Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Heed Tulisa, girls. Your dignity, not your flesh, matters

Bravo to Diane Abbott for shouting loud about the effects on young women of an increasingly "pornified" Britain.

Ah, this fresh, exciting, new, sexy teenage landscape, where our small sons glean sex education by watching porn on a mobile screen, topped up with a constant glut of YouTube clips and 'lads' mags.

Meanwhile, our daughters learn about sex and love from free porn clips, their hero Rihanna's inability to stop sleeping with the man who attacked her, the pole-dancing option in PE class, burlesque being pushed as a hobby and those glorious episodes of Britain's Next Top Model where teen girls are sent on a "raunchy men's mag shoot", only to be turfed off the show in disgrace when instinct warns them against following the photographer's instructions.

"Carrie-Anne," the judges will hiss, "you didn't give it 100%. We felt you were holding back and being unco-operative." Messages like this make me furious.

Girls, believe me, holding back, listening to the quiet voice in your head and saying "No" is quite the power-move.

Don't believe the hype. Remember when Tulisa from The X Factor named herself "The Female Boss" and began striding around in shoulder pads singing about her female strength in a male-dominated world?

What more effective way to shut her "girl-power" nonsense up than some grainy mobile phone footage of her performing a sex-act.

So thank you, Diane, for trying to start a dialogue on this most blush-making of topics. Because it is bloody embarrassing, which is why we fail our children - boys and girls - in looking the other way. The Tulisa parable should be taught in schools to all young women. Because too many parents still refuse to admit that the landscape of being a teen has shifted rapidly and rudely in the past 15 years.

I get this. I've done it myself. If one keeps on insisting one isn't shocked by events, and that things were just as bad in your era, then one doesn't have to make unpopular decisions, or, God forbid, look like that old git in Footloose trying to stop kids having fun.

I'm enjoying C4's documentary series What Happens in Kavos..., as much for the reaction on Twitter from 30-somethings - the Nineties generation - struggling to believe what their eyes behold.

They know, behaviourally, that something has shifted. They're simply not sure whether to laugh, weep, or shrug and put the kettle on and make a nice, hot mug of Horlicks. So Diane Abbot has said something, mainly about "sexting", which is brave, because any woman trying to speak about this will be greeted with a volley of "Oh, you're just jealous", or that peculiar breed of post-feminist numpty who'll scream, "Stop telling wimmin what to do."

My hunch, however, is that Diane is right. We owe it to young girls to try to protect them from a society pushing them to be amateur porn models. You know, like we all vowed that we'd learn from our mistakes when the bleak 1970s Savile saga began to seep out, bearing similar tones of male-on-female power-play and big business with monetary interests to protect.

Diane Abbott spoke out about prodding mobile phone companies and computer suppliers about filters, blocks and sim cards - we can't even prod these people into paying tax.

Importantly, the sins of the 1970s went by unchallenged precisely because it was "just the girls" that were suffering.

Now it's the year 2013. And our young girls are suffering now, too.

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