What is with you, America?

First, the conservative right holds US television in its icy grip, stunting creativity by means of censorship for years with the effect that rarely would one see even a hint of sexuality in the majority of its output.

Then, Janet Jackson reveals a breast during the Superbowl half-time show 2004, which inevitably causes an ICE-AGE of American exploration of sexuality. (Yes, I understand it was a family show and that it was inappropriate.)

Then, as a direct result of this onslaught of prudery, US broadcasters, scared out of their wits by the comments of those in positions of authority, see to it that one will NEVER see even a hint of sexuality in ANY of its output.

And finally, the enforcement of archaic, backward, revolting, coercive laws reveal the true heart of the conservative “frozen chosen” of the right in America – such as the case of mother-of-three Joanne Gibbs, who was the victim of a “police sting” operation in which officers of the law posed as prospective buyers of some of her sex toys (YOU HEARD ME CORRECTLY) – she now faces a year in jail away from her kids, a $1,000 fine and the revocation of her teaching certificate.

I speak to you as a christian, as someone who loves the United States of America, is married to an American citizen and who will be living there later this year. But “land of the free”? GIVE ME A BREAK. I have to say today I am very, very annoyed about all this. I am angry with those in authority in America. I read recently of a fellow British citizen who, like me, comes from the city of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and was spending some time in Los Angeles last year. He crossed a quiet road at 1am to use a phone booth and ended up spending the night in jail accused of “jaywalking”. He writes, “The illusion of a free and liberal society evaporated sometime between the humiliation of being locked up and the pettiness of the officers, revelling in the knowledge they could do whatever they wanted.” So when is it going to stop, guys? Occasionally people are mocked when they talk of their freedoms being eroded. They’re normally talking about the right to firearms for example, or freedom from economic coercion. But what about simple rights to freedom of expression? To sexual freedom? You better BELIEVE your freedoms are being eroded.

It is nothing short of a DISGRACE that a woman can potentially be locked up for selling a fricking vibrator. I can hardly believe that there are folks, especially conservative christians, who believe this kind of violation of basic human rights is justified. I am appalled. So I have eight separate observations which may go some way to bringing folks to some kind of sensibility regarding this subject, which they seem to have some trouble with.

1) Sexuality is not evil. It is a fundamental part of human life; thought and activity.

2) Neither is the EXPRESSION of sexuality evil. When you watch a television program or movie, you are watching an art-form whose purpose is to draw attention to a particular element of the human experience, relationships to nature, relationships with each other, to explore humor, etc. – through a series of images, in the same way that music does the same through a series of chords, melodies and rhythms. If the message to be portrayed is best portrayed using sexual imagery, what offends you about this? For example, James Cameron’s Titanic portrays actress Kate Winslett nude for a drawing the character played by Leo DiCaprio is making of her. The purpose of the scene is obvious – it is used to build the relationship between the two characters, to allow the audience to share a special moment with them, to develop the story whereby 12 minutes could be 12 months under any other circumstances. The sexual chemistry between the characters was important to state tastefully and vividly so that, when the great ship sinks and the lead character dies, the audience shares the loss. Cameron understood this well, and it would not have been nearly as effective a peice of art had he not.

3) Your reactions to expression of sexuality on television is most commonly related to culture, not morality. In other cultures, what Janet Jackson was wearing BEFORE the incident would sufficiently prompt the same reaction we saw at the Superbowl – it would have already crossed the line. So where does such a line exist? Only in culture. Certainly not in morality. What is either moral or immoral about seeing a body part? And why does it suddenly become immoral when part of a television program or movie, but is acceptable in an ancient statue, appreciated painting or a caveman’s wall-doodlings?

4) The motive behind a scene is more important than what parts of the body it shows or does not show. It should be obvious to most viewers what constitutes a gratuitous scene (eg. a scene designed merely to sexually satisfy the audience) and what does not (eg. those scenes which fit into context of the storyline, those scenes which express something creatively or serve a discernable purpose other than a gratuitous one). Instead of objecting everytime you see some flesh, why not try to appreciate the art for what it is trying to say?

5) Portraying a certain set of actions is not the same as endorsing them! I recently saw a movie which portrayed a very violent rape in its full visual impact. The director of the movie was no more endorsing the act of rape than I was by observing it. The art simply portrayed rape for its own purposes (which are self-evident if you watch the movie). It may seem like an obvious point, but some people have a very hard time with this, particularly with (surprise surprise) portrayals of sex, drugs, swearing etc. Do they really think that a movie which shows a massacre actually ENDORSES the act of murder?

6) You have a REMOTE CONTROL. You don’t like it? Don’t complain about it – just switch it over to something you can deal with.

7) And for goodness sake, leave women like poor Joanne Gibbs ALONE. What on earth does the law have to do with innocent folks who may want to purchase a sex toy? A couple of interesting questions here – who do they believe are buying these toys? Married couples perhaps? Single women? Homosexuals? What do they think is done with the sex toys or how they work? And WHY do they THINK its the business of LAW to interfere with the full weight of physical force????

8) Most fundamentally of all, SOMEONE clearly thinks that Americans are immature. I’m not sure exactly who it is – but someone out there in authority does not think that the public can choose for themselves what to watch and what NOT to watch. The technology exists now to prevent, for the most part, our children having access to adult material, so that can no longer be used as an excuse. What it comes down to is that Big Brother does not think you know what you are doing, what you can deal with, and what your moral standards should be – so they make those choices for you.

Maybe THAT is the reason our culture can be so sexually backward.

In any case, they mock your rational ability to think for yourself.

John Wright