Simi Valley Sophist

The Simi Valley Sophist ruminates on all manner of topics from the micro to the macro. SVS travels whatever path strikes his fancy. Encyclopedia Britannica: Sophist "Any of certain Greek lecturers, writers, and teachers in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, most of whom travelled about the Greek-speaking world giving instruction in a wide range of subjects in return ..."

Location: California, United States

Retired: 30years law enforcement-last 20 years Criminal Intelligence Detective.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Partial Nudity is Obscene, Moral Morass Exhibit Nine

Virginia Beach police decided to become the morality police before they checked with the City Attorney. Flying off the handle because a few people got their noses out-of-joint over a poster showing a bit of skin at the local Abercrombie & Fitch store, police have now pulled back from an obscenity prosecution. You’d have thought the police might have consulted with the City Attorney before issuing an obscenity citation to the store manager.

Police met with City Attorney Les Lillie Monday afternoon to screen the case. Deputy Police Chief Jim Cevera said by the end of the meeting, Lillie and police decided the displays were not technically obscene.

If they are not technically obscene, are they non-technically obscene?

Cevera said a sergeant was acting in good faith on complaints that the display ads were offensive, and that while police had probable cause to take down the pictures, they do not have enough to go forward in court.

Excuse me, but the sensitivities of the sight of skin aversive crowd does not constitute “probable cause” to confiscate private property and criminally cite a store manager.

Abercrombie & Fitch replied,

"The marketing images in question show less skin than you see any summer day at the beach. And certainly less than the plumber working on your kitchen sink. This is an incredible over reaction by city officials that would be comical except for its potentially serious legal implications. We will pursue our legal rights aggressively and fully expect to prevail." -- Tom Lennox, Vice President of Corporate Communications.

Here is Virginia Beach’s ordinance: (Code 1965, § 23-36; Ord. No. 1539, 6-24-85)

Sec. 22-31. Display of obscene materials at business establishments open to juveniles. It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly display for commercial purposes in a manner whereby juveniles may examine or peruse:

Any picture, photograph, drawing, sculpture, motion picture film or similar visual representation or image of a person or portion of the human body which depicts nudity, sexual conduct or sadomasochistic abuse and which is harmful to juveniles, or

Any book, pamphlet, magazine or printed matter, however reproduced, or sound recording which contains any matter enumerated in paragraph (1) above, or explicit and detailed verbal descriptions or narrative accounts of sexual excitement, sexual conduct or sadomasochistic abuse and which, taken as a whole, is harmful to juveniles.

The key is “harmful to juveniles.” Since the Abercrombie & Fitch posters had no sexual depictions, apparently semi-nude with no genitalia shown is harmful to children. Or, at least it was until the City Attorney called a halt to the abusive law enforcement action.

There is no doubt that plenty of citizens go into a state of near apoplexy when they observe human skin displayed in the flesh or on a poster. It can’t be helped, but perhaps we can extend a bit of pity to such tortured souls. That being said, there is no justification in an overbearing police force imposing values before legal counsel advises the presence of criminality. But hey, the police have always done so.

A better recourse is to advise the offended to not shop at Abercrombie & Fitch. That’s what I did with Urban Outfitters, Inc.

Links in the Blog:
The Latest: Va. Beach Police drop obscenity charges in Abercrombie & Fitch ads case

Urban Outfitters And Their Penis Pokey