Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

18 May 2013

Souter and Pasties

Yesterday I went to a talk by Martha Nussbaum about religious intolerance in France and the United States. It was a nice talk, but mostly preaching to the converted about the logics and rationales for religious intolerance and how stupid they are – her particular target was the banning of the burqa in France.

And then at one point she was talking (quite hilariously) about a case in which a strip club was decided by the Supreme Court of the U.S. to contribute to violence in some area of the country because of nude women or some such business. As it happens, Justice David Souter was the only one to have made this connection in a concurring opinion for the Court.

And Nussbaum said something like "I am not sure what the difference between pasties and a g-string and full nudity really is in terms of incitement to violence. And I am not sure if Justice Souter really is the most qualified person to make that judgment."

I thought it was funny. A gay in-joke. But, actually, the whole room laughed. Are there really that many people in on the joke? Is Souter's possible homosexuality enough of a talking point that everyone in the room knew what she meant? Or did I read something into the comment that I wasn't supposed to read?

The whole thing, frankly, confused me. Especially because I was apparently laughing a little too loudly – a young woman turned around to see who was laughing behind her.