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More like a-DICK-tion. Get it?!

3 Oct

Two contradictory pieces on the subject of porn and sex addiction emerged recently, both of which — naturally — virtually ignore the role of gender in the rise of the various social and cultural phenomena people have chosen to lump under the rubric of “sex addiction,” as well as the variety of and wide variations between the behaviors that fall under that ill-conceived label. The first, a salacious Newsweek cover story that warns of a growing epidemic of “sex addiction” brought about by the internet’s facilitation of porn use and casual meet-ups, spawned the second, a Salon piece critical of the concept of sex addiction in which Tracy Clark-Flory interviews Liberal Dude author David Ley, whose new book The Myth of Sex Addiction is due out soon. A cursory reference in the Newsweek article to “greater stigma” for women who engage in risky sexual behavior notwithstanding, neither piece even skirts the obvious questions anyone who isn’t personally invested in the perpetuation of patriarchy should ask (I know there are at least seven people who aren’t personally invested in the perpetuation of patriarchy).

While both articles mention the fact that behaviors as different as compulsive porn use, emotionally and physically risky sexual behavior, and the serial pursuit of unhealthy romantic attachments — to which has been applied the unfortunate label “love addiction” — have been grouped under the umbrella term “sex addiction,” neither pays much attention to why that might be so, and neither has anything to say about the ways in which that ham-fisted grouping shapes the “treatment” that this motley assortment of “sex addicts” receives.

Given that gender is a foundational social organizing principle and that assumptions about gender color nearly every interaction a human being engages in, ignoring the role of gender (as well, of course, as class and race) in discussions of sex addiction (and pretty much anything else) places huge barricades in the way of understanding what the hell is even going on, much less what to do about it. Addiction – whether it be to bourbon, benzos, or getting busy in a Burger King bathroom – means very different things for men and for women. Gender roles come with prepackaged social expectations, and the processes by which women and men become addicted to various substances or behaviors and by which they come to consider themselves addicts differ, as do the gendered social consequences that attach to addictive behavior.

Let’s assume for a second that sex addiction — as defined as compulsively engaging in in-person sexual encounters — exists (which I will get to later). If we want to treat it, shouldn’t we at least try to determine its real causes? Those who believe in the existence of sex addiction identify an insatiable need for validation in the form of sexual attention as its root for both women and men, but socially inculcated gendered behavior results in that need manifesting in very different ways, with different consequences for both the addict and her or his partners. Women, when seeking affirmation or attention, tend to self-objectify and to seek out interactions with the kinds of men who value sexual availability over all other characteristics. You know, opportunistic assholes. It’s not difficult for a woman to find a dude willing to use her for sex, nor is it rare for a woman to run across a date rapist or a man who can’t wait to take out his misogyny on her body. Being a female sex addict in the era of porn saturation is thus physically and psychologically dangerous business for the addict herself. From the Newsweek article:

For Valerie, sex was a form of self-medication: to obliterate the anxiety, despair, and crippling fear of emotional intimacy that had haunted her since being abandoned as a child. “In order to soothe the loneliness and the fear of being unwanted, I was looking for love in all the wrong places,” she recalls.

Women — despite the fact that their stories often lead pieces about sex addiction (how odd) — rarely show up at therapists’ offices or Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings claiming to be sex addicts. The Newsweek piece attempts to explain away the paucity of female sex addicts:

If discussion of sex addiction can seem like an exclusive domain of men, that’s because, according to sex therapists, the overwhelming majority of self-identifying addicts—about 90 percent—are male. Women are more often categorized as “love addicts,” with a compulsive tendency to fall into dependent relationships and form unrealistic bonds with partners. That’s partly because women are more apt than men to be stigmatized by association with sex addiction, says Anna Valenti-Anderson, a sex-addiction therapist in Phoenix. “We live in a society where there’s still a lot more internalized shame for women and there’s a lot more for them to lose,” Valenti-Anderson says. “People will say, ‘She’s a bad mom’ for doing these sexual things. As opposed to, ‘She’s sick and has a disorder.’ But very slowly, women are starting to be more willing to come into treatment.”

Despite the plain differences between male and female “sex addicts,” the therapy community insists on equating the kind of behavior Valerie describes with male sex addicts’ exploitative sexual behaviors:

“The addiction will take you to a place where you’re walking the streets at night, so keyed up, thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll just see if there’s anybody out there,’” he says. “Like looking for prey, kind of…”

Addiction leads male sex addicts, it would appear, to obsessively seek female sex addicts. When they fail to materialize, most turn to prostitutes or to porn. While one could make the argument that renting women comes with the risks of sexually transmitted infections (though it’s usually male customers who insist on sex without condoms), there is a clear and gendered imbalance in the consequences for sex addiction. While male sex addicts might lose a romantic partner or two over their philandering, they don’t face the same level of social opprobrium women do for engaging similar behavior, nor do their risky sexual behaviors come with the threat of rape or murder as women’s do. In addition to avoiding the bulk of the consequences that their female counterparts confront, male sex addicts can be a detriment to many others beyond the romantic partners that they serially cheat on, because they often help create the demand in the porn and prostitution industries that allows for their continued existence and continued exploitation of women and children.

But let’s be serious. Is every character flaw going to become a disease that one can only escape from via rehab? If men are wandering around, glassy-eyed and thoughtless, in search of women they can joylessly fuck, is the problem really that these men are addicts, or is it simply that they’ve bought into the idea that life should be like Entourage and thus lost the plot? If there are women frantically seeking attention from soulless, predatory men who don’t value them for anything other than their breasts and orifices, are they diseased, or are they just manifesting the central lesson our warped social and cultural system has to teach women and girls: that they are valuable only to the extent that men find them sexually useful?

