Moral wilderness

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2008, 12:00am

There's nothing like a juicy sex scandal to give society a good shake. A good sex scandal is one that gets everyone talking; one that tests and redefines our values. Some can't wait for all the intimate details, others pretend they're not interested and still others shake their righteous heads in disgust. All this is good in that it magnifies our moral divisions, forcing us to grapple with awkward issues.

Hong Kong is now in the grip of a sex scandal bigger than anything we've ever seen before. We are dumbfounded by the graphically nude photos on the internet of some of our most admired celebrities performing sex acts. We simply don't know what to make of it or what to do about it. We are lost in a moral wilderness.

What do we tell the young and impressionable fans of these celebrities? Do we tell them not to do as their pop idols do, or would that be somehow saying that sex is wrong? Is there a way to put a positive spin on it?

What do we tell ourselves? Should we be prudish and say we are disgusted by the explicit nature of the photos, or should we remind ourselves that we are no longer in the Stone Age in terms of sexual permissiveness?

But, even if we stretch the limits of sexual tolerance, how do we - as a community - differentiate between sex and obscenity? And where do we draw the line between pornography and privacy? Do we have a right to know or to get mad at what goes on in the bedrooms of our celebrities or do we instead direct our anger at those who expose such secrets?

The astonishing way the pictures ended up on the internet, the sheer number of them and the enviable fact that one young and attractive male pop idol was able to lure so many pretty female celebrities into being photographed while performing sex acts have added extra spice to the scandal.

Schoolchildren, internet addicts and otherwise respectable adults have all been gleefully flooding cyberspace with the photos, sharing the private parts of our pop stars with each other and the world.

The police - who are normally sleepy when it comes to internet porn but jumping to attention this time - have been hopelessly trying to stop the flood. Their zeal in wanting to crack the case because celebrities are involved has earned them not cheers but jeers for apparent double standards. In testing a community's tolerance, sex scandals have a way of producing sideshows, some of them comical.

Aside from senior police officials making fools of themselves by warning us not to look at the nude pop star pictures, there was puritanical gibberish from the anti-sex and gay-bashing Society for Truth and Light.

Legislator Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, whose Legislative Council attendance is a subject of ridicule, played the puritan by firing off a letter to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen demanding action to prevent Hong Kong's moral image from being tarnished. Even if Mr Tsang has a heavenly gift to cleanse Hong Kong of sin, it is worth noting that sex scandals alone are not enough to make us Sodom and Gomorrah.

The coming days, weeks and months will tell us a lot about ourselves as we struggle to find an end to this extraordinary sexual saga.

Will we forgive and forget? Will the police draw lessons from the public lashings they have received for their heavy-handed behaviour? Will we update our laws to allow for a more liberal definition of what is obscene or will we feel obliged by the pressures of the scandal to adopt more conservative values?

Forgiving may not be as hard as forgetting in this case; how can you forget something that you are constantly reminded of? Every time fans of the celebrities involved see them in a movie, a concert or a commercial, they will be reminded of the graphically nude pictures of their idols.

Indeed, how can you not be, especially if you have seen the pictures?

Michael Chugani is a columnist and broadcaster


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Moral wilderness

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