Porn Czar Primer | News | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Porn Czar Primer 

City Weekly’s hit-list for Utah’s newest government worker.

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America loves to hate smut. As early as 1821, Vermont passed obscenity statutes targeted at the French postcard trade. Here in Utah, we also love to hate smut. You could say we loathe it with an incandescent fury.

If it’s Kate Winslet’s breasts in the Titanic video, it’s smut. If it’s a racy scene in a film as morally instructive as Schindler’s List, it’s smut. And hey, if French sculptor Auguste Rodin created the stone form of a man and woman in full embrace, that too is smut. Brigham Young University saw fit to ban it. Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka once described the sheer magnitude of embarrassment—embarrassment—she and her brood experienced when they haphazardly stumbled upon a copy of Michelangelo’s David at a Las Vegas resort.

Clearly, one person’s smut is another person’s masterpiece. That’s what makes obscenity cases such buggers to prosecute successfully. Even in the most puritanical of places, the “community standard” set forth in the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Miller vs. California is a moving target. Utah County prosecutors spent more than $100,000 two years ago trying to convict Movie Buffs general manager Larry J. Peterman for carrying cable-version adult films at his stores. Peterman was acquitted on all 15 charges, but not before growing legal bills wrecked his marriage and cost him his home. Prosecutors rode off into the sunset with nothing lost but their case.

It’s not as if Utah hasn’t given it the old college try, and try, and try again. In the late ’70s, Utah Attorney General David Wilkinson led the state through an expensive legal battle against a cable industry he charged with importing sleaze into family living rooms. Look up his Cable Television Programming Act in law books today and you’ll see just one word: “repealed.”

Even now, local Utah communities continue the battle in their own ways. Bluffdale’s City Council is crafting rezoning laws to keep sexually oriented businesses away from residents. Ogden residents, along with Mayor Matthew Godfrey, halted development of an all-nude juice bar at an industrial park. Faced with a legislative bill that threatens state funding to public libraries, Utah libraries are working to keep Internet smut out of the hands of children through computer filters. The Provo School District banned all R-rated movies for teaching purposes. Provo City, meanwhile, is going as far as it can, establishing its own cable TV and telecommunications operations. Talk about a tight grip on programming. Nationally, the U.S. Supreme Court is wrestling with the question of how to control the distribution of computer-generated child pornography on the Internet.

So why does the Beehive State need a Porn Czar, or, in terms more bureaucratic, “an obscenity and pornography complaints ombudsman”? Because a 68-year-old dairy farmer and legislator from Cache Valley, Rep. Evan L. Olsen, said so. Because our enlightened Legislature passed Olsen’s House Bill 343 last year. Because the state apparently has $125,000 to burn on a brand-new bureaucratic office—never mind a cash-strapped educational system. Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is already reviewing résumés for the job. (Shortly before press time, Shurtleff announced his pick, former West Valley City prosecutor Paula J. Houston.) And because Gov. Mike Leavitt, in the words of spokeswoman Vicki Varela, believes “it’s probably a good attempt to deal with the issue of pornography in our community.”

Probably? For $125,000 a year, it damn well better be “most certainly.”

To that end, and in the interest of saving valuable taxpayer money, we’ve assembled our own hit-list of items any aspiring Porn Czar might want to take a crack at. Of course, deeming any of these items “obscene and pornographic” says more about the judge than the judged. If Ruzicka says Michelangelo is pornographic, who of the pair has the dirty mind?

Nevertheless, Utah’s Porn Czar ought to be slashing through this to-do list like an adrenaline-fueled Freddy Krueger working on a midnight deadline. Then we can all pretend that human sexuality exists only in the darkened bedroom. Let the folly begin.

Plato’s Symposium

“When a man embraced a woman, he would cast his seed and they would have children: but when male embraced male, they would at least have the satisfaction of intercourse, after which they could stop embracing, return to their jobs, and look after other needs in life.”

Let’s forget the fact that Plato’s Symposium stands as western civilization’s most famous analysis on the nature of love. It’s actually a tour de force in favor of the more transcendent, spiritual quality of love between men and men. It even speaks favorably of love between men and boys. For most Athenians, heterosexual love was regarded as little more than a distraction, rarely good for anything outside procreation. Homosexual love was superior because it favored the birth of ideas and discoveries rather than the world of physical sensation. Consider this excerpt:

“When a man makes contact with someone beautiful and keeps company with him, he conceives and gives birth to what he has been carrying inside him for ages. And whether they are together or apart, he remembers that beauty. And in common with him he nurtures the newborn; such people, therefore, have much more to share than do the parents of human children, and have a firmer bond of friendship, because the children in whom they have a share are more beautiful and more immortal. Everyone would rather have such children than human ones, and would look to Homer, Hesiod, and other good poets with envy and admiration for the offspring they have left behind—offspring, which, because they are immortal themselves, provide their parents with immortal glory and remembrance.”

