Archive for the ‘Sex’ Category
Bristol Palin will not be speaking about abstinence at Washington University in St. Louis next month.
The university said in an e-mailed statement, “The student group that invited Bristol Palin…has mutually agreed with her not to proceed with a contract regarding Palin’s participation in a panel discussion at Washington University on Feb. 7.”
The university’s Student Health Advisory Committee invited Palin, who became a single mother at 18 and is now a spokeswoman for the prevention of teen pregnancy, to speak on abstinence during Washington University’s student Sexual Responsibility Week. That week will focus on creating an open sexual dialogue on campus.
Students started a protest via Facebook to halt Palin’s appearance, which would have been paid for with student-generated funds. It had been reported that she would receive between $15,000 and $30,000 to speak.
A Facebook group called “Keep Bristol Palin out of the sex discussion at Washington University” said, “It’s not about conservative or liberal, it’s about not wasting our money on people who don’t matter…especially people who are only famous for being the teenage pregnant daughter of a politician. That is not a credential — it’s a gimmick. So reach across the aisle — and stand up and say something.”
That group also launched a petition as did the university’s College Democrats.
Last week, Palin appeared at a charity fundraiser in Texas that benefitted the nonprofit Central Texas Orphan Mission Alliance, which takes an anti-abortion stance. Sarah Palin also appeared last week in Texas for a fundraiser for Lubbock Christian School.
The university said in its statement that Dr. Katie Plax, head of adolescent medicine and associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine, would participate on the panel instead of Palin.
Soul mates are hard to find.
But former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has likely found his, and no thanks to popular websites like Match.com and eHarmony.
The couple fascinates the Argentine press. The Argentine celebrity magazine “Caras” published an eight-page spread on them. One picture shows Sanford in a blue polo shirt, khaki shorts, baseball cap and sunglasses holding hands with Chapur in white shorts and a gauzy top. Other pictures show the pair enjoying a day at the beach. They look, well, happy.
If Danielle Steel was writing the story of Mark and Maria, it would be a best-seller.
The popular governor of a Southern state with the heiress wife and four sons meets an exotic divorced woman, a former journalist turned commodity broker, who speaks four languages, at an open-air dance spot in Punte del Este, a jet set locale.
They become friends. They chat over the next seven years on e-mail. Suddenly, passion ignites and friendship turns to romance. But roadblocks loom everywhere. The Republican governor is a family-values man in a conservative state with a high-profile national role as the chair of the National Governors Association.
His head belongs to politics, his heart to a woman thousands of miles away. He balances home life with governing the state, but thinks constantly of the woman he will die “knowing is his soul mate.”
Mark must see Maria even if it means jeopardizing his family and career. He sneaks away to Argentina without telling his staff. His absence is noticed and his wife, who knows about Maria, and says he has disappeared before. His staff says he is hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Enter an intrepid local reporter who gets a tip, meets Mark’s plane from Argentina at a metropolitan airport and busts him.
His career is on the line. Maria is chased by media. Her e-mails are hacked and love notes are leaked to the press. Mark risks it all and gives an interview declaring Maria is his soul mate. His critics – and even some supporters – want Mark to resign. He refuses. Impeachment begins, but fails. His wife moves out of the governor’s mansion. He is censured. He stays in office and true to Maria, who never sells out for fame and fortune but holds steady for love.
If Mark Sanford’s story were a romance novel, we would be rooting for the love birds to live happily ever after, walking on a beach at sunset with glasses of champagne. But in real life in the United States, affairs and infidelity are looked upon as sinful, distasteful and wrong.
Sanford isn’t alone in his quest for true love. Researchers have said there is a 50-50 chance that a partner will have an affair during a marriage. That includes non-physical relationships such as romance via e-mail, which is how Mark and Maria began their romance.
Although Maria is likely to get the blame for the Sanfords break-up, she was likely not the cause. As Dr. John Mordecai Gottman, a psychologist who studies marital stability, says, “Most marriages die with a whimper, as people turn away from one another, slowly growing apart.”
It happens. Just look at Al and Tipper Gore. No one would have seen their split coming ten years ago – although Al and Tipper might have.
