Merry Band of Morality Makers Need New Plan

Hard times can bring out the best in people. They can also bring out the worst.

Janalyn Holt, director of Women for Decency, apparently finds nothing wrong with using the events of Sept. 11 to further her self righteous political cause. Women for Decency is a grass roots organization committed to protecting society from the evils of pornography.

Holt said Saturday that parallels between smut?her pet name for pornography?and terrorism are ?uncanny.? She went on to explain that its effect on families makes pornography as destructive as ?an airplane flying into the World Trade Center.?

Anyone comparing a crusade against dirty pictures to our nation?s current struggles against a shadowy network of faceless killers is obviously possessed by delusions of grandeur.

Holt should lose all credibility after her reckless and impulsive statements. Her insensitivity to those suddenly without friends, family members or jobs as a result of the tragedy is shocking. But in case Holt is still alive in your mind, let me finish her off.

Women for Decency coalesced nine months ago, corresponding with the crowning of Paula Houston as Utah?s first porn czar.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff appointed Houston to a post that still lacks lucidity in its definition. Houston says her job is not stamping out smut, but rather educating people on existing pornography laws.

Houston handles complaints focusing primarily on mainstream advertising and magazine covers available in supermarkets, not long standing foundations of ill repute like Playboy and Hustler.

Since Houston?s job gives her no real power, she encourages concerned citizens to petition businesses to change their advertising schemes.

That?s exactly what Holt and her merry band of morality makers are doing. The problem facing Women for Decency is two-fold. First, these champions of chastity must learn to use the market, not fight against it. Second, anyone truly concerned about the effects of pornography must clarify what he or she wishes to accomplish.

Women for Decency will not convince magazines like Cosmopolitan to change their cover photos simply by calling and writing letters. Nor will models in advertisements show any less skin because someone petitions them.

The problem is that Women for Decency and other wholesome groups use moral arguments. These people seem to think their standards, their moral sensibilities and family values, are measurably greater than every one else?s. They hope advertisers will give in at the hands of this abstract moral pressure.

Such a belief is absurd. The only argument that can substantially boost Women for Decency?s cause is an economic one. If advertisers legally turn a profit with bathing suit spots, or if publications sell copies displaying excess skin, moral objections will fall on deaf ears.

On the other hand, if companies lose money because their choice of models and cover photos offends consumers, these companies will inevitably restructure their advertising campaigns.

The almighty dollar speaks loudest, and anyone tired of seeing Cosmopolitan?s fleshy covers must simply stop shopping where such magazines exist.

Women for Decency wants Hampton Inn and La Quinta Inn to stop offering pay-per-view adult movies. Individuals must specifically request these films. Such films cannot accidentally fall into the hands of children or other unsuspecting people. The only way these hotels will stop offering adult movies is if patrons boycott.

Businesses don?t make special exceptions for people like Holt, nor should they. If Holt truly speaks for a silent moral majority, enough people will boycott institutions offering X-rated movies and soft-core pornographic publications.

Women for Decency must step off the moral high horse and onto the economic bandwagon.

Beyond fighting their battle with different weapons, Holt and her followers, and even the porn czar herself, must reassess their goals.

Holt blames smut for destroying families. This contention is difficult to accept.

Anyone taking this leap of logic should look within before pointing the finger at Calvin Klein. Families are not torn apart by looking at alluring photos and semi-explicit images.

Lack of communication, unwillingness to sacrifice and the failure to work out emotional and financial problems are more often the culprits.

What?s more, the willingness to create a tax-payer-funded porn czar is a hypocritical stance by a state unwilling to provide honest and frank sexual education in schools. It?s no wonder some kids stare curiously at the covers of supermarket magazines when their parents are too nervous to talk openly with them about sex, and their teachers are prohibited from approaching such topics.

Understanding sex and discussing the dangers of promiscuous behavior are keys to developing a mature approach. Sheltering kids and then appointing a state official to protect Utah?s fair citizens from the onslaught of smut is not a constructive approach.

Beyond this, Women For Decency is completely unwilling to address the larger issues brought to mind by the smut controversy.

Much of the questionable material is not pornographic. The real problem is the image that these magazines are selling to young women, even girls.

Over and over again, these advertisements portray the ideal woman with a certain body type, one that is virtually impossible to obtain. The pressure put on young girls is not just sexual. They must be deathly skinny, or they are not acceptable.

Even more disturbing is the flood of images encouraging women to be submissive. These advertisements often show women smiling passively, rarely talking or portrayed in positions of power. It is the body, not the brain that is important.

What other message should a society expect women to receive when they are paid less than three-quarters what a man is paid for doing the same job? Or when fortune 500 companies remain old boys? networks? Or when a strong, pro-choice woman is exploited by the U.S. President, who makes her head of the Environmental Protection Agency where she can have no impact on gender issues?

These problems are more pervasive and dangerous than the hard-core pornography available only to a portion of the population willing to seek it out.

The more significant issues at stake are those left untouched by a conservative coalition of women seeking publicity for their well intentioned but woefully misguided cause.

Groups like Women For Decency are afraid to discuss these larger issues lest someone accuse them of being liberals.

Until they commit to addressing larger and more long-term issues than what movies you can order at La Quinta Inn, Women for Decency will have to cheaply exploit tragedy to get anyone to listen.

James welcomes feedback at: [email protected] or send letter to the editor to: [email protected].