Has the 'era of porn' led men to think rape is OK
00:10 GMT, 14 March 2012
How ironic that it should take Raquel Welch — a woman whose very name is a byword for sexual fantasy — to identify one of the most urgent problems society faces today: an overwhelming and deeply damaging obsession with sex.
It’s 46 years since she appeared from behind a rock in an improbable but devastatingly alluring doe-skin bikini in the ridiculous film One Million Years BC.
The moral outrage this prompted seems laughable now, for compared with the violent, degrading pornography freely available to anyone capable of clicking a computer mouse, the Swinging Sixties were as innocent as one of Donald McGill’s saucy seaside postcards.
Sex symbol: Raquel welch in One Million Years BC, and (right) aged 71
Raquel, now 71, blames today’s ‘era of porn’ for turning us into sex addicts: ‘We have equated happiness in life with as many orgasms as you can possibly pack in . . . where is the anticipation and the personalisation It’s an exploitation of the poor males’ libidos. Poor babies, they can’t control themselves.’
In recent years, pornography has moved with terrifying speed from a niche pursuit to one that is ubiquitous and hugely profitable. For a teenage boy only a decade ago, porn was just a mucky magazine, bought only after weeks of steeling himself to saunter nonchalantly into a newsagent’s and grab it from the top shelf.
Today, more than a quarter of internet users have visited a pornographic website. And that doesn’t begin to take into account the vast amount distilled through chatrooms, message boards and shared images.
Internet porn is frequently violent and aggressive. Practices that only a few years ago would have been regarded as abnormal are now mainstream. Male desires that previously would have remained dark fantasies, or have been kept in check, have now become both popularised and legitimised.
Profitable: More than a quarter of internet users have visited a pornographic website
The consequences of this are only just beginning to be understood. But it cannot be a coincidence that sexual violence against women in Britain is on the increase. A recent survey of 1,600 women on Mumsnet revealed that an astonishing one in ten women say they have been raped, and more than a third subjected to sexual assault.
These figures are staggering, almost unbelievable. But they become less surprising when you consider that images of women being pulled by their hair and roughly handled during cold, impersonal sex are commonplace on the internet.
As a mother, I find this simply terrifying. What will the consequences be for my daughter, exposed to a generation of boys who have grown up watching this stuff
And what of my ten-year-old son — how can I hope to protect him from such degrading and desensitising filth during his teenage years The answer, at the moment, is that I can’t: you can impose filters on the family computer, but it’s almost impossible to apply them to smartphones, or to check what your children see at a friend’s house.
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Spare us the honeymoon night tales, Mr Cameron
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I’ve written before in support of Tory MP Claire Perry’s proposal to make internet porn accessible only to those over 18 who actively opt to see it. Despite paying lip service to this idea, which is not only sensible, but vital, neither David Cameron nor Culture Minister Ed Vaizey have taken the necessary steps to make it happen.
As Raquel Welch says: ‘I don’t care if I’m becoming one of those old fogeys who says: “Back in my day we didn’t have to hear about sex all the time.” Nobody remembers what it’s like to be left to form your own ideas about what’s erotic and sexual.’
Sex used to be the most powerful gift a woman could bestow. And the pursuit of this prize encouraged men to regard it not as some bestial form of domination (which is how it’s frequently portrayed on the internet) but as a demonstration of love and respect.
Yet for modern teenagers — and for God knows how many older men — I fear sex has been reduced to an entirely loveless experience that is predicated on the humiliation and subjugation of women.
Forty-six years ago, ‘porn’ for most teenage boys amounted to little more than a poster of Raquel in her cavewoman bikini on their bedroom wall. I suspect today’s teens would barely register that poster as even mildly erotic. And that’s a tragedy not just for them, but for us all.
Philippa Roe, the new leader of Westminster Council, appears to be that rarest of creatures: a politician with integrity. She says she didn’t apply for tickets to the Olympics and will decline any offered to her as leader, believing they should go to people more deserving. I wonder how many other politicians can say the same
Lips: Emmanuelle Beart
Oh ladies, leave those lips alone!
After a procedure on her lips went horribly wrong, one of France’s most celebrated actresses, Emmanuelle Beart (pictured) has launched a campaign to warn women of the dangers of plastic surgery.
