Almost-seen in Provo

A scene from the check-out stand at a local Macey‘s grocery store:

I assume that behind the blue rectangles that decorate our local magazine racks there usually lie images that are thought to offend buyers because too much flesh is exposed, or too explicit a reference is made to this or that technique.

Not so this time. In each of the 6 racks that contained this issue of this magazine, it was obscured. I kindly asked the manager-on-duty if it was covered due to customer complaints or for another reason; she didn’t know (and didn’t find the cover offensive).



  1. Mommy, what does “Gay” mean?

    (worlds collide, fire and brimstone falls from the sky, dogs and cats living together . . )

  2. Oh, please. I was in the EXACT same Macey’s and they had another aisle with it out in the open.

    “Oooh! Another Provo Conspiracy!”

    (rolling my eyes)

  3. Cheryl, what do you mean?

  4. I have no idea.

  5. Mark Brown says:


    Stirling does report that he checked six aisles where this magazine was on display and they all were covered. Maybe somebody realized how stupid it was and took the covers down by the time you got there. You’ve got to admit that it is ridiculous, right? Especially when compared to the magazine immediately to the left.

  6. You know, this reminds me of someone I know who recently was horrified that her daughter saw a picture of Ellen DeGeneris and partner (now wife) on the cover of People. I’d rather have my kid see a picture of that (what was so offensive and shocking?) than the story clips and body parts they show on the cover of Glamor. But from her no outrage there, just outrage about to clothed women and the word ‘married’.

  7. Cheryl’s comment reminds me there is a technical distinction between Provo and Orem. The store the photos are from is at 800 N. State in Orem. There, last Saturday night, all of the copies of this People magazine were obscured–no conspiracy required.

  8. Steve Evans says:

    Couldn’t they have at least covered Aiken’s hair, which looks like a rejected design from Dragonball Z ?

  9. Perhaps it would be better to just cover all instances of celebrity “news.”

  10. I’m pretty anti-censorship and often take the covers off magazines in Provo/Orem stores just to rankle, but I’m amazed to say that I can relate with this one.

    The more young kids get exposed to homosexuality and the idea that it is equally as worthwhile as heterosexuality and an acceptable alternative way to parent kids, the more of those young kids will choose to go the gay route when facing questions about their sexuality that many of them might have otherwise grown out of.

    As a father of several boys, I’m on board with the idea of keeping as much pro-gay propaganda away from them as possible. I honestly can’t fathom how anyone—especially Mormons—could think that the modern gay movement is going to turn out good for our civilization.

  11. Christopher,
    Rhetorically, as the father of several boys, what do you think of the black dress on the uncovered magazine next to it?

  12. A friend of mine used to work at that Macey’s, and apparently there’s a perennial in-store debate about which magazines ought to be covered. At one point a couple of years ago they actually covered *all* of them, but then apparently the magazine suppliers got wind of what was going on and threatened to sue.

  13. Mark Brown says:


    I don’t know how to respond, because I fear you still might be writing for The Sugar Beet. I can’t quite tell whether you’re sincere, or whether you are attempting to bait a response.

    In any event, I don’t think this is propaganda. The man is gay. He has a child. So?

  14. Steve Evans says:

    I’m pretty anti-censorship, but this seems like an extremely good idea to me. Especially since I think my kids might choose to be gay, if I let them around People Magazine.

  15. CB: “I honestly can’t fathom how anyone—especially Mormons—could think that the modern gay movement is going to turn out good for our civilization.”

    Christopher, putting aside the civil equality arguments (summarized, as I overheard in church, as “Gays are people [and citizens] too!”), would you agree that people who identify as GLBT have frequently faced inappropriate harassment and violence, or, that the number of Utah men who are gay and commit suicide is unacceptably high?

    It seems the “modern gay movement” could help address both of these phenomena. What do you think?

  16. You guys are all off track, just trying to pick a fight. The reason the magazine was covered has nothing to do with its gaiety. Provo is a sophisticated city, home to a major university with a fine arts program, and obviously the management of Macey’s has such decent musical taste that anything having to do with Clay Aiken is offensive.

  17. Ardis, I’m such an unsophisticate (really) that I’ve never heard of Clay Aiken and didn’t (and don’t) know his connection to any form of music.

  18. Now you’re just bragging, Stirling.

  19. Does the BYU Bookstore carry People? I’d be curious to know if they had a reaction to this magazine cover.

  20. Steve Evans says:

    Actually the rest of us are at a loss to connect Aiken to any form of music, either.

