Look, but Don't Touch!

Look, but Don't Touch!

Look, but don't touch! Kind of an odd directive coming from a porn business, where we encourage looking that encourages touching (either oneself or if you are lucky, someone else).


No, I'm thinking instead of the recent incident that occurred in a museum in Florence. Yes, Florence, the place where the iconic (and gay iconic) statue of David is on display. 


The Daily Mail reported that Patrick Broderick, a 55-year-old emergency room doctor from New Fairfield, Conn., was attempting to compare his finger with the one on a marble sculpture of the Virgin Mary at the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence when the statue's finger broke off. 


Broken Statue Finger

Security guards say they spotted Broderick touching the priceless statue, believed to be from the 14th or 15th century, but were unable to stop him. 

Broderick, who was visiting Florence with his wife and two children, was arrested, taken into custody for questioning and then released, the Daily Mail said. 

“In a globalized world like ours, the fundamental rules for visiting a museum have been forgotten," museum head Timothy Verdon said to MSN UK. "That is, ‘Do not touch the works.’” 

I find this incident appalling, because it exemplifies what I find to be the increasing lack of civility occurring in the world that Verdon pointed out. I am glad Verdon made the connection. What I find even more disturbing is that it's fairly easy to accuse the young (I call them the social media/earbuds generation) of being rude and lacking in empathy, a product of what Jean Twenge the “I am special and thus rules don't apply to me culture” in her book, The Narcissism Epidemic

No, the disturbing fact is that the perpetrator is a highly educated individual of a certain age in a highly respected profession, in fact, he might even be considered one of the privileged elite. But that's where the connection with Twenge's premise comes into play. Whether Broderick consciously thought that he was so special because he is a doctor that the rules didn't apply to him before he decided to touch, not look, at the statue, or even if he did (allowing for some benefit of the doubt), I do wonder. I think he saw the statue as a vehicle to make himself look better than it (my hand is bigger than your hand). He failed to respect the piece as an object, an “other” in its own right, as a priceless creation of beauty and devotion by a talented artist. 

Another tie-in of this incident to what Twenge claims is that often the children of the privileged inherit the sense of entitlement from their elders (like Broderick). The young think they are rebelling against old systems and their flaws, but too often they end up inheriting and even magnifying the same problems. 


Richard Wagner by Sebastian Kruger

In retrospect, we've allowed some license for genuinely talented people, the “artists,” to break rules (the great opera composer Richard Wagner was a notable case, a highly offensive person all-around, and not just the anti-Semitism), but now it seems like everyone, talent or no talent, seems to think, like Neely O'Hara in Valley of the Dolls,  "I'm not everyone! I don't have to live by stinking rules set down for ordinary people!” (We know what happened to Neely. Watch the end of the movie.) 


Neely O'Hara in Valley of the Dolls

And what's even more ironic is that a social space where supposedly people can safely break “ordinary people” taboos (like artists often do) and shift and transform conventional social boundaries, the BDSM community, rules of safety and civility apply, and depending on the group, strict ones. Some of the basic ones include not intruding in on a scene without the top's consent (again, look, but don't touch!), forcing a bottom into something nonconsensual, or having unsafe sex. 

I heard the finger can be repaired. Thank goodness. 

And I think Broderick shouldn't get off by just saying sorry. Too many people seem to think that an apology makes it alright (for a two-year-old, yes, but not for a supposedly mature adult). 

There's more to this incident then remembering your table manners or your Ps and Qs. It's really about looking at the world from a perspective not solely your own. Think about it: are you really touching anything when touch your reflection in the mirror? 


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