Friday, July 8, 2011

A Naked Guy in My Nuvo

Although I picked up a Nuvo earlier this week, it wasn't until news coverage of the naked guy though I flipped my copy to Page 12.  Sure enough there is a naked guy right there with penis proudly exposed.

Not actual picture that
appeared in Nuvo.
In response to the fuss stirred by the photograph, Nuvo Editor Laura McPhee defending the publication as "art" and said they had featured naked women in the magazine without anyone complaining.  Breasts maybe...I doubt though Nuvo published photographs of a woman's genitalia, which is a far different thing.

Last Saturday afternoon, I flipped through the television dial and stumbled on Sex and the City.  The character known as Samantha, who is extremely promiscuous and proud of it, was in bed having sex with two men.

The last thing I want is government censoring television or newspapers.  However, that doesn't mean that Nuvo and that television network shouldn't acknowledge that parents might find the content inappropriate for their children and respect their views not to expose them to that content.  Oh, and for those who suggest that's the parents' job, the notion that parents are going to monitor their children 24/7 is unrealistic.  What's wrong with the private sector taking steps to help out parents? Why did Nuvo need to run that photograph in a publication that any child could pick up and see?  Why couldn't the television network show Sex and the City after 9 pm, a time when young children are off to bed?

It is called having respect for other people's values.


Nicolas Martin said...

Americans are masters of self-infantilization. It is ostensibly on the pretext of protecting children, but the children aren't complaining. The most sensitive (prudish) adults object on behalf of themselves and others for whom they claim to speak.

Nuvo is not a children's publication, and shouldn't be edited as if it were one. It doesn't purport to cater to hypersensitive individuals, and if such persons don't like it they should avoid it. There are countless publications in the public library, borrowable by minors, that are far more provocative than a photo of a nude man. Millions of ordinary American women read novels, sold even at Walmart, that feature explicit sex depictions.

Since it is impossible to effectively argue that children are harmed by photos of nude humans, the fall-back is usually "respect for other people's values." To comply with this is to eradicate provocative and unconventional art, and even a lot of the conventional sort. Whose values are the baseline for respect? Ogden's? Ballard's? The evangelical homeschooling parents down by street from me? The Amish? It is always the most easily offended who demand that their values be respected.

The Nora neighborhood association argued that Target shouldn't be allowed to sell liquor because alcoholic beverages were not consistent with the nature of a family-oriented business. Should Target have complied? Should discos cease to exist because dancing offends some Christians?

Nuvo should publish what it wishes, and what its readership accepts. If it exceeds that acceptance it will go out of business. Ogden doesn't complain about the paper publishing ads for massage parlors, though those ads offend many locals. He doesn't explain whether a photo of a nude man is more intrinsically offensive (to the easily offended) than a photo of Michelangelo's David, penis proudly exposed. There are more than a few Americans, parents among them, who would be offended by the publication of a picture of David. Would Ogden argue that David's penis be censored, or does an ancient penis deserve more tolerance than a modern one?

If the nude human body is an affront, the complaint should be taken to God by those who are affronted.

No virtuous (in the YMCA sense) man has ever painted a picture worth looking at or written a symphony worth hearing or a book worth reading. -- H. L. Mencken

Paul K. Ogden said...


You make a good point about the difficulty of measuring what is offensive...but then you reach too far, concluding that because of the difficulty the door shoulod be wide open. I assume even you would draw the line at some point.

I don't think it's a stretch to concludethat most parents don't want their young kids watching the tramps on Sex and the City rolling around in the hay with the most recent man they met. I don't think it's a stretch that most people don't want free publications on the street that have pictures of nude people in them. These aren't particularly close questions in our society.

Having respect for other people's values, shared by a majority of people, is not a lot to ask.

Indy Student said...

I think Nicolas hit on an important point.

That people most vocally complaining about this DON'T READ NUVO.

Hell, I'm in Nuvo's prime demographic, and I wouldn't have known about this photo if I didn't read the news story about it.

I think it's different if Nuvo did something to aim for a child's attention, such as having a children's mascot/character on the cover, or was decorated in bright, flashy colors. But rarely, if ever, is that the case.

Indy Student said...

And as far as television is concerned, many televisions (or cable or whatever your service provider/method of getting stations/shows is) come with some way to get parental controls on the TV. The days of someone accidentally running across a sexually explicit or graphically violent show on Showtime or HBO are over.

Nicolas Martin said...

@ Mr. Ogden.
For the sake of this issue we need not consider where the limit should be. We are talking simply about a nude human being, not copulation, bestiality, or the lurid acts described in the Bible. Nudity can peacefully coexist with publications readily available to the general public. God knows it might make the Star worth a look from time to time.

