There Are No Lines to Cross on PostSecret

9 Dec

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.


5 Responses to “There Are No Lines to Cross on PostSecret”

  1. julian December 10, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    Oh! I remember reading about that blog back when I used to troll the SGU boards.

    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.

    Not to mention the point of the blog is to share secrets and (assuming this from the ‘art’ bend) to practice self expression in a positive and safe atmosphere. Exploring your sex tends to go hand in hand with that. Furthermore I think it would be unhealthy to make nudity and sex ‘vulgar’ topics for children to discuss. No question that they can easily become that (just put sex and nudity into the hands of the two morons who do South Park) but sex is something we should be comfortable discussing.

  2. NomadUK December 10, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    High up on my list of things that would make for a perfect world would be not to have to put up with the kind of petty, shrivelled, warped, frightened little minds that get upset about naked bodies, sex, and other lovely things. Sigh.

  3. Praedico December 11, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Scar them? Really? Scarred? By a photo of a woman’s groin?

    Even if that postcard had a full on picture of a woman’s vulva and she was obviously aroused, if a child seeing it had such a terrible reaction to it that it would ‘scar’ them, the picture is not the problem. The introduction into a child’s mind of the neurotic mental attitude that merely catching sight of another person’s genitalia is an awful, evil act is the problem.
    Do these people think that all children born before the invention of clothes were mentally damaged? Or do they think the first action of the first sapient member of our ancestral line was to hang a leaf over their junk?

    • Theo Bromine December 12, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

      “Or do they think the first action of the first sapient member of our ancestral line was to hang a leaf over their junk?”

      Well, yes, there are a significant number of people who do think that. And seeing stuff like this is probably disturbing for kids who have been raised to regard their genitalia as forbidden and/or dirty and are suddenly exposed to such a blatant display of hair and skin.

      Personally, I think that men and women should be allowed to wear as much or as little clothing as they choose, subject only to safety and public health standards. But I have been surprised to discover that, even amongst the so-called enlightened, there are those who firmly adhere to the idea that there should be public dress codes. I object to the inconsistency of those who want to ban niqabs, but prefer to maintain the “community standards” that forbid women from going topless on a beach. Also, I object to the self-centred attitude of the fashionazis who would declare that people with bodies that are not conventionally beautiful should not be revealing their unnatractive bits, lest they cause visual offence.

      • Praedico December 13, 2011 at 10:09 am #

        Huh… it didn’t occur to me until just now that I was essentially describing Adam and Eve in that sentence.

        But yes, that it would be disturbing to see nudity if you were raised to think nudity was bad was the point I was (clumsily) trying to make. But, as I said, it’s not the nudity that’s the problem; it’s the mindset. That’s why I tend to agree with Richard Dawkins when he describes raising children with religion (or, more specifically, fundamentalist religion) as child abuse.

        As to your third paragraph: YES. A thousand times, yes.

        Although, on reflection, I’m not so sure that banning the niqab and forbidding women to go topless are actually contradictions. They’re both enforcing a standard. Granted, most people that wish to ban the niqab want to do so because they feel that women should not be forced to cover their heads, but forcing them to expose their heads when they do not wish to do so is little different, in my opinion.

        If we want to stop people from feeling that they should cover their entire body, the thing to do is not to force them to expose parts of their body they feel it is indecent to expose, but to combat the very notion of that indecency. Get rid of the idea, and the coverings will come off on their own. Or maybe they won’t; if a person still wished to cover their body and face, despite not actually believing that it was indecent to show it, that would be their choice, and we would have no real reason to combat it.
        We may not like it, but for me, it’s not the burkha, or the niqab that I find offensive*; it’s the very idea that a woman must be covered that offends me.

        tl;dr: The problem with the niqab isn’t that women are covering their face, it’s that the women think that they MUST cover their face.

        *And actually, I quite like the hijab headscarf and the way it frames a person’s face. I just hate the associated ideas that go with it.

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