the suzi parker files

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Posts Tagged ‘joycelyn elders

Elton John in Us Weekly: Too Hot for an Arkansas Grocery

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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.


Written by suziparker1313

March 10, 2011 at 3:21 am

Sex Ed: How Far We (Haven’t) Come

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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, 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?

Written by suziparker1313

March 6, 2011 at 10:19 pm