THE WIT AND WISDOM OF MARY WHITEHOUSE

Mary Whitehouse stepped onto the public stage 50 years ago in 1964. To some she was the guardian of Christian family values, to others a self-appointed busybody. She spent decades campaigning for a responsible media and against harmful material. Ironically much of what we know about her views has come to us filtered by the media itself. This is Mary Whitehouse in her own words taken from the books she wrote during her lifetime.


December 2014

“I have a very great hope for the future, a very great hope for where we now stand.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“Is not the greatest threat to us all that we shall become desensitized, that we shall no longer be moved by suffering, no longer capable of recognizing the obscene; so far removed from the magic of our childhood ourselves that we no longer preserve it for our children.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“Advocates of obscenity do not seem to realize that by claiming exemption from the law for every kind of creative activity, however sick or subversive, they are obliterating the distinction between art and trash.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“Did the producer stop to think of the effect of the dripping blood and swinging head on the countless children watching in the early evening?”

Letter to the BBC, 1967

“You yourself are a walking demonstration of the power of television to mislead the public .”

Student Union President after hearing Mary Whitehouse speak, 1971

“Please consider whether the current massive television coverage of acts of vandalism and violence is contributing to the spread of the riots.”

Mightier Than The Sword, 1985

“We shall raise a generation which either grasps at sex as a physical lust or treats it simply as a passing fancy, no more.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“The effect upon so-called entertainment programmes of the violence in news coverage has been profound; in order to attract viewers techniques of violence in drama and documentary have to step up their impact.”

A Most Dangerous Woman, 1982

“I’m a great believer in democracy & democracy only works when people get involved in the forces that are open to shaping their lives & their society.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“Sex binds and sex blinds.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“Civilisation survives through the care each generation has of the next and by the willingness or the individual to accept limits on his own freedom for the sake of society as a whole.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971


November 2014

“Many have been inspired by the BBC’s own motto ‘Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation’ but when it will not talk, even to its own customers, the words ring with a hollow sound.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“Viewers have a right to try to uphold standards which they feel important – not only in their own homes but the quality of culture generally.  That is not a triviality.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

The decision to show film of the shooting showed, in our opinion, an extraordinary lack of sensitivity and took us straight back to the days of public executions.”

A letter to the BBC, 1968

“There is an enormous gap between the easy justification for showing violence because it is reality and the challenging responsibility not to transmit violence which could ‘incite to crime or disorder’.”

A Most Dangerous Woman, 1982

“Television, given different emphasis, could do more than any other to promote a responsible society.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“There is little which cannot be discussed on television so long as programmes are balanced and responsible.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“The greatest danger of pornography lies in its impersonality.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“We must assess the measure to which we have been deliberately misled, conned and exploited by those within the broadcasting industry who have consistently ignored not only their professional obligations but also the wealth of human experience now available.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“Concern about the kind of world we are building for the young & the enormous burden we are creating for them has been the heart of our work”

Mightier Than the Sword, 1985

“What is at stake is not a child’s freedom but the freedom to be a child.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“Let’s all be kids together cry the adults – as if only the fantasies of child’s play help them to come to terms with what they have made of the world.

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

The Broadcasting Standards Council (now OFCOM) has most regrettably, become part and parcel of the broadcasting establishment instead of being, as it was first conceived, the independent voice of the viewer and listener.

Quite Contrary, 1993


October 2014

The real threat to broadcasting comes from those who resist the inevitable and evolutionary progression towards public participation and accountability.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“When sex is deformed, cheapened and exploited then the whole social fabric of society deteriorates.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“Those who work in the media live in their own Cloud Cuckoo Land. Reality to them is the script, the studio, creating a close incestuous atmosphere in which the viewer in the home has no reality a is afforded therefore little consideration.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“So often the people who rightly castigate the brutality of the Vietnam War are found defending the sadistic in literature, film, stage & TV.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“People have both bodies and minds; our attitude to our own and to another person’s body will decide the quality of our relationships with them.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“Collectively and publicly we have turned our backs on our responsibility to protect children’s right to childhood.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“Those who control the channels of communication will hold history, and progress, by the throat.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“I find myself increasingly irritated by the realisation that in making a complaint I am not making my own voice heard but providing an opportunity for [Ofcom] to make a judgement on my views.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“The purpose of much of the sex we see on television and elsewhere is to titillate; and the children are a great deal more open about its effect than adults are.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“The greatest threat to us is that we shall become desensitised; that we shall no longer be moved by suffering, no longer capable of recognising the obscene.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“Every parent, every teacher, every advertiser knows and builds on the fact that example teaches that the visual image is more powerful than the spoken word.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“The rights of parents to safeguard their homes and bring up their children as they think best are under attack.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“There is no way we can protect ourselves from the impact of television.”

Mightier Than the Sword, 1985

 

 


September 2014

“There is no way we can protect ourselves from the impact of television.”

Mightier Than the Sword, 1985

Over explicit material… isolates the viewer’s/reader’s intellect and turns him into no more or less than a voyeur.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“To be placed, not on the top shelf but at a level where almost any child could see and pick it up is surely the height of unresponsibility.”

