The really nasty stuff is never far away

HOW ironic it is that mags, movies and TV channels dealing in cheap smut should be labelled "adult". Most of it is deeply adolescent.

HOW ironic it is that mags, movies and TV channels dealing in cheap smut should be labelled "adult". Most of it is deeply adolescent.

Don't get me wrong. Grown men do like looking at attractive images of women. It's in our nature. And it's not something we need be ashamed of, either.

But men who have really grown up aspire to more fulfilling relationships – and more fulfilling sex – than is ever portrayed in so-called "adult" entertainment.

The worst of it depicts women in a manner that reduces them to the status of mere sex toys. Playthings to be used and abused for the shallow gratification of boys and immature men.

Of course, I shouldn't really know this. I don't seek the stuff out. I'm perfectly happy with my real relationship with a real human being, thank you very much.

But it is getting harder and harder to avoid the daily bombardment of imagery and language that is in one way or another pornographic.

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So should we be rejoicing in the demise of Penthouse magazine? Well, no, actually.

The former soft-porn favourite has fallen off its top-shelf perch because of hugely increased competition.

On one side is the proliferation of supposedly more "respectable" mags for young men. I've lost track of all the titles, but you know the ones I mean. The ones in which young female "celebrities" keep a scant few of their clothes on to line up in a sort of hit parade of supposed sexiness.

The nipple count may be slightly lower in these lurid glossies than in Penthouse – or even the News of the World – but the message is the same.

It's the same in much of the advertising we see on our screens and street corners.

It's the same, too, on the internet sites that have stuck the commercial knife into the traditional soft porn mag from the other side. It's that women-as-sex-toys thing again.

The internet is perhaps the most alarming aspect of all this. It invades so many of our lives now, with little or no regulation.

And, sadly, it is porn that keeps the net alive and developing. If you want to make money out of a website, porn is the easiest and most reliable way to do it.

Much of what's out there is relatively harmless, if you don't mind a bit of voyeuristic titillation. But once you enter that world, the really nasty stuff is never far away.

Actually, you don't even have to enter deliberately. Once your email address is out there in cyberspace, the foul stuff is only too liable to find its own way to you.

Now, I love the internet. Not only do I make my living at it, I also relish the opportunities it provides for research, for shopping, for humour, for instant communication with my mate in Australia.

But I do not love receiving emails offering me images of bestiality.

I am sickened to receive unsolicited offers of child pornography, as I have on several occasions.

I am appalled to receive, as I did this week, the offer of photos and videos of women being raped. Yes, really.

And I am worried about the effect such vile stuff might have on net-users who do not know that the label "adult" usually means "juvenile".

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