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The FCC's Linguistic Incompetence:

Bill Poser at Language Log has looked at the FCC's ruling that ABC violated decency standards by briefly showing a woman's naked buttocks, and finds it wanting. In particular Poser critiques the FCC's claim that buttocks are a "sexual organ," legally or otherwise.

The buttocks are not used for sexual reproduction so they are not a sexual organ. Indeed, they are not an organ of any sort, which is defined by Wordnet as: "a fully differentiated structural and functional unit in an animal that is specialized for some particular function". Unlike the heart or the kidneys, the buttocks are not "specialized for some particular function". . . .

The problem for the FCC is that it wants to enforce a broad notion of indecency that includes display of the buttocks but that its own regulations contain a narrower definition. Both in its ruling generally and in its mis-citation of the case law in footnote 23, the FCC appears to believe that it can expand the definition of indecency from what it is to what it would like it to be by fiat.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. The FCC's Linguistic Incompetence:
  2. NYPD Blue's Expensive Rear View:
Randy R. (mail):
Query: Is the FCC filled with religious and moral fanatics, or are they just pandering to them?

Ah, now there's something to chew over on a lazy Sunday afternoon.....
1.27.2008 10:38am
Cornellian (mail):
Query: Is the FCC filled with religious and moral fanatics, or are they just pandering to them?

I suspect there's a thin layer of political appointees at the top of the FCC directing the pandering to the wowsers*, much like the FBI's announced initiative a while back to spend its resources trying to prosecute adult pornography.

*"Wowsers" - found this great Australian word on Prof Bainbridge's blog. It refers to a person whose mission in life is to prevent anyone and everyone from doing anything that might be fun, he regards the whole world as a sort of giant prison, with himself as the warden.
1.27.2008 11:18am
Public_Defender (mail):
It seems like the social conservatives are doing what they accuse liberals of doing--asserting that the law says what they think it should say rather than what it really does say.
1.27.2008 11:27am
Beran Panasper:
"The buttocks are not used for sexual reproduction so they are not a sexual organ."

So I guess breasts are not a "sexual organ" either, since they are not used for reproduction? Bring it on, Janet Jackson!

Talk about meaningless quibbling... but I guess meaningless quibbling is what the law is all about...
1.27.2008 11:31am
DeezRightWingNutz:
My old boss seemed to think his buttocks was specialized to function as a kissing booth.

I assume that breasts would also not be sexual organs, right? Would the penis even qualify? I'd say the testes clearly do, but those aren't often shown on TV (although I thought that the Soup showed a clip of Oprah holding someone's excized balls). Isn't the skin an organ? Couldn't one make a technical argument that this is the the only organ shown is most "offensive" images?
1.27.2008 11:37am
tckurd (mail):

"So I guess breasts are not a "sexual organ" either, since they are not used for reproduction? Bring it on, Janet Jackson!"


They are generally not part of the sex act, but they are certainly used for reproduction.

Is that really the problem here? We get so old we forget where the elixir of life comes from after we're born? Is that the human fascination with boobs in a nutshell? We stare at them wondering what indeed they could be for, as some innate response occurs somewhere else?
1.27.2008 11:37am
Bender (mail):
To those of you who do not understand the concept of slippery slope see John Burgess's posting in the previous string on this topic. He provides apropos information about what's allowed these days on British TV, and what's likely to be allowed in the future.

TV executives in this country are pushing to get more sex onto TV in a desperate attempt to stall declines in the numbers of idiots that watch their tripe. NYPD was testing the boundaries. The FCC stopped them. That's the whole story.

Anyone who thinks a woman's bare ass isn't an object of sexual interest is a eunuch, a liberal, or a lawyer. (I say this recognizing that there is a significant overlap among the three categories.)
1.27.2008 11:44am
Student:
This sort of obtuse technical argument is why people hate lawyers. Are you really arguing that ABC had no notice that the "bare buttocks" would expose it to a penalty?
1.27.2008 11:45am
Kovarsky (mail):
who watches ABC?
1.27.2008 11:52am
Ken Arromdee:
Using breasts to feed babies is not "using them for reproduction", unless you want to count hands as well (it's hard feeding babies if you don't have hands).

