Pornography is corrupting our youth, and good on Diane Abbott for having the guts to say so

If Mary Whitehouse was shocked by rock’n’roll, how might she react to a recent spate of teenagers who filmed themselves on mobile phones, while raping their classmates?

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At the risk of once again invoking the wrath of the many porn-defenders who will no doubt email me to tell me I’m a prude, I’m going to do a bit of grot-bashing this week. You see, hornytroll1985 and @foreveralone, I think porn’s a bad idea. And this time, I know I’m right because Diane Abbott says so, too.

It isn’t so much the breathy footage and glabrous orange hides that Abbott has a problem with (that’s a whole other argument) as the diffusion effect that means the sex industry now permeates the rest of popular culture, modern communication and, depressingly, our children’s developing consciousness.

Easily accessible hardcore imagery online. “Sexting”. “Slut-shaming”. The technology that is supposed to be broadening the minds of our kids – who are already far more au fait with the future than the rest of us – is instead turning them into little panders, tiny bullies with no respect for intimacy or privacy, and no understanding of affection. “I believe, for many, the pressure of conforming to hyper-sexualisation and its pitfalls is a prison,” Abbott told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour this week. “And the permanence of social media and technology can be a life sentence.”

She’s right – there’s something seductively transient and instantaneous about the digital medium; texts, tweets and Facebook messages don’t feel half as concrete as, say, a handwritten billet-doux or Polaroid. But you can burn a billet-doux or lose it over the years: technology, meanwhile, creates things in a sort of insubstantial perpetuity, the duration and consequences of which none of us quite understands just yet. Meaning that grainy picture of your knockers will be everywhere by Monday morning, and it will still be there when you’re 60.

Abbott isn’t the first to complain about smutty influences on little pitchers, but she highlights something very interesting. In generations past, immature and malleable minds have been in jeopardy from uncovered table legs, lesbians and Elvis, among other things. There’s always outrage in the face of scandalous and scurrilous new ideas, and, thankfully, we’re wise enough now to roll our eyes at mediocre provocation and cheap marketing gimmicks. But if Mary Whitehouse was shocked by rock’n’roll, how might she react to the recent spate of teenagers who have filmed themselves on their mobile phones raping their classmates?

So leave Elvis out of it: nowadays youngsters are under siege from a host of commercially driven pollutants, far more harmful than any playful developments in popular culture or social loosening of the stays of morality have ever been. It’s impossible to argue that the pornification of culture and kids is anything other than financially motivated. Put in no uncertain terms: it has happened because greasy palms without human faces have wanted to sell shit to idiots.

The very means of sending the mortifying photos and the misogynist messages has ruthlessly been marketed to increasingly younger demographics as a streetwise must-have accessory. It’s the same with the computers, the same with internet literacy, the same with BBM-ing. These things are cool, kids think. Because they’re thrust in their faces at every opportunity. These multimedia conglomerates and cyberpimps will soon be building hoardings and billboards on the inside of children’s eyelids.

To argue against advertising is hackneyed. But there’s a definite case for regulation, and for the companies peddling the devices that facilitate underage grot-browsing, the sharing of photos and the filming of serious sexual assault to accept some of the responsibility that comes with raking in the cash.

If, as the other debate from this week suggested, fast food should be taxed before it puts our kids in hospital, perhaps technology should be, too, before it makes their lives a misery.

The vicarious way to
survive Dry January

Not long to go until the end of Dry January, you brittle and dusty people who actually stuck to it. What’s that, nobody did? Why am I not surprised? Three friends of mine who attempted to go booze-free for a month stumbled and fell on the 2nd, 12th and 21st, respectively. “It’s not really Dry January,” one of them back-tracked, “as opposed to just being a bit less soggy, you know?” Said while chinning a gin and tonic during daylight hours.

Truth is, what on earth reason is there not to drink in January? There’s nothing else to do. Actually, one of the few reasons I have had to stay home this month – as opposed to going out and getting uncontrollably blotto with the aim of forgetting how cold and in debt I am – has been Channel 4’s latest smash, What Happens in Kavos..., which follows inebriated slips of things as they vomit their way round Corfu, flashing their bits and breaking their limbs.

It’s an efficient way to spend Dry January because it acts alternately as a sort of booze-repellant prophylactic and as a vicarious means of pleasure when you’re shivering on the sofa and they’re all falling out of a tiki hut in their underwear. I presume that bookings for the resort have gone through the roof since the programme aired.

So that’s how I’ll be spending February: guzzling wine and planning my own debauched island getaway.

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