Monday, February 28, 2011

Voodoo Sex Ritual

On Friday night I saw a story on the Fox 5 10 O'Clock News about an apartment building in Brooklyn that burned down. What was this story's focus? Sadness over the elderly woman who lost her life? Concern for the many people who are now homeless?

No, the object of the story was to say the words "voodoo sex ritual" as many times as humanly possible in three minutes, and the intrepid Fox 5 team rose to the challenge. I didn't start counting until at least thirty seconds into the story, but I still managed to count 18 times they managed to work in the three-word phrase. Often they managed to hit it two or even three times in one sentence, and always with a special tone to emphasize their moral disgust. They never varied the wording, never tried throwing in "voodoo ceremony" for variety, just kept hitting the phrase in a viewer-entrancing litany over and over and over, as if their Neilsen number ticked up decimal point every time they said it.

From what I can tell from the news story, what happened is a man who is a voodoo priest and a woman were having sex. They had lit some candles around the bed as part of a voodoo ceremony. The sheets caught fire. The man attempted to put out the fire with water from the sink but was unsuccessful. The woman opened the apartment door, and which point a wind tunnel was created which drew the fire into the hall. From there the rest of the building caught fire.

If any chicken were beheaded, any sheep entrails read, any cow tongues bound with twine, the story doesn't mention it. So seriously, why are they harping on the voodoo aspect. Every bullshit relationship book in your local chain bookstore will tell you how romantic it is to light candles by the bed to have sex (gag!). You hardly need to be a voodoo priest to accidentally burn down your apartment -- a sentimental teenage girl could do it just as easily after prom. (Tangent for vanilla people and sentimental teenage girls: Have you ever tried getting wax out of sheets? Don't go there!) But rather than pointing out the potential lesson that non-voodoo practitioners could take away from this tragedy the news spent their time condemning the man and woman involved for putting the life of everyone in their building in danger for their bizarre sexual gratification... and never mind that the danger was a freak accident that could have happened to anyone.

What we've got here, clearly, is blatant media sensationalism. There is a time-honored formula for this kind of thing and it drives me absolutely insane. It consists of triggering three sets of emotions in people: arousal, envy and moral righteousness. Your first reaction to a sensational sex story (doesn't have to be voodoo sex, could be Charlie Sheen or Tiger Wood) is to think, "Wow, that's hot! I can't believe there are people out who are nasty enough to do freaky shit like that to get off!" We've all got a little bit of a voyeur in us. We all want to hear about other people's kinky sex. You may not want to do that particular thing (I'll say it again, wax + sheets = bad) but just the idea that people are out there doing crazy shit to get off arouses you. Then the jealousy kicks in. You think, "How come this stupid moron who apparently can't figure out how a fire extinguisher works is having the sex of his dreams when I, a mature, responsible, successful person, don't get my fantasies fulfilled?" This thought lingers in your mind just long enough to suggest the true answer: that the stupid moron doesn't have the sense God gave tiny animals to be afraid of fire, but he has enough guts to admit to himself what kind of crazy sex he wants to have, get over the shame, and go out and find it. And you don't. But that answer is unacceptable -- it means you're dumber than Charlie Sheen, Tiger Wood and Mr. Voodoo Sex Ritual! So you go looking for another reason and your cultural programming kicks in. Sex is nasty, dirty and wrong. If it was okay to have great sex you would be, but you're not, so clearly it isn't okay. And this moron is doing it. How dare he do something so morally reprehensible?!? And you've arrived at righteous indignation.

Arousal, envy and moral righteousness: It's an ugly set of emotions and the more small-minded and repressed the viewer being triggered is, the stronger they are. And to be really clear, I do think that Mr. Voodoo Sex Ritual, Charlie Sheen, Tiger Wood, Eliot Spitzer and Bill Clinton are irresponsible. But the message I'm getting from the news isn't "If you light candles, bring a fire extinguisher." It's more along the lines of "Voodoo sex ceremonies are sick and wrong and people who engage in them are willing to selfishly put people's lives at risk for a cheap, sexual thrill."

There is something so ugly, abhorrent and pathetic about a group of tiny people condemning someone, not because that person made a mistake but because the group is too repressed to do what they want to do. I have way more contempt for that kind of person than two people who accidentally kicked over a candle. But there's one group of people I have ever more contempt for: TV reporters who manipulate this ugly dynamic to make money. That is the definition of depraved.

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