  21. Personally I’m really glad that they’re doing this. I think seeing the words “Gay” in big letters with a picture of Clay Aiken on a magazine is too much for our young and impressionable kids. I mean I was walking down the aisle and the first time I saw that cover I nearly kissed the man standing next to me.

    Luckily, I’ve been able to avoid looking at the cover since.

  22. Steve Evans says:

    I heard that Clay Aiken can only name one Supreme Court case that he disagreed with.

  23. I would think the gay community would approve of hiding the fact that Clay Aiken is gay. After all, making it known might hurt their recruitment efforts.

  24. I don’t know why I haven’t been fortunate enough to shop at stores where Clay Aiken is concealed from view.

  25. “I heard that Clay Aiken can only name one Supreme Court case that he disagreed with.”

    But I’ll bet he could name “People magazine” if asked what newspapers or magazines he reads (or looks at the pictures).

  26. Actually, Clay Aiken’s photo on that magazine has been scientifically demonstrated to have exactly the opposite effect. Flamboyant gays have been scared straight just looking at it. So you need not fear for your sons Christopher, in fact, the more they see that photo, the less likely they are to be gay. You may want to hang it on the wall in their rooms.

  27. Mark Brown says:

    Does the BYU P.E. department still require female students to wear those ghastly, ugly outfits? Those outfits alone have probably caused more men in Provo to consider the benefits of going gay that all the magazine covers in the world.

  28. Steve Evans says:

    What’s he doing with that baby?!? Is he gonna eat it?!??!

  29. Mark Brown says:

    I actually am pretty disturbed by that newstand in the photo. We can see the full covers of three other magazines, and they are pitched to women, and they are all about losing wight and being skinny. We live in an atmosphere where anoerxia is a real problem, and where young women actually do starve themselves to death, and ‘zines like that don’t appear to bother us. If you’re looking for obscenity, well, there you go.

  30. I’m with Cchrissyy. Perhaps someone got mixed up and covered the wrong magazines.

  31. Mark Brown says:

    Also, the scrapbooking maazine should be compelled to comply with truth in advertising regulations, like this.

  32. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 23
    Amen to that.

    Actually, he’d made a fantastic young, single Mormon dad if he turned straight. Ward choir director? Covered. Organist needed? No problem. Dance with the (ahem) robust girls at the multi-stake singles event? Card is filled all evening.

    Let’s send him to Evergreen. I’m OK with that.

  33. Um, Mark, the one magazine we see is saying that those women are too skinny. Not advocating being skinny. Just sayin’

  34. Oh, hey. Sorry! I was teaching piano lessons. I’m a sophisticated musician like that…

    Dude, what I meant in my comment #4 was really “I have no idea” because I totally jumped the gun, didn’t read the post completely, and had myself a foot-in-mouth comment episode.
    Happens a lot with me.

    Hey, but fwiw, Provo is WAAAAAAAY better than Orem. Just sayin’!

  35. And now I feel even more idiotic because MCQ said “just sayin'” before I did.


  36. MikeInWeHo says:

    I really need to visit Provo and Orem someday. But I’m scared.

  37. I’ve gotta say, I loved the Ghostbusters reference in Comment 1.

  38. #35 – Mike, just cover your face and don’t wear your “I’m gay” shirt.

  39. Left Field says:

    I’m another person who doesn’t have the foggiest idea who Clay Aiken might be. I am of course quite familiar with Willie Aikens. I actually saw him play for the Salt Lake Gulls in Derk’s Field back in the day. He went on to various forms of notoriety.

    Now, if Willie Aikens appeared on the cover of People announcing that he’s gay, that would require a cover.

  40. I really appreciate that conscientious people try to make the world a better place. I’m sick of seeing magazine covers with half naked women. I’m also sick of seeing the latest hollywood gossip about who is gay. There is NOTHING wrong with putting magazine covers up. I’m grateful for it.

  41. LOL. Blogpost about the gays is like the bat signal for Chris B. Keep working to save civilization, oh reluctant hero…

  42. Eric Russell says:

    Maybe someone covered it up because they thought Clay was supposed to be invisible.

  43. Eric Russell says:

    Wait…he already is!

  44. It’s all just a big typo. His actual name is GAY AIKEN and the headline was meant to say “I’M CLAY.”

    as in, clay in the hands of the Master Potter, etc.

  45. Kevin Barney says:

    That’s hilarious, Stirling!

