Not Just Another Right-Wing Hypocrite Sex Scandal: The Blowfish Blog

Larry_craig_official_portraitMy new piece is up on the Blowfish Blog, a take on the latest right-wing hypocrite sex scandal called Not Just Another Right-Wing Hypocrite Sex Scandal. As you may have guessed from the title, I have a somewhat different take on the Larry Craig bathroom-cruising case than I do on the eighty zillion other Republican/ Christian Right sex scandals we’ve been inundated with. Here’s the teaser:

But this time, it isn’t sitting right with me. The gleeful Schadenfreude, the “holy shit, not again!” eye-rolling, the cackling over cosmic/ karmic/ poetic justice being served… it isn’t sitting right with me this time.

It isn’t sitting right with me because of the extremely dubious legal nature of Senator Craig’s arrest. And it isn’t sitting right with me because of the even more dubious ethical nature of police sting operations on cruising in public bathrooms.

To find out more about why I think this scandal is different, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Carnivals: Skeptic’s Circle and Carnival of Liberals

CarnivalSkeptic’s Circle #68 is up at Aardvarchaeology. This is the first time I’ve had a piece in the Skeptic’s Circle — they were kind enough to include my piece A Self-Referential Game of Twister: What Religion Looks Like From the Outside — so I’m all a-twitter with girlish glee. Haven’t had a chance yet to read the entire carnival, but of the ones I’ve looked at so far, my faves (other than mine, of course) are Medical study concluding for dummies at Med Journal Watch, on how NOT to analyze data (especially when it comes to race), and How God really “works” at Evangelical Realism, an analysis of an anti-atheist joke that completely turns it on its head.

And the Carnival of Liberals #46 is up at Truth In Politics — sans any pieces by me this time, but it’s still a good roundup of liberal blogging. Have fun, y’all!

“Where is my Faith”: Mother Teresa and Suffering

This one came completely out of left field. I’m still taken aback by it.

Come_be_my_lightFor the last fifty years of her life, Mother Teresa had lost her faith. In private letters to friends and confessors (as documented in a new book “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light”), she acknowledged repeatedly that she no longer felt the presence of God in her life. At all. Ever. Not in prayer, not in the Eucharist — never. She was tormented by God’s absence, described her empty spiritual life as one of “dryness,” “darkness,” “loneliness” and “torture,” and once described her pretense at faith as “hypocrisy.”

For the last fifty years of her life.

Mother_teresa_2Before I really get into this, I have to say a few words about Mother Teresa. If you have an image of her as the pinnacle of human goodness, the compassionate and charitable woman who selflessly devoted her life to others and founded hospitals and hospices for the desperately poor… I’m going to have to burst your bubble. Mother Teresa was a problematic figure at best, and many of her so-called charitable works were profoundly screwed-up. Despite the enormous amounts of money she collected, her hospitals and hospices offered grotesquely inadequate medical care, revoltingly unsanitary and even abusive conditions, and — pay attention to this part, it becomes important later — little or nothing in the way of pain relief, allowing the sick to suffer and the dying to die in terrible pain. They were essentially warehouses for people to convert to Catholicism and die, and the conversion part was far more central to their mission than either healing or the relief of suffering.

Missionary_position(There are other problems with Ms. Teresa, including making nice with dictators such as Duvalier; taking donations from savings and loan racketeer Charles Keating and not returning it to the people from whom it had been defrauded; her rabid opposition to abortion as “the greatest destroyer of peace today”; her non-consensual baptisms of non-Christians on their deathbeds; founding convents and conversion missions with donations intended for the hospitals and hospices (that also becomes important later); and more. Furthermore, when she herself was ill, she spurned her own clinics, and sought out the best and most expensive Western hospitals available. For corroboration and more details, read “The Missionary Position” by Christopher Hitchens, Aroup Chatterjee’s “Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict,” and her Wikipedia bio, which includes several references to her critics.)

But for now, I’m going to focus on the hospitals and hospices.

I’m going to focus on the lack of pain medication offered in those hospitals and hospices.

