Random Asides

Attack of the Scrotums

As a follow up to the Hoo-Haa Monologues, I bring you these items:

Exhibit A: another person afraid to have a frank conversation about basic biology with his daughter tries to ban plastic body parts that dangle from cars.

“Washington County Sheriff’s deputy Matthew Bragunier figures that he sees, at least once a day, fake bull genitals flopping from the hitches of pickup trucks….”My daughter’s going to see this,” he said. “She’s going to ask what this is. I don’t want to be put in that spot. I don’t think I ever want to be in that spot.”

The bill is very broad, banning all depictions of nude anatomy. A similar bill in Arizona was narrowly defeated. And look, the usual explanation:

“Ableser said parents driving their children around town have complained that youngsters who spy a mud flap with an image will ask a parent to explain.”

Exhibit B: Schools ban book with the word Scrotum in it.

The wonderful irony of this is that in the context of the story, the word is overheard by a 10yr old, who thinks the word “sounded medical and important, but also secret.” And if school librarians have anything to do with it, it will stay secret.

People. It’s BIOLOGY. What is so bad about children knowing the names for body parts? Or knowing that a stork doesn’t bring the kiddies on a cabbage leaf?

I taught introductory biology at two different universities, and a human biology section was always a part of the class. Year after year, students failed utterly to be able to label the male and female anatomy. At. College. Level.

I actually had one student label the prostate gland as a uterus–even though there were conspicuous dangly bits in front of and below it. The majority of students couldn’t label the female external genitalia at all. Especially the clitoris. (This may explain a great deal for some of you.)

I am not really sure if they thought they knew it all already, or were just too embarrassed to look at the pictures in our text book. Certainly several students would complain each year that they thought that section was inappropriate, and if it had to be taught, should be taught in sex-segregated sections.

I don’t understand why Americans are so hung up on sex, and so afraid of the body. Even the Song of Solomon had some raunchy bits.

bug_girl

Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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50 Comments

  1. In Victorian times, genteel people used to put skirts around their pianos because the sight of uncovered legs would cause the ladies to become sex-deranged monsters (nothing wrong with that if you ask me).

    And if you ate chicken you had to have white meat or dark meat, rather than leg or breast.

    Sky-fairies and rude bits…it's about time humanity grew up

  2. I totally agree! Sex and the associated parts are important to the survival of our species. I know, many idiots out there think immaculate comception is not just for amphibians and like creatures, but for god mommies too.

    Here's a thought, if you are hung up about your anatomy, go on a freaking diet! Or if you are in shape get some counselling, you need it…

  3. I think it says a lot about the overly sensitive(and, I assume, overly religious) that keeping their child ignorant of something is a viable option.

    I'd love to mail these people bags of marbles every day.

    Also: teehee, "scrotum".

  4. There's just something utterly retarded about parents who don't want their children to see stuff, not because it may scare the child, or disturb them, but simply because they as parents don't want to explain something.

    I hope none of these people are teachers.

  5. Wait, WHY do people put fake bull genitals on their trucks? Are we talking bags or shaft? Why is this considered a "toy" exactly? And why the trailer hitch?

    But if this would also rid us of nudie girl mud-flaps, I might be in favor.

  6. It's very funny that bug_girl would make a post about this today. Yesterday, for the first time ever, I saw a truck with a fake bull scrotum attached to it. Now, you have to understand, living in Amarillo, Texas I've seen a fair number of cows in my day. Yet this marks the first time i've seen a fake pair ever hanging from a pickup.

  7. Yeah, the fake truck scrotums are vulgar, at best. But if you feel the need to demonstrate that your giant HumVee really *IS* a substitute for your tiny shriveled penis….well.

    Free speech, innit?

    :D

  8. What can I say that hasn't been said before?

    The top dramas on television involve AT LEAST one murder per episode, but showing a breast on tv haralds the downfall of civilisation. America is by far the murder capital of the world. Canada is a distant second, and one would assume that some of those involve Americans.

    Our president has committed a large number of impeachable acts. But Clinton was impeached because he cheated on his wife.

