Late last year, an unfortunate 20-year old teaching assistant, Sarah Lyons was pictured with a pair of knickers round her ankles, and became the "face of booze Britain". Though I think the defence that the knickers weren't hers (they were given away in a drinks promotion) raises more questions to the tabloid mind than just shutting up, the defence that she wasn't drunk is, however, important.
Here was a girl just joining in the fun, only to have a snapper splash her across tomorrows papers without so much as a by your leave. Anyone can be snapped pretending, playing, dancing and in that moment, you can depending on your facial expression for an instant, appear violent, drunk, aggressive, slutty, whatever. The truth may be very different. The camera can, and does, lie regularly. What's more the, widespread publicity has genuine and serious effects on individuals. In Ms Lyon's case, she was suspended from her teaching job. No-one seems interested enough to find out whether she lost it in the end to publish a news story about it.
What's worse is that some people who should know better think that this is reasonable. "How can she set an example to the kids?" they bleat, "when you've made an exhibition of yourself. The children will never respect you". Well if you cannot laugh off such tabloid nonsense with a lesson on the third estate's power, then you shouldn't be a teacher. And if a blameless 20-year old gets caught doing nothing illegal, dangerous or even immoral by the press, a Head Teacher should show some leadership and loyalty to staff and stand by the poor girl, giving a lesson in the right thing to do. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.
This isn't about moral decline. Tacitus thought we were a bunch of piss-heads who liked fighting. Hogarth, 2,000 years later depicted depraved Gin lane next to the virtuous Beer alley. Booze is part of the fabric of national life. Everyone from the lowliest Cardiff teaching assistant to the most exalted New Labour panjandrum or Bishop of the church of England uses booze as an excuse. Posh Students get pissed and act up:
every bit as much as the boy from the sink comprehensive. Nothing has changed since the Roman Invasion: booze is the one thing that unites this nation.
What's changed is the ease with which images are captured and disseminated. The length of time they hang around on the Internet and the damage they can do. Because anyone Googling "Sarah Lyons" will get that image. And anyone Googling "Knicker Girl" will return Sarah Lyons. I'm lucky. I have this blog, and a twitter account, some sports results and the Cambridge mind-games Olympiad and an article In the Wall st Journal, should you google my name. Though Student Jackart + Alcohol = nudity, I have yet to have my image splashed across the Sun, mainly because I am not an attractive 20-something girl and facebook didn't exist when I was an undergraduate. Men are titillated by a pretty girl, apparently with her panties off, and women judge other women and love to purse their lips about them. It's what they do. So I get away with mooning in the street. And Ms Lyons gets the order of the boot from her job.
And of course this brings to mind the most staggering hypocrisy: Women are judged harsher than men, and the poor and disadvantaged are judged more harshly than the rich and privileged, who don't, by and large get ASBOS. My favourite drinking song, It's the same the whole world over, makes this very point.
It's the poor that get the blame,
It's the rich that get the pleasure,
Ain't it all a bloody shame.
And, Feminzazis, don't try to pretend that we men are to blame for this hypocrisy. Most men, apart from pant-wetting hypocrites like Quentin Letts, like sluts (though I am not suggesting that the blameless Ms Lyons is one). Other women are the ones who do the judging. It's not men who think that women are "asking for it" because of a short skirt or a glimpse of tit, It's women. Female jurors are far more likely to let an accused rapist off because some women hate other women. Most men are taught from an early age that "no means no" and would happily lock a rapist up for life and cut off his balls while we're at it. Rape and rapists disgust men. Many Women seem to blame the victim. Look at the Daily Mail where the savage misogyny of women is most apparent, where rape is barely reported apart from women who made it all up. Look at the magazines like 'closer' and 'heat' for whom women are too fat/thin and therefore disgusting; or too promiscuous/frigid and therefore deserving of public humiliation. Men wouldn't be seen dead reading that drivel. Women, you see, hate each other and keep each other down with jealous, prurient and spiteful judgementalism.
So girls. Don't wear a party dress in town and get out of a taxi. Don't attract male attention with a flash of cleavage or thigh. Remember at all times your sexuality, and your body is public property. Don't have a few drinks with the girls and have fun. Don't get seen kissing in public. Don't ever get drunk or hang about with people who are, just in case someone sees you and takes a picture and makes you a face of the nation's moral decline. It's for the chiiiiildren, you know.