Yesterday I spoke against a motion to ban Page 3 girls at a London debating society. Here, roughly, is what I said.
I would like to oppose this motion on three grounds.
Firstly, I believe there is rank hypocrisy in this campaign against Page 3. I also believe its advocates victimize and infantlize women. Finally, but by no means the least important, such a proposal has ominous implications for personal freedom and autonomy.
Last year at the LSE, the Sun was banned from being sold on campus. When members of the Hayek Society there protested by selling the Sun from a stall, it ended up being vandalized.
It was interesting to hear the words of one of the prohibitionists. Page 3, she said, promotes “unrealistic, unattainable expectations” contributing to “negative body image” and even eating disorders.
Folks, I have to ask: How come we never see dildos that are 5 or 6 inches long?
Similarly, I don’t see many portly men in Calvin Klein advertisements.
Throughout history, women have desired men with the biggest muscles and the biggest wallets. Men have desired women with large breasts. The feminists waging war on Page 3 are waging a war on human nature; but who are they to say what we should find attractive?
Last year the women’s section of Al Guardian featured an article telling women how to vandalize the racks from which such content is sold. But women’s magazines are full of scantily clad or even nude women. Clearly, women enjoy looking at such such women, too. But there are no calls to ban or vandalize these magazines.
The most ubiquitous piece of pornography in my lifetime happens to be a book called 50 Shades of Grey. The leading male character is a wealthy pretty boy who has, I believe, a mansion and a helicopter. Unrealistic, unattainable expectations! Yet it is perfectly acceptable to carry this book around and read it on a train. Men are more stimulated by the image and male pornography reflects this, but 50 Shades is pornography by the dictionary definition of the word: material designed to sexually excite. Should it be banned from the shelves?
This campaign springs from a trend in modern feminism, one that does not seek to empower women as much as it seeks to infantilize them and protect their virtue from brutish men. You know, the kind that read the Sun.
Organisations like Ireland’s National Women’s Council, with which I have had run-ins in the past, will loudly call on the government to “protect women and children in the next budget”. Are women, then, automatically as vulnerable as children, just by being women? Is this empowerment?
The women of Al Guardian and student’s unions that vandalize stalls selling the Sun are not all that different from the Taliban or groups of lay-missionaries.
Though they will defend the right of a woman to have eye-catching cleavage, woe betide the man who comments on it.
Old notions of the virtue of female chastity have lost their force. Well, not quite: the parent who recommends their daughter sleep with as many men as possible provided they use contraception has yet to be born.
Its interesting to see how the Progressive alliance with the Moral Majority on issues like Page 3 has ended up setting back the progress of women significantly.
I believe the scare-mongering on matters of sex directed at girls from a young age can be taken to abusive levels. I am studying psychotherapy. Not a few cases of frigidity I have come across can be traced to the tales of wicked men and the need to resist them imparted to girls from their parents. Its probably one of the reasons 43% of women are not enjoying sex to the fullest.
Finally, I want to talk about freedom.
I concede that Page 3 is distasteful. But one of my all-time favorite books, the first serious novel I ever read as a kid, happens to be A Clockwork Orange. Its theme is man’s right to do evil. It asks us whether it is moral to turn a violent young man into a harmless automaton.
In the book, only the prison chaplain, a cleric, openly disagrees with the brainwashing technique. I believe by doing this Burgess was saying that such opposition is difficult to justify on entirely rational or utilitarian grounds. Yet we naturally prefer to be free and flawed human beings than a thing incapable of choice.
Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of undesirable and immoral behaviors are not crimes.
However, a new form of authoritarianism has risen; one that is obsessed with nudging us towards good behavior and ends up cultivating dependence on the state. It is an approach famously laid out by the academics Rich Thaler and Cass Sunstein, who advocate altering our “choice architecture”, or the framework in which we are able to make decisions.
If your political philosophy seeks to micromanage individual behavior, I want no part of it and I urge you to reconsider.
And I urge all of you here, if you stand against hypocrisy and infantilization and favor autonomy, to oppose this motion.
The audience was to my surprise largely in favor of the motion from the poll taken before the debate. My side did not win, but we did manage to increase our share of the vote by the final tally. Ah, small victories.