BurchillJulie Burchill: Why is it respectable to watch boxing, but weird to watch pornography?

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"The way I see it, we're like two animals – you get two dogs in a fight – one of the dogs got a few tricks. I'm just the dog you can't control. And when you get two dogs in a fight, the toughest one wins." Thus spoke the boxer David Haye this week of his forthcoming fight against Wladimir Klitschko in June, cutting through all the acres of crap written about the allegedly noble art by men who never come any closer to a beating than when their wife catches them watching barnyard porn when they're meant to be baby-sitting.

With the death of Henry Cooper and the beatification of Mike "St Francis of Assisi As A Rapist" Tyson, there's been a bunch of sentimental swill talked about boxing recently. I think it generally goes with the men of my generation getting older; they seem to think they can stay young by having the blood, sweat and occasionally tears of vital young sportsmen fall on to their withering skin, like Countess Elisabeth Bathory with a subscription to Sky Sports. "Splash it all over!" as Our 'Enry used to say when advertising Brut. But those magical body fluids will never hold back your hairlines, you silly Canutes!

It's not just the blood of beautiful young men that sad old geezers fix up on, it's the blood of beautiful animals too. A hack who a clever friend of mine refers to as "The Tool's Tool" (as George Orwell was recently crowned "The Writer's Writer") once wrote an account of participating in a French stag hunt which was both repulsive and risible, straight out of a Craig Brown parody of some appalling ponce.

"We took our children out a few years ago, when they were four and six, and allowed them to watch the stag's death ceremony... I'm sure, for some, this can be a gruesome experience, but it is a quintessential part of the process. When the master and huntsman have finished counting the dogs, the ceremony can start: the skin is lifted off the beast's entrails, which are then devoured at spell-binding speed by the hounds. And the children loved it."

Ooo, get you! Grown-up to-do list: move to area with good schools – check, start going to church – check, join gang that tortures animals – check, pay good money to watch two young working-class and/or black men tearing chunks out of each other – check. Sorted!

Worlds away from such voyeuristic clowns, the cleverest man I know – the writer David Matthews – was a boxer for two years and wrote a brilliant book about his experience, Looking For A Fight. He now says: "As a sport, a spectacle, a subculture, it's fascinating because it is so screwed up. What other profession can deliver such an array of deadbeats, losers, heroes, shysters, crooks, freaks, posers, wannabes, homo-erotic sex cases? Politics, perhaps! But for me, writing about it was fascinating because at least as a construct it has some sort of meaning, ie the parallels with life put it closer to reality than any other sport except perhaps running. The desire to smack someone in the mouth is innate. But we need to have that shit civilised out of us, not glory in it."

Some years back I had a heated debate with an American girl popstar friend who had always lectured me mercilessly about animal rights and the evils of meat-eating. I was amazed when I read a magazine account of her and Madonna making beasts of themselves at a boxing match, and I asked her how she could justify watching human beings make each other suffer when the suffering of our dumb friends caused her such grief.

"Would you watch a dog fight?"

"No! They can't choose to do it, not like boxers!"

"Would you watch a live sex show?"

"No! It's demeaning to have sex for money!"

"What about those rare sex shows where the participants are in love, and also exhibitionists? Would you watch one of those?"

"No. You pervert!"

Perhaps, but I still have more respect for someone who pays money to watch pay-per-view porn or a live sex show than I do for someone who pays to watch one man injure another, on the screen or in the flesh. David Haye hit it right on the head. Even if this dog has his day.

The one thing that family life doesn't need is politicians

Reading the papers this week, you could be forgiven for thinking that these were the darkest days for The Family since Charles Manson went down for life. Ooo, naughty David Cameron, doing nothing to stop family breakdown, according to Iain Duncan Smith's stupid think-tank; why can't he just ban divorce and have done with it?

I've got nothing against marriage; I haven't been single since I was a teenager, but that's mostly because I like having sex on tap and can't be arsed to go out auditioning every Tom, Dick and Harriet.

But whenever politicians bang on about the sanctity of marriage/the family, one does inevitably think of their very considerable adultery rate, and find them as ridiculous and hypocritical as when they make worried noises about alcohol abuse after rolling in from one of the House's many subsidised bars.

If people in a marriage/family are happy, it should/does stay together; if they are miserable, it should/does fall apart. End of. Politicians would do best to attend to their own private lives, and stay out of ours. IDS may have given Cameron two out of 10 on this issue, but he gets top marks from me simply for leaving well alone.

Shock news: the kids are all right

I think I've mentioned before how annoying I find it to read my fellow female columnists banging on about how horrid it is that girls today are obsessed with their appearances, as opposed to the matters of world importance which my fellow sots, sorry, scribes were apparently deeply engaged with when they were teenagers.

Now, as this paper reported last week, doctors in the US have started to give questionnaires to adolescents about to have appointments with them. The expected questions about medical history and drug use are there, but also the gorgeously unexpected: "If you could have three wishes, what would they be?"

So far, a minuscule 4 per cent want to be thinner and only 8 per cent want to be better-looking. Mostly, the kids wish for success and happiness. Same as it ever was, in fact. Calm down, dears.





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