The buttocks as "sexual organs" once again

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Back in January I discussed the claim by the Federal Communications Commission that the buttocks are a "sexual or excretory organ". To my amazement and dismay, this nonsense continues. The matter has now reached the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Here is ABC's brief and here is the FCC's response.

I don't find the FCC's response at all persuasive. It consists in large part of the claim that in the rule the phrase "sexual or excretory organs" should be interpreted as meaning what they want it to mean, as "body parts whose public display is deemed offensive by prudish people" rather than as what it actually says. It will be interesting to see what the Court makes of it.


  1. Will Keats-Osborn said,

    November 22, 2008 @ 1:28 am

    If the FCC ever intended for the phrase "sexual or excretory organs" to be interpreted literally, they would be fining stations every day for showing people's skin. Presumably it was just thrown in there to cover the ass, so to speak.

  2. Will Keats-Osborn said,

    November 22, 2008 @ 1:29 am

    Whoops, I mean the "excretory organs" part.

  3. kuri said,

    November 22, 2008 @ 5:08 am

    They should just change the language from "sexual or excretory organs" to "the naughty bits." That would solve everything!

  4. Vinaigrette Girl said,

    November 22, 2008 @ 7:21 am

    Given that the skin of one's buttocks is an excretory organ in itself, I hope that buttocks do not function in that way; all I learned about the functions of the lower intestine and anus will have to be set aside.

    The biggest sexual organ is the brain.

    However, I am not sure that 'prudishness' is really apposite here, either. The world need not be constructed as [exhibitionists] – versus – [people how just want to get on with their lives].

  5. Rob Perez said,

    November 22, 2008 @ 10:35 am

    Second Circuit, not Second District. While some states have appeals courts that pertain to particular districts, the Federal system does not. It's easy to make a minor mistake when you're not an expert in the technical jargon of a particular field. Perhaps the language log bloggers could be so kind as to forgive such errors from non-linguist writers.

  6. Jeremy Cherfas said,

    November 22, 2008 @ 1:15 pm

    Touché. (If one can say that when not directly involved.)

  7. jonnifer said,

    November 22, 2008 @ 2:43 pm

    If sexual organs means strictly those organs that are used in sexual reproduction then ovaries are out but breasts are ok. It must have been a typo. They meant to say "sexy parts."

  8. Huntington said,

    November 22, 2008 @ 9:28 pm

    Now, it's true that the buttocks aren't an organ, but I'm not convinced that "sexual organs" means "organs used in human reproduction". Who says "having sex"="reproduction", even when it's just attempted reproduction?

  9. Will Keats-Osborn said,

    November 22, 2008 @ 10:45 pm

    If you interpret "sexual organs" to mean "organs that are sexual in practice," you'd have to add a lot more than just the ass. I posted about this here if you're interested.

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