November 13, 2011

Maybe some things should be censored


---- — If cigarette advertisements were still allowed on television, I could explain them to my kids. People smoke them to look cool, they get addicted, they get cancer.

I can explain strand-by-strand hair replacement, athlete's foot and personal-injury lawyers.

I can explain beer commercials. Well, most beer commercials.

It's not particularly fun, but I can talk to my kids about diarrhea and constipation products. I can (but won't) explain feminine hygiene products to my boys.

I can explain gratuitous violence, political double-speak and online dating.

What I can't explain — or really would rather not — is erectile dysfunction.

I felt a little uneasy just writing the phrase in a family newspaper. So why do I have to have it flashed on my TV screen every 10 minutes when I just want to watch a simple sporting event with my children?

I understand that ED is a real and serious medical condition. Those who suffer from it should go to a physician and discuss which prescription product would best alleviate the issue. Chances are, however, that when you're watching a football game with your 9-year-old, you don't have a licensed urologist on the couch next to you to explain things.

I am not a prude. I can take any nudity, profanity and/or depravity that television throws at me and ask for more. Heck, demand more. Watching a happy Viagra couple traipse across the screen while my children are in the room, however, makes me blush.

I know these commercials are coming, especially during any sporting event, but they always somehow catch me by surprise. It's still light outside; shouldn't these things be discussed in the dark?

I usually fumble for the remote. Make a desperate lunge for the mute button. I try to change the channel before the side effects are mentioned and I face potential questions on why someone would need to seek medical attention four hours after taking that pill.

Thus far, the boys have taken the ads in stride and haven't made any awkward queries. Like all children, though, they're highly susceptible to ads. They're forever humming jingles and demanding that we buy something they just saw on a commercial.

I lay awake some nights worrying about when I'll get a call from the elementary school that my son has been singing the Cialis jingle on the playground. I wonder when Levitra will pop up on the Christmas list.

I hate censorship in all its insidious forms, and I will defend anyone's right to free speech. But much as you can't yell "fire!" in a crowded theater, you shouldn't yell "Viagra!" in a crowded elementary school classroom.

Parents are able to filter what shows their children watch. A rating system — TVG, TV14, TVMA, etc. — informs us if there's objectionable content, if something should be viewed by only mature audiences.

We are never warned about the commercial breaks, though. A family-friendly cartoon could be interrupted by a Levitra ad at any time. Or an ad for natural body enhancement products, or maybe a breakthrough treatment for the latest sexually transmitted disease.

Sure, I could stop allowing my children to watch television altogether. If enough people did that, however, our entire economy and social system would suffer catastrophic failure.

Is it too much to ask that adult-oriented products are only advertised when adults are watching?

Put the ED treatment ads on late at night. They can lead right into a Jimmy Kimmel joke. Put them on during shows that are already labeled TVMA — if you want your kids to watch, say, "American Horror Story," well, they can certainly deal with a Cialis commercial.

Surely there are television shows that non-virile men watch besides sporting events, shows that children would have no interest in. The news? Anything on PBS? Oh, how about political shows? Kids hate politics. No one under 35 would watch "Viagra's Meet the Press," and yet the sponsorship might help David Gregory's ratings.

There are already so many difficult things for parents to explain to kids. This is one I don't want to have to deal with.

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