About a year ago we ran a brief story on some statues from Pompeii, setting ablaze a firestorm of correspondence. The story reported on a new permanent exhibit at the Naples Archaeological Museum—an exhibit that for years had been locked away in a so-called Secret Chamber, to which only persons of “known morals” were permitted access. Why the Secret Chamber, and why the flurry of letters? Because this exhibit presents grotesque images of exposed manhood (see “Ancient Smut,” AO 03:05).
The first letters we received expressed anger and shame. We were “promoting pornography” and contributing to the delinquency of children. Then something interesting happened: A flood of letters arrived praising us for telling stories about the past honestly and directly. This second generation of letter-writers did not want the first generation to have undue influence on our editorial decisions. And the second generation was a much, much larger group, about five times as large.