Note that every single person interviewed in the Newsweek article has a stake in the addiction recovery industry. The Salon interview — though it is guilty of get-with-it-ism as it presents porn addiction and sexual dishonesty as unproblematic save for their effect on the flowery sensibilities of puritanical weenies — at least takes note of the fact that those in the therapy industry have a personal financial stake in the mainstream acceptance of the addiction model.

I have an idea. Farting in public is rude and often costs people the respect of others, but there are people out there who just can’t help themselves and get a dopamine rush out of doing it. I’m setting up an in-patient farting-in-public recovery center in LA, complete with massage, fitness center, yoga classes, and personal nutritionists for each of our clients who will help them create meal plans that will minimize flatulence and hence help our patients avoid a key trigger for addictive behavior. We’ll take major insurance plans, of course.

That may seem absurd, but it looks like it’s where we’re headed. A pattern is emerging in late capitalism: leaders of a given industry will seek ways to create physical and emotional dependencies on their products among the public in order to ensure their own continued profits, those dependencies will eventually threaten the consumer’s emotional or physical wellbeing, and then a new branch of the therapeutic industry will materialize to make a profit off of helping consumers shake off their dependencies, thus replacing a dependency on the products of the sex, alcohol, drug, or processed food industries with a dependency on the recovery industry. As long as somebody’s making money, everything’s cool.

And the recovery scene is addictive. Where else but a twelve-step meeting can one narcissistically recount booze/sex/drug party stories in front of an audience that swoons over the most depraved details? And where else can one find a community of people who will repeatedly excuse any failure to abstain from damaging behavior as a disease that simply cannot be helped? Not only do twelve-step programs and therapists offer a convenient way out of trouble for those whose behavior has resulted in negative consequences, but they also provide excuses for continued poor behavior with the language of “illness” and “powerlessness.” That’s right: the addiction model tells us that the guy who jacks off to bestiality porn all day long and/or cheats on his wife with prostitutes a few times a week is powerless to control his own behavior. He’s sick, he needs help, he knows not what he does. The poor guy. What can his wife do to help him recover?

Sex is not heroin. Sex is not alcohol. The sex addiction model being put forth by the recovery industry is:

valley-girl science”… They will tell you, and [the Newsweek] article is a good example of it, that sex addiction is like an eating disorder, it’s like a heroin addiction. The reality is this is an incredibly weak form of argument, because it’s so subjective; and when they tell you that sex addiction is like an eating disorder, they don’t tell you all the things that are different about it. They live by anecdotes, because they don’t have good science.

Lumping porn use and compulsive promiscuity under one umbrella term doesn’t do us any analytical favors. Jacking off to porn all day long is not the same thing as compulsively engaging in casual sexual encounters, and they need to be approached as distinct phenomena. Further, treating sex addiction as if it were similar to alcoholism, etc. creates the assumption that the entirety of the problem is chemical or biological rather than behavioral. Yes, studies show that porn use can cause structural changes in the brain and can warp sexual responses to the point that the prospect of in-person sex with a real female human being fails to turn porn addicts on.  But no adult man (the topic of porn’s effects on children’s developing sexuality will have to wait until another day) wakes up one day unable to get a boner without porn out of the blue. It’s a process that occurs over time, and it’s a process that anyone with enough internet access to jack off thirty times a day has to be aware of, since it’s the hottest news story since the PS4 dropped. Even teenage boys are aware of that potentiality.

Sexual compulsions, even if they have progressed to such a point, are at base behavioral problems that can be corrected if there is any impetus to do so, even if correcting them isn’t a mega-fun fuckfest and requires that men exercise some self-control and empathy for the sake of others. Men possess free will. Let’s not get carried away with all this “addiction” business and turn them into hapless victims, thereby granting them impunity from the social consequences of their choices. Remember, they’re listening; Ariel Castro just attempted to use sex and porn addiction as an excuse for rape, kidnapping, and murder.

Does this guy sound like someone who deserves pity?

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The conflation of sex addiction with problems such as alcoholism reaches the realm of comic absurdity when it comes to treatment. AA has a marginal success rate. When it does succeed, it isn’t because the members “work the steps” and fervently adhere to Bill W.’s gospel, it’s because the AA scene (depending on the city in which one attends meetings) offers mid-range alcoholics the one tool that can help them avoid drinking: people to hang out with who don’t drink. Beyond that, it’s nebulous, fruity, quasi-religious self-help folderol that probably puts more people off than it helps. Since most twelve-step meetings for sex addicts call themselves Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous in the hopes of serving both men and women, they undercut the only useful aspect of AA/NA by creating a community that makes it even more difficult for people to abstain from whatever behavior brought them to the meetings in the first place. A room full of male “sex addicts” and female “love addicts” talking about sex is a recipe for unadulterated (hehe) failure, am I right?

David Ley argues in the Salon piece that part of the problem with the addiction model is that it leads people to measure sexual behavior against that of an idealized (and probably non-existent) monogamous, married, heterosexual couple. Anything that does not fit within those parameters is deemed pathological and “treatment” is recommended. That’s only part of the problem. Ley assumes an atomized individual subject without social relationships or responsibilities, and completely elides any discussion of the role of popular culture, male supremacy, or the sex industry in fomenting destructive behavior. The solution to the “sex addiction epidemic” is not to normalize sexual exploitation and sexual dishonesty in the name of smashing prudery, it’s to recognize what actually motivates compulsive sexual behavior and the anxiety that results from it. We have to decide what’s pathological based not on whether it offends Pat Robertson, but on whether it hurts anyone, and we have to deal with pathology by seeking its root. The solution to empty, hyperactive, and exploitative sexuality is political consciousness, not “treatment” or the fuck-first-don’t-ask-questions-later plan. Unfortunately, “treatment” enables men to continue to exercise their right to use and abuse women, while political consciousness comes with social, political, and emotional costs for them.