I think that claiming that buttocks aren't sexual organs because they're not used for reproduction and aren't organs is taking a ridiculously literal reading of what the law is obviously saying. Buttocks are a part of the body that is mostly shown on TV for the purpose of sexual arousal. It's true that "part of the body" isn't literally synonymous with "organ", and "shown for the purpose of sexual arousal" isn't literally synonymous with "sexual", but the law can only be read that way by completely throwing away common sense.
1.27.2008 11:53am
Elliot Reed (mail):
I think legal interpretation generally ought to be much more informed by linguistic theory, but Poser's objections strike me as off the mark. Judges take regular English words and interpret them to mean something related to, but different from, the thing they mean in regular non-legal English all the time, because that's how they're defined in the text of a statute, or it would better serve the intent/purpose of the legislature, or just because it would give a result the judge likes better. Lawyers and legal scholars disagree with particular instances of this, but I've never found one who opposes it consistently.
1.27.2008 11:59am
Elliot Reed (mail):
Oh, and just to be clear, I still think the FCC's ruling is crazy. As far as I know, showing someone's butt would merit a PG rating in a movie: the idea that our TV must be G-rated is way too restrictive.
1.27.2008 12:02pm
John (mail):
It is hard to criticize the FCC because it "appears to believe that it can expand the definition of indecency from what it is to what it would like it to be by fiat." Our entire system of appellate jurisprudence is based on precisely this principle.
1.27.2008 12:03pm
33yearprof:
Buttocks are a part of the body that is mostly shown on TV for the purpose of sexual arousal.


Maybe for you but not for me.

Is the FCC pandering to those with the lowest level of tittilation? I did once have a "social conservative / religious nut" comment on the curves of my Porsche's , eh, ... buttocks.
1.27.2008 12:25pm
subpatre (mail):
Thought experiment: While talking to a fellow worker, place you left hand on their right shoulder and give a small squeeze as you make a point.

Now try that with their right buttock.

FCC wins this one.
1.27.2008 12:26pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
John—and ever since SCOTUS invented Chevron deference, our system of lawmaking by regulatory bodies is even more so.
1.27.2008 12:26pm
subpatre (mail):
Elliot and "G" versus "PG".

Then send me money. I am tired of subsidizing (they are public airwaves) beliefs that offend me.

The compromise has been the FCC prohibits broadly offensive material as if it were a public arena. That's because broadcast TV is in the public arena. In case you haven't noticed, exposed buttocks are prohibited in most other public settings.

If you want to view more than the rational compromise, there are bajillions of cable and satellite delivery options.
1.27.2008 12:33pm
DiverDan (mail):

Anyone who thinks a woman's bare ass isn't an object of sexual interest is a eunuch, a liberal, or a lawyer. (I say this recognizing that there is a significant overlap among the three categories.)


I'm a lawyer, though neither a eunuch (involuntary celibacy doesn't count, does it) nor a liberal (at least not in the manner which that label usually connotes in American politics), and I will readily admit that the naked female buttocks (if sufficiently young and callipygian) is usually an object of sexual interest to heterosexual males. That excludes, for me at least, the naked ass of Kathy Bates in "About Schmidt", and MOST of the stars of "Calendar Girls". However, if the FCC regulations are to be interpreted as prohibiting any showing of "objects of sexual interest", then how did Bay Watch ever make it on the air? Indeed, taking that course could result in prohibiting any airing of Women's Tennis (do you really think I would watch Hana Mandikova to study her backhand?), any beauty pagent, and at least half of most network's prime time schedules.

My bottom line, from a philosophical view rather than a legal one, is that the FCC has no business regulating content on television. If you don't want your children to see naked asses, or breasts, or shapely women in skimpy bathing suits, then exercise some parental control and turn off the TV -- give up TV altogether, or get a child lock for your TV, just don't try to control what the rest of us are allowed to watch. And please do not tell me that you know what is in my child's best interest - I personally think that raising a child to have a puritanical view of the world where every naked body is considered "dirty" is a form of psychological child abuse.
1.27.2008 12:35pm
NicholasV (mail) (www):
If the text of laws isn't supposed to be interpreted literally, how should it be interpreted?

What is the point of writing a law down if the person reading it is allowed to ignore what it actually says and just sort of guess what the intention is?

If they don't want to see a bum on TV they should say so. They could make a list of what parts of the body can't be shown. It wouldn't be too terribly long would it? Is there a compelling reason why they chose to be so vague when it's possible to be quite explicit about what is and isn't allowed?
1.27.2008 12:37pm
Dave D. (mail):
...In the great tradition of penumbral emanations, the FCC seeks to restrict gluteal and pudendal actualization. How could anyone be against that ?
1.27.2008 12:40pm
nevins (mail):
I'm not certain that the FCC is managing to protect any public interest when this event is 4 years old. The only message the FCC is sending by being this sluggish is that you can broadcast anything you want and by the time the FCC gets to it you'll have changed community standard sufficiently that what was then out of bounds is now in bounds.
1.27.2008 12:40pm
fling93 (www):
subpatre: <i>While talking to a fellow worker, place you left hand on their right shoulder and give a small squeeze as you make a point. Now try that with their right buttock.</i>

Okay. Now try placing your hand on a coworker's face, particularly their lips.
1.27.2008 12:47pm
tarheel:
I joked about it on the previous thread, but I'll ask again. NYPD Blue showed Sipowitz's bare ass back in 1994 or 1995 and did not get fined. What is the difference here? Is one a sexual organ and one not?

