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Editor’s note to parents: The following column deals with mature subject matter.
The recent Federal Communications Commission crackdown on indecency has exposed the paradox at the very heart of radio: On the one hand, radio is all about free speech. On the other hand, speech these days is not free unless it’s entertaining.
Radio is free because amusing hosts draw audiences whom advertisers want to reach. As hosts’ tongues become more constricted for fear of having to sell a kidney in order to pay off huge fines, the fear is that radio will become less compelling because it will be less entertaining.
So here’s the mother of all broadcasting questions: Is there a way simultaneously protect the airwaves from becoming more coarse and crude without having to invoke censorship and provoke an erosion of First Amendment rights? Can we inspire hosts to entertain their audiences with something other than amply-bosomed lesbians without the FCC threatening them in order to ensure their compliance?
Here I propose an organic solution to the eternal war between ratings and responsibility: vastly increase the number of female listeners to shows that are traditionally skewed toward men.
Let me explain.
America is a great country because it involves a system of checks and balances. While other countries historically concentrated all the power in the hands of one individual, say a king – which in turn lead to oppression and tyranny – America established a strong executive whose power was moderated by the legislature and judiciary.
In nature, God set up the same system of checks and balances. It’s called men and women. Men are powerful, aggressive, sexual and goal-oriented. Women are influential, nurturing, sensual and means-oriented. Women are the ideal male counterpart because they are the perfect masculine compliment. Women soften male aggression by domesticating hunter-gatherers and turning them into husbands and fathers. Women temper the masculine instinct for sexual variety by inspiring within men an appreciation for love, romance and erotic attachment.
A lot of men think it’s real cool to go out and fight unnecessary wars (unlike Iraq) wherein you come back without an arm, but with a chest filled with medals. But women give men a reason to live rather than die, and thereby inspire within them a desire to seek peace rather than seek false honor. Notice that murderous societies like Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia never have any women in positions of authority, there being nobody to mitigate the masculine violent streak.
The tragedy of Islam as a once-great world religion that has now become synonymous with bloodletting follows in the same vein: They have so subjugated women that there is no authoritative feminine voice to blunt the belief that blowing up innocents is virtuous.
To be sure, male aggression is not a bad thing. We need raw masculinity to clear forests, drain swamps and build cities and civilizations. We need brute masculine strength to fight the Saddams of this world and defend liberty and democracy. But all of this comes with the all-important caveat that it must be softened by the nurturing feminine.
So what does all this have to do with radio? The more women listen to male-oriented radio, the more refined the hosts will be. Studies show that men behave differently around women.
Go to a British soccer game and you run the risk of being trampled to death by the usual army of intoxicated sots. And why are they such embarrassing brutes? Search the stands the next time you watch British football on television and you will scarcely ever find a single woman (assuming you can stay awake for the predictable nil-nil final score, international soccer being the one exception to the rule that men are goal-oriented).
American football fans are slightly better, and your only real risk in attending, say, a Jets game, is having your eardrums burst by earthquake-like burps from bare-chested brutes on a Heineken drip.
Where are male fans the best behaved? At basketball games, because they attract the largest percentage of female fans. Men are simply more civilized around women.
Flatulence jokes are common among men who can think of nothing funnier than passing gas around each other and guessing “whoever smelt it dealt it.” But when’s the last time a man walked over to an attractive woman at a bar and asked her to “pull my finger”? And the proverbial husband who nightly visits websites like “Stephanie and her Stallion” is far less likely to be salivating over porn if his wife is in the room (especially if she is carrying a shotgun).
The idea of women naturally refining male behavior is as old as romantic love itself, with Eleanor of Aquitaine, the mother of Richard the Lionheart, inventing “courtly love” in medieval Provence. The underlying premise was that a man had to spend his life refining his character and performing acts of virtue in order to become worthy of the unattainable damsel.
The modern application of this ancient idea is the highly-popular TV show, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” whose premise is that heterosexual men are coarse savages who need their chest and back hair (wait, isn’t that a rug?) waxed. Unlettered in stylishness, unschooled in being gentlemen, they need to be rescued from their bad-mannered boorishness by the more feminine guys they used to give wedgies to in the locker room.
But radio need not copy television. It can circumvent the gay filter and go directly to the source, using women to refine naughty radio hosts. The solution to the increasing vulgarity of our shock jocks is “Female Ears for Low-Rating Fears.” If ruffian-oriented radio programmers began to focus on winning greater market share – not by descending to the lowest common male denominator, but by instead bringing in many more women – then they will experience the best of both worlds: greater market share and more refined subject matter on the part of their hosts.
This is especially true of highly talented hosts like Howard Stern. To be sure, Howard is known for raunchiness. But if he had an equal number of female listeners as male, he might drop some of his more obnoxious activities and further develop his extremely engaging interview style – and no one knows how to get people to open up like Howard! Even in a Howard Stern there is an underlying gentleman. So why shouldn’t he go back to those roots and attract a huge number of female listeners for whom fidelity rather than faithlessness is a turn-on?
Besides, most of the shock jocks who have recently been fined are listened to not for their crassness but for their sense of humor. All they need now is a powerful incentive to be funny in areas other than the carnal. And not losing, say, half your audience is a powerful incentive indeed.