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July 29, 1971 - Image 5

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Michigan Daily, 1971-07-29

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Page Five

Thursday, July 29, 1971

Thursday, July 29, 1971 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Five

Takingit seriously
tional limits would dare stretch. not so much uncovered the sins
REPORT OF THE COMMIS- And sure enough, they have, in- of our forebears as he has
SION ON OBSCENITY AND deed, stretched. Still, when the rehashed and reassembled the
PORNOGRAPHY, introduction by time finally arrives when we spicier parts of all those stodgy
Clive Barnes, Bantam, $1.65. have stretched ourselves c o m- histories he is so disdainful of.
THE ILLUSTRATED PRESI- pletely out, (an easily foresee- Chapters on the love affairs of.
DIENTIAL REPORT OF THE able end judging by the Green- Henry Ward Beecher and the
COMMISSION ON OBSCENITY leaf Classic), we shall no doubt exploits of Post Office Inspector
AND PORNOGRAPHY, introduc- discover that the most curious Anthony Comstock (who could
tion by Dr. Eason Monroe, Green- offshoot of the Commission's boast in 1913 that "I have de-
leaf Classics, $12.50. suggestions was not that we stroyed 160 tons of obscene lit-
Milton Rugoff, PRUDERY AND went so absolutely goo-gaw in erature") are interesting, but,
PASSION: Sexuality in Victorian trying to recreate 'the world's for the most part, their stories
America, G.P. Putnam's: $8.95. greatest sex act - but rather, have been told before.
Peter Michelson, THE AES- that for the first time in our Further, Rugoff unintention
THETICS OF PORNOGRAPHY, national coming of age, we be- ally seems to reveal that he is
HerdJr and Herder, $7.50. gan to view pornography in a himself plagued by some of
highly critical manner. No those old Puritan taboos when
By ROBERT W .CONROW longer were we content to let he suggests that the great in-
nooks Editor our pornography remain fixat- crease in pornography in the
There was a time when por- ed under the luridly garrish late 19th Century can be direct-
nography seemed the one do- lights of 42nd Street on the ly related to an increased re-
main free from the paralyzing pression by the rising middle
4 grip of the literary critic. We . class. That is, to quote Rugoff:
all knew that as soon as a "It (pornography) thrived be-
writer got too naughty ( t a k e cause it was the easiest a n d
Twain or E. E. Cummings for safest, if not the most satis-
example> the questionable work factory, sexual expression f o r
would be whisked off to the frustrated men." There is no
Folkloric Collection at the Lib- doubt a certain amount of truth
rary of Congress or to the in this, but would it not also
Vatican's "Special Collection"- seem safe to assume (as Rug-
safe not only from the grimy off does not) that a rise in por-
hands of pubescent youth but nography could be equally well-
also from any rious critical correlated with an increased
evaluation. willingness on the part of writ-
More recently, however, we ers generally to portray themes
have seen a much-popularied which had hitherto been forbid-
tr'id towards removing the den? Surely, Rugoff cannot
dust from these writings for have forgotten that many of
the sake of the cool analysis of our literary "realists" were orig-
the professional. On the sur- inally banned (and not only in
face this may seen to be all for Boston) because of their alleged
the good, but the end result for "obscenities." Rugoff's impli-
pornography- may prove to be cation that it is only the re-
somewhat akin to the fate of pressed who can enjoy a good
the striptease artist who f i n d s dirty book is a taboo that
her allure unexpectedly dim- one hand, or fall prey to the should be discarded along with
inished with the dropping of the puritanical assaults of t h e old gossip about developing
seventh veil. Mrs. Grundys on the other. The warts or toes falling off due
The year-old Federal Com- treatment of pornography could to "unnatural" acts.
mission Report on Obscenity now be considered fair game A far weightier analysis of
for sober-minded intellectuals, pornography is provided in
For the first time we had Peter Michelson's The Aesthe-
"scientific proof" that porno- tics of Pornography. In fact,
"', graphy was relatively harmless. were it not that Michelson (to
The report, in fact, indicated the contrary of Rugoff) is so
that at one point in their zeal hopelessly academic, his book
for precision the Commissioners might have been quite good. As
had been responsible for at- it is, Michelson tends to fur-
taching measuring devices to ther substantiate our underly-


and Pornography (now lavishly
illustrated by Greenleaf Class-
ics), is perhaps best to begin
with since its findings stand at
the heart of much of the high
seriousness which besets us to-
Ever since that red-letter day
in September of 1970 when the
Federal Commissioners on Ob-
scenity and Pornography advis-
ed against "prohibiting the sale,
exhibition or distribution of
sexual materials to consenting
adults" Americans have held
their collective breaths waiting
to see just how far and in
which direction their constitu-
Photos ...
Today's photos were selected
from The Sex Book: A Mod-
ern Pictorial Encyclopedia.
Text by Martin Goldstein and
Erwin Haeberle;- photographs
by Will McBride (Herder and
Herder, $9.95).
Although definitely not por-
nography, this frank pictorial
encyclopedia--providea an indi-
cation of how far we have
come in developing an aesthetic
beyondspornography .Citing
the Obscenity Commission's
call for mass sex education,
the authors point out that
their book is geared for adults
as well as children and adoles-
cents. Their treatment, though
serious, is an equally strong
endorsement of the joyfulness
of sex.