  46. Ken Macey–free Clay! He’s innocent.

  47. Sorry to recycle an old post — this is something I wrote a yr or so ago — but I’d throw some of my experience out there. I’m lazy and usually just lurk while all you brilliant people discuss ;):

    I remember being a young teenager intently watching the Oprah show as Ellen Degenres “coming out” was interviewed. I listened so carefully and consciously, it was like I was being somehow outed too just by hearing her. I had always been attracted to women for as far back as I could remember, though I of course was socialized to be attracted to men. I didn’t have even enough self awareness then to think of myself as hiding anything, I was just living my young life doing the things that typical teenage girls do.
    I don’t remember the exact exchange between Oprah and Ellen, I think Oprah showed a lot of empathy for Ellen and support and praise for Ellen’s courage to be who she really was, to be her true self. I think they talked about a pattern of gay people always knowing they were gay as they grew up and this remained no matter what they did to live life another way. This interview had a great impression on me, a young LDS teen then. My Mom had always watched Oprah and she was a trusted voice in our home. I had always thought Ellen was one of the funniest comedians and had often watched her show. Listening to Ellen coming out seemed to plant a seed in me that I too was hiding and suppressing THE REAL ME.
    Another now distant teenage memory is of Elder Oaks speaking in a conference talk on same gender attraction. I felt like he was then speaking directly to me and listened as he taught of same gender attraction as a tendency that one had agency to act upon or not. I also heard him essentially put it categorically with other sexual sins outside of marriage. I think he said something as well to the effect that it didn’t matter whether it came about genetically or environmentally in determining how the Lord would have one act. Essentially, what I took from what he was saying was that I HAD A CHOICE TO BE A LESBIAN OR NOT.

    So these were really the two competing narratives that were at play during my mid to late teens and young adult years.

  48. I am failing to see the purpose in this post and many of the comments. It reminds me of a group of grade school children making fun of an akward child for doing something clumsy or embarrassing. Both are unkind and uncalled for.

  49. Laura,
    That was really poignant. Thanks.

  50. Ben Pratt says:

    Barely on-topic: I saw a guy tonight whose t-shirt read “Homosexuals are gay.”

    Not-even-pretending-to-be-on-topic: Earlier today I heard a 90-year-old man address his physical therapist as “button butt.”

    It’s sort of been an odd day.

  51. Peter LLC says:

    If I recall correctly from my days working in the Utah valley food industry the magazines are stocked by vendors, which is probably why the manager was clueless about the cover. I don’t know who decides what’s offensive, but it’s probably not at the store level.

  52. re: 27

    Well, of course, everyone knows that gay people eat babies!

  53. Margaret Blair Young says:

    As a Provonian, I LIKE the censorship of words like “orgasm” and “best sex of his life” and the impossibly low necklines which must require that breasts be taped just under the armpits. I’m serious here. One of my sons got into pornography years ago, and said the beginning of it was some graphic postcards he saw in a Hawaiian market. As someone who remembers the scandals of _Playboy_ being the two-piece swimsuit, I am often embarrassed by what greets me and my children at the checkstand. The Aiken cover is innocent, almost adorable, and draws little attention except for someone focusing on the word GAY. My kids would just say, “Yeah, we figured that one out.” But the other stuff? No thank you. I’m quite sure someone put the cover over the Aiken photo capriciously. Usually, it’s _Cosmopolitan_ which gets covered up–and often, I’m the one who does it.

  54. Stirling,

    I think you should revisit your ideas on “gay LDS youth committing suicide in Utah at super high rates”

    John Mansfield pretty much debunked this over at Mormon Mentality. I did not do the research myself but JM’s research looked pretty convincing.

  55. As for the magazine covers I find them all offensive from Aiken to the underdressed women. 5 sons. Do not like eithertype of cover and really dislike the womens magazine covers that are all about sex techniques.

  56. Margaret, I’m sorry, but you’re younger than I am, and I suspect I saw a Playboy magazine before you did. And those women were not wearing swimsuits. Or, if they were swimsuits, they were flesh colored and extraordinarily true to life.

    (If you got into [somebody’s] stash of Playboy magazines when you were 4 years old, then I’ll retract what I said above. Although you would have to have been precocious indeed to have known about the scandals at that age!)

  57. My whole problem with censorship both silly such as gay Clay and non like Margaret points out, as I’ve said here many times, is that it adds to the whole taboo/romeo and juliet thing. It’s the whole taboo thing that makes it mysterious and mysterious can turn into tantalizing. Romeo and Juliet’s forbidden relationship made it that much more exciting.

    I remember growing up in Provo, and seeing my fellow mormon teenaged boys sneaking into buying the swimming suit edition and whatever they could, and universally the ones whose parents were more strict about sought after them more and the more forbidden it was the bigger the problem grew. Having been brought up with a “everyone is naked underneath their clothes. What’s the big deal?” kind of attitude by my ‘rents I never understood the allure at that age. In essence I think the more you cover up the more people wonder as to why and want to figure out why. This is especially true of teenagers.

