Newcastle — Lauren Collins had a piece in the October 7 New Yorker revealing to me my shocking ignorance of pornography. I grew up in an era when a deck of playing cards featuring scantily clad women, some even bare-breasted, was considered racy and only furtively shown among my giggling, adolescent companions. It seems the times they have been a-changing.
We have arrived in an age where most of us don’t give a fig about what sort of sexual imagery is thrust at us, which, in my opinion, rather ruins the subject—nothing is more enticing than a bit of secrecy. But an exception is drawn at exposure to the little people. Here the red line (may I use that expression?) is placed. Here we draw ourselves up in righteous indignation…
Ms. Collins writes that Prime Minister Cameron of the U.K. has announced a plan to fit every new broadband account with a “family-friendly” filter that will require horny users to “opt-in” in order to view seamier selections. Needless to say the proposal has met with furious opposition, even though it suggests the mildest of restriction, requiring only a “check a box” to indulge one’s wanker appetite. It’s not clear to me how this will protect the children. I’d guess they can check a box as well as, and probably faster than, most adults. Whatever; the important thing is that we’re doing SOMETHING, right?
Ms. Collins suggests that “the attempt to cordon off sexual content on the internet recalls the Secretum, the cupboards in which Victorian curators of the British Museum sequestered items that were judged to be obscene.” An example given is a statue of Pan having sex with a goat. That’s obscene? Hell, in my army days every GI stationed in remote sections of Turkey to spy on the Ruskies would consider such an act de rigueur. I digress.
The law with respect to pornography is hideously complex, but it is pretty generally accepted that abolition of child pornography is sacrosanct, especially on the internet. Wikipedia reveals that “In 2008, it was discovered that the United States will (would) post fake hyperlinks claiming to be child pornography and then raiding, arresting, and prosecuting anyone who was found using the IP address that visited them. “ And I thought entrapment was illegal, silly me. Unfortunately, the authorities are more-or-less wasting their time. Given the internet, there is no hope of protecting our children save banning the internet (which I would be in favor of.)
And maybe it’s not just the internet. Last weekend while visiting the Congo exhibit at the Bronx zoo, I and a young girl with her mother were enjoying the antics of two gorillas, very close to us, separated only by glass. Unexpectedly, one of the gorillas rolled on her back and commenced to masturbate. Mother whisks young daughter along. No, I did not linger. (How could you think such a thing?) But I am not in favor of banning zoos.
Lest I appear too prudish, I confess that I have on my mantelpiece the small statue shown in the accompanying figure. (No Secretum for me.) It was a gift, acquired by my brother-in-law on a trip to Greece. It is a statue of Priapus. On occasion I have found that visitors are somewhat startled by this Object d’art and I enjoy pointing out to them that Priapus was “the rustic god of the bounty of the vegetable garden.” It’s true that there is a more complete definition, but I wouldn’t want their imagination to run with the thought that I must suffer some feelings of inadequacy.
What is it with the penis anyway? In the same New Yorker referenced above, there is a review by Hilton Ali of William Shaw’s latest play “Grasses of a Thousand Colors” in which the main character is obsessed with his penis. “It’s so simple,” he says, “no eyes, no nose, just a simple mouth.” I’ll have to think about that one.
You may be wondering, and I hope you are, to what the title of this rant refers. Google it! And I trust you don’t follow up on the return. You must have better things to do.