    Europeans (on average) have a more open attitude about sex and nudity, and Europe's rate of teen pregnancy and rape are less than America's.

    Most parents want to have grandchildren, but few want their child to be a murderer.

    Female breasts are anatomically the same as male but for some fat cells. And I dare say there are quite a few men with larger breasts than some women. Men are allowed to go topless almost anywhere in America while, with the exception of a few states, a woman would be arrested for "indecency".

    I was watching the Rise of Man on the Science channel. There were actors playing the roles of (naked) prehistoric people, and of course the WOMAN's breasts were blurred out. That was bad enough, but then at the end where everything was being wrapped up and the narrator was talking about mankinds bright future, they showed two children playing. A little boy and a little girl. The ONLY way to tell the two apart? The little girl's chest was blurred!

    Sigh^100 (Thanks for that, Badastronomer ;))

    There's a pretty good site that talks about the fight to have equal rights for women's breasts. Unfortunately, due to our Puritan society, it's NSFW. http://www.tera.ca

  9. bug_girl said,

    Yeah, the fake truck scrotums are vulgar, at best. But if you feel the need to demonstrate that your giant HumVee really *IS* a substitute for your tiny shriveled penis….well.

    Hey, I have a sweet little MR2 Spyder sportscar I've named "My Penis Extension" but I'd never adorn it with scrotums (beside my own, of course ;))

  10. This reminds me of the scandal around Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" a few years ago at the superbowl. When an older woman at work expressed outrage that small children had seen a breast, I asked, "Isn't that who they are for?" Now, I don't religiously adhere to that telological assumption about breasts, but it was funny and it made my point at the time.

    Seriously, the obscenity is in our attitudes toward human anatomy and biological function.

  11. There's an interesting discussion about sex and American society's insane morality laws also going on at Sex in the Public Square. A thread called When is a vibrator more dangerous than a gun? was begun specifically about the Alabama law which outlaws the sale of vibrators in the state, and the following thread The Folk Devil in the Details is exploring the more general issues.

    (Elizabeth is on holiday for the weekend, so moderation may lag a bit. Just so y'know.)

    The conversation's been touching on some of these same issues, so I thought it may be of interest.

  12. Blake, those go together so well – good stuff. I can only make out Maxwell's equations and F=ma, which has been drilled into my head, but the others are too squished together for my innumerate eyes to even guess at.

    It reminds me too of an anecdote from a physics book I have about a popular t-shirt at MIT, at one point in time, regarding Maxwell's equations that goes "And God said…(the equations)…and there was light." Of course, God didn't say it…but it's a good idea for a t-shirt.

    Briarking, good comments. I guess all those National Geographic magazines of naked tribeswomen and little boys running around in all their bare innocence corrupted my brain – yep, that must be it! And when we played Truth or Dare and somebody had to streak around the house we all turned into sexual deviants because of it! ;-)

    Thad, when I first read your comment I read it as "nude astronomy"…really. More proof that The Bad Astronomer is corrupting our minds with photos of him and telescopes! Either that, or I just had a flashback to someone connecting the dots…on me. Oh, Fridays… :-)

  13. Actually, I was able to identify all the equations I could read, and make plausible guesses about the bit I couldn't. They're all physics equations, covering general relativity, electromagnetism, statistical mechanics, two formulations of classical mechanics, and quantum theory. From left to right:

    Girl #1:

    Rotation matrix

    Hard to read, but probably Einstein's tensor equations of General Relativity

    Christoffel symbols

    Girl #2:

    Maxwell's Equations

    Girl #3:

    Newton's Second Law

    Principle of Least Action (Lagrangian mechanics)

    Maxwell's Equations in tensor form

    Wave equation

    Boltzmann distribution

    Girl #4:

    quantum-mechanical commutation relation for position and momentum

    Schroedinger Equation

    Feynman diagram showing what I think is a nucleon (three quarks) on the left-hand side

    Dirac Equation

    SU(3) x SU(2) x U(1) — basic symmetry group of the Standard Model

  14. I was terribly amused by this – especially since I've seen quite a few truck balls here.

    The best though – a chromed vagina on the back of a Pink truck. It took a minute to figure out what it was, and then I nearly hit the car in front of me because I was laughing so hard.