And I’m going to come back to her loss of faith.

[Read more…]

“A magnetism that will not let go”: The Drooling Homophobe Series, Part 764

Do these people listen to what they say?

Don’t they know how obvious this “lady doth protest too much” thing is starting to get?

Pass_the_saltPandagon has the story of right-wing Christian extremist Dave Daubenmire of Pass the Salt Ministries, who, with his flock, has been on a crusade to disrupt the church services of gay-friendly churches. But that’s not even the best part of the story. As is so often the case, the best part of the story is in an almost offhand remark.

In a Bible-spewing homophobic rant earlier this year about a visit to the Gay Pride Parade, Daubenmire had this to say:

“The ‘meat’ on display will forever change the way you view homosexuality. Sin has no boundaries, no clutch, and no emergency brake. Once you dip your toe into the pool of sin, especially sexual sin, there is a magnetism that will not let go.” (emphasis mine)

Ummmm…

Gaypridesaopaulodrags_fullLet me put it this way. The straight guys I know who visit the Gay Pride Parade do not describe the event as having “a magnetism that will not let go.” Their reaction is more along the lines of, “Nice dress, dude.” They describe it as interesting, entertaining, touching, hilarious, kind of tedious when the “polo-shirted employees of boring corporations” contingents go by, etc. But they do not describe it as a pool of sin with a magnetism that will not let go. The straight guys I know are not forever changed by the sight of gay male “meat on display,” and they are quite capable of resisting the magnetism of homosexuality. They find the magnetic pull of homosexuality pretty gosh-darned unmagnetic. That’s kind of what makes them, you know — straight.

Ted_haggard_3So I just have to ask: Do Dave Daubenmire, and Ted Haggard, and all the rest of the right-wing Christian leering brigade, really not know what they sound like? Do they really not see that frothing at the mouth closely resembles drooling?

“What are we afraid of?” NJ State Senator Raymond Lesniak on Same-Sex Marriage

SenlesniakI cried when I read this.

I’m crying again now as I re-read it.

This is a person who gets it. He didn’t always get it — he didn’t always support same-sex marriage — but he gets it now. Not just as a matter of fairness or justice, not just as a matter of rational public policy. He gets it about why it matters.

It’s New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak, in a blog post on the NJ.com blog titled Why not gay marriage? And I’m just going to quote the whole damn thing.

What are we afraid of? That we’ll tear the fabric of society apart?

Seems like the fabric of society is already torn apart. Fifty percent of first marriages end in divorce. Less than 40 percent of eligible voters go to the polls. There’s rampant corruption in government. There are random acts of violence in Virginia and Newark, random acts of violence committed every day in our cities and our suburbs. Religious figures commit sexual assaults. Anti-gay political and religious figures are caught in the same sexual trysts they condemn in their public pronouncements.

I love my church, being raised a Roman Catholic. The Catholic Church does wonderful charitable works for the poor throughout the world, yet when I attended Mass recently, the priest gave a homily condemning those who do not follow the rules of the Church. Not a word about the gospel of the day, a beautiful reading from the gospel by Matthew on loving thy neighbor as thyself.

I left after the lecture and waited for my friends in my car, crying and feeling abandoned and not loved. But I digress.

Civil unions in New Jersey give committed gay couples the same rights as heterosexual married couples. Except the right to get “married”. The very law that gives these loving couples the rights of marriage deprives them of the loving feeling of being married. Outcasts only because of their love for each other.

Allowing gay couples to marry is not going to repair the fabric of society, but it’s not going to tear it apart either.

To paraphrase John Lennon, let’s give love a chance. We might just find out that it works.

BTW, to the folks in this blog who have been arguing that civil unions should be the legal contract and marriage should be the religious ceremony — for everyone, not just same-sex couples — I’d just like to repeat what Lesniak said:

“The very law that gives these loving couples the rights of marriage deprives them of the loving feeling of being married.”

That’s the part that keeps making me cry.

