PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Risque comic prompts serious debate

LOS ANGELES: Gay marriage is so two weeks ago. This week's PR Play is about masturbation - which turns out to be surprisingly healthy - and American newspapers' fear of mentioning the subject on their funny pages.

LOS ANGELES: Gay marriage is so two weeks ago. This week's PR Play is about masturbation - which turns out to be surprisingly healthy - and American newspapers' fear of mentioning the subject on their funny pages.

Last week, cartoonist Garry Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury, made headlines for fashioning a strip around a recent study that contends men who ejaculate more than seven times a week have a significantly lower risk of prostate cancer compared to men who ejaculate fewer than three times a week. In the comic strip, a trio of Trudeau characters - Boopsie, Zonker, and the Reverend Sloan - discuss the study and Boopsie's discomfort with the "m-word." She's not alone. Various newspaper editors across the US thought the subject too risque and offensive, and opted to run an alternative strip instead. Days before its Sunday debut, the comic had already grabbed media attention as anxious editors debated what to do and writers jumped on the risque subject. So much excitement abounded that Trudeau released a rare statement. "The strip isn't really about masturbation or the prostate cancer study as such," it read, "but about the shifting nature of taboos and the inability of two adults to have a certain kind of serious conversation. Still, I understand that the mention of certain words per se will not be acceptable to some family newspapers, which is why the syndicate is making an alternative strip available." Answering the charges that comics should be kid-friendly, Trudeau added, "It's a South Park world now, and younger readers are unlikely to be shocked or confused by anything they find in Doonesbury." Apparently, they're ahead of their parents on that one. Hundreds of papers chose not to run the strip, and hundreds more wrote about it. The issue was covered from CNN to The Taipei Times, making masturbation the week's most talked about taboo. And, of course, Trudeau was mentioned a few times as well.

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