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Indecent Exposure: Do today's fashions promote the naked truth?

Abercrombie & Fitch catalog photo
marketed to 10 - 13 year olds

Throughout history, people have thrown up their hands at cultural change and declared the world was going to hell in a handbasket. Well, to many it looks as if it’s headed there again — faster than ever — as bare skin is spotted just about everywhere you look, particularly among young people.

What was once relegated to adult videos, strip clubs and Playboy magazine now shows up regularly on network sitcoms, reality shows, music videos and advertisements. Much to the alarm of many parents and child advocates, fashion merchants are marketing the provocative styles of pop-music princesses to teens and prepubescent girls who yearn to look “hot”.

Bucking the bare skin trend, though, is like trying to stop a freight train.

So where does the healthy expression of sexuality and a mature attitude about the human body end and plain old-fashioned smut begin? Young people in every generation have expressed themselves in ways that challenged authority and the rules of the game, from “Elvis the Pelvis” in the ’50s, to long hair, the ‘braless look’ and miniskirts in the ’60s; from the sexual revolution and punk rock in the ’70s through to the low-rise, hip-hugging jeans and exposed flesh of today.

Meanwhile, the controversies continue.

Late last year clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch pulled its controversial in-store catalogues after outraged parents threatened a boycott over material they said was pornographic, according to Slate magazine. The “Christmas Field Guide” featured naked or nearly naked young models in outdoor settings, and offered advice on sex. Even earlier, in 1995 and 1999, advertising campaigns for Calvin Klein Jeans employed images of pubescent models in provocative poses, causing major controversy and debate when they crossed the line between fashion and pornography.

Well, the answer to the decay of Western society seems to be at hand.

People who wear low-slung pants that expose skin or “intimate clothing” would face a fine of up to $500 and possible jail time under a bill filed by a Louisiana lawmaker.

According to a Times-Picayune article reporting on State Representative Derrick Shepherd’s concerns (“I'm sick of catching glimpses of boxer shorts and G-strings over the lowered belt lines of young adults”), the proposed legislation would be appended to the state’s obscenity law, which restricts sexual activity in public places and the sale of sexually explicit items. Joe Cook, head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Louisiana chapter, said the bill probably does not meet the U.S. Supreme Court’s standard for the prohibition of obscene behavior under the First Amendment.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at April 23, 2004 9:32 PM in Pop Culture


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