Monday 29 July 2013

The puritans are coming!

Britain has long enjoyed a relatively liberal attitude to sex and nudity but this is under attack from two fronts. On one side, Muslim campaign groups are mounting serious pressure on women to 'cover up' in many communities in the UK, while on the other front, some puritan groups are currently running a campaign to prohibit the display of 'too much flesh' in public.

There is little that can be said about the Muslim threat to a sexually liberal Britain. Where religion comes into the equation, the struggle for personal freedoms and rights usually lose out to bigotry and narrow-mindedness.

The other campaign is more interesting since it is allegedly run by feminists who object to the display of scantily clad female bodies on magazine covers. This campaign is odd in many respects. First, because it undermines the feminists' own cause to battle bigotry and sexual violence by arguing consistently that nudity is not an invitation to rape. There have been famous marches and demonstrations in some cities in the UK and the US and I certainly sympathise with their cause.

The object of debate: porn for some, sexual freedom for others

Yet, this contradicts the recent campaign to prohibit any displays of women's bodies in bikinis or underwear in public places. The campaigners argue that this 'objectifies' the female body for sex. My response is: so what? I would hope very much that every human body is an object of sexual desire for at least one other person. We are by nature an object of other people's desires. But the fact that we are so much more than this, does not mean that objectification should be banished. It would be a pretty boring world to live in.

So, this latest campaign appears more in tune with the old puritan desires to de-legitimise bodily functions and may be animated by a deep discomfort with sexual instincts. Neither of which leads to a happy life I suspect.


  1. On this I respectfully disagree as you seem to be putting different things in the same basket.
    Slutwalks were initiated as a specific response to the Canadian rape incident and subsequent insane remark. In many similar circumstances, people are blaming the victim (specifically her appearance) rather than the raper. The other week, a Swedish Muslim all covered up with a Hijab was raped - will they say that the way she uncovered her eyelids induced the rape?
    By the same token, all other feminist campaigns re magazine covers and page-3 girls have nothing to do with being puritans, as you know, but aim at creating a different gender culture and a radically different view of the female body.
    Someone complaining about FKK could be named a puritan. People trying to change how gender identities and roles are perceived in our society shouldn't be put in the same basket.
    In Hackney, there's one street with many strip-joints; customers often hanged around in the street outside to smoke and chat. After watching the shows, many customers felt it is ok to harass any woman that passed by that street on their way home after office work.

    It is pretty clear that some brainless people find it very hard to distinguish between different female human beings, between those who work in the striptease profession or in prostitution and those who happen to be doing something completely different like office work. With much respect for all professions, these men feel completely justified to approach and deal with all women in the same way.

    This is what needs to be changed. This is why some unnecessary nudity needs to be covered up.

    As for the religious-induced puritanism, well that is a completely different story. And if you ask me, bigotry ignorance and narrow-mindedness is what I would answer.

  2. Well, this is a pretty thoughtful comment, thank you! I suppose much of what you say is right but I would say that I am happy not to impose ANY gender culture on anybody. Why should we change men (or women for that matter) anyway if their behaviour doesnt hurt anybody? Clearly page 3 pictures dont do anybody harm and I am not sure that removing them makes for fewer rapes or domestic violence. At the end of the day, the Sun has a circulation that reaches fewer than 1 million people a day in this country. That's less than one 60th of the population. Is it worth fighting culture wars over this?

    Perhaps the reason some parts of the feminist movement latch on to this issue is that it has totemic meaning for them. I am not sure that's a good reason to fight something.