Letter to the Chairman of John Menzies, 1984

On pornography: “Many who shout loudest against commercial exploitation are quite prepared to encourage a market dependent on human exploitation of the crudest kind.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“It is important to expose the invalidity of the no censorship at any cost philosophy for can anyone in their right mind agree with the proposition that there should be no limits placed on the public presentation of sex and violence?”

Mightier Than The Sword, 1985

“The young are exposed to the predatory emotional and intellectual clutches of the permissive lobby.”

What Ever Happened to Sex, 1977

“I would defend everyone’s right to express his ideas and experiences however turbulent or destructive these may be. The issue of control arises at the point when creative exercises are offered for public presentation.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“We are already depraved; we remain callously unmoved as the actors and the models of the [porn] industry are involved in horrific, depraved practices.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“Everything, in whatever circumstances, depends up on the outcome of the battle between good and evil, a battle which is both personal and collective.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“Today we teach children at school to read a text critically and to decode the message; we do not have such a general education as regards the visual media.”

Mightier Than The Sword, 1985

“The pressure of the American pornographic industry increases rather than diminishes.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“The people who have switched off in fury know that part of their money is being used to produce that programme.”

Cleaning Up TV, 1967

“I sometimes think that we have been attacked as we have, not because the perpetrators of TV violence believed we were the cranks they called us, but because they knew we were touching on the truth.”

A Most Dangerous Woman, 1982


August 2014

We cannot indefinitely feed perverted fantasy without taking into account its inevitable effects upon social behaviour.”

 Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“A society which exploits its young, for whatever purpose, has in it the seeds of its own destruction”

“Wherever there is censorship of fact then control moves from the democratic process to a hidden and unrecognised dictatorship.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“Today our society ruthlessly exploits the minds and emotions of young people for financial and political capital.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“Public sex is a restriction of our private freedom;  it offends the personal privacy which is an essential part of the rights of the individual.”

A Most Dangerous Woman, 1982

It is of considerable importance to the future of our society that women should be worthy of honour & respect & should be seen to be worthy.”

Cleaning Up TV, 1967

“A kind of tug-of-war has developed between viewers and the BBC; on the one hand public anxiety, on the other the apparent determination to ignore it.”

A Most Dangerous Woman, 1982

“It is unrealistic to imagine that laws which allow the distribution of porn for adults can, at the same time, ensure that children are not corrupted.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“If foul words are normalised through consistent use then that reserve of abuse for extreme cases of anger is removed and the use of actual violence in moments of anger become even more likely.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“In no way is it possible to exonerate the moguls of film & TV from a vast share of the blame for what is happening in society today.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“We need to bear in mind how potent a vehicle for change television is.”

Mightier Than The Sword, 1985

 


July 2014

“No group has practised censorship more rigidly that those who bellow for the abolition of all controls.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“Parliamentary accountability over this range of broadcasting is badly lacking.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“Those who refuse to acknowledge that films or television can affect human behaviour for better or worse might care to consider how film was used in the USA to desensitise troops sent out on combat or assault missions.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“Behind the guile and, no doubt, deliberately created confusion lies a simple choice: it is between genuine freedom and total license, between cultural responsibility and cultural anarchy.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“In the world in which we live sex education is essential.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“Violent entertainment plays an important and major role in teaching a culture of violence and distrust.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“As viewers we should not only ask ourselves ‘is this something that titillates my sense of humour’ but ‘what will these ideas do to the society in which I live?’”

Cleaning Up TV, 1967

“We are for what the BBC has done in the past and can do again… it is a public service… and as such should lead people on and up not down and out.”

Speaking in Birmingham, 1964

“It is dangerous to assume that the depiction of violence for legitimate ends is less harmful than depiction of violence for evil ends.”

A Most Dangerous Woman, 1982

“One wonders whether those responsible for making such films… ever do the simple thing; checking with others who have so much hard experience of the impact of the media on immediate social conditions.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

Those who silence by ridicule or limit the free expression of views they do not themselves hold are the real censors.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“Far from being a liberation pornography represents the primeval hideaway.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

 “Let a man go to hell in his own way say civil libertarians… but whom do they take with them and what rights do the victims have?”

Quite Contrary, 1993

 


June 2014

“The life we want to see reflected is so much brighter, more compassionate and more stimulating than the world in which you seek to contain us.”

A Most Dangerous Woman, 1982

“Mature people cannot only be concerned with rights, we carry responsibilities as well.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

On television: ‘the medium is impoverished by its own practitioners’.

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“I would defend everyone’s right to put down his ideas and experiences however turbulent or destructive these may be, the issue of control arises at the point when these are offered for public presentation.”

A Most Dangerous Woman, 1982

“That perennial justification for so much that cannot be justified – moral comment.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“The battle against any attempt to control pornography has seeped deep into our culture.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“The co-called ‘freedom’ of the sixties has been in effect a snare and a delusion.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“I have a dream: that broadcasters seek actively the knowledge of the impact of TV which is available throughout the land.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“We need to be particularly aware of the exploitation of the young by the violence in videos and in rock music.”

