Sex, violence: Which is worse?
What’s worse for a child to see: a naked person or a brutal murder?Asked in that manner, the answer seems obvious. Of course, an unclothed human figure is a natural and, in many cases, beautiful. None of the biblical commandments say anything about witnessing nudity. Children themselves, up to a certain age, think nothing of running around the house in the buff.I pose the question because it’s often puzzled me why we are more tolerant of exposing our children to violence than we are to sex. Hillary Clinton, perhaps looking to gain a few Focus on the Family votes come 2008, is fired up over some sexual content contained within the inner levels of the game “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.” The game has had its rating changed from “mature” to “adults only” – effectively the same as a move from “R” to “NC-17.”Even if her motives are circumspect, Hillary is correct: Children shouldn’t be witnessing explicit sex acts, much less playing games that have hidden levels showing people having sex. But it begs the question of why we tolerated GTA as a “mature” (read: easily accessible to kids) game when it “only” featured violence? Sex made it worse? What’s worse than murder? As the father of five kids ranging in age from 3 to 20, I know well the minefield of popular culture parents must wade through. Even my wife and I, who are generally on the same page parenting-wise, find ourselves at odds over what’s appropriate and what’s not. Murder is easy to find in the PG-13-rated fare, but not nudity. So what does that say about our priorities? I don’t know about other parents, but for my older kids who are mature enough to know about such things anyway, I’d rather they see a boob or a butt instead of, say, a beheading (“Star Wars,” anyone?). Mostly, though, I’d rather they just watched Nova and Discovery Channel documentaries. At least there you know what you’re getting. Oftentimes, the MPAA ratings for movies are inadequate and, obviously, the Entertainment Software Rating Board – which rated GTA – leaves something to be desired as well. The most noise may come from the Christian right, but even godless liberals like myself want to be good parents, and we simply ask for accurate information. Rather than “mature,” wouldn’t it be great to see “extremely violent with hidden graphic sex scenes!!!”?But, of course, that could impact sales. According to a story in The New York Times, the Grand Theft Auto franchise has generated – hold onto your Bible – $924 million in revenue since 2001. It’s naughty, oh yes, but it’s made almost a billion dollars. But back to the sex thing: GTA is a fascinating example of social hypocrisy because of it suddenly being shunned by Wal-Mart and Target. Violence, OK. Sex? No way. This is the same kind of mentality that explains a country that shrugs off tens of thousands of deaths in the Iraq war as “collateral damage” while working itself into a tizzy over Janet Jackson’s nipple.What is wrong with us? Sure, Bill Clinton was a scumbag for cheating on his wife and lying about it, but look at the way it ground the country to a halt with special counsels, impeachment proceedings and protracted partisan squabbling. Fast-forward to today, when the current president gets a pass from half the country despite being directly responsible for the deaths of 1,770 U.S. troops and more than 25,000 Iraqi civilians.Sex, bad! Death, murder, mayhem – hmmm … perhaps not so bad.But maybe, just maybe, some of those liberal European countries so despised by the ranty right have the right idea. They’re much more open about their sexuality and they mostly deplore guns and violence. That’s not to say they don’t have their share, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the U.S. Murder is almost nonexistent in Luxembourg, and prostitution is legal. In the U.K., strict gun laws keep hardware out of the hands of most citizens, but they can see bare boobs on page 3 of the morning paper.If Americans were less uptight about sex, would we be less violent? Would Muslim fanatics – frustrated young men who can only theorize about what cleavage might look like – be less inclined to self-detonate if they, um, got a little once in a while?I think we all know the answer to that. We scorn them now as hopeless idealists, but those hippies from the ’60s probably had a better idea when they suggested we “make love, not war.” Nowadays, it’s more like “stifle your sexuality, buy a gun!”We can see where that’s gotten us.Assistant Managing Editor Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or firstname.lastname@example.org. This column, as in the case of all personal columns, does not necessarily reflect the views of the Vail Daily. Vail, Colorado