Sunday, 24 October 2010


The Chatterley trial raises the question of whether censorship is ever justified. It is interesting that although Lady Chatterley's Lover was banned in Britain between 1928 when it was written and 1960, it was obtainable abroad during those years by anyone with the means. So, the conclusion would be it was less a fear of the corruption of morals than the fear of the implications of an elicit liaison between the classes that kept it on the censored list. Britain in these years was seeing the slow but steady dismantling of its class structure. Change always brings fear; the social unrest that manifested during the 20s and 30s might have been inflamed by such a book. The working class might get ideas above their station. I've no doubt the Establishment were running scared of revolution.

Were they right? Can the morals of the characters in a novel be a risk to society?

Interestingly it tends to be sexually salacious material that is targeted rather than violence. I've read many books whose characters carry out the most loathsome acts and hold the most loathsome opinions. American Psycho, springs to mind. The inner thoughts of a psychopath who tortures and kills for entertainment is about as loathsome as it's possible to get. If we're concerned about morality shouldn't books like that be banned? But they aren't and no one suggests they should be.

So why is sexually explicit material more damaging to us than violence? That's not a rhetorical question, I'd really like to know.


Jen said...

It's interesting that you mention American Psycho.

I live in Queensland, Australia, and we had a very morally upright state government in the 80's - morally upright but corrupt as hell, you know the type - and they banned pretty much everything. The weird thing is, the list of banned books has never been overturned, just forgotten about.

I work for the police, and had a call one night from a girl who wanted to know if it was still illegal to buy American Psycho. Turns out it is! My advice to her: Just order it off Amazon. They'll post it. Nobody will care.

But, to this day, you cannot walk into a bookshop in Queensland and find a copy of American Psycho.
I also ordered it off Amazon. Just to make a point. :)

Sandra Patterson said...

Thanks Jen. I'd no idea AP had been banned anywhere! That's interesting. So much for my theory then.