Mightier Than The Sword, 1985

“A theme which is fundamental to much now freely available pornography: woman is there to raped, she deserves to raped and raped she must be.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“We have no right to expect from our children standards of behaviour & attitudes of responsibility which we are not prepared to accept for ourselves.”

Educational Magazine, 1963

“Sex instruction was given by trained teachers; now it is being given by television, a medium which is responsible to nobody by itself.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“Vast resources, both financial and within the media, have conditioned our society to accept as desirable what is demeaning and destructive.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977


May 2014

“Satire, that matchless weapon for exposing the unworthy and the dangerous, has lost its power and become little more than a dirty joke.”

Cleaning Up TV, 1967

“We see ourselves as members of a community trying to think out what contribution we can make to television as well as the contribution television can make to society.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“A nation’s youth is its greatest asset.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“The obsession with sex in our day has its roots in a deep shrinking away from reality.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“What is happening now is the inevitable sequel to the ridicule and destruction of moral values.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

On OFCOM: “Instead of the government providing a vehicle for the voice of the viewer it has provided little more than a convenient means for the broadcasters to deflect criticism of their programmes.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“One is frequently challenged to define pornography: pornography does dirt on sex, it does violence to it too.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“I sometimes think that we have been attacked as we have, not because the perpetrators of TV violence believed we were the cranks they called us but because they knew we were touching on the truth.”

A Most Dangerous Woman, 1982

“Did the producer stop to think of the effect of the dripping blood and swinging head on the countless children watching in the early evening?”

Letter to the BBC, 1967

“If switching off is all we do we become part of one of the fundamental problems.”

Mightier Than The Sword, 1985

“Does the right of the adult to have pornography freely available outstrip the right of the child to be protected from it?”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“We do not say we are always right, but we do say we have a right to be heard;  to deny us that right, to attempt to silence us by ridicule and abuse, as has been done, is to exercise censorship of a most dangerous kind.”

Cleaning Up TV, 1967

 


April 2014

“There are enough words in the English language to get punchy and gutsy speech without resorting to obscenity.”

Cleaning Up TV, 1967

“Whether or not we switch off the television set, we cannot switch off from the society in which it exists and helps to create.”

Mightier Than The Sword, 1985

“In a society which is prepared to give pornography the adult seal of approval the child is immensely vulnerable.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“The laughter is ringing hollow as we realise the cost to our children of the mass-produced giggle.”

A Most Dangerous Woman, 1982

On television: “If it is sometimes a debasing influence, it could equally be a great ennobling force if we cared enough.”

Cleaning Up TV, 1967

“Behind the persuasive talk of those who equate freedom with a lowering of the age of consent there lies a streak of cruelty and exploitation.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“Pornography is an ideological weapon.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“Film is a glamorising medium and it can – and does – glamorise evil as well as good.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“Television makes far more impact than the printed word… one picture is worth a thousand words in animated, coloured, close up”

Mightier Than The Sword, 1985

“Porn is the enemy of a healthy sex life.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“Viewers have a right to try to uphold standards which they feel important; not only in their own homes but the quality of culture generally. That is not a triviality.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“It’s important that children grow up with a positive, balanced and healthy approach to sex.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“No movement, with the exception of communism and fascism, has practised censorship more rigidly than those who bellow for the abolition of all controls.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977


March 2014

“The story of broadcasting vividly highlights the power of those who have access to the media to make nonsense of the lessons of human experience.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“In my view the people who are anti sex are the who people who exploit and depersonalise sex, who make sex and women properties for advertisement and commercialisation.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“The unthinkable has become the do-able and it is a very short step from the do-able to the done and from the done to be the done thing.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977

“To reduce the act of love to an ugly obscenity is to demean the very essence of love.”

Quite Contrary, 1993

“The greatest danger, particularly to the young, is that we may come to accept as normal what is, in fact, exceptional and vile.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“It is important that we all take the trouble to praise what is good as well as criticise what is bad.”

The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword, 1985

“Anarchists acknowledge the power of the media to influence attitudes and behaviour, even if those immediately responsible for transmission and distribution still bury their heads in the golden sand.”

 Whatever Happened to Sex, 1967

“We have betrayed our young people into the hands of manipulators who exploit their immaturity and aimlessness for their own ends.”

Cleaning Up TV, 1967

“Our campaign was born out of our own personal and vivid experience of the impact of television on the young for whom we were responsible.”

Mightier Than The Sword, 1985

“If society accepts the free distribution and display of pornography then inevitably it will fall into the hands of children.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1967

“I have the dubious distinction of being the only British author to have a book publicly burned on television – in this country at any rate.”

A Most Dangerous Woman, 1982

“Communication without feedback is not communication.”

Who Does She Think She Is, 1971

“Gang bang suggests a romp – give a crime a jolly name and even depravity and multiple rape sounds fun.”

Whatever Happened to Sex, 1977