Normally, I'm a major First Amendment cheerleader. You want to burn a flag? Fine. You want to hold a KKK rally? What time. You want a show a blasphemous picture of the virgin Mary? Bring on the feces.
Big, big first amendment supporter. Love it. One of your best amendments.
Yesterday was when I was sitting at a computer workstation in the university library, doing my stats homework, when a middle-aged, bald dude, clearly not affiliated with the university in any way but just a member of the general unwashed public - sits down next to me and proceeds to download and watch internet porn.
I did a big-ol double take. Huh? Is this guy really watching pornographic videos in full view of dozens of people in a university library? Why?
Now let there be no confusion: this was not some student doing "porn research" for a class on human sexuality, this was a random dude off the street watching porn in the library and practically drooling on the keyboard.
I wasn't offended, per se. I was just seriously creeped and grossed out. Not by the video, I want to stress (for the purposes of my eventual argument), but by this guy. This guy was enjoying what really should have been a private moment not two feet from my person. He was getting sexually aroused by porn in my personal space.
So I went down to security and meekly asked if what this guy was doing was OK. I kind of knew the answer would be yes, since I had read something previously about porn being okayed in libraries. So yes, this guy wasn't breaking any rules. I just had to deal with it. Well, I dealt with it by moving to the other side of the room.
Folks, something is seriously wrong here. I'm not Mr. Morality Police, I'm not Mr. Prude, but I am Mr. Guy who doesn't need to see a video of someone being fellated two feet away while trying to do homework in a university library. That is just wrong!
I am no first amendment legal expert, but for God's sakes, doesn't the same logic that prevents me from walking down the street naked or having sex in public apply to this situation? If I can't actually BE publically fellated in the library, why can someone display a video of the exact same thing?
Now, I am not proposing to start slapping censorship all over society, or even the library. If someone wants to use a public library to watch porn, I don't object in the abstract. But what about my right as someone who is rightly disgusted at watching another man's shameful act of public arousal to not have to watch it?
Though I didn't confront the guy, I seriously did want to loudly shame him. I wanted to strike up a conversation in a loud street voice (that would be booming in the quiet library) and ask him if he had any shame at all. I would want to draw everyone's attention to his behavior.
Here's my modest proposal. If people want to watch porn in the library, citing their first amendment rights, fine. Watch porn. But the library should designate a secluded spot for the viewing of explicit materials. There should be a row of workstations in the corner, fully sequestered, that could be used for this purpose. If that limited supply of workstations for some reason doesn't satisfy the demand, then okay, add more. But limit the viewing of explicit material to these stations, out of the view of passersby.
That certainly should satisfy the first amendment sticklers (of which I am one) while also accomodating the needs of people who don't need to see other men stoke their own masturbatory arousal (of which I am also one). See, we're both happy.
If anyone disagrees with me, by all means, make the pervert's case. I'd love to hear what it is. But also be sure to tell me why I can't be naked in the library, and how that's consistent with your position.