QotD: “The access to and availability of sex onscreen is, I believe, the biggest seismic change to society in my lifetime”
Mariella Frostrup’s reply to a 17-year-old girl who dumped her boyfriend when she found his porn stash is a pretty much perfect encapsulation of all the things that are wrong with pornography.
Give yourself a pat on the back. If I were there, I’d be doing it for you. You should be proud of the strength of character you’ve displayed. For most of us it takes decades to develop the convictions that inspire us to make moral choices regardless of the consequences. We say: “Meat is murder, but I’ll just have a bacon sandwich,” or “Amazon is killing bookshops but, oops, I just bought The Goldfinch online.” Yet here you are at just 17 having made a decision based on what you feel to be right and you’re prepared to lose a lover in the process.
Whether or not you’re in the majority about the acceptability of pornography in a committed relationship, you have every right to make your own choice. I agree with you and will try not to labour the point, having frequently done so in this column. I’m desperate to investigate further the effect on modern relationships and our society of the proliferation of pornography and our dramatically enhanced access to it in the last decade or two.
In the feminist fury and bra-burning era of the 1970s, porn was rendered a guilty secret kept stashed on top shelves and hidden under beds. Nowadays it’s harder to avoid than consume. I told my eight-year-old son to Google his favourite band, the Sex Pistols, the other night and both of us got quite a surprise at the search results. I’m open to opposing views, but if you look at surveys of young people’s attitudes to sexual behaviour, teenagers are under pressure not only to become sexually active at an increasingly early age but to perform like sex-industry veterans.
There’s also the increased objectification of my own sex – with under-10s dressing like hostesses in roadside bars while singing anthems to emancipation from Frozen – it all makes the insidious impact on the Porn Generation seems vast.
The access to and availability of sex onscreen is, I believe, the biggest seismic change to society in my lifetime. We should be analysing and learning from what we discover before sex becomes simply a spectator sport, totally adrift from the intimacies of a loving relationship. It’s a very long-winded way of saying that I entirely agree with the assumptions you’ve made about your boyfriend’s addiction to screen sex versus real sex and the decision you’ve made to end the relationship. Pornography may be considered liberating by a minority like Belle de Jour blogger Dr Brooke Magnanti, who’ll no doubt pipe up again, but the sex workers I’ve met who make up the majority of employees of this global, unsavoury business are hard-pressed, desperate women whose career choice is based on survival, not sexual liberation. Many hail from countries where they are denied basic human rights and are coerced and exploited in ways that no civilised society should condone.
Those who enjoy dabbling in the porn industry should also be aware of the extent of human misery behind their viewing delectation. Our greatest societal accomplishment in the developed world can appear, on a bad day, to be our ability to turn a blind eye to what the developing world endures to keep our capitalist, consumer-led society supplied. Oh dear, I said I wasn’t going to bang on and here I am, paragraphs later, with steam rising from my keyboard.
Most important is not whether you’re right about the detrimental impact of your boyfriend’s indulging his desires elsewhere, but that you absolutely have a right to make a choice. Instead of reneging on it, be proud of your conviction and bravado. There will be other men and better men. I can only sit back and admire a girl who doesn’t need advice from me – just plaudits for acting on her principles.