Northern Arizona University is my alma mater. And my little sister’s. And my father’s, who attended when it was known as Arizona State Teacher’s College. My eldest son is in his third semester there right now.
I had a great experience at NAU. Lifelong friendships. Cold that would turn your runny nose to ice crystals within 20 steps out of the dormitory. Campus life. Basketball. Fleeing to Burger King when the dining hall Mystery Meat Hockey Puck and gravy thing got more than a little weary. Women — I was such a geek. A severe “growing up” learning curve. I was on academic probation by my second semester, because I kept thinking I was at summer camp. It turns out that, if you want a bachelor’s degree, you have to attend class and study. Who’da thought?
NAU is a family thing in my family.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. And, apparently, the students and powers-that-be at Northern Arizona University paid $100,000 to Dirt Nasty in concert to help them celebrate last Sunday. I confess that the art of Mr. Nasty was heretofore unknown to me.
I’d invite you, Good Reader, to Google Dirt’s lyrics, but I covet my credibility.
Dirt — can I call you “Dirt”? — is “too sexy for himself.” He thinks he should “win a gold trophy” for all the “hoes” with whom he has had sex, though that’s not exactly the word he uses to describe the activity. When the subject turns to “little boys,” it turns out that Dirt sports similar activities with participant numbers higher than “Jacko and the pope.”
What do Dirt’s dog, his cousin, Kirsten Dunst, Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore, Jessica Simpson, Courteney Cox, Alyssa Milano and Sigourney Weaver all have in common? Well, according to one Dirt Nasty song, he has had intimate relations with all of those folks. And beasts.
In the song “Rape Somebody,” Dirt offers primers on raping women, citing the importance of making sure your rape victim can’t talk during the assault: “How you gonna scream if you’ve got no voice?/ I’m gonna poke a sword through your vocal chords.”
So, maybe NAU did not book Dirt Nasty to celebrate Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Maybe my alma mater was going for irony. Maybe they think that irony is a soothing salve for the rape victims who bring their shattered lives into my office. Irony as a healing balm for women with black eyes and broken bones.
Or maybe NAU is feeling an academic responsibility to offer a contrasting academic discipline to the tired twins of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and Creationism. To wit: Dirt Nasty is the poster child for the lesser-known “Jim-Bob’s Theory of Devolution.” I’m saying that male chimpanzees practice sexual courtship with female chimpanzees with more reciprocity, honor and respect than Dirt Nasty lyrics.
Or maybe NAU feels badly about the male students who are shy and socially inept in their dating lives. Not to worry! Dirt Nasty is your mentor on how to emerge from your shell and win the hearts of beautiful coeds.
Or maybe A.J. Hamilton, a senior theater studies major at NAU, is right: “The guy’s got free speech. Second of all, he’s not being serious. If you know his work at all, he’s a comedian.” Got it. Right-o. These three rape victims walk into a bar …
Seriously, A.J., next time I’m in Flagstaff, I’d buy you a beer just to hear you make that argument. Because I rather enjoy comedy.
I was raised in the Golden Age of rock ‘n’ roll. And, make no mistake, sex — primitive and primordial — is the driving force in rock music. From the opening cow bell, “Honky Tonk Woman” makes my blood boil. When Mick Jagger says that “a gin-soaked barroom queen in Memphis tried to take (him) upstairs for a ride,” I’m pretty sure he meant that she wanted to have sex with him. I’m equally sure Mick did not then feel entitled to assault her.
I’m a songwriter. And there is nothing in the human experience that is not a legitimate subject of great art. But just because you’re angry, just because you’re aroused, just because you hate women, hate yourself, or, conversely, are narcissistically enamored with yourself … none of these things make you an artist.
Art, whatever the subject, even if the subject is dark and difficult, invites my imagination. Makes me think and feel. Art edifies. Artists tell the truth. Dirt is playing in his dirty diapers.
Blah-blah-blah free speech. To say I’m disappointed in Northern Arizona University doesn’t begin to describe it.
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Clear View Counseling Wellness Center in Las Vegas and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns appear on Sundays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.