Philadelphia Daily News from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 28, 1987 · Page 37
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Philadelphia Daily News from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania · Page 37

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Issue Date:
Monday, September 28, 1987
Page 37
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! Monday. Sept. 28. 1987 PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS Page 37 OPINION f! - When the Reporter Is Somebody's Mother DON WILLIAMSON hey found the body of Shawn Romaine Nelson two weeks ago today. They found him in a wooded section off Fishers Lane, in Juanita Park. He had two bullet holes in his head and $81.85 in his pocket. He was IS years old, didn't have a job and didn't go to school. Daily News staff writer Joanne Sills covered the story about the murder. She interviewed the mother and grand- mother and associates or a boy just barely in his teens who had already lived forever. Joanne has a little boy of her own. He's around three and she keeps pcitures of him on her desk. Those pictures were in front of her while she wrote about a woman who no longer has a son. There's something cold and heavy that creeps inside a par ent who's forced to experience wmammmmm the death of someone else's child. Even if the parent is a professional news reporter, the part that's mother or father keeps slipping in as you try to ask all the who, what, and why questions. The first line of her story let us know this boy was no innocent youngster accidently hit by two stray bullets. Police say Shawn Romaine Nelson was selling plastic bags filled with baking soda to look like cocaine a block from the notorious drug corner of 8th and Butler streets. Maybe he was just pulling a prank a dumb, but innocent, prank that backfired. Not so, says Sills. They (police) summarize that the boy a widely known drug "runner" for dealers in the area . . : was killed either by the people he worked for or by disgruntled customers. For some reporters, the story might have ended there, wrapped up with some quotes from a police spokesman or a couple of neighborhood folks saying Shawn Romaine Nelson was either a nice quiet kid who got in with the wrong crowd or a hell-raiser to whom bad things were bound to happen. Family interviews in cases like these can be difficult. . Family members usually won't talk and when they do, the angel they depict has little resemblance to the person described in the police file. Joanne got some of the typcial stuff about Shawn being a "quiet, playful boy" and how "when he was younger, early Sunday mornings ...he would get up on a chair and say 'Grandma, I'm going to church with you.'" But then the mother inside this reporter wanted to know whether anyone in the household knew that this little boy was out in the street dealing poison.. Shawn Romaine Nelson's mother said she knew her son was involved in drugs, but, recently, she said, he had talked about changing his life. Then there was a minute or two of nostalgia, but Sills ' still wanted to know how a parent could allow a 15-year-old child to sink so low that he had to start thinking about changing his life . Once again Shawn Romaine Nelson's mother explained that she knew he was in the drug life, but to what extent she wasn't sure. " really didn't know his business," said Deborah Nelson. "Shawn didnt have a job , she said. "All the money he had was from drugs." Joanne then wrote briefly about neighborhood reaction and the fact the family couldn't afford a funeral. It was the normal way a reporter wraps up a story, but if you look real close you can see the anger and the outrage of a mother who doesn't understand how you allow a 15-year-old to have "business" you don't know . about that keeps him in the street all night, or for days at a time. --V-- If you read the piece carefully, you can feel the pain and indignation of a parent who would snatch a Knot in her child before she would see him become one the vermin who sell death and misery on street corners. It was all good journalism fair, balanced, accurate. But it was also a story that only a mother could write a story that needs to be retold daily in North and South and West Philadelphia and Fishtown and Kensington and everywhere that struggling to survive and living on the edge have made people who bear children abdicate their responsibility as parents. There is no one in charge of our children but us. And unless we take charge, the forces of destruction will bend our babies until they break. I remember flexing my adolescent muscle with my 5-foot-tall mother one day when I was about 13 or 14. I still wonder how that little woman picked up a chair and hit me with it. That's not a recommended parenting technique, but it's preferable to allowing a child to get sucked in a hole from which there is no escape. . There was irony in the last sentence of Joanne's story. She quoted a last wish from the