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The puritanical urge

I was in Publix a few days back--a rarity, I'll admit, and not something I try to do often--and noticed that Publix has taken to putting opaque covers over the Cosmo and Self magazines. It seems, you see, that customers have complained about--get this--how risque the covers are.

The ultraconservative Wal-Mart chain has also started protecting us from the evil of women in naughty dresses by covering women's magazines as well.

I don't get it.

We live in a culture totally steeped in sex. Those magazine covers look the way they do for a reason--because they sell magazines, which in turn sell clothes, cologne, perfume, and fad diet books. The most popular brand of shampoo and body wash in America, Herbal Essence, is supported by an advertising campaign in which a beautiful, soaped-up model moans in ogasmic ecstacy while an announcer breathlessly declares that the product is "a totally organic experience." It couldn't be any more blatant if the announcer said "Buy our product--it's great to masturbate with."

So what it comes down to is that we, as a culture, are both fascinated and repelled by sex. We want, hate, and fear it; we can talk about it, but only in a juvenile locker-room "nudge nudge wink wink" kind of way. Serious conversation about sex (or, God forbid, actually doing sex!) is beyond the pale.

It's kind of ridiculous, really. We can watch movies about chainsaw-wielding maniacs who dismember sorority girls by the bushelful, but if someone actually has an orgasm on screen, it gets slapped with an NC-17 rating to protect us from the horror. We literally hate and fear sex more than we fear death.

What the fuck? How did we get so dysfunctional and schizophrenic? It affects every part of our social discourse. Our national government is overrun with cheating, philandering divorcees like "bouncing" Bobby Barr (the man who made Larry Flynt say "My god, that man's a pervert!" after he was caught cheating on his wife with three prostitutes in a seedy hotel) trying to pass legislation to "protect" the "sanctity of marriage" (by, if you can believe it, forbidding people to marry). We've got a music industry that exerts pressure on its artists to censor themselves to please retail outlets like Wal-Mart, which appears to believe that carrying music with racy lyrics will inevitably lead to the utter collapse of Western civbilization and a corresponding decline in gross sales.

It's ridiculous and it's embarrassing. We as a culture need to grow the fuck up already.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 21st, 2003 05:08 pm (UTC)
To quote Bitch & Animal speaking along the same lines:

"My goddess, what have we done?"
Nov. 21st, 2003 05:15 pm (UTC)
The U.S. has had this prude/prurient dichotomy for a long, long time. Puritans and Separatists vs. Jamestown and New Amsterdam...
Nov. 21st, 2003 05:42 pm (UTC)
Actually..I thought the only magazines that were covered up were in the "family friendly" register lane.
Nov. 21st, 2003 06:05 pm (UTC)
did we just "get" that way...i don't know when we/at least puritanical american heritage that we share/weren't that way. I mean I think back to my childhood...my parents stockpiled porn & even had adult "porn" post parties, after the family bbq's at ou house. But sex was never discussed outright, never. Let's see when I first got engaged to my ex-husband & we moved in together, my mom actually said, but Lisa...if it doesn't work out with him, men wil know you aren't pure (I was 22 then)...and that was coming from my full-blooded Korean mother...who just happens to be a born again protestant preacher "reformed" from her buddhist upbringing...It's a crazy world...
Nov. 21st, 2003 07:29 pm (UTC)
I have never, in all my life, seen a culture as full of hypocracy as the American one!

A personal favourite is the fact that in "The Osbornes" the insult "Motherfucker" is used repeatedly and left in, but someone giving someone else "The Finger" is planked out. Well, they only blanked out just the finger, so it wasn't giving much away.

What does this mean? Incest is more acceptable than using your finger as a sexual aid?
Nov. 22nd, 2003 06:52 am (UTC)
Considering the origins of "the finger" -- that it was used by male prostitutes hanging out on docks to solicit returning sailors for gay sex -- you're back to the old standby that "homosexuality is the worst threat to Western civilization since the double bed" whereas fucking your mother is referenced in (at least) Oedipus Rex, so it can't be all *that* bad, since that's a classic Greek tragedy.

Besides, incest can't be as horrible as homosexuality to these fanatical Christians because while homosexuality is admonished repeatedly in the Bible (or so they say -- I've yet to see it), Lot offers both his daughters to a rampaging rape mob, then later, has sex with both of them and gets them pregnant, yet Peter in one of his letters calls him a "great man". It's a good thing he didn't have sons!
Nov. 21st, 2003 09:01 pm (UTC)
In brief, that's what you get from a country founded by Puritans. In a somewhat longer form, a friend of mine had made a very interesting comment. He is a Dom from Argentina which, according to him, is a lot less reserved about things sexual. He proposed (supposedly confirmed by his experience) that US and Canadian women have always been taught that it's wrong to enjoy sex. However, since that quite frankly sucks ass as a notion, many of these women have become submissive, doing what the dominant male orders them to. In effect, topping from the bottom.

I'm not nearly as involved in the leather world to comment one way or the other on that, but the idea of seeming to submit to the figurehead male isn't anything new to our patriarchal society.
Nov. 22nd, 2003 05:15 am (UTC)
Hurrah! *applause*
Nov. 22nd, 2003 07:05 am (UTC)
This country has got its priorities on sex and violence ass-backward. What can you say about a populus that praises one president for putting our troops in a situation where 9 of them die every week with no end in sight, but stigmatizes his predecessor because he got a blowjob? As though Laura Bush has never smoked the pole before.

I agree with George Carlin. Let's just exchange the words "fuck" and "kill" for one day and just watch the results...

"Guido, take him out back and fuck him."
"You don't have to fuck me, I haven't seen your face!"
"The Chancellor should never have brought them into this. Fuck them both."

Dec. 19th, 2003 05:30 pm (UTC)
Life, death, love, sex, knowledge, beauty, art, logic and emotions. We're terrified. Fascinated. Can't get enough. Why? One word: Power.
And with that, my work here is done, says little Miss Chaotic Neutral. Hail and Valhalla, my friend.
Dec. 27th, 2003 01:13 pm (UTC)
Right on the money, I think.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )