Sat, Oct 15, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The state does not own sexuality

It is doubtful that Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) has read much ancient Greek literature, which is a pity, because had she ever flipped through a copy of Aristophanes' magnificent satire Lysistrata, she might have thought twice about railing against men as the root of all bloodshed. Rather, she could have injected an all-too-rare touch of wit into her words by encouraging women on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to heed the call of Aristophanes' heroine and stop imminent war -- by refusing to sleep with their husbands.

This is a fanciful prospect, admittedly, though it would have been far better than what Lu did say, which only elicited from sensible observers, yet again, the response coined by that other classical icon, Homer (Simpson): "D'oh."

Lysistrata, as it happens, was written in the shadow of war between the Athenians and the Spartans; a situation not entirely without parallel here. But the chances of Taiwanese enjoying the hilarious raunchiness and exquisitely relevant wit of this 2,400-year-old play would be very slim, even if anyone had heard of it, because of the brazenly hypocritical treatment of sexual matters by most media outlets and government agencies.

Readers who watch too much TV will be more than familiar with the mini-cult that cable news stations attempt to build around their young, sexy and generally vacuous female anchors, who proceed to put on a tone of reproach as they exploit lurid footage of nightclub raids, pornography rackets, sexual hijinks on the Internet and the latest camcorder escapades of actor Peng Chia-chia (澎恰恰).

When it comes to commercialized depictions of sex in the media, prudishness and prurience mix all too easily. But when the government acts to stamp out "prurience," it does so by ramping up the prudishness. Hence, the disgraceful prosecution and conviction of Gin Gin's bookstore owner Lai Jeng-jer (賴正哲) for selling gay erotica -- a heavy-handed action that stinks of heterosexual hubris. If justice prevails, the court hearing the latest chapter of this saga will quash his conviction and restore his maligned reputation.

For its part, the Government Information Office (GIO), which presides over a number of locked pornography channels dishing out what Japan has to offer for the heterosexual masses, saw fit to wash its hands of the matter as police from Keelung left their proper jurisdiction and descended on the bookstore.

Taiwanese are far more reasonable on sexual matters than the media or the government give them credit for, though this of course does not mean that people do not uphold certain standards for themselves. It is time this moderation was better reflected in the actions of higher agencies.

One day, perhaps, award-winning film director Tsai Ming-liang (蔡明亮) might stage a production of Lysistrata and bring its love for life, fun and peace to a new audience. He's the man to do it, because Tsai wins praise at overseas festivals, and for this reason, perhaps, the GIO has so far been happy to put his explicit depictions of sex in "context."

In the meantime, if the Democratic Progressive Party government cares to live up to its pioneering past and honor the sexual entitlements of this nation's citizens, it might consider that encouraging a more intelligent approach to media salaciousness and exploitation involves promoting safe sex and then leaving people who want and need to express their real-world sexuality well alone.

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