Years back I wrote a piece for a Houston paper about a city councilwoman who wanted Madonna's Sex book removed from the public library. When I interviewed her she told me that she read almost everything on the bestseller list, including things that were "racy." So, I got a copy of the latest book by Judith Krantz, an immensely popular author with many bestsellers, and quoted from one sexual passage. It was quite explicit, including a depiction of analingus. The councilwoman didn't demand that sexy books she enjoyed be banned, only Madonna's. I think that was because Sex had pictures and erotic books for middle-aged woman do not. The woman was comfortable with written depictions of hard-core sex, but uncomfortable with soft-core photos. As is often the case with sex controversies, older people are less tolerant. And they are typically less comfortable with visual pornography that was less available when they were young.

The same written vs. visual divide exists in law. The courts have not allowed censorship of erotic texts for half a century, but have permitted prosecution of visually erotic material. Neither logic, natural law, nor the constitution support such a distinction. Nuvo could (but wouldn't) publish violent hard-core erotica (sans pictures), and nobody would have legal grounds to object. Publish a naked man and the Puritans man the barricades.

Michelle Bachmann knows where she would draw the line. It is reported today that she has signed a pledge to seek a ban on pornography. This is not only injurious to liberty, it is a practical mistake, for during the period in which pornography has become ubiquitous in America, the incidence of rape has dropped by 80 percent.* Some experts theorize that prospective rapists are sated by porn, and therefore lose the impulse to rape. That may not be true, but it is now proven that widely available porn does not cause an increase of rape.

Erotica may present an offense to sexual taste and dignity, but there is no argument against it that should rise to the level of government intervention (assuming the participants are consensual adults).

Rape Rates

How the Web Prevents Rape

guy77money said...

As a side bar, I remember a National Lampoon article from the 70's that had a TV guide listing of fictional comedy's about Lesbians, Homosexuals and other shows that would have never past muster in the 70's. Welcome to 2011 where Lampoons article would have been tame compared to the sex and violence shown on the tube 24/7. I guess we are finally catching up to Europe when it comes to showing the naked body in newspapers and magazines. Then of course there's the internet which trumps all of the above medium.

Nicolas Martin said...

Speaking of devils, this is in the background:

Supreme Court may reconsider radio, TV indecency rules

In 1978, when the U.S. Supreme Court gravely concluded that indecent radio and TV broadcasts were "uniquely pervasive" and "uniquely accessible to children," that was probably true.

Then again, that was before cable television, DirecTV, and satellite radio, and certainly long before the Internet finally became mainstream in the late 1990s. It was also long before TV ratings for broadcast programs--and decades before the kind of parental control technology found in the V-chip became implanted in all televisions and digital converter boxes sold in the United States.

Today the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that will test whether the remarkable technological changes of the last 33 years have changed the way broadcast censorship should work.

In that seminal 1978 case that arose from comedian George Carlin's monologue, the justices ruled that Federal Communications Commission regulations banning four-letter words were appropriate because "the broadcast media have established a uniquely pervasive presence in the lives of all Americans." In addition, the opinion written by Justice Paul Stevens said, "broadcasting is uniquely accessible to children," because there's no way to block it.

Last year, however, a federal appeals court ruled that technological advances have ripped away the underpinnings of the FCC's "indecency" regulations and ruled against the government agency on First Amendment grounds...

This morning's order (PDF) from the Supreme Court agreeing to hear the case asks lawyers for both sides to address only this question: "Whether the Federal Communications Commission's current indecency-enforcement regime violates the First or Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution." A decision is expected by next summer.

Paul K. Ogden said...


First of all, I never said there should be laws against what was done. Having said that, I think you're making an argument for where the line should be...that things like simple nudity shouldn't be offensive, for example. But the fact is for most people they are offended to pick up a free publication on the street and see a picture of a naked people in it. Why is it so wrong for Nuvo to be more sensitive to people's morals and values and not publish such material?

I actually think the Sex and the City is an even worse example. There you have a group of women who glamorize promiscuity, suggesting not so subtly that the norm is for women to jump in and out of bed with men. I don't agree with IndyStudent that offensive material isn't easily accessible on cable television. My example of Sex and the City is a good example of that. The fact that show doesn't show nudity...a fact I'm appreciative of given the actresses in the show...doesn't mean the message of the show promoting promiscous sex for women is somehow okay.

Cato said...

"Having respect for other people's values, shared by a majority of people, is not a lot to ask."

Actually, that's pretty terrifying.

My mind recalls busybody Puritans and other zealots making life a living hell for everyone.

To Hell with your "values," if you demand that they bind my conduct. That's law by another name. Unless I'm violating you by committing assault, theft, rape, murder, fraud, trespass, or breach of contract, you have no right to complain about what I'm doing.

