Nothing soft about the naked truth

2010-03-07 07:57

HAVE you ever entered an adult store? Have you flicked your remote control to late-night soft porn on television?

Surfed an adult website? Bought one of the many girly magazines on corner shop shelves? Visited the yearly Sexpo? Stayed longer than ­normal on the Page?3 pin-up in some newspapers – not this one!

Chances are that if you are a hot-blooded South African man or woman, Christian or other faith, black or white (and shades in between), you have.

Sex is a popular pastime in South Africa. The yearly ­surveys show that while we are not quite as hot-blooded as the Italians and Nigerians, South Africans are right up there.

So, what’s the fuss with ­MultiChoice’s mooted adult channel on its pay-television bouquet?

Apparently, it is a big deal if the twittering national pulse is anything to go by. From soapie stars, to rugby players and trade-unionists, the right-wing is having a fine time talking up fears of what a porn channel might do to the faltering morality of South Africans.

Every possible societal ill is threatened by the lobby, which blames high rates of abuse of children, paedophilia, sexual and other violence on pornography. For every piece of ­research proving the link ­between pornography and ­violence, there is another piece which shows there is none.

The jury is out. But this is not a debate about pornography. It is a debate about where society sets the responsibility for freedom of speech.

Surely, it lies with the ­individual?

Pay television is elite and ­determined by choice, not only in the bouquet of channels you buy but what you watch. The ­remote control, together with the cellphone, puts power in the hands of she who controls the buttons. You can determine what you and your family watch. And if you don’t want children to watch adult channels, you can programme ­restricted viewing into your system.

You can tell pay-television operators what the optimal viewing times are and get them to study when children watch so that scheduling does not clash. Banning content puts power ­into the hands of the few over the many.

The porn fight is a striking national contradiction. We are quite happy to broadcast and watch the most violent television, often in prime-time, but want to ban sexual content. ­Arguably, violence is more dangerous to viewers because copy-cat action is well-documented.

The debate introduces yet­ ­another example of rising conservatism in a progressive country.

This week it was revealed that Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana objected to her department funding an exhibition which featured naked black women embracing.

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