If the FCC can't provide a reasoned explanation for the different treatment, I would argue the rule is arbitrary and capricious. If the FCC's response (as I suspect it would be) is that they base their enforcement actions on "contemporary community standards" -- which translates to "if enough people send us complaints we take action" -- then it is equally arbitrary and capricious. In that case, the only rational explanation for the different treatment of two similarly situated asses is that one was bared before the eggshell-skulls in our midst could complain easily by email.
1.27.2008 12:47pm
Cornellian (mail):
Anyone who thinks a woman's bare ass isn't an object of sexual interest is a eunuch, a liberal, or a lawyer. (I say this recognizing that there is a significant overlap among the three categories.)

And you might have a point if the law prohibited "anything that is an object of sexual interest" but that's not what it says.
1.27.2008 12:48pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Here is what the FCC said:
As an initial matter, we find that the programming at issue is within the scope of our indecency definition because it depicts sexual organs and excretory organs – specifically an adult woman’s buttocks. Although ABC argues, without citing any authority, that the buttocks are not a sexual organ, we reject this argument, which runs counter to both case law and common sense. We also find that the material is, in the context presented here, patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium.
It appears that the FCC is being a little sloppy in lumping sexual organs and excretory organs together, but it is just reflecting popular opinion. Most people do not consider naked butts appropriate for family audiences.
1.27.2008 12:58pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Anyone who thinks a woman's bare ass isn't an object of sexual interest is a eunuch, a liberal, or a lawyer."

Or is gay.
1.27.2008 1:01pm
Randy R. (mail):
Bender: "TV executives in this country are pushing to get more sex onto TV in a desperate attempt to stall declines in the numbers of idiots that watch their tripe."

Well, but if so few people are watching 'this tripe', then few people are exposed to it. So where's the harm?

Here's an idea: Lock out all tv channels except the Discovery and History Channels, and maybe the PBS ones, and the problem is solved.

Or better yet, do as my sister does with her family: No tv for anyone. Period.
1.27.2008 1:05pm
wm13:
I don't understand the argument that the FCC shouldn't regulate what appears on the airwaves. Aren't the premises of the University of California public space? Can I appear in Prof. Volokh's classroom with bare buttocks? Can I have sex in the classroom? Can I do those things on the streets of Los Angeles? What about the Supreme Court courtroom? Why aren't the public airwaves just as subject to regulation as other public spaces?

As to linguistic imcompetence, maybe Prof. Adler will explain why "due process" includes "equal protection," or why a grant to Congress of power to regulate interstate commerce means that a state can't have rules for truck mudguards. Or why a provision that begins "Congress shall make no law" restricts the activity of every executive and judicial agency in the country. Or why a law taxing income means that a husband has to pay tax even if he assigns the income to his wife. Those all seem like bigger stretches to me than saying that a prohibition on televising sexual activities extends to bare buttocks.
1.27.2008 1:19pm
U.Va. 3L:
subpatre: Then send me money. I am tired of subsidizing (they are public airwaves) beliefs that offend me.


It's tough for me to assume, like Orin Kerr would want, that you've made this argument in good faith. Should Planned Parenthood members be entitled to get their money back when GOP presidential candidates make pro-life statements during debates? Should GLAAD members be entitled to refunds from network affiliates who fill dead time with televangelists decrying homosexuality? The implications of what you want are staggering.

***
Cornellian: I am reminded of the definition of Puritan I once read--the sort of person who awakes in a cold sweat at 3 a.m. from a nightmare that someone, somewhere, is having fun.
1.27.2008 1:33pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
Does it really matter if the FCC exceeded it's authority in regulating a nude buttock display? If a court were to conclude that its authority had been exceeded, Congress would pass a law by sundown giving the FCC the necessary authority (in broad language to cover even more material). The one thing Republicans and Democrats agree on is that we need to be a nation of prudes because nude bodies "hurt children" somehow. Not that anyone has ever shown the slightest bit of evidence that nudity harms children. And if, somehow, that could be proven, then children should just have to be harmed a little bit. Censorship is far worse than a slightly hurt child. I'm sure we can all agree that it's better for a kid to fall down and scrape his knee, bleed and cry a little bit, and need a band-aid, than for the government to globally ban certain speech upon threat of punishment. And if, somehow, it could be shown that a child is harmed by seeing naked buttocks, that harm is most certainly far, far less serious than a scraped, bleeding knee.
1.27.2008 1:50pm
Kazinski:
The idea that because the buttocks is a sexual attractant therefore a sex organ doesn't cut it. After all, a womans smile, legs, shoulders, are all attractants. Should they be banned too?
1.27.2008 2:12pm
wm13:
So, BruceM, you are saying that all laws against public nudity and public sex should be repealed? You are a libertarian!
1.27.2008 2:22pm
Randy R. (mail):
I guess this really hits deeper issues of our society, such as why are we so uptight about sex in the first place? Many have mentioned the National Geographic Specials where nude tribesmen and women walk around.

