Mark Harris writes in this week's Entertainment weekly about the hypocritical reactions to Janet Jackson's breast-baring spectacle. Harris asks why CBS, MTV and the NFL are freaking out over the exposed breast and forgetting that, in the very same half-time show, there was crotch grabbing, flag desecration and the portrayal of women as "use-and-toss" prizes for playas.
Seeing a boob is basically harmless compared to the ongoing cultural degradation fueled by marketers and pop stars going for the lowest sexual common denominator just to achieve another percentage point of market share. Having just watched "Thirteen," the Evan Rachel Wood/Nikki Reed/Holly Hunter movie about a thirteen year old who succumbs to cultural peer pressure, I felt very queasy during a scene in which the two thirteen year olds go shopping while images of provocative marketing imagery were intercut. While I'm all for hot looking women, it made me sick to see the relationship between racy marketing messages and the uncontrollable desire of young girls to achieve this over-the-top, culturally induced sexual hotness two minutes after they are out of diapers.
Our culture is this way because nudity and sex are so shunned and hidden that finding either becomes the sole point of existence for many. Everyone wants what they can't have or don't see on a regular basis. Our media culture can't seem to carry on an open and frank discussion about sex so any discussion that does take place is wrapped in a blanket of humor or ridicule or sensationalism. Britney kisses Madonna because "oh my God" it's just so wrong. Janet exposes her breast because "oh my God" it's just so wrong. Who gives a crap if a girl kisses a girl? Why are we all so skittish about nudity? Is there anything really wrong with sex or nudity? After all, we were born nude and humans lived on this earth a lot longer without clothes than with. So, what's the big deal? As a culture, we have not figured out how to have an open and constructive discussion about sex and sexuality so we make a joke out of it. We "tee hee" our way through nude scenes in movies or we quickt cut aways because it's too embarressing. We pontificate about the evils of nudity and sexuality while ignoring or glorifying violence in video games. In effect, we are saying it's not OK to be sexy but it sure is OK to rip the head off someone's shoulders.
So if I seem to be all for more nudity and sexuality, why was I "queasy" about the "Thirteen" scene? Because those girls are traveling down a path manufactured by marketers without any explanation from their parents or other grownups as to where that path may lead and why they might want to think twice before they walk down that road.