Gas Explosion in the Media

On Monday the Washington Post broke new ground with this news flash on its internet “front page”: Why is my gas so smelly? Gender, diet and plane rides can play a role. Yesterday they ran it again, putting it now “below the fold.” So the smell of your farts is now right up there with Gaza horror stories and the Trump trials.

It’s part of major media’s efforts to diversify their content and change course from strict news to “human interest” and entertainment. The NYT is doing the same thing, and continues fracking for gas on Tuesday with Why Do I Feel Gassy on Airplanes? The Post story—which clearly got their attention—was explicitly directed towards women, who would be most likely to find it disgusting for its fulsome prominence. My mother, who never discussed farting, would be appalled. So, I imagine, would most women of her generation.

The idea that this is a serious problem for women on airplanes never occurred to me. Such is our obliviousness to the female world. When I’ve felt the urge to break wind I sneak one off into the cushion, like everyone else does, hoping the odor won’t be broadcast. I guess women do that too, so what’s to talk about?

I broached the subject of bathroom humor and scatology in my November blog entitled “The Bowels.” The point was not to “break the centuries-old taboo about the subject of poop. Rather, the idea is to justify its importance since everybody does it.” Kids especially are into poop and its trappings, as I tried to document. In grade school after a football game, we undressed in the locker room and undertook the classic experiment of trying to light farts. Dangerous, though it can be done.

Farting, of course, is an intimate and alleviating part of life and, like sex in the media, it’s now going to become a commonplace subject for public investigation. The Post story, written by a doctor, puts farting into a medical frame, which is like bowdlerizing good literature. See reader comments on the story. In my blog I put it this way:

Sex and porn are now all over the internet despite the efforts of right-wing Christians and others to stop them. Scatology, I predict, will be the next meme because poop is part of our under-culture and, like all “bad” things, it cannot be suppressed. The whole idea of breaking taboos is part of what created the internet. Trump’s gold toilet could well become the new symbol of our age.