Friday, November 14, 2008

Keith Olbermann Supports Gay Marriage

It bothers me every time Keith Olberman ends one of his rants by saying "good night and good luck," the closing made famous by Edward R. Murrow. Murrow used to end every broadcast with that phrase but in our memories it will always be linked to the speech Murrow gave on March 9, 1954, opposing Joe McCarthy's Red Scare witch hunt. By evoking Murrow, Olbermann is implying that his speeches are as courageous as Murrow's was, which isn't often the case.

This time, however, Olbermann's speech is worthy of Murrow. MSNBC reaches a national audience and in many parts of this country it is courageous to support gay marriage and question the relgious and moral integrity of those who oppose it. Despite the set backs gay marriage encountered this year in California, Florida and Arizona, the fact taht it is legal in two states (Massachusetts and Connecticut) and means it won't disappear from American politics any time soon. By taking a stand, Olbermann risks creating a controversy around MSNBC. If things get too hot he could lose his job for what he said. But those who want marriage to be just and equal for all need to speak truth to the religious and social conservatives. That's what Olbermann did.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stop the Presses: Week of 11/9/08

Savage Love: Dan Savage ain't happy about the outcome of Proposition 8 and he's getting revenge by exploiting the rampant insecurities of straight guys whose girlfriends have discovered their prostates.

Girl With a One Track Mind: The Girl reviews Durex Play O Female Orgasm Gel. Applying it during masturbation or sex apparently makes orgasms easier to reach and more intense. "Viagra for women," according to the Girl.

Control Tower: Matisse discusses ways of making ballot measures to decriminalize prostitution appealing to the average voter.

Open Source Sex: Violet Blue -- not a fan of Prop 8 either, it turns out.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Gays vs. Mormons

The Mormon Church donated as much as 80 percent of the funds raised to pass Proposition 8 in California. You have to admit that's somewhat ironic coming from a group that has famously had its marriage rights attacked. Mormon groups from Utah helped to finance a misinformation campaign that scared some Californians into voting for the measure by falsely claiming that without it schools would be required to teach about same-sex marriage, that parents would have no control over what their children learned about sex in school, that churches would be forced to change their doctrine, and that people could be sued for anti-gay beliefs.

There have been numerous groups that have recently suggested punishing the Mormon Church in some way. A number of activists and blogs, such as America Blog, have begun doing research into the possibilities. Gays have already showed their displeasure at a protest at the headquarters of the Church of Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City on Friday night.

A few other ideas retaliatory ideas have been floated. Mormons Stole Our Rights, a new website, is dedicated to revoking the Mormon Church's tax-exempt status as a religious institution. The law says that religious institutions must refrain from significant lobbying efforts and trying to affect legislation. However it isn't clear if the Mormon Church violated the letter of the law, since it did not give money to the Yes on Prop 8 campaign, just encouraged its members to do so.

Another idea is to take our displeasure out on Mormon-owned businesses, a surprisingly long list of large corporations, including American Express, the Marriott Hotel, Dell Computer, Novell and Check the Mormon Stock Index for a complete list.

The most extreme notion that I've heard is a boycott of the entire state of Utah. Utah rakes in a lot of money each year through tourism and some gay activists think that boycotting Utah ski resorts, national parks and the Sundance Film Festival might send a powerful message to the Mormons.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Stop the Presses: Week of 11/3/08

Red Sex, Blue Sex (The New Yorker): New Yorker contributor Margaret Talbot takes a look at the different attitudes of evangelical Christians surrounding sex. She finds that the more socially conservative the area and the lower the age of sexual activity, the higher the instance of teen pregnancy. "Social liberals in the country's 'blue states' tend to support sex education and are not particularly trouled by the idea that many teen-agers have sex before marriage, but would regard a teen-age daughter's pregnancy as devastating news," she writes. "And the social conservatives in 'red states' generally advocate abstinence-only education and denounce sex before marriage, but aare relatively unruffled if a teen-ager becomes pregnant, as long as she doesn't choose to have an abortion." A fascinating article.

Savage Love: Dan gives advice to a woman whose boyfriend is into bestiality and wants to watch as she screws the pooch.

Open Source Sex: Armed with righteous indignation and plenty of snark, Violet Blue sets the record straight about the supposed dangers of porn.

Tomfoolery (Tango Magazine): Obama is a sometimes cockblocker, writes Tom Miller, but only occasionally and by accident. "Obama, for a hot sec, lost sight of the bro code. By law, Lovelady is allowed to request a condom, a wingman and a semi-private room from a fellow dude. And he got none of the above."

Click Me: Bonnie Ruberg visits an online community for women and men whose spouses have lost interest in sex.

Obituary of Gerard Damiano (New York Times): The director of Deep Throat died last week at the age of 80.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Podcast Round-Up: Week of 11/3/08

Savage Lovecast, ep. 107: After placing a curse on the genitals of any podcast listeners who don't vote for Barack Obama, Dan answers questions from a personal trainer looking for a long term relationship, a teenager whose girlfriend is afraid to try oral and a man who wants to stop coming like a geyser, among others.

