Archive for the ‘Sex’ category

April 16, 2015

 

Figure_skating_beesWhen a non-crazy parent — Alice Dreger — sits in on her son’s sex-ed class, taught by someone who thinks sex is, well…

Read it and weep.  A taste:

The lesson Jerry wanted to impart? This: “You’ll find a good girl. If you find one who says ‘no,’ that’s the one you want.”

He actually said that. If a girl says no, “that’s the one you want.”

Silly me! I have been teaching my son that if a girl says no, you exit politely and get the hell out of her space.

Oh hell, one more morsel:

Ms. Thomas’s dire warnings continued: “It takes only one sperm to fertilize an egg. It takes only one act of sex to get pregnant.”

I wanted to raise my hand and blurt out, “Not if it’s anal or oral!”

Tizian_011

You get the drift.  Dreger’s twitter feed for the last day or so is a hoot and a half too…or would be if it weren’t so damn depressing.

Dreger’s problem — or the East Lansing High School’s — is that the school has contracted at least part of its sex ed curriculum to the usual suspects:

The abstinence class is part of the district’s overall sex education unit. According to Fletcher, it is called SMART for Sexually Mature Aware Responsible Teens. It’s provided by an independent contractor working with Pregnancy Services of Greater Lansing, a group that counsels pregnant women to avoid abortion.

Lori Bolan, the administrator of SMART, said East Lansing has been using the program for 22 years to cover abstinence. She said it is fact-based using Centers for Disease Control statistics.

“We are trying to give them an option,” she said. “We’re just one portion of what the school provides.”

And yet, inevitably:

Bolan declined to provide the PowerPoint used in the class and the instructor’s name

This last report is from the local paper, which also seems to think the problem isn’t the crap material, but Dreger’s impertinence in giving it a public ridiculing, writing that her choice to live tweet was a shonde:

unfortunately for East Lansing schools, she found a spot with wifi.

In the end, this is yet anothe example of the perils of privatization.  “Independent contracting” of sex-ed to anti-sex, anti women’s autonomy pressure groups is analagous to handing a donor a badge and a gun, or turning convicted criminals into product for processing in private prisons…and so on.  Public goods — an accurately educated school population; professionally policed streets; socially agreed and imposed punishment and rehabilitation are not “luxuries” to be doled out to high bidders or motivated donors.

Or rather they are, but not in civilized societies.

Images:  Photo of bee figure skaters (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) via bugeater.

Titian, Danaë with Eros, 1544.

My New Favorite Judge

July 7, 2014

Would be Bush 41 appointee Richard Kopf*, a member of the Federal District Court bench for in Nebraska.

Why?

Because of this:

In the Hobby Lobby cases, five male Justices of the Supreme Court, who are all members of the Catholic faith and who each were appointed by a President who hailed from the Republican party, decided that a huge corporation, with thousands of employees and gargantuan revenues, was a “person” entitled to assert a religious objection to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate because that corporation was “closely held” by family members. To the average person, the result looks stupid and smells worse.

[h/t Talking Points Memo]

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Judge Kopf elaborates:

To most people, the decision looks stupid ’cause corporations are not persons, all the legal mumbo jumbo notwithstanding. The decision looks misogynist because the majority were all men. It looks partisan because all were appointed by a Republican. The decision looks religiously motivated because each member of the majority belongs to the Catholic church, and that religious organization is opposed to contraception.

Kopf adds both in a disclaimer both truthful and politic that he is not saying that the majority in the Hobby Lobby decision were actually driven by the considerations that it really really looks like they were. But the point is made — and he adds the equally valid observation that there was no actual necessity for the Supremes to take the case in the first place. Such judicial passivism, he says, would have been better than this result.

In that context, the good jurist has the temerity to offer advice to his betters:

Next term is the time for the Supreme Court to go quiescent–this term and several past terms has proven that the Court is now causing more harm (division) to our democracy than good by deciding hot button cases that the Court has the power to avoid. As the kids say, it is time for the Court to stfu**

To which I say, Amen and Amen.

