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London - How ironic that it should take Raquel Welch - a woman whose very name is a byword for sexual fantasy - to identify one of the most urgent problems society faces today: an overwhelming and deeply damaging obsession with sex.
It’s 46 years since she appeared from behind a rock in an improbable but devastatingly alluring doe-skin bikini in the ridiculous film One Million Years BC.
The moral outrage this prompted seems laughable now, for compared with the violent, degrading pornography freely available to anyone capable of clicking a computer mouse, the Swinging Sixties were as innocent as one of Donald McGill’s saucy seaside postcards.
Raquel, now 71, blames today’s “era of porn” for turning us into sex addicts: “We have equated happiness in life with as many orgasms as you can possibly pack in...where is the anticipation and the personalisation? It’s an exploitation of the poor males’ libidos. Poor babies, they can’t control themselves.”
In recent years, pornography has moved with terrifying speed from a niche pursuit to one that is ubiquitous and hugely profitable. For a teenage boy only a decade ago, porn was just a mucky magazine, bought only after weeks of steeling himself to saunter nonchalantly into a newsagent’s and grab it from the top shelf.
Today, more than a quarter of internet users have visited a pornographic website. And that doesn’t begin to take into account the vast amount distilled through chatrooms, message boards and shared images.
Internet porn is frequently violent and aggressive. Practices that only a few years ago would have been regarded as abnormal are now mainstream. Male desires that previously would have remained dark fantasies, or have been kept in check, have now become both popularised and legitimised.
The consequences of this are only just beginning to be understood. But it cannot be a coincidence that sexual violence against women in Britain is on the increase. A recent survey of 1,600 women on Mumsnet revealed that an astonishing one in ten women say they have been raped, and more than a third subjected to sexual assault.
These figures are staggering, almost unbelievable. But they become less surprising when you consider that images of women being pulled by their hair and roughly handled during cold, impersonal sex are commonplace on the internet.
As a mother, I find this simply terrifying. What will the consequences be for my daughter, exposed to a generation of boys who have grown up watching this stuff?
And what of my ten-year-old son - how can I hope to protect him from such degrading and desensitising filth during his teenage years? The answer, at the moment, is that I can’t: you can impose filters on the family computer, but it’s almost impossible to apply them to smartphones, or to check what your children see at a friend’s house.
I’ve written before in support of Tory MP Claire Perry’s proposal to make internet porn accessible only to those over 18 who actively opt to see it. Despite paying lip service to this idea, which is not only sensible, but vital, neither David Cameron nor Culture Minister Ed Vaizey have taken the necessary steps to make it happen.
As Raquel Welch says: “I don’t care if I’m becoming one of those old fogeys who says: ‘Back in my day we didn’t have to hear about sex all the time.’ Nobody remembers what it’s like to be left to form your own ideas about what’s erotic and sexual.”
Sex used to be the most powerful gift a woman could bestow. And the pursuit of this prize encouraged men to regard it not as some bestial form of domination (which is how it’s frequently portrayed on the internet) but as a demonstration of love and respect.
Yet for modern teenagers - and for God knows how many older men - I fear sex has been reduced to an entirely loveless experience that is predicated on the humiliation and subjugation of women.
Forty-six years ago, “porn” for most teenage boys amounted to little more than a poster of Raquel in her cavewoman bikini on their bedroom wall. I suspect today’s teens would barely register that poster as even mildly erotic. And that’s a tragedy not just for them, but for us all. - Daily Mail