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Somehow I missed this story until I saw it on the headlines of the National Enquirer. Perhaps that's because the "respectable" media has been trying to avoid it. And yet, it has all the elements of a great story: man who was elected president but cheated out of it by GOP dirty tricks then turns moral crusader for the environment attacks a massage therapist in a hotel room. In other words, Al Gore, a massage therapist, and a strange stain on a pair of pants.
According to a complaint filed by the massage therapist in Portland, OR, Gore attacked her in a hotel room where she was giving him a massage in October of 2006. The woman apparently saved her pants as evidence of her contact with Gore which leads to one and only one question: Where the hell was Al Gore when Clinton was impeached for "evidence" on Monica Lewinski's dress?
Of course there are a few other questions circulating too. According to the complaint, the sexual contact was unwanted. But if it was unwanted, why are there rumors that Al Gore left Tipper because of a relationship with a massage therapist? Also, why did the woman describe the former Vice President as a "giggling sex-crazed poodle." What does a sex-crazed poodle look like and how does it giggle? Finally, why did the woman initially refuse to cooperate with police even as she hired an attorney and carefully saved the pants as "evidence." She says she wasn't interested in money, that she didn't want to be labeled a "gold digger," but she simultaneously tried to sell her story to the National Enquirer for a million bucks.
Also, why do Americans continue to care about the sex lives of our political leaders? Why does Al Gore being "happily married" to Tipper for forty years mark him as a good person while Bill Clinton, who is married but has a clearly complex relationship with Secretary of State Clinton, is considered lacking in moral leadership?
Marriage is a property contract between two people, not a sign of moral superiority. It doesn't guarantee that the husband and wife will be better people, take more ethical stances in their lives, or even be nice to the family dog. The only thing "married" guarantees is that both will have a claim to any and all properties, including children.
But because our country is so embedded in the idea that good people are those that discipline their sexual impulses and confine them to marriage, we are unable to actually consider what politicians stand for until we have forced them to prove themselves "good husbands" (and sometimes "good wives"). Until we can stop believing the Disney fairytale that marriage is the only goal, the one path to a good and happy life, we will continue to elect leaders who are actually sex-crazed poodles but stand around waving with their wives tightly by their sides.
And that's too bad. Because a lot of those poodles would be better off chasing sticks than leading this country. And as for Al Gore- his real lack of ethical judgment was when he backed down from taking his rightful role as the elected leader of this country and gave it over to George Bush, leaving us with Afghanistan and Iraq to contend with ad infinitum. Anything else Gore does, moral or immoral, pales in comparison to the horror his lack of backbone visited on this country and the world. Bad dog indeed.
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According to Iowa Representative Steve King, queers wear their sexuality on their sleeves while heteros keep it under wraps. King appeared on a radio show with Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council (who most recently threw fellow homophobe activist George Rekers over the cliff when Rekers' homoerotic sexual practices were outed by a male prostitute). During a discussion about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), King stated there is no need for legislation to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender expression because queers create the discrimination themselves by being so freakin' flamboyant.
if you don’t advertise it, how would anyone know to discriminate against you?' And that’s at the basis of this. So if people wear their sexuality on their sleeve and then they want to bring litigation against someone that they would point their finger at and say, 'You discriminate.' …This is the homosexual lobby taking it out on the rest of society and they are demanding affirmation for their lifestyle, that’s at the bottom of this."
See, now I'm confused. Because far-right homophobes tell me that everyone should just keep their sexuality (and, I suppose gender expression?) PRIVATE, but then they themselves are so freakin' flamboyant in their straightness. What's that on your hand? A wedding ring? What's that with your gender presentation- it's completely as it ought to be, with not a single sartorial signifier out of place? But still, you're not "announcing" your straightness to the world, you're just embodying it; unlike pesky queers who have to shove their gender presentation and sexual identity in everyone's face.
And if I don't wear my sexuality on my sleeve, how can I ever get any where in this world? Look at poor Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, whom I myself suggested was anything but straight in my previous post. Now she's gotta go and prove herself to be 100% hetero or the right wing nuts are going to pray her nomination away.
The entire thing reminds me of a variety of political asylum cases I have been involved in as an "expert witness." These asylum seekers are in some way queer- trans, gay, lesbian- and live in Russia, a country where they have no legal protection from being fired from their jobs or kicked out of school, but also where there is rampant and perhaps even state-sponsored violence against them. The lawyers representing the United States will usually ask me the following:
If no one knew they were gay, then they wouldn't get beat up, would they?
