The Age of Obscenity
IN THE factory in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A., where Inez was employed, she was the undisputed queen of the ‘cussing clique.’ One day Alice accidentally bumped into Inez. In the ensuing argument Alice casually swore at Inez. Onlookers were shocked at this brashness.
Inez retaliated with a torrent of obscene insults. Louder and louder rang out the offending oaths, echoing and reechoing off the walls, attracting fellow employees who came running to cheer on their favorite. At first it seemed to be a deadlock as curse after curse rent the air.
Finally the greater experience of Inez, in mingling and compounding obscenities, began to prevail. From what seemed to be a limitless vocabulary of abusive words, she beat down Alice, who, silenced and red-faced, slowly walked away. Jubilant shouts were heard as workers drifted back to their machines. Inez, taking it all as a matter of course, calmly resumed her work.
Such incidents are not uncommon today. Language once identified with hopeless derelicts has become routine. Swearing on the part of women and even of children is now “acceptable.” Young ones commonly use language that used to get their mouths washed out with soap. And while, in the past, curse words were represented in print by asterisks or dashes, they are now often spelled out for the reader.
The change in view toward obscenity is also reflected in movies. These are now commonly filled with raunchy conversations and obscene words. Filmmakers often insert such language to get an “adult” rating. For example, originally the movie Annie had a rating identifying it as acceptable for all audiences, but the producer feared that such a rating would not draw the public. So he inserted profanity into the film.
The Growth of Obscenity
Throughout history profanity has been common. It refers to any kind of language that profanes. Such language shows irreverence for sacred things, including God and all that pertains to his qualities and ways. It often takes the form of asking a deity to “damn” another person. Or one may, by profane speech, violate and abuse people or things that God considers holy. Yet the Bible says: “I, the LORD your God, will punish anyone who misuses my name.”—Exodus 20:7, Today’s English Version.
In recent years, however, a notable change has occurred in profanity. It has become sexually explicit—obscene—presenting to the mind privacies relating to the sexual organs and their use. Disrespect, even contempt, is commonly shown for the sanctity of marriage and parenthood. “Cheers at athletic events at almost all levels have changed,” explains U.S. News & World Report, “to unrestrained and explicit sexual insults of rivals.”
These obscenities constitute verbal pornography. The air today is filled with such speech pollution. According to Time magazine, baseball manager Tommy Lasorda “unfurled 144 obscenities in a brief pep talk to his team.” Many world political leaders also use obscenities. In fact, with the release of the White House tapes, Richard Nixon made “expletive deleted” a household phrase. And former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, though known for his religious convictions, used a sexually flavored word that The New York Times refused to print. It merely referred to it as “an American vulgarity.”
Some may remember when tough-talking people used words like “dadgummed,” “heck,” “darn” and “nuts.” But in their place, spoken and written obscenities have become the order of the day, assaulting us on every side. Years ago a writer on profanity listed 14 ways that the word “hell” was used in profanity. Yet now vulgar words describing sexual activity punctuate almost every sentence of many people, being applied to almost every conceivable thing. And these words are not necessarily said in anger or in connection with pain, but now people are cursing simply for the sake of cursing.
From greeting cards to graffiti the spread of gutter language is evident. T-shirts, posters, bumper stickers and buttons bearing written obscenities can be seen almost everywhere. Such language has become the “in” thing for many people. “Public profanity has become so widely accepted,” notes U.S. News & World Report, “that reversal of the pattern would be difficult if not impossible.” No wonder that ours has been called “the Age of Obscenity”!
What Is the Reason?
The growth of obscenity is directly related to the deterioration of traditional institutions and standards of behavior. “It’s a sign of the times,” says one religious spokesman. The breakdown of the family structure, the loss of respect for authority and the new ‘everything goes’ morality have all contributed to unrestrained, sexually explicit obscenities. Such language reflects today’s frequently immoral life-style.
Harvard psychiatry lecturer Thomas Cottle noted: “People are finding their lives phony, unsatisfying, and they are angry. . . . Lurking behind this anger is aggressiveness.” It is claimed that profanity is a means of releasing built-up anger and frustration. “If someone cuts across in front of me on the freeway and I cuss him out,” says Chaytor Mason, a clinical psychologist, “it shows to me I’m a better person than he is and regains some of my ego status.”
What we see occurring in the way people abuse others verbally is significant. The Bible identifies this as evidence that the end of a wicked system is near. “But know this,” the Bible warns, “that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves . . . blasphemers . . . slanderers, without self-control.”—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
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X-rated Video Games
The August 30, 1982, issue of Advertising Age noted that X-rated video games are now being produced, explaining: “Hot and heavy is the only way to describe the game play of the new titles, ‘Bachelor Party,’ ‘Beat ‘Em and Eat ‘Em’ and ‘Custer’s Revenge.’ For example, in the latter, General Custer in the buff is running across a desert obstacle course to reach and ravage an Indian maiden. . . .
“Ad agency principal Mr. Kopels said while game play is sexually oriented, relatively poor reproduction of body parts on tv screens will soften the sexual impact.
“X-rated cartridges will eventually make their way to shelves of most videogame software retailers, Mr. Kopels predicted.
“Alluding to videocassette marketers who at first resisted stocking X-rated cassettes, Mr. Kopels said they had to relent ‘because customers started going to the store across the street that did. I think this will happen with the game cartridges, too.’”