I like to consider myself a red-blooded woman. I have read the Kama Sutra (not without a little consternation at how some of those contortions are done, mind) and I am totally comfortable telling you that I more than appreciate the sight of the male form in its prime (particularly when the prime in question is Alexander Skaarsgard in full vampire regalia). In short, I consider myself fairly enlightened about sex and sexiness.
In the last couple of years though, I have experienced a total sense of ambivalence about the increasing levels of in-your-face sexuality that seem to have pervaded every waking moment of modern life.
It seems an advert isn't an advert without a cavorting model, some pillow feathers and a chandelier. A book isn't a best-seller without a red-room of pain and a romantic night in seems to have to come with jiggling pink balls, handcuffs and a contract to be worthy of a mention at a girly lunch. I am a mother in a long term relationship. I fit my love life into the ad-breaks; I have neither the time nor the posterior for re-training as a dominatrix.
Image sourced from Yahoo, originally cited as web
My ire was really raised when Beyonce, an insanely talented performer I used to love tried to ban pictures of her less-than-flattering performance faces. She was more than happy though to be seen parading around in a sheer suit with sequinned pointy nipples and a matching ahem 'cuff'. What is the message? Looking 'unattractive' is not okay but virtually naked is fine? Really?
Another example of this is Rihanna. Young, gorgeous and gifted, she has built a career on suggestive behaviour and openly states that she 'didn't set out to be a role model'.
Regardless of her denials, to the primary school age girls I have seen singing about whips and chains in school uniform whilst grinding their pre-pubescent hips in a heart-breaking parody of suggestion; I would say she IS a role model and it is my opinion that pop-stars, like footballers and other celebrities have a responsibility to their young fans to promote a healthy respect for moral boundaries.
Despite the phenomenal successes of very beautiful and modest stars like Adele and Emile Sande, there is no shortage of starlets spending their time far more focussed on their bodies then their skill. Sadly I believe that many young people today are seduced by the apparent allure of the 'easier' routes to the top these young women, many of whom have talent that should mean they don't need to rely on their looks in this way, seem to be promoting.
To those who suggest not letting children listen to this type of music or be exposed to the media-sell on these 'artists', try it. Try and protect young people from performances, lyrics and outfits that are closer to porn than art. Try and shield them in your own home, shops, cars, days out, at friend's houses. It is a LOT harder than you think.
And it isn't just the music industry. I was in Boots the other day, picking up hay fever medicine with my children. I was browsing the racks of anti-histamines when my entirely innocent seven-year-old boy asked me what 'fruity lube' was for. I moved him along but not before I spotted a number of fairly hard-core sex paraphernalia on the same shelf. What on earth does Boots need to sell sex toys for, in open display, for children of reading age to ask about? Who seriously thinks 'today I need some pile cream, athletes foot powder and oh, of course, a vibrating c**k ring'? I have no issue with places like Anne Summers and may have bought a pair of knickers there for a friend (ahem), but I chose to go in there. On my own. Not with my innocent children.
Then we went to the supermarket. Queuing in the magazine aisle I couldn't fail to notice that on the second shelf up, at eye height to my three-year-old son were a stack of lad's mags, resplendent with topless girls wearing nowt but a smile and some duct tape covering their modesty.
Once upon a time to find porn it meant a shifty peer at the top shelf and the readers were seedy men in stained macs. Today you don't have to look for that sort of imagery; you have to find a way to look away.
Surely this lack of suggestion represents the very antithesis of erotic. No mystery, no room for imagination, just flesh, flesh, flesh. I need less 'time with my man' and more 'time to scrub my brain with bleach' at the thought of it all and I hate the idea that this is the norm for what young women think they should represent. I wish I could tell them (without sounding like a boring old woman) that we absolutely are all sexual beings but that isn't the only thing we are and it is the very last thing we should using as a gauge of our worth in the world.
As the mother of sons, some people might think I have less to worry about then those raising girls but they would be wrong. I want my boys to grow up with a healthy attitude to women. I don't want them to view the girls they meet as toys for their delectation and I want the girls they bring home to respect themselves enough not to let them behave that way. As far as I am concerned, Beyonce, Boots, FHM et al need to learn something and that is that force feeding sex down ours and our children's throats needs to stop. It isn't clever. It isn't empowered and it certainly isn't sexy.
Next week: I will be discussing how to get the full 'Mary Whitehouse' make-over. Get your twin-sets ready!