Sexy Sex, Newsy News—Week of March 17-23, 2014

SexySexNewsyNewsHeader_Jan2014

 

We Awaken to a World Without Fred Phelps

Since the early 1950s, when apparently one young man, vice-obsessed and already possessing firmly held religious beliefs, street-preached in Los Angeles and railed about heavy petting and other terrible influences, the world has had a Fred Phelps. “‘[He] was obsessed with human sexuality for his entire life, going back six decades,’ says Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center. He notes that Phelps was profiled in Time magazine in 1952 because he had a street ministry against petting and dirty jokes,” reported the BBC. For a while after law school it looked like he had begun to tread a different path, working in Kansas on behalf of civil rights, but even then he didn’t fit properly in a box; he got disbarred, but that didn’t matter, because he had a bunch of kids to send to law school. Plenty of lawyers in the Phelps family, all right! So that when he became the patriarch we know today—the head of the Westboro Baptist Church and the man who brought us the “God Hates Fags” picket sign—there were enough attorneys in the tiny church to do all the damage the virulently homophobic elder Phelps could ever desire.

But that small group of people (some of them scattered by excommunication, or the simple good sense to leave that nest of hatey haters while they could) is now without their paterfamilias; in fact, some indications are that they have been without him in a pastoral sense for several months, since there may have been a power struggle inside Westboro recently. (If this is true, perhaps Shakespeare is rolling restlessly in his grave, wishing for a quill and some parchment.) In any case, Phelps has died, leaving behind a huge stash of offensive picket signs and a US (and in fact a world) culture aroused to an understanding of how nut-jobby homophobia can truly be. “The message he spread across the country never took root, and in fact helped galvanize the gay-rights movement and put other Christians on the defensive. The image of Christianity he painted was a hateful, judgmental collection of rabble-rousers — an image that, paradoxically, did more to help his targets than advance his message,” noted the good people at the Salt Lake Tribune. ” The Rev. Ann Fontaine, a retired Episcopal priest and an editor and writer at Episcopal Cafe website, recalled that delegates to her church’s General Conventions “would have to walk through a gantlet of his people on the way to our meetings. And yet, he did more to move Episcopalians towards gay rights and rites than many. People were sure they did not want to be Freds.”

From the picket signs at Matthew Shepard’s funeral to the equally tasteless Dead Soldier pickets, here was a guy who pretty much just didn’t seem to know how to make friends. Beware of dads who turn their families into cults, man. And then there’s the schadenfreude of watching other hatey haters trying to distance themselves from that much hate. (I don’t mean you, Episcopalians. You’re cool.)

“There will be no funeral” for Phelps, Westboro announced, to which I responded: I’ll say. Perhaps this is yet another group of people who can dish it out, but can’t take it.

Salon, HuffPo, CNN, USA Today, Boston.com—everybody and their dog wrote up the demise of Phelps and speculated on Westboro’s future.

Chapel of Love in Michigan

It’s not a slam-dunk marriage equality state—the wheels were set in motion almost immediately to stay the legal decision that sent same-sex couples from the great state of Michigan running to the courthouse to get hitched. But the Michigan marriage ruling is one of the most interesting so far, because it explicitly addresses not just love, partnering, and the right to nuptials, but also the way lack of marriage equality impacts family. Federal District Court Judge Bernard Friedman ruled in a case brought by two women parenting a family of three special-needs kids whom they were not legally allowed to adopt, since Michigan law allowed only singles and male/female couples to adopt kids. Equal protection, Michigan? You guys have an excellent law school there, I’m surprised that this basic lil’ concept slid by you.

The Washington Post reported, “’State defendants lost sight of what this case is truly about: people,’ the judge said. ‘No court record of this proceeding could ever fully convey the personal sacrifice of these two plaintiffs who seek to ensure that the state may no longer impair the rights of their children and the thousands of others now being raised by same-sex couples.’ …Experts testifying for Rowse and DeBoer said there were no differences between the children of same-sex couples and those raised by a man and woman. And the University of Texas took the extraordinary step of disavowing the testimony of sociology professor Mark Regnerus, who was a witness for Michigan.”

This is an extraordinary step, maybe parallelling the Episcopalians worried that people would think they were Freds. Slate wrote up Regnerus’ role in the Michigan case in a March 4 analysis that also analyzed his research—funded by a deeply conservative, anti-gay organization—that has made him a marriage inequality rockstar. “As Regnerus took the stand this week, the chair of UT Austin’s Sociology Department released a statement supporting Regnerus’ right to pursue research but strongly denouncing his views. The statement said his conclusions ‘do not reflect the views of the Sociology Department of The University of Texas at Austin’ nor of the American Sociological Association, ‘which takes the position that the conclusions he draws from his study of gay parenting are fundamentally flawed on conceptual and methodological grounds and that findings from Dr. Regnerus’ work have been cited inappropriately in efforts to diminish the civil rights and legitimacy of LBGTQ partners and their families.’”

