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Morality Where?


I had a calendar in college with strips from the comic Dykes to Watch Out For. One month had depictions of a series of queer-specific phobias, such as “taffetaphobia,” which was the fear of being forced to be a bridesmaid at your sister’s wedding. My favorite one was called something like fundamentalvoyerismphobia (I don’t remember exactly how it went), and it was fear of your exploits at the pride parade being incorporated into a video like The Gay Agenda to be watched eagerly by a scandalized, yet titillated, Religious Right.

It’s becoming ever clearer that it’s not just queers that the Right finds titillating. It’s practically everything. The latest string of anti-gay/anti-sex politicians whose personal lives have been revealed to, um, deviate, from their public positions should make anyone who wants to be taken seriously think long and hard about aligning themselves with the so-called “pro-decency” forces.

Take the super-righteous organization Morality in the Media. During the Mark Foley dust-up last fall, MIM’s president, Robert Peters, issued a statement calling the media hypocritical for getting so worked up over Foley in the same pages in which they were praising the show Queer as Folk, which in its early episodes depicts sex between an above-the-age-of-consent teen and an adult. He actually had more of a point than he usually does, though of course he failed to note the differences between the two involving issues of consent and sexual harassment of employees. But what was so amusing was that the bulk of his statement consisted of the rather detailed notes he took from reviewing some episodes of Queer as Folk.

Here’s just the first paragraph: “Street cruising scene. Actor looks like a boy. . . . Man meets boy. Man takes boy home. Drugs. Man takes shirt, pants and underwear off (rear end nudity). Man and boy embrace, kiss. Man unzips boy’s pants. Boy sodomizes man on bed. Both nude. . . . Simulated sex.” It sounds like Mr. Peters was in danger of hyperventilating too much to make it to the end of the episode. Luckily for his readers, he soldiered on.

The reviewers at places like FamilyStyle Media seem to suffer the indecency in the movies they review with the same diligence. They have a detailed rating system that covers profanity, nudity, sex, violence and drugs, summarizing how much, how intense, and what kind of each. Is the profanity, for example, “deity,” “sexual,” or “other”? Is the nudity “female upper” or merely “cleavage”? Are the characters talking graphically about sex between married people or unmarried people?

Under “sex” for the movie Saved FSM’s review reads: “abundant, intense, graphic, conversation, homosexual, sado masochism (implied in magazines), sex play, unmarried sex.” I saw Saved twice, and I remember one brief sex scene and some kissing. As for SM implied in magazines? One character had some magazines he hid under his mattress, but you would have had to be using the pause button and a large-screen TV to determine what they actually depicted. I sure couldn’t tell you. That’s dedication. To what is perhaps a little unclear.

Meanwhile, just so you know they don’t go easy on the religious stuff, the review of The Nativity Story mentions “brief nudity, male infant rear.” I’m sorry, but if you think a brief shot of a baby’s butt is even worth mentioning as a concern, I’m worried about letting you near my children.

In a more recent MIM press release, which blasted Bill O’Reilly for saying that “adult” entertainment should be available to consenting adults, Peters laid out what O’Reilly “should” have said. A brief excerpt: “I also believe the First Amendment should protect the right of adult Americans to produce and distribute hardcore pornographic materials that depict, among other things, adultery, the degradation, rape and torture of women, male rape, the sexual exploitation of children (as long as actual children aren’t depicted), the consumption of urine and feces, the sexual union of humans with animals, the sexual union of siblings and of parents and children (as long as they are all at least 18 years old), men exposing themselves to women in public places, prostitution, someone’s eighteen year old girl having sex with a dozen boys at a college fraternity, unsafe anal sex galore, and more.”

I’m glad that the same people who can’t stand the idea of a nipple showing during the Super Bowl halftime or a gay sexual affair on primetime see fit to send such an explicit diatribe into my inbox without my consent. (I also find the possessiveness behind the phrase “someone’s eighteen year old girl” telling, and creepy.) Their research is commendable. Or their imaginations. Or both.

I have heard allegations that in the Middle Ages priests in confessionals would run down a long and very detailed checklist of sexual sins, asking proactively if their flock had been doing or thinking about any of them, and as a logical result, inspiring experimentation. I don’t know if that is historically accurate (or provable), but it’s easy to imagine that our hyper-alert decency organizations might be providing the same service.

But, you know, we should be charitable. The self-appointed guardians of decency have got a tough job. Think about it: They believe that things like pornography, homosexuality, and nonmonogamy are so powerful that they can’t even be allowed to be talked about honestly, so destructive that someone else participating in them will ruin innocent and entirely uninvolved people’s lives. And yet, in order to fight them they have to spend tons of time paying attention to them, investigating them, tracking them, talking about them.

Perhaps it’s not hypocrisy that so many of them succumb to what they deplore. Perhaps standing firm under such circumstances would show that they had been overestimating the danger. Perhaps they would be hypocrites if they didn’t eventually fall. Too bad they have to take down the rights of so many innocent, well-adjusted people with them.

—Miriam Axel-Lute

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