Politicians are people, too. Mark Sanford wasn’t caught in a tawdry scene in a cheap motel by an interstate. It appears he fell in love. His path begs the questions: What would you do for love? Keep your current life or toss it all for “the one”? Mark and Maria walked through the fire together and came out on the other side. Loyalties tested, they both passed.
Last week, according to the Argentine press, Mark and Maria sped around town in her gray Peugeot (it would be an exotic car, wouldn’t it?), passing through the neighborhood where they met 11 years ago. (That alone is admirable. It is hard enough to maintain a friendship for 11 years, much less something deeper.) They enjoyed a long lunch. They walked on the beach. They revisited Punte del Este where they met those many years ago.
“Belen and Mark took in the sun, walked hand-in-hand along the surf and kissed passionately, showing that long-distance love, in the electronic age, is not impossible,” according to the “Caras” story.
The Associated Press has sought comment from Sanford. He did not respond. Cue the love song as end credits roll.
Arkansas has a way of making it onto the national stage — and sometimes the publicity isn’t very complimentary.
The latest from Bill Clinton’s home state: Harps grocery store in the small town of Mountain Home in northern Arkansas deemed a magazine story on gay singer Elton John to be obscene.
The store placed gray “family shields” over copies of the Us Weekly magazine, which features the singer, his partner, and their new adopted baby. Printed on the shields were the words: “To protect our young shoppers.”
But the shields didn’t stay up for long — not after members of the Arkansas’ GLBT community started calling the Harps corporate offices in Springdale.
The company, which runs 65 Harps stories in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, released a statement on its website Wednesday afternoon. It said in part:
“Our true intention is not to offend anyone and this incident happened at just one of of our 65 locations, which when brought to our attention, we reversed,” Kim B. Eskew, Harps president and COO.
The statement explained that it is the company leaves it up to the local manager’s discretion to use the shields when customers complain about offensive material. The Mountain Home store said it covered the Elton John magazine after receiving such complaints.
The censorship ignited GLBT activists.
“It’s Us magazine, not Hustler,” said Randi Romo of the Center for Artistic Revolution, a non-profit dedicated to fairness and equality for all Arkansans. “Families come in all kinds of configurations and yes, sometimes that means they consist of same-sex couples raising their children. Many same-sex families live right here in Arkansas. The last census showed that there are same-sex couple households living in every single county in Arkansas.”
My beloved home state of Arkansas is unparalleled at perpetuating its own stereotypes of Bible-thumping, backwardness, bigotry, racism, and intolerance.
Last week, the town of Marshall made national news when its mayor flew a Confederate flag over city hall for four days, including on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The mayor said it was in honor of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s birthday. Arkansas is one of a handful of Southern states that celebrates Lee’s birthday on the same day as King’s.
This week, the city council, which did not approve of the mayor’s actions, voted that only the state and U.S. flag can be flown on city property.
Last year, in response to gay suicides around the country, Midland School Board Vice President Clint McCance came under national scrutiny for a series of vicious and inflammatory anti-gay rants on Facebook. He resigned after an online campaign to oust him and a GLBT group from Little Rock protested the small school.
Even governors can take a step or two from progress. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee once bragged on “Morning Joe” about eating fried squirrel. “When I was in college, we used to take a popcorn popper, because that was the only thing they would let us use in the dorm, and we would fry squirrels in a popcorn popper in the dorm room.” (For the record, few Arkansans have ever done this, according to my own informal survey.)
In 2009, atheists battled the secretary of state’s office for the right to display a winter solstice exhibit on the capitol grounds near a large nativity scene. They eventually gained the right, but some atheists now worry that the right may be taken away since a conservative GOP secretary of state won the election last year.
There is only one way to describe Arkansas: land of extremes.
The state is progressive in many areas, and feudal in many others. The state has a history of electing progressive federal representatives. Sens. J. William Fulbright, David Pryor and Dale Bumpers and long-time Congressman Wilbur Mills come to mind. Then there’s Bill Clinton, who attempted to allow gays in the military and reform the health care system in his first year in office. Arkansas can also claim one of the most liberal surgeon generals to ever hit Washington – Dr. Joycelyn Elders.
