By Ulli Diemer
This January, a St. Catharines man who operates a chain of sex stores
was found guilty of "possessing, displaying, and selling obscene
sex aids." Police presented more than 200 pieces of evidence
in court, including dildos, vibrators, crotchless panties, and candies,
candles, and key chains shaped like genitalia. The trial once again
raised the whole question of what is "obscene" and what
effect suppression has in creating the need and desire for that
which it is supposed to suppress.
But the most interesting thing about the trial was the evidence
of the police officers who made the arrest. Each was asked by the
defence lawyer why he considered the objects seized to be obscene.
And each one in turn replied that these were not the kind of things
sold by Eaton's or Simpson's.
This, it must be admitted, is a criteria for judging what is obscene
and what is not that is as profound as it is simple. It neatly and
effectively slices through the impenetrable legal and moral tangle
that has surrounded obscenity cases for so many years, and gives
us a foolproof standard which, while it may appear to be arbitrary
on the surface, actually represents what Hegel might have called
the unfolding concept. It contains, in fact, the perfect unity of
form and content, as well as the synthesis of quantity and quality.
Consider the root of the word 'obscene.' Literally, it means off
scene. Something that is not seen or spoken of. Something taboo.
Eatons and Simpson's are the crystallized essence of capitalist
social relations (in the case of Eaton's Crystal Palace at Yonge
and Dundas in Toronto, this is true literally as well as figuratively.)
In this society of the commodity, "there is no vision except
the dominant vision, no thought except the dominant thought, and
reality except the dominant reality." There is nothing but
Eaton's and Simpson's. Thus everything that is not Eaton's or Simpson's
is obscene, in both meanings of the word: off scene, non-existent,
not allowed to be spoken of, taboo, and indecent, pornographic,
lewd, an affront to society's (i.e. Eaton's) moral standards. As
always, capitalism's underlying philosophy reduces in the final
analysis to the police mind: Sex aids remain obscene until Eaton's
decides to sell them.
Published in The
Red Menace, Spring 1978
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