The Tarnished Crown Of Miss America

This month’s Miss America pageant will bring more unwelcome publicity for Vanessa Williams, the incumbent who abdicated under duress after Penthouse magazine published her explicit, degrading sexual poses. Nearly as degrading were those who tried to exonerate Miss Williams, to somehow assign blame to the only parties who acted swiftly and responsibly during the episode, the pageant officials. What she did constituted “moral turpitude,” they concluded. Disgusted, they demanded and received her resignation.

The Penthouse publisher, Bob Guccione, tried to sell the idea that the pageant’s view of wholesomeness was dated and dusty. News commentators of all stripe saw hypocrisy in the pageant executives’ action. Did not the Penthouse poses differ only in degree from the sexual titillation of the swimsuit competition, they asked. All the objections splintered against the determination of the pageant executives to hold firm to their image of what is decent and acceptable in American life.

We congratulate them for standing fast and acting decisively. While we do not necessarily endorse swimsuit competitions, the efforts to compare them with clinically explicit lesbian sex pictures are feeble and ridiculous. There is cause for the pageant executives to consider how much they, like Guccione, use sex to sell their product, but the pornographic Penthouse is worlds away from the beauty and talent pageant in Atlantic City.

Miss Williams was exploited and perhaps lied to, yet so was Eve. There is always a price to pay for perverting God’s purposes and the beauty of his created order. Miss Williams learned the price quickly. We hope that, sometime, Bob Guccione will learn it also.


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