I posted this on my personal blog a few months ago. I thought it might interest We Are SkeptiXX readers since it is essentially about censorship, gender-based double standards, and the bizarre need some have to protect “the children” from things seen as horribly inappropriate despite the fact that they are completely natural–a child need do nothing more than look down in the shower to see them.
PostSecret is “an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.” The secrets are then posted on the PostSecret blog, and some are collected and published in book form. Under some of the secrets, blog creator/administrator Frank Warren posts a few e-mailed reactions from readers. Today another new set of secrets went up, including this secret. Among the reactions Warren included under the postcard was the following comments: “STOP putting naked pictures on the blog! I don’t care if it’s an actual postcard! Some of us are referring young people to this blog to HELP them – not scar them more with an abrupt naked picture” and “The honesty and controversy in your project has always impassioned me. But there is a line. And you crossed that line today.” (Also included were two comments supportive of the postcard: “what does it say about us that this realistic (and i think beautiful) picture of a female body part could ‘scar’ us?” and the delightfully snarky “Half of young people have their own vaginas.”)
Now keep in mind that the only body parts actually visible in the picture are the fronts of each thigh and a portion of the lower abdomen. Search high or low, but there is nary a labia (nor any other part of the female genitalia) to be found. So what is so offensive about this picture? True, the text of the postcard is about the artist’s first orgasm, but I would lay money on the fact that on average there is at least one postcard every week on the site that mentions orgasm. So it would appear that the complainers are simply splitting hairs. But it just so happens that those hairs are of the pubic variety.
Apparently the site of untamed pubic hair is just too much for these viewers. After all, a postcard just two before the postcard under fire depicts a man’s torso. Again, no genitalia is visible in the picture, but the lower abdomen just shy of the man’s penis is. This postcard had no e-mails of protest listed below it, but why not? It’s strikingly similar to the other postcard except for one thing: his lower abdomen is free of pubic hair. So one could reasonably deduce that had the exact same postcard of the woman’s thighs and abdomen been submitted sans pubic hair (that is, if the lady pictured had shaved her lady parts rather than go au naturel) it would not have been charged with either “crossing the line” or as having the potential to “scar children with an abrupt naked picture.”
“Hey!” some of you are undoubtedly yelling right now. “Pubic hair has NOTHING to do with it! All you’ve done is set up a straw man and eviscerated his dry and scratchy intestines. Our objections were meant for BOTH nakie postcards. These images will corrupt our children! These images are the most disgusting and inappropriate thing that has ever appeared on this otherwise kid-friendly website.”
If that IS the objection, I guess they’ve got me there. I mean, pictures of bellies and thighs stand out as pretty risque–okay downright disturbing–on a website that posts secrets on such fluffy subject matter as abortion, bestiality, masturbation, adultery, suicide, organized religion, rape, and racism, among many others.
Have I ever been offended by a postcard on PostSecret. Yep, I sure have (that example I linked of bestiality comes to mind). But wow, what eye openers those secrets are. And that is part of the whole point of the website. Personally, the only thing I found appalling about the contested secret was its grammatical errors. But I would never demand that Warren stop posting cards from those who don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re” on what is, after all, his own damn blog. Post away, Frank.