*As the TPM piece linked above reports, Kopf achieved a measure of — fame is not quite the word — notice for an earlier blog post advising young women lawyers how to dress for court.

**I do love the link that Judge Kopf kindly provided for his less internet-meme-familiar readers to that last term.

Image: William Hogarth, The Court, c. 1758. You’ve seen this one before, I know. I generally try to find a new image for every post, but this one so perfectly captures the contempt I feel for the current Court that I just keep coming back to it. Sorry.

Annals of Stupidity (Sex in America Edition)

July 22, 2012

Via the Guardian, we learn of the latest act of stupidity in America’s war on sex:

The International Aids conference, held in the US for the first time in 22 years next week, is a chance for the country to celebrate its contribution to HIV and Aids prevention. Yet in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Washington DC, state police forces are stopping, searching and arresting sex workers – and using condoms found on them as evidence to support prostitution charges, undermining decades of HIV and Aids harm reduction work in the process.

Via the Human Rights Watch report that forms the basis of the Guardian piece we learn this:

Police use of condoms as evidence of prostitution has the same effect everywhere: despite millions of dollars spent on promoting and distributing condoms as an effective method of HIV prevention, groups most at risk of infection—sex workers, transgender women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth—are afraid to carry them and therefore engage in sex without protection as a result of police harassment. Outreach workers and businesses are unable to distribute condoms freely and without fear of harassment as well.

Carrying guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition around town? No problem.  A couple of dozen condoms? Call out the guards!

File this under WASF.

PS:  If you want to read a clear-headed account of sex-work, HIV, and appropriate public health responses, see my friend Elizabeth Pisani’s excellent The Wisdom of Whores. (Go to the right hand column of the website.)  As Elizabeth regularly notes, condoms are hardly a perfect barrier to STD infection, HIV in particular, not least because in real life it turns out to be hard to persuade oneself/one’s partner to use them as needed every time they are needed. That said, condoms from an essential component of a sex-worker’s ability to take direct action on her or his own behalf as she or he goes about a working day (or night).  Creating barriers to their use is both stupid as a public health measure and an unacceptable — I would say, un-American — infringement on an individual’s right and duty to take care of oneself.

Bonus: Video via Elizabeth’s site from condom maker DKT’s home video collection:

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(Translation of the caption at the end:  “With a year’s supply of free condoms, any place is the right place.”)

Image:  Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, The ladies in the brothel dining-room, 1893

Yes Dear, I Remember When Women Were People Too

March 31, 2011

Yes Dear, I Do Remember When Women Were People Too

by Tom Levenson

Blogging  in haste whilst waiting out the sprout’s martial arts class, this from the ACLU blog seems an excruciatingly appropriate follow up to ABL’s post below:
On December 23, 2010, [Bei Bei] Shuai, a 34-year-old pregnant woman who was suffering from a major depressive disorder, attempted to take her own life. Friends found her in time and persuaded her to get help. Six days later, Shuai underwent cesarean surgery and delivered a premature newborn girl who, tragically, died four days later.

On March 14, 2011, Shuai was arrested, jailed, and charged with murder and attempted feticide. Had Shuai, who is being represented by National Advocates for Pregnant Women and local attorneys, not been pregnant when she attempted suicide, she would not have been charged with any crime at all.

I’m fair gobsmacked with outrage and sorrow at this.

Full disclosure: this story strikes home personally—there is a history of depression and associated suicide on one side of my family, and the thought that someone enduring that particularly vicious illness being further tortured by the modern inquisition is just grotesque.  No one who has either suffered major depression, nor anyone who has loved someone thus afflicted would see the state of Indiana’s actions as anything other than vicious.

That this action is enmeshed in religious and political fanaticism and intolerance of views other than those of particular faiths and cults does not excuse the behavior.  The reverse, in fact.

