I WAS swinging on a chandelier the other day thinking: what’s all this fuss about the Sam Smith video? You’d think the gays had never had a party before. You’d think there’d never been a saucy pop video before. And you’d think, if you were being particularly pessimistic, that we haven’t really learned anything.

Quick recap, like you need it: Smith has made a promo for the song I’m Not Here To Make Friends. It features a lot of people in a little bit of underwear, including Smith. At one point, Smith is seen wearing tassels and tassels have always been able to get people riled up should they be attached to the wrong thing (a human body) rather than the right thing (your granny’s curtains).

The problem for a lot of the critics, as far as I can see, is that the video is apparently hyper-sexualised and inappropriate for younger people. Others have suggested it’s vulgar and a set-back for gay rights. The comedy writer Graham Linehan said this for example: “A long painful road to marriage equality, to persuading a cautious public that gay people are not perverts. And then Sam Smith came along.”

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The stuff about young people is not new of course. Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Think of the children! Madonna. Think of the children! It’s been the cry of conservative critics for years, including conservative critics in the US who are outraged by sex but not by guns. The problem is that all pop – or 99% of it anyway – is about sex.

And besides, Frankie and Madonna don’t have a responsibility to ensure everything they do is suitable for children – the rest of us, including broadcasters and parents, have a responsibility to ensure that what the kids are watching is appropriate (by switching on parental controls on phones for example).

HeraldScotland: Frankie Goes to Hollywood and the unapologetic gayness of their music videos caused a similar uproar in 1983 to Sam Smith's latestFrankie Goes to Hollywood and the unapologetic gayness of their music videos caused a similar uproar in 1983 to Sam Smith's latest (Image: Newsquest)

We should also be careful what we’re outraged by, and why. Smith’s video features some semi-nudity, gentle bum-slapping, a scene that could be said to replicate a particular sexual activity (but only if you know what it is), and apart from that, lots of campery. It’s no more outrageous than lots of other videos in the last 40 years, except they usually prominently feature semi-nude women, and society has always had less of a problem with that.

The other thing that’s going on here is a very old trope indeed. Graham Linehan seems to think gay equality is all about a long road from prejudice about perverts to equal marriage and that people like Smith are putting that at risk. But what’s perverted about Smith behaving in a sexual manner? And does a gay have to get married to be accepted? Peter McGraith, who was one half of the first gay couple to marry in the UK, told me once that he didn’t want to be one of “new sanitised gays” and quite right too: gays can marry, or put on tassels, or both, or neither, big deal.

It seems to me that the critics of Smith’s video are also missing some pretty important points about pop music. It has always embraced alternative sexualities and for young kids who think they could be different, that’s one of its great powers: they can see someone who offers an alternative. Boy George. Pete Burns. Holly Johnson. Sam Smith. Whoever. Up there in the pop video is someone who’s not-the-same and in the end the music will probably drown out the people screaming “pervert!”

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The thing is though: I thought we were over all of that, all the pervert-that’s-disgusting stuff and I thought we were over it thanks partly to pop music. But no: the idea lingers that because someone like Sam Smith behaves in a certain way, or dresses in a certain way, it’s vulgar, depraved and a danger to children. They shouted “stop” at Frankie Goes to Hollywood and now they’re shouting “stop” at Sam Smith.

But thankfully pop will triumph in the end, we know it will. I’m thinking about George Michael and his reaction to being arrested for disorderly conduct in a restroom in Beverly Hills. He went straight out and wrote a song called Outside and made a video in which disco-balls descended from a toilet ceiling and he danced around as a cop with a nightstick. He was being outrageous and a bit sexy and a bit inspiring; he was being a pop star. They’ve always done it this way; hopefully they always will.