This argument that a better closet would protect us all from discrimination and violence is not exactly the brightest bulb of hope we have for a better future. Imagine applying the closet elsewhere to issues of discrimination.
If only Latinos could pass as Anglos in Arizona, then they'd never get arrested for looking illegal.
If only women could pass as men at work, then there would be no unequal pay for equal work.
Forcing people to pass as if they were part of dominant culture is not really a great plan for ending employer discrimination. We need a piece of legislation, like ENDA, that would protect people whose sexual or gender expression is other than normative. Sadly, ENDA's not likely to pass again, both because of right wing idiots like King who think queers should pass as straights and because of cowardly Dems who fear the legislation's protection of "gender expression" (i.e. transgendered individuals) will make them vulnerable in the next elections.
But I suppose if ENDA does pass, it will just make those heteros more flamboyant about wearing their sexuality on their sleeves and knowing that no one can fire them because of it.
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According to news reports, Family Research Council co-founder George Alan Rekers, hired a male escort from Rentboy.com (warning: hot, but graphic site). That's right, Dr. George,as he is known, is a big fag! It is so gay to call yourself Dr. George, but I suppose he is a professor of psychology at USC. Dr. George is also a Baptist minister and has pioneered the "science" to cure people of their homosexuality.
Perhaps that's what Dr. George was doing with the Rentboy, experimenting on a new cure? He certainly denies being a big fag. According to a statement:
A recent article in an alternative newspaper cleverly gave false impressions of inappropriate behavior because of its misleading innuendo, incorrectly implying that Professor George Rekers used the Rentboy website to hire a prostitute to accompany him on a recent trip. Contrary to Internet stories based on this slanderous article, following medical advice Professor George Rekers requires an assistant to lift his luggage in his travels because of an ongoing condition following surgery. ... Professor Rekers was not involved in any illegal or sexual behavior with his travel assistant."
It's funny because Rentboy.com has images of men having sex and men masturbating and lines like "get rubbed the right way." There is no way this is where you would get a baggage handler unless what your really need is a package handler. It's also funny because Dr. George is such a homophobe. And because Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council immediately threw him over the cliff by saying:
Reports have been circulating regarding Dr. Rekers relationship with a male prostitute. FRC has had no contact with Dr. Rekers or knowledge of his activities in over a decade so FRC can provide no further insight into these allegations... While we are extremely disappointed... it is not surprising. The Scriptures clearly teach the fallen nature of all people. We each have a choice to act upon that nature or accept the forgiveness offered by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and do our best to ensure our actions, both public and private match our professed positions."
But it's so NOT funny because this feeds the stereotype that all homophobes are actually closet cases. This actually happened recently at a local college when homophobic incidents were attributed to someone who is probably actually gay. But let's set the record straight (that was funny because it was a pun). The vast majority of homophobes are straight people. But they are never outed for being straight. Just like most racists are not passing as whites but secretly of color and most anti-Semites are not actually Jewish.
When a famous homophobe gets outed for being a big fag, a lot of straight people will say, "See, homophobes are always closet cases." And then heave a huge sigh of relief that they themselves are straight and therefore not homophobic. And as funny as it is that Dr. George is a big fag, blaming homophobia on queers is just not funny.
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Reading about Lady Gaga in my local french-language paper, I assumed I had misunderstood the article (my french is so bad this is always a good possibility). It said Lady Gaga was celibate, but I thought maybe they were saying "single." Yet there it is in the english-language news as well. Gaga is gaga for celibacy.
According to news reports, Gaga is telling young people, but especially women, to not have sex.
I can't believe I'm saying this - don't have sex," Gaga said during a stop in England, according to MTV.com. She was there promoting MAC Cosmetics' Viva Glam campaign, which supports HIV and AIDS projects around the world.
I'm single right now and I've chosen to be single because I don't have the time to get to know anybody," she continued. "So it's OK not to have sex, it's OK to get to know people. I'm celibate, celibacy's fine"
I can't believe she's saying that either. Call me old-fashioned, but why can't Gaga advocate safer sex practices, like using a condom, rather than abstinence? After all, condoms have been shown to be far more effective at stopping the spread of HIV than "Just say no to sex" campaigns.
