The week of 21st January began in a chilling way. The weather apart, two gang bang rape trials kicked off. One was in Delhi, the other as a sequel to Rochdale, but in Oxford of all places – which gets the issue a lot closer to home for the chattering classes. Of course everyone is entitled to a defence. In these cases, the lawyers have chosen to try and rubbish either the prosecution or a victim. In Delhi it is the prosecution and its evidence. In the City of Spires the suggestion was been made that the victim had dreamed up the whole thing; well if not the whole thing, the alleged leading perpetrator’s role. This is one of those situations when you are glad of the rule of law but wonder how those defence guys or gals do it. I mean, if when you read the evidence you think ‘OMG – game set and match’ do you go into your Partners and say ‘no way’, or do you think (in a detached professional manner) ‘hey, it’s my job, let’s catch these incompetent Public Prosecutors out on some technicality and make the victim look bad?’
In parallel and predictably, politicians and pressure groups have recognised a bandwagon and jumped on it. We shouldn’t be hard on them it is part of the job or indeed ‘skill set’ to use an increasingly annoying catch-phrase. The Department of Education had commissioned a report – its team chaired by Reg Bailey of the Mothers’ Union. It is called Let Children Be Children and deals with the ‘growing sexualisation’ of our young folk. This has been parlayed by spinmeisters into a handy catch-phrase ‘the pornification’ of Britain, and coincides neatly with the unfolding legal events and general interest in sexual offence and crime.
Inevitably, given the variety of concerned groups positioned around the subject like jihadist affiliates of al-Qaeda any nuances of ideology have been conflated into an attack on one enemy, the dreaded and despised Pornography. Liberal-minded folk – and Ian Dunt has elsewhere in this journal made the point very clearly – do not believe in Prohibition; as likely to be both ineffective and a dangerous path. In general the consensus seems to be that kids who have grown up with good example and sound family relationships and gender perspectives will be unlikely to come to great harm through exposure to whatever sexual extremities they view.
Nonetheless, anyone who has rambled round the net seeking sexual excitement or for research as it is called, will have found that without being prudish or censorious, most of what is on offer and so readily available can reasonably be argued to offer a poor model for uncertain youth seeking enlightenment about sexual manners let alone inter-gender relationships. And this is to express the problem in its most liberal minded and mealy-mouthed way. You can certainly understand how the term ‘up for it’ gets to be misinterpreted – and we are not talking about jolly ‘blow-jobs’ given women’s ancient discovery that it is a great prophylactic, keeps the boys quiet and is usually fun. Rather, we have to consider the common scenarios offered that are not so far from those enacted in Delhi, Rochdale and Oxford – albeit in the porn video, and hopefully with the women’s consent.
There are many cultural factors that condition male perceptions of women and exaggerated respect and protectiveness are as likely to be highly destructive to the development of healthy relationships as is misogyny – not least because they are two sides of the same coin. Inquire into the Victorians, or all extreme religious groups – including Christians. Ask it of human social evolution. Ask any woman.
…in sex, the differences between fantasy and reality are indeed several shades of grey
Pornography may well be fantasy as Dunt rightly points out. But in sex, the differences between fantasy and reality are indeed several shades of grey. The consumption of pornography (as with violent images) if unmediated by other social and psychological factors can delude and desensitise. Any social-psychologist or criminologist will agree; and research evidence supports them. This does not mean consequential sex crime, but it does mean lowering inhibitions and raising expectations and demands; and so, someone (usually the woman) paying the price of disappointment.
So keeping in touch with reality means having the nous to understand your sexual partner’s preferences and wishes; and I bet not many girls will go for gang-bangs or other commonplace porn film assumptions about male wet-dreams. Nor are they likely to welcome the sexting images intended for your eyes only being shared round the school – with the inference she is an available slag. You know this, I know this, but to be fair to the anxious we should not dismiss the concerns that somehow a lot of boys (and maybe girls too) don’t understand good manners in sexual relationships. Nor should we suppose pornography to be entirely beyond critique – the result is anomie and the world’s financial crisis told us where anomie gets you.
Thus sensitised I was in a dentist’s waiting room one day during the week in question. The media available comprised the Daily Mail (yeah, right), which however had a very affectionate obituary for Michael Winner (loveable old rogue), including some of his better and indubitably non-pc Yiddish aka Jewish jokes (you can access these I suppose via your search engine using Winner and Daily Mail and Obituary etc., in case you have reconciled why it is that Jewish jokes about women are somehow more acceptable than say, Les Dawson’s). There were also some back numbers of the glossy regional culture magazine and quite a lot of NHS brochures telling us patients how brilliant it will be when we or our ‘loved ones’ succumb to dementia.
Be that as it may, I found a copy of a stylish publication called T3 dated April 2012. I am ashamed to say that my interest was aroused by a very pretty girl on the front cover. She was wearing some sort of black and glossy chemise or body stocking. T3 is a gadget magazine – so in a sense the cover girl was gratuitous. This is understandable – the magazine is aimed at 18-30 year-old men and it’s all about toys for boys, for whom (the ethos is) girls are toys.
Whether or not it requires abrogation of all feminine artifice I know not, but it’s a reminder not to say ‘you look nice’ when you meet Lynda at the water-cooler.
In the demolition of misogyny, feminism has to publicly grapple with its own self-image and presentation in a way masculinity does not – other than in a ‘men behaving badly/naughty boy’ way. Women’s media are largely constructed around appearance and relationships and have generally been much less assertive in tone. Now we have an increasingly coherent, evidence based and emotionally powerful revival of the prosecution case over female victimisation. Whether or not it requires abrogation of all feminine artifice I know not, but it’s a reminder not to say ‘you look nice’ when you meet Lynda at the water-cooler. Especially if she looks really rubbish due to lack of slap.
It will be reassuring to our right minded readers that T3 redeemed its front cover with an advert, in the back of the magazine. It put men in our place and gave us all, our cue to start on a programme of behavioural improvement. Featuring a neat pair of male buttocks in what looked like very tight cut-down long-johns, the headline promoted ‘Flatulence Filtering Underwear’. These garments are available from www.myshreddies.com.
Well, they would be a start.