I read an interesting article over at Umlud’s Place about a WWII-era ad that today would unquestionably be considered pretty damn homoerotic. Seriously, look at this.
Head over to Umlud’s to get the full copy. What’s interesting about it is that it and the whole campaign was based on actual stories from members of the military.
The thing is, I have absolutely no problem believing that a bunch of Army doctors would strip down and go frolicking together with nothing but a length of flimsy rope netting between them and a bunch of hungry crocodiles. And I also could even believe that they could do this without a hint of embarrassment or even any feelings beyond a desire for a quality towel to dry off with when they got out.
And the thing is, consumers at the time would have been in the same boat. Imagine if this ad came out today. One Million Moms would freak out and accuse the company of trying to normalize “homosexual behavior” and call for a boycott that will get less attention than even this little blog. Preachers around the country would claim that god was lifting his hand of protection from a country that abides sinful rags. Late night talk shows would make jokes about gay towels touching soldiers’ asses. Somebody would discuss Satan’s Linens. Republican politicians would claim they only ever dry off with Martha Stewart products.
At one point this sort of ad was normal because we hadn’t made nudity or same sex, non-sexual play taboo. However, the defenders of morality have made us afraid of our own bodies and interactions to the point that we are less progressive on this point than our grandparents.
The problem is not and has never been that we are desensitized to nudity. If anything, we are more sensitive than we used to be. The more people try to clamp down on this sort of expression, the worse perceptions of it will be. The solution is instead to return a sense of normality to human interactions and loosen the stigma we place on nudity and same sex play.