So, anyway, it started with something forwarded from a website apparently called “Religion Today”:
“Lurid and sexually provocative magazines at supermarket checkout counters are inappropriate, most Americans say. Seventy-three percent of 1,006 people questioned by pollster Wirthlin Worldwide said the covers of magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Mademoiselle, and Redbook should be covered up.” The head of an organization called Morality in Media, Robert Peters, states: “…it is irresponsible to openly display at checkout counters, where children and vulnerable adolescents cannot help but see them, trashy magazine covers that so blatantly violate common standards of decency and morality,” Peters said.
I find this fascinating, myself, particularly since Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Mademoiselle, and Redbook were singled out, all of which (usually) show women in to be honest not-terribly-revealing but certainly often enticing/provocative (depending on your point of view) outfits. (Cosmo makes much use of push-up outfits in its cover photos, but swelling breasts are not in and of themselves revealing—if anything, they involve the creation of an illusion that hides rather than reveals.) What’s really interesting about this, though, is that magazines like GQ and Men’s Health, which often have men on their covers showing lots more skin than any of the women on the named magazines’ covers, were not mentioned. Is it only photos of fully dressed women that are “lurid and sexually provocative”?
For a moment, i’d like to reminisce on my own experience in Germany as a full-time missionary. Yes, magazine cover (and advertising, for that matter) shots of scantily-clad women (usually not men, interestingly, although there were some in my observation) showing more skin than would be allowed on the cover of Cosmo in the United States were quite common, but i have to admit that i don't necessarily see this as being related to any sort of “moral decay” in German culture—they simply showed more skin in their photographs than Unistatians tend to.
And this brings me to what troubles me about this whole discussion—there’s an underlying assumption that nobody’s questioning. That is, there’s a tacit ground rule people are using that having more skin visible in public places is necessarily a Bad Thing. Is it, though, or is this simply Unistatian (or American? Angloamerican? Euroamerican?) values being parrotted by the participants in the discussion? The assumption may well turn out to be correct, but never holding it up for questioning is, i feel, a disservice to the entire issue.
I mean, it’s quite valid to propose (full disclosure: this is actually my position) that the problem isn’t visible nudity, but the problem is rather the people who view that nudity. I suppose that i’ll be the minority here, but i’d argue that a fear of viewing human skin is at some level irrational, and we should be less worried about what’s visible to the world and more worried about how we react to it. (Arguably, we should also worry about how others react to it, but in my opinion we need to work on ourselves first.)
Maybe i’m alone on this, but my reaction to scantily-clad men or women on magazine covers tends to be something along the lines of “attractive person” or “good muscle definition” or “that outfit’s entirely the wrong color for that person, and i can’t believe that shot made it to the cover”. Is this a bad thing? Is it a bad thing to think that the problem isn’t that which is seen, but rather the reaction of that which sees?
I mean, really—the reaction of most Germans i knew, when i asked them about the level of nudity on magazine covers over there or the topless beaches or somesuch was something along the lines of “But it’s just a body!” And that, folks, is all it is—it’s just a body. Yeah, that’s an important thing and all, but it’s not like what you see in front of you is something eternal, even given the Mormon doctrine of a corporeal postmortality—it’s just a mortal body. So why the uproar over something as ignorable as that?