By the way, why are kids watching television without parental permission?

Cato said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicolas Martin said...

Mr. Ogden,
When journalists-authors-artists adjust their works to be "be more sensitive to people's morals and values," they are abandoning their own consciences and aesthetics. They have no obligation to do so. The pressure for them to do so is, by its nature, totalitarian.

Everyone, myself included, is deeply offended by something he considers immoral. I consider advocacy of government to be immoral and deeply offensive, but I don't want statists to self-censor, I want them to have to compete in the marketplace of ideas. (I do want them to forswear violence, but where will they be without it?)

While publishers have no obligation to be sensitive to morals, they couldn't begin to assess their potential offense to the squishy idea of "values." People "value" things, people, behaviors and ideas, but what the heck are "values?" Is the love of peanut butter a value? How about a preference for Rockabilly over New Country? I think "value" is just another name for "prejudice." Why should I respect your prejudices, or you mine?

Sensitivity is a code word for control. People who believe homosexuality is immoral want homosexuals to be "sensitive" and not hold hands or kiss in public. They might bash them over the head if they are not sufficiently sensitive.

People who are morally sensitive to interracial relationships want mixed couples to keep their love behind closed doors, or to ban it altogether.* Feminists want men to be sensitive (submissive) by asking permission before kissing. Many Christians have wanted Jews to show sensitivity by disappearing from the Earth.

Freedom requires tolerance and spine. It requires accepting that many or most people will not share, and may not even respect, your morals or prejudices. What you do have a right to expect is that you will not be subject to violence by those who differ with you.

I cannot imagine why nudity should, in itself, be offensive; many pious brethren are not offended by it. Obviously it offends you, but you are a member of a political party whose leaders knowingly drop bombs on babies and call the outcome "collateral damage," so maybe some perspective is called for.

* Interracial marriage should be illegal, say 46% of Mississippi Republicans in new poll

Cato said...

"But the fact is for most people they are offended to pick up a free publication on the street and see a picture of a naked people in it."

No, they like the nudity but loudly claim offense to salve their consciences.

Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time. - H.L. Mencken

"Why is it so wrong for Nuvo to be more sensitive to people's morals and values and not publish such material?"

Because the point, I suppose, is to publish the material.

Nicolas Martin said...

Slightly off-topic, but a nice quote:

Insights into erotic life belong to art, not to education. But sometimes these insights have to be spelled out for the illiterates. And it is mainly a matter of convincing the illiterates, for they are the ones who write the penal code. -- Karl Kraus

Cato said...

Nic, I know it's a softball for our kind, but great work in this thread.

Kudos to Paul for having the courage to say something offends him and to articulate an honest argument in support of his position.

This is a worthwhile conversation.

Nicolas Martin said...

When I was a child growing up in Richmond, Indiana, my family, insensitive to our racist neighbors, had close Black friends. This intensely offended bigots in my neighborhood, who responded with years of acts of vandalism and violence. As a result of our friendships, I had few White friends until I moved away as a teen.

When I was 12 or 13 (summer of 1968) I was asked to help staff an antiwar booth at the Wayne County Fair. When I was alone at the booth, some self-identified veterans shoved me to the ground and tore down the displays that offended their values. I ran to the sheriff for help and was laughed at.

In my adolescence my hair reached half-way down my back, which many people found objectionable. I liked my hair, and was content with the antiestablishment statement it made, so I lived with the ostracism.

People are offended by things that are, more often than not, none of their business. They are frequently willing to perpetrate acts of violence against non-conformists. Cowards get sensitive real quick when threatened with censure and violence.

Non-conformists can also be fools, but they deserve to be unmolested, and they are much more likely than conformists to produce creative and challenging intellectual products.

I don't give a flip what people think, but I am often sufficiently "sensitive" to keep my more controversial views to myself so that my house isn't burned down. You assume that this really is the "land of the free" at your own peril. Try this test: put a sticker saying, "There is no god," on your bumper. I'll bet that your insensitivity to the righteous will earn you a smashed bumper inside of a week. When majoritarian peer pressure doesn't work, a sledgehammer will do the trick.

Far from being racy and controversial, Nuvo is boring and tame. Only because the bar has been set so low in Indianapolis does it seem passably interesting sometimes. Nudity will neither improve nor harm the paper. (Unless the nude person is Monica Bellucci, that is.)

Nicolas Martin said...

@ Cato
Why does Mr. Ogden deserve kudos for trying to stamp out harmless behaviors that offend him?

Indy Student said...

Speaking of parents, can anyone think of a situation where a kid under 13 years of age could accidentlly get a Nuvo and see this?

People under that age are either with their parents in the various public spaces Nuvo has, or are with an adult of some sorts.

