Guest Post: Nipple Slips and Murder: a List of Illegal Things by Julianne Berokoff

I was sitting in an office with my poetry teacher during my last semester at school. Her window faced the arching freeway onramp of the 57 North, shooting white glints from cars onto the finger paintings and crayon sketches pinned to her walls. We were talking about sex.

It began with poetry, of course. I was writing about marriage and rape when she made a comment about Violence, about how a preteen can legally watch a PG-13 movie filled with inexplicable gore, and that it still takes even more violence to warrant an R-rating. But include sex in the film, and it immediately becomes adult.

I imagine her crossing her legs and swooping her brown hair over a shoulder. She might have paused to shake her head before finally saying, “We’re naturally sexual beings. But it seems that displaying that sexuality—even respectfully—is treated worse than showing the slitting of someone’s throat.”

Or something of the sort.

Our conversation was absolutely flooring. Sure, these were movies, but there is no doubt in my mind that these trends both affect and are caused by real life.

I grew up in a strict religious community. Sexual shame seemed to live in the bylaws. But still, the same parents who’d whisper about the length of a girl’s dress would buy their teenager Call of Duty. See? Real life.

I would like to say that this problem is isolated in religious communities, but that would be foolish to assume. I’m reminded of this issue every time I visit the last remaining movie rental store in north Orange County. There’s a red curtain and a locked passage with a sign “Adult Movies, 18+”. It’s a vibrating, pulsing presence and I remember hating myself for knowing, by knowledge of my body alone, what’s inside the room that’s locked.

Now, I can’t help but feel offended for my vagina. Did we all get an “R-rated” fuzzed onto our genitals at puberty? And although I’d like to brag that I’m now completely enlightened and mature, the truth is that I still shy away from looking at the red curtain, and feel only slight horror at movie’s gunfire. What came first, gonads or slut-shaming?

Here is my guess. Humans are sometimes more comfortable with the less-familiar. More people have fucked than killed, only because our bodies came loaded with genitals, not guns. But still, why are bodies, bodies like our own and everyone else’s, deemed less appropriate than gore for a seventeen-year-old girl?

I’m an advocate for responsible censorship, but perhaps we should think about what we want to be more comfortable with.

 

Julianne BerokoffJulianne’s work has been published in Black Fox Literary Magazine, and is forthcoming in Buck Off Magazine. She is a recent graduate from CSUF, and currently lives in Whittier, CA, where she is frequently enthused by saltwater and cats.

You can read Julianne’s poetry in Issue 14 of Black Fox.

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