Pornography takes centre stage at Fringe 2010
Steve Cramer's Festival blog
This article is from 2010.
There are three steps down into the auditorium at the Traverse St Stephens. It’s not entirely at random that I warn you. As I entered said space I failed to spot this natty architectural folly, and launched myself, instead of into Apples, into thin air. Many of my friends have uncharitably reminded me that I am not a small man, and as I hit the floor like a sack of shit, the boom entirely drowned out the young, blameless usher’s by now redundant warning: “watch the steps.”
I dusted myself off to see a bit more Traverse pervyness, in the form of a well performed, if not flawless show which featured a youth who specialised in waiting until over imbibing women were entirely unconscious and unresponsive at parties, then having sex with them. Aside from the moral issues, this strikes me as a bit like playing to an empty hall, and was fascinated by his eschewing of the little applause that most men might hope for in the circumstances. Yet this was not the central character – he is characterised early on with a very funny early sequence where he masturbates over a pornographic magazine.
Yet there’s been enough references to porn over the course of this festival for this to present no surprises. It brought to mind a piece I recently spotted on the agreeable and amusing blogsite Pie and Biscuits, which reported the story of a man being arrested and charged for possessing images of another man having sex with a dead squid, seemingly uncovering an obscure taste for folk who enjoy images of sex with seafood. Hard core prawnography? No doubt it’ll make an appearance in the festival soon.
But why? Is this really the burning issue of the festival? An expert in the field once assured me that pornography and sex sites accounted for about 70% of all web traffic, which leads to a disquieting question: Who exactly are this twisted minority of our population who don’t look at pornographic sites? If I had a teenage son, who given the opportunity to see images of young women (or men, should he so choose) taking their clothes off, did not do so, it’d be straight to the headshrinker for him. I can’t really prove this, but I strongly suspect that the overwhelming majority of porn viewing involves, not some of the shocking stuff referred to this festival, but the same imagery that has been available throughout human history. It will be fit young women disrobing, and occasionally being joined in a tryst by equally fit young men who, very like the current recession, prove longer and deeper than expected.
Tim Crouch’s The Author climaxes with a revelation about child pornography, but this is surely not, as many have contended, central to the show. Paedophiliac activities are already, quite rightly, illegal, and if you watch the news for a week, you can be reassured by how energetically law enforcers pursue its perpetrators.
Surely the imagery we view is not a corruptor of society, but rather the biproduct of society’s corruption. In the Roman Empire, the coliseum spectacle of forcing a female slave to disrobe turned, over hundreds of years, into thirty slaves being forced into sex with 30 asses, but was this a determinant of depravity, or merely a thermometer of its increase in the world outside the Coliseum?
British attitudes to pornography have been rather different from other cultures for a long time. Back in the 1970s Lord Longford published a report on porn in which he professed great surprise at his finding that the majority of pornography was employed as an aid to either masturbation or sex between couples. It was quite as if, up until then, he, and much of the British public had believed it was used as an illegitimate way to fix gas boilers. Please, just get over it.
I suspect though, that the occasional wave of moral indignation about porn acts to cover something else. In an economy has seen its poorest ten percent suffer a 25% reduction in their incomes (not including the crippling introduction of the Council Tax to non-property owners), and its richest ten percent more than treble theirs, such trivial issues make for great distraction. But I’ll take no lectures on depravity from any of the politicians who have presided over this obscene spectacle.
What’s worrying is so much of our theatre, in the midst of a recession where the very mad theories that created our economic woes are being rigidly and unsuccessfully reemployed to fix them, is afraid to speak of these dramatic events. I wonder if the theatre is following the philosophy of mass distraction from the real issues, in order to preserve government subsidies that might be cut if they become too critical? Just a thought...