VowsI don’t just want a legal contract that mimics marriage. I want the experience of marriage. Marriage is an institution/ ritual/ relationship that has existed for thousands of years, one that has tremendous resonance in our culture, in a way that civil unions simply don’t. Separate but equal is not equal. It never has been, and it never will be.

And I am touched beyond words that this Catholic state senator from New Jersey gets it.

Blog Carnivals: Feminists, Liberals, and Humanists

CarnivalIt’s blog carnival time!

Carnival of the Liberals #45 is up at The Greenbelt. They included my piece on the Blowfish Blog, Right Wing Hypocrisy, or Why Sex Guilt Fucks Things Up For Everyone, which makes me really happy since I think that’s one of the better pieces I’ve written of late. Carnival of the Liberals is a very selective carnival: they only include ten posts per issue, so I’m always extra-happy and honored to be included. And they illustrated the posts with cute pictures of dogs in birthday hats, so that’s a good time right there.

Carnival of the Feminists #43 is up at Femtique. They included my feminist rant on The Devil Wears Prada and its fucked-up view of professionalism in women, so thanks for that.

And The Humanist Symposium #6 is up at A Load of Bright, with its usual excellent collection of positive atheist blogging. I didn’t get a piece in this time — I’ve been Miss Negative Cranky-Pants lately when it comes to the atheist blogging — but if you want written proof that atheists have more to say about atheism than just complaining about religion, be sure to check it out. Ta!

Right Wing Hypocrisy Part Two: The Scary Black Men Made Me Do It! The Blowfish Blog

Bob_allenSo the latest right-wing hypocritical sex scandal has gone from predictably boilerplate to ridiculous verging on surreal. You may have heard about it: Bob Allen, the Florida state representative/ McCain presidential campaign co-chair who got busted for offering a male cop $20 to blow him in a public bathroom, is now claiming that he did what he did because he was intimidated by the big scary black man.

I have a piece about it over at the Blowfish Blog: a follow-up to last week’s thoughtful spew on right-wing sexual hypocrisy, this one titled Right Wing Hypocrisy Part Two: The Scary Black Men Made Me Do It! Here’s an excerpt:

Right. Every guy I know, when he’s in a public place in a situation where he feels threatened, tries to get out of it by offering the purported threatener $20 to suck his cock. I mean, that’s just self-preservation. It’s not like he actually wanted to suck the guy’s cock. He was simply trying to defuse a potentially dangerous situation.

Really. You’ve done that, guys… right? You’re in an alley or a deserted park at night, you see a guy you think might be a mugger… you offer him $20 to give him a blowjob. It’s in all the police brochures on urban safety. It’s just plain common sense.

I said it about Ted Haggard, and I’ll say it again now:

Just how stupid does he think we are?

So here’s what I think is really going on.

To find out what I think is really going on, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Playing the Race Card: Candida Royalle’s “Caribbean Heat”

This piece was originally published by Adult FriendFinder magazine in 2005.

Caribbean_heat_cover_3Playing the Race Card:
Caribbean Heat

Produced by Candida Royalle. Directed by Manuela Sabrosa. Starring Felinia, Nicole, Susan, Paola, Yinna, Sol, Max, Spider, Bruce, Danny Boy, Red Phoenix, and Adrian. 84 minutes. Femme Productions.

First, let me ask you this: Have you seen any of Candida Royalle’s movies before?

Bridal_showerIf you haven’t, let me explain real quick. Candida Royalle was the first smut producer to make movies specifically for women, and she pretty much single-handedly invented the “couples” video. Her company, Femme Productions, makes videos aimed at what women want to see in dirty movies: compared to most mainstream pornos, they feature more foreplay, a slower and more sensual pace, less focus on genitals and insertion shots, more full-body sensuality, better production values, greater variety in body types, more plot and character development, an emphasis on sex in the context of relationships and romance, greater attention to the woman’s experience and pleasure, fewer money shots, and better-looking men. Much, much better-looking men. Candida’s work has been hugely influential on the porno industry: her success made other producers realize, not only that straight couples liked to rent dirty movies, but that both women and men were hungry for passionate, labor-of-love porn with good production values and not-completely-stupid writing and acting.

