Here is an insoluble problem for a Monday morning: how do you go about condemning an evil without advertising that evil? This lay heavily on my mind Sunday afternoon even as my lunch lay heavily on my belly. I came across a full page article in one of what were formerly known as “quality” newspapers. The subject was the sexualisation of children. This is a serious matter and the sexualisation referred to is rampant as a plague. But how to combat it? I sympathise with the journalist who was faced with the task of producing his article – for how could he hope to get us to join his opposition to the sexualisation of children unless he first informed us as to what this involves? And the double bind is, of course, that any useful description would have to be, to some degree, an example of the very thing it deplored.
It reminded me of the cynicism of the gutter press and such tasty headlines as UNSPEAKABLE FILTH OF THE SEX SLAVE TRADE: SEE PICTURES ON PAGES 3,5, 7, 9 AND 14
I grew up in my granddad’s newsagent’s shop in the 1950s, an age of comparative discretion and moderate reticence. As a youngster discovering the delights and torments of original sin, I used to seize upon the News of the World which carried reports of the latest depravities: girls lured into white slavery abroad and the molestation of choirboys in England, our England. These reports always disappointed for they were entirely lacking the sort of titillation I was looking for. This sort of thing: “The accused removed the young woman from her place of work and took her to Colthorpe woods where the alleged offence took place.”
Borders on the tedious, doesn’ it?
But surely some things should be left to the imagination? The ancient Greeks knew the meaning of the word “obscene” and obscene acts – castrations, rapes, beheadings and the like – were not depicted in the theatre, but had to be imagined as having taken place offstage, the literal meaning of “obscene.”
Unfortunately for us, we live in the age of blatancy. Everything must be seen in all its disgusting horror or squalor – and usually both. We have been taught since Freud to think that this is somehow good for us. But all it has done is corrupt our morality and obliterate our powers of imagination. We live in an age where every image is an advert. Now I’ve gone and said it: we have forgotten the prohibition on the making and worshipping of images.