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Utah mother says store's shirts 'indecent,' buys them all to remove from window display

Judy Cox sits for a portrait next to a stack of T-shirts with what she believes are pornographic designs Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Orem, Utah. Cox purchased the entire stock of T-shirts for $567 from the PacSun store in Orem believing their display broke Orem's decency code. Cox said she complained about the window display to a store manager and was told the T-shirts couldn't be taken down without approval from the corporate office. (AP Photo/The Daily Herald, Mark Johnston)

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Judy Cox sits for a portrait next to a stack of T-shirts with what she believes are pornographic designs Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Orem, Utah. Cox purchased the entire stock of T-shirts for $567 from the PacSun store in Orem believing their display broke Orem's decency code. Cox said she complained about the window display to a store manager and was told the T-shirts couldn't be taken down without approval from the corporate office. (AP Photo/The Daily Herald, Mark Johnston)

SALT LAKE CITY - A mother upset about "indecent" T-shirts on display at a Utah mall found a quick if not especially convenient way to remove them: She bought every last one.

Judy Cox and her 18-year-old son were shopping Saturday at the University Mall in Orem, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City, when she saw the shirts in the window of a PacSun store.

The shirts featured pictures of scantily dressed models in provocative poses.

Cox said she complained about the window display to a store manager and was told the T-shirts couldn't be taken down without approval from the corporate office. She then bought all 19 T-shirts in stock, for a total of $567. She says she plans to return them later, toward the end of the chain store's 60-day return period.

The shirts cost about $28 each on the website for PacSun, which sells beach clothes for teenagers and young adults.

"These shirts clearly cross a boundary that is continually being pushed on our children in images on the Internet, television and when our families shop in the mall," Cox said in an email to The Associated Press.

The story was first reported by The Daily Herald of Provo.

An employee at the Orem store said Tuesday she wasn't authorized to speak about the issue and referred questions to the company's Orange County, Calif., corporate headquarters. PacSun CEO Gary Schoenfeld said in an emailed statement the company takes pride in the clothes and products it sells, which are inspired by music, art, fashion and action sports.

"While customer feedback is important to us, we remain committed to the selection of brands and apparel available in our stores," Schoenfeld said in the statement.

Orem is a city of about 90,000 in ultraconservative Utah County that uses the motto "Family City USA." Most residents belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which frowns on pornography and encourages its youth to dress and act modestly.

City code prohibits anyone from putting "explicit sexual material" on public display. The city defines that as "any material that appeals to a prurient interest in sex and depicts nudity, actual or simulated sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse."

Orem city attorney Greg Stephens said he met with Cox Tuesday and explained to her that she needs to file a complaint with police. Stephens said police will review the issue first and decide whether it needs to be passed on to the city attorney, a process that could take weeks.

Cox said she wants her actions to make clear that these types of images are not acceptable for public display.

"I hope my efforts will inspire others to speak up within their communities," Cox said in an email. "You don't have to purchase $600 worth of T-shirts, but you can express your concerns to businesses and corporations who promote the display of pornography to children."

Longtime mall manager Rob Kallas said the display is down now because Cox bought all the shirts. He said the PacSun store manager told him she was embarrassed to put up the display but was following instructions from corporate managers.

Kallas said this is the first time he's received complaints about PacSun. But in the past, others have complained about images in the windows of Victoria's Secret. That's led to Orem city attorneys at least once asking the store to remove an image, he said.

Kallas didn't see the T-shirts in question until getting an email from Cox, but he said he agrees that they were inappropriate. Victoria's Secret has images of women in lingerie, but their clientele is different, he said.

"This is a store that caters to junior high and high school age kids," said Kallas, mall manager for 40 years. "Some of the poses were provocative and were inappropriate for a store catering to young people."

PacSun has 600 stores across the United States, the company's website shows.

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Follow Brady McCombs at https://twitter.com/BradyMcCombs

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