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Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 11. 1969.

ObscenityON Campus

Obscenity[unclear: ON] Campus

In recent years we have observed on the campuses of this country something which seems to be a major trend in the universities of the Western World—the rise of obscenity to its present position as an integral part of Varsity life. What does this trend mean, and how did it come about?

For years "obscenity" or its little brother "profanity" was largely the prerogative of the poor. The middle and upper classes, echoing the principles made famous by the Puritans, did not, and still do not, condone its use. The various "codes of decency" forbid or restrict any form of obscenity, as our censorship laws and other restrictive legislation demonstrate.

The common 'swear word' has many uses as a utility adjective or noun, it is used to convey anger, despair, joy — if one of the common "forbidden words" have meaning others have not and it's very difficult to see why these are frowned upon, for they are mere shapes, mere sounds. But what of those words which are symbols? To take two common examples; we have all observed the rise to linguistic prominence of two now common adjectives — "piss poor" and "shit hot". These words are now bandied about by most forum speakers, and are commonly used in student newspapers. We hear them used by interjectors in debates, and friends in conversation. Yet few of us would be tempted to label the words "edifying".

Psychologists have speculated that frequent use of obscene words is a form of social protest. This contention is now more relevant than ever before. Many students disillusioned with the Establishment are often unable to make any form of eloquent argument against the verbal agility of politicians or world figures (the Pope is a relevant example) and express their frustrated protest in the only [unclear: edium] they are really con[unclear: rsant] with—obscenity. Dia[unclear: bes] are delivered with per[unclear: nctory] profanity, jokes [unclear: out] prominent figures are[unclear: merely] sex-oriented but [unclear: domy-obsessed], and so the [unclear: ious] circle goes on.

Take the recent "Maskerade" [unclear: example], the thematic em[unclear: asis] was shifted from the ac[unclear: ptable] (and even likeable) [unclear: iness] of past years to an [unclear: session] with sodomy and [unclear: rverse] references to lepers [unclear: d] the like. The humour and [unclear: political] and religious "satire" [unclear: ntained] in "Maskerade" was [unclear: fact] anti-sex, and just overtly [unclear: scene] without the slightest [unclear: empt] at subtlety.

Why? "Maskerade" is just symbol of a sick university [unclear: ciety]. Most of us agree that [unclear: ciety] in general is sick, but [unclear: is] sickness does not preclude [unclear: universities]. The burgeon[unclear: cult] of obscenity is [unclear: anti] anti-culture. True, most [unclear: us] here at varsity like to [unclear: ok] upon ourselves as broad-minded, enlightened and free of bigotry. But insistent exposure to obscenity chips away at our personalities and dulls our sensibility (and even sensuality) deadens our sense-perception. Obscenity is in fact anti-liberation. Many of those who use it constantly imagine "I am free". These misguided people believe they have thrown off their hang-ups just by using obscenity as a symbol of their freedom of expression.

But obscenity is a definite limiting force, which works against the growth of a balanced personality. It deadens perception.

Varsities have a practical incentive to limit obscenity in the year ahead. Political scientists have forecast that the '69 election will be won or lost over the education issue. With the public becoming increasingly aware of obscenity on the campus, many may well support Mr Muldoon's policies. . . .