Sexy Sex, Newsy News — week of March 1-7, 2014

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Creepy Upskirters: Win, Lose, Draw
By which I mean, creepy upskirters, that maybe it’s time to take an art class and start drawing pictures of women’s panties. In case you missed this, the great state of Massachusetts found last week that they had a little legal problem: It wasn’t, in fact, a crime to skulk around and take secret-cam pictures up women’s skirts on the T-line, or anywhere else. (Anywhere in public, at any rate.) A judge ruled—with some distaste—that the law really had not sufficiently criminalized this nonconsensual behavior, and so the particular creepy upskirter who was on trial that day got to go home and tinker with his cameras to improve their resolution, instead of going to jail. The Mass state legislators were pretty horrified about this, however; they patched that hole in the law stat and got it to the governor within the week! Zip zam zoom—there’s probably a glut of spy cams on eBay right now, and a bunch of undergrads at MIT are all “What are you lookin’ at?”. Golly, if only all of the manifestations of rape culture and creepy nonconsent were targeted this expeditiously.

We thank the Boston Globe, CNN, The Week, and the Christian Science Monitor for keeping up with this fast-moving story.

Miss Fierce Duke Porn Freshman Speaks!
We always like it when porn stars speak for themselves, since so many people seem to like to speak for, on behalf of, and about them—and they don’t always say things the performers themselves agree with. (AIDS Healthcare Foundation, I’m looking’ at you.) Last week we heard from the controversial Duke University porn star, who identified herself as Belle Knox; she wrote an essay for XOJane laying out what had happened in her life since she was outed by a frat guy and decided to tell her own story (anonymously) to the Duke student paper. As many drunken Facebook picture-posting and subsequently fired people have learned, the Interwebs are not a safe space, and frat boys and other creepy web types doubled down on her, including: death threats!

The Week’s Elizabeth Stoker begs to differ, calling out the difference between a certain porny libertarianism and any true cultural change for the better in the role of women in the adult industry. At least until there’s collective bargaining and better benefits in porn, she argues, it’s not exactly revolutionary. But Belle’s manifesto on the topic of women’s sexual repression is well worth a read, whether or not she completed an entire Women’s Studies class before she began to compose it. To wit:

“[W]hat I ask for is simple. I, like all other sex workers, want to be treated with dignity and respect. I want equal representation under the law and within societal institutions. I want people to acknowledge our humanity. I want people to listen to our unique narratives and dialogues.
“To the anti-pornography feminists out there: I very much respect your opinion. Nevertheless, I want you to consider how you marginalize a group of women by condemning their actions. Consider that when you demean women for participating in sex work, you are demeaning THEM, and consequently, YOU become the problem.”

Woot, lil’ sis! Belle may be a little young to have her eye on retirement benefits, anyhow, not that this topic is not very much worth the consideration of people of every age. Everybody retires, if they live that long. And regardless of her longevity in the industry (of which she currently feels quite protective; death threats will sometimes do that to you, which is one reason they’re such a STUPID as well as trollish strategy to express disagreement and opprobrium), this woman deserves retirement benefits, if not a head start on a master’s degree.

That’s right, death-threaters, I am calling you STUPID.

And just in case you want more dirt about frats, The Atlantic published a pretty amazing piece by Caitlin Flanagan just now. The opening paragraph alone stands tall in the annals of journalism; I thought it was terrific.

Oooh, I’m Not Sure She Looks All That Clean
We learn via the UK’s Daily Mail that safer sex education is being furthered (dubiously) via fake profiles being inserted into Tindr, the hook-up app. Picturing attractive women posing with various partners, the ad, which has been called slut-shamey, goes on to say, via caption, “You’re probably not her only match. Use a condom.” Are they, by any chance, posting the same sorts of ads featuring attractive men with “stud-shamey” captions? ‘Cos, you know, HIV is more easily spread male-to-female than female-to-male, so there had better be equally dubious ads going the other way.

Tindr is blaming these less-than-sex-positive ads on their creators at the AIDS Task Force, to which I can only say: Wow. I really do miss the days when safer sex ads featured, you know, hunky men with condom-clad erections. Because that is a clear (and in its own way, quite clean) message.

Oh but! Was anyone cruising for anonymous partners via an app not using condoms? Because: hello!?

Speaking of sex ed and its discontents, Kansas has taken steps to gut its sex education programs, according to the
Lawrence [KS] Journal-World. They found local educators and therapists who assert Kansas has been doing a pretty bad job already: “[S]ome sexuality experts say modern sex education does a poor job of readying students to become well-adjusted adults in healthy sexual relationships.

“Dennis Dailey, professor emeritus of social welfare at Kansas University and a private sex therapist in Lawrence, says he doesn’t recall ever seeing so many young, newly married couples struggle with intimacy — a phenomenon he attributes to abstinence-only programs that make students think of sex as a negative.

“Those students bring their guilt and their shame and their lack of knowledge into adult relationships, and it doesn’t pay off,” he said. “If falling in love and getting married guaranteed great sex, I wouldn’t be in business. I’d have to go into real estate or something.”

