Mary Whitehouse, we miss you!

So yesterday I wrote about the online threats being thrown at feminists via Twitter and I said I was going to write today about porn, because yesterdays abuse, aimed at Vicky Beeching seemed to start after she wrote in support of the Lose the Lads Mag campaign.

This is what they say about their campaign:

We’re calling on high-street shops to lose the lads’ mags – or risk possible legal action. Lads’ mags promote sexist attitudes and behaviours. They normalise the idea that it’s acceptable to treat women like sex objects. Yet despite widespread criticism over the years, high-street supermarkets and newsagents have continued to display and sell these degrading and harmful publications. But customers and shop employees don’t have to put up with it any longer.UK Feminista and Object have obtained brand new legal advice showing that displaying and selling lads’ mags and papers with Page 3-style front cover images can constitute sexual harassment or sex discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Employees could take legal action against shops on this basis. Where the magazine is visibly on display, customers could also have a claim. The writing’s on the wall for retailers: by selling lads mags they are open to legal action. But these companies will only act to avoid this if they think enough people know about it.

The abuse levelled at Vicky Beeching was personal, over the top, unnecessary and included plenty of foul language. I wrote yesterday about why people would tweet such abusive and offensive stuff without a second thought so I won’t repeat that, but it has also made me think about porn, what it is and why we are so worried about it.

Looking at the naked human form is not a new thing. For centuries artists have depicted naked men and women in creative form. Classical Greece and Rome were slightly obsessed with it, famous artists have sought out the best models, they’ve had muses to encourage them in their work, but then it was mostly just art. So, what has changed?

Well you could say that then it was ‘just art’ and people saw it as such, but then I’m not so sure that it was. Classical Rome particularly was known for it’s debauchery, with some temple Gods being worshipped by spending time with prostitutes, so perhaps their slight obsession with depicting the naked human form was born out of their sexual desires? Rather hilariously I learned when studying art history that Victorians were so offended by the numerous classical nude statues appearing in British Museums and Galleries  that penises were broken off and that the British Museum has boxes full of them. Whether this is true or an urban myth I chose to ignore! But Victorians did take a rather more prudish view of life it’s true, which historians seem to think is a reaction to the previous Georgian era, yet many believe it was during the Victorian era that pornography as we now think of it was first introduced.

Manets ‘Olympia’

But then you also have during that era the scandal caused by Manet’s depiction of Olympia when it was shown in 1865. Largely this was not because it was of a naked woman but because she was thought to be a prostitute. If you want to know more about this scandal a good post is here. 

Thing is, for centuries the availability of such artwork, erotica and even porn was only accessible to the artists themselves, the rich and the influential. Widespread printing was the first invention that enabled this to go further. When I was at uni I did a study on the history of pornography and it was interesting to note that Victorian printed black and white line drawings, done then purely for titilation were seen by some as scandalous. Goodness knows what they would think of todays versions… and that is the difference between art and porn, that porn is purely to entice people, to turn people on, to titilate. Art usually has a purpose or a meaning in it’s depiction (not that that makes it alright, it often doesn’t).

So now, not only do we have widespread printing, we have the internet, accessible to all, kids too, with some of the hardest most explicit porn available to see at the click of a button. Porn is accessible to just about everyone and you don’t even have to buy it. I am not going to even start on the issue of what it does to women’s esteem, the sex trafficking industry, lap dancing clubs, sex shops and so on. 

Editor of lads mag, Loaded, for years, Martin Daubney, recently wrote this article for the Daily Mail, discussing some of the seedier parts of his job, including nipple counts, and readers wanting ‘acres of flesh’. It’s a good read especially for anyone who doubts the concerns of those fighting against such magazines. (Although I’ve got to admit it’s pretty hypocritical of the Daily Mail who are continually printing pictures of celebs in bikins on holiday and then proceeding to knock the extra inches or the few pounds they have put on…)

What I am particulalry concerned about as a woman and as a parent is that this stuff is freely available and viewable by my kids. Any newsagent, store or supermarket stocks newspapers featuring page 3 (often with a pic on the cover) and lads mags with semi naked women on the cover, for all to see. I don’t want my kids, when they are picking out their Moshi Monsters Mags, to see that. I teach them the value of women, that women have gifts men don’t, that we are all different but all loved the same. It’s not like there are loads of mags with half naked men lined up next to them – because largely women are not into this. Men are turned on by seeing stuff, women by touch. So to see women depicted in this way, as objects to lust over, is not a healthy image to portray to anyone, let alone kids.

Gosh sometimes I think I sound like Mary Whitehouse but really I think someone needs to take her place. Whatever happened to the watershed? It astounds me the stuff that is allowed on the radio during the day, the dancers on mainstream TV at 7pm in the evening. I took my kids to see a live show of a well known TV show, a family show, that began at 6.30pm in the evening and yet there was so much sexual innuendo going on. Not long ago I had one of my kids friends in the car who sang along, word for word to ‘Sex on fire’ by Kings of Leon when it came on the radio. That was a defining moment for me. An 8 year old sat in my car singing ‘your sex is on fire’…. and yes I did turn the radio off! Mary W, rise from the grave and come back and take your place, we need you!

Where have our ideals gone? where have our morals gone? When did we stop fighting for what is right? Seriously do we think it is ok for our kids to see half naked women paraded across supermarket shelves? do we think it’s ok that some mainstream newspapers have a daily picture of a naked woman (I’m in danger of saying ‘not in my day…’). This is not just behind closed doors, anyone can see that. When did we stop teaching our sons to be gentlemen, when did we stop teaching our daughters about purity? I want my kids to grow up and find partners who will love them and respect them for who they are, to adore them wholeheartedly, to comfort them from the harsh realities of life, to fight for them in times of need, to honour them with their bodies. I do not want them to grow up believing it’s ok to show everything off to the world, that they need to look completely airbrushed perfect, to struggle with their self esteem because they don’t have the perfect flat stomach or abs like Peter Andre…

Oh gosh this post could go on and on…. I may have to write more but for now rant over! By the way you can sign up to campaigns to end lads mags here, to end page 3 here or follow on twitter: @nomorepage3

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