16 Pages

Censoring the Body: Whores, Goddesses and Annie Sprinkle

First a cautionary tale. In the Spring of 1995 I was writing a piece on pornography and performance. I had heard of Annie Sprinkle and her erotic forays into live art and knew she was still as much a focal point for academic feminists in the United States as Robert Mapplethorpe had been for queer culture in the 1980s. But I had no visual evidence in the shape of a video cassette. After all she had, to my knowledge, only performed once in the United Kingdom and then in the hermetic art-house ambience of Glasgow's Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA). I telephoned the director there, a former student from years back. She regretted that no video of the show had been made but gave me a contact address. One name led to another, tha t of Sprinkle's California agen t, Roger Wharton of REW Videos: Videos of Erotic Educators who replied to my request in the following terms:

It did not "clear". On 8 June 1995 I received a form headed "Notice of Seizure: Indecent and Obscene Material" from Office Seizures, Her Majesty's Customs and Excise. If I decided to contest the forfeiture, it would, I was informed, be a matter for the court :"to be knowingly concerned in importing prohibited items .. . could lead to criminal proceedings", a conviction would involve "heavy financial penalties" and, it was added darkly "in certain cases, imprisonment".