Another unpublished Letter to the Editor (27 April 2006):

TAK BOLEH BOGEL (NO NUDITY) IN MALAYSIA!


It’s been ages since I felt moved to write a letter to The Editor. The urge to air my views in print has been building up since the Nude Squat furore erupted (seems like the only “legitimate” way you can see people naked is to arrest them first). City Hall’s declared intention to penalise folks caught smooching or even holding hands in public was irksome news to me (some of my fondest memories involve exactly that). But the final straw was the email I received announcing that free screenings of international films organised by Kaki Kino at FINAS have been suspended till further notice, after a shrill complaint about uncensored “babak lucah” (nude scenes) appeared in a leading Malay daily.

Imagine a lush lagoon, festooned with giant ferns and flirtatious mermaids. A man and a woman, both well-tanned, are strolling hand-in-hand along the sandy shore, gloriously naked. Is that not a veritable vision of paradise? Granted, the couple could also be modelling chic beachwear by Jean-Paul Gaultier (but that would be too much like a glossy magazine ad).

Now imagine a fast-motion sequence showing Tokyo commuters at rush hour – all respectably dressed in office apparel and suffering from gastritis. Or a slow-motion montage of KL traffic after a heavy afternoon downpour. Cut to the gory aftermath of a car bomb attack in Baghdad and then crossfade to a wide-angle closeup of an American-made Israeli bulldozer, demolishing a Palestinian neighbourhood, as terrified women clutch babies to their hearts and wail in despair. Hellish scenes, for sure – but they would get past the censors, no problem.

Why is this so? Are we being indoctrinated to perceive pain as okay and pleasure as not? Is it any wonder that crime reports are getting more gruesome by the day? Maybe it’s time to reassess what sort of messages we’re being programmed with.

There’s no way I can conceive of a kiss or a hug, regardless of who’s doing it and where, as being indecent or offensive. These are signs of love and affection. Are these warm feelings WRONG? Folks who react negatively to romance and sex were probably deprived of cuddles as kids. They’re likely to inflict corporal punishment on their own children as a matter of routine. Those who express alarm and outrage at the sight of female nipples are undoubtedly some inorganic lifeform in human disguise that never experienced the life-sustaining comfort and nourishment of mother’s milk. How do you think a baby would react to seeing a bare breast or two on the screen? Lodge a self-righteous report with the religious police... or gurgle with happiness?

All it takes is a bit of common sense and reason. There’s nothing shameful about our bodies. Fat or sinewy, hairy or baby-smooth, the body is our sovereign domain, our physical home. Naked or adorned with sparkling gems, bodies are magnificent by divine design. Everybody loves being naked. In the bathroom or the bedroom, being naked means you’re enjoying a hot shower or some hot sex. Or maybe you’re just relishing a good poop or your private space after a marathon immersion in public affairs. What’s so scandalous about that?

We live in the hot and humid tropics. The sort of place where clothing is merely a fashionable option. You won’t find too many nudist colonies in Alaska or Tibet. Arab women have traditionally had to cover up to protect themselves from desert sandstorms, camel farts (possibly radioactive since Gulf Wars I and II) and temperature extremes. Were it not for fear of their control-freak husbands, don’t you think they would celebrate being in their own skins if they were magically transported to a balmy beach in the South Seas? Talk about “inappropriate attire”... being wrapped in thick cloth from head to toe on a sweltering day in the city sounds like a portable sauna to me. But to each his or her own - I’m happy in my sarong and flip-flops.

I have to be honest with myself. I love looking at beauty, and women are embodiments of the Great Goddess, deserving of admiration, love and respect. If a naked woman walked past me in the street, I would certainly turn my head for a second look. And I’d feel absolutely no guilt or shame about doing so. Nor would I - uncontrollably overcome by animal lust - drag her by the hair off to my cave and show her my etchings. Unless, of course, she handed me a perfumed note with precisely such a request. Even so, I’d rather she walk back to my cave on her own two feet than drag her all the way. I have a different concept of exercise.

Immaturity has its place, I grant that. However, let it not be exalted as the arbiter of our behaviour and our moral code. There’s no immorality in portraying the human form in various stages of dress or undress in the adult cinema. What’s truly immoral is imposing on others our own limitations and limiting beliefs. Do we really value the grotesque hypocrisy censorship encourages? Are we to blinker our cinematic vision (like the proverbial katak under a tempurung) in a knee-jerk reaction to the poisonous outpourings of a pusillanimous prude?

Sincerely,
Antares
Kuala Kubu Baru
27 April 2006


An Open Letter to Akmal Abdullah,
deputy editor of Berita Harian

29 July 2006


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