Feeling screwed by code language I find impossible to penetrate

I hate expressions which are not defined, because that makes reports like this impossible to decipher:

PHILADELPHIA - About 1 percent of Web sites indexed by Google and Microsoft are sexually explicit, according to a U.S. government-commissioned study.
Fine, but precisely what does the phrase "sexually explicit" mean? Literally pornographic pictures? I don't think so, because otherwise, they'd have used the term "pornographic" or "legally obscene" material.

And in the very same article, Salon.com and others express fears that it might include things that most reasonable people do not consider pornographic:

The plaintiffs, including Salon.com, say they would fear prosecution under the law for publishing material as varied as erotic literature to photos of naked inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
I'm sorry, but "sexually explicit" sounds like weasel wording introduced into this debate by people who'd like to censor a lot more than pornography.

I would note that the term "sexually explicit" was used countless times by mainstream media and by innumerable bloggers to describe the emails and text messages between Congressman Mark Foley and the pages, yet the language involved discussed things like "feeling horny" and the type of underwear being worn. Yet no pornographic pictures were exchanged, and it isn't even clear that frank sexual solicitations ever occurred.

If that is "sexually explicit," then what isn't?

Would blogs discussing the Foley matter (or, say, Monica Lewinsky's semen-stained blue dress, or Bill Clinton's opinions about oral sex) be sexually explicit?

I'd also note that plenty of songs are said to contain "sexually explicit lyrics." ("96 Tears" had to be changed from its original "69 Tears." The Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together" was banned from television.)

Now that I think about it, has this post now become "sexually explicit"?

What business is it of the government if it is? Why do my tax dollars fund studies like this?

As to definitions, a site called NetSafeKids makes a stab at it:

On this Web site, NetSafeKids uses the term "sexually explicit material" to mean material--text-based, visual, or audio--that depicts sexual behavior or acts, or that exposes the reproductive organs of the human body. From common usage, "pornography" can be seen as usually involving sexually explicit materials.
What is text-based material that depicts sexual behavior or acts? That would seem to include any accurate discussion of sexual intercourse (i.e., a penis penetrating another human orifice) or sexually fetishistic behavior, even though that might have absolutely nothing to do with titillating the reader, and might not cause the average person to become aroused. And how on earth could the intent of the writer ever be determined? (For example, if I declared truthfully I am not at all turned on by the idea of being tied up and whipped with painful nipple clamps on me, some reader I can't control might be turned on by that.)

It is one thing to combat genuine pornography, but I don't like this movement against "sexually explicit" material. I think they're going to need to find a more accurate term.

As it is, I think I do a pretty good job of keeping this blog free from obscene material and language. I try not to even use four letter words. Yet my blog has been censored anyway by the net nannies.

I've long suspected that the goal of some of these people is broader than pornography.

posted by Eric on 11.15.06 at 07:51 AM


It's part of the war on terror: Sex terrifies these people.

lyssad   ·  November 15, 2006 9:39 AM

A deeply filthy and obscene post, which evokes - nay, incites filthy thoughts. Google should ban you from the internet!

bird dog   ·  November 15, 2006 9:44 AM

You raise a very good question

Why do my tax dollars fund studies like this?

(to my point, why is the federal government, or governments at any level pursuing studies like this), but I have one additional quibble regarding "site called NetSafeKids." Rooting around there, it appears that the website NetSafeKids is affiliated with something called "National Academies Press," which, in turn, is aaffiliated with the National Academies of Science, and other National Academies.

The National Academies are tasked with expanding and reporting science. Why are they suddenly being also tasked with the issue of pornography? To try to expand their budgets? If the Bush malAdministration wants to address the issue of pornography, they should do so through the Justice Department, not subvert the role of science to their agenda.

raj   ·  November 15, 2006 10:53 AM

The Bible is sexually explicit. God says some crazy horse-related stuff about his soon-to-be-ex-wives in Ezekiel.

David Ohlerking II   ·  November 15, 2006 3:19 PM

In my field it's called "Forge Speak". Forgites being people who come up with all sorts of jargon they will not properly define, the better to keep their opponents confused and unable to muster a proper refutation. You can't figure out what the other guy is saying, you can't call bullshit on him.

"Sexually explicit" is Forge Speak. It's not intended to facilitate communication but hinder it. The goal being to make you look like somebody who opposes goodness, right, and little girls with puppies. It's the invention of people who hate honest dialogue and prefer that the dimly perceived masses remain lost and helpless, fit only to be patronized and oppressed by their betters. All for their good of course.

It's elitism and I say the hell with it.

Alan Kellogg   ·  November 16, 2006 4:20 AM

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