Now when we hit the teenage years and more independence comes and they start driving, yeah, it could happen. But young, very impressionable, elementary school aged children? Not a chance.

Nicolas Martin said...


I assume you are jesting. A kid can get heroin if he is so inclined, and without a drivers license!

Truth is that most parents don't much care what their kids see, and do little to control it. One study estimated that about 7 percent of American homes employed the V-chip, and few use Internet blocking software.

Meanwhile, with greater freedom has come a huge drop in crime in America.

Hard as it is to believe, there are still kids who actually walk and use bicycles to visit stores and other places where Nuvo is distributed. While they are working hard at it, Americans have not yet been able to convert childhood into a padded cell.

Cato said...

"Why does Mr. Ogden deserve kudos for trying to stamp out harmless behaviors that offend him?"

Well, he could keep it bottled up like a Tea Party kook and never interact with anyone who disagrees with him. Really healthy, that.

He also didn't go all Goldsmith and invoke the assistance of Terry Curry in stifling free speech. He just asked NUVO for their help in maintaining community standards he finds worth preserving.

Good on Paul for doing this in the open.

Paul K. Ogden said...

NM Said @ Cato
Why does Mr. Ogden deserve kudos for trying to stamp out harmless behaviors that offend him?


I would point out NM that I'm pretty confident I am in the overhwleming majority who finds these things's hardly just me.

All I asked from Nuvo and the TV network was a little respect for people's morals and values and the desire to help parents raise children as they want to raise them. Didn't ask for censorship. The article simple asks that the network and Nuvo respect other people's values and show consideration that people may find this objectionable and limit the time and manner when this stuff is viewable. There is no reason they can't put Sex and the City on TV in the evening hours instead of the middle of the day....for example.

Nicolas Martin said...

Mr. Ogden,
The ethical or logical strength of a viewpoint is not measured by the number of people who share it. Perhaps most Americans would object to the public display of David, but their numbers would hardly justify their foolishness.

You repeat that you don't advocate censorship, but you explicitely advocate self-censorship for the flimsiest of reasons. You cannot demonstrate that a single person is harmed by exposure to nudity; only that some are offended. You don't explain why the offense taken by 12 people should override the enjoyment of six.

Suppose your "overwhelming majority" supports a law banning the publication of a nude man? Does that justify such a law? No, it merely accentuates the threat to liberty by a majority, and majorities are often oppressive without the aid of law.

I advocate self-control. If people are offended by nude men and TV shows with sexual themes, they avoid the publication and reach for the off button. You have no more right to expect that your values will not be offended than Margaret Truman had a right to critical acclaim for her piano playing.

One of the more interesting books published near the end of the Soviet Union was The Velvet Prison: Artists Under State Socialism.* Library Journal explained that the author, a Hungarian poet, "details the subtle methods by which art and criticism are co-opted and the artist supports the system through self-censorship." Those subtle methods are also at work in a majoritarian democracy.

If you are consistent then you supported the pressure to self-censor exerted on the authors of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammed. The cartoons deeply offended many Muslims, and we can't have people offended, can we?


In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them. -- Tocqueville

Nicolas Martin said...

Mr. Ogden.
It's worth noting that, while you claim to eschew legal censorship, you support and apparently vote for politicians who expressly support government censorship of sexual materials. So, you are more than a bit disingenuous in your claim to favor only self-censorship.

Nicolas Martin said...

Here is where the "sensitivity" business leads:

Pub singer arrested for racism after Chinese passers-by hear him perform Kung Fu Fighting

A pub singer has been arrested on suspicion of racism for singing the classic chart hit Kung Fu Fighting.

The song, performed by Simon Ledger, 34, is said to have offended two Chinese people as they walked past the bar where he was singing.
The entertainer regularly performs the 1974 number one hit, originally by disco star Carl Douglas, at the Driftwood Beach Bar in Sandown, on the Isle of Wight.

marksmall2001 said...

The guy in the pub should not have been arrested. Patrons, though, should have boycotted the place, and not on grounds of racism, but on grounds of taste. "Kung Fu Fighting" may have been a Number One hit back in the day, but the gist of what you have said is numbers in support of a position do not establish truth. The problem now is that the opening notes and words of "Kung Fu Fighting" now will be in my head for part of this day. I will have to find Richard Harris singing "MacArthur Park" or William Shatner's classic cover of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" to re-set my musical senses.

Cato said...

Hey, Mark:

"Oh, Mickey, you're so fine. You're so fine, you blow my mind."

"Hey, Mickey."

"Hey, Mickey."

marksmall2001 said...

That was a very vile thing to do. Culturally ignorant of those lines, I found the video. Now I am desperately in search of MacArthur Park and William Shatner.