Beyond my personal revulsion and rage at those who would so use a woman already mired in sorrow for their own ends,* the only thing I want to add in this brief piece is that the actions of the state here are part and parcel of a pattern of GOP lawless exercise of state power under the color of law.  Here’s the ACLU blog again on the way Indiana prosecutors are abusing the criminal statutes at their disposal:
The state is misconstruing the criminal laws in this case in such a way that any pregnant woman could be prosecuted for doing (or attempting) anything that may put her health at risk, regardless of the outcome of her pregnancy.

That’s right: according to the ways the laws are being applied here, the state of Indiana believes that any pregnant woman who smokes or lives with a smoker, who works long hours on her feet, who is overweight, who doesn’t exercise, or who fails to get regular prenatal care, is a felon. And the list of ways these laws could be construed to unconstitutionally prosecute pregnant women goes on and on.

That is, as this report goes on to argue, in the view of the prosecution, women are not autonomous citizens.  They are wards of the state…and while I’m sure the earnest sex-phobic, women-denigrating apologists of the right (I’m looking at you, Ross Douthat) would argue that matters would never get this far, I don’t see how the theory of the Indiana prosecution wouldn’t stretch to cover the “reckless” behavior of any fertile, sexually active woman.

After all—if you don’t know whether or not you are pregnant, how can you responsibly risk any potential fetus by injesting the demon rum or what have you.  If there is any woman, or any friend to any woman out there who thinks that the GOP can be trusted with their body, they need to think long and hard on the show trial of Bei Bei Shuai

Image:  Cate Bischop Sorrow, before 1928

The GOP War on Women (And Families) Continues

February 18, 2011

Deep thinker Mike Pence’s amendment banning federal funding for Planned Parenthood has passed the House, 245-180.

This cuts $363 million that would otherwise pay for the full range of family planning services Planned Parenthood provides.

That would be this operation:

Our skilled health care professionals are dedicated to offering men, women, and teens high-quality, affordable medical care. One in five American women has chosen Planned Parenthood for health care at least once in her life.

The heart of Planned Parenthood is in the local community. Our 85 unique, locally governed affiliates nationwide operate more than 820 health centers, which reflect the diverse needs of their communities.

These health centers provide a wide range of safe, reliable health care — and more than 90 percent is preventive, primary care, which helps prevent unintended pregnancies through contraception, reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections through testing and treatment, and screen for cervical and other cancers. Caring physicians, nurse practitioners, and other staff take time to talk with clients, encouraging them to ask questions in an environment that millions have grown to trust.

….

Planned Parenthood is a respected leader in educating Americans about reproductive and sexual  health. We deliver comprehensive and medically accurate information that empowers women, men, teens, and families to make informed choices and lead healthy lives. Planned Parenthood is proud of its vital role in providing young people with honest sexuality and relationship information in classrooms and online to help reduce our nation’s alarmingly high rates of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. More than 1.2 million youths and adults participate in Planned Parenthood educational programs every year.

It is certainly true that Planned Parenthood provides abortion services, none of which are paid for by federal tax dollars.*  Mostly, though this is what it does:

In 2008, they reported that contraception constituted 35% of total services, STI/STD testing and treatment constituted 34%, cancer testing and screening constituted 17%; and other women’s health procedures, including pregnancy, prenatal, midlife, and infertility were 10%. According to Planned Parenthood less than 2% of visits involve abortions.

So, in essence, the House GOP has decided that in order to prevent federal tax dollars from paying for abortions they already don’t pay for, they are willing to see more — many more — Americans suffer sexually transmitted infections, die of cancer, endure untreated complications of pregnancy, menopause and the inability to bear longed-for children.  Say that again: to prevent any federal dollar from passing in close proximity to a private one that paid for an abortion, GOP religious zealots are willing to make it harder for infertile couples to bear children.

Why, I ask, do the modern Republican party and all those self-styled “conservative” radicals hate women — and America — so very, very much.

*Except, possibly, in cases where the abortion is necessitated by an act of rape or incest.

Image: attributed to Albrecht Dürer, Syphilis, 1496.

