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Utes vs. SUU 

Taking a Gander: A tempest in a teapot

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The U.'s recent football drubbing of Southern Utah (73-3) was an embarrassment to the loser, but that game will be particularly memorable for a totally different reason.

Two faithful women supporters of the University of Utah went to the game with only body paint from the waist up. The intentionally-blurred press photos—which I have faithfully and thoroughly inspected—show the pair in painted-on tank tops, complete with a big, red "U."

Any casual glance would have left most people satisfied that the women were fully clothed, and the front-gate security never batted an eye while they had their tickets scanned. For that matter, is the sheer blouse of a bra-less woman any less revealing than the opacity of an Earl Scheib paint job?

I've seen naked bodies painted so thoroughly that there was no hint of nudity, and I've also seen the intentionally tantalizing revelations by those who are fully clothed in almost transparent tops. If this is about "clothing," one has to be splitting hairs to say there's any difference.

But not Melea Johnson. She was obviously more attracted to the painted-chest display than the people around her, and she definitely did a very thorough double-take. In fact, she took a rather harmless situation and made it all about her.

While it was perfectly OK for Johnson to take her children to see a combative game of football—wherein every play contains violent contact—and it was fine for her to take them to a place where everyone in the stands might be legally carrying a 9mm semi-automatic. It was A-OK for the kids to see cheerleaders cavorting, scantily-clad, through their crowd-rousing routines, but her highly-touted Christian faith somehow made the vision of painted, bare nipples a crime against humanity.

Of course, she had nothing to say about the bare-chested men—painted or not—that dotted the bleachers. And the reality is that, despite the sexual context our society gives to women's breasts, men's and women's chests aren't really so different. Sure, they are disparate proportionally, but the details are virtually the same.

Johnson was quoted, saying: "Our first instinct is we have our kids with us and oh, my gosh, we've got to make sure we shield them."

Did I really read that?

Of course, she could have just suggested to her kids, "Don't gawk." But, no, she needed to slather her prudishness over everyone—probably because the added publicity is extremely desirable for a professional blogger. (Ms. Johnson has received awards for her YouTube-based videos, "The Melea Show.")

Actually, Johnson's children may have had a brief glimpse of the outline of a nipple, which could only be seen from a profile view, and Melea was horrified that her kids might see such a sight. Now she's made it her sacred mission to see the women face charges.

Give me a break. This is the same kind of person who would seek to sexualize the exposure of a nursing mother's breast in public and, perhaps, it wouldn't be at all out of character for Johnson to seek laws requiring boarded up windows on all Utah's bedrooms and baths.

Her words made it all the way to the New York Post: "As they turned sideways, I could see a nipple, so I don't know if those pies [pasties] they said they had were see-through or didn't go right, or I have no idea. All I know is that my problem with it and why I made such a stink about it is that it affects children and it happened in front of my children and other people's children. It's against the law and nothing has been done."

This is the kind of person that will be insisting on burning a pile of library books and opposing anatomy classes in the local high schools. The reality is that, on a federal level, the courts have ruled that topless women are within their rights, just as much as a male football fan could arrive with his torso covered with body paint and receive no notice at all. State and local regulations are different, but very vague on what constitutes "toplessness."

Certainly, Melea Johnson has plenty of company here in Utah, sharing the state with a plentiful supply of insane prudishness. All I can say is, Melea, don't even consider taking your children to Florence, Italy. They could be permanently damaged by seeing Michelangelo's "David" in the nude.

The author is a retired novelist, columnist, and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog.

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