    If women were to suddenly cover up their necks. Necks would be the sexiest thing around. Certainly I’m not saying let it all hang out, but to me things should be discussed and not just covered up.

    Reminds me of a friend who went to BYU to watch Bill and Ted’s for the second time. Remember when they ask themselves what number they’re thinking about? Well BYU bleeped that part out. My friend having seen the uncensored version wondered why and as soon they were out of the theatre proceeded to ask her mom in front of everyone, “Hey mom what’s 69? And why did they edit it out?” Can you imagine being put in that spot? If they had done nothing no one would’ve been the wiser. But by bleeping it, suddenly it became something to find out. Most times censorship is self defeating.

  58. um, ronito, so what is 69 and why did they edit it out??

  59. Offenders for a word says:

    Bbell (54): What do you find “offensive” about the People cover?
    Is that someone is publicly identified as gay? If so, why is that offensive?
    (What I’m trying to figure out is that if a certain number of God’s children are gay, then why would it be offensive to recognize that?)

  60. Steve Evans says:

    Mark Brown, what’s a Playboy? Please explain.

  61. Kevin Barney says:

    My zip code used to be 60194, which is really a Schaumburg zip code. Hoffman Estates, the village where I live, always felt a little bit like a second class citizen, and so a year or two ago they finally got their own zip code, which means our code changed. The new code is 60169 (same first three numbers, just the last two are different). For some reason, I’ve never had any difficulty remembering my new zip code.

  62. Mark Brown says:

    Steve, I think you mean to ask Mark B. (Butler)

  63. Vic Recherche says:

    Bbell: In your comment 54 you misquoted Sterling (using quotes, even), as referring to “gay LDS youth committing suicide in Utah at super high rates.”
    Those are your words.Instead, he asked Christopher whether “the number of Utah men who are gay and commit suicide is unacceptably high?”
    In answer to that question, I personally know of 3. For each it seemed to me that the difficulty in responding to the dominant societal attitude about men with homosexuality was a significant factor in the decisions that led to suicide. The story of one is public (Stuart Mattis); the others aren’t, but one was a friend and neighbor and I know it well.

  64. Margaret Blair Young says:

    MarkB–you are BARELY older than I am. Like by a few months. I admit that I didn’t seek out _Playboy_ magazine, and only saw some in Chicago’s YMCA, where my sibs and I swam. You must’ve been a more dedicated reader than I was. I’ll take your word for what was really there.

  65. This idea that somehow LDS cultural attitudes is leading to higher suicide rates amongst male gays in Utah is simply not supported by publicly available data. Its more like a internet rumor based on a few anecdotes and bolstered by a political agenda that has taken on a life of its own. Here is the string at Mormon Mentality on which John M in my view debunked this idea.

    I found his data convincing and the data used by Carol Lynn Pearson to be non-existent and misrepresented

  66. Oh — sorry Mark Brown, I just assumed that either of you would be familiar.

  67. I think we are discussing 2 related but separate issues here.

    1) Provocative images

    2) concepts of sexual behavior that LDS consider to be morally deviate

    As for the latter, I think as parents we need to consider more than images but the narratives presented. Aiken’s narrative is that now that he is a father, he needs to be honest and open about who he really is ie. gay. His narrative of personal morality also includes concieving his son invtro with a woman (his best friend) and thier plans to raise the child together. He maintains that he is still a born again Christian.

    If any of this narrative of morality doesn’t fit your ideas or timelines of moral decisions, directly offering yours and the churches counter narratives, I think are the most helpful in assisting children and teens as opposed to outright censorship (although I agree there are lines to be drawn).

    If I had five sons (depending on age), I might buy this issue of People Mag and have a very interesting family night lesson.

  68. bbell, thanks for the link

  69. I’ve been very confused. I thought this Aiken fellow was the actor who played Sheriff Lobo back in the day, and that he had received alarming plastic surgery, was gay and had a baby somehow. Of course, that was Claude Akins.

    I am American Pop Culture Frozen Caveman.

  70. Adam Greenwood says:

    Are y’all trying to tell me you *don’t* find photos of Clay Aiken offensive?

  71. I appreciate the covered magazines in Utah valley. It’s not a matter of censorship; it’s a matter of not wanting to open up awkward conversations with 5-year-olds in the checkout line. I prefer to open up those kinds of conversations at a time and place of my choosing, when I feel my child is ready for it. I appreciate having all awkward and inappropriate material covered, from half-naked people to sex topics. I have to shop for food, and sometimes my kids have to come along.

