Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Turning us on or putting us off?

Great fun yesterday evening, at the biennial Family Planning Association debate. Two years ago it was on sex education and I bounced up from the floor to make a contribution. This year it was on pornography and I was asked to speak - a really great honour.

The title was "Turning Us On or Putting Us Off". The panel - Mark Limmer the North West Teen Pregnancy Coordinator, Maddy Coy from the Women Abuse Studies Unit and Jamie Maclean of the Erotic Review - was wonderfully facilitated by David Aaronovitch, who seamlessly wove all our statements together then moved it on with substantial audience contributions. I would like to have heard more from "Leanne", a former porn star, and perhaps slightly less from an unamed man in the audience who seemed not to have got the point at all.

Views were wide-ranging - though all agreed on the essential horror of violent porn and the essential wisdom of good sex education. My own approach, though occasionally challenged, hinged on my belief that society is currently in a state of total confusion about many aspects of the porn debate. For a start, what is porn - and what is pleasurable erotica or useful information and knowledge? In my own lifetime I have seen the definition shift - what was reviled thirty years ago is now accepted as natural, normal and helpful.

Above all, though, what I found wonderful was that we were putting issues on the table, talking them through, shining a light on areas that are so often hidden or avoided. Whatever agreements we did or didn't come to, whatever action is or isn't taken, we talked about it sensibly, calmly and usefully.

Hats off - as always - to the Family Planning Association for raising the issue!

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