Life in Vaginaville

Somewhere in that great pile of Junos and Emmys, I hope there’s an Elephant on the Table Award for the performer who discovers something perfectly obvious during the making of a television series.

“The elephant on the table” is how communications experts describe something carefully overlooked and unmentioned but urgently important. It may sound impossible to ignore something so striking as a wild beast lounging in the middle of an ordinary room, but if the elephant is embarrassing enough, human beings can learn to do it.

Such an award, if it exists, ought to go to Samantha Bee. She’s the sweet-faced Canadian component on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart’s wildly popular half-hour news parody, which recently replaced Mike Bullard’s nightly talk show on CTV.

Toronto-born Ms. Bee stumbled onto an interesting lead: According to a professor at UCLA, makers of pornography films are not equal-opportunity employers. In fact, they discriminate against Asian men. In hot pursuit of the story, she interviewed a likely suspect, the creator of a home-video series called The Sopornos.

It was, she told the Globe and Mail, an overwhelming experience. During the interview, she struggled hard to overlook porn auditions that were going on (noisily) just down the hall, then looked up to see that the producer’s office walls were “covered with collages of vaginas.”

Surrounded by vaginas.

Thank you, Mr. Porn Producer for your unsentimental honesty. And thank you, Ms. Bee, for uncovering the unspoken subtext of television culture at the beginning of the 21st Century. Anyone willing to spend an hour surfing the World o’ Television can see the blasé brothel it’s become, pimping cheerlessly for advertising dollars, selling vaginas, inflated breasts, heterosexual, homosexual and lesbian intercourse, ladies writhing in heat around greased poles and (the more talented ones – college graduates, perhaps?) multi-tasking: squirming in the surf, rolling their eyes in abandonment and toying with the ties of their wet bikini tops.

The sex-drenched programming imposed on T.V. viewers, most of it from the U.S., is not erotic, affectionate, playful, or imaginative – it’s as subtle as a tool box. It’s an assault on women. Its goal, the workman-like, revenue-producing erection and/or male orgasm, makes it equally, perhaps more, exploitative of men.

There are signs that even men may have figured this out. Scott Feschuk of the National Post recently cast an acerbic eye on MTV and its 24-hour-a-day music videos, a beacon for legions of star-struck young viewers.

Feschuk lauded the endless and lovely young women backing up best-selling hip-hop artists for their varied and challenging roles as “Ho, Slut, Dancing Slut, Slutty Bitch, Ho-Bitch, totally Ho-like Ho, and who could forget the Ph.D. Candidate Who Turns Out to Be a Ho?” He went on to plead for funds to help these women recover from their work-related disabilities, especially RAD (Repetitive Ass Disorder), the involuntary grinding and shaking of the hips, which, as we all know, can make ordinary social life so difficult.

Feschuk’s parody is witty and relevant, but it’s too little, too late. Sex-in-poor-taste-and-for-money may have become so mainstream that Canadian taxpayers are actually subsidizing it.

Last month the Outdoor Life Network (owned in part by Bell Globemedia, proprietors of CTV and the Globe and Mail) brought Canadian viewers Red Light Districts, a travel show encouraging them to take advantage of the sex trade in Thailand, a country struggling mightily to control its child-prostitution rackets. The program featured hookers, some of them in school uniforms, and offered advice on how to use them.

Just another rancid sex show – until the “artistic acknowledgements” rolled by, featuring a tiny Canadian flag, a signal that the program enjoyed help from the Canadian film- or video-production tax-credit program.

Officials for the culpable Department of Canadian Heritage have declined to release details of their alleged support, but Roz Prober, founder of Winnipeg-based Beyond Borders, an organization that seeks tirelessly to fight the sexual exploitation of children, didn’t need them. She called immediately for “an end to the program and an apology from all parties concerned.”

It’s too soon to know whether she’ll get it. In any case, the government’s apology is not good enough. Changing the channel is not good enough.

NOW (the U.S.’s National Organization of Women) suggested recently they would consider a boycott of television shows and networks that continued to exploit women. Perhaps NAC (Canada’s National Action Committee), which represents more than 700 women’s organizations in this country, will put admittedly pressing issues of globalization on the back burner temporarily, in order to rescue us from the sordid and ever-present trash passing itself off as human sexuality on television.

Otherwise, Canadians will just have to get used to life in Vaginaville.