ARE YOU uncertain where your moral compass is pointing? Stop for a moment and ask yourself this question: what would Raquel Welch do?
You’re sure to find your feet being directed back to the path of righteousness. This week, the senior sex symbol – star of One Million BC and almost nothing else you can name – has been giving out about pornography. Speaking to Men’s Health magazine, Raquel argued that the meaning has been sapped from sex. “And I have to honestly say, I think this era of porn is at least partially responsible for it,” she said.
Welch is a prominent supporter of the Republican Party. The Daily Mail, that right-wing fury klaxon, has got behind her. No doubt Rick Santorum, the weasel-faced sex hater currently campaigning for the presidential nomination, would approve of Raquel’s diatribe.
For goodness sake! Doesn’t it all reek of puritanism, repression and hypocrisy? Wasn’t the journalist from Men’s Health right when he suggested Raquel might be a prude? What’s wrong with watching buxom twins perform a “double doughnut” while “plucking the feathery budgie”?
The answers to those three questions are as follows: “No”, “Absolutely not” and “Don’t worry, parents. I just made those up. But you should be ashamed for allowing your imagination to fill in the gaps so lubriciously.”
Raquel is, sadly, only slightly overstating the case when she bemoans the Era of Porn. In the Stone Age we learnt to fashion crude tools. In the Iron Age we manufactured swords. In the Era of Porn we found ways of transmitting images of unimaginable depravity via convenient handheld devices (just the one hand, mind; the other one’s busy).
For generations, parents have allowed themselves to believe all this chatter about drugs, knife crime and joyriding was just media hysteria. That won’t wash with pornography. Face up to it. By the time your son – let’s stick with the boys – is old enough to operate a keyboard he will have seen images of practices so obscurely obscene that many southern US states never got round to banning them.
Don’t waste your time monitoring his home internet use. Every second school chum is carrying around a portable exotic cinema in his pocket.
It’s as well not to get too sentimental about courting in the olden days. The shame and ignorance that attached itself to the sexual act didn’t do anybody any favours. But even the most enthusiastic libertarian must worry about the avalanche of unrealistic fantasies that today’s teenagers (your teenagers, sir) process before making their first tentative fumblings with buttons and bra straps.
Mainstream attitudes to pornography have, over the last few decades, undergone dramatic shifts. Remember the scene in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver in which Travis Bickle, the titular maniac, takes his middle-class date to see a porn film. Viewed from this distance, the sequence appears to be merely an illustration of Travis’s disconnection from reality.
But, when he explains that society people now attend such pictures, he is actually speaking the truth. For a brief period in the early to mid 1970s, pornographic films such as Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door gained a dubious class of respectability. Norman Mailer and Truman Capote turned up at the XXX cinema.
This idiotic fad did not continue. The abuse handed out to porn actors such as Linda Lovelace, the lead in Deep Throat, helped confirm the industry was a machine for exploiting and abusing women. Some more eccentric university lecturers continued to teach porn as art.
Rogue feminists such as Camille Paglia celebrated the 1970s as a golden era for porn. Nobody, however, now expects to see Jonathan Franzen or Don Delillo attending the contemporary equivalent of Deep Throat.
But a creepy tolerance for pornography continues to hang around much of American society. Consider how unfazed attendees at “stag parties” are by the appearance of strippers.
All good clean fun, apparently. Somehow or other, porn “stars” have become quasi-mainstream celebrities.
In this corner of Europe, porn users have remained a little more cautious about revealing their grubby enthusiasms. Unless I missed a meeting, disapproval of adult entertainment is still one thing that unites the religious right and the bolshie feminist left. Hard as Paglia tried, she never managed to bring dignity to the daily doped travails of Trixie McBoob or Bouncy Roundbutt. But, as Welch suggested, the sense that porn is forever surging in the sewers beneath our feet cannot help but give the decent observer pause for thought.
Oh well. We survived rock’n’roll. We survived reality television. We survived rave culture. No doubt future generations will regard this column as we regard Victorian paranoia concerning the white slave trade.
It is probably impossible to stop the little twits doing what they’re doing. But, kids, please do wash your hands when you’re finished.
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