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Small Body Part, Big Deal

So the Supreme Court ruled last week that local governments have the right to enforce stricter laws on the attire worn by nude dancers, but only if they can prove that strip clubs have harmful "secondary effects" on a community, such as increasing crime or lowering property values.

Let me rephrase that in plainer English: The Supreme Court ruled last week that under certain debatable circumstances, local governments can make nude dancers wear g-strings and pasties instead of just g-strings.

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It's good to know that our tax dollars are finally making a profound impact on the country.

Let's face it, pornography is an institution that's not about to go flaccid anytime soon. There's too much money involved for any conservative government to abolish nudity altogether. Plus, with Internet porn here to stay, the future of smut is guaranteed to remain prosperous.

But beyond the fact that Rehnquist and Co. are wasting our time trying to kill off an indestructible industry, I think there's a deeper question here, one that's been plaguing this nation since the first Puritans hopped off the Mayflower and onto Plymouth Rock.

Why is everyone so sensitive about the nipple?

Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the public has been exposed to increasing amounts of skin on television and in magazines. But as loose as some of today's censorship standards are, the line for decency remains drawn at the bust.

Take a look at the world of entertainment today. From the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue to Lil Kim's mouth-watering outfit at the MTV Video Music Awards, models and celebrities alike are baring more and more of themselves — except for that sacred inch of milk-bearing flesh.

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"Baywatch" proudly sports numerous nipple shots in all its broadcasts. Unfortunately for the predominately male-viewing public, those nipples belong to David Hasselhoff. Here's a tricky question: What is the big difference between David's chest and Pamela Anderson Lee's? If you said "enough silicone to kill a rhinoceros," you're correct. Aesthetically speaking, David and Pam's nipples are pretty similar (and if you've ever surfed the Web, you've undoubtedly seen hers). So obviously, the FCC has a problem with showing little kids the size and curvature of women's breasts, not the nipples.

Think about it this way: Which outfit do you think is more scandalous, a pasties-only top or a T-shirt with the nipples cut out?

Sadly, the high court of this country is reinforcing the message that the latter is more lewd. Ninety percent of an exposed breast is OK, but that last 10 percent is just plain naughty. This verdict comes as a thinly veiled attempt to restore the moral fabric of this country under the guise of lowering crime rates and increasing property values around strip clubs.

There must have been some pretty asinine arguments being batted around in the Supreme Court's back rooms last week. Thankfully, the document hounds at The Daily Princetonian have obtained a copy of a test-case scenario in a newly regulated strip club that was instrumental in the high court's decision. Here's an excerpt:

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GUS: Man, these women are attractive.

BILLYBOB: Yep. And it's tasteful too. You know, Gus, I was thinking about quitting smack.

GUS: Funny you should mention it, I was thinking about getting off crystal meth. My mortgage is too high for me to finance my home and my drug addiction.

BILLYBOB: Good for you. Say, after this I was going to pick up the wife and kids and head on over to church for a midnight Mass. Wanna join?

GUS: Sounds good. Wait a minute, is she taking off those tassels?

BILLYBOB: Shield your eyes, Gus!

GUS: That's it! (Pops a pill.) Let's go loot the town!

BILLYBOB: (Shooting up) I renounce God!

Lucky for us, there are enough loopholes in the Supreme Court's decision to tie a knot around Rush Limbaugh. It still worries me, however, that six of the nine justices are taking an unusually hard stance on the already farcical rules of public nipple-bearing. Maybe it's just really cold in the high court's chambers. Oliver C. Williams is an English major from Washington, D.C. He can be reached at oliverw@princeton.edu.