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The tactic of destroying the meaning of words

Replied to Florida Principal Ousted Over “Pornographic” Michelangelo Sculpture by Elaine VelieElaine Velie (

Parents complained that the famous sculpture was shown to their sixth graders.

It’s a known authoritarian practice to undermine the meaning of words: in this case, applying the word pornographic to an artistic masterwork representing a biblical figure in the nude. At the same time, they are diminishing the cultural and historical value of art; art and history are threats to them that must be suppressed for their narrative to reign.

Il David is an important work to study in European art history, and frankly any curriculum that omitted it would be questionable.

Nudity is not the same as pornography.

Equating the nonsexual body with the sexual is the same line of thinking that lets them sexualize the mere existence of trans people and queer people, to transform their non-straight sexual orientation and non-cis gender orientation into sexual rapacity rather than identity. And once they are sexualized, they are easily criminalized because sex is sin.

This is the same line of thinking that forbids using language like “gay” or “vagina” — a medical term that has nevertheless been sexualized. They steal power to discuss women’s bodies in a way that is not sexual, because in their minds that is what women are for: producing babies.

Art is not pornography.

If we allow them to define art, they will eliminate it. When “pornography” doesn’t mean anything, you can claim anything you dislike is pornography. Even a world-famous statue depicting a literally biblical figure has been deemed prurient. If that won’t fly, other masterpieces like the Ecstacy of St. Teresa and Botticelli’s Venus are surely suspect. Say goodbye to the chaotic ugliness of Picasso’s Guernica, the ribald weirdness of Bosch. Art encourages cultural critique, not valued by Christian nationalists who dream of a pure society in their image, with nothing to prompt their children to question their worldview or their rightful place at the top.

They don’t wish to see anything “vulgar.” And who could argue with that? Except that they get to define vulgarity…

Nothing unpleasant.

No debate, no criticism, no rebellion.

They can and will find offense in anything and everything, and will do so without shame because the ends are all that matters: enforcing a sanitized world of hegemonic straightness, whiteness, and Christianness.

Christian nationalists are working to integrate their religious views into our public education system, government, and society. This is the same story as the book bans, just another tactic. These parent groups weaponize their righteous outrage to oust any who would dare stand up to them and refuse to enshrine their moral standards. They are a serious threat to freedom in America.

See also: Article pairing: normalize sex

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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