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Vaginas: part of half the world's population, but not this supermarket!

There is something about female body parts that gets certain people all in a dither. I'm not talking about the elevated blood pressure or facial flush adolescent males of all ages experience as they leer at airbrushed photos of pumped-up boobs in girlie magazines. No, I'm talking about the mindset that views women's bodies as unholy vessels of the devil, tempting men to indulge their baser instincts.

Heaven knows, there's no telling what some Muslim males are likely to do if they are subjected to women's faces, or, God forbid, their knees. And there is no way Orthodox Jewish men can be expected to engage in the serious business of prayer if women are allowed to participate and sit with them in synagogue. Nor can Albertsons' male customers be counted on to go about their shopping while photos of vaginas can be found plastered in a popular magazine.

There's George, your average shopper, somewhere between condiments and laundry detergent, when he remembers a conversation he overheard between his teenage daughter, Thelma, and her best friend, Louise. It seems the October issue of Seventeen has a spread on vaginas, and the girls were comparing notes.

George makes his way to the magazine rack and casually picks up a popular men's magazine. Flipping through the pages, he casts a sideways glance to either side, assuring himself no one is approaching. He grabs for the notorious Seventeen and begins searching through the table of contents, but not before hiding the magazine between the pages of Testosterone Today.

Scanning quickly down the entries, he finds cover stories, fashion, beauty, but no vagina. Damn. Where is it? Uh oh. Someone's approaching. He edges away from the display and positions himself against a nearby wall. There, he's got it; it's on the second contents page under health. "Your body. Here is all the information you need to know about your vagina." Page 84.

There's a small bead of sweat running from George's hairline down the side of his face to his chin. He's not sure if it's a result of anxiety over being spotted perusing this magazine, or in anticipation of what he'll find on Page 84. No matter; the only other customer in the area, a woman, makes her selection and leaves. For some reason, maybe because all his senses are on overdrive, he notices she chose Cloning for Fun and Profit.

By now perspiring heavily, George takes a last furtive glance around him before plunging into the vagina article. Aaargh! What is this? Instead of scantily clad teens examining each other's private parts, he finds only a clinical description of the vulva with all its component parts labeled and explained in plain language with no hint of erotic content. As if that weren't enough, an entire column is devoted to a graphic presentation of vaginal discharge: the good, the bad, the ugly.

George is about to put both magazines back when Seventeen slips out of his grasp and falls to the floor, open to the disappointing pages. As he reaches to pick it up, a young woman approaches, glances down and gives him a withering look as she turns on her heel and stalks off.

By now in full-tilt panic mode, George abandons his shopping cart and heads for the store entrance. He bolts out the door, where he is greeted by a squadron of protestors from the Women's Morals Brigade with signs reading, "Seventeen corrupts young girls," "Keep it covered," "Ignorance is freedom" and other sentiments of that ilk.

Running to his car, George fumbles for his keys as he feels his heart racing faster and faster. A lifetime of bad food choices catches up to him as he clutches his chest. The last thing he sees before a massive coronary ushers him into another dimension is a runaway shopping cart heading straight for him.

It's just this type of scenario that Albertsons was probably trying to avoid when it decided to pull the October issue of Seventeen from its supermarkets in 11 states, including Arizona. After all, what other reason could there be for banning a magazine on the basis of an article any thinking mother would want her teenage daughter to read?

I'm sure the corporate minds at Albertsons who made this decision did not conclude there was anything wrong with young girls acquiring important information critical to their health. Nor could they possibly have thought there was anything "dirty" about the article; after all, it was straightforward and clinical, not in the least prurient, as poor George learned.

But perhaps Albertsons is just stuck in the 1950s, when females didn't admit to even having a vagina. And any talk of one sent everyone, men and women alike, into a dither.

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