  15. Here is something that might astound you. I attended a public elementary school in New Orleans back in the 1970s. Its name was/is Robert Mills Lusher. We had an assembly when I was in 3rd grade and we went to watch a dance program on the small stage in the first floor of one of the school buildings. It was a modern dance program, with a young African-american woman dancing in a black leotard. She explained that she was dancing to celebrate womanhood. At one point in her dance (and I remember this distinctly) she reached into the top part of her leotard, stretched it down and pulled out one of her breasts. She then proceeded to explain what the breast was for and said things like “giver of life…” etc. As I recall, there were no shocked gasps from the teachers or students and there was not much made of that portion of the dance. It lasted maybe 5 seconds. But that was in the 1970s at a very liberal public elementary school.

  16. Janiebell, I'm working on the Alabama piece. Or rather, Rebecca was, but she got so annoyed she couldn't continue, and passed it to me. Hopefully today or tomorrow, to make a matching set with the scrotums :)

    I also like this post, summarizing some recent stupidity involving sex and kids. 10 years for consensual oral sex between two teenagers. Sigh. http://sexinthepublicsquare.wordpress.com/2007/02

    Thanks for pointing me to her blog!

  17. I saw myself naked and before I knew what was happening, I had stolen a car, incited a revolt and lied about my address when I signed up for a forum.

    Rockingham, in fairness to the Victorians, they had some pretty hot furniture back then.

  18. Sean- Your comment reminded me of a very christian roommate I had one year. A few of us were talking about renting a movie, and she had objected to any movie with nudity it in. I brought up one movie, mentioned that it did have a nude female in it, but pointed out that she (my roommate) shouldn't have a problem with this, since she'd seen a nude female before. She was shocked by this, and when I explained that I meant she had seen herself, she was even more shocked, and objected that she didn't LOOK at herself, which seemed very strange to me. And that was much longer and more ramble-y that I wanted it to be, so apologies.

  19. You're very welcome, bug_girl!

    Elizabeth and her new contributor Tom Joaquin really cover the upside-down bass ackwards attitudes about sex very well. Many of the laws and situations they bring to light are truly shocking in their stupidity, and Elizabeth and Tom are stirring open and frank discussion of sexuality and nonsense like the case you point to in your comment. I've really been enjoying their thoughtful and productive commentary since I've stumbled onto Sex in the Public Square recently.

    I completely understand Rebecca's frustration. Sometimes I want to reach right into my monitor and smack some sense into somebody. Kudos to you for being able to pick up the story and not completely blow a gasket. :)

    I'm looking forward to reading your piece on the Alabama law.

    Kisses

  20. I know why they don't want kids to learn about scrotums.

    Anybody watch The Daily Show?

    Jon Stewart was interviewing an IDiot several months ago, and he asked him specifically about the scrotum as an example of "intelligent design." The only response they guy could come up with was that intelligent design didn't have to explain everything. (But of course, as we know, if it can't explain everything, it doesn't explain anything.)

    That was a powerful argument. Those of us who own scrotums are keenly aware of how incredibly bad they are from a design standpoint. Not only is it somewhat inconvenient to have the most sensitive parts of your body dangling in an unprotective sack within easy reach of everybody's knee, but the fact that it even exists indicates a monumental design screw-up. "Uh oh. The testes won't produce sperm at the temperature of interior of the abdominal cavity. I'd better make this ugly, wrinkled little bag to hang them outside of the abdomen." Yeah. Some intelligent designer did that. Sure.

    If you study the embryological development of the testes, the story gets even weirder. We normally associate the testes with the penis, both functionally and anatomically, but the testes begin life in the vicinity of the kidneys, which, as you may recall, are retroperitoneal organs. They are located outside of, and behind, the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity. The testes migrate from this location all the way through the abdominal cavity, emerging through the inguinal canals in the pelvis, taking two layers of parietal peritoneum with them, finally ending up in their familiar, precarious location. It almost looks like someone just went out of their way to create a bad design.

