4000 Years For Choice
4000 Years for Choice is a campaign created by artist Heather Ault. It dispels the common idea that abortion and contraceptive rights began with 20th-century feminism.
Using beautifully designed postcards featuring facts about historic forms of contraception and abortion, the campaign is both supporting women's health clinics across the country and educating people of all generations.
What did the ancient Egyptians do for birth control? Why did abortion become common and accepted among middle-class New Yorkers in the mid-1800s? What herbs were used to carefully induce abortion in Europe during the Crusades?
For examples of the colorful postcards, interesting historical timelines, and more, see www.4000yearsforchoice.com
Milton Diamond is a professor of biology and Director of the Pacific Center for Sex and Society at the University of Hawaii Medical School. During his half-century long career, Dr. Diamond has pioneered research in a variety of sexual fields, including sexual orientation, studies of twins, fetishes, and pornography.
Dr. Diamond consults with governments across the globe, including places as diverse as Cuba, Gaza, Mongolia, and Japan. Later this year he's even speaking at Tennessee State University.
Dr. Diamond is arguably the world's expert on the effects of pornography on various societies. For decades, he has been publishing data showing that in country after country, when the availability of pornography increases, the rates of sexual violence and childhood sexual exploitation decrease. This science, of course, rather than emotion or religious dogma, is what should be driving public policy in America and around the world.
Check out his latest, very readable article on the subject at www.the-scientist.com/2010/3/1/29/1/.
A confession: I had trouble taking Dr. Joannides' masterpiece seriously for a long time because of its title: "The Guide to Getting It On." Then I had trouble taking it seriously because it was so wildly popular among college students. My prejudice was confirmed when Oprah Magazine called it "warm, friendly, liberating, thorough, and potentially sex-life-changing."
Then I checked it out more carefully. And I listened to what serious people said about it. Oh, now I get it: It's really wonderful. Friendly, easy to use, and amazingly comprehensive. No wonder it's in its 6th edition.
But Joannides contributes even more to the world's sexual intelligence. He's been running an online survey of sexual attitudes and behavior for years. The questions are actually interesting ("Is there a big gap between your fantasies and the sex you have in real life?" "Are there things you do to help maintain your arousal while putting on a condom?"), and he shares the data, rather than hoarding it. His interpretations of the data are often creative and counter-intuitive.
The guy lectures at a dozen universities each year, trains psychologists, and has even written an article about genital injuries in the Iraq War. When does he sleep?
For information about his amazing book (and possibly a free copy!), see www.goofyfootpress.com/book/
To prepare for my recent three-week trip to Vietnam, I read a half-dozen books about the country and its culture. None were more wonderful than:
* Sexuality in Contemporary Vietnam: Easy to Joke About
But Hard to Talk About, by Khuat Thu Hong, Le Bach Duong,
& Nguyen Ngoc Houng; and
* For Better or For Worse: Vietnamese International Marriages in the New Global Economy, by Hung Cam Thai.
The first book is a ground-breaking survey of Vietnamese sexual culture. It offers the voices of both genders, of various social classes, from both urban and rural settings. It presents Vietnam's current ideas about virginity (painfully mandatory for women before marriage), expertise (excruciating pressure on men), sex education (considered unnecessary), and the very reasons for having sex (honoring traditional family structures, creating children, and maintaining marital harmony).
The second book is a study of Vietnamese men who emigrate to America and later marry women still living in Vietnam. The couples are typically separated for 2 or more years while her immigration application is processed. The author skillfully describes how the men often lose social status when they come here, while the women often gain social status--and how this affects marriage between people who may not have known each other much before marrying.
In addition to providing the pleasure of learning about another culture, both books challenge our Western ideas of how sexuality is understood--of what's "normal." When we see how the Vietnamese (or any other society) construct their version of sexuality, it's impossible to ignore the fact that that's exactly what we do here in America--construct our own local version. Our sexuality isn't "normal"--it's just one way among many, many ways around the world.