RevelationsAlthough I usually prefer my pornos to have lots of raunchy sex and not much plot, I’ve always been fond of Candida’s movies. She does a great job of conveying the unique pleasure of sex with someone you actually love and care about, something most dirty movies don’t even get close to. And even if the sex in her videos isn’t usually my favorite type to watch, her work does a beautiful job of expressing passion and enthusiasm, getting across what the characters are feeling and why they’re enjoying it… which automatically makes it hot. (That’s often true in porn, video or written or whatever — if you get a good strong sense of the characters’ excitement, it doesn’t necessarily matter whether the kink they’re enjoying is your personal fave.) I’m always happy to watch Candida’s videos, and I’m always curious to see what she’ll do next.

Candida_headSo anyway. Candida Royalle has a new-ish video out, “Caribbean Heat.” Now, this one Candida didn’t actually direct. She produced it, and supervised the direction; but unlike every other movie Femme has made, this one was directed by someone else: a new female director, Manuela Sabrosa.

Caribbean_heat_coverAnd Candida’s absence does show. I liked “Caribbean Heat” a fair amount, but I didn’t wildly adore it, and I don’t think it’s one of Femme’s stronger efforts. It does have many of the company’s usual good points: a patient pace, a relative dearth of cum shots, attention to female pleasure in general and foreplay in particular, women who don’t look like Barbie dolls, and some seriously fine-looking men. But it has some weaknesses that are unusual for a Femme production. The editing is often awkward and choppy, with oddly abrupt jumps that skip over some nice bits and generally interrupt the erotic flow. There’s an odd lack of focus and direction; there’s no clear sense of mounting excitement and passion, and while the performers’ pleasure is visible, it’s not particularly infectious. And the format (five separate, unconnected vignettes) means that one of the things I like best about Femme videos — namely, a reasonably well-written story sustained long enough to get me caring about the characters and their sex lives — is completely absent from this one.

Riding_cropMore to the point, the sex didn’t really wind me up that much — although to be fair, that’s largely a matter of taste rather than actual artistic failure. The sex in “Caribbean Heat” is sweet rather than fierce, gentle rather than intense, romantic rather than passionate. This is often the case with Candida’s movies, but it’s even more so in this one. Even the “casual sex with strangers” fantasies are more romantic than they are nasty. And even the supposedly kinky scene — the master and maid one, with the leash and the cage and the riding crop — is quite gentle overall, with the actual kinky elements getting very minimal play. The pacing adds to this quality as well: instead of insistently building a driving tension towards an intense release, the sex scenes feel more like rolling hills of sensuality, with arousal rising and falling in gentle waves. I suppose that’s not necessarily a bad thing; for porn viewers who are sick of being pounded like a jackhammer by conventional smut videos, it may be a positive blessing. It’s just not my style. (As anyone who’s been regularly reading this column knows, it’s really, really not my style.)

Bridge_handBut “Caribbean Heat” does have something good going for it: something very special, almost unique, a trump card that all by itself makes the video worth checking out.

That trump card is race.

West_sideHere’s the thing. Virtually all contemporary porn videos fall into one of two categories. The vast majority of them are white as the driven snow: their performers are 100% lily white, with not even a single person of color onscreen to upset the delicate sensibilities of the porn-watching public. And the ones that aren’t all-white tend to be racial fetish videos: nasty black women with big booties, fiery Latina tamales, mysterious and submissive Asian ladies, hugely hung black studs fucking dainty white women, that sort of thing. Adult videos starring people of color that treat their performers like regular people instead of stereotypes and that don’t descend into creepy fetishization of their race… those are rarer than hen’s teeth. There are some exceptions (the interracial Romeo-and-Juliet movie “West Side” leaps to mind), but there are damn few.

“Caribbean Heat” is one of them. With a vengeance.