Arkansas is home to some of the world’s biggest companies – Walmart and Tyson Foods — and is becoming a regional hotspot for wind-energy manufacturing. The William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Center and his school for public service lures thousands of tourists and illustrious speakers from around the world.
But if the chance arises to spectacularly display our foibles on a national news stage, we jump at the chance, especially if it involves GLBT lifestyles or sex.
That’s certainly ironic, as I discovered when I wrote my book, “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” In the 1970s, Arkansas became the home of the first Miss Gay America pageant. The drag queen pageant only blossomed in popularity over the decades.
Little Rock is also home to two of the largest gay and lesbian nightclubs – Discovery and Backstreet. And yes, straight people do go.
“Strong and vibrant queer communities such as Eureka Springs and the surrounding lesbian-only communities have had a presence in the mountains surrounding Mountain Home [where the Harps grocery is located] for decades,” says Brock Thompson, author of “The Un-Natural State: Arkansas and the Queer South.”
Eureka Springs has the only Domestic Partnership Registry in Arkansas, which often comes under fire by legislators who want to halt the registry.
Just this month, researchers reported that gay couples in Southern states like Arkansas are more likely to be raising children than their counterparts on the West Coast, in New York and in New England.
The push-pull of progression versus moral repression bubbles incessantly in Arkansas, which makes the love-hate relationship for many Arkansans all the stronger.
One lesson I’ve learned: When people feel repressed — when they feel sex is shameful — an underworld of sexual activity bubbles below the surface of society.
I discovered that reality when I wrote “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt” a few years ago. The South has always been a region of moral conservatism and Bible thumping, with churches on every corner to remind people of their shame and sin.
I was reminded of that truth when I read a recent sex survey of 5,865 men and women aged 14 to 94 that has gotten a lot of press attention. The survey, the largest nationally representative study of sexual and sexual-health behaviors ever fielded, focuses on condom use, masturbation, oral sex, anal sex and just plain old vanilla sex.
On the survey’s surface, it would appear that the United States is getting busier and bolder in the bedroom. But in the same newly published journal where the survey was featured, there was also an article by former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. She makes the point that we are still not talking about sex in a frank, healthy manner, which in my experience brews that underworld of sexual activity mentioned at the start of this piece.
Many best remember Elders for how she lost her job: she was fired by President Clinton in 1994 for voicing her politically explosive opinion that masturbation should be taught to children.
“Hiding from sexuality is not realistic when we know that humans are inherently sexual beings,” Elders more recently wrote. “A sexually healthy society must be our new goal for the 21st century.”
Just in the past few years, politicians have emerged with stories of sex and betrayal more tangled than soap opera plots. There was John Edward’s double-life revelation with a secret baby and sex video, and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s Argentina soul mate. In Louisiana, Senator David Vitter, who is running for re-election, got caught up in a prostitution scandal. So did New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer, who reinvented himself as a CNN show host.
But true to form, politicians seldom address sex except to apologize for it. They just brush it under the carpet or twist it for political gain in a campaign to shame the other side.
Most recent case in point: Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul’s flashing back to the 1990s and lobbing a reminder to everyone about Bill Clinton’s dalliance with Monica Lewinsky.
“I’m not sure I would trust a guy who had had sexual relations with an intern,” Paul said on Monday after Clinton made a campaign appearance in Kentucky for Paul’s opponent. “I mean, do you think he’s an honorable person?” Oops, Rand Paul, your age may be showing. The Lewinsky scandal happened when today’s new voter was in first grade.
The recent sex survey indicates oral sex is no longer the taboo that it was in 1998 when the Lewinsky scandal brought the topic into America’s living rooms. Perhaps Bill Clinton is to blame — or thank, depending on your mindset — for the increase in oral sex, especially among teens.
According to the survey, teenagers of both sexes are indulging in oral sex at young ages — among 14- and 15-year-olds, 9 percent of boys said they’ve engaged in oral sex. That number more than doubles to 20 percent among 16- to 17-year-olds. The numbers are higher among girls. Thirteen percent of girls age 14 to 15 have performed oral sex, as have 29 percent of girls 16 to 17. Sixty-one percent are oral sex veterans by the time boys and girls graduate high school and enter college.