  21. I know why they don't want kids to learn about scrotums. Anybody watch The Daily Show?

    Jon Stewart was interviewing an IDiot several months ago, and he asked him specifically about the scrotum as an example of "intelligent design." The only response they guy could come up with was that intelligent design didn't have to explain everything. (But of course, as we know, if it can't explain everything, it doesn't explain anything.)

    That was a powerful argument. Those of us who own scrotums are keenly aware of how incredibly bad they are from a design standpoint. Not only is it somewhat inconvenient to have the most sensitive parts of your body dangling in an unprotective sack within easy reach of everybody's knee, but the fact that it even exists indicates a monumental design screw-up. "Uh oh. The testes won't produce sperm at the temperature of interior of the abdominal cavity. I'd better make this ugly, wrinkled little bag to hang them outside of the abdomen." Yeah. Some intelligent designer did that. Sure.

    If you study the embryological development of the testes, the story gets even weirder. We normally associate the testes with the penis, both functionally and anatomically, but the testes begin life in the vicinity of the kidneys, which, as you may recall, are retroperitoneal organs. They are located outside of, and behind, the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity. The testes migrate from this location all the way through the abdominal cavity, finally emerging through the inguinal canals in the pelvis, taking two layers of parietal peritoneum with them, finally ending up in their familiar, precarious location. It almost looks like someone just went out of their way to create a bad design.

    So scrotums are pretty devastating evidence against ID. I can see why some people would want this suppressed.

  22. Oh, crap. I apologize for the redundant post. I couldn't see it after I posted the first one. Usually when I post something it shows up right away. I waited about 10 minutes and still couldn't see it, so I tried again. When I couldn't see that one either, I just gave up. Imagine my chagrin when I came back to find they had both been posted. :-(

  23. Regarding the plastic body parts:

    Oh that her maidenhead be filled with such things.

    For those who don't get the pun on words, see "Romeo & Juliet" for one source of the term "Maidenhead." Ironically High School English, studying Shakespeare class was where I learned the term for the first time.

    For the record it was the 1980's and in Private school.

    I did see the pun used a few years ago in "Pirates Day" festival in Salem, as well of course not bleeped from a children's production of "Romeo & Juliet" that was put on, recently.

  24. Hi Meri,

    Without wanting to blow my own trumpet, no-one can beat me at rambling, I've known generations to pass while people wait for me to get to a point.

    Blimey, I can imagine your roommate right now running around the local park trying to put trousers on dogs.

  25. Buck Fuddy said,

    So scrotums are pretty devastating evidence against ID. I can see why some people would want this suppressed.

    I was just thinking about that the other day when I whacked my shin at work. Afer I stopped cursing, I thought, what kind of intelligent designer would leave that bone so unpadded? That led to your point about the scrotum, and that led to more design flaws. We're not particularly strong, we're not fast, we can't fly, we don't have claws or pointy teeth … I know I could've done better!

  26. I remember quite a bit of Mercutio's dialog was silently excised from the Romeo and Juliet copy printed in our ninth-grade literature books. This struck me as particularly absurd: what teenager is going to get steamed up hearing talk about medlars and poppering pears?

    They also cut several lines out of that pornographic horror show, The Canterbury Tales. This threw me for a moment when my line numbers didn't match up with the ones the teacher was using.

    Nonsensical prudes.

  27. What happens when these kids go to the museum? What about David? And better not let them get near the streets of Rome and any Bernini statues!

    Yup, prudishness is right…by these standards H.W. Janson's History of Art would be considered porn.

    JanieBelle, I remember a case in Texas not too many years ago where a woman was harassed for selling "sexual aids" at those Tupperware-style parties at women's homes, because selling so many violated some archaic statute. I might be able to find it; it was a smaller town in mid-Texas, and it seemed like someone was just out to get her. Beware of 6000 RPMS! No self-pleasure allowed, folks! Actually, there are a lot of old sex-related laws still on the books in many states, but they are obviously not enforced. I don't know if it's come off yet, but Florida has a peculiar one.

