In my childhood, page 3 of the Sun and Tid Bids was as risque as it got. Publicly at least (there’s a whole new debate to be had over what went on under the counter).
Today’s shoppers and parents, however, face a new dilemma. Sexualized images have moved mainstream. Rows of Lads’ Mags (covers, sleazy or glossy, depending on your perspective) jostle for space at knee level with Bunty and Sponge Bob Square Pants comics.
We no longer even call it porn. As if a pair of massively over-inflated breasts are somehow less of a come-on when they’re covered with a token slip of duck tape, improbably nestled between strap-lines for Blackberries and the Middle East Peace Process.
Yet all this may change soon. Today’s Guardian high-lights leaked Government plans to clean-up the media and High Street in response to concerns about the sexualization of childhood. Proposals include-
- Lads’ mags to be kept to the top shelf or covered up,
- Parents to be given a greater say on the contents of TV programs before the Watershed,
- A single website to act as a portal for parental concerns,
- New guidelines on child retailing (and possibly an end to black lacy padded bras for prepubescents).
The proposals form part of the Government commissioned Bailey Report. The Report, apparently, finds sexualized and gender stereotyped clothing, products and services for children are the biggest concerns for parents and many non-commercial organisations.
Quite how all of this will translate into practice remains to be seen. As ever, the devil may be in the detail (or lack of it). Even the Chinese found it difficult to police the internet.
The challenge will be how to respond to this proportionally, in an increasingly deregulated world. It seems unlikely, however big the nostalgia factor, that the X Factor generation would willingly embrace a return to the days of Mary Whitehouse and Samantha Fox.