Thanks to Aimee for the heads up.
A woman dies of esophageal cancer, caused by contaminated water.
A documentary filmmaker catches some of her final moments.
She was filmed wearing few clothes, her frail torso outlining the ravages of disease.
PBS, concerned for the future of America's young people, blurred out her nipples.
What heroes you are, PBS. Without your concern, and your quick-thinking, American families just settling in for an evening of public television, maybe with some popcorn, cuddling under an afgan to watch a documentary about river pollution in China, would be devasted by having to have a conversation with their children about nipples.
"Mommy! What are those!" Betsey cries out. "They look like raisins. I'm scared!"
Junior starts to cry and begins to contemplate other mysteries his parents have hid from him, like refined sugar and auto-erotic asphyxiation.
But wait...everybody has nipples. Even children. I hope I'm not labeled an internet predator for saying so. So why would PBS choose to blur these ones? These nipples, so entirely divorced from an erotic or sexualized context? If there is any nipple more innocent than a nursing nipple, certainly, a dying-of-cancer nipple would qualify.
A nursing nipple at least has a loaded oedipal context, and a moderately sized group of eager fetishists- I don't think that the dying-of-cancer nipple will stir any confused Freudian longings, nor spark leering from lurking dying-of-cancer nipple-lifestyle groups.
I used to wonder why we hide the naked body so completely in this country. I suppose I still do. I couldn't figure out, until I was 15 or 16 years old, how an erection would work. I knew, somehow, that a penis did something- stiffened, went outwards somehow- but was it vertical? Horizontal? Did it change shape? I suppose, then, I am the poster child for protective blurring and censorship.
I scoured art books, medical books, biology books, national geographic, the anthropology section at the Boston Public Library...all trying to figure out what this whole erection/foreskin situation was. Instead of dulling the prurient interest, censorship sparked a prurient obsession. A research project on obscenity. I am sure that the sudden interest of adolescent boys in national Geographic has similar origins. This is not a reason to pull National Geographic from the shelf- this is a reason to put MORE breasts, MORE penises, MORE foreskins, MORE nipples...on television.
Because it doesn't matter. Curiousity about the human body will exist, regardless of whether it is hidden or shown. Eroticisation of certain parts of certain human bodies in certain contexts will exist, regardless of how many other parts have been flung around in other contexts...
Seeing a now-deceased chinese woman's nipple, which, I'm sure, looked remarkably like most nipples on most people, everywhere, will not turn anyone's angelic child into a sex pervert.