Sexy Sex Newsy News: The Buzz on Sex in the News with Dr. Carol Queen Good Vibrations Staff Sexologist

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Week of September 18-24, 2013

Sex and the Pope

Madonna sang, “Papa, Don’t Preach.” Scarlot Harlot riffed on that, changing it up to “Pope Don’t Preach.” And most modern-day popes have been pretty preachy, particularly about things sexual and “moral,” until this week’s blockbuster interview with our practically-brand-new pope, Francis. A Jesuit and native to the region of the world that gave rise to liberation theology, Pope Francis’s interview with a Jesuit journal, La Civiltà Cattolica — translated into many languages and simultaneously published around the world — blew minds as he made very un-doctrinaire statements about homosexuality, birth control, celibacy, and many of the other cultural issues that divide Catholics (and ex-Catholics, and Catholic-watchers). Though not ready to turn tail in practice on his church’s conservative doctrine, Francis did say that the struggles over these cultural issues weakened the Church and people’s view of it, warning that “the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards” in the face of its cultural “obsessions” — fighting gay marriage, for one thing.

Liberal Catholics were heartened by Francis’s statements, though he didn’t go so far as to support another culture-clash cause, women in the priesthood. Still, he warned that “the feminine genius is needed” in the church and its participation necessary in church decisions.

If these statements point toward real change in the Church, it’s the long game — this is an institution that doesn’t think in decades, but in centuries. But we just heard something truly extraordinary from this pontiff, statements likely to reverberate into the future. Sure, he came back into line almost at once, making more doctrinaire anti-abortion statements and presumably supporting the excommunication of liberal Australian priest Greg Reynolds. And just to remind everyone about the culture-war stakes (or maybe to one-up Francis?), ex-Pope Benedict gave an interview addressing the priest abuse scandals — he did not cover anything up, he insists, and he didn’t make himself any new friends among the activists and survivors of SNAPP, The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, when he stated, “In any event, one must not stubbornly present this deviance as if it were a nastiness specific to Catholicism.”

Culture Wars lightning poll: New Pope, one; old Pope, zero.

I read with interest articles about Pope Francis’s statements in the Huffington Post (US and UK), CNN‘s Religion blogs, CTV‘s website, MSNBC and elsewhere. And Pope Emeritus Benedict’s touchy comments about priest abuse were covered in USA Today.

New HIV Cases Down 

Another long game does not look quite as long as it sometimes has this week, as UNAIDS informs us that new HIV infections are definitively down, pretty much all over the globe. New infections have fallen by about a third; deaths are down dramatically as well. Better meds and focused healthcare help explain the latter statistic, and clearly prevention efforts are paying off. But we’re warned against complacency — that would be what I see all over the US, especially among young heterosexuals who seem to be reviving the old Epidemic-era belief that they’re not at risk — and reminded that ending violence against women and girls holds the key to helping eradicate HIV around the world.

I might add that in the US, punitive laws against the HIV-positive aren’t doing us any good, either. One element cited by USAIDS was the opportunity so many more have now to come forward for care — exactly the thing that criminalization mitigates against.

The BBC, Medpage Today, Reuters, CBS News, and others covered this story.

Transgender Homecoming Queen

Sweet 16, transgender, and elected Homecoming Queen by the other students — for once, maybe we can actually use the phrase her peers — at Marina High School in California. As she was crowned, Cassidy Lynn Campbell was quoted as saying, “I realized it wasn’t for me anymore and I was doing this for so many people all around the county and the state and possibly the world and I am so proud to win this not just for me, but everyone out there,” hoping her victory would pave the way for others to “be true to themselves.”

Congratulations to her — and to the media who covered this historic moment for trans visibility and access: I saw it on 9News MSN and ABC. And I suppose it’s appropriate to add, “Go Vikings!”

Celebrate Banned Books Week 

Some years, it’s all about sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll — or at least sex. But books can be banned in the US for many reasons — CNN Living presents an interesting slide show of books banned through the years, since Banned Books Week was founded in 1982. This year’s most-banned tome is a kid’s book whose language ires many parents, or parent substitutes, called Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets. The American Library Association and other pro-reading, anti-censorship groups keep tabs on banned books and near-miss challenges; many indeed are aimed at books kids and youth might read, in public libraries and schools. We’re deeply back in culture war territory here, with innocent stories like And Tango Makes Three (male penguins fostering a chick — too gay-marriage-y for the right-wingers, in spite of the fact that it’s based on an actual true story of actual penguin dads) — as well as Toni Morrison’s perennial nominee Beloved (too intense!) and Jeannette Wall’s memoir The Glass Castle (alcoholic and mentally ill parents? Can’t talk about that!) drawing down the haters.

But it’s not just kids who feel the brunt of the censors. Maybe you can’t get 50 Shades of Grey — one of this year’s most-banned books — from your public library, but by damn, you can get it from us! Read a banned book — or several — this year, and celebrate the authors who stand up to the desire to dumb down discourse for our kids and for ourselves.

Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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