Monday, November 28, 2005

Your Cheeks Are in the Mail

[[T O U R I S M]] * What is wrong with humans, that they insist on trying to drain every last drop of fun from their all-too-brief lives? First, we had European Union officials hoping to curb the cleavage exposure of German barmaids. Now, lawmakers in the tourist-rich Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro have decided to ban postcards featuring scantily clad women. “Showing women in skimpy outfits, usually from the rear, is a disservice to our country,” fumes Alice Tamborindeguy, the legislator who put forward this puritanical prohibition, which was signed last week by Rosinha Garotinho, the state’s “born-again” governor. “It puts us on the list of countries that encourage sex tourism.” Indeed, reports the Associated Press, “Rio’s relaxed sexual mores attract men, many of them Europeans, seeking sex with young girls or boys.”

However, the reason there’s a lucrative sex trade in Brazil’s coastal tourist capital isn’t simply due to the peddling of postcards that show callipygous lovelies in thongs or slender maidens attired for the annual Carnaval celebration in more feathers than fabric. No, that’s only the story supplied by politicians looking for a quick fix to a more complicated problem. The real explanation for Rio’s burgeoning commerce in lascivious favors is economic. As the AP helpfully points out, “Sex has become a livelihood to support poor families in a country with a minimum wage of less than U.S. $135 (€115) a month.” While most observers of this priggish new ban suspect it will have little if any effect on Rio’s international reputation (“These cards are mostly for gringos,” scoffs one Copacabana newsstand operator), it could certainly impact the lives of those impoverished Brazilians who cater to horny travelers. Rio lawmakers would do better to work on lifting their constituents’ economic conditions than fulminating about the spreading of suggestive imagery--especially when this new ban applies only to postcards, and not to the posters, billboards, and photo advertisements in men’s magazines that will continue to portray Rio as a hot bed of hot bodies.

COULD YOU JUST TURN AROUND ONCE MORE?: While Rio goes all John Ashcroft in responding to sexual realities, a lingerie store in Augusta, Maine, is seeking an entirely different sort of image, employing live models for its window displays. “Some people have complained,” the AP reports, “but police say there is nothing illegal about the lingerie models.” Thank goodness.

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