Magazine article The Spectator

Naked Couples Walking through Cornfields - Anything Else Is Evil

Magazine article The Spectator

Naked Couples Walking through Cornfields - Anything Else Is Evil

Article excerpt

As the days pass, more and more people are assuming that Hollinger International will be forced to sell the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator. Of the home-grown suitors, the favourite remains the pornographer, Richard Desmond, owner of Express Newspapers. Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) is another potential bidder. Let me declare an interest. Although I write a column for the Daily Mail, I would be perfectly happy if a benign foreign publisher such as the Washington Post group acquired the Telegraph newspapers. My aversion to Richard Desmond is based on this simple fact - that he has made his fortune partly out of publishing hard-core pornography.

Last week my colleague Matthew Parris disclosed that he is 'rather relaxed about pornography'. Many people seem to be these days. Is Matthew really aware of the darker side of some of the things Mr Desmond has published? When the pornographer bought Express Newspapers in December 2000, the Guardian ran a magnificent series of articles about Desmond. The paper discovered that a company owned by him had registered a website which promised live heterosexual sex, live lesbian sex, as well as other images portraying a sex-crazed woman of 78, another who was pregnant and another who went by the name of Anal Annie. This is hard core, as the Guardian acknowledged in an editorial at the time. '[Richard Desmond] has made his money,' the paper wrote, 'out of what in any sensible use of the English language - can only be described as hard porn. His magazines and websites arc explicit and frequently repellent in their depiction - in both words and pictures - of women.'

The essence of hard-core porn is that it degrades women. It peddles a lie, which is that they are desperate for sex all the time - and not just normal sex, but the kind which involves their humiliation and debasement before men. One of Mr Desmond's publications called Spunk-loving Sluts says it all. I do not know whether such grotesque imagery helps to send off men to commit rape in the belief that every woman is gagging for it. Some researchers say that it does; others claim it does not. The damage that hard core does, it seems to me, is not so much to a few freaks and weirdos, but to the millions of basically normal people who are increasingly exposed to it. The lie of hardcore pornography - that women crave sexual humiliation - is likely to pollute the sexual imagination of men. Young men are probably particularly vulnerable since they have little experience to weigh against the partly alluring lie that pornography tells.

This is how Mr Desmond has made his money. Even now pornography accounts for a considerable portion of his profits. Does anyone care? Not Matthew, it seems. Certainly not Alastair Campbell, who was lunching with the pornographer only the other week. Nor Tony Blair, who has invited Mr Desmond to No. 10 and to Chequers, and accepted his £100,000 donation to the Labour party. Michael Howard thought fit to break bread with him a few weeks ago. Meanwhile the BBC totally misses the point in its chumpishly unworldly way by describing him as a 'soft porn pornographer'. Even the Guardian, which saw Mr Desmond for what he is before anyone else, has gone easy on him, and recently published a largely sympathetic interview. The paper's editor, Alan Rusbridger, is believed to have formed a slight acquaintance with the pornographer. Why should a person of refined sensibilities voluntarily choose to spend two minutes in the company of Mr Desmond? …

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