Culture of obscene expanding

How much is too much? This is an inquiry we reserve for only a few key decisions, like the number of credits to pile on for a semester. It rarely comes to mind in the midst of ordering fast food, during a lengthy rant about your hatred for your boss or when letting loose to celebrate a milestone birthday. But it seems as if not asking this question of ourselves often enough has rendered us all poor judges of that crucial line between the appropriate and the inappropriate.

I will admit, of course, that I suffer the same delusions as everyone. It is undoubtedly difficult to urge yourself to stop and reflect on the propriety of your behavior or the impact of your decisions. But, at the same time, I find myself unable to resist the need to laugh or criticize when I recognize the fatal flaw in others. Take for instance, the International Pole Dancing Fitness Association.

The association petitioned the International Olympics Committee to recognize pole dancing as a sport and consider it as a new event for the 2012 Games. Certainly, it is necessary to have dreams, but have we lost the ability to gauge realistic aspirations from hopeless notions?

It is true that the taboos associated with pole dancing are slowly slipping away. Wendy Traskos, co-founder of the U.S. Pole Dance Federation, sees an achievement in the fact that pole dancing is no longer simply the mark of a stripper and that it is now a being taught in gyms throughout the United States. Yet, it would require a huge leap to accept this lessening stigma as a sign that pole dancing is ready to take its rightful place among the most competitive sports with the greatest athletes in the world.

Not to discount the strength that it may require to perform as a pole dancer, but let me remind you that pole dancing is not the only sport or sport-like activity which does not have a place within the Olympics. Baseball, bowling, ballroom dancing, roller sports, surfing and water skiing are simply a few sports excluded from the Games.

Pole dancing is at the end of a long line of other sports hoping to someday be considered for the honor of Olympic recognition — and chess has been waiting quite some time. In an interview with MSNBC, Finnish pole dancing teacher, Iina Laatikainen likened pole dancing to "what skateboarding used to be for men back in the day." Unfortunately for Laatikainen, even skateboarding has yet to be accepted as an Olympic event, and it is possible it never will. 

Maybe it would be wrong to discredit the International Pole Dancing Fitness Association for dreaming too big. But this growing inability among people to draw the line between the acceptable and unacceptable does not always lead to something as harmless as an overly ambitious petition.

We are constantly relaxing the boundaries between the appropriate and uncouth to allow greater exposure of cleavage and more justifications for infidelity to be accepted as part of our mainstream values. By extending this line so far and so fast, it becomes much more difficult to pinpoint exactly when it gets crossed.

With the uproar that surrounded video games like Grand Theft Auto, one might expect that the gaming world would not dare venture beyond car theft, prostitution and shootouts with the police. Yet, we face a completely new level of impropriety with the growing popularity of Japanese hentai games. While not available for Xbox, PlayStation or Wii — at least, not yet — hentai games like "RapeLay" often share the primary objective of rape. Once sold in Japan, the games became digitized and widely available for download across the Internet. 

If you can justify sickening levels of gore in shoot 'em up video games on the basis that it serves as a stress reducer and an alternative to physical violence, I suppose the same might be said about Japanese hentai games — I certainly would not agree with it. But if we are seriously discussing the emotional benefits of mass-marketing digital, recreational rape, then where is the line, and have we crossed it already?

In one case it is sad, and in the other it is sickening, but it seems as if the use of all self-imposed checks and balances is dissolving. While it is not wrong to value those who push the envelope, expression and creativity might benefit from some well-established internal boundaries. Just because Japan has not yet outlawed virtual rape, somebody along the line of design, production or retail should have recognized it was simply going too far.

Of course, pole dancing in no way compares with virtual rape. Yet in each case, we see the blurring lines between the innovative and the absurd. Call me crazy or too much of a conventionalist, but this lack of realistic limits makes me squirm. My brother, on the other hand, did not take an issue with the attempt to have pole dancing named as an Olympic event. In fact, he did not even seem to find it as comical as I did. His greatest concern was whether it would be deemed a summer or winter sport.

Larissa Klein is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in English and art history. Her column "Definition of Insanity" runs on alternate Mondays.

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