All the news that’s unfit to print

There are two things the UK media are obsessed with; s-e-x, and having a go at the care sector. Hence, no surprise that this ‘usual suspect’ appeared today in the Daily Mail:

‘Will anyone sleep with my Down’s syndrome son?’

The ubiquitous Daily Mail is clearly not a newspaper that lets the truth get in the way of a good story (the article describes Mencap as a ‘mental health’ charity which it is not – it is a charity that supports people with learning disabilities). And to pump up the volume of sales, this shabby piece of journalism is riddled with sensationalist references to s-e-x: “‘I’m on a mission to find a girlfriend/ My reason is I want to have sex/ There was Jackie – she was a sexy bird, she was gorgeous.”

Underneath these layers of the Daily Mail’s pulp fiction lies an issue that requires an educated debate; do people with learning disabilities have adequate opportunity to fulfill themselves emotionally and physically? Lucy Baxter’s approach to helping her adopted son Otto come to terms with these issues may be contentious but I admire the way she is using an icon of the 21st century (Bebo) to come to terms with a problem whose solution many people believe lies in the 19th century (asylums).

Of course, there is no reason why people with a learning disability should not be able to find a fulfilling relationship. But the Daily Mail’s knee-jerk approach to enlightening middle England is not the way to go about reporting or discussing it. There was a different way to deal with this ‘story’ and would you believe, that way involved not writing about it at all. Would there be a ‘story’ if a Daily Mail journalist had put an ad on an online dating agency looking for a partner? Would there be a ‘story’ if a group of Daily Male (sic) journalists went on a stag weekend of booze and prostitutes (yes, reader, that kind of behaviour has been associated with newsrooms)? Maybe the whole piece was part of a PR stunt by the BBC to get people to watch a programme which is being shown on Thursday about Lucy and Otto.

The answer of course is blowing in the wind of ‘for the public good’ of which the Daily Mail is the self-appointed leader of the pack. Mum Lucy and son Otto are getting on with their lives; we really don’t need to know if they, or the editor of the Daily Mail, choose to use Bebo for the intimate parts.

One thought on “All the news that’s unfit to print”

  1. I have just read this piece in the Daily Mail and have a variety of concerns about the manner in which Otto’s situation is being described, as well as his mother’s attempts to help him.

    Personally I find the frivolous remarks about pregnancy very worrying. Quoting from the article Otto’s mother reportedly states that ‘she would love to be a grandmother’ and ‘I would also love it if Otto got a girlfriend pregnant. It’s another experience everyone else goes through so why not him?’

    Well, firstly she is describing what she would like.

    Secondly ‘It’ is NOT an experience ‘everyone else goes through’. There are many loving couples who are desperate to conceive a child and, who despite great cost and medical intervention, are unable to do so. That is a fact of life – we don’t always get what we want and sometimes we have to live with it. Having children is more than ‘getting a girlfriend pregnant’. The article does not mention any desire for a long term, stable, loving relationship but simply paints S-E-X as a pleasurable experience that is part of growing up and doesn’t even throw in the punch line of ‘Oh, by the way – you may just create a human life’.

    Miss Baxter is also quoted as saying ‘I’d like all my boys to find love and enjoy sex,’. Fine. How about focusing on love first, the pleasure of sex second and then once all that is in order taking a long hard look at what it means to bring a child into the world and what it takes to bring up that child as a happy, competent individual?

    We all have rights. It doesn’t matter what conditions or disabilities we may or may not suffer from but in my opinion the bestowal of rights carries equal responsibilities. Perhaps it might benefit us all if we, from time to time, considered our responsibilities first. As for the Daily Mail article – who is best being served by the publication of that piece?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *