• Wild West Mentality Fused with Victorian Values

    by Kelvin Wade

    What’s our hang-up when it comes to sex? Why do we glorify violence but vilify sex and nudity in this country? Recently, 32-year-old Afrykayn Moon was questioned by transit security in Detroit when she refused to stop breastfeeding her two-week-old baby on a city bus. We hear about these breastfeeding stories every so often. Think about Detroit. Is breastfeeding what people should fear in Detroit?

    And yet, in a recent 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law that prohibited stores from selling violent video games to minors.

    The court basically ruled that in its zeal to shield little Jimmy from violent images, the state usurped the role of parents and stepped on the First Amendment in the process.

    What really caught my attention was Antonin Scalia’s assertion that this country has no longstanding tradition of restricting children’s access to depictions of violence. He also chastised the state for wanting to shoehorn violence into anti-obscenity laws.

    So, in other words, violence cannot be regulated by the state but sex and nudity can.

    It’s true that we don’t have a long history of shielding children from violence. While we restrict pornography, minors have access to violent movie rentals and violent music.

    While minors can’t purchase sex magazines, they can buy books depicting the most horrific of events. Any minor could walk into a book store and buy Jerzy Kosinski’s “The Painted Bird,” Thomas Harris’ “Hannibal” or Bret Easton Ellis’ “American Psycho,” three of the most violent and disturbing books I’ve ever read.

    MSNBC can show prison violence at will. How many times have you seen JFK’s head blown apart in the Zapruder film? Network shows like “CSI” and “Criminal Minds” can depict corpses killed in a variety of ways. Channels like TruTV can air clip shows showing horrible violence. We grow up watching hundreds if not thousands of simulated murders on television and movies and see countless horrific actual images on the news.

    Yet a case involving the depiction of actress Charlotte Ross’s derriere on “NYPD Blue” has ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court!

    And what do these video games depict? Heads being blown off. People being riddled with bullets. Bodies blown to pieces. Blood splashing. People being beaten to death with baseball bats. People literally torn in two with their entrails spilling on the ground.

    The great Jon Stewart said it best on the Daily Show when he recently showed a clip of a video game where a woman was torn in half. He said that the violence was fine but if her nipple had popped out during her disembowelment, it would’ve been off limits to kids. It’s funny but it’s true!

    In the 1980s we actually spent millions of taxpayer dollars on the Meese Commission, a government panel to examine pornography and in 2011, the Supreme Court shrugs about violence.

    My point isn’t to say that I want the government censoring violence or that I want unrestricted sexual images made available on the airwaves. I prize the First Amendment. My point is about us and our attitudes. We need to examine why we have a Wild West mentality fused with Victorian values.

    What does it say about us when a breast disturbs us more than violence?

    • We as a country are so puritanical it makes me crazy.

      • Sivan

      • July 11, 2011 at 3:02 pm
      • Reply

      Seriously, one of my biggest gripes about America Kelvin. Thanks for talking about it!

      • Hecubus

      • July 11, 2011 at 4:11 pm
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      Breast feeding doesn’t even fall under the category of sex and people still consider it a form of nudity. Its disgraceful. America is ridiculously puritanical when it comes to sex and nudity. I think that the government has no business telling us what we can and can’t see OR buy (with the exception of drugs and alcohol, of course). Bottom line is it is up to the parents of kids to decide how they will be brought up, NOT the government.

      • lawandlibations

      • July 11, 2011 at 5:31 pm
      • Reply

      I should preface this comment by saying that I am wholeheartedly against the proliferation of violence in our society, and I agree that the cultural/social distinction between sex and violence is strangely attenuated. But I cannot disagree with the Supreme Court’s application of the law.

      This comes down to the way 1st Amendment doctrine works. In order to respect freedom of speech, there must be constraints on the courts making ad hoc determinations about what is or is not protected speech. We’ve carved out categories of speech (like obscenity and fighting words) that are not protected (and subject to strict regulation) based on the fact that there are longstanding traditions of regulating those forms of speech. While not entirely objective, it is a functional constraint on judicial overreaching. We don’t want courts crafting new categories of unprotected speech free from the limitations of precedent.

      Even though violence is protected speech, the state can regulate depictions of violence. But this law, like any other law restricting speech based on its content, must be narrowly tailored to meet a compelling interest. That way, decisions are made subject to the application of the law rather than the stirring of emotions based on a person’s favor or disfavor of the speech at issue.

      This is the democratic process at work: the legislature crafting laws, the courts determining the constitutional boundaries, and the legislature re-crafting a better law. The opinion should be read as an instructional manual for how CA can rewrite this law to pass constitutional muster. We should celebrate, rather than condemn the proper functioning of the 1st Amendment simply because we don’t like the speech at issue.

      • Theresa

      • July 14, 2011 at 6:35 pm
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      I have to say… One of my favorite iPinion columns yet. WONDERFUL topic. Really makes you think!
      I remember when my oldest was born and I barely out of my teens, I would hide away in the car to nurse her because I was actually AFRAID that I wasn’t able to be discreet enough to feed my child in public. It’s completely ridiculous that providing a child nourishment should ever bring a person’s morals or even etiquette into question.
      Loved this! Thank you for writing it 🙂

      • Kelvin

      • July 15, 2011 at 11:48 pm
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      I originally had a picture to go with this column but at the last minute I decided not to go with it. On one side is a photo of Justin Timberlake exposing Janet Jackson’s breast and on the other side is s bloody video game depiction of someone blowing someone’s head off with a shotgun. I wondered what would shock people more.

      As for breastfeeding, no, it’s not sexual. But for some reason we conflate nudity with sex. It’s ironic because breastfeeding babies are what breasts are for.

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