Tuesday, 14 September 2010

His cup runneth over

With the exception of being spotted in Iceland, queuing to buy a Pot Noodle, I imagine there are few things more soul-chillingly embarrassing than being asked to "provide a sample" at a fertility clinic.

Childless couples are under enough pressure as it is, having tried unsuccessfully to reproduce the natural way. By the time you're standing in a crowded reception room as a harried nurse hands you a translucent cup and asks you to fill it, you'd be lucky if you could still spell your own name. Never mind having to shut yourself in an unwelcoming broom cupboard to knock one out, as the rest of the attending patients think to themselves "we know what you're doing..."

To help expedite the process, many NHS trusts provide specialist 'reading materials' - figuring that a little visual stimulus might make the onanism less onerous. But centre-right think tank 2012health is disgusted by this process, even getting Chief Executive Julia Manning to write a damning report about the practice.

As a well-known Tory advisor, we should hardly be surprised that Manning's paper makes repeated references to the cost to the tax-payer of this practice. Even though, as her own methodology reveals, the average annual cost per NHS trust was an astounding £21.32.

Rather than being horrified at the misappropriation of NHS funds, I'm more disgusted by what this means for the quality of pornography being offered. It's bad enough sitting in a dentist's waiting room, having to make do with a three-year old copy of Tatler, and a couple of dog-eared Beanos so old that they still show Dennis the Menace getting slippered. Now imagine a similar scenario, where you're being expected to bash out some baby gravy to a well-thumbed copy of Razzle that only opens on every other page.

Obviously, no-one's going to start burning effigies of Sir David Nicholson over the NHS spending twenty quid in the local papershop. So Manning makes the central premise of her paper the fact that pornography is the universal degrader - offending anyone who makes it, reads it, or wipes it down every time a patient leaves the room.

She argues "It’s also worth considering what the NHS, by supplying porn, is effectively suggesting to a man that rather than thinking about his partner, he should sexually objectify an unknown woman while producing a specimen." Since he's going to draw on fantasies anyway, where's the harm in lending a hand (figuratively speaking of course)?

Interestingly, one of the few media channels that picked up this story was the Daily Star, which used traditional tabloid language to describe the fact that "Hospital bosses were slammed for supplying porn." Rather helpfully, they chose to illustrate the story with some sample pornography, in an image almost twice the size of the text written for the article.

Even more dubious is the fact that the pornography reproduced for illustrative purposes is produced and marketed by Richard Desmond who, coincidentally, also owns the Daily Star. As media blog Tabloid Watch rightly points out, this is just another example of deceitful and misleading tabloid cross-promotion.

Hopefully someone's going to end up with egg on their face over this. Or something that looks a lot like it.

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