Perhaps these 'primitives' have better attitudes towards sex than we do.
1.27.2008 2:42pm
Kazinski:
Query: Is the FCC filled with religious and moral fanatics, or are they just pandering to them?


We all have to look in the mirror on this one, FCC is merely reflecting the overwhelming consensus in congress and from the American public on this issue. Congress has repeatedly passed legislation restricting internet access, tightening indecency for television and radio. This isn't some rogue agency imposing sharia law on the airwaves, they are us.

Here is poll from 2004 showing public attitudes after the Janet Jackson kerfuffle:

Recent polling found a solid majority — about three fourths — who say they would support stricter rules on nudity and sexual content on regular television channels.
1.27.2008 3:05pm
dfb:
This might just be moot in another year (fingers crossed). The FCC is getting closer and closer to the Court striking down Pacifica and applying general First Amendment jurisprudence. The underlying justifications for Pacifica (and Red Lion) are eroding as we speak.

The Second Circuit noted this in Fox Television Stations, Inc. v. FCC, 489 F.3d 444, 465: “Nevertheless, we would be remiss not to observe that it is increasingly difficult to describe the broadcast media as uniquely pervasive and uniquely accessible to children, and at some point in the future, strict scrutiny may properly apply in the context of regulating broadcast television.”

The Internet and converging technologies change everything. Then again, the Roberts court might decide to set aside Reno and apply broadcast regulatory standards of review to the Internet.

The more the FCC goes on indecency witch hunts like this, the more I think the regulatory framework should be modified to raze distinctions between the types of communication and instead focus on the functional portions of a communications network used to transfer content. Such a functional (also referred as layered) regulatory approach would treat similar content similarly, independent of source, service type, and destination. In such a world, broadcast television, cable television, and other video content would be treated similarly.
1.27.2008 3:07pm
tarheel:

The FCC is getting closer and closer to the Court striking down Pacifica and applying general First Amendment jurisprudence.

From your lips (or keyboard) to Roberts' ears.

The 2nd Circuit also said in that case -- also in dicta -- that the FCC's use of the "contemporary community standard" as a means of assessing when something is indecent is rather arbitrary and therefore may be unconstitutional.
1.27.2008 3:11pm
Hoosier:
So does this mean memebers of the FFC will not be allowing themselves to appear on television?

(Total hack, but my writers are still on strike.)
1.27.2008 3:16pm
Scote (mail):

tckurd (mail):

"So I guess breasts are not a "sexual organ" either, since they are not used for reproduction? Bring it on, Janet Jackson!"

They are generally not part of the sex act, but they are certainly used for reproduction.


By that definition, so is every part of your body that is needed to raise a child, like your brain, your hands and feet. Don't be silly.

While our culture may have sexualized female breasts--but not male breasts*--they are neither a sexual organ nor a "reproductive" organ.

*Except for they guy who got brest implants on a bar bet--those they won't show on TV! Ridiculous....
1.27.2008 3:18pm
PersonFromPorlock:
But what about Callipygia, the Greek goddess of beautiful buttocks? Could the FCC be getting into church-state territory here?
1.27.2008 3:22pm
Scote (mail):
...of course the FCC didn't go nuts when Dennis Franz butt was shown on air. Apparently his butt isn't a "sexual organ," a definition which seems to only apply to callipygian* women.


*Thanks to DiverDan for this extremely useful word of the day.
1.27.2008 3:24pm
tckurd (mail):
Scote et. al.,

x,000 years ago [where x=1,000,000 to 10], neither lack of brains nor an occasional missing limb caused the human race to fail.

The lack of breastmilk would have been an end to the species.
1.27.2008 3:31pm
Jackson Benson (mail) (www):
The Language Log guy makes a cute point about "sexual organs," but certainly isn't a lawyer. The FCC regs prohibit the showing of "excretory" organs, not just "sexual" organs. Anyone want to argue that the buttocks are not "excretory"?
1.27.2008 3:43pm
Scote (mail):

Scote et. al.,

x,000 years ago [where x=1,000,000 to 10], neither lack of brains nor an occasional missing limb caused the human race to fail.

The lack of breastmilk would have been an end to the species.


...Actually, the lack of a nurturing instinct would mean the end of the human race. Doesn't make your brain something we can't show on TV, though, were such a thing possible.

With this new broad definition of "excretory organ" and prohibitions of broadcasting depictions therof that means that we can't show shots of intestines, whether real, in a surgical context, or illustrated on an anatomical chart. Nor can we show people eating sausages that use natural or artificial casings--since those casings are either made from or made to resemble excretory organs of animals--i.e., intestines.
1.27.2008 3:44pm
Scote (mail):

Jackson Benson (mail) (www):
The Language Log guy makes a cute point about "sexual organs," but certainly isn't a lawyer. The FCC regs prohibit the showing of "excretory" organs, not just "sexual" organs. Anyone want to argue that the buttocks are not "excretory"

You apparently didn't bother to read the thread before posting. Many people argue against the idea that your buttocks, as opposed to your anus, are excretory. If you can pass a bowel movement through your buttocks rather than your anus then I'll concede your point.