The recent re-funding of Abstinence Sex Education in US schools under the Health Care Bill created a firestorm because of the lack of evidence that Abstinence works to stop teen pregnancy or AIDS. A recent article on CNN pointed out that:
A congressionally mandated study in 2007 found that none of four abstinence programs showed a significant positive effect on sexual behavior among youth.
A January 2009 study in Pediatrics found that religious teens who take virginity pledges are less likely to use condoms or birth control when they become sexually active, and just as likely to have sex before marriage as their peers who didn't take pledges.
The evidence has been piling up for years: condoms prevent HIV and unwanted pregnancy; abstinence campaigns promote hyper-sexualized pop singers' ( like Britney back in the day and Gaga now) careers.
But somehow, given Gaga's supposed willingness to be different, I expected more from her. In truth, I was somewhat gaga for Gaga up until this point. Her insanely brilliant lyrics like "I want your ugly, I want your disease" seemed to expose exactly the sort of perversely self-destructive desires that most of us feel, but few of us admit. They seemed the opposite of the "good romance" that we are coerced into wanting: dyadic monogamous coupling resulting in a white wedding and a life of being "good" and "productive" adults.
But now Gaga is part of the "just say no to sex" rather than "just put a condom on it" world . She is not just single, but celibate. A strategy that may work for Gaga- at least for a few days- but doesn't work for most American young people for the long term as study after study now shows.
And as the mother of two girls, I don't want them to be celibate until they're married. Marriage is not "good" and fucking around is not "bad." Fucking around irresponsibly, without ethics and without safer sex, is bad- whether you're married or not. Married people do have sex outside their marriages just like teens who take virginity pledges have premarital sex just as often as teens who don't take such a pledge.
The point is to encourage responsibility in all sexual relations: teen and adult; married and unmarried.
If only Gaga could be gaga for condoms. Then I would happily continue to listen to her music ad nauseam. But with her ridiculous celibacy advocacy, I am afraid that from now on I will have to treat Gaga and her music as just as insipid as those other famous virginity advocates, the Jonas Brothers. Gaga is now like all those Disney twerps who preach virginity until marriage and make a fortune doing it. As such, Gaga is no longer worth listening to.
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I can see that there will be a lot of interesting things to come out of the supposed health care bill for weeks, even months to come. The law was way too long for anyone to know what the hell was going on with it. Yesterday I wrote about how the law will finally put an end to banks making huge profits off of student loans. Today I found out that the law sets aside $250 Million a year for the much debated and more or less discredited Abstinence Only Sex Education first dreamed up by Neocons, but put into play during the Clinton years.
Known as Title V and having received over a billion dollars in the past decade, Abstinence Only Education teaches American teens that the only safe sex is married sex- since apparently married sex means no other partners are involved (yes, ironic that Bill Clinton should have done this). Since Abstinence until marriage is the "only way" to avoid STDs and unwanted pregnancies, teens are encouraged to wait until they're married to have sex.
The effectiveness of Title V education is not widely studied, but some reports indicate that it has had no effect on teen sexual practices except to diminish the use of condoms (since the teens are trying not to have sex when they have sex and therefore come unprepared). The US still has more teen births and higher levels of sexually transmitted diseases among teens of any industrialized country. Teen pregnancies began to rise again at the height of Abstinence Only education programs. And we have generally created a generation of teens too conflicted about sex to put a condom on it. A 2007 federally mandated report found that Abstinence Only programs did not influence sexual behavior, but they did have an impact on sexual smarts. Students who underwent abstinence programs were much more likely to be unsure whether a condom was effective at preventing STDs.
How did this total waste of money sneak into the bill, despite the fact that Congress itself has investigated the Abstinence Only education programs and found them a waste of tax payer dollars? Two years ago, the Waxman Report found that these programs mislead teenagers (for instance, teens were told that half of all gay male teens are HIV positive and that touching someone else's genitalia can lead to pregnancy and that condoms often fail to prevent the spread of HIV). The anti-sex, anti-sanity GOP, that's how.
Republican Orrin Hatch (R-UT) snuck this huge waste of money into the bill and despite calls by Henry Waxman (D-CA) and others to take it out, it stayed in because the Democratic leadership was too busy to worry about it. Over at Reality Check, James Waggner says
Boy, does that ever smack of the “dog ate my homework” excuse. There was no rationale for keeping this amendment in the bill. Hatch is a Republican who opposes health care reform so there was no political need to placate the author of the measure. Taking Title V out of the bill would have saved a quarter billion dollars over five years and Democrats were desperate for savings so they could show that the bill would reduce the federal deficit.
