Sunday, May 06, 2007

DOPE, GUNS, AND FLASHING IN THE STREETS. (UPDATE -- GFR has complained, and I have made two corrections. They are marked with an *.)

I thought agreeing to "vlog" with the horrible Ann Althouse was Garance Franke-Ruta's worst possible mistake, but she has topped it by declaring that, rather than expose themselves to the statistically insignificant chance of posterity in a "Girls Gone Wild" video, women between the ages of 18 and 25 21* should be prohibited from allowing their breasts to be photographed (insert) by certain people*(/insert):
It is time to raise the age of consent from 18 to 21--"consent," in this case, referring not to sexual relations but to providing erotic content on film.
Old enough to fuck, not old enough to flash! The slogans just write themselves.

I am sorely tempted to play the jaded roué here, but fun as that might be, I will for the moment take the high road. Franke-Ruta's argument is based on the harm that may be done young women whose bodies may be caught on film in a moment of animal high-spirits:
Once upon a time, a picture was just a picture. Today it can be wirelessly beamed to computers that can email it to networks where, once it is posted, it can be downloaded and endlessly reproduced by anyone who wants it. The detritus of 50 years of television is now available on YouTube, as are highlights from many DVDs. Just as Google transforms us all into archivists of previously fleeting moments, so too does the new digital recording technology give youthful acts a permanent life. In the case of Mr. Francis and his empire of imitators--not to mention angry ex-boyfriends with digital flash cards and a long memory--it can transform the playful exhibitionism of young women into scarlet letters that follow them around for life.
Lord knows our discourse is distorted when it comes to sex. It is my observation that it is distorted because of our misperceptions about sex and the body, not because sex and the body are themselves noxious. Popular R-rated giggle-fests from Porky's to the American Pie movies are, to me, dirtier than a typical porn film, because they posit sex as something you get away with, like theft or vandalism.

The appeal of "Girls Gone Wild" is based on that social malfunction. It's not the sight of 18-year-old tits that's gross -- O, far from it! -- but the idea that the filmmaker and the viewer have stolen the view because the nubile was, in Franke-Ruta's words, "intoxicated by both a Scorpion Bowl (illegally served) and her own newly developed form."

To worry as Franke-Ruta does that "Girls Gone Wild" participants will suffer lasting damage when their videos "follow them around for life" is to acknowledge that this fucked-up American sex-madness is unavoidable and undefeatable. Why else prevent women who are otherwise judged capable of sexual freedom from exhibiting their lady-parts? Elsewhere Franke-Ruta explains that she doesn't complain if young women (and men, she suddenly adds) privately enjoy "photos for personal use." But what is the meaning of the "privacy" concerns she claims to support if she wants private citizens to be legally enjoined from exercising or disposing them?

Exploitation, alas, exists. But this is no reason to fold the tent of liberty. All our rights -- the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the right not to incriminate ourselves, etc. -- can be exploited, and indeed are exploited every day, but we try to find (or should try to find) the least restrictive way to limit those abuses, rather than allow those abuses to limit our rights.

So if the brain-damaged idea of sex as explotation is the problem, I say let us militate against that idea, not against the sexual autonomy of legal adults. Let us have wide and unapologetic dissemination of sexual imagery. Let us preempt the Joe Francises of the world by having fully empowered girls (and boys) go wild on their own terms -- there's a vlog subject more linkworthy than Fatso v. Ratso! Let the idiots among us hoot and holler and wank; the tide of history is against them. Isn't it?

No comments:

Post a Comment