Celeb sex is not in the public interest

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 27 April 2011 in Diary
Is it really in the public interest to know about sex lives of the rich and the famous? Francesca Preece argues why super-injunctions are the last scrap of privacy some celebrities can afford

Yes, I’m all for gagging. But not quite in the way wannabe Liberal Democrat councillor Holly-Ann Battye is.

Super-injunctions have been at the centre of the media recently. Big Brother girl Imogen Thomas provoked a flurry of headlines after she was unveiled as the secret love interest of a married footballer: He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Cue page after page of the BB beauty looking downtrodden and teary in skimpy clothes and outraged demands that the footballer, whoever he is, be revealed.

Most would happily support the fourth estate on this issue - but I am not one of them. Super-injunctions may strike at the very heart of the principle of freedom of press - that you are justified to print what you like - but there are some things that should remain private – private lives.

Journalist Andrew Marr has admitted to taking out a super-injunction to prevent his own dalliances being splashed in the press. Hypocrisy? Of course.

But while he has apologised for attempting to keep his affair of three years ago off the record, he admits there is no interest in it.

Despite lifting the lid, he said: "I also had my own family to think about, and I believed this story was nobody else's business. I still believe there was, under those circumstances, no legitimate public interest in it."

And do you know what? I agree.

While the public interest in Andrew Marr’s case would be his ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach to interviews, with no questions allowed on his own life, is there really a hunger to know every finite detail of what exactly he got up to? I think the thought of this respectable journalist in the throes of passion is not something we really want etched in our minds.

Marr’s stated aim was to protect his children from public embarrassment. And why should a teenage son or daughter of a star face see their father or mother’s misdemeanours splashed across the press? It must be bad enough to go through such events in private, let alone under the harsh glare of the media spotlight too.

We assume as a media consumer that we have an all access pass to the lives of the rich and famous. Stars like Jordan and Kerry Katona have every minute of their lives documented and sold for personal gain, and it is understood that this is the game they and the media are playing.  But should publicity-shy celebrities be subjected to the same laws as those who conduct their lives for the camera?

If a super-injunction seeks to protect details of the indiscretions of a footballer, or an actor, or a TV star, then what business is it of ours to know? Is it a sackable offence? Is it breaking the law? Is it hypocrisy?

If it’s none of the above, then what has it got to do with us? Why do we need to know? Is it for gossip’s sake or a legitimate reason?

People moan that celebs are buying protection from the law but last time I checked, adultery was legal, however immoral in our eyes. If the super-injunction applicant has broken the law I would feel differently.

Despite my media training, I don’t think that we really have a right to print stories about what-so-and-so likes to do with whatshisname behind closed doors. Sorry fellow journos, but it’s not fair game. Even if whathisname is also seeing thingamabob on the side.

Sex, be it with a wife, husband or mistress, is a personal thing. And I’m not even sure people care enough for it to merit its place in the newspaper.

Provided the super-injunctions aren’t allowing the rich to use a get out of jail free card for committing an illegal offence, then why should we care? Freedom of press should not extend beyond the bedroom threshold. Could a journalist be really happy to allow their love lives spread across an edition of some magazine or newspaper? We take for granted that we can live our lives without journos door-stopping us, or our latest squeeze/ex dishing the dirt of what it’s like to be with us. If this was your life and you had the opportunity to hold back certain info, would you do it?

Just because a person has acquired fame for their acting or singing, it doesn’t mean that we should rifle through their knicker drawers. It is irrelevant. Not everyone signed up to the celebrity package, with its terms and conditions saying you must give up your entire privacy. For most stars who have something to be famous for (sorry Jordan), the focus on their private lives is an uninvited intrusion. Most have reached their fame because of their talent, not their t*ts.

There are illegitimate uses of super-injunctions, such as the attempt by disgraced banker Fred Goodwin’s attempt to prevent identification as... a banker. When it’s in the public interest to know details of a specific case, judges shouldn’t be so ready to hand out super-injunctions. But stars’ flings must not be considered in the same category as affairs of state.

The sex lives of normal people are kept private by the media’s lack of interest in us. Why shouldn’t the famous have the same anonymity?

Injunctions may be ‘running out of control’ in some people’s eyes. 

But some things should remain behind closed doors. Injunctions, whether or not we like them, are able to offer some basic privacy.

And if a super-injunction means that Andrew Marr’s sordid sex life is kept under wraps, I’m all for them!

Tags: Andrew Marr, Super-injunction

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