Ropecast 11/2/08: Graydancer gives advice on giving people advice, brags about his teaching ability, tells us about steam punk and shares his thoughts on meatloaf.

Poly Weekly, ep. 178: Minx tells us five things you should say on a first date.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

US vs. Sex

The New York Times reports that the attorneys general of 40 states are on the warpath against Craigslist to make it weed out the most objectionable "erotic services" ads. Craigslist has long been used by people who want to hook up for no strings attached sex. The site has already begun verifying the phone numbers of people who place sex ads. Now they're going to start charging a $10 fee for their ads as a way of getting people's credit card information and learning their identities. The message is very clear. If you're gay, if you're kinky, if you're a sex worker, look out... Big Brother is watching you.

A few years ago a flamer posted a fake Craigslist ad posing as a kinky submissive woman looking for a male top, then published the personal information of all the men that replied. Some lost their jobs or were outed as kinky to their families. You don't have to be ashamed of your sex life to want and expect a certain level of privacy. This is yet another example of the government doing something that it has gotten very good at during the eight years of the Bush Administration: trying to control people's sexual expression through intimidation. Will Obama change this policy? I'm not holding my breath.

UPDATE 11/9/08: Mistress Matisse has just posted on her blog about the Craigslist situation and she took a more positive view of it than I did, which is surprising coming from a sex worker. She acknowledges that there is a danger that the government could subpoena Craigslist's records but says that's a lot of effort to go to in order to bust independent prostitutes. Simpler methods already exist. The only people who are in danger according to Matisse are pimps and the shadier escort services, and Matisse doesn't mind if "the riff-raff" goes to jail. I think she's missing a larger point -- that the government is intimidating Craigslist into intimidating prostitutes, which drives sex work farther underground and makes it less safe. But she definitely knows more about the subject than I do. Maybe I should give the standard liberal, sex-positive defense of sex work a rest.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election News

California residents passed Proposition 8, amending the state's constitution to ban any further gay marriage. Tens of thousands of gay couples have married in California since a State Supreme Court decision overturned the state's marriage ban. It is unclear whether those marriages will remain valid or whether Proposition 8 will be applied retroactively.

Gay marriage was also banned in Arizona and Florida.

In Arkansas, a referendum made it illegal for gay couples to adopt children.

A Colorado ballot measure that would have defined life as beginning at conception, was soundly defeated. The measure could have made abortion and many kinds of birth control illegal.

A South Dakota ballot initiative to limit abortion was defeated. It was the sequel to at 2006 initiative that banned abortion outright, including cases of rape, incest and instances where the life of the mother was at risk. This ballot initiative made exceptions in those cases and was expected to pass.

Oh, yes, and Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States in a landslide, while his party dramatically increased their majority in the Senate and House.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Top 10 Political Sex Scandals of the Bush Era - Part 2

It's time for the second half the Top 10 Political Sex Scandals of the Bush Era. Read part one, scandals numbers 10 through 6, if you haven't yet.

5. Bob Allen (R-Florida) -- State Representative, 2000-2007

Bob Allen was a family man and a Republican member of the Florida legislature. He went to a park known for gay cruising, saw a hot black man and offered to fellaciate him, at which point the man told Allen he was an undercover cop and arrested him. It was all pretty banal until Allen started making excuses. Then it got pretty funny. Allen claimed that he was going for an nice, relaxing, innocent, totally heterosexual walk in the park when he was confronted by an imposing black man (apparently the cop was quite the physical specimen). In fear for his life lest this Negro savage should harm him, Allen made a completely natural, totally heterosexual attempt to save himself by offering to blow the man. You can get by in public service as a closeted queer and a racist but Allen is the one thing that no politician can afford to be: a really bad liar.

The most incredible thing about this story is the insight into Allen's prejudices. If Allen thought his cover story was even remotely plausible as he concocted it, can you imagine what mental image he has of blacks and gays? In Allen's mind gay people are predators and rapists, while black people are so violent and sex-crazed that a gay one would attack an ugly, overweight middle aged white guy in a public park. If Allen didn't believe those things, why would he make up such a ridiculous story? And besides, when it comes to gay people why shouldn't Allen believe that they're so pathetic, ashamed and filled with self-loathing that they'd engage in the most debasing and high risk kinds of sexual activity? I mean, Allen himself is gay and that description fits him perfectly!

4. David Vitter (R-Louisiana) -- US Senator, 2004-present

David Vitter has spent his career campaigning against abortion, denying federal funding to organizations that distribute contraception and trying to pass a Constitutional amendment against gay marriage. That's why it was particularly satisfying when escort service owner Deborah Jeane Palfrey (the so-called "DC Madam") revealed that Vitter was one of her clients. This led to revelations that Vitter was a client of a New Orleans escort service where he had indulged his diaper fetish with prostitutes who had given him the nickname "Vitter the Shitter." Fortunately for Vitter he didn't like to practice his fetish with men. Where some of his gay colleagues had to resign or face censure for lewd behavior, Vitter gave an apology speech to the Senate and received a standing ovation.

