Are Canadians too prudish?

27 Oct

Yesterday I was chatting with my friend Mike Boyle from the Bard and Banker and he was telling me how it was over in England when Janet Jackson’s boob popped out of her costume during the Super Bowl.

Every British paper – and not just the Sun and the Mirror, but the Guardian and the Independent too – carried photos of the exposed breast with the star decal.

Do you recall seeing that photo in Canadian newspapers? Well yes, but the star was blacked out or fuzzed away.

Is this because Canadians are too shocked to look at a naked breast? Would it horrify us? Our children? Or are we just too prurient to handle it?

Which Canada does this mentality represent?

We live in a hyper-sexualized society, as was pointed out recently in this blog post about pornographic advertising.

Yet we glorify violence and are OK with our kids consuming that.

It’s unthinkable that a fully naked human body, man’s or woman’s, would be allowed in advertising or mainstream media, no matter how de-sexed the context. But blow someone’s brains out? Eviscerate yourself? That’s fine.

We’re weird animals.

My daughter was watching Avatar recently and loved the cuddle scenes between the two blue people. But she covered her eyes during the violent parts.

Smart kid. Why do we take these naturally healthy instincts and lead them down this puritanical path?


17 Responses to “Are Canadians too prudish?”

  1. westcoastthoughts October 27, 2010 at 6:29 am #

    Teenagers today know more about sex and violence at 12 than I knew when I was 18 and I grew up with parents that read Playboy in front of us, since they see it on TV, in movies and on television and read it in newspapers and in a ever increasing amount of the internet, so their basically anesthetized to all the crap that todays society shoves at them.

    The question you should have asked. “Is sex still taboo in Canadian culture?”

  2. Kathryn October 27, 2010 at 6:30 am #

    I think the problem is that in North America the human body and especially the female human body has been way over sexualized to the point that any nudity brings with it a high amount of sexual charge which is a big problem. A vagina is as much as a normal body part as an eyeball, it’s just used for a different purpose.

    The second issue is the vilifying and fetishizing of sex itself. It seems that Canada really suffers from being too close to the States in their youth. I always feel like while Europe has these religions that classically vilify and de-normalize sex, ie. Catholicism, it has had the time to mature with it and overcome it to an extent while I find that the States is just beginning to get comfortable as a society with moving beyond those bibles and the religious texts.

    A lot of people feel really comfortable being in the dark about sex and it seems that it’s a large aspect of our lives that has really gone unexplored because North America still feels that it is dirty and wrong. This creates a really unhealthy breeding ground for terrible advertising, misogyny running wild, and a whole lot of ignorance.

    Show me a big monotheistic religion that condones violence in practice. No? Anyone?

  3. Amy October 27, 2010 at 6:53 am #

    They couldn’t even show the un-blurred or blocked-out pic of Janet’s wardrobe malfunction during late night television here in the US. It’s stoopid. Victoria’s Secret ads show about as much and they are all over tv. Except for ones with plus sized models because the big girls are overly blessed in the breast department and the average American can’t handle that much cleavage. So, plus sized models are not considered “traditionally sexy” but put them in a bra and they become way too sexy to be shown on tv and are considered borderline pornographic.
    It’s enough to make your head explode. Which they would show on tv, incidentally.

  4. dougbrowncreative October 27, 2010 at 7:21 am #

    > WestCoastThoughts, I think the question I posed is more or less the same thing. I see us becoming, as you say, more acclimatized – if not anesthetized – to violence and yet we remain all tittery about penises and breasts. It’s this queer relationship between the two that I find so compelling.

    > Kathryn, great comment. We take many of our cultural cues from our southern neighbour, especially given the saturation of their media into our society. Both cultures are in their infancy still and experience setbacks. The 60’s and 70’s were more liberal sexually. But the fact that nudity and sex get lumped together as one issue tells you how far we still have to go.

    As far as the Roman Catholic church goes though, they seem, in practice, pretty accepting of sex eh? 😉

    > They do show it on TV Amy. CSI. Exploding heads. No breasts though please. That would be obscene, unless it’s a dead body. Then naked breasts are fine.

  5. Ross G West October 27, 2010 at 7:25 am #

    …..because most naked bodies are ugly……and that is so true the older one gets…………as was once stated, “what is the best method of birth control?”……………”nudity!”

  6. Eden October 27, 2010 at 8:38 am #

    Well to be fair, Janet’s black leather S&M get-up doesn’t exactly say “Sex is a natural part of life and there’s nothing wrong with it.”

    I’ve seen lots of ads in Europe that show nudity, and it’s not always in-your-face graphic and sexual. Canada could definitely start leaning more towards the European standard instead of the often extreme American version, but we’re going to have to start a little slower than Ms Jackson did.

  7. dougbrowncreative October 27, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    > Ross, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t walk around naked.

    > Eden, you raise a good point as far as Nipplegate is concerned. This wasn’t a National Geographic special about a newly discovered tribe in Irian Jaya. She was doing the thang.