Another long-time taboo that’s clashing with reality is homosexuality in the military and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In the national survey, 7 percent of women and 8 percent of men identified themselves as non-heterosexual. Five percent of women identified as lesbian or bisexual and nearly 7 percent of men identified as gay or bisexual. Still, the issue of gays in the military remains controversial.
That controversial act that tainted Elders’ career seems so tame now. Yes, teenagers still do it. Researchers found that masturbation is still the prevalent sexual behavior of teens. And they don’t outgrow it, most adults – male and female – masturbate regularly.
Elders’ drama created such a notorious ruckus back in the good old 1990s. It seems almost quaint now that politicians use such descriptive words as “whore” and “slut” about their opponents and to describe their own pasts. These days, some bold congressional candidates – Krystal Ball is the best known – opt to face their racy pasts with directness instead of denial.
But Krystal Ball is the exception in a world where politicians are — and may always be — behind the curve when it comes to evolving standards of sexual morality.
Both Democrats and Republicans will continue to thump the tub for a return to the good old days of fidelity and modesty. But they live in a country – as the sex survey proves – where people across all age groups have sex before marriage, engage in sexual acts other than intercourse which many enjoy for pleasure and not just procreation
Until we are honest enough to embrace that reality, we’ll continue to behave like so many do in the South, where I live — seemingly pure on the surface, oh-so tawdry on underneath.
We now live in a brave new world where the past – or the night before – catches up with you fast.
Take the best name in politics – Krystal Ball, a Democrat who is running for Congress in Virginia. She’s in hot water, but she might be emerging as the new face on the feminist front.
Last week, photos of Ball, 28, were found on Facebook and posted by conservative bloggers. They showed Ball in a creative Santa outfit at a post-college Halloween house party. Tsk, tsk. In one, she wore a spaghetti-strap tank top, a skirt and a Santa hat while holding a sex toy. In another, she led her ex-husband in reindeer gear around by a leash. He wore a sex toy on his nose. Her costume could hardly be described as scanty. But her critics blasted her anyway.
Ball responded strongly on Monday. She called the attacks “sexist.” Then went further with refreshing honesty” “I don’t believe these pictures were posted with a desire to just embarrass me; they wanted me to feel like a whore.”
She added that when a candidate has a name like hers and is a twenty-something running for Congress, “well, you get the picture. Stripper. Porn star. I’ve heard them all,” she said.
Kudos, Krystal Ball.
Ball is now in the same situation as Delaware Republican Christine O’Donnell. Her past came back to haunt her when a years-old clip from Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect” television show surfaced in which she said that she had dabbled in witchcraft as a teenager and had a picnic on a satanic altar, and that she’d done her share of dating. O’Donnell recently had to defend her racy past and said in a New York Times interview: “I by no means was a slut,” she said. “But by no means did I have the moral code I have now.”
Sluts, whores – what a campaign season. By the way, welcome to 21st Century politics, where minor indiscretions like smoking but not inhaling illegal drugs is as archaic as riding a horse and buggy to a presidential inauguration.
Now, wanna-be politicians must start worrying about their political future in middle school even before they might even be aware they want to run for office someday. Consider a Facebook status update a 20-something friend of mine posted recently that said she was “thinking back on all of the embarrassing or dumb things she’s done in her life and laughing.” In a few years, this woman who has no desire to be a politician might decide she wants to run for office. Her opponent could use that as a launching pad for opposition research. What embarrassing things has she done that could undermine her political future?
Is Karen Owen, the Duke University college student who created a mock Powerpoint presentation about “horizontal academics,” doomed as a politician? Duke University officials have gone into “damage control” because of Owen’s take on 13 men and their sexual prowess. Owen had only sent her sex rankings to a few friends in an e-mail, but it soon went viral and the campus spun in a sex frenzy.
Duke officials said, “We’ve been reaching out to those affected by this incident and will continue to support them.” Must those who were involved in sexual relations be supported? Do college officials scan Facebook pages at all? Most college-age students write very frequently about what they did last night and occasionally in graphic details. If they can’t take the virtual heat, stay out of the bedroom.
Owen, who apologized and said she never meant to hurt anyone with the thesis, now has been contacted by publishers for a book deal. She’s also had to hire a lawyer. But that’s fame. If she chose to run for office in North Carolina, she would likely have 100 percent name recognition, thanks to the world of viral e-mails.
Technology and mobile phone applications are here to stay. Politicians have to use Twitter and Facebook to get out their message and win. (Example: Obama Campaign 2008). Politicians who want to stay relevant have found that they can tweet and post a Facebook update to their millions of fans and get more attention than if they are booked on a political talk show. Sarah Palin is the reigning queen of political social media.
But politicians are cautious. They have social media advisers. Teenagers, 20-somethings and every other Facebook addict of any age do not. They will spill the most intimate details of their lives for the world to read and comment on. They break up, confess sins, and post revealing and goofy or racy pictures on sites. With apps like Foursquare, they even let the world – and potential burglars – know where they are and when they are away from their home.
The current whore-and-slut political drama serves as a predictor – a crystal ball, if you will, for politics and sex in the ever-more-tech-happy future. Last year, Woman Up editor Bonnie Goldstein wrote about Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown and his naked spread in Cosmopolitan Magazine while he was in his beefy 20s. He received very little fall-out from that revelation. Maybe it had less to do with what he did but where he did it: in a print magazine and not cyberspace. It seemed so, well, antique. Who poses for centerfolds anymore? How 20th Century.
For Ball, O’Donnell and even Owen, to an extent, this current rumpus is sexist to its core. What all of this boils down to? Women – gasp! – have sex. They have multiple partners. They actually have orgasms. They may not be married while engaging in sex. They dress up in skimpy Halloween costumes and take sexy pictures. They may have actually talked about all of it – on a Web site, blog or text message.
Future political office holders — male and female — will have to confront their texts from last night, virtual break-ups and Twitter page snapshots when they run for office. It’s up to brazen trailblazers Ball and O’Donnell – think of them as politics’ current Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart from the musical “Chicago” – to take on this challenge with moxie. Their success or failure will have a big impact on how young politicians slay technology’s trip-wires.
America is a country, thankfully, that loves sex and political power.
Think it’s a modern phenomenon? Hardly. The country’s Founding Fathers pioneered it. Take an event that happened during this month more than 200 years ago.
On Sept. 1, 1802, the “Richmond Recorder” published a piece about Thomas Jefferson and his mistress, a slave simply known as “Sally.” At the time, Jefferson was temporarily retired from politics and was spending a great amount of time on his Virginia plantation, Monticello.
But he had collected an army of enemies, and they knew Jefferson liked to indulge in hanky panky. Enter James Callendar, an Andrew Breitbart for the Jefferson era, who liked to stir the pot with pamphlets and newspapers. Jefferson and Callendar once had a cozy relationship. In the 1790s, Jefferson and his Republican cronies secretly funded Callendar to attack the Federalists. But then Callendar got mad at Jefferson.
Callendar wanted Jefferson to appoint him postmaster of Richmond. Jefferson refused. As a result, Callendar put Jefferson into his crosshairs. He wrote that Jefferson “keeps and for many years has kept, as his concubine, one of his slaves. Her name is Sally.”
He also said that Sally’s son was named Tom. In the “Richmond Recorder,” Callendar wrote, that Tom’s features “are said to bear a striking although sable resemblance to those of the president himself. The boy is ten or twelve years of age.”
Callendar responded a month later to the sharp criticism he faced. “We are surprised at the petulance of some eastern editors in still affecting to doubt the truth of Sally’s story. In this state, at least as far as we can learn, every body believes it,” Callendar wrote.
Jefferson was always a randy one, according to historians. He tried to seduce the close friend of his wife. While serving as a diplomat in Paris, he engaged in affairs with married women. Dalliances were as common for Jefferson as dallying with architecture and gardening. Jefferson’s supporters lashed back, smearing Callendar with allegations that he abandoned his wife, leaving her to die of a venereal disease. Ouch.
It’s been a split second since the last great political sex scandal. Don’t we need one to distract us from midterm elections, Glenn Beck’s incessant rantings and despairing economic news?
The John Edwards baby drama has settled down a bit, although a North Carolina website this week reported that Andrew Young, a former aide to Edwards and the author of a tell-all book about the former presidential candidate, has reached a deal with writer and producer Aaron Sorkin to develop a movie based on the bestseller. But will anyone watch?
Edwards’ mistress, Rielle Hunter, has sued Young over an alleged sex tape that supposedly contains footage of Edwards. Naturally, she wants it back.
Former New York Gov. Eliott Spitzer has rehabilitated himself straight to a CNN talk show with conservative writer Kathleen Parker. The show, called “Parker Spitzer,” debuts in October. Forgot what Spitzer did? In 2008, he resigned from office after The New York Times reported that he had patronized a prostitution service numerous times. But CNN is happy to help cultivate a new image for Spitzer.
The Big Mac of all modern-day political sex scandals, Bill Clinton, has even brushed his cigar-happy past under the rug to become the most sought-after Democrat on the midterm campaign trail. Sure, the jokes are still cracked about his dalliance with an intern in the Oval Office, but Democrats don’t care when the dough is rolling in. A good politician can always reinvent himself, but never truly escape the past.
Take Jefferson. He never freed Sally Hemings, but in his will, he freed five slaves from the Hemings family. In the 200 years since, the Hemings family has drawn scrutiny from academics and scientists for their kinship to Jefferson. In 1998, DNA testing linked the two families, and subsequent studies have also connected them. Modern day technology allows sex scandals to live forever. Such affairs like Jefferson’s now even get a mention on historic tours at Monticello.
Some people believe a law should exist that forbids the press from covering the private acts of public figures. Heaven forbid! America certainly would be a bored nation with even more boring media coverage. What mud would politicians sling at their opponents? Tax increases? Health care reform? Yawn. Even a G-rated sex scandal is better than none.
I say, a hearty huzzah to James Callendar. If Callendar hadn’t put ink to paper to get the passion party started in this country, presidents and their playthings may have gotten a free pass. And journalists? We would be very bored. Who knows what we might turn up with all that time on our hands? To paraphrase a saying, idle ink-stained hands are the devil’s workshop.
[Originally posted on Politics Daily Sept. 8, 2010]
It’s not every day you experience a sexual time warp.
The book’s title was enough to pique anyone’s interest: “Sex Questions and Answers: A Guide to a Happy Marriage,” published in 1950 by Whittlesey House, an imprint of McGraw-Hill Book Company. Its authors are Fred Brown, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist at The Mount Sinai Hospital, and Rudolf T. Kempton, Ph.D., chairman of zoology at Vassar College.
I stumbled across the book a few years ago as I researched my own book about modern sex attitudes in the South. I found it to be a telling and yet mind-boggling read of how far we have – or in some cases haven’t – come in 60 years. It focuses on myriad topics, from how a woman should please her man to adultery, masturbation, fetishes (lesbianism is considered such in the book) and how a baby is born.
It reminded me of a recent post by my WomanUP colleague, Mary Curtis, who heard a lecture by Debra Herbenick, a research scientist and sexual health educator at the Kinsey Institute in Bloomington, Ind. According to Mary, “The undergrads she teaches still ask basic questions about how to avoid getting pregnant, having never gotten the message from schools or parents.”
The same was true in the age of Eisenhower, as is the ongoing 21st century debate about how to keep desire burning in a relationship.
The authors of “Sex Questions and Answers” conceived the idea in 1945 when they taught at the Army’s American University in Shrivenham, England. G.I.s studying psychology wanted a frank discussion about sex. The open forum on sex problems continued for three hours. The doctors set out to collect answers to 1,126 sexual questions from 22,000 men and women over six months to compile the book.
The top five topics of concern? Birth control, orgasm, sterility, craving for sex, and homosexuality and masturbation almost tying for fifth place.
The answers to the questions are archaic, humorous and at times, pitifully ignorant. Take this passage in the book’s introduction: “Questions about orgasm in the woman revealed widespread ignorance of the symptoms which characterize this condition.”
Who knew an orgasm was a condition with symptoms? Like arthritis or lupus?
