Watching the Watchers

Often I remember in vivid detail moments long ago, but cannot remember well enough to enter accurately a telephone number I just looked up.

Teaching at a prep school in Rome, Georgia, 1959–1962, I occasionally visited Atlanta to cope with a Suthuna’s equivalent to what my Yankee friends call “cabin fever.”

At a large paperback and magazine store, I spotted a cop in the ‘adults only’ section perusing what passed in those days for porn. In no way would it qualify as raw enough for porn these days, but since it was all that was legally available, it had a huge market. The internet was another 25–30 years away.

The cop seemed embarrassed when I interrupted him, and quickly closed the object of his intense meditation.

“Sir,” I asked, with pedagogical intensity; “what do you have to see before you arrest a vendor for obscenity?”

He answered faster than I could snap my fingers, and then resumed his perusal. Clearly he wanted me to get lost. I was wasting his precious time.

And what was his sole criterion for obscenity? “Public hair.”

In Cantonese it’s called “shame hair.”

And the policeman knew in advance that he was not likely to find any. To get by the censors, in those days pornographers required all models to shave it off.

I thought then and still think so now, that society placed the fig leaf inaccurately. For me, what is obscene is not the hair, but the censors’ invasion to remove it.

The point of removing a fig leaf is not to see what is underneath, but to see the figure whole.

“My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him” (Song of Solomon 5:4 King James Version. The word of the Lord; thanks be to God.