BTW, for those who are trying to put too fine a point on this, I must point out that your skin is an excretory organ, your feet, crotch and arm pits even more so. So if the standard is "excretory organ," then you can't show people at all.
1.27.2008 3:50pm
Scote (mail):
@Jackson Benson,

And the FCC even allows the depiction of anuses on the air all the time. If they want to ban that then you'll never be able to show cats on air again except from the front.

This neo-Victorianism is getting out of hand.
1.27.2008 3:54pm
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (www):
Poser is incorrect. The buttocks certainly can be considered an organ.

Leaving that bit of nit-picking aside, it's interesting that so many of the "it takes a village" types, who want to tell people what to do when it comes to raising children in just about every conceivable area of life - no "junk" food, car seats until the kid's practically in college, never letting a kid get a single whiff of second-hand smoke, etc. - suddenly take a radically libertarian approach if anyone wants the slightest help from the larger society to protect kids from the sea of prurient, nihilistic, mind and soul-robbing sewage that makes up much of popular culture today.

But these priorities are out of whack - a kid will become a much healthier adult eating Twinkies and reading good books than watching MTV and eating his vegetables.
1.27.2008 3:56pm
Scote (mail):

The Editors, American Federalist Journal (www):
The buttocks certainly can be considered an organ.

Yes, by people who just make stuff up and argue by assertion.

Citation please.

I see much banter about villages and priorities in your post but no rational argument or proof that one's buttocks are an organ.

Claiming that buttocks are an organ would mean that any part of the body is "an organ"; my finger, my biceps, my head. Such a claims is without any basis in the meaning of the term "organ."
1.27.2008 4:05pm
tarheel:
And it's similarly interesting how so many so-called Federalists seek to aggrandize the federal government's power to peek into our bedrooms, peek into our phone records, limit our First Amendment freedoms, etc.

Maybe those "it takes a village types" simply have a different view than you do of what constitutes a real harm to our children. Feel free to engage in the debate, but spare me the charges of hypocrisy, because that is a well-traveled two-way street.
1.27.2008 4:07pm
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (www):
Scote:

As you clearly missed, the definition of "organ" was not the central theme of my previous comment. But leaving that aside, here you go:

Muscular System --

Major Organs:
Skeletal muscles and smooth muscles throughout the body.

-- http://web.jjay.cuny.edu/~acarpi/NSC/14-anatomy.htm


tarheel:

"And it's similarly interesting how so many so-called Federalists seek to aggrandize the federal government's power to peek into our bedrooms, peek into our phone records, limit our First Amendment freedoms, etc. "

There's a pretty substance-free set of clichés.
1.27.2008 4:23pm
Scote (mail):
@"The Editors, American Federalist Journal"

I must say I'm rather unimpressed by your rationale, i.e. the lack thereof. Your argument [paraphrased] "Poser is wrong. QED." Hmm...seems to be missing something, like an argument or even something pretending to be an argument..
1.27.2008 4:26pm
Scote (mail):

As you clearly missed, the definition of "organ" was not the central theme of my previous comment. But leaving that aside, here you go:

Muscular System --

Major Organs:
Skeletal muscles and smooth muscles throughout the body.


That is such blundering response I can't tell if you are serious.
1.27.2008 4:31pm
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (www):
tarheel:


"Maybe those "it takes a village types" simply have a different view than you do of what constitutes a real harm to our children."



I wouldn't say "maybe", I think it's clear they have a different view. Obviously, that was implied by my earlier comment; if they had the same view, there'd be no issue.
1.27.2008 4:35pm
tarheel:

Obviously, that was implied by my earlier comment; if they had the same view, there'd be no issue.

OK, then how about debate that difference on the merits instead of resorting to tired, even cliched, charges of hypocrisy?

So are you seriously arguing that a partially naked butt is more dangerous to a child than sitting in the front seat of a car without a car seat? Or was that just something you grabbed from the "stupid liberal rules" file at the American Federalist Journal offices? I doubt one child has ever died in America from seeing a naked butt (if I'm wrong, post the link). Children die in car wrecks every day, and many are saved by car seats every day.

You can argue that the nanny state should not be telling parents how to buckle up their kids, but you can't then turn around and tell them what they can watch on TV.
1.27.2008 4:44pm
Fub:
BruceM wrote at 1.27.2008 1:50pm:
Does it really matter if the FCC exceeded it's authority in regulating a nude buttock display? If a court were to conclude that its authority had been exceeded, Congress would pass a law by sundown giving the FCC the necessary authority (in broad language to cover even more material).
I agree that is true. But I am continually amazed by the lack of creativity by those who oppose FCC censorship of what they can hear or see.