  72. Richard Cranium says:

    Chris Bigelow, are you serious? If your kids are gay, they’re gay. If they’re straight, they’re straight. Clay Aiken’s sexual orientation or any publicity thereabout is not going to make any difference.

    Personally, I get offended when I see magazine covers about short people because I want my kids to be tall. If they start thinking that it’s acceptable to be short instead of tall, they may choose to be short when they’re going through confusing times in their lives.

  73. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 72 I think Chris Bigelow is serious and articulates a common idea among social conservatives. This viewpoint has become more nuanced in recent years. In the past it was common to hear that homosexuality is a choice. Today one hears that while sexual orientation is not chosen, homosexual behavior is and can therefore be eschewed.

    Images of happy, successful gays are threatening to those who believe that homosexual behavior is sinful. But we exist nonetheless. If you “can’t fathom” how the gay civil rights are going to “turn out good,” maybe you should make some gay friends and get to know their families.

  74. “If your kids are gay, they’re gay. If they’re straight, they’re straight. Clay Aiken’s sexual orientation or any publicity thereabout is not going to make any difference.”
    An article cited by The Kinsey Institute highlights a significant discrepency between those who experience some same gender attraction but no homosexual behavior versus those who do report homosexual attraction and behavior.
    Sell, Wells, and Wypij (1995)
    “Researchers determining the prevalence of homosexuality in nationally representative samples have focused upon determining the prevalence of homosexual behavior, ignoring those individuals whose sexual attraction to the same sex had not resulted in sexual behavior. We examine the use of sexual attraction as well as sexual behavior to estimate the prevalence of homosexuality in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France using the Project HOPE International Survey of AIDS-Risk Behaviors. We find that 8.7, 7.9, and 8.5% of males and 11.1, 8.6, and 11.7% of females in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, respectively, report some homosexual attraction but no homosexual behavior since age 15. Further, considering homosexual behavior and homosexual attraction as different but overlapping dimensions of homosexuality, we find 20.8, 16.3, and 18.5% of males, and 17.8, 18.6, and 18.5% of females in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France report either homosexual behavior or homosexual attraction since age 15. Examination of homosexual behavior separately finds that 6.2, 4.5, and 10.7% of males and 3.6, 2.1, and 3.3% of females in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, respectively, report having had sexual contact with someone of the same sex in the previous 5 years. Our findings highlight the importance of using more than just homosexual behavior to examine the prevalence of homosexuality.”
    Who can say exactly how the public discourse plays into these types of discrepancies and decisions to act on homosexual attractions or how they may in the future but the descrepencies appear to be there nonetheless.
    And from my own experience there is movement across the orientation spectrum.
    “Hewitt analyzed past surveys on the prevalence of homosexuality in the United States, from 1970 to 1994, looking critically at the methodology of these studies. He offered a metanalysis of the typologies used in these surveys to classify the homosexual. He found five types: (1) open preferential homosexuals, (2) repressed preferential homosexuals, (3) bisexuals, (4) experimental homosexuals, and (5) situational homosexuals. ”
    I have never been a 1, was a 2 most of my life, would now be considered a 3. That’s movement and as I stated earlier, Ellen’s narrative almost convinced my young self that such movement was impossible.

  75. Stirling, Do the clerks look at you funny when you take pictures of magazine racks?

    I used to make fun of my mom (or at least roll my eyes) when she’d take pictures of her food at restaurants.

    Then one time, I had some sushi that looked so good, I took a couple pictures of it with my cell phone. And I realized that I had turned into my mom.

    Also, fun things to photograph can be found at ethnic grocery stores: eels, squids, tongue, animal heads (cow, lamb, pig).

  76. Yes, Bookslinger (to the funny looks).
    I haven’t photographed eel and squid, but have bought (and caught) them. In fact, I’ve got some smoked eel from the Netherlands in the fridge right now. One of my first travel photos, taken in 1982 on a freshman class trip, was of animal heads at a market in Hermosillo, Mexico.
    Now, 26 years later, as one evidence of the cool diversity brought to Utah by the large influx of Mexican immigration, you can get those in Orem at the Tenochitlan market.

  77. I live in Tallahassee, Florida and we also have covers over the magazines in the stores. So it doesn’t just happen in Utah.

  78. KIm Reece-Lairson says:

    I have seen magazines covered here in INdiana, too, and I can understand why some people would be offended at some things. I have a gay son, and I raised him LDS. He knew he was gay five years before he said anything to me. He is a wonderful human being.He chooses to act on his feelings.I love him, but I worry about him, especially since Matthew Shepard was killed in Wyoming. Tolerance is so important.

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