But the problem is, despite Title V's stupidity, no politician in this nation of sexual puritans wants to be seen as pro-sex, let alone pro-teen-sex. Until we as a nation of really uptight people admit that teens are sexual beings, that they will engage in sexual activities, and that it's best if they do it with as much information and contraception as possible, programs like Title V will continue to get passed, with no one taking responsibility for it and yet, no one doing much to stop it.
The misbehavior of Congress in passing more Abstinence Only ed is like two teens, groping in the dark, wracked with guilt, and kinda forgetting to put a condom on it. And now we the taxpayers are stuck footing the bill while our children pay the price of being miseducated about sex.
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Utah is an interesting state, a case study in the mixing of conservative Christianity and ultra-conservative politics with CRACK. Nothing else could explain the series of stupid decisions being made about sex, birth control, and the law.
With one of the most shame-inducing "Abstinence Only" sex education programs in their public schools and a majority population steeped in a conservative Christian belief that sex should only be to make babies, Utah must live with the obvious results of teaching young people that they should feel shame and disgust around sexual pleasure. In Utah, you can't even say "Abstinence is the best policy, but if you're not abstinent, use a condom to prevent pregnancy and disease." Instead, "Abstinence ONLY" is what teens get and then they do what teens always do: they have sex.
The results of not having safer sex education are that every day in Utah, 12 teenaged girls become pregnant and they're more likely to get chlamydia than the flu or chicken pox. Ninety-three percent of women in Utah live in counties with no abortion providers. And now, if a woman or girl gets pregnant in Utah and miscarries due to "intentional behavior," the state can send her to jail.
The law, signed into effect yesterday, was supposedly a more careful one than the original bill that could have sent women who miscarried to jail for any "reckless" behavior. However, the new law represents the real possibility that women could be prosecuted for miscarrying. According to Democratic Senator Ben McAdams,
the revised bill still sets a dangerous precedent that would "open up a Pandora’s box" of unintended legal consequences that will be hard to reverse. "Even the word 'knowingly' will result in unintended consequences."
So why is the media reporting that the new law won't send women and girls to jail for miscarrying? According to the AP story,
The version of the bill Herbert signed excludes language in an original version that opponents feared could lead to pregnant women who have natural miscarriages or miscarriages while engaging in activities like skiing being investigated for criminal homicide.
But in fact both Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union continue to voice concern that the version passed will make any woman who miscarries a "potential criminal" who would have to "prove" her innocence.
Instead of reporting on the dangers of the Utah law, the media is spending a lot of time reporting on the rather sad criminal case that inspired its drafting: a 17 year-old girl who paid a young man $150 to beat her up so that she could terminate her 7-month pregnancy. The beating did not result in a termination of the pregnancy (the baby was born and subsequently adopted), but it did result in prosecution for both the young woman and the man who beat her.
A fascinating story, full of tragedy, but the real story is the effects of the Christian Taliban on this country and particularly our young people.
Barred from the knowledge of how to control their fertility or keep their bodies free of sexually transmitted diseases, steeped in shame about having sex in the first place, fed a steady media diet that both makes everything about sex and also makes sex a problem, young people act rashly, stupidly even, and then pay the price of STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Now, in Utah, some of them will also go to jail.
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Let me begin this post against Apple by saying I am a committed and decade-long Apple-user. Yes, I'm one of those complete victims of advertising, so insecure in my own personal "cool" that I would never even consider using a PC. I am not proud of this fact, but even if you sent me a really nice PC today, I would be too embarrassed to use it publicly. That's just how shallow I am.
And yet, I am now convinced that Apple has lost its ever -loving corporate mind (if corporations can be thought to have minds given that they are already citizens with rights to free speech and buying elections).
When a PC-loving friend, the kind who actually work in the IT industry and talks geek 24/7, sent me yet another message about how bad Apple is yesterday, I had to pay attention. Apple's being bad, really bad. According to an article in Maximum PC (no, I don't read it- that's what I have geek friends for) Apple has been changing the rules on the people who develop applications so that all apps are completely and totally without sexual content.