Career College Ad Sums Up What’s Wrong with US in 60 Seconds

31 Oct

Being as wasting time seems to have become my latest hobby, I recently found myself watching an afternoon episode of Jerry Springer and its attendant ads. I realize that admitting that might set a process in motion that will culminate in some kind of cyber-intervention aimed at forcing me to stop watching American culture and society swirl down the toilet bowl, but I’ll take my chances. I’m willing to take this risk because watching that hour of television on the subject of “lesbian” love triangles and suffering through the audience comments (which I assure you is the hardest part of the show to endure) alerted me to the existence of OmniTech Institute. Some of you might be wondering why one medical billing/office management/CNA/”technology” school would stand out from the seventy or so advertising in the Atlanta market, and I’ll tell you: OmniTech just happens to have the (unintentionally) funniest ad I’ve seen in years, an ad I attempted to find on YouTube yesterday in order to share it with all of my pals. Unfortunately, the aforementioned ad is not yet on YouTube (though I’ll be sure to forward it on as soon as it becomes available), but I did find two others, and those two others proved far more valuable than the one I’d been searching for in the first place. Let’s have a look:

Ahem.

Why are there more ads for low-grade, for-profit schools for “technology” and “medical” jobs on during daytime television broadcasts than there are chat line ads after midnight on the same networks? Why are “technology” and “medicine” supposed to excite people who watch talk shows about people having sex with people they shouldn’t and the zany consequences that derive therefrom? Well, I suppose the people who produce and book ads for the CW have some idea what they’re doing. It doesn’t take a demographics expert to know that people who watch daytime network TV are unlikely to have steady “nine-to-five” (when are we going to admit that people work at least from eight to five and stop using that phrase?) jobs, that most of them are women at home who might rather not be, that they don’t have a shitload of money on hand or else they’d have cable and wouldn’t be watching the CW at all, and that most of these people have absorbed the idea that “education” is good, that one needs a “career,” and that “medicine” and “technology” are, like, total BFDs. They’re also aware that their audience is generally made up of people of color and that it’s a safe bet to market career education to that audience, because any dumbass knows that the intersection of a Venn diagram of non-whiteness and limited career opportunities is pretty big. Really, if you went for a three-circle Venn diagram with circles representing women, people of color, and people with limited job opportunities, it’d look a lot more like a circle drawn by a four-year-old than Mickey Mouse’s head. I used to watch the CW when it was the WB from time to time when I lived in LA, where the ethnoracial demographics are different than they are here in Atlanta, and it won’t shock anyone to hear that the same ads exist there, but feature Latina/os instead of black people.

I understand what’s going on in the minds of the people who produce the spots for career training schools and decide when and to whom to broadcast them. That’s the easy part. But why are there so many schools out there offering career education in the medical and “technology” fields? Why didn’t I see more ads for other types of businesses that take advantage of people in precarious socioeconomic positions? Why weren’t there more commercials for title loans, personal injury attorneys, or rent-to-own furniture joints? (Not that there aren’t plenty of those, but there are more career training school ads than all other ads put together.) It would seem like a good thing that it’s education rather than outright usury that’s being marketed to the CW’s demographic, were it not for a few things.

First, every single one of these schools is for-profit, and lord knows whether any of them are even accredited. Most of their website addresses are so bootleg as to remind me of the fly-by-night mortgage joints that swarmed like cockroaches onto the radio in the early 2000s (mybrownmackie2.com? Come on, now.), and some of them don’t even have websites. They’re all cagey about exactly how much they charge for their “bachelor’s degrees in three years” or their ten-month career training programs that purportedly lead to jazzy jobs in medical billing and IT, likely because the price is outrageous. I don’t care if it’s $100 a month. The price is outrageous because it’s absurd that someone is making a profit selling education that ought to be offered in every high school and community college in America for free. And let’s be serious here. Are the people graduating from these programs even getting jobs? I only know two people who have gone to schools of this sort, one who went to ITT Tech in order to jump start his career in the hot, hot, hot IT field, and another who went through an EMT course at Atlanta Tech. Right now, they’re selling mattresses and substitute teaching, respectively.

Twenty-four percent of American adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher — which is why there are so many people with business degrees selling Playstation consoles at Best Buy and waiters who know what “endogamous” means — and that means there’s a serious problem with the way we’re approaching secondary education. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning tracking or making the argument that teachers or administrators ought to be able make decisions about students’ futures based on their own cracked and biased criteria, but students should be able to choose to earn an MCSE or other certifications, take business courses, or learn other practical career skills at school rather than being shoved toward “college” and not offered any other options, when at this point the vast majority of college students are only there to get drunk, major in pretending watching movies makes you an intellectual, and avoid getting kicked out of their parents’ house and off their parents’ balance sheet. Ideally, we’d prepare all students for entry-level jobs in high school and close three quarters of the four-year universities and colleges in this country, replacing them with federally funded community colleges designed to either offer useful, practical job training or the foundational courses one needs to transfer to one of the remaining four-year universities that offer degrees that actually give students the opportunity to expand their world views and do something other than become generic suits. Of course, it’d be awesome if primary and secondary education were federally funded and equalized so that students in one neighborhood aren’t sitting on the floor during class while kids three miles up the road are voting on whether to get custom embroidery on the frosh volleyball team’s new uniforms or spend the cash on a few more iMacs in the graphic design lab. It would also be awesome if we had the kinds of social safety nets we need to provide kids with the homes, health care, and food they need if they’re to have a fighting chance to succeed even in well-funded schools, but this ain’t France, so community colleges are my answer. They’re cheap, they’re accessible, and they create a path for non-traditional students and poor people (read: people who have a real motivation to learn rather than a desire to extend high school for a few more years) to four-year university degrees that would otherwise be out of reach.

