The usual line is that it corrupts the morals of the young. Nonsense. The morals of the young corrupt themselves automatically, using hormones; and so the species perpetuates itself. Nor was I worried about the idea of millions of adolescent males, hunched over their computer screens with their trousers round their ankles and one ear cocked for Mummy on the stairs. The posture is unedifying but immaterial.
What bothered me was that, yet again, technology is alienating people by excluding them from ancient communal rites of passage; in this case, hanging around the dirty bookshop, sniggering and saying, You go, No, you go, All right, I will, Go on then, and the rest of the timeless litany, a ritual as crucial and numinous as any Wandjina songline ceremony.
Oh, the dirty bookshops of my youth! The wheezing geezer at the till, the hogo of Embassy Regal, the parabolic electric fire on its frayed and lethal cord; Harrison Marks, Health & Efficiency and Beautiful Britons racked on the central tables; "American!! Bondage!!! Imports!!!" hooked to the pegboard walls; Naughty Housewives Vol 21, Hoover Fun and Washday Orgy, from a curiously innocent time when washday still existed and the "g" in Orgy was hard.
We had our rituals, too, in those days. The initial perusal of battered paperbacks by the door, Agatha Christie or Animal Farm, as though we had just come in to browse and that might well fit the bill. Then the peering round the shop and the start of ironic surprise as we caught sight of the skin mags; the casual riffling through the pages, spoilt rather due to the impossibility of riffling, all the pages being sealed with sticky tape and Cellophane; the ludicrously insouciant squeezing of Insasiable [sic] Irma the Swedish Slut into the shape of a cylinder, to peer down the middle at the centre-fold thereby revealed. And finally the jittery, whistling handing-over of the money, 12/6d but five bob refund on return in good condition.
Can the youth of today, sucking their pixellated JPEGs down the telephone wires, experience the light-headed triumph of walking out into the street with H&E No 117 rolled up under their blazer? Can they hide an entire computer containing 120 megabytes of copyright violations under the bed where their mother never looks, except she does?
They cannot; which is why I originally thought we must ban the Internet Porn Menace and return to happier, richer days. But then I thought: sod the youth of today. To hell with them. The fact is that it's the Germans who are behind the banning process, and on that basis alone, our deepest instincts should tell us to do the exact opposite. They claim they are worried about child pornography, and rightly so, since most child pornography has a German involved somewhere along the line. Sexually, German men are grunting lardy rotters who use women for target practice and howl for pubescents in Bangkok brothels. If persuaded to settle for an adult partner, they go at it like out-of-control bulldozers. The highest words of German sexual approbation are "bizarre", "perverse", "extreme" and "piggish". They also have a multi-million dollar industry producing some of the most grotesque and unnerving pornography in the world.
Puritanical societies are always most keen to anathematise the indulgences to which they are most attracted, and of course the sausage-eaters are quite right to ban paedophile pornography and disembowel its filthy perpetrators. The trouble is, there isn't any, not on the Internet, not that I can find, and I'm an expert; the paedophile newsgroups consist mostly of people popping in to point out that paedophiles are twisted swine who will burn in hell. And I can't help wondering if the Germans, by banning all Internet porno- graphy in case wicked stuff sneaks through, are not indulging in a little protectionism under the guise of morality, trying to prevent the free reproduction of a rich national commercial resource.
The British situation is different. Any country which regards the Princess of Wales, Barbara Windsor and that bloody weather-girl as sexual icons clearly needs more pornography, not less. If we had more of it, we might learn to be better at sex, and become happier, and stop thinking that Four Weddings and a Funeral was true-to-life, and never, ever again have prickly little fantasies about Virginia Bottomley.
The answer is simple. We should, as a nation, take a moral position on this, combined, of course, with enlightened self-interest in the true spirit of Nineties Conservatism, and set up a national Internet service provider devoted solely to the provision of high-quality filth. Subscribers will have to fill in a detailed questionnaire, to be ratified by their partner(s), if any, and will then be supplied with a carefully-regulated dose of appropriate material to meet their needs and remedy their personal deficiencies. It will do them more good than any amount of counselling, and, by introducing inept Englishmen to sensual delights which they would never themselves have thought of, will undoubtedly save innumerable marriages, thus reducing the burden on the taxpayer. Englishmen will acquire such a reputation for swordsmanship that the women of Germany will flock here in hope, improving our balance of payments and offering one in the eye for the nasty Krauts.
This is our chance to take the lead in Europe, and take it soon, while we still have a government which stands alone in its perfect suitability to set up and operate a wankers' charter. !Reuse content