CNN, Michigan Live, and many other publications covered this important story.

Bisexuals: Real at Last?

The New York Times devoted quite a bit of ink to an interesting story about bisexuality this week, delving into much research on the topic and introducing us to some of the people who help get that research made. Yes, just as Mark Regnerus has a batch of right-wing homophobes writing big checks ($700,00, Slate reported) to fund his studies, academics who want to better understand sexual orientation, fluidity, and the question of bisexuality can also look to an interested funding source,* in this case the American Institute of Bisexuality. (I know the AIB’s president, John Sylla, and his charming partner Mike Szymanski, and early in the Center for Sex & Culture’s history we received an AIB loan for a project.) It turns out that with some thoughtfully-designed research pointed at it, the fraught identity can come in to clearer focus. Bravo! I always knew I was real, even if some of my community members did not. Thanks for the validation, Newspaper of Record!

*I do not mean to suggest that AIB’s funding stream facilitates problematic and offensive research, only to remind us that knowledge pretty much always comes from somewhere. Sex-positive research is certainly not better funded than sex-negative research, and I value AIB’s interest in academic studies. I sure can’t say the same about Regnerus.

The NYT also tackled an interesting, and not entirely unrelated, question in a separate article: Is the term “homosexual” outmoded and, in fact, offensive? In “The Decline and Fall of the H Word” we read the Times commentator’s thoughts on the matter, but may I just add to the discussion that if “homosexual” is a bad word, “heterosexual” is too—which it isn’t, so don’t be ridiculous. Both terms are artifacts from a different era in the social sciences, but neither is, or was ever intended to be, pejorative. Each word has “sex” in the middle of it, as does “bisexual,” which can make people jumpy. But, jumpy people, that is your problem.

Finally…

The BBC and Opposing Views both reported that Hawai’i intends to continue to allow police officers to have sex with prostitutes, just to, you know, make sure they’re prostitutes. Perhaps I don’t need to tell you that sex work activists don’t like this one bit—even the anti-trafficking folks, who aren’t always happy to share a bed with the pro-sex work people, are upset. Boy, and I thought all the awesome reasons to be a cop in Hawai’i had already been explored on Hawai’i 5-O.

Outsports brings us the results of a fabulous study that was conducted to explore the effect of penis size in British locker rooms. It didn’t start out about penises, apparently, but it went there… oh yes, it went there. And guess what? Athletes seem to respect the big-penises guys the most, although this makes gay athletes a bit uncomfortable. “The research suggested that men look at each other’s cocks, as a gauge to see how big or small they are, comparing themselves to the rest of the team or men in the locker room. The activity of checking out each other occurred irrelevant of sexuality and the type of sport; all participants noted that they looked at each other’s cocks in the locker room… This knowing of who has a large cock and who didn’t within a homosocial environment helped individual sporting males climb up a social hierarchy of importance. Those with the larger penises were revered and idolized by their teammates as a symbol of masculinity. These ‘large-cocked’ individuals became a focus of camaraderie and team building within their sports environments. The cock became a focus on which to banter [and] create nicknames.” The researcher calls the whole phenomenon “cockocracy,” which is somehow a beautiful thing. Another fun fact from Chris Moriss-Roberts’ research: Some of the straight guys apparently think nothing of “’slap[ping] their cock around a bit’ so it didn’t look too small in the communal showers. The semi-erect penis in the shower became another form of banter, with laughing over the fact that ‘one of the other athletes might have turned you on.’ The gay athletes didn’t report this as something they would do; they did suggest that there was an attempt to perform in a heteronormative manner to de-emphasize queer behavior, and having an erection wasn’t a good way to go about it.” Um, yes. But the lads all seem to be cheerful about the whole thing, eh? And they do note downsides to being too hung. I tried to explain that to the young man in the “Unhung Hero” documentary, though I’m not sure he believed me.

And the Guardian brings us a charming analysis of movie sex and why it’s not really realistic even when it touts its realism: “Hair on screen always remains perfectly in place, and never gets trapped under anyone’s arm. And bras remain firmly on. On the rare occasion that they do get removed, it happens in silence. To my knowledge, no movie character has ever shouted ‘Jesus, that’s better, that wire has been cutting into my tit for hours’ as they undress, for example, which seems like a preposterous oversight.” Word.

Another great Guardian story this week analyzes the way porn and social media are tending to morph together, with new apps like Pinsex available to facilitate image-sharing and the discussions the images might provoke. “The socialisation of internet pornography has been noted with interest by academics. ‘Traditionally pornography was “used”, “consumed” or whatever verb you wish to use, by people on their own,’ says Simon Lindgren, a professor of sociology and social media researcher at Umeå University in Sweden. He is clear that today’s online porn audience is no longer made up of ‘isolated masturbating loners’, but of an interactive and creative group of critical audience members.” Interactive! Creative! Critical! That’s musical porn to my academic ears.

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.

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. luv2sex.info says:

    Porn will be great if it has a strong story line, instead of just all actions and fake orgasms!