In sum: dodgy for-profit career schools bad, career training in high schools or community colleges good. No one should have to buy a job.

On to issue number two: each of the ads makes a point of citing mainstream media stories in which “technology” and “medicine” are listed as the top (and, really, only) growth career fields. I won’t say much about technology (I mean, I wouldn’t be able to express myself to more than four people at once were it not for technology) other than that I often wonder just how much technology each of us has to have at our disposal before we realize it isn’t leading us toward some blissful utopia scored by our favorite MGMT tracks in which we do nothing other than order new fashion accessories telekinetically and communicate with people we never actually see in person by means of 140-character not-so-witty witticisms. The medical industry is another story. There’s a reason that there are jobs to be had in the medical industry — especially in the medical billing sector — and that reason is that the medical insurance industry continues to grow and swell and spread and suck up everyone and everything in its immoral, depraved path because Americans are too stupid to question the ethics of medical capitalism and get together in their own self interest to put the medical insurance industry out of commission. I’ll readily admit to getting bored and tuning out over the course of the ninety years or so it took the 111th Congress to figure out how to pretend to do something about the travesty our health care system has blossomed into, but I do know that no one ever discussed the only thing that would have done any good: shutting down the health insurance industry in toto and giving all Americans the right not to die because they aren’t rich enough to pay a hundred times what medical services should actually cost in order to enrich people with no interest in patients’ well-being. Obviously I’m not going to blame someone who needs a leg up out of poverty for going into medical billing because it pays $10 an hour instead of $7.25, but I’m also not going to pretend that there’s anything sustainable or ethical about that career field. Health care and insurance billing may be growth sectors, but that’s only because parasites tend to flourish — at least in the short run — when given unfettered access to the host’s internal organs.

Finally, there’s the presentation of both ads, which is so absurd and offensive that I almost suspect Martin Lawrence was involved.  First we have the commercial aimed at black men, in which the message is, “Get your MSCE at OmniTech, and the next thing you know mad career women will be jumping in yo’ convertible to give you summa dat ass!”  I mean, really. My friend Jackalope just finished a nine-month EMT course, and he isn’t reporting droves of women jumping into his car everywhere he goes, nor did the course result in his ownership of a convertible. (As a matter of fact, he has yet to even get a job in the purportedly booming medical field, despite graduating at the top of his class.) Then there’s the ad aimed at black women, in which we see a group of friends shopping and marveling at all the skirts they can afford. At one point a woman literally says, “I can afford to buy whatever I want!” I’m not black, but I highly doubt that when a black woman is considering career training shoes are at the forefront of her mind, and even though I’m neither black nor male, I have a hard time believing that black men choose to go to computer school with the only motivation being that it’ll result in poontang. Despite the fact that the people at OmniTech clearly don’t agree, I figure I can safely assume that these ads don’t reflect reality because I don’t think black women and black men are one-dimensional caricatures out of an episode of Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.

In addition to making plain OmniTech’s demeaning take on the black community, this pair of ads displays some extremely tiresome attitudes about gender. The most obvious example is their decision to advertise their IT program to men and their medical billing program to women. Medical billing, a traditionally pink collar field, boasts salaries that top out near $20 an hour, which OmniTech fails to mention when they feature an erstwhile OmniTech student purchasing her own home. Conversely, IT salaries are virtually limitless given that there are innumerable paths to advancement within the IT field. Then there are the gendered stereotypes with regard to the meaning of success.  The symbol of success for men, as usual, is sexual access to women, whereas for women it’s unlimited cosmetics and clothes. No surprise there — and not really all that noteworthy as ads go, though this one is considerably more ham-fisted in its presentation of that hackneyed idea than most — but if you put that message together with the other messages in these two ads, you’ll get a fairly clear distillation of just how cannibalistic and self-destructive the American economy/advanced capitalism really is: you have unscrupulous individuals using racist and sexist insults and promoting mindless adherence to destructive gender roles and sociopathic marketing directives as a means to sell overpriced career training that rarely leads to a more lucrative career. If it does lead to a more lucrative career, that career will be in an industry that is completely immoral and unsustainable because it exists solely to avoid actually providing what it sells, which is a product that ought to be a human right rather than a product in the first place. And that industry is most clearly negatively affecting the exact communities that these ads are targeted at. Really, it’s an epitomic instance of the promotion of short-sighted, self-destructive, selfish, individualist cosumerism: “Who cares whether this industry will hasten the deaths of both individual human beings that you probably know and the American economy as a whole? If you get on board, you can buy a car, a woman, or some shoes! Why ask why? Try Bud Dry!”

I like it when people talk about breast cancer without trying to make it “sexy.” On the kitchen counter.

