Calvin Klein is Not Responsible for Your Thoughts

June 19, 2009

My local newspaper served up another nugget of mental poop this morning, this time in the form of Erika Lassen’s column, Sexy ads limit my freedoms. The cusp is a recent Calvin Klein billboard in New York City. I assume it’s this one (described in the linked article as showing “two young men and a young woman entangled half-clothed (a male and female kissing) as a third man lays at their feet, either undressing or putting his pants back on”), although Lassen doesn’t say.

So sayeth the Brigham Young University graduate: “It was cheap pornography.” Well, actually it’s not. I’m going to go out on a limb here without researching the New York City code, but I would guess that a billboard meeting the legal definition of pornography could not have been posted or would very soon be coming down. But let’s not confuse matters with facts; it certainly didn’t stop the writer.

Proceeding from the invalid assumption that it’s pornography, Lassen writes, “An interesting thing happens when pornography is viewed. Like a leech, it clings to the brain. The image pops up in our minds at rather random, unexpected times.” Oh, really? Are you generalizing about how the populace reacts to pornography based on your own, apparently limited, experience? I’ll also venture to say that this assumption is statistically faulty. But again let’s not muddle things with actual evidence. It might undermine your thesis.

“And now I will need to force the image out whenever it springs on me,” she writes. “Calvin Klein’s freedom of speech has effectively infringed upon my freedoms.”

This is patently ridiculous. Causing something to pop into your mind at random, unexpected times is not freedom-infringing mind control, Ms. Lassen. It’s called advertising, and that experience is very much the point of it. And now you go so far as to hold Calvin Klein responsible for your thoughts? And because you are unable to control your own thoughts and/or repressed urges, Calvin Klein has infringed upon your freedom? Your freedom of what? Thought, I suppose. Just exactly where in the Constitution does it say you have freedom of thought and that a commercial retailer is responsible for preserving it?

Please, for the sake of all that is sane, take responsibility for your own thoughts. Stop blaming others for causing your thoughts to go to unexpected places at random times. If an advertiser had that much power to affect you, then good for it; such is always the effect I hope to have on people with my own creations. If seeing a sexy billboard advertisement — or even reading something — that challenges your narrow world view causes you to ponder things, then consider yourself lucky. It means you have a mind. Exercising that mind is perhaps the greatest freedom you have.