THERE was a Tynan Ustinov argument networked across America recently about sex on the stage. There are Broadway actors and actresses signing an antinudity petition because audiditions arc becoming nothing more than an excuse for "peeping Tommery."
There is Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, attacking the "arty" filthmongers. And Raquel Welch is still about the only girl refusing to strip on film.
In Italy magistrates arc busy seizing what they describe as obscene films. The Italian film makers have evidently gone further than any others in the current exploitation of sex.
We have not been doing so badly ourselves, Take a look at the Evening Standard's Entertainment Guide and you can't fail tonotice what I mean. Out of six picture-ads the other day five were of nudes, and the words used to describe the films, even the titles themselves, leave little to the imagination.
"Candy—eroticism without parallel," "School for sex," "The Wonder of Love—a study of male and female sexuality," "Sweden Heaven and Hell—the truth about the world's most permissive society," "Baby Love," "The Sexy Gang."
Glancing through the entertainment guide I noticed that lucky Odeon filmgoers in London had a choice the other week between "Baby Love" and "Candy" although the ARC cinemas had a slightly better choice between "Rachel. Rachel" and "What's Good for the Goose."
The cinema chains, anxious for you not to miss anything, however, have included in the "Rachel" programme a delicate piece called "The Chastity Belt," while the others can enjoy vicarious thrills in "The Violent Ones."
"Rosemary's Baby" is still going the rounds, I notice, and I remember that after seeing that clever, kinky film I felt it was dangerous. Not for me, of course—fantasies of any sort, let alone about devil-rape, are not an upsetting diet for a 31year-old cynic—but possibly it could be dangerous for the young to see such perversion.
Are sexy films genuinely likely to deprave? Do they encourage an unbalanced view of sex as some mothers think? Are the British censors right to clamp down on violence more than on sex? Film critics who profess to dislike censorship are nonetheless pleased that violence doesn't erupt from our screens as readily or as bloodily as it does in America, But they don't seem to appreciate the irony of their position.
Censorship, I'm afraid, is the only thing that preserves us from too much violence on the screen as it did from too much sex. And if, as some critics think, violence breeds more violence and is therefore better discouraged, doesn't this criterion also apply to sex?
Teenagers themselves don't bother to look that deeply. One 17-year-old told me that his mother "gets stroppy and says films like that are distasteful, but it doesn't worry me. I don't think it matters. After all, you know what you are going to see, and I don't think watching a bit of sex on the cinema does anyone any harm."
When pressed to answer what effects, if any, watching sexy films had on him or his friends, this boy admitted that some boys, not himself, of course—think that sex must be marvellous, nothing to worry about, just get on with it. Then they find that real life is somewhat less easy and much more worrying, There are always two sides to this question," he added. "And films only show one side.
"Boys tell me that sexy films don't make any difference to their behaviour, but I'm positive they do," said a 16-yearold girl who has begun to look upon herself as a "bit of a prude" because she doesn't go along with the sexual free-forall that is becoming the "in" thing to do.
"I know a number of boys," she said, "who have modelled their behaviour on those boys in the film 'Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.' They think that sex is a fine thing with every girl and have no respect for girls at all."
Didn't a decent home background make any difference? Unwillingly she admitted that it might, but obviously felt that films affected them far more than parental attitudes.
There is no doubt that conscientiotis parents find their lives made very difficult by the growing permissiveness in everything, not merely films, but as part of the general attitude.
A mother of four teenagers feels that there is far too much emphasis on sex. "These sexy films can give children a very warped view of life, and f think the constant emphasis does much more harm than violence. It's not always easy or possible to prevent a 14or 15year-old from going to such films." she said.
"But for them these kind of films can be particularly harmful, for they are seeing them before they have grown up enough to see that sex is not the be-all and end-all of life and that it can lead to harm.
"It's not so bad if children can talk to their parents. But when they don't—and it seems to be the common relationship —then I think great harm can be done."