7 Oct

I was bewildered yesterday when several women I know began posting updates about where they “like it.” As in, “I like it on the floor,” or “I like it on the coat rack.” Wait, I thought, is it possible that all of my female friends have lost their senses of decorum and dignity on the same day? Then I saw an update from a dude that said, “I like it with her own money in it.” I asked him what he was talking about and he told me he was making fun of “some chick thing.”

Exactly.

I was still bewildered and decided to figure it out by making use of my stellar Google skills, and it turns out that it’s an attempt to raise breast cancer awareness by means of a boring, annoying internet meme: women post Facebook updates about where they like “it” — “it” being their purse — which is supposed to pique men’s interest and get them to think about donating money to breast cancer research.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I see a few holes in this plan. First off, that train of thought skips an awful lot of stations. We’re banking on the general Facebooking public being far smarter and far less lazy than I am, and that seems like a bad bet to me (I am a highly motivated genius, after all). Second, every single one of the updates I saw on Facebook yesterday was followed with about ten lascivious comments from dudes who had neither made any effort to figure out on their own why so many women were all of a sudden posting suggestive updates on Facebook nor bothered to ask those women why they were doing so. Instead, they responded with shit like “Me too!” or “Can I come over?” You know, because they’re men, and men tend to be oversexed, clueless jags, especially when confronted with women who appear to be inviting sexual attention. I have yet to see a single discussion erupt in which breast cancer is mentioned at all. Way to raise awareness.

But let’s pretend for a second that it was working, that men all over the country were donating money they could otherwise spend on micro-brews and new Xbox controllers to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Why weren’t they doing so last week? Why isn’t the existence of breast cancer awareness month enough to get them to part with $5? Why isn’t the thought of protecting their mothers, sisters, wives, or friends from breast cancer motivation enough to get these guys in the donatin’ spirit? Why, ONCE AGAIN, do women have to flatter men’s ridiculously swollen egos with weak, nonsensical innuendo in order to cajole them into acting like human beings? Sorry, but I fail to see how breast cancer is sexy, or why we need to use sex to sell men on the idea that breast cancer matters.

Has anyone else noticed the direction that campaigns to raise money for breast cancer research are moving in? I’ve seen at least ten “Save the Tatas” bumper stickers this week, and every time I do I consider keying the car it’s affixed to. I mean, really. Are we seriously incapable of conceiving of breasts as anything but sex objects even when discussing a potentially fatal disease? And what does “Save the Tatas” even mean? I have one guess, and here’s my translation: “Men, if you love tits, donate money to breast cancer research so there will be less mastectomies and hence more tits around for you to ogle.” That’d be great and all, but what we need to save is women’s lives, not their tits.

Just to make sure, I’m going to apply the ol’ switcheroo here. Let’s say that the Red Cross decided they needed to step up their effort to encourage people to donate to relief efforts in Haiti and decided to sex the campaign up by asking us to donate money to Haitian women’s breasts or Haitian men’s penises, complete with photos of breasts and penises (or at least photos suggestive of breasts and penises). Yep, that’s completely insane. One more try: how about we raise awareness of the prevalence of prostate cancer with a “Save the Boners” sticker campaign? Or by asking men to post cryptic Facebook ads about where they like to leave their wallets, as in “I like it in the back pocket of my pants until the morning, when I like it in my other pants”? Also insane, if only because no one pays attention when men post seemingly sexual Facebook updates because they do it all fucking day anyway.

If men don’t give a shit about breast cancer, we can’t make them, even if we hold a topless awareness rally. First because they’re already aware that breast cancer exists (who isn’t?), and second because all they’ll see is a bunch of tits, not the human beings they’re attached to, which might be where the root of the problem lies anyway, know what I’m saying?

A Few Quotes to Make You Puke

29 Nov

I’m reading a book right now about the history of attempts at controlling the world’s population (Fatal Misconception by Matthew Connelly – I recommend it) and just came across some pretty disturbing quotes related to promoting IUD use in developing countries. I’m not exactly a fan of any birth control method, given that they all seem to pose much greater risks to women than men (yes, even condoms), but I have an IUD and don’t completely hate it. However, having it inserted might have been one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, and I think doing it to someone against her will, without informing her of the potential dangers, or without providing follow-up care ought to carry the death penalty. But for the men of the ’50s and ’60s hubristic enough to think they ought to be in charge of who would reproduce and in what conditions, women’s bodily sovereignty and health seemed not to matter quite as much as their desire to live in a world in which they weren’t out-numbered by brown people. Check this shit out.

Alan Guttmacher, then president of Planned Parenthood-World Population, at a 1964 conference on the safety of IUDs (205):

As I see it, the IUD’s have special application to underdeveloped areas where two things are lacking: one, money and the other sustained motivation.  No contraceptive could be cheaper, and also, once the damn thing is in the patient cannot change her mind. In fact, we can hope she’ll forget it’s there and perhaps in several months wonder why she has not conceived.

That’s fucked enough, but check out this quote from J. Robert Wilson, then chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Temple University (202-203):

We have to stop functioning like doctors, thinking about the one patient with pelvic inflammatory disease; or the one patient who might develop this, that, or the other complication from an intra-uterine device. [It] may well be that the incidence of infection is going to be pretty high in the patients who need the device most. Now, obviously, if we are going to use these devices, they are occasionally going to be put in the wrong patient. Again, if we look at this from an over-all, long-range view (these are things that I have never said out loud before and I don’t know how it’s going to sound), perhaps the individual patient is expendable in the general scheme of things, particularly if the infection she acquires is sterilizing but not lethal.

I know it’s no surprise that men in power in the US in the 1960s (and, really, at all other times in all other places) didn’t think women — especially non-white and poor ones — were human, but Jesus Christ, dude.

