Joan Bakewell: Violence has intruded into sex

Modern sex is dominated by a violent tendency which should be criminalised in some cases, Joan Bakewell has said.

The Labour peer and veteran broadcaster told attitudes towards sexuality had shifted since she made her 2001 documentary Taboo, which explored issues of taste, decency and censorship.

"The world has shifted, and so have I," she said.

"Violence has intruded into sex now. Perhaps it always did, but now a lot of sex is about tying people up and torturing them, treating them extremely badly.

"I don't think people should be free to torture each other or beat each other up or abuse them. I think that's not something to feel happy about or to feel tolerant of."

Bakewell, who was labelled 'the thinking man's crumpet' during her early career broadcasting career in the 1960s, has openly discussed her affair with playwright Harold Pinter. His 1978 play Betrayal, based on their entanglement, was subsequently adopted into a film.

Now the Dame Commander of the British Empire has spoken out about the need to intervene where peoples' sex lives involve criminal activity.

"My rather straightforward thesis then was that sex was a private matter, often about pleasure, and therefore we could tolerate it. Whereas violence most certainly was not, and therefore my programme turned out to be pro-sex and against violence," she added.

"Beating people up, even if they like it, has to be damaging and has to be criminal.

"What's interesting about the change is the world has changed, and so it's forced change upon me. We get into this very strange world in which the most hair-raising things are considered fun and OK. I suppose in those days we were a bit more innocent – or perhaps it was going on all the time."

Bakewell, who celebrates her 80th birthday later this month, says she is encouraged by the state of the debate among feminists.

"There is a wonderful dialectic among women," she said, characterising it as a clash between those of the fourth feminist wave, who believe "tweaking your bum into someone's crotch is not approved of", with "the other girls who say 'if you want to be liberated, let me be too'".