LONDON: Author Brigid Brophy believes that Lord Longford and his team who produced the recent ‘investigation’ into pornography should be allowed to roam freely, she told a meeting of the National Secular Society on October 3.
The meeting in the Conway Hall was called The Longford Threat to Freedom.
Miss Brophy said that the secular society and the Longford porn-busters differed in their attitudes to offensive literature.
She said: “I do not believe that the mere fact that a book offends me is sufficient reason to punish its authors, to suppress the book and to deprive my fellow citizens, all 55m of them, of the right to choose for themselves whether to read a book or avoid it.
“Although it admits that, on the evidence, pornography causes no social harm, The Longford Report feels entitled to over-ride the evidence. One of its pretexts for doing so is its assertion that pornography is addictive. My own guess (which is just as much a guess as the Longford Committee’s, the difference being that mine is a guess, not a special revalation) is that for every person who becomes addicted, there are two who, having satisfied their curiosity and found that pornography does them no large harm and no large good either, move on to types of books and films that are less repetitive and predictable.
“Most people in this country know from their own observation that there is great danger of addiction, especially in the case of young people, to whom we have a special responsibility, if a person starts collecting stamps. Chess is even more notoriously addictive.
“Either the Longford Committee doesn’t in fact believe its own argument or it is grossly irresponsible in not specifically proposing to ban either chess or stamp-collecting.”
She said that the book that, to her, did most to “outrage contemporary standards of humanity accepted by the public at large” was the Origin of the Species, Darwin’s theory of the evolution of humans from monkeys.
Miss Brophy said: “The Longford legislation would have forbidden Darwin to plead that his work was for the public good and would have suppressed the book. Moreover, the book would still not be published now, because not having been available in the meantime, it wouldn’t have been able to persuade the public to adjust their standards of outrage in the light of reason.
“Most original thought and much original art proceeds by outraging previously accepted standards. The Longford legislation would wipe out our cultural future – and much of the past, whose works are often outrageous by present-day standards.
“The Longford legislation is a prescription for replacing the permissive society by a stagnant society. A society that is not free to be outraged is not free to change.”
Mr Gerald Sanctuary, the sex-educationalist, told the meeting: “I hold no brief for pornography. It is a symptom of society’s sexual sickness. This sickness will not be cured by telling people not to be sick; prevention – through education – is the only answer. We need a shield, not a sword.
“It is time we made a serious national attempt in this country to bring about an era of sexual sanity. Let us do so by applying such knowledge and skills as we possess to the problem of sex education. The obvious authority to do this is the Health Education Council, a body ideally suited for the purpose and already deeply concerned with the subject.
“To rely on voluntary advisory councils or viewer’s or listeners’ associations to provide guidelines will be to put prejudice and ignorance where knowledge and science should be.
“Has it occurred to no-one that, by educating the children of today we are educating the parents of tomorrow? How else can we break the vicious circle under which sexuality is viewed by successive generations as something indecent?
“Why do you think there is such an enormous market for pornography in Great Britain, Germany and the United States? Because it is we Angles and Saxons who have most tended to equate sexuality with sinful ness and dirt.”