not our business

So I did a really fun gig in Brighton last night with Robin Ince, who is not only very lovely but also has a particularly insightful line about the how so much of the British news media is basically child porn.

I wonder sometimes if it’s perhaps not the fault of the newspapers, but more that they are very often a reflection of our national split-personality disorder when it comes to young people and sexuality. Take, for instance, this screen grab I got from the BBC website last week:snapshot1

Yes, I know it’s too small to read, but it’s a story about a girl who died after taking the HPV vaccination (there was nothing at the time to suggest that the vaccination had caused her to die, just that the two events had happened and that this was in some way a reason for us all to be scared of a vaccine which, if it works, could massively reduce cervical cancer. Because it’s not enough to be hopeful that such a vaccine will work; it has to be presented as a danger for us to be terrified of.)

I don’t know what the quite noisy anti-HPV-vaccination lobby (who would prefer that we prevent the spread of the Human Papilloma Virus by banning women and girls from having sex altogether) would have made of the story. I’m not so cynical as to think that they might actually be happy about it; but I have no doubt they will use it.

Anyway, there I was, wondering what anyone could have against the idea of a vaccination that might make sex just a tiny incremental bit less dangerous for women, when I looked over at the side of the page at the ‘most read stories’ box. This is it:

stories

So in at number one, we’ve got the schoolgirl who died from the jab that makes sex a bit safer. But look at numbers 2, 3 and 5 – they’re all in some way related to sex, young women and the idea of ‘innocence’. The scary question is, why are these stories the ‘most read’? Why the hell are so many people clicking on these links?

The girl band that were kicked off X Factor were a bunch of girls who had grown up on a force-fed cultural diet of Britney Spears et. el. grinding around provcatively; they just copied an image that had been normalised for them and were then told that it wasn’t appropriate for them because nobody, least of all the people who run TV, have no idea what ‘appropriate’ even means any more.

The third most popular story, I assume, was about girls in Egypt faking being virgins for marriage, which is pretty self-explanatory, but again you have to ask, what were all these people hoping to see or find out by clicking on this story? Pictures?

The student who got raped is obviously awful – but people getting raped is not a rare event; the sub-editor who picked the headline must have known that this story would get a lot more views with ‘Student, 18, raped at university’ than with the equally true ‘Woman assaulted in Manchester’ (or wherever the university was).

The fact is, the news media – and most of the people who read it – are completely obsessed with young people and sex. It’s no accident that Roman Polanski can’t stay out of the news for five minutes (see, he’s up there too): it’s because everybody knows – but dares not say – that a story about a grown man having sex with a thirteen-year-old girl, even if it happened twenty years ago, will get people reading, sweaty-palmed, as they get all excited while thinking probably a little bit too much about what a disgusting monster Polanski is.

It makes me genuinely wonder who the actual monsters are; I’m not sure I know any more. But I do know that it makes for an impossible climate for a male to have any kind of contact with young women. When I meet people for the first time and tell them I work with sixth-form students in a girls’ school, all the most predictable and sinister assumptions – the grinning and the winking and the innuendo – come pouring out of their stupid faces: ‘that must be (nudge nudge) great…’ – yes it is great, but not for the reasons you’re thinking of; or, ‘do you fancy any of your students?’ – No, that would be weird. I have to teach these people and they trust me.

I’ll admit I’ve been guilty of making slightly distasteful jokes sometimes to be polite to these idiots, but I’m sick of that now; it’s because of retarded attitudes like theirs that I have to spend my daytimes at the moment attempting the impossible task of teaching philosophies of will and desire while pretending that nobody in the room, especially me, has any actual experience of these things. I used to be able to contact my students on facebook when I needed to chase up essays, cancel classes, answer questions etc. I can’t do that now because the staff code of conduct forbids it, based on the moronic assumption that only paedophiles use the internet – and all this is largely as a result of society’s schizophrenically over-sexualised image of young people.

Meanwhile at the other end, the idea of anyone over 30 having any kind of sexuality is either ignored or portrayed as being a bit disgusting. It’s weird and it’s unfair.

I can’t figure out where it all comes from, this confused attitude that is, all at once, paranoid and pervy and dishonest. Probably it comes from our mutual fear of ageing and death. But I do wish we could just accept that people of all ages have sex, but it’s their own business, not ours, and nothing for us to obsess about – and then move on.

Advertisements