But what exactly is sexual content? That's where it gets complicated:
This is a question App Store developer Jon Atherton has addressed on his blog, and the list of reasons why his Wobble application has been pulled is pretty draconian.
1. No images of women in bikinis (Ice skating tights are not OK either)
2. No images of men in bikinis! (I didn't ask about Ice Skating tights for men)
3. No skin (he seriously said this) (I asked if a Burqa was OK, and the Apple guy got angry)
4. No silhouettes that indicate that Wobble can be used for wobbling boobs (yes - I am serious, we have to remove the silhouette on the menu screen)
5. No sexual connotations or innuendo: boobs, babes, booty, sex - all banned
6. Nothing that can be sexually arousing!! (I doubt many people could get aroused with the pic above but those puritanical guys at Apple must get off on pretty mundane things to find Wobble "overtly sexual!)
7. No apps will be approved that in any way imply sexual content (not sure how Playboy is still in the store, but ...)
At the Guardian, Charles Arthur asks how Apple can possibly allow Playboy and Sports Illustrated Swimwear as apps and not allow other apps to use women in bikinis to sell their products.
Is the problem that the strait-laced Americans can't bear to see search results that hint at sex and sexuality? (The Americans are so strange: a fabulous First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech, and then a madly restrictive approach to such speech.) Then why not check the age of the person using the store (you need to have a credit card and give a birthday, surely?) and only provide age-appropriate apps?
Yes, Mr. Arthur, that's the problem- sort of. The problems run deep in American culture and the people over at Apple, geeks all of them, apparently don't have any geeky feminist historian friends to talk about the various and assundry times there have been sex panics in the US and why.
Actually, Americans are always in a bit of a sex panic- especially over what "children" might see (one of the reasons Apple listed is "complaints from parents"). Children must be "protected" from all sexual content (violence is fine- after all- we want them to grow up to take part in the most militaristic society the world has ever known). But children, as invented by the Victorians- the first to try and control sexual practices, define sexual pathologies, and worry about about the kids- are imagined as innocent of all sexual desires.
Of course, this is where things get twisted in American culture. Children are "innocent" but what is "sexy" is innocent. Look at Playboy- an app allowed by Apple. Playboy was Heffner's ode to sex as "just good clean fun." Heffner's brilliance was to take "the girl next door" (almost always white, and very often blond and blue-eyed) and make her innocent from the neck up, sexualized from the neck down. The Bunny and the Playmate are the epitome of "erotic innocence."
And that's where Americans start to get nervous. If what is sexual is also what is childlike then the child is overly sexualized and therefore we must "protect the children" from all sexual content.
Except corporate sexual content like Playboy, because that's Free Speech.
Still, the children.
And so Apple attempts to negotiate this truly perverse history, one we never talk about but rather panic instead. And then, after the panic, we rush to "barely legal" porn sites and think the Bunny is both cute and sexy, as she should be, and then feel guilty and insist there be no apps on our i-Phones or i-Pods that remind us that we Americans are really and truly perverse.
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Let's face it. The US loses in most competitions with India at this point. Sure the US has the biggest military ever assembled, but we kinda suck at the whole math and science education thing, we don't really produce much worth buying (although we are number one at consumption) and even Hollywood is increasingly losing out to Bollywood for pure entertainment value, set designs, music, and even hipness.
But now the US has lost to India in the sex wars.
Indian election authorities have granted what they called an independent identity to gays and transsexuals -- a third gender -- on the country's voter lists.
Members of these groups were referred to as male or female on the voter rolls in the past. Now they will have the choice to pick "O" -- for others -- when indicating their gender on voter forms, the Indian election commission said in a statement Thursday.
India, home to more than 1 billion people, has 714 million registered voters.
India creates third gender for voters - UPI.com.
In order to unpack what happened and how the US lost again, let's figure out what these sex wars are and what winning them might look like.
"Sex"- bodily identification as male or female- is generally separated out from "gender"- which is more like your performance- as masculine or feminine. In this way, you can be a man in your body, but have a gender performance that is feminine let's say.
In the past 20 years or so, gender theory has increasingly asked whether these are really two separate categories at all. Judith Butler, in her 1989 Gender Trouble, famously asked, what if sex has been gender all along?