mother of Shawn Romaine Nelson. ' iv "He didn't have any kids," she said of her 15-year old son. "Now, 1 wish he had. It would be something to show for him." I wonder who would raise the baby. Don Williamson is an associate editor of the Daily News editorial pages. His column appears on Mondays. J8LL fOuIEW Feminist Erotica: Let a Woman Do It m UTT 1NJ9STViein$ J nee, some years ago when I was a reporter, I was assigned to test an alleged hangover cure by getting drunk on company time and money. This week, my research into feminist pornography required that I watch an X-rated movie on my home VCR. That's probably what my former editor meant when he said being a journalist sure beats working. But back to feminist porn. It sounds like a conflict in terms similar to "warmongering pacifist" because many feminists loathe the sexual exploitation of women they say is inherent in adult entertainment. So I was intrigued a few weeks ago when I got a letter from Candida Royalle about her company's production of "high quality adult erotica from a woman's sensibility . . ." And when she visited my office last week, the former porn star said the erotica she produces differs considerably from traditional adult films. Standard pornography "tends to be crude, oriented towards male fantasies," with the sex designed for the man's fulfillment, said Royalle. It is genitalia-obsessed and the camera angles are vulgar and demeaning. The four films produced by Femme, the company she founded in 1984, are different. The men are caring lovers, the sex is tender, the photography less graphic. There is foreplay and afterplay and the women often initiate sex. In "Three Daughters" the movie I watched last week one of the women is an executive whose boyfriend quits his job to follow her when she gets a new job overseas. "The point is that women have a right to view erotica and there's been no one creating erotica that appeals to them.'l Royalle said. Indeed, Royalle's press kit includes quotes praising non-sexist erotica from Gloria Steinem and Betty Frie-dan in a recent Time magazine article that calls Royalle's films "the best examples of porn in the feminist style." :- Royalle's work is also socially responsible. The films scheduled for release soon use safe sex condoms, no open-mouth kissing, oral contact through underwear or condoms, or, whenever possible, she says, the use of actors who are real-life lovers. Royalle, 36, is attractive and stylish with spiky short, graying hair. She's also articulate intelligent and very proficient at marketing her product. She's appeared on talk shows ranging from Bill Boggs' Timeout" here last week, to Phil Donahue, and has been quoted in publications from Playboy to the New York Times. Royalle starred in 30 hard-core porn films after failing at legitimate theater in San Francisco in the 1970s. At the time, "the sexual revolution was still the big hoopla . . . and, well, it didn't seem like such a big deal to me. I felt very liberated." But the experience sent her into therapy with guilt and shame when she quit the business in 1980, and she acknowledges her motivations for becoming a porn star were psychologically destructive. But she blames the culture for condemning sexually explicit film since it is "a very valid form of entertainment" and believes her films do not exploit women the way she was exploited. "I came to the conclusion that the concept of adult entertainment was not bad in itself, it was just being made by the wrong people," who didn't respond to women's needs. , "My emphasis is very different than what I was in. . . What I'm trying to do is depict lovers, relationships, two people making love. If I'm exploiting the women, then I'm exploiting the men. - "We've always had erotic art. and with the advent of moving pictures, it was inevitable we'd have moving pictures erotic art... I wanted to show it could be done with taste, integrity and quality." . Royalle acknowledges she's not in the business for reasons of feminist altruism. She and other producers of similar films are capitalizing on the large female market for X-rated home video one survey showed women were responsible for 63 percent of adult home rentals. You could argue that Royalle is no better than the cigarette or hosiery or car manufacturers who exploit modern womanhood by depicting career women in their ads. Or you could argue she is providing a service that responds to the new reality of women's lives, the candor of their sexual needs. You could probably argue both and be right. In any case, Royalle said she usually gets a positive response when she promotes her films these days. "In the last couple of years, I've seen a real evolution in the way women and the general audience respond to me," she said. "Women say, 'Gee, I'm glad a woman is out there doing that.' " t It probably beats working, too. Jill Porter's column appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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