There's a lot of variety in diaper fetishism. Sometimes a diaper fetish goes along with infantalism role play, sometimes not. Some diaper lovers urinate or defecate in their diaper, some don't. We might suspect Vitter did, given his nickname, but not a whole lot of information is actually available (I couldn't help noticing that Vitter's Wikipedia article has been scrubbed clean of all references to diapers). In the end, like Spitzer, Vitter's problem wasn't sex, it was hypocrisy. Vitter tried to legislate against other people's sexual freedoms while at the same time reveling in his own. His decision to go to a prostitute may mean he was ashamed of his fetish but Vitter's ability to say one thing and do the opposite makes me suspect a different explanation: he is simply so arrogant that he believes the rules apply to everyone but him. The consequences of being a diaper fetishist (the effort required to find a partner open to doing it discreetly and the responsibility of accepting the sexual desires of others) are for other people, in Vitter's mind, so he's justified in lying to his wife, family and constituents to get what he wants sexually. Unfortunately Vitter's Republican colleagues didn't want his replacement appointed by Louisiana's Democratic governor, so Vitter's belief that he was above the rules others have to follow was confirmed.

3. Mark Foley (R-Florida) -- US Congressman, 1995-2006

Foley was the chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children and one of the staunchest opponents of child pornography in Congress. Not bad for a day at the office. Unfortunately at night Foley was busy getting drunk and sending sexually explicit Instant Messages to sixteen-year-old congressional pages. In 2006 ABC reported the information and Foley resigned, but the scandal had just begun. Evidence surfaced that Republican leaders had been aware of Foley's harassment since 2005 but had failed to stop him. In a year when the Iraq War was hurting Republicans the Foley scandal was hugely demoralizing to values voters and played a big role in helping the Democrats gain control of Congress.

Foley's crusade against child abuse was genuine -- Anthony Mercieca, a retired Catholic priest, has admitted to molesting Foley for two years when Foley was a boy. While no saint, Foley never did anything so despicable while perpetuating the cycle. He deserves at least a little credit for confining his harassment to boys above the age of consent (in Washington and the majority of the country, though not Florida) and for not engaging in sexual contact with his victims. Being attracted to older teens makes Foley a pedarast, not a pedophile. That's good news for him because it means he can funnel this kink into a healthy relationship (say, with a young looking 25-year-old man). When the scandal broke, Foley resigned quickly, checked himself into alcohol rehab and came out as gay, which are good first steps. Now that he's acknowledging his problems rather than repressing them Foley may be able to find some real happiness.

2. Ted Haggard -- Former Leader of the National Association of Evangelicals

Ted Haggard led an evangelical Christian movement thirty million strong. Every week Haggard gave spiritual advice to George W. Bush and his advisers. Then Haggard supported a ballot initiative banning gay marriage and Mike Jones, the male prostitute Haggard had been paying the last three years for sex and methamphetamine, spilled the beans. But all's well that ends well, I guess: Haggard underwent "treatment" and was declared "completely heterosexual" after only 21 days. How was he cured so quickly? The minister who "cured" him said it was because his homosexual activity wasn't "constant." "By that standard," wrote sex columnist Dan Savage, "I've been completely heterosexual since, gee, about 10 minutes after 2:00 this morning."

What possesses a person to deny who they are, then, when they're caught lying, deny it again? Perhaps making a lot of money as the head of a mega-church has something to do with it, but I really wouldn't know. Plenty of people manage to reconcile their Christian faith with their homosexuality, mostly by remembering that if they weren't gay a literal interpretation of the Book of Leviticus would still send them to hell anyway for shaving, eating lobster or wearing wool-linen blends. Haggard could have lived out of the closet without denying his spirituality. He chose not be honest, was outed, then chose not to be honest again. I guess the worst hells really are the ones we make for ourselves.

1. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) -- US Senator, 1991-present

It can’t come as much of a surprise that Larry Craig is the top sex scandal of the Bush Era. In June 2007 this moral values conservative who opposed gay marriage, voted against making gay bashing a hate crime, and once called Bill Clinton “a naughty boy” because of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover cop in the men’s room of the Minneapolis airport. Craig plead guilty like he thought maybe nobody would notice, then when they did he entertained everyone with a string of ludicrous denials that he maintains to this day.

Craig’s wide stance is now the butt (er, subject) of a thousand jokes but its significance didn’t stop there. The Craig scandal was a watershed moment in Bush Era politics -- the moment where, in the wake of Haggard and Foley, people seriously began to wonder if every anti-gay crusader in the Republican Party was in fact a closeted homo. Everything I've said about McGreevey, Murphy, Allen, Foley and Haggard goes for Craig as well. Sexuality is part of who we all are. If we can't accept it and be open about it, we're doomed to fulfill our sexual needs in secretive, unhealthy, unsafe and deeply shameful ways that can have serious effects on careers and loved ones. Honesty is the best policy, the truism goes. Larry Craig is one of an enormous group of people who hasn't learned that lesson yet.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Samuel L. Jackson -- Badass, As Always

Samuel L. Jackson lends his voice to the No on Proposition 8 campaign in this television spot.