Homosexual love is higher and nobler, and produces offspring superior to that of the traditional family? “Everyone would rather have such children than human ones”? That doesn’t sound like Christian Coalition-style family values to us. And our lawmakers most certainly would remind us that sodomy is illegal in the state of Utah. Houston, we have a problem.

The Bible

Or, as some people prefer to call it, The Holy Bible. It’s a curious, and often beautiful mix of law, history, poetry and doctrine. It’s also chockfull of material that would steam the glasses of Sunday School grannies. Within these sacred pages we have incest between Lot and his daughters (Genesis 19: 30-38), and a mother touching the genitals of her son (Exodus 4: 24-26). There are provisions allowing for wife-swapping (Deuteronomy 25: 5-7). Caleb’s daughter Achsah farts on a donkey, twice (Joshua 15: 17-19, Judges 1: 13-15). And damn near every patriarchal leader keeps a concubine apart from his wife (Judges 8: 30-31).

Shall we go on? Judges 19: 22-30 offers the charming story of a man who willingly offers up his concubine for an all-night gang rape, then cuts her remains into 12 pieces. The Benjamites assault a pack of dancing women (Judges 21: 20-23). David skewers 200 Philistines for their foreskins so he can marry Saul’s daughter (I Samuel 18: 27). Phinehas skewers an Israelite and Midianite engaged in intercourse, “pinning them together” (Numbers 25: 6-9).

David also dances naked before the Lord and all the Israelites (2 Samuel 6: 14-16). Amnon rapes his sister Tamar in 2 Samuel 13: 1-14. When he finally reaches old age, David’s royal attendants fetch him a beautiful young virgin to sleep with (I Kings 1-5). Never mind that David’s at least 50 years older than the virgin, they’re not even married beforehand! And how could we possibly forget Solomon, who makes a libidinous lech of himself all throughout I Kings. No wonder he’s attributed as author of the Bible’s most overtly erotic book, The Song of Solomon. How’s that for family values?

The Collected Works of William Shakespeare

The world’s greatest English poet and dramatist was no stranger to the bawdy and the obscene. It’s safe to say that, in at least one out of every four plays, he thrived on it. Elizabethan theater crowds loved it too. As a nation, England would have to wait a few hundred years before transforming into a puritanical backwater under Queen Victoria.

Let’s start with the poetry. Esteemed critic Northrop Frye called Shakespeare’s Sonnets “pederastic infatuations with beautiful and stupid boys.” No one denies that 126 of the sonnets are addressed to a male object. The sonnets to a “Dark Lady,” meanwhile, are ripe with syphilitic images. Sonnet 144 essentially deals in bisexuality (“Two loves I have … The better angel is a man right fair, The worser spirit a woman colored ill”) and venereal disease (“my bad angel fire my good one out”). And just check out the sexual puns in Sonnet 151!

The erotic overtones of Venus and Adonis are little short of obvious: “I’ll be a park, and thou shalt be my deer; Feed where thou wilt, on mountain or in dale; Graze on my lips; and if those hills be dry, Stray lower; where the pleasant fountains lie.” Bill Clinton would approve.

As for the dramas, dig the sexual wordplay in Henry IV, Parts I and II. Female characters with names like “Doll Tearsheet” and “Mistress Quickly” no doubt gave Falstaff the nasty dose of syphilis he continually scratches at. Anyone who’s passed a high school English class knows the Bard was a big fan of cross-dressing, á la, Twelfth Night and As You Like It. Hamlet calls his mother’s bed “enseamed.” King Lear rants against female genitalia as a “sulphurous pit.” Act III, scene 5 of Merry Wives of Windsor dares to give us this line: “She does so take on with her men; they mistook their erection.”

