Breast Intentions

It was the tit that flashed America, and I missed it. Unlike much of America on Super Sunday, I was watching The History Channel. Call me stuffy, call me overly intellectual, call me less than a red-blooded American man. I was watching instead a fascinating series on who wrote the Bible, and not, like the Resident of the Executive Mansion, napping (how apropos). To me, the origins of the Bible are a mystery still unraveling after many centuries while the final score of the Super Bowl could be easily learned as soon as the game ended.

I switched over to the Super Bowl during a commercial break and caught the last final 30 seconds of so of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake performing. Yawn. Another glitzy display by shallow celebrities offering entertainment full of empty calories and lacking any nutritional value and bearing only a tangential relationship to actual music. Click. Back to the Bible -- some real entertainment.

I still haven't seen the offensive (to some) boob flash though one could easily view it throughout the Internet. Even though I read all about the questions -- was it planned, spontaneous or an accident? -- and the subsequent controversy, it wasn't like the Zapruder film, something so critical you have to see it, even view it again and again. After all, it's not every day you see the president's skull blasted to bits; tits, on the other hand, I can see whenever I might want to.

Which is why all this brouhaha over Janet Jackson's breast is to me, for the most part, a tempest in a bra cup. Pundits are commenting, the FCC is investigating and Congress is grumbling about holding hearings. All over a bare boob. (On the other hand, the travails of her brother Michael I find an endlessly fascinating study of the pathology of celebrity and arrested development. And hell yes I think he's guilty as hell, and have every reason and right to think so, even if it still remains for a court to legally decide.)

Not that this Tittygate affair doesn't also shed interesting light on the place of fame in our culture and America's strangely conflicted relationship with sex and nudity. And not that I don't feel that boob flashing is the sort of fare to be avoided on prime time network TV, especially with a large share of the American public tuned in. But that's only because my sense of propriety thinks it best not to inflict one's own values on those unsuspecting folks who might be offended. In the same way I am bothered by the "cool" youth I see in my local supermarket wearing t-shirts with the word "f**k" emblazoned on them. (Full disclosure: I have t-shirts with "f**k" on them, but rarely wear them.) As well, I believe it is not wise to sexually flash a nipple at those whose sexual immaturity won't enable them to properly process the sight (and by sexual immaturity I refer primarily but not exclusively to those under the age of puberty).

Frankly, a bare breast lost its titillation factor (pun intended) for me not that long after my first glimpses of them in Playboy as a teen. Not that I don't like tits or find them a turn on; I do very much so in fact. But only in context, which is for me I guess a bit different than all those other red-blooded American males who frequent those establishments referred to as, in a highly ironic euphemism, "gentlemen's" clubs. I can count the times I've been to one in the last two decades on one hand. And I feel that paying money for a lap dance is an even greater waste of one's hard earned cash than snorting cocaine, with which you at least get some kind of bang for your buck. But such is the allure of naked public tits in America.

Hence our still rampant American puritanism makes a prime time TV tit flash big news, even if sexuality is pervasive in our culture as both a form of behavior and a marketing tool as well as multi-billion-dollar industry. And it's well past the time in our stunted evolution that we humans get past our childish insecurities about nudity and sex -- facts of life, after all, no matter what the Catholics and Baptists may maintain. We'd all be a whole lot healthier in my view. And get a lot less bent out of shape over a bare boob.

To those in a huff over it all, I say: Grow up, get over it, apply your dudgeon to something that matters. To Janet Jackson, I would ask: Whassamatter? Upset that Michael's getting more ink? To everyone I plead: Let's get real about sex and its primacy to human life and our souls. Let's get upset about sexual predators and quit getting so bent out of shape over the naked human body. Maybe if we can all get a bit more mature about it all, perhaps our entertainment -- both non-sexual and sexual -- might get better.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email

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