    When it comes to the influence of Europe and the US, Canadians are caught between a rock and a hard place.

  8. amy joseph October 27, 2010 at 9:14 am #

    I’m going to take a guess at answering your question, Doug.

    My thoughts are (and this is off the top of my head and before my cuppa) unleashed sexuality is very difficult to contain. People (think authorities”-ish types) fear it. And please include, as you imagine what in the world I could be talking about, a truly unbridled female sexuality rather than just traditional male sexuality. Clue: Every female becomes Messalina.

    Whereas, violence is easier and possibly more “fun” for the authorities to contain. Think army, police and other branches of the judiciary set up to deal with it. The common conception being that viewing violence discourages it more than encourages it. Whereas the common conception is the opposite for sexuality.

    Let me (ruin this blog) and take it one step further by way of an example. Male sexuality gone awry: Russell Williams. Police arrest. Long prison sentence. Done and dealt with.

    Female sexuality gone awry: Heidi Fliess? I don’t know who do take as an example because if the majority of females went the way of Messalina, these “problems” would occur behind closed doors with most potential arresting officers standing in line. (I’m so sorry I’m posting this on your lovely blog). (I’m going to have my tea now, maybe my brain will straighten itself out!)

  9. mike fromowitz October 27, 2010 at 9:25 am #

    What sex in Canadian advertising?

  10. dougbrowncreative October 27, 2010 at 9:56 am #

    > Amy, that’s a very interesting take: Sex is harder to control than violence. It should be because that’s the primary life instinct, to reproduce, and the expression of it is valued in all societies. Whereas violence has no happy outcome. It only serves the person applying it.

    (As a side issue: I am curious about your take on the line drawn between sex and violence when it comes to guys Like Russell Williams. Is it violence expressed through a psychopathic sexuality; or sexuality gone darkly berserk? Off topic, but powerful and confusing.)

    Whatever it is, it’s not really sex that underlies our dilemma here, but nudity. Janet may have been doing her thang, but she was acting. It was a performance. Her flash was inadvertent. If it was sexual, the flash would have been intended.

    > Mike, I think you got it!

  11. cyberbardbarry October 27, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    I’m sure a lot/most people are not okay with ubiquitous violence. But what can we realistically do about it, nothing much. Sadly, I think it still has an effect on society, whether I watch it or not. But Big Biz wants to push it cuz it’s captivating to some/many people, and they can sell with it. Too bad for me, impressionable kids, mentally unstable, or anyone who suffers in our increasingly-violent ‘civilized’ society (i.e. the past 50-60 years or so).

    I think it’s great for people to appreciate their own bodies, tho I actually prefer to have the option of not seeing ‘bare naked people’. There’s plenty of nudity elsewhere if you want it, Canada ain’t that prudish. And we can’t blame everything on the RC’s. I’ll be bold enough to say the unpopular, I like things the way they are. But maybe I’m a weird, twisted human being.

    Doug, overall, I think this is actually just your way of rubbing it in that you’re in balmy Victoria.

  12. dougbrowncreative October 27, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    Barry we are all naked in Victoria (weather + liberal West Coast attitude) which you wouldn’t like at all. But as you say… 🙂

  13. Lindsey Maloney Baloney October 27, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    For me the first thing that comes to mind when trying to decipher the hypocritical relationship between violence, sexuality and media in Canada (or North America), is that violence has acted as a means of negotiation or last resort in government action for many moons. People have relied on war to solve discrepancies since the beginning. To disallow violence in media would bring people to be less tolerant to the idea of violence. I think when people are more desensitized to violence through media, war becomes some what less of a shock. How would people react to the news of war if they’ve never seen violence on TV or in a movie? How could we sensor all violence in movies or on TV then turn around and blow people to kingdom come? Or perhaps to look at it a different way, people are more accepting of violence in media since war has been a familiar event in history and today.

    To answer the question of whether or not Canadians are too prudish, I would personally say yes. In fact, I had this exact discussion with my boyfriend (who’s Australian) last night. When we were watching ‘I Know what you did Last Summer’ he could not believe they were bleeping out the bad words and booby scenes, and yet showing the hook being rammed through the victims skulls (interesting you wrote this article the very next day). We attach so much more shame to nudity than any country I have ever been.

  14. dougbrowncreative October 27, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    Good point Lindsey. More nudity would desensitize us to the tittering and guffawing that Janet Jackson had to endure. But as long as we can’t get past our puerile need to equate human nudity with sex, we’re going to remain perpetually in a state of adolescence. Pass the Clearasil.

  15. Louisa October 29, 2010 at 7:34 am #

    Wow, 15 responses when you write about sex…that says something!


  16. dougbrowncreative October 29, 2010 at 7:55 am #

    Ah yes, but 33 replies when we write about zombies. So what does THAT say?

  17. December 13, 2013 at 1:21 am #

    A punkrock soundtrack seems to underscore Punch’s antiestablishment energy.

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