Perhaps the raciest play in the whole collection is Henry V, that great drama of English nationalism. In Act II, scene 3, lines 13-25, Falstaff’s old mistress, the Hostess, feels up his corpse, only to find a cold penis. When Princess Katherine gets her English lesson from Alice in Act III, scene 4, we’re treated to puns on some very obscene words indeed. Alice gives Katherine the English words for “pied” and “robe” (“foot” and “gown”). But Alice mispronounces them as “fout” and “count.” To Katherine, these words sound like “fourte” and “con.” Translated into English, they mean “fuck” and “cunt.” Katherine, the dirty little bird, squeals in delight.

And who could forget this classic exchange between Pertruchio and Katherina in Act II, scene 1 of Taming of the Shrew:

PERTRUCHIO: Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting? In his tail.

KATHERINA: In his tongue?

PERTRUCHIO: Who’s tongue?

KATHERINA: Yours, if you talk of tails, and so farewell.

PERTRUCHIO: What, with my tongue in your tail?

Our Porn Czar, no doubt, won’t be laughing. There is a way we can ban the Bard without depriving our schools and universities, however. It’s called Thomas Bowdler’s The Family Shakespeare, and it erased every single obscenity from Shakespeare’s works. It went through 30 printings during England’s Victorian era. It should break sales records in Utah.

The Magazine Section of Virtually Every Bookstore or Grocery Store

Any old amateur can bust those out-of-the-way magazine shops peddling in naked bodies and cable-version porn. And how could anyone forget the shelves over in the human sexuality department, full of tantric techniques and jack-knifed sexual positions. No, it takes a seasoned pro to go after the more mainstream stuff.

That’s right, we’re talking about the men’s magazines, the women’s magazines, and lots of publications in between that just happen to deal with sex on a surprisingly regular basis. None of these publications are roped off from the general public. Our troll through a local Barnes & Noble revealed the following. Drum roll please:

The February 2001 issue of Men’s Journal contains a full-page advice column on the finer points of manipulating the female clitoris. The February issue of Talk contains a humorous examination of the American porn industry, offering up such graphic terms as “triple-anal.” The February issue of Men’s Health serves up masturbation tips. And the January issue of Stuff gives us a full menu of perversities in an article titled, “The Fetish Files.” Here’s an excerpt: “So I like S&M and I like having a finger up my ass. So what?” Another article in the same issue expounds on the rules of office sex: “One girl per office floor, but not on the floor.”

Even the women get in on the act, but with a lot more humor. The February issue of Jane blares this headline: “I lost it to My Gyno. And my insurance paid!” It’s the story of a “hymenotomy.” “My hymen was akin to a horse’s hoof, and that’s why all amateur attempts at penetration had proved ineffectual,” the author tells us. The same issue contains photos of vibrators molded to astrological signs, informs readers that it’s possible to “get a zit on your labia,” and suggests that married women try sex with another woman “because women are hot.”

The January issue of Mademoiselle gives tips on “Silly Sex,” or creative foreplay involving mud, vacuum cleaners, bubbles and finger puppets. The January issue of Glamour runs through “60 Sins Every Woman Can Commit Before Feb. 14.” Here’s sin No. 8: “Stack a couple of condoms in his wallet. Then make him pay up!” The winter issue of the feminist magazine Bust features the photo of a gun-shaped dildo, and recommends this slogan: “Support grrrlism, eat a raw tampon.”

Tsk, tsk, tsk. With new magazines coming out every month, our Porn Czar will be working at a furious pace.

The Victoria’s Secret Catalogue

What else is there to say? This catalogue is widely distributed by mail, easy to grab at the mall, and stands as the mightiest generator of male sexual fantasy since, well, women. Dog-eared copies of this air-brushed erotic omnibus rest under legions of adolescents’ mattresses. And with the aid of vivid color, who’s to say it doesn’t lead to harder stuff?

The Daily Newspaper Bra and Panty Ads

Does the absence of color make this stuff any less lethal? The colorblind have sexual fantasies, too.

Herman Melville’s

Moby Dick

“Squeeze! Squeeze! Squeeze! All the morning long; I squeezed that sperm till I myself almost melted into it. I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers’ hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this affectation beget; that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking into their eyes sentimentally; as much to say, —Oh! My dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy? Come; let us all squeeze ourselves universally into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.” —Chapter 94

America’s great metaphysical novel about Ahab’s crazed pursuit of the white whale has an awful lot of queer subtexts running through it. It’s not all that surprising that many respected scholars believe Melville was a closeted homosexual. Skeptical? Let’s read chapter 3 once more, that little bit where Ishmael and Queequeg sleep together.

Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past

“At this moment I noticed that there was a small oval window opening from the room onto the corridor and that the curtain had not been drawn across it; stealthily on the darkness I crept as far as this window and there, in the room, chained to a bed like Prometheus to his rock, receiving the blows that Maurice rained upon him with a whip which was in fact studded with nails, I saw, with blood already flowing from him and covered with bruises which proved that the chastisement was not taking place for the first time—I saw before me M. de Charlus.” —Time Regained

Sure it’s several thousand pages in length. It’s also the crowning glory of modern French literature. Its long, serpentine sentences read like thick whipped cream oozing down a deliciously ornate, seven-level wedding cake. But through every nook and cranny of desire and self-delusion that Proust examines, through all the snobbish and aristocratic characters, and through all the intimate memories of childhood perceptions and adult sorrows that this mammoth novel traces, there runs a very deep river of rapturous, torrid perversion. In fact, kinky never read so beautifully. Oh yeah, and nearly ever major character turns out to be gay. Three volumes? Several thousand pages long? Get cracking, Porn Czar.

Indonesian Fertility Charms

These come straight out of Indonesia, a place where people evidently like to have a good belly laugh over the male form. Here in the West, where they are used as decorations, these little fellas with deluxe-sized members are also apparently a big hit at bachelorette parties. We could reveal the place of business where these items traffic, but once again, we’ll have to let the Porn Czar dick around for them on his own. We’re not trying to be pricks or anything. This is a hard job, and someone’s got to do it.

Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

There’s a reason students rarely read beyond the “General Prologue” of this, the greatest work in English from the Middle Ages. That’s because even holy people en route to the shrine of Thomas Becket liked to talk about—gasp!—sex. The best of the “dirty” stories is “The Miller’s Tale.” Here an Oxford student named Nicholas finally manages to have sex with the beautiful 18-year-old Alison after convincing her gullible father that a great flood is imminent.

While Alison’s father, John, sleeps in a small boat hoisted from the eaves, another suitor named Absolon arrives. He pleads with Alison for a kiss. But instead of putting her mouth through the windowsill, she sticks out her bum. As Absolon kisses her pink behind, she lets loose with a fart. Absolon vows revenge. Returning from a blacksmith’s with a hot poker, he asks for another kiss. Nicholas decides to repeat the joke, this time sticking his bum out for a kiss. Absolon rams him with the hot poker. Nicholas cries “Water!” Old father John, on alert for the coming flood, cuts his boat loose from the eaves and lands with a crash. All the villagers have a good laugh at their neighbors down the street.

Chaucer’s “Reeve’s Tale” is more straightforward, and literature’s first masterpiece of bed-swapping. After having their grain stolen by the thieving miller Symkin, the students John and Aleyn promise to have revenge by having sex with Symkin’s ugly daughter, Malyne. To that end they ask the miller to put them up for the night. Miller Symkin agrees, and they all sleep in the same room. John and Aleyn sleep in one bed, Malyne in another, and the miller and his wife in yet another, with a baby cradle at its foot. Aleyn gets in bed with Malyne for a good round of intercourse. John, meanwhile, moves the cradle to the foot of his bed. The miller’s wife gets up to use the bathroom. Finished, she feels around for the cradle to get back into bed, finds it, and ends up having sex with John. The miller wakes up, and a fight breaks out, with John and Aleyn giving the miller a sound beating.

Who would have guessed that teenage sex, a rim job, farting and bed-swapping would ever work their way into classic English literature? Sounds like a job for the Porn Czar!

Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass

“I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning,

How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turned over upon me,

And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my bare-stripped heart,

And reached till you felt my beard, and reached till you held my feet.”

—“Song of Myself”

If poetry ever burned a mainline to human desire, Whitman knew all the pathways. A lot of people consider his verse “savage.” And for good reason. This bearded New Englander thought nothing of giving himself over to the world’s more primal pulses. For some, he was and still is America’s greatest poet. For others, he was a bleating homosexual who loved to hear himself talk:

“Urge and urge and urge/Always the procreant urge of the world/Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always substance and increase, always sex/Always a knit of identity, always a breed of life.”

Always sex”? Sheesh. What would our fearless Porn Czar say? Perhaps Whitman’s verse would be rewritten into something along these lines:

“Purge and purge and purge/Always the puritan purge of the world/Out of the dimness even more dimness advances, always petulance and surcease, never sex/ Always a belt for chastity, always the breeding of legal strife.”

Now that, folks, is obscene. But we’ll let the Porn Czar be the judge.

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