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I don’t feel like humping! Call 911!

17 Nov

We knew it was coming. The industry that has brought us a drug to treat weak stream, three different boner pills, fifteen or so baldness drugs, Latisse, and Botox (and so on ad nauseum/infinitum) has finally developed a pill to cure the world of the plague that is female sexuality.

Apparently, we didn’t already have a wide enough variety of anti-depressants (pshaw, as if) and someone was trying to develop yet another one. While the new drug, fibanserin, turned out to be bunk as an anti-depressant, it had a strange side effect: it caused an increase in libido. The researchers, suspecting they’d accidentally come across the holy grail of pharmaceuticals, started trials of the drug as a libido enhancer right away. The trials, led by Professor John Thorp of the University of North Carolina, included 2,000 women. Those women who took the largest dose reported that they experienced “more frequent and more satisfying sex and greater desire. They were also less distressed about their previous sexual problems.” Thorp, pleased with the results, described the drug as “essentially a Viagra-like drug for women in that diminished desire or libido is the most common feminine sexual problem, like erectile sexual dysfunction is in men.” I’ve got a few problems with this story.

First of all, how is not wanting to hump a medical problem? Why are women required to take medicine in order to make sure that their desire to get busy matches that of men? There are several seriously problematic assumptions sitting right underneath the idea that we need a drug to enhance women’s libidos. The first of these is that human sexuality is male sexuality, and that female sexuality is thus a variation on “human” sexuality. The line of thinking is that men are easily aroused, and women are not, so women need to get with the program even if that requires taking medicines that might (really, definitely will — it was supposed to be an anti-depressant, and how many of those don’t have fucked up side effects?) have side effects that are yet to be discovered. There is also the assumption that when women are involved in sexual relationships with men (I suppose this study could have included lesbians, but no mention was made and I seriously doubt it), they ought to be sexually available whenever their male partners should happen to have the urge. Our culture, media, and social norms tell us that when women don’t make themselves sexually available, they are failing as partners, they’re “frigid,” they deserve to be cheated on.

Why is male sexuality the yardstick by which female sexuality is measured? Why is female sexuality that does not conform to men’s desires pathologized? Let’s pretend we live on another planet for a minute, a planet on which male sexuality as it commonly manifests in modern American culture is not normative, but rather open to analysis and judgement. Men are overstimulated. The world presents them with a ceaseless parade of images of objectified and sexualized women intended to excite and arouse, from Hennessey billboards to the cover of Stuff to Manswers to the wide world of internet porn. A constant state of arousal has to be disruptive. Maybe it’s male sexuality that’s dysfunctional, no?

But let’s be serious here, male sexuality is not a monolith, nor is female sexuality, and it’s absurd that we’re pretending either exists as an identifiable entity outside of the socially constructed gender and sexual roles thrust upon us. There is no such thing as a “normal” libido. There is no threshold above which we are having too much sex and below which we are blowing it as human beings. Not humping much, just like humping a lot, ought not elicit opprobrium or constitute a source of shame. If a woman doesn’t feel like getting bizzical, she doesn’t need medicine, she needs to have her wishes and bodily sovereignty respected. If a woman isn’t interested in getting naked, she doesn’t need to go to her doctor, she needs to know that it’s OK that she feels that way and not be bullied into risking her health by taking a pill to counteract something that isn’t dysfunctional.

I think men might be surprised at the “improvement” we’d likely see in women’s libidos in the absence of slut shaming, accusations of frigidity, the virgin/whore complex, and emotional blackmail, an “improvement” that wouldn’t require dangerous medication that disrupts the way our bodies operate. You see — and I know this will sound crazy — my libido seems to be connected to the behavior of my partner. If he respects my humanity, if he allows me to make decisions regarding sex freely and without passive-aggressive bullshit, if I feel like sex is a means to express affection rather than a bargaining chip, if I feel an intellectual and emotional connection with him, my libido miraculously increases. If he were to act like an entitled asshole and pressure me for sex, if he were to display piggish attitudes about women’s sexuality, if he were to treat my sexual needs or desires as if they were of secondary concern, or if I just were to happen to not be that into him (not that I’d hang out with anyone these hypotheticals apply to), I imagine that I’d suddenly transform into Morrissey.  Bizarre, I know. Should I be taking a pill?

Who knows how hosey women would be if it weren’t for the aggressive and hostile sexual objectification of women and the concomitant slut-shaming so rampant in our society? If women’s sexuality were to go unrestricted and were even encouraged the way men’s is, if women were allowed to develop their own sexual preferences without being forced to conform their desires to men’s, things might be a lot different and we might not be looking for pills to artificially increase women’s libidos, because women’s libidos wouldn’t be suppressed by a society that sublimates their sexuality. I’m just saying, dude.

* Word up to the Esquire for the link.

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Latisse. Because if your eyelashses aren’t thick enough, you are seriously fucked up.

10 Aug

I was watching TV recently when I saw a commercial that seriously confused me for a minute. The commercial was for Latisse, a new product by the makers of Botox that claims to help one grow longer, thicker, darker eyelashes. For a minute I thought I had accidentally stumbled upon a skit show, but then I remembered that SNL and Mad TV are incapable of doing anything funny or insightful, so I had to consider the possibility that Latisse was a real product, that a major pharmaceutical company had developed a prescription drug for people who are so upset by the paucity and/or hoariness of their eyelashes that they feel they need a DRUG to help them remedy the situation. And then I thought about my own eyelashes, which are fairly pale, and wondered whether I ought to rush myself to the nearest hospital.

