Top critical review
on 3 January 2016
More journalism than sociology or science. Hurry past the chapter on sex workers, which feels both as tawdry as its subject and thoroughly dated (I'd taken the book to be about twenty years old) and belabours the obvious, that sex work never 'empowered' anybody but was humiliating on all sides unless you happen to be the egregious Russell Brand, who could talk himself inside a paper bag. The meat of the book (hah!) is the science, but actually a lot of this labours the obvious, skirts (ha!) around the philosophical nub(s). Is dieting empowering or just another form of punishment? Whatever happened to maturity* as a goal? How did this rhetoric about women (or differently coloured persons) being automatic victims come about? Sixties libertarianism - good or bad? Does morality liberate or enslave? Were we ever moral or only pretending to be, and does the difference matter? In my view, no - but we threw out the baby of hypocrisy with the bathwater of religion. TV also played a large part (and continues so to do) in flattening the terrain, coarsening our sensibilities, limiting our options and our vocabulary, rendering us passive, mere 'consumers'. Finally, relentless pressure on space, with inexorable population increase and the ever-retreating natural world (not to mention freak weather as the new norm keeping us housebound) force us ever more into our little fantasy worlds, into screen-based solipsism. Result: despite a brief concluding chapter listing changes (ostensibly for the better) the shift to superficiality is I fear unstoppable, in a monstruous infantalising** alliance with commercial interests (the consumerist imperative, quantity over quality) and it is the less educated and more gullible of BOTH sexes who are bearing the brunt, especially without an on-site parental team to demonstrate how reationships work (or fail to). At bottom (ha!) it's fundamentally (haha!) a class issue, somewhere Guardianista Natasha Walter would fear to tread. The courtship game was ever a meat market, but you don't get middle class parents putting their six-year-olds in t-shirts reading So many boys, so little time (p73) nor, come to that, do parents of ANY kind dress six-year-old lads in the male equivalent, though it's the boys who are hardwired to be predators. As initiation into the sisterhood it's not quite FGM, but all the same..
* When did being grown up confer not responsibilities but only rights? When it shifted from 21 to 18, I guess. It's difficult to age gracefully if you're treated as mature too young
** When did 'nudge nudge wink wink' cease to be juvenile and become mainstream - and why? A simple relaxing of restraint, or what? But it doesn't make innuendo any less predictable or more life-affirming