Caribbean_heat_1“Caribbean Heat” was filmed on location in Central America, and features an all-Latino cast. But unlike most adult videos with a non-white cast, this movie treats its Latino characters like… well, like characters. Like people, with their own sexual feelings and desires and experiences. They’re depicted as the subjects of their own sex lives, not the exotic hot-tamale objects of white lust; the sex is seen from their perspective, not the perspective of white people who are hot for them. To add even more to the authentic “this is how we see ourselves, not how others see us” quality, the dialogue is almost entirely in Spanish. (Subtitles are added when they’re really necessary; but of course this is porn, and not particularly chatty or plot-driven porn at that, so subtitles mostly aren’t needed. If you don’t speak Spanish, you can still get the gist.)

Central_americaThe video was directed by a Latina woman, which almost certainly makes a huge difference. The box cover says that director Manuela Sabrosa “shows you what lovers in her corner of the world do,” and for once, the box cover does not lie. Sabrosa is revealing her own erotic world in this video, and she’s clearly seeing the skin and flesh of her performers, not from the outside, but from within.

Caribbean_heat_cover_2And this quality alone makes me give “Caribbean Heat” a solid thumbs-up. Racism in porn is one of the largest and most active bees in my porn-critic bonnet. And it’s not just about politics, either — it’s about pure, selfish pleasure. All-white casts don’t just seem racist to me; they seem freakishly artificial, and they add hugely to the ticky-tacky “they all look just the same” look of so many dirty movies. And the racial fetish videos just make me queasy. But “Caribbean Heat” is a delight. It’s such a sweet and rare pleasure to see a beautifully wide range of naked skin colors in a porno, without those skin colors being framed as exotic, alien, slightly bizarre fetish-objects. It’s so much fun to see non-white porn performers revel in the pleasure of their bodies, without those bodies getting slotted into someone else’s kinky pigeonholes. To some extent, all pornos display their performers as objects of other people’s lust, and I don’t usually have a huge problem with that. But when it comes to race in porn, the objectification thing gets grotesquely out of hand, to the point where it’s impossible for me to enjoy it at all. It’s a genuine treat to see a porn video that shows people of color as regular hot people who are fun to watch while they fuck.

Right Wing Hypocrisy: The Blowfish Blog

David_vitter_official_portraitI have a somewhat unusual take on the recent slew of right-wing politico sex scandals — David Vitter, Bob Allen, Mark Foley, Ted Haggard, etc. etc. etc. — over at the Blowfish Blog. The piece is called Right Wing Hypocrisy, or Why Sex Guilt Fucks Things Up For Everyone, and instead of just ranting about these folks’ hypocrisy (although I do a certain amount of that as well), I ask the question:

Why are the the specific taboo sex acts they engage in so often the exact same ones they publicly campaign against?

Here’s a teaser:

Admittedly, a big part of this pattern comes from the media focus. Hypocrisy in powerful public figures is big news, and I’m sure there’s some cherry-picking in the coverage. After all, “Married Congressman caught with hookers — and he campaigned on the sanctity of marriage!” makes great headlines. “Married Congressman caught with hookers — and he voted to renew the Farm Bill!” isn’t going to make headlines anywhere but the Surrealist Times.

But even given that, there’s a precision to the match-ups between the public condemnation and the private behavior that seems like more than coincidence and media focus.

Ted_haggardTo find out what I think is behind this “preach in public against the exact things you’re doing in private” pattern — and why I find myself having a smidgen of compassion for these assholes — check out the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Carnivals: Of Feminists #42 and Of the Liberals #44

CarnivalIt’s blog carnival time again! Carnival of the Liberals #44 is up at The Richmond Democrat, with its usual excellent collection of fine lefty pinko blogging. This is actually a selective carnival — unlike many blog carnivals, they only select the ten best blog postings from the previous fortnight — so I’m pleased and honored to have been selected again, with my piece on why civil unions aren’t equal to marriage either theoretically or practically: One In Seven: Why Civil Unions Aren’t Enough.

And Carnival of Feminists #42 is also up at Uncool (wicked cool blog name, btw), with tons of nifty feminist blogging. They also included my One In Seven: Why Civil Unions Aren’t Enough piece, so I’m excited. Enjoy the blogging!