My Contribution to Closing the Enthusiasm Gap this Fall + Some Link Love

July 28, 2010

You’ve all heard, no doubt, that the big advantage the GOP + its tinfoil auxiliaries have this fall is the reported greater enthusiasm for such goals as repealing the non-existent-but-zombie-death-panels than that felt on the Democratic side for, among much else, preventing the return to power of those that got us into our current fix.

Well, there’s lots to do about that, and what follows won’t help much.  But it won’t hurt, either.  Enjoy:

Now, some links for edification, amusement, and perhaps action.  (Don’t miss the one above — Sen. “Diaper” Dave Vitter is a source of never ending wonder.

And in partial response to Vitter’s astonishing fail, check out Atul Gawande’s latest on end-of-life care (and the consequences of the absence of such care). I plan to blog on this a little later, but don’t wait on l’il old me.   The article is essential reading.

I’ve been meaning to tout this for a while but again, as a partial response to Vitter, to the ongoing Jeremy Lord “lynchgate” fiasco, and to a whole range of shenanigans too miserable to recall here (enthusiasm gap, remember) check out Batocchio’s elegant The Five Circles of Conservative Hell.

This is a little self-aggrandizing, given how Jennifer Ouellette begins her analysis, but she’s got a lovely takedown of Amazon anonymous reviewers of science books up at Cocktail Party Physics.

Henry Farrell’s got me salivating over a novel about, among other things, the birth of linear programming.

I’m a few days behind in my reading (days?–ed.), but I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight Kathy Olmsted’s lovely reminiscence about Daniel Schorr.  It’s not the memories that stand out, in fact, as it is the critical assessment of the state of journalism, especially on TV.  Not to give it away, but there are only two cohorts:  Schorr and not-Schorr, and one is vastly different, and better, than the other.

And what would the sultry days of summer without an official celebration of Sex Week.  Carl Zimmer is on the case.

More grimly, Ed Yong, who continues to do so much work that I suspect him of being a collective of at least three symbionts occupying the same meat envelope, writes of the dangers to phytoplankton from a warming ocean.  This is fate-of-the-planet stuff.  Which is why, of course, we should return the party of global warming denialists/defeatists to power.

And with that eternal return of the same (thanks, Freddy!), I’m done for now.

That’ll do for now.

Correlation Ain’t Cause, but Mississippi’s Fear of Sex Has To Make You Go Hmmm.

July 16, 2010

I learn via the Maddowblog, (h/t Balloon Juice) that Mississipi Public Broadcasting got its knickers in a twist because one (count ’em — one) listener got the vapors over some mildly sexualized content on an episode of Terri Gross’s program, Fresh Air.  (Miss PB claims that a review of Gross’s show revealed a pattern of naughty bits. (h/t Gawker).

Balloon Juice’s Mr. Mix points out that Mississippi PB’s effective “zero tolerance” policy for mentions of sex on the radio adds up to  an essential omerta on matters lubricious, bouncy-bouncy, reproductive and all the rest.

That made me wonder.  What occurs in the context of such fear and trembling at the thought that humans have bodies and do things with them?

Well, I can’t say I was terribly surprised.  As of the latest statistics I could get my hands on quickly (Friday-afternoon-heading-for-a-BBQ blogging, you know), in 2007 Mississippi had the highest out-of-wedlock birthrate of all states, with such births accounting for 54% of the total.  As of 2006, Mississippi teens out-reproduced all their peers, boasting the top birthrate in the country for the 15-19 age group.  And as for the nasty problem referenced in this Sublime song…

…Mississippi maintains its leading position, coming in first in its incidence of chlamydia and gonorrhea, and eighth on the league tables for primary and secondary syphilis.

Now, as the title of this post ought to make clear, I’m not saying that a statewide choice to hold one’s hands over one’s ears and shout “I’m not listening!” — whenever discussion begins of sexual behavior, reproduction and contraception and all the rest sully the Magnolia State’s sensitive souls is — has any connection to the fact that so many more of its citizens than those of other states suffer the real human costs that come with unprotected and unconsidered sex.

But it sure is a coincidence, ain’t it?

Image: Anthony Van Dyck, “Cupid and Psyche,” 1639-40