Alaska, meanwhile, not only has the highest rape rates in the US (at three times the national average), according to some heart-wrenching reporting from John D. Sutter at CNN; it’s also a state that does not require sex education. Not all sex ed is created equal  in terms of addressing thorny issues like rape and sexual abuse, of course. But surely some is better than none, especially with rape statistics the size of Alaska’s looming to cast a deep shadow over the discussion.

Catching Up with Previous Stories
We have yet another news flash in the march (two-step?) towards marriage equality: Hello, Kentucky! It’s a pretty red state, huh? But as Time magazine reports, “Attorney General Jack Conway [said] Tuesday he refused to continue defending his state’s ban on gay marriage because he feared he’d regret it for the rest of his life. ‘I know where history is going on this,’ he said. ‘I know what was in my heart.’”

And that, my friends, is what “the arc of the moral universe” looks like when it starts pointing toward justice.

Speaking of the Pope, he got a little frisky again this week, though it looks like it might have been an accident this time. Still, when some popes swear accidentally, it’s one thing; when Pope Francis  says “cazzo” instead of “caso,” he just gets more love on Twitter. As the LA Times noted, “Usually, Pope Francis is making headlines for being the chillest, coolest, most relatable pope in history. (According to at least one survey, the pope is more popular than the Catholic Church itself.)… If history is any indication, the incident is only likely to add to the aura of Pope Francis as the people’s pope.” Cazzo a destra, persone! KansasCity.com and News.com.au weighed in as well.

And we mentioned the German surveys done among Catholics a few weeks ago that had found that most of the faithful don’t feel very faithful about the Church’s sexual teachings. Now a German bishop, CatholicCulture.org reports, is lobbying to have some of these teachings altered to, oh, better match social mores in the 21st century. “Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier said that a recent survey found most Catholics see Church teachings as ‘repressive.”’In an interview with the Allgemeine Zeitung Mainz, he said that the general rejection of Church teaching on contraception shows that teaching is no longer tenable. He also called for reconsideration of Church teachings regarding extra-marital sex, homosexual unions, and divorce the remarriage.”

Finally…
We’re blessed with several reports from the world of research—this was a great week for getting sex-salient factoids to brighten up that cocktail party chatter. (And if you’re not chatting substantively about sex at cocktail parties, where are you going to do it? Trust me, it makes the world a better place. It’s how I got into the business. Well, sorta.)

This week’s new knowledge: Men in bars who get pushy, overbearingly flirty, or touch-y may not be particularly inebriated, a study reported by Slate found—but it turns out most of the women they target are. “[B]etween 2000 and 2002, researchers from the University of Toronto and the University of Washington sent 140 observers into 118 alcohol-serving establishments in Canada and discovered something surprising: zero relationship between a man’s level of intoxication and his sexual aggressiveness. That doesn’t mean that alcohol is irrelevant to boob-grabbing, butt-slapping, and verbal harassment, though. A strong association emerged between a man’s aggression and his target’s degree of intoxication.” Hmmm. Is this a rape-culture-continuum thing? If you think so, I don’t blame you.

The Atlantic tells us that the majority of people surveyed think watching porn is morally wrong—including, apparently, a whole bunch of folks who watch porn. With luck, this cognitive dissonance is not giving them hives. But stress can do that. Of course, there’s a catch—maybe: “According to data from the Public Religion Research Institute, only 29 percent of Americans think watching porn is morally acceptable.” Were the Public Irreligion Research Institute to repeat this study, one wonders what results they would get.

Meanwhile, back at the doctor’s office, we learn from New Straits Times that one dose of one of the HPV vaccines can prevent cervical cancer (up til now, three does have been recommended, and many people do not return for all three). Cervarix, from GlaxoSmithKline, was the vaccine in question, not the more commonly-available-in-the-US Gardasil. And the Detroit Free Press informs us that a new HIV prevention drug holds great promise; let’s hope that good-sounding news stays good as further clinical trials ensue. Finally, men with higher blood levels of phthalates may have a harder time becoming dads, reports LiveScience. This means, fellows, that if you have been chewing on low-quality sex toys, you probably ought to stop immediately. Way more research is needed about sex toys and other phthalate-laden items, but this suggests that previous research connecting the controversial plastics softener to hormone disruption is on the right track.

Aaaaand one in three adults surveyed, says Discovery News, think that HTML is a sexually transmitted disease. I’ll bet you this survey was done online, too, and that is just ironic.

Finally finally, this was the week we learned, thanks to a horny and enterprising young man, that while “hot pocket” might be a good sex euphemism, it is a problematic sex partner. That’s right, some guy went all Holden Caulfield on the Internet’s ass, except of course most American refrigerators no longer contain a slab of liver, so he had to get creative. Of course he hit upon the Hot Pockets! (Or perhaps I should simply say he “hit” them.) But as all of you who have attempted to masturbate with a slice of pizza know, you must be verrrrryyy careful when it comes to the temperature of the cheese.

Household items pressed into service as masturbatory devices and sex gizmos are called pervertibles, class, and they are fun to play with, sure, but are sometimes also quite risky. See, Good Vibrations is doing all y’all a real service by selling safe things. Safe sex means more than just condom use, you know—it also involves having a thermometer at the ready to test the internal temperature of that sexy, sexy mini-calzone.

Pretty much everybody on the freakin’ Internet covered that story, and how could they resist? But we read all about it on the Huffington Post.

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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