Tuned In, Turned On

Prime Minister David Cameron’s claims that the internet is corrupting young minds by exposing children to graphic sexual imagery in the privacy of their own homes has been challenged by a top academic in his new book Tuned In, Turned On. “It really is absolute bollocks, he keeps going on about the evils of internet pornography as if people being sexually aroused by the media in their own homes is something new,” opines Professor Jerry Mire of the West Midlands Institute of Advanced Ceramics. “Believe me, long before the web came along, we were all enjoying a good old dose of the horn in the comfort of our armchairs as we sat in front of the television!” According to Mire, an expert in the politics of sexuality, television brought filth directly into Britain’s living rooms long before even home computers, let alone the internet, were invented. “Researching the book confirmed that most men of a certain age can surely recall eagerly sitting through episodes of The Sweeney in the 1970s waiting for that occasional topless scene, the flash of exposed nipple which would give you the horn, right there on the sofa!” he says. “Remember how you had to use a strategically placed copy of TV Times or Look In to conceal your tumescent tent pole? And how you had to scuttle off, doubled up, to the toilet for a quick hand shandy to relieve all that pent-up sexual frustration?”

Mire believes that, just as television was in the 1970s, so the internet is currently being turned into a scapegoat by politicians for all of society’s ills. “It’s just a convenient excuse to deflect attention away from the consequences of their own policies,” he says. “We had the same thing back in the seventies, with calls to censor television, which was allegedly full of sex and violence. The only difference is that back in the seventies the right hid behind Mary Whitehouse’s moral campaigns. Nowadays, instead of some batty old sexually repressed woman spouting ill-informed nonsense, we have the Prime Minister himself leading the campaign! In truth, he’s worried that the web is democratising smut! What was once the preserve of the privileged is now available to all. For free!” Mire’s stance has found support amongst other academics, with Dr Julius Wittler taking issue with Cameron’s assertion that the internet isn’t just exposing Britain’s youth to sex and nudity, but also more extreme forms of pornography. “He seems to think that sexual deviancy was invented by web pornographers, whereas the reality is that this country’s public schools had been introducing young chaps to perversion for years before the web came along,” the senior lecturer in Sexual Studies at Loughborough College of Photography explains. “Thanks to the prevalence of public school educated creative types in early television, that sort of thing was then disseminated to a wider audience. Speaking personally, I can remember getting quite aroused at a very early age by the sight of Diana Rigg being tied to some railway track in an episode of The Avengers, thereby leading to a lifelong interest in bondage.”

Professor Mire’s book includes a comprehensive survey of the types of TV that the average viewer found sexually arousing. “It really was as simple as asking ‘Exactly what is it that you get your todger out to on the telly?’,” he explains. “Obviously, we had to set some parameters: it had to have been on a regular terrestrial channel and bona fide porn flicks like Erotic Inferno, The Opening of Misty Beethoven or anything with John Holmes, Linda Lovelace, Mary Millington or Robin Askwith in, didn’t count.” Whilst most of the erotic TV stimuli reported by participants in the survey were obvious – the cast of Baywatch, for instance, had provided good ensemble inspiration for many masturbatory fantasies in the 1990s, whilst all those golden-skinned girls in their tight tops inhabiting Australian soaps unsurprisingly continue to cause considerable love porridge spillages on flat screens up and down the country – some surprised the academic. “Who would have thought that former breakfast TV presenter Penny Smith provided so much ‘morning glory’ for many viewers in her heyday?” Mire muses. “Or that TV chef Delia Smith, forever extolling the virtues of ‘cooking’ for one, has caused a few yolks to be spilt?”

Mire is at pains to point out that the survey wasn’t focussed entirely upon male erotic fantasies. “We wouldn’t have wanted the ladies to have felt left out,” he chortles. “We asked them what it was on the box that inspired them to do the two-fingered slot rumba. It turned out that he sight of Kirk Douglas’s leathery arse (flashed at the camera in just about every film he’s made since 1968), was more arousing than his son Michael’s increasingly wrinkly backside (flashed at the camera in just about every film he’s made). A surprising number of women admitted to injuring their necks craning to see if they could catch a glimpse of the young Donald Sutherland’s silent flute in Don’t Look Now!”

Whilst praising Tuned In, Turned On, Dr Wittler believes that Mire has made a mistake in confining his study to the erotic effects of television. “The fact is that filth was everywhere in the seventies – I well remember tossing off over the lingerie pages in my mum’s latest Marshall Ward mail-order catalogue, for example – and it still is,” he claims. “Just look at the barely disguised sexual sub-text of most modern advertising, for instance – there’s more female flesh on show in the average supermarket ad than there was in an entire seventies porn magazine!” Indeed, Wittler argues, contrary to the Prime Minister’s belief that porn has only become widely available thanks to the advent of the internet, historically, it has been ever-present in one form or another. “The fact is that every advance in communications technology has had a single purpose: the more efficient dissemination of erotica,” he declares. “Why else did neolithic man invent paint? To draw smutty pictures on the walls of his caves. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and papyrus? To allow the production of primitive erotic fiction. The printing press? Jazz mags, obviously! The technology might change, but the message remains the same: filth. The only criticism I have of web pornography is that, unlike the TV programmes and adverts that turned us on in the pre-internet age, it requires no imagination!”