This pharmaceutical outfit, Allergan (operating out of Irvine, California — a real shock), claims that their drug treats the legitimate medical problem of hypotrichosis, but I’m a little skeptical. Have you ever heard of hypotrichosis? Yeah, me neither. It’s a scientific term for “a condition of no hair growth” (nice work on the wording there, Wikipedia cooperative). Apparently that’s considered a medical condition, though I can’t imagine why it would be save in very rare circumstances. I’ve always been under the impression that a medical condition was something that caused one physical discomfort, threatened one’s life, or disrupted one’s ability to carry out one’s daily activities. Oh, wait, that’s it: a “condition of no hair growth” in the wrong places can be just as disruptive as a condition of copious hair growth in certain other places, because it threatens one’s ability to comply with the old fuckability mandate.

The product’s website makes frequent reference to hypotrichosis, which indeed does sound terrible (as does anything that ends in -osis), but the company’s product line-up hints that what they’re really trying to treat is notthathotatosis; Allergan, in addition to Latisse, also slangs some injectable anti-wrinkle shit called Juvederm (the slogan for which is “parentheses have their place but not on your face” — I swear), the Natrelle line of breast implants, our old pal Botox, and some line of uber-expensive skin creams called Vivite. Not only do none of their products treat legitimate medical conditions, but they don’t even treat the symptoms of legitimate medical conditions. I mean, I suppose having no eyelashes could be a problem, seeing as they protect one’s eyes from debris and all, but I imagine that the no-eyelashes-at-all contingent makes up a pretty small percentage of this product’s target market. The majority of that target market, I suspect, consists of those women who have been convinced that having a few thousand spider legs for eyelashes is more important than, say, protecting one’s eyes from irritants and chemicals or being able to rub one’s eyes when they itch without having to worry about dumping an ounce or two of mascara flakes into them.

So, you drop your $130 for each month’s supply, smear this shit on once a day, and a mere sixteen weeks and $520 later, your eyelashes may get thicker and darker. Of course, as soon as you stop using Latisse, these benefits will disappear. What a sweet deal. But there has to be a catch, right? No way. Latisse’s side effects are totally mild! They include red and/or itchy eyes (which you’d have anyway due to mascara) and the possibility of skin and iris discoloration. The discoloration is likely to be permanent, but you can always wear eyeshadow to cover it up and get color contacts to restore your natural eye color, right?

Are you fucking kidding me, dude?

This product campaign is just evil. It preys upon women’s insecurities in the most disgusting of ways, creates insane expectations that can’t be met, then hoses women out of huge sums of money. We’ve all gotten the message that, if we can’t naturally grow eyelashes the likes of which mascara models can’t pull together without falsies, we’re blowing it as human beings and will never be able to coquettishly bat the fuckers at men in order to make them stupid. Hence the existence of glue-on eyelashes, eyelash dye (a lovely substance to be sure), eyelash extensions, and the ever-expanding variety of mascaras with absurd patented high-tech names. But now that ain’t enough. Sparse eyelashes now constitute a pathological medical condition (note the frequent use of the phrase “inadequate eyelashes” on the site and in the ad) that requires treatment with expensive drugs that might permanently alter the color of our eyes and eyelids, drugs that might sort of work, but will never create the kinds of eyelashes that don’t require curling, slathering with mascara, and augmenting with false eyelashes. I know this because all of the images on the site and in the ad feature women with an abundance of mascara on.

All of that is sinister enough, but what of this company’s central operating principle and the message that the FDA, in approving these drugs, is putting out there? That principle and message are one and the same: in a nutshell, not being hot enough is a medical condition, and a boner shortage warrants the attentions of our best and brightest scientists (and marketing experts).

I must have missed the news report announcing that we’d cured cancer, AIDS, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

Latisse is officially the new Flomax.


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Republicans are the new feminists. Either that or they’re pro-rape and anti-family.

5 Sep

I’m bringing the banner back because the Anti-Woman Threat Level has been elevated to fuchsia.

I watched part of the RNC last night. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be doing that lest I risk putting myself into a coma, but I can’t help it. (Have you ever seen anything more boring than this convention? I’ve seen people party harder on the Lawrence Welk Show.) I couldn’t help it. I turned it on and was just caught in the headlights by seeing my city’s old mayor pretend to be a dumb hick in order to pander to the willfully ignorant provincialism of a room full of Tim McGraw fans who believe poor people are poor because they’re evil, dinosaur bones were planted by the devil to test their faith, and liberals’ real goals consist of sacrificing late-term fetuses to the Indigo Girls and turning all of our little boys into Eddie Izzard. He did so by jocularly implying that Obama’s an urban chauvinist/elitist for mentioning the fact that Sara Palin hasn’t run a city big enough to have bus service nor a state with more people in it than any city with more than one Hooters. (Rudy’s just so small town, so main street.) He then tisk-tisked Democrats for asking whether Palin can handle being a mom to so many kids while holding high office, acting fucking outraged that they would ask such a question of a woman when they wouldn’t ask it of a man. You know, because they’re such feminists over in the GOP.

I know the Democrats have been blowing it lately when it comes to women’s issues (hey, Obama, thanks for selling out half the population in a stupid attempt to court the seven or so religious zealots that were already going to vote for you out of spite because McCain refuses to acknowledge that the apocalypse is scheduled for next month), but watching Republicans talk about women’s rights nearly had me in convulsions. The dissimulations and misrepresentations I saw in fifteen minutes of watching the RNC were so obscene, so obvious, and so stupid that I squirted ginger ale out of my nose like five times. Hearing these ass clowns pretend to give a shit about women’s issues, pretend they’re the party of resisting the status quo, pretend they care about anything but giving rich people more money, starting some more wars with brown people with oil, taking rights away from women and people with the temerity to not be rich, and forcing people to adhere to their backward bullshit religious ideology is offensive to the max.

