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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 17, No. 14. July 22, 1953

Censorship and Sex

page 2

Censorship and Sex

The showing of "The Blue Angel." and "The New York Times" recently devoting a whole page to the fact that several hundred books of forty authors have been banned from U.S. Libraries, have prompted us to comment on the problem of censorship. It is a wide problem which effects each one of us. We shall deal with one aspect—censorship and sex, saying at the beginning that we are definitely against censorship of any kind.

The main defence for non-censorship is that sex it often the basis of art Those who determine what books, play, films are to be circulated may realise this: they may always ask themselves the question. "Behind this display of sordidness, unbridled passions, is there art, it there Truth?" The answer is often difficult, because art has a habit of changing dress with public taste as the wardrobe mistress. The censors may object to a low cut night gown, but it is the current fashion. There was "danger" of immoral influences in "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn." "Jane Eyre." "The Scarlet Letter." "Adam and sede." and H. K. Huddleston's little-known book "The Golden Flame." The books are now recognised works of art, yet they were banned by the censors, A group of fallible men ruling the destiny of art! An exaggeration perhaps. But the smothering of even one "art" place it to be condemned.

We suppose there was a stir in ancient Greece when fig-leaves were abolished. Music—Samuel Johnson's "only Samuel pleasure without vice"—of course suffers the least. Yet psychologist tell us that Jazz is one of the major causes of illegitimate babies: and there is that classical example of the "love scene" that had to be performed with the curtains of the double-bed drawn, while the much more suggestive music was allowed to play on. Censorship is a tight-rope job. One man can be sensually stirred by a comic strip: while another is left cold by elaborately sordid descriptions of sexual relationships. So much is in the balance: the center may save a nation from mass moral degradation (if such a thing is possible, which we doubt) or repress a great work of art or bowlderiso it out of recognition. What are the censor's set of standards?

We suggest that he has none and in fact, needs none. Release all the novels, films and let the people decide on its merits: for after all they are apparently responsible for what goes on in the Democratic State. One noted sociologist has said that "the more people a medium of expression reaches, the purer it gets by voluntary action." Even this it unnecessary, at the average producer, playwright or novelist, aware of public morals, and his own returns from the "box-office," cherishing his own reputation, dares not stoop too low, for fear of offending the public false. What a censor may say about hit work it like "an echo of a faded rubber stamp."

So much for adults. What about children? We prefer to think that they should be lead, not by the state, but by their parents. They usually respect their parents; but a book, play or film that has been banned by the State always has some sinister extra attraction. If this thing that "grown-ups" call "sex" it surrounded by some mysterious veil of "hush-hush." we feel that some unnatural altitude will develop. Besides, banned books always circulate. We would rather children learnt the facts of life from the bookshelf most to the fire place in the drawing-room than from furtive readings of banned books (with discussion to follow) behind the locked doors of the washhouse.

Is the censor, then, out of a job? Perhaps the government could employ him to prepare a "gazette" which could be tent out to each household once a month, its sole purpose would be a guide to current books, plays or films. Such an enlightenment, we feel, would be advisable.

Our comment on the problem of censorship is unavoidably brief. Our main purpose has been to make the student aware that things are not what they should be. Hundreds of books have been banned from U.S. Libraries, political books or otherwise. (We have chosen to discuss sex because it is lest easy to defend.] That's not freedom of speech. That's not democracy, but on inflation of Totalitarianism. What can we do?

I. R.