Cosmo Woman ensures SA is safe for 'Sex': John Carlin reports from Pretoria on a legal appeal to censors against a ban on photographs from the Madonna bestseller

HEAD bent, an eighty-something professor of Afrikaans literature sat in a darkened room on a sweltering Pretoria morning stealthily leafing through a glossy magazine.

At page 143 he paused. A naked blonde woman was lying on her back masturbating with a high- heeled shoe. The professor peered in wonder, in astonishment, in confusion. His was no solitary sport. He had a question to answer, a weighty social responsibility to discharge. Was this picture calculated, in the legal definition, 'to excite lust'?

Sitting in a row alongside Professor A P Grove, whose works are used as set texts for Afrikaner schoolchildren, were four other men and two women, all engaged in the same task. The Publications Appeal Board was sitting to determine whether to uphold a ban imposed on the December issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, which carried photographs from Madonna's book Sex.

Facing the board were two lawyers, one acting for the state, the other for Cosmopolitan. Three hours later a new phenomenon on the South African political landscape, Cosmo Woman, had emerged victorious.

Cosmo Woman, the magazine's editor Jane Raphaely explained to the board, had once been Cosmo Girl, 'someone who knew that life was short and there to be enjoyed'. Cosmo Woman was an altogether more formidable specimen who knew that life was hard and who battled to establish herself in the world.

Ms Raphaely's lawyer was Cosmo Woman at her best. Lauren Jacobson, Madonna's age or slightly younger, runs a small but prodigiously successful law firm. Standing there before the board, she showed why. Erect, blonde and sure-voiced, a dash of red lipstick and an elegant hint of decolletage underlined a confident, intimidating femininity.

Like mesmerised schoolboys, the five men - Prof Grove, Willie Botha, Dan Morkel, Mike Hough and Kotie de Jager, a dominee (minister) of the Dutch Reformed Church - followed her every gesture, her every inflection, her every pause.

'If the committee seeks to ban this publication because here and there a breast, a nipple or buttocks are on view, it is misguided,' she chided. 'Body parts are not the focus and emphasis of these photographs.'

Cosmopolitan in taste as in demeanour, she quoted - to much shifting of male buttocks - from the New York Times Review of Books: 'When she (Madonna) challenges patriarchy, heterosexuality and white men, she strikes at power where it lives.'

As to the aesthetic qualities of the pictures in question, Cosmo Woman said these were beyond dispute. To prove the point she called as witness a university fine arts professor by the name of Bob Cnoops. Would he elaborate on the artistic merits of the first picture, Madonna tugging with her teeth at a ring attached to the left nipple of a bald black man? 'The light, the texture,' Prof Cnoops enthused, 'the unique silvery effect.' She nodded, glanced at Prof Grove, found he was suitably bemused, and turned the page.

The picture of Madonna standing before a mirror squeezing her breasts betokened what, would he say? 'Innocence,' affirmed Prof Cnoops. 'Yes, a beautiful image of innocence.' 'Good boy,' her eyes said.

And the one in which Madonna holds a bottle of suntan oil between her legs and squeezes its contents on to Naomi Campbell's bare abdomen? 'Humour.' Correct again. And the high-heeled shoe between the legs? 'Innocence, again . . . ' he muttered, turning to the goddess for approval. Ve-ry good.

Mr Trumpie, acting for the state, never had a chance. He stood, hands on hips. There was one question he wanted to ask the professor. Yes. One question. 'Would he agree that the picture on page 143 depicted an ogsm?'

'Pardon?'

Mr Trumpie fidgeted. His assistant stood up and, with a copy of the magazine under his arm, bolted out of the chamber. Mr Trumpie, himself repressing the urge to flee, took a deep breath. Cosmo Woman fixed him with one of Madonna's innocent stares.

'Would you say that that picture uh . . . uh . . . uh?' 'Oh, you mean does it convey a sense of orgasm?' 'Yes, yes, yes . . . that's what I mean.' 'Well yes, I would say so. But she's turning conventional sexual icons upside down, tongue in cheek.' 'No further questions,' said Mr Trumpie, collapsing into his chair.

But the ordeal was not over. He stood up again and, like a man desperate to go to the lavatory, he rushed through his prepared text: 'The reasonable reader will be shocked . . . and will not only regard this as a blatantly shameless intrusion upon the privacy of the sex act and the nude female body, but also as calculated to excite lust . . . The publication is therefore undesirable.'

'Not undesirable]' rang back the verdict half-an-hour later. Prof Grove had caved in, the citadels of white male power had been stormed, the patriarchal order had been annihilated. One of Madonna's poems, one which Cosmopolitan reproduced, captured the moment best: She did it to remind everybody/that she could bring happiness/or she could bring danger/kind of like the lone ranger. Cosmo Woman rode home triumphant to the poem's beat.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Sport
Tony Bellew holds two inflatable plastic sheep at the weigh-in for his rematch with Nathan Cleverly
boxingGrudge match takes place on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson at PS1
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

£8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

£55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines