About Those Gay Homophobes

A little while ago, Natalie put up (as part of a longer post, naturally) a meditation on the stories of trans people.

I suppose there’s a lot of things that I find strange or complicated about trans people “telling our stories”. It feels like it’s something we’re sort of frustratingly expected to do, and like there’s a certain kind of particular genre in which we’re expected to tell it. It’s supposed to be a story filled with struggle and pain and suicide attempts and ostracization and so forth. A bit of a grim tragedy thing. And people often seem annoyed when we tell our stories in different terms… like as comedies, epics or fantasies. Or when we swap out the expected tropes, metaphors and archetypes, such as The Victim, The Bully, The Wrong Body, The Last Resort, The Transformation, and instead articulate ourselves through new, self-determined terms and frameworks.

Story is part of the way we construct and manage meaning. Our cultural expectations of story and our retellings of stories both have an effect on the retention of the memories from which those stories are told. It is simply easier to deal with memories that conform to what we think story should be.

And us? Well, we’re lazy sods, so we gravitate to the stories that meet our expectations, that are easier to deal with. Not always, but it’s true in the general case. So, when we see a study (pdf) that tells us that self-identified heterosexual men who score highly in homophobia also show a greater degree of “penile tumescence” in response to graphic male-on-male pornography, the lazy response is to use this finding to prop up the idea that “everyone knows” that homophobes are compensating for being secretly gay. [Read more…]

Talbot’s Awkward Commentary on the Sexual Revolution

I understand the urge of a pundit to turn every little observation into a grand, sweeping thing that casts light on our contentious issues and historical trends. After all, if you turn to newspapers and magazines for your reading, that is what you see, over and over. It has to have an effect on your expectations. The truth, however, is that if you try such things in your own writing, they can often turn out to be…well, awkward.

Such is the case with Margaret Talbot’s commentary in The New Yorker, “Girls Will Be Girls“. Talbot takes the HBO series Girls, which hasn’t aired an episode yet, and uses that and the GOP war on women as an opportunity to opine about the downsides of the sexual revolution. These start on the small end with things like “awkward” sex, particularly the sort of sex fed by pornography. [Read more…]

Good News from Utah

From April and John comes something of a rarity these days, the news that a conservative politician has declined to take the stupidest, most reactionary stance on a piece of legislation regarding sexual health. Utah Governor Gary Herbert has vetoed the legislation that would have allowed schools to stop teaching sex education and barred any mention of contraception in what sex education remained.

It was a decision that followed pressure by thousands of Utahns on both sides of the issue since lawmakers passed HB363 last week. Utahns flooded the governor’s office with thousands of letters; more than 40,000 people signed an online petition against it; hundreds rallied against it at the Capitol this week; and a variety of groups took public stands.

In rejecting the bill Friday, Herbert said that sex education is an emotional topic and instruction should stress the importance of abstinence, but not interfere with parents’ ability to determine how their children are instructed.

“After careful review of existing law and following extensive discussions with stakeholders on both sides of the issue,” Herbert said, “I am convinced the existing statutory framework respects these two principles, while HB363 simply goes too far by constricting parental options.”

There’s some talk that this is political cowardice on the part of the governor. I’m fine with that. Whatever it takes.

Utah Getting More Regressive on Sex Education

In the middle of national hearings on birth control access and the passage of state laws punishing women who receive abortions, Utah has been doing something stupid. Most of us were distracted. April Gardner was not. I followed events through her Twitter feed and asked her to write a guest post since most people still don’t know this happened.

Utah’s Legislators Ignore the Purpose of Education and Expose Students to Harm

Over the last month, Utah’s conservative legislators in the House of Representatives have made a mission of pushing conservative morals into an education policy that is a solution in search of a problem. What’s more, in doing so they have not only ignored the entire purpose of educating the next generation, but they have created an environment that will leave Utah’s youths far more vulnerable than they are under the current curriculum standards. [Read more…]

International Sex Worker Rights Day

One of these days, I’ll get around to writing about where I stand on sex work. I don’t think it’s a complicated stance, but it is one that mostly relies on analogy, so it takes some explaining. So that day won’t be today.

What I will do today is link you to the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance’s page on International Sex Worker Rights Day. It gives you a good background on the challenges to the human rights of sex workers, of course. This year, however, there is also progress to be celebrated, partly thanks to Woodhull. [Read more…]

When Sex Isn’t Enough

We’re all hearing (if we’re paying any attention at all to U.S. politics) the refrain that sex by itself, for fun and pleasure, is somehow “less” than sex that carries out the sacred duty of procreation or sex that expresses the divine love of marriage. It’s a common trope that most of us who argue for a reality-based, shame-free view of sex argue against…at least when the religion involved is conservative and Abrahamic.

Chris Hall notes that we’re not always particularly good at being consistent in this view:

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A Federal John DNA Database

Rather than writing much about this myself, I’ll just refer you Melissa Gira Grant, who knocks this AlterNet article out of the park.

For the last six years, police across the United States have been empowered by federal and state law to collect DNA from the people they arrest in order to build a government DNA database. The database includes those who have yet to face trial as well as people who are later found innocent. Now a group of researchers, law enforcement and conservative campaigners want to exploit people’s concerns about being included in such a database in order to scare people out of involvement in the sex trade. By threatening people with the possibility of being marked for life in a government database, these well-funded campaigners — with allies in law enforcement, including the Department of Justice — are using a questionably legal policing practice, a combination of “scared-straight” strategies that became a signature of the war on drugs and the extension of the surveillance state propelled by the war on terror.

Gira Grant touches on the constitutional questions, the financial incentives for law enforcement that come from targeting johns, the racial disparities in those targeted, the problems with the “science” behind the initiative, and the fact that targeting clients does nothing to improve the lives of those willingly (even if sometimes as the best of several unattractive options) in the sex trade.

(The only aspect of this she doesn’t dig into is the use of the Secondary Effects Doctrine, the idea that crime increases near sex-based businesses, to justify building such a database. It isn’t necessarily irrational to believe that the doctrine may hold where the sex-based businesses are already illegal–crime breeding crime–but in general, the doctrine and the scientific support it has received are not without criticism.)

Whether you consider yourself for or against the legalization of prostitution, I strongly suggest reading Gira Grant’s article.

The Benefits of Monogamy…or Something

Wedding Rings

"Wedding Rings" by firemedic58

Joseph Henrich, the evolutionary psychologist who testified against polygamy at the Canadian polygamy trial has a new paper out on the topic. I’ve engaged with his statements on the topic before, so I was curious what he had to say in peer review. It isn’t so much different from what he had to say on as a witness in court, and I have some of the same sorts of problems with it.

See whether you can spot them. [Read more…]

Photographing the Male Nude (NSFW, Duh)

A friend of mine is a photographer, who I believe is considering doing some male nude shots. Before going to the trouble of procuring a model and setting up a shoot, she wanted some sense of what worked for her in terms of lighting, posing, and composition. She recently commented (I paraphrase) that the male nudes she saw in other photographers’ work tended to either look like they were posing for an art class or saying, “Hey, baby. I got what you’re looking for right here.” Neither was what she wanted to do.

I’d recently seen some work that I thought might be the kind of thing was interested in, so I was pretty sure I had a good idea where to look. It turns out that a number of queer artists are quite good at taking pictures that appreciate the male form without either making it asexual or reducing it to sex. Go figure.

Tucked below the fold are some links, as well as some pictures. If you’re going to be offended, kindly don’t click through.

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