Lucy Kirkwood, in her Royal Court play NSFW, explores that territory, too. The first half of the play is set in an office where the work consists of creating images that are Not Suitable for Work. Doghouse is a fictional version of Nuts or Zoo, a magazine whose raison d’etre is publishing photographs of their readers’ topless girlfriends. No one who works there bothers to hide their contempt for the readers or the girlfriends. But it’s a free country, and if men want to ogle and women want to be ogled, why should they not facilitate the activity? It pays the rent, while these ambitious yet rudderless young people wait for better jobs in better publications to come along.
Sure, there’s a bit of a crisis, when their readers’ girlfriend of the year turns out to be 14. The staff all agree this is indefensible (and also that they too are the victims, because they were lied to). But the point is made. If the production and consumption of sexual images really is such harmless fun, why is there such strong consensus around the idea that some people are too young, too vulnerable, to take part in it? The visceral conviction in our culture that minors need protecting from this sort of exploitation is prima facie evidence that it is indeed exploitation, and that taking part in it is an important decision, not a trivial or casual one.
“The way we look at women is worrying, even when it’s women doing the looking”