ANOTHER VIEW; An exposure of prurience

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The case of Julia Somerville appals me. The mere idea that anyone with serious intentions of taking pornographic photographs of their children would then send them to Boots The Chemist for processing is so ludicrous it is bizarre - it is like a scenario out of the worst kind of television comedy show.

What is the world coming to if we react to the nudity of small children with such disgust and suspicion? Even in a sexually explicit age, children's nudity is an innocent thing, celebrated quite rightly by parents proud of their children's beautiful bodies. There is no erotic content in the sort of pictures taken by parents every day - and the innocent sight of babies' bottoms is used on our television screens to sell nappies without anyone being arrested and questioned by Scotland Yard. When I look through my family's photograph album, I see pictures of my children nude on the beach, in the bath, in the garden. I would guess that there isn't a parent in the country who hasn't got similar pictures.

We currently seem to have difficulty in recognising the difference between healthy, natural nudity and sexual display. Pride and Prejudice was a huge hit recently- yet it contained heaving almost-naked bosoms in every other shot. No one complained about that - it is only nakedness that seems to upset people. Clothes, in fact, can be far more worrying than nudity. The sight of a three-year-old girl dressed for the beach in a bikini top, apeing adult sexuality is surely obscene. Yet pictures like that would presumably not raise a flicker in the fundamentalist photographic processing department department at Boots The Chemist.

Parents must not play along with this sort of hysteria. It runs against all normal human instincts, and must be resisted. It reminds me of the moral panic that persuaded social workers that Satanic abuse was sweeping the country - and all the suffering to families that ensued. I feel desperately sorry for Julia Somerville who, despite being in the public eye, has always maintained her dignity and her privacy. How offensive this must be to her, and how devastating that her children have been named in the papers and will surely be teased and questioned at school on Monday. I hope Ms Somerville will sue Boots and the police for the distress caused to her whole family.

As for the rest of us, there is a simple way that parents can make a stand against this kind of behaviour. We mustn't fall into the trap of over-caution, of being afraid to act naturally with our children for fear of being carted off to Scotland Yard. Tonight I hope every parent in Britain takes pictures of their beautiful children in the bath, and floods Boots' department of prurient processing with them. That is the proper response to idiocy of this kind.

The writer is a former agony aunt, a broadcaster, journalist and novelist.

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