WHAT IS OBSCENE?
By Randy Ford
What is obscene? As a Christian, a writer, a human being , a man, me, WHAT IS OBSCENE is something I have wrestled with for a very long time. As a boy it was something, I struggled with when I first saw magazines of nearly naked women on a drug store news rack, took one, slipped it under my coat, and walked out of the store without paying for the magazine. I then found a place, any place, where I could look at all of the nearly naked women without getting caught. I then threw the dirty magazine away. This became a habit until I was finally caught by a drug store owner.
Then came along porn. And then looking at porn became my secret. I secretly went to porn sites on my computer for a very long time. I don’t know why I stopped. Perhaps it bored me. Still it could become a desire.
Then I became a writer and my wrestling over what is obscene continued. Today I don’t look at porn. I have no desire to.
Take my name: Randy Ford. In most places it is totally acceptable. However randy is an English word, perfectly acceptable English word meaning horny and to some people it is funny, and perhaps to some people it would be considered obscene.
A series of books my wife gave me was Thomas Cahill’s THE HINGES OF HISTORY: HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION, THE GIFTS OF THE JEWS, and SAILING THE WINE-DARK SEA. Why do the GREEKS MATTER? Why do we study them?
The books were an eye-opener for me, having what I thought was a pretty good grasp of Greek Civilization (specifically Greek Drama) and the Old Testament (I even wrote an poem-opera called Testament in which I mixed modern-day references with the old. To some degree Cahill does the same thing.) Gee, people back then celebrated their sexuality; and it was done in the open, as part of their drama and religion. Male performers were naked and some accentuated their erections; before they paraded into amphitheaters they displayed their penises on the streets in a way that some of us would classify as pornographic. (I take responsibility for this interpretation of Cahill because I am now going on memory.) References like this, about genitals and about displaying them and using them, can be found throughout the books. (The bluntness of this caught my attention in much the same way as when a fellow writer recently reduced living to “eating, sleeping, and fucking.” Throughout the ages, the vulva wasn’t left out.) This openness was one of the things that surprised me in all three books. I’m afraid this says more about me than Mr. Cahill or the Greeks or the Sumerians or even the Hebrews. Just as obscene is.
The question for me is when did the sanitizing begin. Is it just me? I seem to be drawn to those places in the books in much the same way as I once looked for and underlined the “good” passages in PEYTON PLACE or first looked for the words “fuck you” near the end of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. Everything in THE HINGES OF HISTORY series doesn’t revolve around sexuality. And though classical bluntness may to the modern ear seem crude, there was much more in the series that I had missed in my education.