I’m perplexed when otherwise intelligent women assert that there’s a causal connection between things like Page 3 and actual physical harm done to women, because there’s almost no research to back up such claims. On the contrary, the regions of the world in which women are most at risk of physical harm — places like northern Iraq, where Yazidi women are raped, tortured and sold into sexual slavery, or parts of rural India, where suttee is still practised — are those places where pornography is strictly forbidden. As a general rule, the more sexually repressed a society is, the more likely women are to be abused. That suggests Orwell was on to something when he argued that seaside postcards and the like were an integral part of a civilised society, not a threat.
They are the direct descendants of the bluestocking temperance campaigners who took a similarly dim view of gin and beer -— the sandal-wearing scolds who tried to stamp out all traces of vulgarity from the public square. Orwell thought they’d never succeed because the common people would always greet their efforts to improve them with a chorus of raspberries. But they have succeeded, and our society is a duller — and more dangerous — place as a result.