Here is a clue. If secular broadcasters and their audience are fair game for religious astroturf FCC "indecency" complaints, then there is no reason that the rest of us couldn't attack religious broadcasters equally effectively and just as legally.

Anybody who declares a culture war shouldn't be surprised if the enemy they have defined fights back. And there is no law that limits the weapons to "indecency" complaints. There are plenty of other regs which also can be used by ordinary citizens for complaints, and some likely can be used even more effectively. No, I'm not going to outline any here. But they do exist, and broadcasters know them.
1.27.2008 4:51pm
Scote (mail):

The Editors, American Federalist Journal (www):
Scote:

As you clearly missed, the definition of "organ" was not the central theme of my previous comment. But leaving that aside, here you


So, back to you. Here are the major organ systems of the human body (cribbed from Wikipedia for easy typing):

• Digestive system
• Skeletal system
• Muscular system
• Nervous system
• Endocrine system
• Cardiovascular system
• Respiratory system
• Reproductive system
• Integumentary system
• Lymphatic system
• Urinary system

So, which single system do "buttocks" fall into that makes them an "organ?" You seem to think buttocks are all muscle--forgetting that they are a region of the body that is comprised of multiple organ systems, including your skin, lymphatic system, circulatory system, nervous system, skeletal system... Your suggestion that buttocks can be considered an organ is untenable and inexcusable. That you should even try to make it in the first place is bad enough but that you still defend it in the light of clear evidence of its falsehood does not help your credibility.
1.27.2008 4:56pm
Scote (mail):

The Editors, American Federalist Journal (www):
Scote:
As you clearly missed, the definition of "organ" was not the central theme of my previous comment.

About that "central theme" issue. No doubt as "The Editors, American Federalist Journal" you realize that one shouldn't put something other than the central theme of your comment in the lede? You know, something like:

Poser is incorrect. The buttocks certainly can be considered an organ.

It very much was the central theme of your comment based on the structure of your comment. So, either you meant it to be so or you aren't using those editor's skills you supposedly have.
1.27.2008 5:05pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I was worried about Church Lady since I hadn't seen her in years. Glad she's still on the job.
1.27.2008 5:11pm
theobromophile (www):

So are you seriously arguing that a partially naked butt is more dangerous to a child than sitting in the front seat of a car without a car seat? Or was that just something you grabbed from the "stupid liberal rules" file at the American Federalist Journal offices? I doubt one child has ever died in America from seeing a naked butt (if I'm wrong, post the link). Children die in car wrecks every day, and many are saved by car seats every day.

Well, we are all going to die someday, somehow, and it's not going to be pretty. Should the government also mandate that people drive Volvos, because other cars are not as safe? Thousands of people who die in car accidents every year would be saved if they had side-impact air bags and a steel cage, but we don't mandate that people drive certain types of cars. Beyond the most rudimentary standard of having a car that passes inspection, the government does not intervene.

(Note that, because the government mandated passenger-side air bags, they must now mandate that children under the age of 12 sit in the backseat so they won't be hurt by the air bag. Hum..... regulation breeding regulation.)

Now, people who complain about kids seeing sexual images on T.V. are not worried about the fact that the kid saw something dirty; they are worried that the kid will turn out to be promiscuous. In the era of STDs, teenage pregnacy, and all sorts of other fun stuff, it makes some sense to argue that kids should not be exposed to sexual material when they are not capable of handling it.
1.27.2008 5:15pm
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (www):

"So are you seriously arguing that a partially naked butt is more dangerous to a child than sitting in the front seat of a car without a car seat?"


I didn't argue that seriously or in any other way. I didn't even imply it. I haven't used the word hypocrisy, or argued against the use of child car seats, or implied that seeing nudity would kill anyone either. You seem to be responding to a lot of comments no one made.


"You can argue that the nanny state should not be telling parents how to buckle up their kids, but you can't then turn around and tell them what they can watch on TV."


Again, I didn't argue against laws requiring car seats for children. But why couldn't one simultaneously argue for less regulation of private conduct and more regulation of public conduct? Why would that necessarily be inconsistent?
1.27.2008 5:16pm
wm13:
I think it's incumbent on those who put such stress on whether the buttocks are an "organ" to explain how televising images of buttocks is "speech." Because if it isn't "speech," there isn't a First Amendment issue. And in normal discourse, you don't ask to speak and then show people your buttocks.
1.27.2008 7:33pm
Hoosier:
Let's see what the Sunday Song Lyric has to say on this question:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41APzy5kqBU
1.27.2008 7:37pm
Bleepless (mail):
A couple of decades ago, a California reporter with way too much spare time discovered a local ordinance forbidding a woman from the public display of her "natal cleft." He proceeded to ask all sorts of people to define the term. Having gotten a series of replies including everything from the navel to the buttocks, he finally adopted a lawyer's definition: "The natal cleft is that part of a woman's anatomy about which the city attorney is most uptight."
1.27.2008 7:40pm
Scote (mail):

wm13:
I think it's incumbent on those who put such stress on whether the buttocks are an "organ" to explain how televising images of buttocks is "speech." Because if it isn't "speech," there isn't a First Amendment issue. And in normal discourse, you don't ask to speak and then show people your buttocks.

