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Indecent Exposure

When Did Cookware and Fly-Fishing Go X-Rated?

By Sheryl Van der Leun
Sunday, November 14, 2004; Page B05

So there I was, perusing the Perfex salt grinders at my local Williams-Sonoma store, when I overheard an excited thirty-something shopper exclaim breathlessly as she walked by the $1,999 Jura-Capresso Impressa S8 Super Automatic Espresso Coffeemaker, "Oh, this is pure kitchen-porn. Get me out of here."

I understand the impulse. I wish I could find an escape, too. But suddenly, porn is everywhere. No, not the kind that shows up uninvited in your e-mail. I'm talking about the rampant metaphornication of the word itself.

All around us, innocent phrases are being corrupted by wanton use of the porn suffix. Hitherto untainted language is being flagrantly violated, willfully transformed into lusty euphemisms, lending these words an attribution they neither requested nor deserve. It seems some of us cannot express ourselves -- or at least our passions -- without resorting to porn.

You think I'm exaggerating? Not even poor Martha Stewart is safe. The day after she checked herself into prison, CNN People aired a biography that characterized her magazine, Martha Stewart Living, as "homemaker porn. Essentially, it's aspiring to a lifestyle that you can't have. . . . It's a fantasy world."

Or how about this one? "Porn for fly-fishers," quips the table of contents in the July 2004 issue of Men's Journal, the magazine that carries the slogan "Live the Interesting Life" under its nameplate.

If that doesn't hook male readers, what will? Well, more of the same, apparently. The article in question (a review of a book on -- no kidding -- fly-fishing) goes on to describe "Fifty Places to Fly Fish Before You Die" as "bare-naked fishing porn." But then, the reviewer was only following the book's lead. As the foreword notes: "For fly-fishermen this collection of 50 renowned honey-holes is, to say the least, arousing."

You'd think a technology Web site might resist temptation, but you'd be wrong. Digital Living Today described a British gadget magazine as "pure techno-porn."

The deeper I looked into it, the more shocking were the transgressions. The Web site Robot Porn bills itself as "the Internet's premiere site for HOT and SHINY pics of all your favorite well-oiled robots, droids, and cyborgs of yesteryear."

Perhaps it's no surprise that the most blatant examples come from the world of food. No, I'm not talking about Jamie "The Naked Chef" Oliver or Nigella "Nigella Bites" Lawson, but www.foodporn.com, which carries this disclaimer: "All your delicious dreams, delightful desires, and forbidden fantasies will be filled here at FoodPorn.com. This page contains food-oriented graphics. If you are under legal eating age, are offended by food, or if it is illegal to view or consume food in your community, please leave now."

The site offers a wealth of tantalizing categories so foodies of every perversion can satisfy their own desires: Amateur, Asian, Barely Legal, Celebrities, Hardcore, Lebanese, Movies, Photos, Self-pleasuring, Table Dance, and, of course, Toys.

It's a quick click from edible obsessions to prime-time pandering. PBS, CBS, Fox and other media outlets have all used the same lame pun to promote news segments on the mainstreaming of pornography in America: "Porn in the USA." Not even the Boss and his signature song are exempt from this trend. Now that's obscene.

But the utter depravation of it hit home the other day when my husband brought in the mail.

"Honey, your reader-porn is here," he said, handing me the latest Levenger's catalogue, which offers "Tools for the Serious Reader."

Sigh. Can't we just really, really like something without turning it into a carnal obsession? Can't we keep porn -- and I mean porn-porn, not gadget-porn or vegan-porn (yes, there is such a site) -- where it belongs, behind the green door and away from the innocent objects and activities of everyday life?

How do we get back to pornsanity? It's simple. If you're tempted by the easy metaphor, take a cold shower, go back to the keyboard and try to come up with something fresh.

If that doesn't work, try abstinence. It's the only decent thing to do.

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Sheryl Van der Leun is a freelance writer who watches her language in Laguna Beach, Calif.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company