Sunday, July 15, 2007
Half a millimeter penis too long for some
We all know that American children are among the world's purest and most innocent when it comes to genitals. Why, I must have been almost ten by the time I realized that other people had penises and vaginas. Of course I'd checked under the dresses of dolls—especially the ones that wet themselves. But what could I conclude? That I was deformed? You can imagine my relief when I saw another penis. I believe it has affected my life ever since.
Keeping our children pure is one of the Christian Right's missions in the world. Toward that goal they've worked as hard as the Taliban to keep our genitals from the light of day.1 And as with so many of their causes, they've had a measure of success.
Their campaign to keep us covered has reached the point where the public accedes to their demands without raising so much as a veil, even in the face of a burgeoning market for a glimpse of human flesh. Photos once popular at weddings—of the infant bride or groom spread-eagled on a bearskin rug—are a thing of the past. Just snapping such a photo risks 20 years in the pen if there's an alert clerk at the photo shop and an ambitious district attorney by the courthouse.
This effort by the Christian Right has paid off in some areas but backfired in others. Their prudery has ensured that we Americans enjoy one of the world's healthiest porn industries in an otherwise decaying economy. On the other hand they've inadvertently forced the removal of countless friendly Republican politicians, priests and preachers, who seem unable to keep their clothes on or their hands off the children.
Europeans, who tend to view clothing more as ornament than cover-up, cannot understand this. In parts of Europe you might as well be in Tahiti as on a public beach. They let their children run around nude as if there were no Hell where naked people go, and tits and ass are everywhere. Inevitably this unholy behavior has wormed its way into children's stories.
You'll be relieved to know that lascivious children's literature has been stopped at the border.
When Rotraut Susanne Berner, a leading German children's author, accepted a deal for her "Wimmel" series by American publisher Boyds Mill Press, she had no idea how much censorship would be involved—after all, her books were already published in 13 countries. The series purports to be "about the everyday lives of adults and children."
In her latest book there are adults who smoke and visit an art museum. And in the art museum there are, well, nudes!2
Tony Patterson describes the scene—
Berner said her US publisher, Boyds Mills Press, had objected in particular to one of her illustrations which showed adults and children in an art gallery where the portrait of a naked woman was on show together with a seven millimetre high sculpture of a naked man exhibiting a barely discernible penis.
She said Boyds Mills Press had informed her that she could either agree to have the offending images removed or the book would be withdrawn. "This was a joke," the author said yesterday. "The man's penis is about half a millimetre in length and the naked woman is clearly part of a work of art and not a real person," she added.
Half a millimeter indeed! If the penis had been the size of a microdot, an evangelical somewhere would have rooted it out. Evangelicals can sniff out a penis like dogs to a bone.3
Berner is unrepentant—
Berner said she had refused to agree to any self-censorship and had insisted that Boyds Mills should black out the offending images in the US edition. "I thought, if there is going to be censorship, then at least it should be recognisable as such," she said.
With Boyds Mills sticking to its guns yesterday and refusing to accept Berner's conditions, it appears almost certain that the book will not be published in America.
Berner doesn't understand that in a country where information is silently censored, it's as important to cover up the censorship as to hide the material itself.
"Our secrets keep us sick" (6/6/05)
Spirit of Justice bares boob once again (6/27/05)
A bum wrap (4/24/06)
Another Republican lets it all hang out (2/14/07)
Literary Image of the Day (2/20/07)
3Or any other body part for that matter.
A true story: A pentecostal preacher of my acquaintance and his wife had come to dinner. As we talked over coffee I noticed him shifting uncomfortably in his chair—in fact, shifting the chair. I began to wonder what was wrong with him. He kept talking to his wife, who was seated between us, as if they'd met for the first time and he was trying to hold her attention.
Finally I figured it out. On an easel behind him, but in the line of sight of his wife, was a sketchpad upon which an artist friend had drawn a single gently curved line. You could interpret that line, I suppose, in a number of ways, but it had always impressed me as the outline of a human back. It suddenly dawned on me that our preacher didn't want his wife looking at "nudes." [back]