Were speech as narrow as you propose the FCC could ban any image that wasn't text or spoken word. Fortunately that is not the case.
1.27.2008 7:50pm
David Schwartz (mail):
The term "natal cleft" means exactly what the parts suggest. Your "nates" are your buttocks. A "cleft" is a split or indentation. So your "natal cleft" is the indentation between your buttocks. I suppose there would be reasonable disagreement over exactly how much you had to show to be violating the ordinance.
1.27.2008 8:05pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Now, people who complain about kids seeing sexual images on T.V. are not worried about the fact that the kid saw something dirty; they are worried that the kid will turn out to be promiscuous."

And if there were any justification for this worry, then we perhaps we should do something about it. Any evidence that the kids in Britain are more promiscuous that American kids?
1.27.2008 8:16pm
wm13:
Scote, were the definition of "organ" as narrow as Prof. Adler seems to think, the FCC couldn't ban displays of the labia or the buttocks. Fortunately that is not the case.

Really, I find this hyperlegalism about organs, and the buttocks not being an "organ," very childish. That isn't the way courts usually operate. Next we'll have people arguing that a pound of flesh doesn't include a drop of blood, etc.
1.27.2008 9:21pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Agreed, wm13. Ask any parent weather bare buttocks (or breasts for that matter) are a sexual organ, and you'd have a clear answer unobscured by microscope-peering dictionary mavens.

I am no fan of bureaucrats, but in this case they seem way more grounded in reality than their critics.

Perhaps this is an example of some people trying so very hard to be smart that they come full circle and end up stuck on stupid?
1.27.2008 10:17pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"In the era of STDs, teenage pregnacy, and all sorts of other fun stuff, it makes some sense to argue that kids should not be exposed to sexual material when they are not capable of handling it."

I wonder how the race survived all those years when family and tribal units lived in such close proximity that there was just about no privacy.
1.27.2008 10:32pm
Scote (mail):

wm13:
Really, I find this hyperlegalism about organs, and the buttocks not being an "organ," very childish.

Then you find facts to be childish. If the FCC wants power to ban images of buttocks then they need new statute rather than definitions stretched beyond meaning.

While attempting to define "buttocks" as an organ may be very satisfying to the Pollyannaish crowd of Bowdlerizers who seem to be chiming in with support for non-fact based definitions, the law must go by rational definitions lest statues loose all meaning. We are a nation of laws, laws which must be based on fact rather than on the wishful thinking of those who wish they were different.
1.27.2008 10:38pm
Ahcuah (mail):
Regarding breasts, buttocks, and sexual organs, in Ohio, neither (female) breasts nor buttocks violate the public indecency statute, which prohibits the exposure of "private parts."

See State v. Parenteaua, 55 Ohio Misc.2d 10, 564 N.E.2d 505 (Hamilton Cty. Mun. Ct., 1990) and State v. Jetter, 74 Ohio App.3d 535, 599 N.E.2d 733 (Hamilton Cty., 1991).
1.27.2008 10:38pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
So, BruceM, you are saying that all laws against public nudity and public sex should be repealed?

WM13: Of course, absolutely. I'd like to think only pseudo-religious prudes who can't get laid would think otherwise. It's people who can't get laid who oppose public nudity and sex, because it constantly reminds them of what they can't have. So they don't want anyone else having it, either, and since they know they can't ban consensual sex in the privacy of people's homes, they try to ban it everywhere else.

While I don't want to see two people having sex outside of the Chic-Fil-A at the mall, I don't think the state should have the power to arrest and lock up and punish people who do that. But as for nudity and sex on television and in movies, even on public airways, I don't believe the government has the power to ban it. Free speech should be absolute from criminal prosecution. And by "criminal prosecution" i mean punishment by the government. The Government fining someone and calling it a "civil fine" is a load of crap, it's still a criminal charge and a criminal proceeding. Before long we'll have civil executions and civil life sentences without parole. If the government proscribes something, someone violates that proscription, and the government acts in response, it is a criminal proceeding no matter what they call it. There's no such thing as a "civil penalty" -- it's an oxymoron. But I digress....
1.27.2008 10:46pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
I'd also like to point out the FACT that no child has ever been hurt or harmed by seeing and/or listening to anything. A child might be scared by seeing/hearing something; a child might have questions after seeing/hearing something; a child might become upset after seeing/hearing something. But no child has ever nor will ever be harmed from hearing or seeing something. Never.
1.27.2008 10:53pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
It wasn't Hugh Hefner who invented the notion that breasts are sexual, or female buttocks for that matter. There's good reason for there to be a hard-wired attraction to body parts that indicate the owner thereof is a fertile member of the opposite sex.

