Unequal ages: the age of consent is 16 for heterosexuals, but 18 for gay men.
Unequal protection: if a girl under 16 has sex with a man, she commits no offence; only the man is guilty of an offence. If a young gay man under 18 has sex with a man, he himself is committing an offence. On the one hand the law says he is not old enough to make up his own mind, on the other hand when he does so he is treated as a criminal, not a victim. In January a young man in Bolton who had gay sex at 17 was convicted of gross indecency. The police came to arrest him at his place of work and he lost his job as a result.
Unequal enforcement: a Home Office study found that in most cases of unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under 16 the police do not press charges. By contrast gay sex with a boy under 16 is seen as a very serious offence.
Unequal penalties: the penalty for an age of consent offence is up to two years in prison for heterosexuals but up to five years for gay men. (So it is two years for heterosexual sex with a girl of 13, but five years for gay sex with a young man of 17).
Unequal sentencing: a woman in her late thirties who had an affair with a boy of 14, and took him to Florida with her, was not sent to prison. She got two years' probation. If a man in his late thirties had a relationship with a boy of 14 there is no question he would be sent to prison.
Unequal definitions of paedophiles: heterosexuals only have to register as sex offenders if they have sex with someone under 16; gay men are seen as paedophiles if they have sex with someone under 18. This bolsters the widespread prejudice that gay men are more likely to be paedophiles than heterosexual men. In Bolton a young man of only 20 who had sex with a 17 year old has been forced to register as a Sex Offender.
Unequal charges: heterosexuals who have sex in public commit a minor offence known as "outraging public decency". If they are prosecuted (which is rare) the most it warrants is a small fine. Gay men who have sex in public are guilty of "gross indecency between males", a gay-only offence which carries up to two years in prison. They could be charged with outraging public decency, but the more serious charge is used.
Unequal enforcement: public sex offences generally take place in remote areas after dark and gay sex offenders are generally only detected because the police go looking for them. The police do not go to places where heterosexuals are known to have sex in cars looking to arrest people for outraging public decency.
Unequal sentences: men convicted of gross indecency in London currently get fines of up to £200; outside of London the fines can be much higher, up to £1,000. But where heterosexuals have sex in public, even in full view of the public, they seem to be let off lightly. In 1992 a couple who had sexual intercourse on a crowded train were fined £50. Last year a man and a woman who had sex on a car bonnet in a Heathrow car park were let off with a conditional discharge. They did what they did in broad daylight (they were making a porn video) and they could easily have been seen by the public or even by children. Yet they got a conditional discharge, which is virtually unheard of for gay men convicted of gross indecency.
In 1996 however a man found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm after branding his initials on his wife's buttocks at her own request had his conviction overturned by the Court of Appeal. Lord Justice Russell said that "sexual activity between husband and wife in the privacy of the home is not a matter for criminal investigation, let alone criminal prosecution". He said the proceedings should never have been brought and "had served no useful purpose".
The same offences should apply regardless of gender or sexual orientation and they should be equally enforced regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
The unequal law which makes SM sex a crime for gay men but not, it seems for heterosexuals, should be dealt with as part of the reform of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.