If hysteria rules on the subject of sexual harassment, at least some of it offers diverting amusement.
Like the odd and perhaps disturbed machinations of the woman in England who has developed an aversion to the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty because it sends an ‘inappropriate message’ about sexual behaviour. She has, accordingly, proscribed it from her household and wants it banned from public libraries.
What she objects to in this age-old story, long beloved of prepubescent girls of a romantic nature – a category that probably represents the overwhelming majority – and possibly a great many boys of similar disposition, is the penultimate scene in which, as you will no doubt recall from your childhood, a handsome prince wakens the princess from a long deep slumber with a kiss. The problem with that kiss, according to Ms. Sarah Hall, a mother of two from Northumberland (England’s most northerly county, a John Carpenter-like coastal region often shrouded in sea-fogs and invested by the imagined phantoms that emerge from them) is the lack of consent.
The princess has not given her permission to be kissed. In Ms. Hall’s alternative scenario, he has just walked right into her bedroom, without a by-your-leave – typical of a man of power, she is no doubt thinking – and planted a smacker on her lips. She has woken up dazed and confused, as would any girl in such circumstances: the poor girl is being molested!
My problem with Ms Hall’s problem is that she does not wish to consider the context of the story, which is that the princess had been clinically dead for a hundred years and would have remained so for eternity if our dashing aristocrat had not come to revive her. Nor does she wish to recall the story’s delightful denouement, in which the prince and his princess marry and live happily ever after – and no doubt in later years regale their children with the story of how she was rescued. All of which is to state the blindingly obvious.
I have never met Ms. Hall and I have no wish to get Freudian about this whole silly business, but I suspect that her real fear, deeply-rooted in her psyche and so unmentioned, is what the princely rascal might have got up to while that poor girl was lying there comatose and helpless. You know how these princes can be, what with all that power and influence and wealth behind them, the presumption that they can do anything they want with impressionable and naïve young ladies. “Just remember that, girls, next time you’re invited to sleep over at the castle after the ball.”
Ms Hall seems to have a vivid imagination, I will grant her that, but I can’t help suspecting that it is rooted in nothing more than a dirty mind – the kind that would see in a red pillar box an engorged phallus.
I should like to ask Ms Hall why she thinks having to explain to her two kids why they are not allowed to read Sleeping Beauty is less damaging than just letting them read it. But then again, perhaps not.