I think I can probably say with a degree of shameful confidence that I was not the only man – or woman, come to that – whose first response upon hearing the bizarre case of Gayle Newland was ‘Why didn’t she video it?’ Okay, so it’s not something most would be especially proud of, but as sexual fantasies go it was certainly an original one and would have been a good deal more entertaining than the majority of those that stretch the nation’s broadband connections to breaking point in the wee small hours. Beyond the admirable dedication to deception by both parties (lest we forget), this particularly strange incident highlights the muddied moral and legal waters physical intimacy has become bogged down in.

For those not in the know, 27-year-old Gayle Newland seduced an allegedly unknowing female friend by entering into a post-‘Fifty Shades’ fantasy whereby the online (male) identity she had cultivated since the age of 13 arranged to meet with said friend. However, to maintain the mystery that ‘Miss X’ willingly entered into, somewhat kinky rules were laid down that the lady accepted from the off. We are told ‘Miss X’ had no idea who the man was that demanded she wear a blindfold even before the pair of them got down and dirty. A woman who only knows someone from (presumably) fruity online chinwags and then crosses the cyber boundary by meeting up with them in person agrees to never actually look the fellow in the eye? A complete stranger she voluntarily puts herself in the hands of with no regards for her personal safety whatsoever? Miss X is either the thickest woman on the planet or her claims of being deceived should’ve been thrown out of court on day one of the original trial.

Firstly, Gayle Newland must be a remarkable mimic. Some women are gifted with irresistibly sexy husky voices, but even the vocal talents of Joan Greenwood, Tara Fitzgerald or Fenella Fielding at their 40-a-day huskiest could hardly be confused with those of Barry White. There’s a world of tonal difference between the two that could only ever fool someone who either wants to be fooled or chooses to ignore the aural evidence. Even if she employed the technical tricks used by the likes of ‘Anonymous’ in disguising her voice, surely that should have set alarm bells ringing?

Secondly, Miss Newland’s elaborate tactics once her ‘victim’ acquiesced with her mystery man’s desire to get his leg over – binding her breasts and donning a strap-on dildo – would have brought Miss X’s other senses to the fore. Even if she couldn’t see the deception with her own eyes, she must be incredibly inexperienced in carnal matters if she cannot tell the difference between a facsimile penis and the real thing. And despite Newland’s best efforts, a woman’s body undoubtedly feels and smells different to a man’s – not quite as hairy, for one thing, especially at a time when anything pubic is verboten where the young female form is concerned.

So, we have a scenario wherein a woman embarks upon a sexual relationship with an anonymous stranger she initially met online and yet never lays eyes upon him, a sexual relationship that spanned at least ten different rounds of bedroom gymnastics, and yet all the time Miss X unswervingly believed she was being given one by a member of the opposite sex? Do me a favour! The whole assignation was wrapped in knowing fantasy from the moment the inaugural exchanges took place on the internet. This was implicit before the two even met in person, let alone when they did meet, and Miss X was never once allowed to see her seducer. Yet Gayle Newland received an eight–year prison sentence in 2015 and has just received a six-and-a-half year one after a retrial following an appeal.

There was an infamous case around twenty years back when a bunch of sadomasochistic gay guys were done for deliberately inflicting pain upon one another during a private gang-bang – something involving hammers, nails and other DIY tools that Black & Decker didn’t specifically design for such an occasion – and the general public’s response to the intervention of the police and the judiciary was largely that neither had any business interfering in something the participants entered into with full knowledge of what it would entail.

The Sexual Offences Act of 2003 states that a person agrees to sexual activity ‘if she/he agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice’. Miss X agreed to sexual activity with Gayle Newland in her male alter-ego; granted, she didn’t realise she was being rogered by a woman she regarded as a platonic pal; but surely the thrill of the unknown was a key element of the gamble she decided to take when complying with the unconventional circumstances in the first place? After all, the mystery man could’ve been her father, for all she knew.

Gayle Newland was hardly alone in adopting a persona for online correspondence. Every contributor to this here blog, author and commentator, uses a pseudonym when posting, for example; and there are various long-established sites that take this one step further as nom-de-plumes are expanded into fictitious personas that enter into fantasy affairs with their fellow fantasists. One could argue both are harmless fun in which awareness on both sides invalidates accusations of deception. By transferring this kind of interaction from mobile or monitor to the bedroom, the two participants have to be conscious of what they’re doing; and by Miss X acquiescing with Newland’s admittedly odd demands, she was preparing to take a risk she ultimately took.

Had Gayle Newland killed Miss X in a hit-and-run accident, the sentence she received could well have been half the length of the original sentence she received in 2015 (as well as the one she received today) for having sex with her; had she inadvertently strangled her during one of their sex sessions, the sentence probably wouldn’t have been much longer than eight years. So, one has to ask the question why a consensual act of sexual intercourse – remember, Miss X didn’t object – has resulted in a mentally confused young woman addicted to the make-believe realm of cyberspace (hardly unique in 2017) being twice condemned to years behind bars. Is she being punished for what she did or the times in which she did it?

© The Editor