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Wednesday, January 19, 2011 

This is a post about sex.

Treacherous as it may be to comment on subjects I know little about (although that's hardly stopped me in the past), the position taken by Peter and Hazel Bull, the devout Christian couple who have been found to have acted unlawfully in denying a double room to Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy at their private hotel in Cornwall does seem to have more than a few flaws in it.

If Fawlty Towers taught us anything, it was that hoteliers seem to have incredibly arbitrary rules as well as more than a few quirks, something more than reflected here. The Bull's case was that, rather than discriminating on the grounds that Hall and Preddy were gay, their long-held stance was that only married couples were allowed to rent rooms with a double bed. As the ruling, which is worth reading in full makes clear, this was stated on their website on the booking form. Preddy found the Bull's hotel on the internet, but booked by phoned. Mrs Bull happened to be feeling ill on the day she took the booking and so didn't make clear the rule on double rooms as she would normally have. Believers in fate will doubtless reach the conclusion this was simply meant to happen.

What soon becomes clear is that the whole debacle is just as much about the apparent sacred nature of the marital bed, whether it's at home or on holiday as it is about pre-marital or homosexual intercourse. The Bull's beliefs, quoted by Judge Andrew Rutherford as

monogamous heterosexual marriage is the form of partnership uniquely intended for full sexual relations between persons and that homosexual sexual relations (as opposed to homosexual orientation), and heterosexual sexual relations outside marriage, are sinful

are somewhat undermined by the fact that they have apparently never had any problem with unmarried or even gay couples renting a room with two single beds. It certainly isn't impossible to have sex in a single bed, or for instance, in the bath or in the shower, especially if the rooms are en-suite and so avoiding the chance of being caught in flagrante, or even on the floor, standing up in the room or perhaps, if a couple were feeling really adventurous, in the wardrobe. None of these may be as comfortable or as conducive to a extended session as a double bed with a sturdy structure, the mattress kitted out in clean linen, yet there's definitely far worse places where coitus has been interrupted.

This is of course if we believe the Bull's. The judge at the outset says that the case was in one sense a pleasure to try as he didn't think any of the five individuals directly involved were deliberately setting out to mislead the court. The only point of real doubt is the mentioning of a newspaper article back in 1996 which made clear the Bull's views on "
their refusal to allow unmarried couples to share the same room". They could have become less strict since then, or it could be an issue of semantics, as the whole use of "double room" to mean a room with a double bed rather than a room with two single beds is.

Then there's this to consider. Just how many couples actually do have sex while staying at a small private hotel for only one or two nights, especially one where it's clear that their hosts hold traditional views on the matter? The answer I would hazard, and I'm really engaging in uneducated guesswork here, is not all that many. While it's understandable that they don't want their guests to even have the opportunity to commit an act of "sin" in a hotel they run on Christian principles (although apparently they're willing to take the chance with those who rent twin singles), doesn't that say more about their preoccupations and neuroses than it does about the potential for their guests to start breaking out the dutch caps, KY jelly and love eggs? Traditional, orthodox and good decent people they certainly are, but there's still something self-defeating going on beneath the surface.

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