A woman from Vancouver named Ann Pimentel has mounted a minor (and belated) modesty crusade against the Vancouver Maritime Museum's 19th century scrimshaw exhibit. Pimentel is worried that the exhibit will somehow damage her young children more than her aggressive sense of decorum, and she is demanding that the VMM stash all of its dirty, rotten scrimshaw into an isolated, clearly marked room where anyone over 18 can go and have a naughty peek at all the pornographic cartoons scratched in tobacco ink on pieces of whalebone.
Scrimshaw, or as Pimentel calls it, "whale bone porn," was a popular diversion among 19th century whalers who found their prurient selves isolated at sea for long, celibate stretches of time. When they weren't sneaking off belowdecks for an invigorating bit of sodomy, the whalers would draw dirty pictures on whale bones. The National-Post offers a thorough description of the maritime dalliance, as well as the VMM's ongoing exhibit:
The whalers had idle hands and feverish minds. Scrimshawing was their means of expression, their release valve. Using ship-made hand tools and tobacco juice for ink, they set upon whale leftovers. Some of their work is finely detailed. Some is undeniably erotic.
The VMM has collected scrimshaw for years - most of the work was donated - but the pieces were rarely if ever displayed. Museum curator Patricia Owen said the opportunity arose when staff decided to present a show about maritime tattoos; it seemed natural to compare and contrast the two art forms. Tattoo and Scrimshaw: The Art of the Sailor opened last week and runs to mid-October.
Pimentel is the only person to complain of the exhibit so far, but her outrage has, the National-Post notes, attracted scrutiny from the art world. Some people think that the VMM's scrimshaw pieces could be forgeries, created recently by entrepreneurial artisans and passed off as genuine, 19th-century porn. If the scrimshaw exhibits are full of fakes, then Pimentel might get her wish after all, which is what would only embolden her on a future mission to get the title of Moby Dick changed to An All-Male Crew Chases a Big White Whale and There Are No Homosexual Undertones When, For Instance, Two of the Main Characters Share a Bed in the Early Goings.