The book begins innocently, offering Anatomy 101 and basics about babies – procreation, sex of the baby and birth – with antiquated sketches of sex organs. But it’s Chapter Three – Problems of Sexual Adjustment – that kick starts the crazy time-traveling roller-coaster ride. Note: The authors do not mean sexual positions. No, they answer perplexing questions with lengthy answers:
Q: “Is a man abnormal if he likes art and dislikes sports?”
The best line from the long answer: “There are many men who have a feeling for fine paintings, flowers and the gentler aspects of life if this sensitivity had not been squelched early in life by an insecure father who insisted that these represented ‘sissy’ interests.”
Q: “If a man is a virgin when he marries, can he make his wife happy?”
The authors confess that they believe few men are dumb enough not to know the basics of sex even if they haven’t had it. Men in most cases will have had enough conversations and reading “to have intensified his desire for sex experience with his beloved.”
It’s hard to imagine any 21st century man pondering this virginity question around wedding vows for a nanosecond.
The authors also discuss “love play,” aka foreplay, on the virginal wedding night. After stroking and caressing this or that, the husband should not be dismayed if the new bride isn’t adjusting. Leave it to the husband to fix that. “Erogenous preferences may not reveal themselves in the first week of marriage because shyness and inhibition, which the husband can resolve, are still operating.”
Whatever to do about those rare souls in post-war society who might prefer ambition to marriage with 2.5 kids and a house in the suburbs? The fret: “Is there anything wrong with a man or woman who puts off marriage in order to build a career?”
Well, is there? Perhaps. Men get a generous pass because they are “serious-minded” and they “may suppress their sexual promptings because other goals occupy a higher position on their scale of values.”
The authors offer women some leeway in answering the question about career and marriage but reference studies from the era: “Some writers have regarded the career woman as a species of monster who evades her womanly destiny but this is nonsense.”
There’s a lot of truth when the good doctors write, “The hostility which many men feel toward career women is often based upon a distrust of their own masculinity and a painful feeling of inferiority which a successful woman (who demonstrates that she has no need for dependence upon the male) arouses in them by making them feel unnecessary.”
What woman hasn’t had that thought a time or two?
But don’t get too comfortable. We’re still in the 1950s, mind you. The authors address the orgasm problems, why men who know all about sex are unable to bring their wives to a climax, and sexually transmitted diseases (or venereal diseases, as such was called then) and douches as birth control.
The last chapter centers on homosexuality and “variations in sexual expression.” Perhaps this is not surprising considering the book is dedicated to “the G.I.s of the European Theater, whose interest expressed itself in so many questions that we were encouraged to write this book in the hope that the answers might be helpful to a wider group.”
The authors write, “Homosexuality is an embarrassing subject for most people. We notice the absorbed intensity with which our military audiences reacted to open discussions of this perplexing and tabooed topic.”
Then as now, with the ongoing debate about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, homosexuality is a lightning rod. Some of the answers are dated, but not entirely. Take a glance at the Web site Bible.org, and you might wonder if some of the information it contains comes from parts of this book.
In the 1950s, the military was often the first time men had been in close contact with other men for extended period of time. Society, the authors insist, must cease to view homosexuality as a disease, although a gay man is consistently called an “invert.”
Does he hate women? No, of course not, but he may think “that any person without a penis must have lost it at one time.” Huh?
The G.I.s seemed especially concerned with whether gay relations would result in insanity and whether homosexuality could be cured. Sadly, these are common questions even today in conservative churches, especially in the South.
Homosexuals may have nervous breakdowns from having to deal with the strains of their “cravings.”
The authors are progressive enough not to call homosexuality a disease, as they did orgasms. But it is an emotional disorder — and the person to blame? The mother, of course.
During adolescence, it’s not unusual for men to engage in homosexual activities, and the authors state that male readers will recall incidents at the “old swimming hole.” What incidents? Is this an inside 1950s joke? The authors leave it hanging, saying that most boys can move past a “normal homosexual state to the socially approved heterosexual stage.”
Where’s Kinsey when you need him?
“What’s happened to the Bible Belt?”
