The other day I was riding the bus reading John Ince’s excellent book “The Politics of Lust.” I’ve skimmed and read parts of it in the past, and it’s really inexcusable that I haven’t gotten around to reading it cover to cover until now. Anyway, having just finished the chapter entitled “Genital Purdah” and starting upon the “Genital Censorship” chapter, the world decided that in case John wasn’t doing a good enough job explaining the concept to me I should be taught by example.
“That’s disgusting. I can’t believe you’d read that on the bus,” said a woman seated across and slightly back from me, and gesturing with her chin towards the cover of the book. That’s an image of the cover you see just above.
I utilized this opportunity to quickly and concisely explain that the book was about how we censor and deny so many things sexual, both to our youth and in adulthood to ourselves, and how that negatively affects us as individuals and as a society. I asked why it was more acceptable to depict violence in movies and on TV than it is to depict sexuality. I’d planned to add one more point to my views – two points is ideal for quick and concise, and I always remember that right after I’ve insisted on making a third – when the woman saved me from over-speaking by standing up to get off at the next stop and declaring, “It’s disgusting, you’re disgusting.”
A number of retorts went through my mind. I could wink. I could crudely suggest that she felt that way because she simply wasn’t getting any. (Yeah, that’s a mature way to go, I thought to myself.) I could muster my best stiff-upper-lip voice and say, “No, maam. It’s attitudes such as yours that are disgusting.”
And in the midst of the decision making process within myself regarding self-censorship, the moment was lost. She got off the bus, and I was left, brow furrowed, amongst people who seemed neither perturbed, amused nor really even all that aware of the conversation that had just gone on.
I guess the fact that the discussion of the book’s cover followed by the discussion of its purpose was such a non-event on the bus shows we’re making progress.
Moment of Irony: While searching for a picture of the book’s cover to add to this post I had to dig a little deeper than I thought. It seems that the cover depicted above only graces the first edition of the book. The new cover is depicted below. I’m not sure why the cover got changed, and I’m looking forward to asking John about it, but I’m willing to bet the publisher and placement on book store shelves is the reason. You have to laugh, because the alternatives suck.