Perhaps your checklist for New Year's Eve includes:
- sexy clothes: to get yourself or a partner in the mood
- mood-altering beverage: see above
- money: for meals, gifts, fun
- extra money: to make sure you get home from all that fun
- clean the house or apartment--at least the bedroom (or
at least the bed!): just in case
- clean and strategically place the sex toys: optional
What's missing from this picture?
If you and your colleague are of different genders, birth control.
And in case that fails--or, more likely, you do--Emergency Contraception.
This is a reminder that Emergency Contraception (EC) is completely legal in the U.S., and is available without a prescription for anyone 17 and older. Those under 17 in California, Alaska (no excuses, Bristol!) and 7 other states can also get it without a prescription.
Like a data backup, extra eyeglasses, and earthquake insurance, EC is best acquired before you need it. Everything we said when you still needed a prescription to get it is still relevant: Get it now. Keep it somewhere easily accessible--not in your gym locker or sister's house. Read the directions now, while you're perfectly calm and it seems like a waste of time--because if you do use it, you won't be calm enough to read your own name.
From 2000-2008 our federal government was an anti-science propaganda arm of the Religious Right, so in case their disinformation campaign has confused the issue, EC is NOT the abortion pill. It can't cause an abortion because it is used before a woman is pregnant. That's why it's called emergency contraception.
And gentlemen, remember that you can get and keep EC, too. Talk about feeling safe
Remember playing with photos and scissors as a young teen? You'd make collages: your scrawny face on a caveman's body, your friend's body with the head of a dog, you and a movie star on a beach in Hawaii. Silly adolescent stuff, harmless.
Now what about putting your head on a movie star's nude body? Or your neighbor kid's face on your body? Still harmless, right?
When does this kind of stuff become illegal?
John Stelmack of Lakeland, FL found out the hard way. He allegedly cut out a Xerox copy of a girl's head, taped it to a printout of an adult female's body, and Xeroxed it again. According to one of his attorneys, "It was a very poor job, and anyone could tell this was not really a picture of the minor." When this was accidentally discovered, he was arrested and convicted for creating and possessing child pornography. Remember, these are cut-and-paste productions, not actual photos, and not even computer morphs--of a couple of girls' heads, and a few nude women's bodies. His case is now being appealed.
OK, full disclosure: the guy is (or rather, was) an elementary school principle. Yes, this increases the yuck factor, but legally, it shouldn't matter. He hasn't been accused of inappropriate touching, suggesting, or even looking. He doesn't have any history of creating problems or being a problem.
The problem with witches (17th century), Jews (18th & 19th century), and Communists (20th century) was, according to those who claimed to know, that they 1) were everywhere and 2) looked like "normal" people so they couldn't be easily spotted. Thus the strategies, historically: drown a bunch of women and see if any non-witches survive; burn down Jews' homes and force them to convert; defame and destroy a bunch of people and see who admits they're a Red.
Today's witches, Jews, and Communists are those a little too interested in childhood sexuality. Since it's hard to tell the dangerous from the curious (or pathetic) in a single glance, many Americans say it's safer to just arrest everyone who's questionable. What's John Stelmack's life worth, if by sacrificing it we can save even one child from being molested?
According to Stelmack and his family, plenty. It should be worth its weight in gold to anyone concerned about matters such as freedom of speech, the presumption of innocence, and the influence of moral panics on the integrity of the judicial system.
If Stelmack's conviction is affirmed, some logical questions follow:
- What if the person doing the cutting and pasting were the
girl herself? Would she be busted the way teens who "sext"
are being busted?
- What if the person doing the cutting and pasting was one
of her parents?
- What if the body being morphed with the girl's face
was a nude adult man? Or a clothed but really sexy
- Now that lewd cartoon characters of minors can be criminalized as child porn, what about morphing a girl's face onto a sexy or nude cartoon body--illegal?
Photoshop is the new arts and crafts. Any adult interacting with kids is the new witch, Jew, Communist. Imprisoning those who play with digital scissors and glue doesn't make any of us safer. It just pads the resume of some D.A. who doesn't even consider Stelmack a human being, or our Constitutional system precious.
OK, it turns out the guy slept with a few other women besides his wife.
My first question about revelations like this (other than the way they frequently undo hypocritical conservative lawmakers) is always "who cares?"
My second question is, "with non-politicians, why does the public feel it has a right to know?" I've never heard a good answer to this, but today, my local sports columnist Mark Purdy gave the silliest, most disingenuous answer I've ever heard: because it possibly affected Tiger's game.
Yeah, right--it has nothing to do with America's insatiable appetite for excuses to leer about sex. C'mon, everything in an athlete's life potentially affects their performance: their kids' school problems, their husband's temper, their bad investments, the barking dog that keeps them awake, their maid's hysterectomy.
But who cares about those things? Virtually no one.
