Shoptalk: No, We Ain’t Gonna Take It

Angered by a board for Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, a Republican state senator in Milford, Conn., is advocating more stringent regulation of outdoor ad content in the state.

“It’s a quantum lowering of standards,” says Winthrop S. Smith Jr., who recently drove with his three children past the Vagina Monologues board on I-95 in West Haven. The ad, which has since come down, featured the name of the play and the tag “Spread the word.” “It’s something that should never have gone up,” says Smith. “Nowhere did it say, ‘This is a play.’ … They weren’t advertising a play.”

This and other ads—including one for a sex shop called Erotic Empire—have Smith and some of his fellow senators convinced the outdoor ad industry may not be able to police itself.

A public hearing was held last week, and Smith hopes legislation will eventually come to a vote. One option, he says, is to have the state’s department of transportation step in. “They regulate license plates, so they’ve got some experience,” he says.

The Vagina Monologues is not his target, Smith insists. “I know nothing about the play. We have adult theaters here. People can go see whatever they want. They can rent videos. But you can turn off a TV. You can’t turn off a 20-foot billboard.”

John Barrett of Barrett Outdoor Communications, which put up the Vagina Monologues board, says the ad met industry standards, particularly regarding community values. DAN LEVINE/AFP/NEWSCOM