By the way, I think "body part" is the phrase they were seeking. The other phrase they should have used is "naughty bits".
1.28.2008 12:23am
Jackson Benson (mail) (www):
Scote: You apparently didn't bother to read the thread before posting. Many people argue against the idea that your buttocks, as opposed to your anus, are excretory.

Huh? Are you talking about a thread other than this one? Zero people were making that argument, so I'm not sure what I'm supposed to have read. In any event, "excretory" in FCC-talk clearly includes the butt. Legal question closed.
1.28.2008 12:35am
Scote (mail):

Jackson Benson (mail) (www): In any event, "excretory" in FCC-talk clearly includes the butt. Legal question closed.

Interesting legal theory. Summed, it is "What ever the FCC says is legal, is legal." Never mind the constitution, statute or case law. Fortunately that isn't the way law works and I don't know why anyone who values the rule of law over the rule of man would wish otherwise.
1.28.2008 2:06am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
But no child has ever nor will ever be harmed from hearing or seeing something. Never.

A statement like this denies the very real fact that psychological damage can be just, if not more devastating, than physical harm. I'm sure you didn't think your statement through thoroughly and really just meant that no child will be harmed by seeing something as mundane as a pair of bare buttocks.
1.28.2008 12:04pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
of course the FCC didn't go nuts when Dennis Franz butt was shown on air.

Didn't practically all the characters of NYPD Blue show their butts at one time or another? So much so that it became a staple of late night monologues?
1.28.2008 12:07pm
Ken Arromdee:
The idea that because the buttocks is a sexual attractant therefore a sex organ doesn't cut it. After all, a womans smile, legs, shoulders, are all attractants. Should they be banned too?

It's not just that buttocks are sexual, it's that sexuality (or comedy based on the idea that other buttocks are sexual but the ones being shown aren't) are pretty much the only reason that anyone tries to show buttocks on TV. While legs are sexual attractants, that is not the only, or even the major, reason that media shows legs.
1.28.2008 12:42pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Fans (or detractors) of Katie Couric and Calista Flockhart might disagree.

The difference, but it hasn't been articulated, and certainly hasn't been articulated by the FCC, is what you might normally see. Not necessarily in a place of worship or in a normally conservative business environment, but you could get away with in the street in most places.
1.28.2008 1:02pm
Brian K (mail):
While legs are sexual attractants, that is not the only, or even the major, reason that media shows legs.

what would these other reasons be? and why do they not also explain showings of the butt?
1.28.2008 2:27pm
Randy R. (mail):
Ken: "While legs are sexual attractants, that is not the only, or even the major, reason that media shows legs."

Depends on when. Back in the early 30s, Claudette Colbert bared a leg to hail a passing motorist in "It Happened One Night." This was considered fairly scandalous. But even more scandalous was showing Clark Gable in a t-shirt. This apparently, was beyond the pale.

I really don't know how our parents' generation survived all that. I'm sure promiscuity increased dramatically after that movie came out.
1.28.2008 3:01pm
Randy R. (mail):
Perhaps the best solution is to allow network tv the ability to show whatever they want, and then those who don't like any buttocks or skin to show can create their own tv channel. On this channel, they could show NYPD Blue, but just clip out the offending parts. Or better yet, they can create their own tv series. Then, they can v-chip the network tv, and the kids are protected from ever hearing about sex.

This way everyone's happy.
1.28.2008 3:43pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Brian K.: Another reason for showing legs is that the owner happens to be wearing shorts, which is very normal for reasons of athletics or keeping cool.

Randy R.: Are you sure you don't have it backwards? The issue was that the dashing Clark Gable was not wearing any undershirt, which allegedly caused a precipitous drop in the sale of men's undershirts. (Snopes says it might be true, or the screen might have reflected then-changing fashions.)
1.28.2008 5:45pm
Randy R. (mail):
David: You are right. It was his NOT wearing a t-shirt. I stand corrected. But the point remains, I believe.
1.28.2008 11:10pm
David Schwartz (mail):
It's not just that buttocks are sexual, it's that sexuality (or comedy based on the idea that other buttocks are sexual but the ones being shown aren't) are pretty much the only reason that anyone tries to show buttocks on TV. While legs are sexual attractants, that is not the only, or even the major, reason that media shows legs.


So you're proposing that rule is, or should be, that you shouldn't be able to show parts of the body that others primarily show for sexual purposes?

By the way, if you haven't seen the excerpt in question, let me just say that it's the most explicit and extreme imaginable excerpt that could be characterized as the FCC characterized it. (It doesn't show anything the FCC didn't say it showed, and it shows what the FCC says it showed, but in a very close-up and graphic way.)
1.29.2008 2:14pm