Bottling Up Smut: Cleaning Up the Public Square

When I run across a meaningful commentary or one that is truly pinpointing some important problem in our culture, I need to point it out to you.  Here is one I think you will find worthwhile.


September 1, 2005

According to a new book, we have failed our children because we haven’t fulfilled "our function as guardians of their cultural environment." The "American media’s obsession with sex," says the author, "has gotten so out of hand" that "even the provocateurs are being provoked."
Whose words are these? Chuck Colson? Jim Dobson? No. They’re the conclusions of a "provocateur" himself, a "staunch believer in the First Amendment" and a "member of the American Civil Liberties Union"—someone who opposes "any element of government control of human _expression."

That’s how Gil Reavill describes himself in his new book, Smut: A Sex-Industry Insider (and Concerned Father) Says Enough is Enough. Reavill has written for magazines like Penthouse and Maxim, as well as other even less reputable publications. Back in the 1980s, he fancied himself a "rebel" doing battle against a "stifling culture."

Then he grew up. Getting older made him "put away," as he put it, the "arrogance that delights in offending others." And then he had kids, and that’s when he really came to realize that smut is what he calls the "cultural equivalent of second-hand smoke." People who don’t want to be exposed—who work at avoiding exposure—still get it "shoved in their faces." Instead of being content to keep "sexually explicit material contained and separate," media companies, he says, put it in plain view where anyone and everyone can see it—kids in particular.

According to Reavill, "the boundaries of their world have been repeatedly breached … by people interested in making money and dismissive of all other considerations." By way of example, he describes a day he spent with his daughter. Within "one hour of one very ordinary day," his daughter was exposed to sexually suggestive or explicit materials on television, radio, and on billboards.

Even though he and his wife can monitor what their daughter sees and hears at home, they can’t catch everything, and they certainly can’t control the billboards or other public advertising.

You see, even if you ban all media from your home, there’s the chance that sitting in traffic you, like Reavill, will be treated to an X-rated movie on the DVD screen of the car next to you. Or a day in the park will be interrupted by a radio blaring Howard Stern at full volume.

While Reavill does a great job describing the problem, his opposition, as he puts it, to "government control of human _expression" makes a solution difficult. What other than government action will cause people "dismissive of all other considerations" to restrain themselves? As the aftermath of Janet Jackson’s "wardrobe malfunction" shows, sometimes it takes the FCC threatening fines to get the networks’ attention.

Reavill writes about "segregating sexual _expression from the public commons" the way it used to be, but he forgets that the "segregation" resulted from a strong moral code, one that our modern society has all but banished. So today, unfortunately, only the threat of criminal and civil sanctions can keep the smut peddlers from thrusting their garbage in the faces of kids.

It’s a good thing when liberals like Reavill see the light. Now we’ve got to help them understand the real solution: responsible government-monitoring, on the one hand, and a reassertion of moral truth in the public square.

This commentary first aired on May 27, 2005.

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About waynem

As a Minnesota based photographer and artist I have been greatly influenced by the Upper Midwest. I focus my skills and energies on portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, architectural and fine art work. My best work comes from images first painted in my mind. I mull over a prospective image for weeks or months, seeing it from different angles and perspectives, then finally deciding what to capture. The result is images that deeply touch people's emotions and powerfully evoke memories and dreams. My images are used commercially by companies and organizations ranging from Financial Services firms, mom and pop Ice Cream shops and The Basilica of St Mary to communicate their shared vision and values. Book and magazine publishers have featured my images on their covers. My photographs also grace and enhance the decor of many fine homes.
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1 Response to Bottling Up Smut: Cleaning Up the Public Square

  1. BlogWatch says:

    Under the Waterfall of Culture

    Oversexualized images abound in the wash of media flowing around us in daily life. The Q & A blogger wonders how we can bottle up smut and toss it away….

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