In an article yesterday, Niall Ferguson tried to take a nuanced position on our changing sexual mores. I think he was right to refer to James Bond – I’m surprised other pundits have not. We’re still in quite a muddle, he says, while we revere this fantasy of droit de seigneur.
Indeed. Not long ago I turned on the telly on a Saturday afternoon, and found a Sean Connery Bond film. He was staying in a hotel – after flirting with an attractive maid he summoned her to his room, and after some sexy banter he pulled her into the shower with him – cut to the happy couple in post coital bathrobes.
It might sound like the scapegoating of a cultural icon, but I think we need to knock double O sex-pest from his pedestal. My hunch is that male politicians have believed in him a bit too much. Who wouldn’t want to believe that being part of the official British state gives you sex appeal? Politicians find that the glamour of power is rather elusive, when you sit in lots of boring meetings – and so a short-cut is tempting. Maybe that pretty young researcher can restore the frail self-image.
We need a moment of iconoclasm. We, or a previous generation, thought it was OK to celebrate this sort of character – we were wrong. It seemed fun, and titillating, and a bit patriotic – surely a dose of irony counteracts any harm? Well, no, irony is often just a protective layer, that stops the harm from being called out. Bullies love it.
Maybe this icon had a function once – making us feel as confident as the Americans, making public school boys less nervous of the opposite sex. No more. No more license to grope.
Bond plays to something nasty and lazy in the British psyche, especially the English psyche. Entitlement, scorn for weakness, an assumption that a veneer of good manners is enough. We made a mistake, as a culture, in thinking this was mainstream entertainment, that these films should be shown on a Sunday afternoon. They should go the way of Jim’ll Fix It.