Love's been free for ages. Now it's a public free-for-all

Sex has been detached from the emotion. It is no more significant than an aerobic step class

A WORD of warning to parents of rebellious teenagers. Do not laugh when they threaten to go to Ibiza, or simply tut-tut when you read that the British vice-consul on the island has resigned in disgust at the behaviour of British youth. Aware parents will know that resorts such as Ibiza sell themselves as dance capitals of the world, where young people go to dance the night away; a few even throw decorum to the winds, take their clothes off and jump into the nearest pool for a dare. Who knows, there may be some illicit substances passing from hand to hand, some pills being popped. But these are hardly life-threatening, as children of the Sixties and Seventies know well. A sneer may curl the parental lip, prefacing your reply: so what are you going to do - dance yourself to death? Drink yourself sick? Been there, done that, and survived.

You would, however, be missing the point; the teenage and twentysomething holiday-makers have discovered the Sodom and Gomorrah of our times, with a dash of the decline of the Roman Empire thrown in for spice. At the centre of it all is not drugs, or lager lout violence; rather, it is a vulgar desire for exhibitionist sex, and a bizarre competition to out- shag and out-drink everyone else. Picture this: a group of young people sitting around in the sun, laughing and drinking, throwing each other into the pool, daring each other to ever more outrageous acts. One boy dares a girl to take off all her clothes (all? we are talking about a bikini that conceals less than a postage stamp), and sit on the face of another young man. Without a moment's hesitation she whips off her bikini and obliges, in front of all and sundry - including a nearby television camera, which has been observing the group. It is shocking; but passes in a gale of laughter. Elsewhere, a group of young men are chatting up two bored women. It takes a few moments to register that one man has his hand under the skirt of the woman, whom he hardly knows; yet she can barely summon up the interest in the invasion of her own body to tell him to stop.

Had I not seen this on camera, I would hardly have believed it. However, the producers of the Uncovered series say that none of this is unusual, and that there is virtually no playing to the camera. On the face of it, having filmed many hundreds of people doing all sorts of things in all sorts of places, I would say that this is genuine - it does not look like a set-up to me. What is more, the programme makers say that holiday-makers' behaviour is growing so wild that they are beginning to wonder whether they will be able to show it without censorship.

There is something going on here that I find hard to understand. It is, apparently, a peculiarly British pattern; in Jamaica, the locals refer to the principal resort where this kind of thing goes on as "the monkey house", and though some older Americans play their part, young Brits take the lead.

Second, my queasiness is not about promiscuity, but about public display. I do not think that I am especially prudish, having gone through my twenties in the pre-Aids, post-pill student movement; any leftie could trot out Alexandra Kollontai's defence of free love as a defence of sleeping with anyone in sight. But three things distinguish then from now. In general we did not do it in the streets, or in front of people who were not involved. Second, we tended to have at least a nodding acquaintance with the people with whom we went to bed. And, whatever the reality, we paid lip-service to the idea that sex had some emotional content. None of these conditions seem to apply any longer; sex has been detached from the emotion. It is no more significant than an aerobic step class.

Yesterday at the Edinburgh Television Festival, delegates were still debating the call by the independent producer Peter Bazalgette for a drastically reducing the regulation of such scenes on television. The sort of scenes shown in the Uncovered series are precisely the kind of thing that those who want more regulation worry about - it is evidence of an increasingly voracious appetite for sensational and humiliating behaviour by so-called "ordinary people". They are wrong. There could not be a clearer case of shooting the messenger. In fact, we should be grateful to the producers for revealing a new truth about what is going on, however unpleasant; any kind of censorship would simply have kept it hidden.

The regulators of the Independent Television Commission have a sensitive touch here. Their agreement to the showing of another programme about what young people get up to on Friday nights has added another dimension to the story. The kind of behaviour we see abroad doesn't stay on foreign shores. A girls' night out, with a male stripper, is now, after The Full Monty, commonplace. What the film did not show, however, was what happens after the last frame in the film, the uncovering of the strippers' tackle.

Let's leave aside the fact that the penis is one of God's uglier creations, designed specifically to be hidden. I would not condemn these mass displays of sexual behaviour purely on aesthetic or moral grounds. However, privacy has a social purpose. It prevents our bodies from becoming public property available for invasion by others. I don't think that feminists fought for women's sexual freedom in order to be subjected to humiliation in public.

Most alarming of all is the way in which sexual display is compromising individual privacy. Already this year we have seen a birth on the Internet, and we were promised one young couple's joint loss of virginity via the Net, though this never reached our screens. The exposure of Britain's second most expensive footballer - a young bachelor, I should stress - for secretly filming a sex session with two male friends and four women, suggests that it's not just football which is coming home. But in a culture where most people seem unconcerned about who sees them doing what, is it surprising that such things will happen? Or that we seem to be experiencing a minor epidemic of gang rape in some big cities? The value of privacy seems to be dropping faster than the rouble. Had I known it would end up with crude sexual antics on TV - or "beavers on the box" as one colleague eloquently put it - I might have thought twice about campaigns for sexual freedom in the Seventies. There is a limit to what we should reveal of ourselves in public. A line should be drawn in the sands of Ibiza, Jamaica and Greece, and the authorities there should clamp down hard. And we at home should think again about what public sex is doing to debase us and our society.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
'Africa' will be Angelina Jolie's fifth film as a director

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Arts and Entertainment
Bryan Cranston will play federal agent Robert Mazur in The Infiltrator

Books
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines