Isthmus considered too risque

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Posted by beth on August 26, 2012 at 11:43:21:

Madison Politiscope: Isthmus cover photo too much for Metcalfe's Market

The Cap Times
by Jack Craver

Vibrators and other sex toys are readily accessible to customers at major national retailers, such as Walgreens and Walmart.

However, local grocery chain Metcalfe's Market decided that this week's edition of the Isthmus weekly newspaper, which depicts a half-dozen of the sexual massage devices on its cover, was inappropriate for the family atmosphere the store seeks to create.

Isthmus’ cover story, “Bringing sexy back,” describes a new vibrator that two locals designed for post-menopausal women and those recovering from cancer treatment, which often impairs women’s ability to experience sensual pleasure.

Store co-owner Tim Metcalfe informed the alternative weekly on Thursday that the store would not be displaying copies of this week’s paper in the store entrance at Hilldale Mall, next to other free weeklies, such as the Cap Times and The Onion.

Instead, Isthmus readers can request a copy of the publication at the customer service desk located near the front of the store.

"As we have done in the past with publications where we felt that parents might consider a cover to be too explicit for their children, we have kept them available to our customers at the customer service counter," wrote Metcalfe in an email.

“In my estimation it was (an overreaction), but I’m not the judge of his clientele,” said Isthmus publisher Vince O’Hern.

“I think it’s the unknown of how people will receive it that makes people nervous,” he added, explaining why Metcalfe may have chosen to pull the papers off the racks.

This week was an inconvenient time for Isthmus to offend its distributors. The edition included the Annual Manual catalog, a 120-page guide to all things Madison from dining to recreation that is chock-full of advertisements from local businesses.

As a result, one can pick up a copy of the Annual Manual from the Isthmus rack at Metcalfe's, even if the paper itself is not available.

Ellen Barnard is co-owner of the Willy Street shop, A Woman’s Touch, and one of the developers of the vibrator, called “Vaginal Renewal,” along with her partner, Dr. Myrtle Wilhite. Barnard says she is sad but not surprised by Metcalfe’s decision.

“We’ve been banned from putting vibrators in advertisements since we started,” she says of her store, which focuses on women's sexual health and pleasure. “We were actually asked not to in Isthmus years ago.”

In fact, she says, Wisconsin Public Radio declined her offer to advertise two years ago, citing concerns that such a sponsor could offend some listeners.

Barnard says she believes her business has been so effective at helping people seek counsel on sex topics because she accepts and “honors” people's various discomforts.

But, she points out, that discussion of female sexual dysfunction would provoke such discomfort reveals how female sexuality remains much more controversial than male sexuality.

Indeed, few American men can watch a football game without learning that, if they’re having any sexual difficulty, they should ask their doctor if Viagra is right for them.

Says Barnard: “We have sexual dysfunction ads on television -- for men.”


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