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Perspectives

Chris Jepson

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I remember the first time I ever saw a Playboy centerfold. It was the classic Marilyn Monroe (red background) pose from 1953. It was hanging on an exterior wall of a meat locker. I kid you not. I was 7 years old and I was accompanying my father to pick up mink food. My father was a lawyer-cum-mink rancher and the year was 1956.

Twice a month, we’d drive across Woodbury County, Iowa, to Jensen’s mink farm and load up my father’s rust bucket of a 1948 purple Studebaker truck (running boards no less) with enough 50-pound chunks of frozen tripe to feed 2,000 mink for two weeks. Dad loved music, and I’m sure we were listening to something on the radio like the still melodic “Wayward Wind” by Cogi Grant. If something zippy came on, Dad would make popping noises with his mouth while rhythmically rapping his knuckles on the metal dashboard, or he’d repeatedly trail his fingernails across the grill that fronted the radio. He was great fun, larger than life and this was before I’d mix his whiskey cokes on the return drive.

The men would go off and look at Jensen’s mink or talk about pelt prices in New York. Mink ranches are a rich amalgam of odors. You’ve the mink waste itself that, depending on the time of year, can be bearable or unbelievable. But even more richly fragrant is the mink food. My dad’s recipe was a mixture of tripe, liver, ground turkey heads, Purina Mink Chow, cooked eggs and anything else the packinghouse had on special that couldn’t be made into hot dogs.

I recall that one particular summer day standing at the entrance to Jensen’s processing room and looking up at the photo of Marilyn and fixating on her … um … nudity. Wondering. I grew up in a home where Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar were common coffee table fare. Women and clothing (fashion) I understood —they were within my universe of comprehension. An out-and-out naked woman was something else. And posted on public display no less. Naked! Oh my.

In walked the men and I averted my attention elsewhere. I couldn’t just stand there and gawk, which is what I wanted to do. They didn’t even cast a casual glance at the naked Marilyn. They were ho-hum, conducted their business, loaded the truck and we were gone.

For several years thereafter, just thinking about the naked Marilyn fueled my desire to make the trip to Jensen’s. Alas, over time, flies speckled the photo until one trip she was gone. I was disappointed. Yet the image remained vivid.

What prompted this memory of my first exposure to “blatant” sexuality was a recent NPR discussion on how “overexposed” we all now are to pornography. And what the ramifications are for our children and culture.

We know this is an accurate assessment of our culture. For the first time in history, what can be imagined is available for viewing somewhere (anywhere). Not only that, human sexuality is the universal marketing tool for virtually any lifestyle choice or selection. Sex goes with anything. Make that a Danish, a latte with soy milk and …

Humans are quickly bored. What once intrigued may soon produce yawns.

Oh, that?! How about just a little suggestion of violence?

It’s a slippery slope. Ho-hum.