Born Again v. Porn Again

If you like a hefty side order of controversial inferences with your statistical entrée, the recent Tiger Bay Club of Tampa luncheon was the place to be. A generous helping of “crimes related to nude entertainment” fare was served up by family-values advocate/ reformed pornography addict David Caton.

To wit: In 2001, the forcible rape rate for the city of Tampa was 68.10 per 100,000 residents. By way of comparison, the figure for the Miami/Dade County metropolitan statistical area was 36.5; the West Palm Beach MSA, 42.4; the Jacksonville MSA, 35.4; and the Orlando MSA 41.50. The statewide average is 40.50. You needn’t be an anti-porn crusader to find Tampa’s numbers unsettling.

These Florida Department of Law Enforcement statistics were passed along by Caton to underpin his point that crimes related to nude entertainment correlate to the sheer number of businesses featuring totally nude women. Those numbers show Tampa, still America’s Mecca for lap dancing, topping out at 69 — as opposed to Miami, 18; West Palm Beach, 8; Jacksonville, 2; and Orlando, 0.

Ergo: syllogism.

By Caton’s calculations, the relationship of nude businesses to crimes such as forcible rape and domestic violence is causal because it can’t be coincidental. As to variables in populations and methods of data collection — incidental. And what to make of Miami’s nude beach and legions of scantily clad, hard-bodied models and actress wannabes?

Caton was formally rebutted by adult-club owner Joe Redner, who is wealthy — but not “obscenely” so — because a lot of guys like looking at come-hither, naked women. Always have. Redner had his boilerplate presentation that included references ranging from the Nixon-era commission on pornography to liberating studies out of Copenhagen.

He dismissed Caton’s case as “faith beyond reason,” adding that Caton “is looking for secular reasons for his biblical beliefs.” He said Caton believes that “sex causes anti-social behavior or else he believes that sex is anti-social behavior.

“It’s the repression of sex in our society that actually causes sex crimes,” declared Redner, who urged treatment for “obsessive-compulsive behavior” rather than redress through, say, legislation.

“Do you think my business could operate for a minute if we really caused rape, and David could prove it?” rhetorically asked Redner. And for those who like their wit with a wince, he noted that “provable sex crimes” were more the province of the Catholic Church than adult clubs.

And, no, he isn’t a de facto pimp, Redner replied to a question he’s heard before. “I’m making money off of someone else’s labor, and that’s capitalism,” he said. “My dancers make more money than most of you in this room.”

Redner speaks with the confidence, sarcasm and arrogance of one who has the U.S. Supreme Court for an ally. Through the years the Supremes have protected nudity under the immodest cloak of free speech. Case law has long allowed cities to regulate such “speech” — but not ban it. Redner, often with an attorney in tow, is to the First Amendment what the semi-automatic element of the gun lobby is to the Second Amendment.

Maybe we shouldn’t expect the founding fathers, some of whom were no Puritans, to have anticipated a Mons Venus any more than a spree killer. But here we are — still.

Only now we have the county considering a law that would ban public nudity, however defined — with major ramifications for adult clubs — looming. Caton is a prime mover in that effort. Any ordinance action, however, would be preceded by a nonbinding referendum in the 2004 election. County commissioners could then, in effect, take their cues from the voters.

“More than the ordinance, we need the will of the people to be expressed to law enforcement,” maintained Caton, whose remarks were sprinkled with “God’s grace” references. “I’m not going to ignore the data.”

Neither is he going to back down, he stressed, no matter how much his family-values agenda is ridiculed or reviled. No matter how often his statistical extrapolations are compared to uranium intelligence out of Niger.

“This is a quality-of-life issue,” underscored Caton. “It’s about the public safety of women in this county.”

The attendant issues, of course, are the usual: legalities, priorities and costs. And they likely will play as a continuous loop for the next year.

And the most outspoken advocates — the born again and the porn again — will remain all too familiar as well.

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