  28. Melusine,

    One of the (many) things that really bugs me about laws like these is that it seems to me that the basic underlying principle of our Constitution is that Americans are supposed to have the right to do whatever the hell they want, so long as they don't interfere with anyone else's right to do the same.

    If you think about it, doesn't the entirety of the Constitution really boil down to the protection of that single right?

    Laws like these run contrary to that principle. And as far as I can see, laws against dildos, various particular forms of consensual sex, polygamy, prostitution etc. are all arbitrarily based on the bronze age mythos of one particular religion, which is in direct violation of the first amendment.

    And whatever happened to "protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority"? Somehow that got lost along the way, I think.

    I have a serious problem with the government using religious principles to decide what's best for me and my body if I'm not hurting anybody else.

    /rant

  29. One of the most bizarre things about our culture is that it labels the exposure of the female breast as indecent. Personally, I find most of them to be more than decent, and some to be totally awesome. ;-)

    But the really weird thing about it is that it's only indecent if it's the woman's choice to bare her breasts. If she goes topless at the beach or even nurses a baby in public in some places, that's indecent, yet in Vegas, men line up around the block and buy tickets to see women dancing topless. I mean, if it's indecent, or offensive, why are people paying for it? Is it that it's only indecent when some guy isn't charging admission to see it?

    And why is it so damn important to keep certain people from being offended? Most TV commercials insult my intelligence, and I find that highly offensive, but nobody is trying to protect me from that, unless you count Tivo.

    I figure that people either know about sex and know what a naked person looks like or they don't. If they do, nudity and sexuality shouldn't shock them because it's nothing they haven't seen before. If they don't, it shouldn't shock them because they don't even know what it is.

    To be perfectly honest, there is one kind of pornography that I don't like at all. Gay porn gives me the hebejebes. I am totally supportive of gay rights, and I love my gay friends and embrace their gayness and feel honored to attend gay marriages and commitment ceremonies and all that, but as for what they do in their bedrooms? Yuck! (I expect they probably feel the same about what I do in mine.) So how do I deal with it? Simple. I don't let my mind go there. Period. It's none of my business, and it doesn't hurt me, and it doesn't even bother me if I don't think about it. On those few rare occasions where I have been exposed to gay porn, I've just shuddered and looked away. It didn't scar me for life or make my eyeballs shrivel up. I would never in a million years advocate banning it just because I don't like it. So why can't people who find all forms of sexual expression offensive just do what I do when it comes to gay porn? Why can't they just ignore it?

    Think about how hard it has been for us to get smoking banned in public places. This is a battle that is still going on. We have had to produce solid scientific evidence to show that second-hand smoke is harmful. It's not enough to say, "I find it offensive." But nobody has ever had to prove that it's harmful for a woman to whip out a breast. Why the double standard? And smoking isn't even a natural act.

    We live in a very weird society.

  30. Janiebelle, and others, I did a Google search to find an article regarding the woman in Texas some time ago – the first one will do:

    It's as I remember. I also remember looking up the rather dull Texas statutes regarding this case and sale of toys, and reading something to the effect of someone else in town not liking her and pressing the issue. Some of it has to do with the euphemism name game, such as "bongs" must be called "water pipes" in "novelty" stores in order to be sold. Whatever.

    Likewise, the most famous and recent sodomy case in Houston that went to the Supreme Court was about the two gay guys having sex when the police came in. They won, thankfully, but a sidenote was that it was an estranged friend that had called in the complaint. These laws are not enforced consistently, which is another problem.

    Buck Fuddy, sometimes it is all so weird. I was thinking more about the Florida statute, which is in regards to the "missionary position." I don't know if it's come off the books yet (old blue laws exist in most states), but obviously everyone in the state of Florida is not complying by having sex only in the missionary position (I don't have proof of this, but I'll take a wild guess that's accurate. ;-) )

    Some of this goes back to this "we are not animals" religious view, I believe, which involves a sort of repression of animal instincts (or "we are higher than animals"), yet as others are stating, it's rather contradictory when we still engage in war and other animal-like traits. Vagina and scrotum – they're not even verbally appealing words just as esophagus or pancreas are not. Parts are parts. The "shame culture" may have once had a biological imperative, but we are no longer constrained by the same things, nor has morality ever been the same amongst all peoples. Those who are embarrassed to describe to a youngster what those two dogs in the yard are doing – what's actually going through their mind? I don't know…it's all a bit of much ado about nothing, imho.

