professional side – they usually get advised not to go behind their partner’s back; but I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the money in the pro-dominatrix market comes from this sort of chap.* Mosley is, on the one hand, a sign that such men can get along happily for years** so long as the press isn’t likely to be interested in them. The BDSM community might frown on you if you want to go behind your wife’s back, but they will generally consider it to be your own business if you do. On the other hand: he’s also a sign that you can’t necessarily keep something quiet forever. When your partner does find out, you only have yourself to blame.
* For one thing: although the pro-dominatrix market is saturated, prices are still rather high, partly because although there are endless swarms of pro-dominatrixes around very few of them are very good at what they do, and partly because being a good pro-dominatrix can be pricy, just to stay stocked up with all the silly PVC clothes that the customers are paying to drool over. It’s only the well-off men who can afford to hire one regularly, and they’re more likely than average to be settled with a partner.
** assuming they can afford it. A Mosley-ish session would probably have cost him somewhere between one and two thousand quid a time, at a rough guess.
Update, July 9th 2008: my rough guess there was somewhat on the low side. According to the report in today’s Guardian, Mosley was paying £500 to each participant. That’s about £100 per hour, or £2500 for the whole session. He also paid the rent on the flat where it took place.