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obscenity is your friend (at least sometimes)
who decides what's obscene?
by margot carmichael lester

Kansas state Sen. Wagle is attempting to withhold $3 million in funding to the University of Kansas because she found the content of a class on sexuality "obscene". The bill has passed the state senate. Let's hope the Kansas state house is a little less reactionary.

I can never quite get over how afraid people are of sex. But then I realize that there are people like Sen. Wagle who think sex that's outside of the "in your bedroom missionary style"is bad. When you see views like hers, it's not so hard to understand.

I went to a very open, liberal elementary school and we had sex ed in 4th and 5th grades. It didn't make me want to go out and screw somebody. Maybe even, in part, because I was really clear on the consequences. Because sex -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- was talked about openly, I didn't grow up fearing it or thinking it was some taboo waiting to be broken. I was able to make decisions about sex that were right for me.

What is wrong with using classroom materials depicting "live sex acts” in a class about...SEX? From what I've read about the class, the material is shown in context (not gratuitously) and it's explained fully. What’s wrong with that? And if you don't want to watch, but do want to discuss, close your damn eyes! How are you ever going to learn about sex and fetishes and more sex if you don't learn about reproductive development or sexual deviations (which aren't necessarily bad) or just SEX in general?

And if you find pornography objectionable, why are you in the class in the first place? It’s not a required course.

If Sen. Wagle really cared about protecting people from sexual exploitation that would be one thing. And maybe she does, but it doesn't seem like it. Her statement, "I think what is going on in this undergraduate class is obscene, and I want to make this type of activity not funded by the taxpayer," is proof not only of her poor command of sentence structure, but of her utter disregard for the first amendment and education itself.

Here’s how Webster defines "obscene"
1: disgusting to the senses: REPULSIVE 2 a: abhorrent to morality or virtue; specifically: designed to incite to lust or depravity b: containing or being language regarded as taboo in polite usage c: repulsive by reason of crass disregard of moral or ethical principles d: so excessive as to be offensive

If we follow Sen. Wagle's lead, banning everything deemed obscene from the classroom, think of what we'd lose. I personally found some of the ideas and concepts I learned in school objectionable. The scenes depicted in the harrowing film, "Night and Fog” that we had to watch in 11th grade Sociology had Shayna Hill and me in tears it was so horrific. THAT was obscene. Had Sen. Wagle been around back then, we could cancel funding to Chapel Hill High for showing it. But I have to tell you, that movie changed us. We saw god-awful images of what happened in the Holocaust and we vowed, like our parents and grandparents, to make sure it never happened again. That film, obscene as it was, got us thinking. Is that a bad thing?

There is no proof that watching porn or engaging in candid discussions about sex makes you a pervert or leads to dangerously deviant behavior, any more than playing D&D and listening to death metal will turn you into a killer. Nor will watching two guys getting off together make you gay. Sexually explicit material might make you squirm, but since when is being introduced to uncomfortable concepts NOT supposed to be a part of the educational experience? No wonder there's gay-bashing and sexual dysfunction when people are literally TAUGHT, if Sen. Wagle has her way, that two (or more, even) people who dig each other shouldn't be fucking because it's obscene?

Sen. Wagle is just another of Ashcroft's henchmen, afraid of what she doesn't understand and determined to force her views on the rest of us. Personally, I think she needs to get laid.

Sex. Without it, we'd be nowhere.


Margot’s a content strategist and freelance journalist. She consults with and/or writes for businesses large and small, and new and traditional media. She’s also the author of four books, including Be a Better Writer: Power Tools for Young Writers -- co-written with her husband, Steve Peha -- won the 2007 Independent Publishers Association gold medal for teen/young-adult nonfiction. She is currently working on two additional titles in the Better Writer Series, one for college students and another for corporate employees. A Southern belle and sex symbol for the intelligentsia, she was born, raised and still lives in Orange County, N.C.

more about margot carmichael lester


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topic: news
published: 4.8.03


robert melos
4.13.03 @ 8:38p

According to Webster, I must be obscene.

Is Sen. Wagle running for office? I only ask because it seems she is focusing on an issue that, in most states, probably would've gone unnoticed. Isn't there something more pressing in Kansas on which she should focus her efforts?

This just seems to be another right-wing politician scrambling to "purify" the country. How do people like this get into positions of power in the first place?

Loved the article.


margot lester
4.13.03 @ 9:04p

i, personally, think the fact that kansas university might lose roy williams as head basketball coach is far more important than some sex ed class, but that's just my humble opinion as a die hard tar heel, college hoops and roy williams fan.

juli mccarthy
4.14.03 @ 1:04a

Wait. This class is in a university? You mean it's not accessible to children, right?

While I don't understand the concept of a class in sexuality, I can't imagine why college students should be forbidden to take one.

margot lester
4.14.03 @ 1:50a

since the class is at KU, most of the people taking it are at least 18. but this raises an interesting question...whom do you consider children? at what age is sex ed ok? or is it not ok at all?

and just to clear something up: the senator's not forbidding students from taking the class -- that would be bad enough -- she's threatening to take $3 million from the entire UNIVERSITY. so she is, in effect, punishing ALL the university's students, not just the ones in the class nor the teacher leading it. which, in my opinion, would still be misguided.

isn't part of the point of higher learning to explore concepts and ideas that you don't understand?

matt morin
4.14.03 @ 1:51a

I just saw this quote today that's rather apropos:

"If sex and creativity are often seen by dictators as subversive activities, it's because they lead to the knowledge that you own your own body (and with it your own voice), and that's the most revolutionary insight of all."
--Erica Jong

margot lester
4.14.03 @ 1:54a

right ON!

adam kraemer
4.14.03 @ 7:40a

I'm pretty sure it was the Kansas Board of Education that a couple of years ago voted to stop teaching evolution in schools. A beacon of liberalism, it ain't.

That doesn't make Wagle right, but it surprises me a lot less than if this were a debate in, say, New Jersey.

russ carr
4.16.03 @ 9:05p

My originally-scheduled April column was about this same topic, but with a different flashpoint. A local school superintendent took 26 7th & 8th grade honor students to Hooters because (while on a daylong fieldtrip) it was the only restaurant that could handle such a large group. No one seemed to care except one mother, who later railed on all parties involved. "These kids are in an age group when their concept of body image and sexuality are being formulated. Those women (Hooters Girls) were not appropriate role models," she read to a schoolboard meeting.

How were they inappropriate? Hooters Girls wear more than the average girl at a swimming pool, but are those bikini-clad women inappropriate, too? If someone has problems with body image, I'd say it's this uptight mother with her tits in the wringer who thinks that well-toned women in baby-tees and shorts "are degrading to women." What should we do? Bind their chests and dress them in flour sacks?

The president of the school board has declared that he takes his family to Hooters because they like the food. And the woman admits her daughter is embarrassed by the whole thing. Well, her daughter is smart. Honor student smart. And she sees this all for what it is: a tempest in a C-cup.


margot lester
4.16.03 @ 9:16p

tempest in a C-cup!!! that's masterful russ!

seriously, degrading? i can't speak for the hooters girls, but i get that all the time when women find out i write for playboy. but trust me, i'm compensated better for my work at the bunny than i am for my work at the business journal, so who's degrading whom? i expect the hooters girls make pretty good tips, so what's the harm?

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