Meanwhile, another of France’s treasured actresses — our own Charlotte Rampling, 66, who’s lived there for more than 30 years — dismisses the current obsession with surgery as ‘idiotic’ and observes of her fellow stars: ‘They’ve all gone to the same surgeon so they’ve all got the same faces.’
Upset at discovering saggy skin and failing eyesight, a 45-year-old woman has asked her friends to help her compile a guide to what to expect when you are 40. I can tell her. Expect to be laughed at by the over-50s, derided by the over-60s, and pitied by the over-70s, who all know that compared to what follows, your 40s are the sunlit uplands of early middle age, where everything still more or less works and nothing is impossible. So stop moaning and enjoy them while you can.
Miniscule: Kate and her clutch
What's Kate clutching
I’ve become obsessed with the Duchess of Cambridge’s handbags (although they’re so tiny I’m not sure they qualify as bags at all; they’re certainly less bulky than my purse, cram-med as it is with endless loyalty cards).
On her trip to Leicester with the Queen last week, she carried a minuscule black clutch. It can’t possibly hold more than a lipstick, concealer, mobile phone and debit card (which, of course, she doesn’t need).
Still, for those of us whose backs have been ruined by a decade of bags that weigh about the same as a small suitcase, I think it’s got to be the way forward.
My heart goes out to Tony Nicklinson. His existence, paralysed below the neck and unable to speak, must be unbearable — and for his wife, the agony must be almost as great. I entirely understand why he doesn’t want to continue, yet I still fear the consequences of legalising euthanasia could be truly terrible, leading to the deaths of the vulnerable. Mr Nicklinson is asking not just for the right to die, but the right to be killed. Surely not even Solomon would be able to make that judgment.
Happiness: Nigel Lawson
It was Enoch Powell who said that all political lives end in failure. Too many MPs’ personal lives end the same way, finished off by long distances and the opportunity to be unfaithful. Former Chancellor Nigel Lawson (right), who’s found love again at 80 with a woman 37 years his junior, would doubtless agree. His observation yesterday, that ‘if one is ever to achieve happiness in this world it is through one’s private life, not through one’s public life’, should be inscribed on every MP’s office wall.
White House blues
While David Cameron and Barack Obama strutted their macho stuff at an Ohio basketball game last night, their wives opted for a quiet night in.
I wonder if Michelle arranged this after reading Sarah Brown’s memoir of her time at No 10, which includes a dreadful account of her first visit to the White House during George Bush’s presidency.
The minute her plane touched down, she was swept into a whirlwind of events which left her so exhausted that she almost collapsed the following day while on a visit to an exhibition with the then First Lady, Laura Bush. Poor Sarah was so ill that she could hardly speak a word.
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Ageing doll: Joan Collins
Joan Collins says no woman over 40 should wear jeans. She’s so wrong. A good pair of jeans and a blazer is one of the most flattering outfits for anyone over 40 — and, dare I say it, a good deal more becoming than the black silk number she wore to a book signing last weekend, which resembled a too-short kimono and made her look like an ageing doll.
Teenagers need real adventure
What’s wrong with the Girl Guides This week we learned that their activities include learning about fashion and how to put on make-up, which is not only the sort of banal material available in every rubbishy teen magazine, but is also the exact opposite of what young girls really want — which is risk and adventure.
My teenage daughter and her friends, who sit their GCSEs this year, are told incessantly of the necessity for high grades and warned that if they don’t work hard they won’t get to university. Small wonder that their greatest sense of accomplishment so far has come not from anything they’ve studied, but from completing a ten-miles-a-day three-day hike, throughout which they carried all their own equipment, as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award scheme.
For them, this challenging expedition was made all the more exciting because most of them had never done anything like it before. They loved it — and what’s sad is that this is exactly the sort of activity they could have been enjoying for years if only they’d joined the Girl Guides.
They didn’t, because for some years now the Guides have been viewed by many ten to 14-year-olds as terminally uncool. But the way to remedy this is not with make-up lessons and manicures. It’s by selling them the thrill of the new and unknown, and that one elusive element missing from so many of their materialistic, world-weary lives: fun.