That question was written on a poster plastered on Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Miss., after Constance McMillen, a lesbian high school student, wanted to take her girlfriend to the spring prom.
This weekend, Constance will attend the Second Chance Prom. Its purpose is to create a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and allies, “where everyone feels comfortable being themselves.”
This is a huge event for several reasons. But the main one: it’s out in the open in Tupelo, Miss. – home of the American Family Association, which is one of the country’s largest pro-family groups touting “traditional family values.”
Most things like a gay prom with celebrity musicians and supporters in the small-town South aren’t so in your face, even in the 21st century. So is the South changing? Hmmm, no.
The Bible Belt — for better or worse — is alive and well with all of its secret sexuality bubbling just under the surface. Just ask Mark Sanford or John Edwards about their double lives. Constance just happens to be a real rarity in the rural South. She knows where she stands sexually. She’s a lesbian. She had wanted to take her girlfriend to a spring dance. She prefers wearing a tuxedo. So what?
When parents held a private invitation-only prom, it was indicative of the slippery slope to other private, naughty places that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” Southern society knows all too well. Southerners enjoy denying it. In fact, they are well trained to act shocked when someone like Constance bucks the system. My WomanUp colleague Francis Tobin noted this recently and called Constance a hero for daring to face the fire.
The South is a perpetual place of contradictions.
Right now, somewhere in the South, people are still undoubtedly praying for the souls of Constance and all the other kids attending this weekend’s shindig. They’ll be put on prayer lists so that God can help her see the wrongs of her ways. Right after saying “Amen,” some of those very people may be organizing the whips and handcuffs that they bring out on Saturday nights at underground bondage clubs around the South.
When I was a senior in a small, conservative Arkansas town, I took my gay guy friend to prom. I didn’t have a boyfriend and I didn’t want to go with some boy who probably would have pawed my black tulle skirt all night. While I didn’t know that Brian was gay, I had my suspicions. We had a nice Chinese dinner and danced all night to bad ’80s music. The next year, my best friend didn’t have a date either. She took Brian, too.
Of course, none of us shouted to the heavens that Brian was gay. We cruised through the crepe paper and still joke that the first sentence of my memoir should be “My prom date was gay.” Brian went away to the North for college, came out of the closet and fell in love with boys.
But what if we had decided to be blatant about it? Chances are that 20 years ago in a town as conservative as that one, we may have been ridden out on a rail. We certainly wouldn’t have had Constance’s national support. For all the attention Constance’s sexuality received in a flash, the South still has a long way to go to come to terms with its views on sexuality. Being gay is nothing compared to other fetishes people are forced to hide in the South.
Last year, I attended a swingers’ convention in Hot Springs, Ark. — the town where Bill Clinton attended high school — and interviewed several swingers. While the convention was advertised on the Internet, there was one aspect of the convention that was secret. The event was an integrated swingers’ convention. Black men could hook up with white women — a taboo that still exists even when there is a biracial president in the White House. (No white men with black women at this confab, curiously).
People not from the South think that San Francisco and New York occupy sex’s cutting edge. Hardly.
There are porn shoots in the middle of deer-hunting woods, bondage clubs hidden in children’s dance studios and big beautiful women (BBWs) meeting truck drivers behind 18-wheelers.
A lot of sex shops may not exist in the South, but Southerners know how to make do. They make their own St. Andrew crosses in their garages and can wield a whip better than Indiana Jones. I know cops who are crossdressers, businessmen who are having flirtations with 16-year-olds, Republicans with foot fetishes, doctors’ wives who are closeted lesbians and PTA moms posing nude for amateur porn.
Constance did something simple. She asked her small school if she could bring her girlfriend to a dance. She was rejected and she fought back with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. She will likely graduate high school and leave the South.
Warning: For all of the progressive pomp and circumstance of this weekend, it only takes an event like the gay prom to gin up regressive legislators.
It’s already illegal to sell sex toys in some Southern states. Arkansas has a law that states that a person cannot be nude in the presence of any person of the opposite sex who is not their spouse. But, then again, this is a region where dry counties still exist and alcohol often can’t be sold on Sunday.
What’s next? A ban on tuxedo sales to women?