Friday 28 October 2016

Grace Dent: There’s nothing empowering about girls who expose their bodies online

Published 23/01/2013 | 13:28

BRAVO to MP Diane Abbot for shouting loud yesterday about the effects on young women of an increasingly "pornified" Britain. Ah, this fresh exciting new sexy teenage landscape; where our small sons glean sex education by watching a nine-person gangbang on a Nokia phone screen, topped up with a constant glut of YouPorn clips, the boy’s sex comic Nuts and "sexting" (ie, amateur porn featuring schoolgirls, swapped among boys often acquired via threats or blackmail).

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Meanwhile, our daughters learn about sex and love from free porn clips, their hero Rihanna’s inability to wear knickers or stop sleeping with the man who attacked her, the pole dancing option in PE class, burlesque being pushed as a hobby and those glorious episodes of Britain’s Next Top Model where teen girls are sent on a “raunchy lad’s mag shoot”, only to be turfed off the show in disgrace when instinct warns them not to be photographed with their legs open and their fingers in their gob.

“Carrie-Anne,” the judges will hiss, “you didn’t give it 100pc – we felt you were holding back and being uncooperative!”

Messages like this make me furious.

Girls, believe me, holding back, listening to the quiet voice in your head, and saying “No, I will not give you pictures or videos of me to masturbate over” is QUITE the power-move. Don’t believe the hype.

Remember when Tulisa from The X Factor named herself “The Female Boss” and began striding around in shoulder pads singing about her female strength in a male-dominated world? What more effective way to shut her “girl-power” nonsense up than some grainy mobile phone footage of her with a penis in her mouth.

So thank you, Diane, for trying to start a dialogue on this most blush-making of topics. Because it is bloody embarrassing, which is why we fail our children – boys and girls – in looking the other way. The Tulisa parable should be taught in schools to all young women. Because if it’s not a big deal giving a blow job on camera, then why – in the blink of an eye – can it quickly become the biggest of all deals?

Other parents simply refuse to admit that the landscape of being a teen has shifted rapidly and rudely in the past 15 years. I get this. I’ve done it myself. If one keeps on insisting one isn’t shocked by events, and that things were just as bad in your era, then one doesn’t have to make unpopular decisions, or, God forbid, look like that old git in Footloose trying to stop kids having fun.

I’m enjoying C4’s documentary series What Happens in Kavos…, not just for the rampant STIs, bisexual orgies and kids suffering E. coli from urinating on each other, but for the reaction on Twitter from 30-somethings – the Nineties generation – struggling to believe what their eyes behold. They know, behaviourally, something has shifted. They’re simply not sure whether to laugh, weep or shrug and make Horlicks.

So Diane Abbot has said something, mainly about “sexting”, which is brave because any woman trying to speak about this will be greeted with a volley of “you’re just jealous as no one wants a photo of your fanny” or, that peculiar breed of post-feminist numpty who’ll scream, “I have the right to text my vagina to anyone I want – stop telling wimmin what to do”.

My hunch, however, is that Diane is right. We owe it to young girls to try to protect them from a society pushing them to be amateur porn models and blackmail fodder. Y’know, like we all vowed we’d learn from our mistakes when the bleak 1970s Savile saga began to seep out, bearing similar tones of male on female power-play and big business with monetary interests to protect?

Diane spoke yesterday about prodding mobile phone companies and computer suppliers about filters, blocks and sim cards. We can’t even prod these people to pay tax. Importantly, the sins of the Seventies went by unchallenged because it was “just the girls” that were suffering. Now it’s 2013, and our young girls are suffering, too.

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