Janet's Nipple

Stephen Yagielowicz

Well, it’s begun: a mainstream American backlash against porn and the permissiveness that enables it. While few cultural shifts are immediate (the patriotic surge after 9-11 being an example to the contrary), the furor over Janet and Justin’s racy duet during the Super Bowl’s half-time show is increasing at an alarming rate, and taking on surprising tones…

“I was shocked and appalled over what happened” bemoaned a distraught looking Justin Timberlake on CNN this morning, describing his personal horror as well as his friends and family’s own outrage over his ‘accidental’ exposure of Janet Jackson’s bejeweled nipple in front of God and everybody at the Super Bowl – an especially shocking act on a Sunday, of all days!

While I would hate to doubt poor Justin’s sincerity over how “shocked and appalled” he was – since this teen idol not only had a taste of Britney, but has likely seen more teenie-bopper titties than all of my readers put together – I cannot doubt the sincerity of the outrage many network executives are feeling over this act.

Whether you believe that it was staged or not isn’t the point. What is important is that major advertisers, the NFL, and all of the powers that be are under tremendous pressure to ensure that this debasement of popular culture doesn’t repeat itself. And they’re passing this pressure along. Lawsuits claiming enormous damages are in the works, and a gossip hungry population is fueling a feeding frenzy of accusations and recriminations not seen since Bill and Monica brought their soap opera to our living rooms.

Without Precedent?
When the epic television mini-series “Roots” was first aired, enormous controversy erupted over the display of slave girls bouncing their bare breasts around – but that controversy mainly centered on the fact that while network censors would not allow white women to reveal their nipples, it was ‘ok’ for black women to, making a racial issue out of a ‘community standards’ one. While I am surprised that the race card hasn’t been played by one or another of the more vocal proponents of such division, illustrating the exploitation of black women by white men, or some such drivel as regards the Janet and Justin show, I am more surprised over the fact that a piece of body art – not a (gasp!) actual nipple – is the center of this particular firestorm.

As part of CNN’s round the clock coverage of this fiasco, and the slamming that MTV is taking over its role in all of this, they described how an upcoming episode of the popular drama series “ER” is being re-edited to eliminate an emergency room scene that originally featured a bare breast, as such displays are inappropriate nowadays, despite a similar scene being recently aired on the same show.

Such sensitivity seems out of place in America, 2004, where I can watch young girls compete to see who can be the biggest slut on the pay per view phenomenon “Can You Be A Porn Star?” and where I can regularly enjoy the sight of unfettered bosoms on dozens of cable stations; airing programs like Showtime’s popular “Family Business” about the inner workings of Seymour Butts’ empire. “Girls Gone TOO Wild!” might be an appropriate epithet for a time in our lives where the mainstream finally had enough of the popular media.

Who Cares?
While it’s easy for us in the online adult industry to say “Who cares? It was just a tit!” The problem is that the FCC cares – and after their recent assault on radio excesses, is now steaming over the Janet and Justin debacle, and determined to make an example out of someone.

This is an election year in America, and you would be naive to assume that the FCC’s recent (and future) actions, coupled with the DOJ’s rehiring of renowned obscenity prosecutor Bruce Taylor, are not related.

President Bush – while a cinch to be re-elected – would no doubt like to bolster his position among hard line conservatives (including the religious right) by handing them a few victories in The War on Porn. Victories, I might add, that will come at the expense of our industry.

This might not be such a bad thing if it rids us of our worst elements, but will become disastrous if it signals a dramatic shift in society’s current “tolerance” towards legitimate pornography and its use by consenting adults; a backlash returning us to the days of Ed Meese and The Moral Majority’s practical domination over acceptable community standards, and their resulting impact on the mass media and popular culture.

While shifts in societal attitudes tend to play out on a generational level, over long periods of time, Janet’s nipple might just be the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.” Of course, the rabid controversy over this senseless act might just as suddenly end with the next baby to fall down a mine shaft, or global outrage to make the 6 o’clock news. It might just end after this November’s election, where a returning president can shift his priorities. Or it might continue, dampening the climate in which we operate our businesses. Only the future can tell… Stay safe! ~ Stephen