Last week, Shadow Health Secretary Diane Abbot spoke on behalf of the Labour politburo in stating British teenagers should not feel victimised by an increasingly ‘pornified culture’. First, one must dispute Ms Abbot’s claim on the grounds that ‘pornified’ is not actually a word – this has been checked in the Oxford English Dictionary.
The second objection to Abbot’s claim is that she presupposes an inherent negativity and danger in exposing adolescents to sexuality. Abbot, admittedly, states that ‘Of course, sex is great’ – how liberal of her – yet her comments are permeated with the language of fear when addressing the most natural of human desires.
Abbot claims that the ‘hyper-sexualisation’ of society is a ‘prison’ in which the young are corrupted by pornographic images. This proposition is based purely upon assumed social constructs of human sexuality, reinforcing repressive social attitudes rather than liberating our young people from the ‘prison’ she describes.
The writings of Michel Foucault deal extensively with the power-structures of state and society and its consequences on the individual, ultimately the repression of self-hood. Rather than sexuality being a ‘prison’, our sexuality, and therefore our conception of the self, is imprisoned by society’s expectations of sexual behaviour and the suppression of sexual desire.
The ‘children’ that Abbot speaks suggest a babe-in-arms, a pre-pubescent state of innocence; they are in fact adolescents, growing and developing into young adults. The exploration of sexual desires is an inherent part of this growth, the denial of which merely results in psychological confusion and distortion in later life. Abbot’s cries for restriction and protection are nothing more than society’s attempts to control the sexuality of our young; attempts that merely reflect the repression of their advocates.
Psychology and philosophy aside, one can also dispute the logical basis of the Shadow Health Minister’s proposition. Abbot cites the ‘independent’ review – commissioned by the Mothers’ Union – in which 40% of subjects had seen things in a public space that were deemed ‘inappropriate for children…because of their sexual content.’ Disregarding the fact that 40% is still a minority statistic, one must question the very definition of propriety, children and sexual content.
At what level does the image of a nude become sexual? At what point does Michelangelo’s David depart from artistic beauty to a symbol of lascivious desire? How can one define ‘childhood’? What is the difference between child, adolescent and adult? Surely, society’s implication of age restrictions is purely arbitrary.
We have come to accept the image of the child as something that is pure and innocent, a possession of the parent that is to be protected from the dangers of sexuality. Yet why do we think this? Let us permit for one moment a different image, one of an adolescent, an individual of developing subjectivity and bodily autonomy. Instead of the act of sex as something expressing the darkest areas of the human mind, let us instead think of it as an exploration of our identity, emotions and sense of self. Surely, this model for human sexuality would lead to a more fulfilled and satisfying existence for the individual?
No. We must instead continue to punish ourselves for our thoughts and fantasies, continue to conform to the expected missionary-position-monogamy for the sake of social stability and order. For the peace of mind of Ms Diane Abbot our young must be repressed, else they risk the dark and corrupt world of sexual liberation and the truth of our passions.