In other words, what if this thing- this bodily thing- that we think is stable and real and easily readable as "male" or "female' is in fact as messy and unclear as when a woman fixes the engine on her car in overalls and high heels? Historians like Thom Lacqueur have added to this sense that "gender" and "sex" are both the same and both messy by showing how the two sex system is fairly recent, like Reformation recent. Fom the Classical Greeks till about 1600 or so, Western doctors and laypeople alike thought there was ONE sex (and it was male- women were just inverted versions of the more perfect male form). The interesting thing about the one sex model is it allowed for those who were not one nor the other (their genitals were not fully inverted- like a woman's-- nor fully extroverted-like a man- so the "in-betweens" did not cause a category crisis).
The two-sex model demanded humans be male or female. No messiness. Bodies can not be "both" nor can they be "neither." Since the mid 1900s, whenever a body did not conform to the binary, it has generally been treated as a "medical emergency" and reshaped to fit our preconceived notions of sex, even though the result is often total lack of sexual pleasure and even pain as an adult.
The treatment of "intersex" babies is so clearly an imposition of binary thinking on messy bodies that feminist biologist Anne Fausto-Sterling has argued that we should allow for at least 5 sexes to describe how babies are actually born instead of how we wish they were born.
But how, and why, did the messiness of sex and gender get tangled up with "gays"? For that, we had to wait for the Victorian sexologists, and their notion that homosexuality was a form of gender inversion (manly women, feminine men) that was written on the body as a lack of sexual dimorphism.
In other words, the body is a mess. Naturally so, but we now insist bodies be neat and fit into a binary because of the imposition of human ideal forms onto it, ideal forms that are now not just philosophical or scientific, but commercial and for-profit as well.
The only way to "win" the sex wars, is to refuse to participate in them. To allow people to check "other" and "both" and "neither" rather than forcing them into m/f ideal form that so clearly does not fit how bodies are shaped nor how bodies perform.
And so India is now way ahead of the US in the sex wars. But this is one war we could actually win and no one would die and it wouldn't cost a lot of money. If only we could remove ourselves from 500 years of binary thinking and a hundred years of creating the homosexual as having a very messy sex/gender (and the heterosexual as having a very clearly defined sex that goes along with the appropriate gender- manly men or femme women).
Of course. winning the sex wars would take real leadership and courage. And that is another thing India seems to have a lot more of than we do.
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Is walking around your house naked a crime? What about brewing a pot of coffee naked? What about walking around your house naked to brew a pot of coffee in the morning while children walk to a nearby bus stop?
Apparently in Virginia it is not necessarily a crime to brew coffee au natural, but it is if you don't have curtains at your windows and can be seen by your nosy neighbors walking by.
Eric Williamson, 29, said he did know he could be seen. There is a school bus stop in front of his house.
Yes, I wasn't wearing any clothes but I was alone, in my own home and just got out of bed. It was dark and I had no idea anyone was outside looking in at me," Williamson told MyFoxDC.com. "I'm a loving dad-- any of my friends would tell you that," Williamson said. "There is not a chance on this planet I would ever, ever do anything like that to a kid.
Fairfax police say that, according to a witness, Williamson wanted to be seen naked. If convicted, he could be fined $2,000 and spend a year in jail.
Naked Man Charged With Indecent Exposure For Brewing Coffee In Own Home.
This brings up several issues, most of them uniquely American.
First of all there is the conflation of a nude body with a threat to children. "There is a school bus stop in front of his house." Well, actually it's across the street from his house and there's a yard so the children would have to be pretty interested in looking at the naked guy brewing coffee to see him. And, of course, he's brewing coffee, not a particularly sexual act. Had Williamson been jerking off in his own home, no doubt the supposed connection between being naked and "a threat to children" would be written in stone. American children are taught to fear all adult sexuality as predatory, even when it has nothing to do with them. But how exactly would children be harmed by peeping in a man's window and seeing him set the coffee to "brew" while he scratched his underwear-free private parts? Perhaps the children would be appropriately grossed out and learn not to look into peoples' windows? And perhaps they would realize that not all naked men are a sexual threat?
Second, there's the deeply-held belief that any leakage between the private and the public is a threat. In the Victorian Era, there was an absolute obsession with keeping the public and private spheres separate. The home was private, clean, feminine and safe. The city was public, masculine, dirty and dangerous. No doubt the early obsession with marking private from public stemmed from urbanization and immigration. There was a lot of crossing of boundaries. Classes and races mixed together. Middle-class women shifted their roles from private producers of domestic goods to public shoppers for such goods. Soap and cleaning products were some of the first products advertised, and they were advertised as a way to keep ourselves clean by not allowing our private worlds to be polluted with the "filth" of the public world.