People love revelations about celebrities' sex lives
1) People love the excuse to talk about sex; and
2) People love when the rich and famous are taken down a notch, especially if it's by their own er, hand.
But it takes the American media to sanctimoniously pretend that the public isn't just frothing about the sex. Right--we're just calmly interested in our athletes' performance, and so we care, really care, about the vicissitudes of Tiger's or Kobe's or Tonya's life.
Americans are so uptight we can't even admit we enjoy drooling about other people's sex lives. In addition to demanding our celebrities be sexually pure--and claiming outrage when they aren't--we feel the need to pretend we are, too. Yeah, unlike people around the globe, we never look down a woman's blouse or notice when a guy's pants are too tight.
Another common narrative invariably hauled out at times like this is 'rich and famous men cheat with beautiful young women.'
Oh, please. Let's say there are 1 million extra-marital affairs in America per year (1% of today's 100,000,000 marriages, a pretty conservative estimate). Most of these are not between rich, famous men and drop-dead gorgeous young women. They involve people at all income levels, at every level of attractiveness. The idea that affairs are the playground of greedy rich men who feel too entitled is a way of justifying moral outrage or personal envy or simply resentment that someone somewhere is having better sex than you are. Get over it.
Tiger's an entertainer, and entertainers are people. They sell us their performance--if we buy. It's the same with our doctor and our dry cleaner. They owe us nothing else--not even an honest public persona.
Americans maintain a cult of celebrity, then complain when celebrities play us. The game involves creating a public persona (innocent virgin, bad boy, mad genius), which the public accepts. Once we've bought the persona, we don't want to see who the person really is if it conflicts with their image. We feel foolish, and then we feel angry.
Well, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. If the way Tiger or Kobe play ball gives you value for your time, money, and allegiance, watch and enjoy. If their performance isn't entertaining enough--whether because they've gotten fat, or old, or distracted by a lawsuit or a son's kidney transplant, change the channel. There are plenty other celebrities to put on a pedestal--from which to eventually knock them down.
And if you enjoy the opportunity Tiger's given you to talk about sex at work for the next few days, grow up and admit it--instead of criticizing him.
Yesterday was International Human Rights Day.
On such a day, we think of journalists and political activists who are jailed, tortured or killed; people so poor they have no toilets or clean water; people forced to live under brutal religious or political regimes; and children deprived of school, sold into heavy labor, or forced into rebel militias.
That's all so far away, though, isn't it? So let's talk about America. Let's discuss the systematic government oppression of our human rights--our sexual human rights.
EVERY human being has the fundamental right to:
- accurate information about sexuality
- local access to qualified sexual health care
- local access to modern reproductive and contraceptive technologies
- a medical system with professionals trained in sexual health
- a legal system with professionals trained in sexual behavior
EVERY human being has the right to live in a society that has:
- decriminalized consensual adult commercial sex
- decriminalized consensual adult sexual activities
- decriminalized "sexting" and other consenting
adolescent sexual behavior
- ended government prosecution of adult "obscenity"
& adult entertainment
- ended prosecutions of nudity in recreational spaces
- redefined child pornography to include only actual children
in actual sexual situations
- ended public, open-ended sex offender registries
- ended punishment of practitioners of alternative sexual lifestyles in child custody disputes
To celebrate International Human Rights Day, and to become a model of human decency for the rest of the world, I call upon America's Congress to affirm and guarantee these rights, making all necessary legislative changes.
Until then, hundreds of millions of Americans will continue to be vulnerable to legal harassment, financial damage, and the special, horrifying kind of emotional torment inevitably created by years in prison.
With a population of 9 million, Mexico City has more people than 40 of America's 50 states. It also has more Catholics than any American state except California. In fact, Mexico City is the 2nd largest Catholic city in the world (after Sao Paulo, Brazil).
And it just legalized same-gender marriage.
Mexico, of course, is a conservative, highly traditional country--far more so than the U.S.. And yet, they're doing something that 100 million Americans find terrifying. Shame on us.
Much of the opposition to same-gender marriage in America is explained by "it will destroy traditional marriage."
So let's consider Mexico City yet another opportunity to observe an experiment--let's see what happens in Mexico City during the next few years. Will their divorce rate increase faster than comparable countries without same-gender marriage? Will more heterosexual spouses have affairs, abandon their families, gamble away the rent money, hit each other?
If not, how can our policy-makers give in to "the gays are coming!" paranoia of some Americans?
Of course, Americans have had this opportunity before--and not just about same-gender marriage (which is already legal in Spain and Canada, with no ill effects observed).
Those Americans panicked about children seeing adult breasts or genitalia can check the results of the European "experiment" with nudity at beaches and on TV (no increase in child molestation or sexual dysfunction). Those Americans panicked about pornography can check the results of Japan's, Germany's, and Sweden's "experiment" with liberalizing restrictions on its availability (no increase in sexual violence).
And those Americans panicked about using science as the basis of public policy rather than religion, superstition, or prejudice can check the results of the "experiment" in Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea.