twenty-three penises while the
owners were exposed day after
day to erotica. The amazing
test-proven results: pornogra-
phy could not "be proved to
cause crime, sexual deviancy or
severe emotional disturbances."
And, what's more, there w a s
found to be snot surprisingly: a
point of notable satiation from
Still, there was something
missing from the Commission
Report. If pornography could
not be proved to cause all those
'evil things formerly attributed
to it, what, then, did it do?
Surely, we said, it couldn't all
be just for the fun of it.
-Two authors whose books
serve as fair samplings of those
seeking critical answers are
Milton Rugoff in his Prudery
and Passion and Peter Michel-
son in The Aesthetics of Por-
nography. In probing beneath
the glossy veneer of such
porno-philosophers as the "The
Playboy Advisor," Rugoff and
Michelson cast new light on
that murky relationship be -
tween pornography and proprie-
ty in American society.
Rugoff, who focuses on 19th
Century America, notes t h a t
although we have political his-
tories, intellectual histories, so-
cial histories, and military his-
tories, we have had (until now)
no sexual histories. In Rugoff's
The historians have been
silent largely because they as
much as their readers have
been bound by taboos that
are themselves Puritan or
Victorian in origin. For al-
most fifty years we have been
freeing ourselves from these
restraints, and it is time
that we examined without
shame and in some depth the
sexual activities and attitudes
of our forebears.
Such grandiose proclamations
would seem to indicate that
Rugoff is offering much that is
new, and perhaps, even sensa-
tional. Disappointingly, this is
not quite the case. Rugoff has

sphere can then gain the poten-
cy to confront its nakedness in
other, and more "obscene"
spheres - such as our seem-
ingly incurable predilection for
waging wars for the sake of
"democracy." In Michelson's
chapter entitled "How to Make
the World Safe for Pornogra-
phy," he asserts that "making
sex rear its ugly head is dialec-
tically analogous to making
those other uglinesses emerge
from their comfortable depths."
This is, of course, not exactly
a novel, nor, I think, a neces-
sarily sound rationale for por-
nography. But at least Michel-
son has given us the most
lengthy statement so far in this
clouded territory.
The final outcome of s u c h
beleagured dialectics, however,

Outdoor living

seemingly boils down to a level
not so much reflective of our
national maturity (as Michel-
son would like to think) as of
our continuing inability to re-
concile the distinct functions of
our heads, our hearts, and our
sexual organs. Michelson and
others of his solemn ilk un-
wittingly hark back to our last-
ing insistence that pornography
is alright provided it has met
the test of possessing a "re-
deeming social value." It is as
if, in America anyway, there
can be no redeeming artistic
merit in being aroused merely
for the sake of arousal. In -
stead, we say in our liberated
fashion that it is perfectly ac-
ceptable to become aroused -
so long as we become better cit-
izens in the process.

ing suspicions that pornography
can, indeed, become a bore. His
main contention - that it is
high time we considered porno-
graphy as a distinct literary
genre - is well taken. As Mich-
elson notes ". . obscenity, too,
is human, and that so far as
we deny it we deny our human-
To Michelson's way of think-
ing, pornography's significance
as a literary genre stems from
its ability to correct the false
consciousness of our culture.
Pornography, like the orgy
.. seeks to reunite man with
the mythic sacredness of
creative energy . . . (and)
Pornography,.being the liter-
ature of orgiastic sexuality is
(therefore) particularly suit-
ed for the confrontation with
idealism, especially in its lat-
ter day deterioration into
What we have here is a kind
of cultural salvation through
moral revelation, and, as such,
a direct attack on the Mrs.
Grundys who try to deny our
animalistic natures for the sake
of "Love Stories." According to
Michelson, a society that c a n
confront its nakedness in o n e

E u e I1 Gibbons, STALKING
THE GOOD LIFE, McKay, $5.95.
In a narrative and delightful
fashion, Mr. Gibbons combines
botany and philosophy to provide
accurate information about edi-
ble wild plants and an outline for
regaining harmony with nature.
The contagious interest and !n-
thusiasm of the author for nature
bubbles forth on every page, and
his attitude towards natural
foods and edible plants is a heal-
hy one. One is left with the im-
pressionmthat Mr. Gibbons could
survive almost anywhere, includ-
ing New York's Central Park, on
what nature provides. However,
he also uses commercial products
in prepaing wild foods, or com-
bines cultivated plants with them
to compliment their flavor or
I have only a few observations
about the approach taken in the
book. Perhaps it should have
been stressed that one intenrested
in eating wild plants should have
more than a casual appreciation
of their identification and ecol-
ogy. The wild plant stalker
should also be warned that some
areas, such as botanical gardens
and arboreta, may be off-limits
to plant collectors. This is true
in spite of the fact that many of
the edibles are weeds.

Exception is also taken to Gib-
son's suggestions that camping in
areas other than designated
campsites is advisable. Although
some people are able to camp in
non-designated areas w i t h o u t
damage to wilderness or natural
settings, the majority of campers
are, in my opinion, not yet sensi-
tive enough to their environment
to prevent the location of their
campsite bearing witness for
many seasons.
In spite of these reservations,
I highly recommend the book.
Read Stalking the Good Life to
learn about edible wild plants and
their preparation, but also read
the book for its timely message
about man's involvement in and
with nature. Euell Gibbons de-
serves a place next to Aldo Leo-
pold, Paul Sears, and others who
have told us what life is all about
and have warned us how man is
going 'wrong. He knows where
it is with ecology and all that
needs to be added is write on
Euell, right on.
Today's writer
Roger Anderson is Assistant
Professor of Botany at the Uni-
versity of Wisconsin and direc-
tor of its Arboretum and Wild-
life Refuge.

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