Williamson refused to respect the boundary between public and private by leaving the windows into his private home open to public view. At the same time, the passerbys violated the public/private divide by looking in.
Private behavior- that is, naked coffee making- leaked into the public sphere-- "the bus stop." Now the coffee and the children are both contaminated. The answer is simple: curtains. But the answer is also complex: there is no real line between private and public, only an imaginary one that we draw by taking off our shoes when we walk in the door, scrubbing the boundary lines between our private homes and the dirty public streets, and pretending as if we can ever be safe from the contagious behavior of others.
Yesterday, sitting in the bright lights of my hairdresser's chair with my own daughters who had just had their blond hair cut, my hairdresser leaned in and asked
Did you hear about the kidnapping case? Some girl kidnapped when she was 11. Her stepfather saw it. Everyone suspected him. Turns out she's still alive, 18 years later. Some guy was holding her prisoner in his backyard, fathered two children with her. Can you imagine that she's still alive?"
She was speaking, or whispering, about Jaycee Dugard, a woman kidnapped as a child and kept captive well into adulthood. As today's NY Times said in its headline, Ms. Dugard was not always "locked away," but rather survived with her two children, now 14 and 11 themselves, in a series of backyard shacks and tents along with a cage and a soundproof shed.
Were the Times reporters, Jesse McKinley and Carol Pogash, suggesting she was not "really" a captive? If so, they should be forced to apologize because even without all the expert psychology into kidnapping victims, commonsense should tell them that someone taken as a child and raped and locked up in a cage and kept as a slave would be incapable of thinking rationally about her options for escape.
Kidnapping Victim Was Not Always Locked Away - NYTimes.com.
The bigger question for me is the last thing my hairdresser said about it:
The whole thing is making me physically ill. I want to be sick. I can't talk about it anymore. Maybe it's on the news now. Let's put on CNN."
This physical revulsion and wanting to not talk about it make sense. Much of human life is so revolting, so Abject according to psychoanalytic theory, that we literally cannot speak it aloud. The "let's talk about it endlessly"- which is, quite honestly, what I want to do- requires a bit more thinking about our particular historical moment.
Michel Foucault says "sex is the secret" of modernity, a secret we are incessantly forced to confess, first through the literal confession of the Catholic Church, but within the last century, through the couch of psychoanalysis then as the demand to "come out" because of sexual identity politics and in the past decades for entertainment on the Jerry Springer Show or for "networking" on Facebook.
But Foucault forgot to mention the other secret of modernity: violence. Violence is that which we moderns supposedly do not engage in. Someone upsets us, we do not shoot them or beat them or kill them. If a man wants a woman, he does not just take her, throw her over his shoulder, and drag her back to his cave.
We control our emotions and our desires. That's what makes us civilized. Of course, modern civilizations have committed more acts of violence than any on record, often in the name of "nation states" but also in the name of drugs or prisons or other forms of the "civilizing process." As for controlling our desires, we're not so good at that either (see Jerry Springer, above).
So it is when something truly barbaric leaks into our cultural consciousness, like the case of Jaycee Dugard, we are literally forced to watch it, talk about it, be disgusted by it, and insist it is unusual. But there is nothing truly unusual about this. Sexually violent acts are committed daily by "civilized" men-- on children, women, and yes, other men. The number of date rapes on any American college campus, the number of phone calls to 911 because of domestic violence, the number of children in foster care because of sexual and physical abuse means that the unspeakable and disgusting acts committed by Phillip Garrido are not exactly unimaginable or even all that unique. Quite honestly, this case is so eerily like the Austrian case of Josef Fritzl, who held his own daughter a slave in a soundproof basement in plain sight and also repeatedly raped her and fathered children with her, that Garrido and he could be brothers.
And the very ordinariness of men's violence and sexual acts is what haunts our civilization and forces us to say it aloud, like a protective spell: this is unheard of, unspeakable, has nothing to do with any of us. It would be far more civilized and even productive to ask instead: under what conditions of patriarchy can these things happen? How is it that no one questioned these men? Not even their wives or neighbors? And how can we change these structural forces that make monsters like Garrido and gossiping ghouls out of the rest of us?