Or perhaps it’s illuminating. 

It’s illuminating because I’ve seen the essence of Republican strategy in action: smart, sophisticated rich guys pretending to be dumb philistines in order to trick people who really are dumb philistines into thinking their best interests lie in voting in support of smart rich guys’ financial interests. It’s really kind of amazing if you think about it. I mean, these guys have to say insane shit in public that they absolutely know is stupid and wrong, and they have to act like they mean it. But they have to make sure not to go too far with their ridiculous rhetoric lest they tip the public off to the fact that they think their entire base has the IQ of Fred Durst. It’s a fine line, and I’m kind of impressed with how they’ve managed to stand astride it for so long. 

So they get to come out and pretend, because they’ve nominated an anti-woman psycho who happens to have a vagina (maybe — I’m still not convinced she isn’t a cyborg created by Sean Hannity and Phyllis Schlafly or a transvestite MRA), that they’re the party of women’s rights and gender progress. They can claim that they’re the feminists and the Democrats are the misogynists (not that a lot of them aren’t), and do so with straight faces. McCain and whatever doctor of tomfoolery runs his campaign also think that they’re going to nab the mythological bloc of disaffected Clinton supporters who are disgruntled at Obama’s nomination, simply because they’ve nominated a woman (a woman who thinks being called a pit bull with lipstick is a compliment and that women ought to be forced to rent their uteri out as life support equipment free of charge). I don’t believe that a huge group of people that love Clinton more than their own human rights exists, but I do, unfortunately, think there are plenty of (Republican) women that are stupid enough to pick up what the GOP is laying down and decide Sara Palin is a step forward for womankind.

What can I say? The GOP might just have the public pegged. In any case, the Republicans have devised some pretty impressive framing if you ask me. 

Maybe the leadership of the party of homophobes with wide stances and women who wish women weren’t allowed to vote gets something I don’t. Maybe I’m presenting arguments that are just too honest, complex, and thoughtful. Maybe what I need to do in order to hasten the gender revolution is repackage it as something other than what it really is in blisteringly stupid terms. I’ll give it a shot, I guess, and try it out on the voting public who are considering whether they ought to vote for John “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran… did I mention that I was a POW?” McCain and his kapo out of their “love” for womankind. The following will be my attempt at “framing,” GOP style, the debate over whether Palin’s election would be a step forward for women: 

Here’s why I’m opposed to Sara Palin: she may be a woman, but she ain’t no feminist, and I doubt whether she’s even got America’s interests at heart. In fact, I doubt whether she’s even an American. Look where she’s from. I know Alaska’s a state, but it’s basically in Canada, and there’s nothing in Canada but socialists, hockey players, and people who don’t know how to pronounce the word “about.” That ain’t American no how. But it may be even worse than that. Alaska is just a hop, skip, and a few little islands away from Russia. I’m not sure this woman isn’t a foreign agent, and if she happens to turn out to be one, let’s hope she’s “just” a Canadian and not a Russki. 

You may be wondering why I suspect Palin of working for a foreign government. I’ll tell you why: she’s already publicly admitted to being anti-American. I hate to quote myself (I, like Bill O’Reilly, am a paragon of modesty), but let us remember: 

As of now, our Supreme Court (however tenuous the status of this decision may be) holds that a woman has the right to decide how she wants to utilize her uterus… The Supreme Court is an American institution and has been one for much longer than apple pie, NASCAR, or fake German beers, ergo, anyone who disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision is anti-American.

Palin has brazenly proclaimed that she’s anti-American, and has even admitted to sympathizing with terrorists who would attack us and take away our freedoms. She is vehemently opposed to American women’s freedom and right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and would, if elected, force us to use our organs to provide life support against our will.

And she’s radical about it (what’s scarier than a radical, folks?). She has stated publicly that she opposes our right to determine our own destiny even in the case of rape. You know what that means? That’s right. Sara Palin is pro-rape. She’d rather force you to give birth to the spawn of a rapist than allow you, after you’ve already had your human rights and personal sovereignty violated, to decide not to suffer further physical and emotional torment as a result of the crime. Palin claims she’s pro-family, but how can we trust someone’s claims to being pro-family when she has also publicly proclaimed that she’d even force her own daughter to carry a fetus that resulted from a rape? Palin is in favor of taking rights away from rape victims and giving more power to rapists to hurt us, and she’s ready to put the might of the state behind the rapists rather than innocent women, including her own daughters. That is downright treasonous — not to mention anti-family — if you ask me. 

I think it’s clear what the right choice is here. Sara Palin is a pro-rape, anti-family, anti-American radical, and she might very well be a foreign agent. She’s clearly not qualified to lead on behalf of the majority of freedom-loving, anti-rape, patriotic Americans, and neither is the man who is so incompetent as to be fooled into choosing an anti-American foreigner as his running mate for our nation’s highest office.

Hey, they started it.

(I guess watching this bullshit wasn’t a total loss. I found out about Cowboy Troy, who the GOP hired to participate in the most embarrassing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner I’ve ever seen, but who nonetheless might be the most awesome person alive. Plus, I learned some things about how to package the iss-yous for the troglodytes we call “average Americans.” George Lakoff would be proud.)

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