…Across This Beautiful Land!

August 22, 2006 | By | 9 Replies More

The Missouri supreme court has ruled that a law banning sexually explicit billboards is–gasp!— unconstitutional.

This should come as a surprise to no one.  But of course religious groups are stunned.  They will try to appeal.  Personally, I resent all the JESUS! billboards and the propagandistic ones that declare Pornography Destroys Families, which, as over-the-top claims go is one of the richest.

My solution to this conundrum would be to ban billboards.  Period.  I hate ’em.  And maybe to some people it’s a free speech issue, but I disagree.  We have building codes, restrictions on what kind of structure you can build where, what uses you can put land to.  If something is Out There Where Everyone Can See It we have all kinds of little provisions to guarantee the neighbors won’t be offended.  Lawn art gets slapped in some areas.  Probably if you tried to paint your house purple with pink polka-dots, there’s an ordinance somewhere that says you can’t. 

I don’t hear anybody claiming such restrictions are violations of free speech. 

Other things.  In many places, public nudity, even on your own property, is controlled.  Sale of certain items–liquor, firearms, and such like–are resticted by zoning laws.

Now if there were nowhere that you could sell perfectly legal items, then there would be a problem, but that’s not the case.  Nobody says you can’t have a particular kind of business.  Just not on this block, in this section of town. 

Billboards, by definition, are public structures.  We could ban them.  The speech issue only comes in when you allow one group to have billboards but not another. 

And that’s what we have here.  Churches and so forth would RAGE if they were told they couldn’t put their message in the same medium as a car dealer or a realty company.  And rightly so.  But they think they can dictate content because they are offended by another group’s message–pornographers.  And the court said “It is a public medium and if you can take advantage of it, so can they.”

I say ban them all.  I hate billboards.  They mess up the scenery.  They are an eyesore, not for what they say but for the fact they are THERE.

Just so I don’t leave this post without saying something about content, I would really like someone to very publicly tell these prudes to put a sock in it (or take it out, depending on their particular problem).  Protecting the children my–!  I did not spend 16 to 21 years struggling to reach adulthood so I could live in a world lacking all things sexual.  I want those things.  As an adult, having earned my pass by putting up with well-meaning adults who were busy “protecting”  me, I choose to live in a sexual-saturated world.  Don’t tell me I have to do without because some parent somewhere doesn’t know how to monitor their children’s access.

For one, they really can’t, and frankly probably never could.  I got my hands on my first X-rated magazine at 13.  I’m a taxpayer, I maintain my property, I contribute to my society, I have morals.  It did not stunt me, pervert me, or otherwise cause me to be morally crippled. 

People fetishize it in their attempt to condemn it, and thereby turn it into something that their children can’t handle.  It is probably no coincidence that some of the most shocking examples of sexual deviance can be found among the profoundly repressed.

But that’s their problem.  I don’t want someone telling me I can’t buy Playboy  or even Hustler.  I don’t want someone telling me that monogamy is the only acceptable lifestyle.  I don’t want someone telling me I can’t read Lady Chatterly’s Lover  or  what have you.  I don’t want someone telling my wife she can’t have sexy lingerie or fantasize about [insert male hunk of choice]. 

I don’t want someone telling me I’m a worm who needs saving because I like recreational sex! 

But I do hate billboards.  All of them.  Even the funny ones.  Ban ’em all.

Or put up with whatever gets posted on them. 

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Category: American Culture, Communication, Consumerism, Culture, Current Events, Language, Law, Media, Religion, Reproductive Rights, Sex

About the Author ()

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

Comments (9)

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  1. Jennifer says:

    Jason, are you a caver? I'm all for getting rid of billboards too, btw.

  2. high and mighty says:

    ahhh Billboards. To quote from George Carlin, sung to the tune of "America the Beautiful"…"Oh beautiful, for smoggy skies, insectecided grain. For strip mined mountains majesty, above the asphalt plains. America, america, man sheds his waste on thee. And hides the pines, with billboards signs, from sea to oily sea"

    And again, to borrow from Mr. Carlin, he said he would rather his kids watch two people making love, than two people trying to kill one another. I agree.

    Once in a while, I have an original thought, I think. As having read much, that is doubtful, more likely that I am reprocessing anothers thoughts in my own words. So yes, I state my postition here in this post by utilizing wholesale someone elses words, but agree totally with them

  3. Deb says:

    High and Mighty,

    Just because someone has said it before doesn't mean it is not worth repeating. Some of my best thoughts are someone else's. 🙂

    I'd never heard the Carlin song, so thanks for repeating it. Everytime I see them bulldozing 100-year old trees to make way for roads and subdivisions I cringe.

  4. Jason Rayl says:

    Jennifer,

    As in spelunking? No. What, praytell, is the connection?

  5. Erika Price says:

    First, I have to applaud Jason's candor. Usually opponents to senseless censorship immediately place themselves on the defensive for fear of seeming like a crude pervert or deviant. I wish we could see this kind of honest dialogue more often. Non-abusive, concentual sexual content harms no one, corrupts no one beyond acceptable limits, and censorship of such things frequently violates freedom of speech and expression. Perhaps if we didn't have to hide sexuality as an inherrently "dirty" thing, we would have better educated teenagers in this country, and less teen pregnancy and lower STI rates.

    I err on the side of radical on this issue, as I basically oppose all censorship, except perhaps for when expression incites violence or directly harms someone in a similar way. With a little bit of exposure to currently censored things, such as sexual content and "naughty words", such content would quickly lose its sting.

    Deb, High and mighty: This ventures completely off topic, but I find the idea of recurring thoughts and statements extremely fascinating. Meme theory suggest that we can never do or think something truly original.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Jason: I think you're supposed to first answer whether you're a "caver." Only then will Jennifer tell you what it is. I'll be watching, because now I need to know if I'm a "caver" too.

    I don't know if Jennifer if from Missouri, so this might not be relevant at all, but the word "caver" reminds me of all of the billboards along Missouri Highway 44 leading to Onandaga Cave and Meramec Caverns. My kids and I counted 75 Meramec Caverns billboards between St. Louis and the highway exit to the cave, only about 100 miles away. And that's just one of the many attractions advertised on that stretch of highway.

    When I see groves of billboards I think to myself: "corporate graphitti."

  7. Jason Rayl says:

    Erich & Jennifer,

    In that case, no, I don't believe I am. Certainly not a spelunker, in any event.

  8. Jennifer says:

    Jason – In your profile photo, it looked to me like you were wearing a helmet and lamp. But then, I'm a caver myself, so maybe I was just seeing things in the hopes of meeting another one online. 😀 Oh, and there is a big difference between cavers and spelunkers: cavers rescue spelunkers.

  9. Jennifer says:

    Ahhhh… but at second glance, I see you are also wearing sunglasses which certainly aren't needed underground!

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