I'm on my way home from Denver, where I testified as an expert witness at a deeply troubling trial--a trial that's become way too common in America.
Here's the situation: The defendant "Mr. Jones" goes into a Yahoo adult chat-room, and makes it clear he wants to have conversations about sexually dominating a young person. A person responds--let's call her "Missy"--who says she's a teen who would gladly chat with a wiser, older man about the ins and outs of sexual things.
"Missy" says she's 14, and she and "Mr. Jones" proceed to exchange hundreds and hundreds of emails, IMs, and phone calls, which range from the incredibly boring to the graphically sexual. He discusses how one day she's going to be sexual with men, and therefore he helpfully instructs "Missy" to put her fingers in her vagina, practice sucking them, etc.. On the other hand, he never invites his correspondent to meet him, never sends "Missy" money or gifts, never sends her pictures of adults having sex with minors.
One day, out of the clear blue sky, police arrest the real Mr. Jones: it turns out that "Missy" is actually a police detective who was hanging out in the chat-room, and Mr. Jones has broken the law against adults discussing sex with minors over the internet.
But wait, says Mr. Jones--he wasn't discussing sex with a minor, he was discussing sex with an adult pretending to be a minor. He didn't realize the adult was a detective--he didn't even know what gender the adult was, much less their occupation--but he was playing a character version of himself, confident he was talking and corresponding with an adult playing the character called "Missy."
He didn't want to talk about sex with a kid, he says, much less have sex with a kid.
But the great state of Colorado put Mr. Jones on trial, accusing him of grooming a would-be minor for illegal sexual contact--which, although he hadn't arranged, nor attempted to arrange, they claim he wanted to arrange. Sometime. Probably.
His lawyer hired me as an expert in erotic fantasy roleplay. And so I read transcripts of the phone calls and emails which had led to the arrest. I did not meet, much less evaluate, Mr. Jones.
Months later--yesterday--I was in court. As an expert witness, I was asked dozens of questions about fantasy role-playing--which of course many adults do in various ways. Some do it through Second Life, some through Civil War reenactments, some through World of Warcraft--and some through chat-rooms.
Some adults play with fantasy roles in their bedrooms. Maybe she wears a little plaid skirt and lace socks (made in adult sizes for just this purpose), and coos at her partner "the principal." Maybe she pretends to be a high-priced hooker and he pretends to be a customer. More politically-minded people enjoying playing the Madelaine Albright-Henry Kissinger erotic (?!) fantasy game.
The prosecution tried to get me to say that most people who fantasize are sick, which I wouldn't. They tried to get me to say that people's fantasies indicate what they want to do in real life, which I wouldn't. They tried to get me to say that Mr. Jones' calls and emails were typical grooming behavior. I pointed out the fundamental flaws in their reasoning: he had met "Missy" in a chatroom for adults, not for fans of Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers. And after a thousand emails and phone calls, he never said anything like, "Let's meet. We'll have a great time. When are you free? I'll send you money for a bus ticket."
There were plenty of questions about me: my campaign against the concept of "sex addiction"; my observations that America is panicked over highly distorted estimates of how many predators troll for kids online (I quoted scientific studies, including the latest one from Harvard); whether or not I believed it was OK for adults and 14-year-olds to have sex (which I wouldn't answer, not wanting to obscure the fact that there was no 14-year-old in this case), and many, many more. That's how I spent yesterday afternoon.
This morning, the jury gave their verdict. Afterwards, in private conversations, they told Mr. Jones' lawyer that I was clearly an expert, warm and persuasive, and that they had learned a great deal from me about psychology and sexuality. They said they were troubled by the flaws I had pointed out in the prosecution's case, and they laughed at the D.A.'s inability to rattle or insult me. Several said if they were ever in trouble, they hoped they'd be represented in court as well as Mr. Jones had been.
But they found him guilty. They were afraid to believe him.
Was he really trolling for a kid to have sex with? I don't know--I never spoke to the guy, certainly never evaluated him clinically. But the burden was not on him to prove he wasn't. Since the State had taken the trouble to arrest him, humiliate him, accuse him, and destroy his life, the burden was on the State to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that his behavior was calculated and dangerous.
A juror's fear wasn't supposed to play any role in their decision. They were supposed to rely on the facts to decide whether the State had proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there was no "Mr. Jones"--that Mr. Jones believed he was talking to a kid, and that he was talking to her about sex so he could ultimately arrange to have sex with her.
In the end, fear was primarily what the 12 jurors relied upon.
And so, regardless of what Mr. Jones actually had in mind, justice was not done. As a result, our country--and you, personally--are less safe.
I'll be in Vietnam from December 31-January 20, teaching, consulting, and travelling. You can follow me daily (well, almost!) at www.MartyInVietnam.com. To get notified whenever there's a new post, send me a blank email, subject line Vietnam, to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.