Susie Bright Brings Sense to the “Not Safe For Work” Pink Ghetto Bizarreness that is our culture

I have never once made a post that is really nothing more than a pointer to another blogger’s post, but this one, by Susie Bright, is so relevant to the discussions we’ve been having here, and is so well done, that I am simply tipping my hat to her and asking that you go read her piece and then come back here and discuss it with me.

It makes me wonder why we, at, are even discussing the issue of “mature” tagging when publications like The New Yorker or the New York Times publish sexually explicit material regularly without being labeled “mature” or “not safe for work.”

It makes me wonder why we are so ready to accept self-censorship and self-ghettoization.

It makes me wonder where my head was when I suggested that we should ask for a separate set “adult” tag pages.

Read her piece. Now. It’s long, so if you’re short on time read the first half (though I bet once you start you won’t stop).


Filed under censorship, culture, moral panic, sex, sex and the law, sexuality

6 responses to “Susie Bright Brings Sense to the “Not Safe For Work” Pink Ghetto Bizarreness that is our culture

  1. Considering the frank, even lascivious, talk that I hear every day in the breakroom, the idea of NSFW is downright laughable. Besides, everyone at work is an adult. No one will be struck blind by a breast. No one’s ears will be singed by a coarse word.

    What galls me is when some people don’t even wait for the Net filter to cut them off; they censor themselves in advance. I’ve stopped counting the number of times I’ve received e-mails with NSFW in the subject line. It’s as though the sender is not satisfied that our bosses want to infantilize us; instead they infantalize us in advance.

  2. I support the ideals behind this debate and I’m a fan of Susie Bright, but I think the NSFW tag has practical value. In terms of censorship what’s at stake isn’t infantilization, it’s corporate surveillance, which goes well beyond sex positivity and there’s a strong feeling of spitting into the wind on this one. There’s also the fact that adult tagging isn’t *just* about censorship. We’re all inundated with info, emails, links, on and on, and I’m in favor of as many descriptive, information management techniques as possible. The argument that the NYTimes prints curse words is disingenuous; the sorts of material you see in the Times bears no resemblance to what lays behind the links I get sent every day!

  3. Tom Joaquin

    I have never heard of the NSFW label, but it doesn’t surprise me. When the issue is porn, any censorship gets worse.

    Businesses must avoid sexual harassment, but they always go much farther than the law requires (usually at the advice of their lawyers) out of an overabundance of caution. For example, the law mandates a porn-free office, so businesses will go so far as to remove art from office walls depicting nudes.

    Yes, it’s ridiculous, but businesses have to worry about the expenses of defending against unreasonable lawsuits. Possibly the best-known case of an unreasonable lawsuit was brought by a woman who overheard, in an elevator, two coworkers talking about a Seinfeld episode, broadcast the previous evening, about Jerry’s efforts to recall the name of a woman he was seeing, when all he could recall was that it sounded like a body part. “Mulva? Deloris?”

    The woman sued her employer on sexual harassment grounds. She lost — but only on appeal, a process that cost the company many thousands of dollars.

    As a result, businesses are radically desexualized, well beyond what the level government could directly censor by law without violating the 1st amendment.

  4. Tom raises a point that has puzzled me for a long time. Of course I want to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. And of course I want claims of harassment to be taken seriously. And yet I see how fear of harassment claims have paralyzed lots of people. It isn’t just employers. I hear men at my own workplace say things like “I don’t know what I can safely say.” This has always struck me as a bit of a cop-out. My response has tended to be “Well, ask.” In other words, “talk about it genuinely and in good faith.” But it seems that “good faith” and trust are both sorely lacking in workplaces, and perhaps in communities as well.

    How do we work to counter that so that the default position needn’t be self-censorship, radical desexualization, and fear?

  5. Your comment, Elizabeth, brings to mind a point that I’ve been making in other venues for a long time. Our problems do not exist individually, but are symptoms of a larger societal dysfunction. We are afraid to speak frankly in mixed company at work because we don’t trust each other, because we know none of us has real, meaningful job security, and one nuisance lawsuit can end a career.

    The sexual repression in our culture is a larger manifestation of a repression of self. Though I mentioned sexual talk in the breakroom above, that coarse talk is scarcely different than the pubescent banter of the high school locker room, showing that we fear the consequences of the uniqueness which stems from sexual maturity.

    Perhaps this goes to what I was saying before, about infantilizing ourselves. Though I fear my arguments are perhaps becoming circular, and maybe I’d better back off and think through what I want to communicate before I go any further at this time.

  6. Kevin, I think if you sense a circularity in your arguments that is partly because this is the kind of issue where cause and effect are so hard to tease apart!

    I hope you’ll keep pushing your thoughts, here and elsewhere. It’s good for all of us!

    One thing you point out that I think is important to emphasize is the interconnectedness of social problems. Most people wouldn’t think to connect general lack of job security with repression of sexuality and with sexual harassment issues. But you are right to do so, I think, because we are more likely to self-censor and to feel real fear and anxiety when we exist in a system of employment-at-will and contingent labor and outsourcing and wages that don’t keep up with the cost of living.