Coro star's view of 70s sex just fantasy

By John Walsh

Actor Bill Roache is in Auckland for his stage show tour. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Actor Bill Roache is in Auckland for his stage show tour. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Coronation Street actor Bill Roache, 80, has been doing a brilliant impression of a befuddled old git this week.

Interviewed by TV One's UK correspondent Garth Bray before his New Zealand stage show tour, Roache - Ken Barlow on the Street - banged on about his membership of the not-entirely-down-to-earth Pure Love Movement, and suggested that if you know you are pure love and therefore live that pure love then you won't be the victim of sexual abuse.

He later apologised, then blundered straight into a row about sexual misconduct.

This one has a familiar ring. Roache claimed that things were different in the 1970s when it was perfectly acceptable for men to fondle girls they barely knew.

"A lot of these offences that you're talking about are just inappropriate touching, which 20, 30, 40 years ago, it was understood that you did," said Roache.

"In a way, that's how you found out - if someone you touched inappropriately said 'don't do that', you didn't do that and that was the end of it."

We've heard this self-exculpatory flannel a few times from TV personalities and disc jockeys, and I'm tired of it. Because I don't recognise their picture of the 1970s as a constant orgy-in-waiting in which men routinely touched women's bodies expecting encouragement (until a woman inexplicably said "don't" and that's how you found out she wasn't keen), in which men could jiggle women's breasts in the office or the pub or TV studio and pass it off as a matey greeting, where men could pinch women's bottoms and be greeted with a blush and a murmur of "Cheeky!".

I recognise, however, that this stuff was standard behaviour on television and in movies in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the days of Doctor in the House and The Benny Hill Show, girls signed up to appear on TV shows as jaunty assemblages of tits and nurses' uniforms, nothing more, to be ogled, squeezed and chased.

The thing was, real chaps knew the difference between screen-based fantasy and real-life behaviour.

They knew that if you pinched a girl's bottom, it didn't make you a Lothario; it meant you were an ****hole. If you touched a female breast without being invited by its owner, you were a creep.

If you put your arm around a female waist, it was OK and friendly but, you know, watch your step, matey.

Things weren't all that different from today. Girls might not have complained about inappropriate touching or known the phrase. But they were capable of saying, "Get your hands off me, needledick".

I bet Bill Roache heard the phrase a few thousand times.

- Independent

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