The officer was about to call it quits right there, when I pointed out a certain inconsistency in his
censoring criteria. He was removing from the exhibit all images of gay white males enjoying
their abominable erotic sports, but leaving in the San Francisco AIDS poster with its comparably
racy image of a gay black male kissing same while being hoisted up over a latex-sheathed
erection and carried off to bliss. Were Negroids to be left on display to 'prove' their insatiable
'r'-hood? Rushtonian racism seemed to be working its old black magic on the officer's soul at a
deeper level than the compulsive charms of homophobia. When I pointed this out to him, he
queried my reading of the poster. That was not an erection, he insisted. It was a large thumb. I
asked him why a large thumb would have a condom on it with a receptacle tip. He told me not to
make a scene. The poster was removed.
When I asked him why a West German photo-poster featuring a nude woman in an attitude of
erotic abandon was permitted to stay in the show, he refused to acknowledge that male
chauvinism was affecting his moral judgement. I was left to reflect on the invincibility of the
objectifying heterosexual male gaze in the policed foyers of our culture.
All my efforts to convince the officer that 'Reading the AIDS Crisis' was not a stimulus for
opportunistic Lust of the Eyes but an educational exhibit in a manifestly educational context were
in vain, of course, for my merely academic knowledge of the prejudices mobilized around AIDS
was no match for the actual power-knowledge of the London Thought Police. External
censorship in this instance served to enforce a Manichean opposition between public and private
spaces. The officer simply dismissed my claim that the foyer of a university library was a private
place (by comparison, say, with the foyer of a public library). The Weldon foyer had to be a
public place because he declared it to be so, and his declaration had the transformative effect of a
magic spell in the force-field around the Criminal Code. The four censored posters, I was told,
could be displayed 'in private' without fear of police intervention. It was only 'in public' that
they violated community standards of decency and became obscene, from which I deduced the
second law of ritual censorship: OBSCENITY IS RELATIVE TO POINT OF OBSERVATION.
The third unwritten law concerns the segregating function of ritual censorship: ANY
TOLERANT-SOUNDING BINARISM (SUCH AS PUBLIC VERSUS PRIVATE) MAY BE
USED TO JUSTIFY AND CONCEAL THE INTOLERANT DISCRIMINATIONS
DEMANDED BY OTHER UNARTICULATED BINARISMS.
Judging from the Weldon censorship, which was not challenged in court by the library staff or
the university administration, I have no doubt that the safe public / private distinction reflexively
covers for the scandalous homo / hetero dichotomy. Into the shadowy closet-realm of the Private
go offensive images of men's private parts and those men who like them, while out in the broad
daylight of the Public appear uncensored ads for the straight delights.
If I hadn't intervened for consistency's sake, the Weldon censor would have practiced Aparth-
AIDS along racist lines by keeping black man-to-man sex before the public eye - as a dramatic
confirmation, no doubt, of conservative Anglo suspicions about the length of Negroid thumbs.
James Miller. (1992). Aparth-AIDS:
Racism, Rushton, and Ritual Censorship.
Descant 76/7, V. 23:1/2, p. 39 - 44.