Friday, November 21, 2008

Granny panty decals: not good enough.

New York City is one of the few places in the USA where women can legally go around topless. However, public display of "offensive sexual material" is a Class-A misdemeanor. A New York Times reporter got peeved at her local newsstands' open display of magazine covers depicting curvy women with minimal clothes and called in the law to force the offending vendors to cover things up. I've just got a few questions:

1. How much sense does it make to punish people for displaying "depictions" of nudity when a flesh-and-blood woman might be able to strike the same pose in Central Park and be free of sanction? This is right up there with child porn prosecutions for teens above the age of consent who take nude cellphone photos of themselves.

2. How are the magazine covers different from the sorts of billboard ads showing women in various states of undress that are prominently displayed in NYC by advertisers who are too big to be pushed around by the city's morals police? And what did the reporter think of the famous Vanity Fair cover that showed skinny white actresses in the buff? Was she coming down on the newsstands for that? Remember, it's not about what's inside the magazine: the relevant "display" is of the cover. Don't try to tell me that fashion advertising and stuff like this isn't appealing to the same base desires.

3. What the hell kind of law is this? If something appeals to the prurient interest in sex, you can't display it even if it merely
appears to depict nudity ... with the area of the male or female subject's unclothed or apparently unclothed genitals, pubic area or buttocks, or of the female subject's unclothed or apparently unclothed breast, obscured by a covering or mark placed or printed on or in front of the material displayed, or obscured or altered in any other manner.
So you can't show a photo of someone whose nudity is obscured by a "covering" printed on the material displayed or otherwise obscured . . . doesn't this mean even photos of people apparently nude beneath their clothes (or with fig leaves added after the fact) could be in violation? At minimum, the slapped-on cigarette ad in the Jezebel post seems to fall clearly within this provision.
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