  31. "There’s just something utterly retarded about parents who don’t want their children to see stuff, not because it may scare the child, or disturb them, but simply because they as parents don’t want to explain something. I hope none of these people are teachers."

    Jeez, they shouldn't be PARENTs! I guess they want their kids to learn about sex from the other 8 and 9 year olds they hang out with at school. Because that's what will happen if their parents don't talk to them about these things. These parents are nothing but assholes. Really, someone should probably think about taking their children away from them and getting them some mature guardians.

  32. The only thing I ever learned from friends at school was different names for all the body parts and procreative acts. I already got the necessary scientific and official names (and functions) for those from my parents.

    Still, it's pretty embarrasing to hear people talking about something and having to ask what it means. I guess that was more a result of a lack of exposure to the everyday use of those terms.

  33. Oops, the "rotation matrix" on girl #1 is actually a Lorentz boost written in terms of the rapidity. (I was wondering why all the other equations on her were relativity-related. . . .) Mea maxima culpa.

    We now continue with our regularly scheduled programming.

  34. Blake, unfortunately most people probably didn't notice – I wouldn't have known unless I looked them up – it's more like "5.5 Things I Understand, and 15 I Don't." But looking it up now on Wikipedia isn't it in matrix form, as they say? The "rapidity" part is below. (But as Calvin, in effect, would say, those equations just look like they're in mortal combat to me, so I'm not going to "get it" anyway.)

    Also, I noticed on Pharyngula, some dude posted a version of the t-shirt I referred to, but it's different than the professor stated in his book. The Bible I have says, "Then God said, "Let there be light, and there was light." It makes more sense to say on the shirt "…and there was light." So, I'll stick my dude's version 'cuz even when most MIT grads make mistakes they're way ahead of the game anyway, no? Evelyn's thinking, "Yeah." ;-)

    Anyway, God wasn't around when my ballast was busted and the switch tripped the fuse. One can not say with certainty that a light will go on when a switch is flipped. Where's God to fix it when you need him? ~grrr~

    Back on topic: I feel like we're raising a generation of wimps. Some people get so offended easily and want consequences for that as if they want to live in a little plastic bubble world, but yet sheer stupidity, such as Sylvia Browne et al. permeates our culture. I mean, mud flaps!

    I'm offended by xkcd's comic today – I'm going to mail him a litter of raptors. Don't get mad, get even. ;-)

  35. This is very delayed response to the first posting due to lack of internet. I would like to correct the response about librarians banning the Newbery Award winning book with the word scrotum on the first page. This book was not banned. The best information on this can be found at:
    http://www.ala.org/ala/alonline/currentnews/newsarchive/...

    I think this is a great example of the media not getting their facts correct before running a way with a story. Even skeptics should be skeptical of stories that seem outlandish.

  36. Well, it was the NY Times.

    Wait…what am I saying.

    Fair enough criticism.

    Would "if outraged parents and SOME school librarians" work and an ammended version?

    I've lived in Texas, and I have no doubt that many schools there are not planning to carry this book. There are some seriously prudish folks there.

  37. Thanks for the update, Lysistrata – good to stay on top of overreactions, but as bug_girl mentions there are a lot of books that have and continue to be contested in libraries. Gillianren on the BAUT board has a special niche on the topic and it's been discussed there at length. All the contested book lists are out there on the Web.

    I always lean towards "the remedy is worse than the disease" mode in matters of censorship, especially regarding books. I still can't get over the mudflaps thing…In the movie Jesus Camp it highlighted the fact that even if kids are denied Harry Potter, they still find out about it anyway. Good documentary worth watching.

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