Modern life is full of paradoxes. We live in a world that rightly condemns the abhorrent behaviour of which footballer Mason Greenwood is accused; and yet the alleged acts which led to his arrest — sexual assault and battery — are normalised, even glorified, in countless scenarios on the internet.
I’m talking, of course, about online porn.
The reason so many young men get the idea it’s acceptable to treat a woman as little more than a repository for their desires is very clear in my mind. This is the generation that has grown up exposed to unfiltered, uncensored and, until very recently, unchallenged acts of obscenity. And it shows.
You have only to read testimonies on the website Everyone’s Invited — which lays bare the reality of teenage sex for so many girls — to see the legacy of almost two decades of free hardcore porn.
This week — after years of campaigning, not least by this newspaper — the Government finally woke up to the problem. It has announced measures, under the new Online Safety Bill, to curb access to adult websites.
You have only to read testimonies on the website Everyone’s Invited — which lays bare the reality of teenage sex for so many girls — to see the legacy of almost two decades of free hardcore porn (stock image)
The onus will be on the sites themselves to implement age verification software — or face being blocked or fined — to stop underage users from accessing their explicit content.
Of course, this is progress, and I welcome it. But I’m afraid it’s just not enough.
Quite simply, all online porn should be blocked by default and put behind a paywall (like an X-rated version of Netflix), so that instead of having to opt out of viewing it, you’d have to opt-in.
Only then can we be sure of stopping most young children seeing things their bodies and minds are not yet equipped to comprehend.
The average age at which children start accessing hardcore porn is now 11. Many are much younger. And these are not just ‘dirty pictures’ — this is a cruel, heartless, commercial world of extreme behaviour, where sex is a violent physical act and where consent is a very shady area. Most adults would be scarred by seeing some of this stuff, let alone a child. And yet under these new rules, there still won’t be much to stop teenagers from finding a way.
Children can easily evade age checks — in fact, they probably understand how to get around them better than most adults.
Children can easily evade age checks — in fact, they probably understand how to get around them better than most adults (stock image)
And even if the checks do work, the widespread use of smartphones means there will always be someone — an older sibling or friend, someone at a party — who can get around them.
Unless we do more, and we do it now, the sad truth is that for the next generation, hardcore porn will continue to be their first (and very possibly most formative) sexual experience.
The violent themes which dominate this sordid world — humiliation, physical abuse, sexual entitlement — will continue to be reflected in the disturbing real-life experiences of many young women.
Don’t get me wrong. I am no Mary Whitehouse. I don’t want to ban porn outright. If adults wish to view it, that’s their choice.
But the rights of an adult to take pleasure from these things must never trump the rights of a child to grow up without explicit sex intruding on their innocence.
We either do this, and do it right, or we accept that too many childhoods will continue to come to an end clustered around a smartphone on the bus or in a playground, watching grown-ups debase themselves.
Resealable Cadbury chocolate bars to stop people scoffing them all at once? Yeah, right.
Jab that IS a fat lot of good
I’m delighted that the NHS is to offer obese patients the weekly weight-loss jab — semaglutide — that has turned my health around. I know critics will say it’s a cop out, and that fat people should just move more and eat less. But most diets don’t work because they fail to address the underlying reasons people over-eat in the first place.
This bypasses all that. It works by suppressing hunger hormones so that patients simply eat less — in my experience about a third less.
It also stabilises blood sugar and reduces cravings, which in turn improves food choices.
And there are mental health benefits, too. I no longer look in the mirror and hate myself.
But the biggest breakthrough for me has been the end of my toxic relationship with food. So yes, it will be controversial, but the fact is that 63 per cent of adults in the UK are obese or overweight, and the knock-on cost of that to the NHS is astronomical.
At around £75 a month per patient, this jab may seem like a big expense in the short term, but in the long run it will surely save the taxpayer a fortune.
That ain’t no mum tum, Maya
Maya Jama, presenter of last night’s Brit Awards, has ‘shared’ (by posting photos of her looking gorgeous in a bikini) the secret to her enviable flat stomach: a £300 lymphatic drainage massage. Apparently it reduces bloating, gets rid of toxins and helps to flush out excess fluid. Sadly, I think it will take more than a massage to rub out my mum tum.
Maya Jama, presenter of last night’s Brit Awards, has ‘shared’ (by posting photos of her looking gorgeous in a bikini) the secret to her enviable flat stomach: a £300 lymphatic drainage massage
Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, has said that the EU’s trashing of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine probably cost ‘hundreds and thousands of lives’.
Whatever else this Government may have got wrong, there is certainly no doubt that there are people alive today who wouldn’t be if Boris Johnson had not a) secured Brexit; and b) raced ahead with his Covid vaccine strategy.
Wives have minds too!
I had to laugh at the faux outrage over the wife of MP Johnny Mercer tweeting a picture of her husband passed out on their sofa after an afternoon watching TV sport. Poor Felicity made the schoolgirl error of thinking Twitter has a sense of humour, rather than just being a platform for the professionally outraged.
Mercer’s response was brilliant: ‘In other breaking news,’ he tweeted, ‘wives have a mind and a life of their own.’
Well said, Johnny. Carrie Johnson couldn’t have put it better herself.
If a third of young Britons polled recently think Salman Rushdie is a fish dish, I wonder what they think a fatwa is. A new type of diet?
Damien Hirst, 56, showered girlfriend Sophie Cannell with gifts for her 28th birthday, including two Hermes handbags (£15,330 and £12,000 respectively). As the late, great Caroline Aherne once said: ‘So, Sophie, what first attracted you to multi-millionaire Damien?’ As for getting all that loot and showing it off online, talk about vulgar.
I have no problem with comedy being offensive: most of the good stuff is on some level.
But the real problem with Jimmy Carr’s joke about the Holocaust and gipsies is that it’s not even remotely funny — just nasty.
Carr doesn’t need to be cancelled; he just needs to be better at his job.
Prince William has let it be known that he is broadly supportive of his stepmother, Camilla, being given the title of Queen Consort when Charles becomes King.
Prince Harry, by contrast, has not uttered a word on the subject.
Perhaps he’s saving it for his forthcoming tell-all autobiography, but their different responses say it all. Neither must be particularly thrilled, given the complexities of their situation, but unlike his younger brother, Prince William is a grown-up who understands that sometimes in life you have to put other people’s happiness ahead of your own.
When Charles becomes King and Camilla Queen Consort, the couple plan to move up the road from Clarence House to Buckingham Palace, the Mail revealed yesterday.
That’s going to be a real wrench. Having had the privilege (humblebrag alert!) of dining at both, I can tell you that Clarence House is by far the more desirable.
It has real character and charm — not to mention vintage wallpaper that makes Lulu Whatsername’s £840-a-roll stuff look like B&Q.
Buck House is more like an upmarket Hilton.
I certainly know where I would rather live.