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The Buzz on Sex in the News with Dr. Carol Queen
Good Vibrations Staff Sexologist
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Week of October 3-9, 2013

Miley Is Feuding with Sinéad… and Other Important News of Miley
Look, I never said I wouldn’t talk about Miley again. When most of the sex-related mainstream media items in a given week seem to be about Miley, we will consider Miley. This week, she and Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor have been having a protracted rumble via open letters, blog posts, Twitter, and media interviews, and a number of other pop and alt artists have become involved, including perhaps most notably Amanda Palmer, writing an open letter to Sinéad (loving on her brave history but sticking up for Miley’s right to be “a raging, naked, twerking sexpot”). It is, in fact, the Week of the Open Letter About Miley Cyrus! So let’s recap:

Miley stated that she was inspired in her Wrecking Ball video by Sinéad’s haunting Nothing Compares 2 U, and Sinead replied (via open letter) expressing concern that male music execs were behind the sexually-charged work Miley’s been doing lately and that Miley should resist “prostituting herself” for stardom and media attention. This message made Miley defensive or at least cranky, and she reposted a bunch of tweets Sinéad sent at an emotional low point, comparing her to Amanda Bynes. This freaked out Sinéad’s shit (as well it ought to), and another letter (with threats of legal action) ensued… three letters in all, I believe. The Pope was mentioned, but not this pope. Meanwhile, someone pointed out to Miley, or she herself realized, how inappropriate it was to call Sinéad crazy; she pulled that, and got a little more mature about this situation, if you call telling Matt Lauer that people over 40 aren’t sexual, uh, mature. (Which in turn made 60-something Suzanne Somers boast that she and her 70-something husband are doing it twice and day and three times on Sundays. So there, Miley, you ageist lil’ minx!)

Relatedly, more sexy pictures via Terry Richardson were released, Miley hit it out of the park on Saturday Night Live and generally took up all the media air in the room until at least this Tuesday, and The Guardian published a very worthwhile roundtable questioning Sinéad’s original accusation: Is it true that the music business exploits women? Very smart stuff; recommended.

Did anything else happen this week? Well, there were at least two more hella-sexy videos to give Miley a run for her money: loved Britney Spears in an evening gown walking on water (sorta)  surrounded by sharks (whips, too!) in her Work, Bitch video; LOVED Rihanna ‘s twerky stripper anthem Pour It Up.

Thanks to Cecilia Tan for turning me on to the brilliant-ass Amanda Palmer letter, which I caught up with on Gigwise. It is a must-read manifesto of fierce feminist rockstar philosophy, and sex-positive to boot. I kept up with Miley’s doings (to the degree that’s possible) via Rolling Stone, USA Today, MTV, E ONline, Huffpo, Access Hollywood, Vanity Fair, and on and on. Other sexy diva news came courtesy of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other Britney reportage, and the Daily Beast for Rihanna; they think she can teach Miley a thing or two about twerking, and I am not about to argue.

Youth and Sexual Violence, or at least Sex that Is Manipulative and Not Very Consensual AND Sometimes Violent
Very conservative people may possibly implicate Miley in this, too, but Amanda Palmer would surely disagree: A new study in JAMA Pediatrics (that’s the Journal of the American Medical Association) states that 9% of US teens surveyed in connection with the Growing Up with Media study have committed sexual violence, and that this number includes young women as well as young men. Four kinds of sexual violence were surveyed: forced sexual contact (unwanted kissing, touching, and so forth), coercive sex, attempted rape, and completed rape. Notable information derived from the survey include the news that young women also perpetrate, especially as they get older, though they are more likely to engage in forced sexual and coercive contact than out-and-out rape or its attempt; that virtually all of those who were the targets of these actions were known to the perpetrators, and 75% of them were in dating relationships; that “violent” X-rated media (as well as violent non-sexual media) were associated with these actions (as usual, the study does not spell out what exactly is being included under the term “violent”–is consensual BDSM included, or not? We don’t know); and –most interesting to me– half of them blamed the other person (that is, the one who didn’t want to have sex), while only a third of them took responsibility for having acted non-consensually.

The researchers caution that this was an Internet-based survey and results should be considered preliminary until replicating studies can be done, and I concur, but there’s one take-away message I have no trouble repeating: Parents and schools (as well as teen peer networks) should be talking about porn, rape, consent, respect, responsibility, and all the other topics that are associated with this interesting research. If you wait til after 16 for these valuable conversations, you will have waited too long.

Relatedly, this week, we saw the latest in a spate of articles about collegiate rape culture and the failure of higher ed administrations to punish rapists or even cooperate with police investigations, this time via Boston.com in relationship to a series of situations at Emerson College. And Madonna came out in a Harper’s Bazaar essay, apparently for the second or third time, as a rape survivor; this was covered by a variety of media, including YourTango.

I read the original study text in JAMA Pediatrics, plus commentary in NatGeo, USA Today, Medpage, and other places.

Teens & Consensual Sex
In news regarding teens who actually have consensual sex with each other, we recall that the state of Florida has been prosecuting Kaitlyn Hunt for a lesbian relationship with an underage partner (that commenced when they were both underage). These Romeo and Juliet situations involving statutory rape (or Juliet and Juliet, in this case) have been reported as being more likely to involve legal prosecution in same-sex situations than among young heterosexual couples; and as we’ll recall from the above-mentioned survey, only about 1% of those reported rapes involved the police, much less prosecution and incarceration.

This week, Kaitlyn took a plea deal.

And Why, Culturally, Would Teens Having Consensual Sex Face Jail Time?
Well, let’s consider the remarks of Pennsylvania Governor Corbett — ABC News tells us that this week he suggested that gay marriage was comparable to incest. It would appear that there is still a ton of work left for the Task Force and other LGBT organizations that work on behalf of same-sex civil rights. Heave an aggrieved sigh with me, please.

Notable One-Offs This Week
While I did not see multiples of these stories, they are all worthwhile glimpses into sex/gender and culture:

A Nebraska judge has disallowed a teen permission for an abortion because she isn’t mature enough, says ABC News; she hasn’t lived on her own (in fact, she’s in foster care), and she’s never had a job, but on the other hand, apparently the judge thinks she’s mature enough to, you know, have a child. Another aggrieved sigh from me.

Salon ran a terrific piece on masculinity, ‘5 Ways America Tells Boys Not to Be Girly.’ Dress your little boys in pink, say I! Throw off the gender police! (And while you’re at it, teach them not to rape anybody.)

RuPaul, the wonderful “king of queens,” was profiled in Rolling Stone. A lovely human being who, thank goodness, was not taught as a child not to be girly. The world would be a worse place if he had.

New York Magazine ran an intriguing piece with comments from 15 couples on not having sex.

Finally, Not Really about Sex but Certainly about Gender

Malala, one year after the Taliban attack that was intended to kill her, is short-listed for the Nobel Peace Prize. Take that, forces of repression! And Malala, happy One Year of Living. “Live through this,” indeed.

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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