In the wake of the DOMA and Proposition 8 Supreme Court decisions opening the door to same-sex marriage across America, churches have expressed anxiety. For years they've said that gay marriage would destroy straight marriage and the family. But what about the church?
Here are some answers that should clarify and perhaps comfort those concerned.
* Will a church be required to marry gay couples if the church doesn't believe in it?
No. Churches can still claim to love gay individuals even while denying them participation in one of the most profound institutions ever created. It's the state that will henceforth be prevented from arbitrarily withholding the civil rights it routinely confers on married people from one group—gays.
Another option, of course, would be the state going out of the marriage business and leaving it to the churches. But that would seriously damage tourism in Las Vegas.
* Will straight people be required to experiment with the gay lifestyle?
No. Straight couples will not be required to dance, host Liberace parties, or discuss alternatives to the monogamy at which they're so famously inept.
* Will churches be required to treat gay people like normal human beings?
No. They will still be allowed to treat them like pathetic diseased creatures—loved despite who they are, despised for what they do.
* Will churches be forced to give gays birth control?
No. They would, however, be required to include it in their health insurance plan for gay people if the government had not exempted churches from having to behave like every other wealthy corporate employer.
* Will churches have to provide abortions for gay people?
Churches aren't required to provide abortions to anyone; most states, in fact, are attempting to restrict where abortions can take place so tightly that only the Vatican will be able to afford the retrofit to provide them. However, the rate of unwanted pregnancy—and therefore abortions—among gay men and women is so low that their marriages should be celebrated by anti-choice activists.
* Will churches have to consider the possibility that Jesus was gay?
No. True, he was an unmarried bachelor whose best friends were mostly unmarried men. But that doesn't make him gay. And after this week's court decisions, it will be that much harder to tell the sexual orientation of men who happen to be unmarried bachelors.
Gay or straight, virgin births will still be considered miraculous.
As more teens are being vaccinated against HPV and the sometimes-resulting cervical cancer, they are NOT having more sex, according to government statistics. So take that, Abstinence Clearinghouse. And they're not experiencing unwanted side effects, either. So there, Michelle Bachman.
People who fear or hate sex make almost everything about sex. And so they did with this vaccine, which is recommended for pre-teens before they become exposed to the virus.
The Family Research Council, for example, opposes the vaccine: "Giving it to young women could be potentially harmful because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex." Yes, of course. The average 14-year-old girl refrains from "premarital sex" because she's afraid that at age 50 she might get cervical cancer. Besides, preventing "premarital sex" is more important than preventing cancer, right?
The Religious Right has had problems with the Gardasil vaccine from the start. HPV has been the Right's poster child for the dangers of "promiscuity"—an infection that may show no symptoms, and in some cases leads to cervical cancer and even death.
So what have they done? They've successfully scared millions of parents (and thousands of physicians) away from this now-standard medical procedure. The journal Pediatrics found that in 2010, 44% of parents said they did not intend to vaccinate their daughters.
Only about a third of American teenage girls have received the full course of three doses (about half have received at least one does). By comparison, vaccination rates in countries like Denmark and Britain are above 80%. Even Rwanda has reached 80%. And yet even with America's low vaccination rate, infection with the viral strains of HPV that cause cancer dropped by half among teen girls in the four years after the vaccine's American introduction.
Of course, any reasonable pre-teen getting the vaccine would ask why she was getting it. That would inevitably lead to one or more conversations about sex with doctor, parent, or both. This should be a good thing—especially in families where sexuality is a taboo subject. But rather than embrace this teachable moment, many parents are rejecting it—putting their own child, and the child's future sexual partners, at risk.
It's easy to be sympathetic with parents who are queasy about discussing sex with their kids. Just like few of us want to think of our parents as being sexual, few of us want to think of our kids as being sexual. And yet, unlike our parents, our kids need information and support as they develop their values and decision-making habits. Statistics clearly show that "Just say no" or "Wait until marriage" are only implemented by a tiny, tiny fraction of Americans.
Some parents try to walk a fine line of supposed neutrality. "I'll give my kid the shots if she asks, but there's no reason to bring it up," said one of my patients last year. "You're a good parent," I replied. "That isn't how you're handling information and action on your kid's nutrition, dental care, sleep habits, and study habits—waiting until she asks about it."
When it comes to sexuality, giving in to our comfort zone can't be the only criterion a good parent uses. As my teacher Sol Gordon used to say, "No parent on earth is completely ready to discuss sex with their kids. We have to do it even when we're not ready."
According to CDC estimates, Gardasil could prevent 53,000 cases of cervical cancer and 17,000 deaths among girls now age 13 and younger if only 80% of preteen girls were vaccinated. As one official said in response to last week's report, "It's possible to protect the next generation from cancer, and we need to do it."
Book review: Naked Truth: Strip Clubs, Democracy, And A Christian Right, by Judith Lynne Hanna (2012, University of Texas Press).
Let me tell you why you should care about strip clubs.
Or rather, let me tell you about Judy Hanna's new book about why should care about strip clubs.
Anthropologist Dr. Judith Hanna is the country's expert on strip clubs and exotic dance. A tremendous researcher, observer, and writer, she has served as an expert witness in over one hundred cases across the U.S.
Naked Truth is a riveting combination of news stories, fascinating anecdote, articulate analysis, and lessons in our living Constitution. It's also a chilling expose of exactly how Christian Right activists are using the issue of sexual regulation to undermine democracy and the separation of church and state.
This parallels the very point of my 2006 book America's War On Sex (2nd edition now available). My book does have a few pages on exotic dance, along with swing clubs and adult bookstores. Indeed, I consulted Hanna while writing the book's first edition in 2006. She was a gracious, expert source.
Naked Truth focuses entirely on strip clubs. And with good reason: with few exceptions, just about every American lives within 100 miles of a club. Millions of men spend millions of hours and tens of millions of dollars at such clubs. Some spend the rent money there.
Cities and counties also spend tens of millions of dollars attempting to shut such clubs. Sometimes they're successful; sometimes they aren't. But win or lose, these cases are never cheap, in effect spending taxpayer money on attorneys instead of schools and hospitals.
And these cases are rarely wholesome. As Hanna documents, attempts to constrain, close, or prevent strip clubs are typically part of a religiously-based campaign to minimize sexual expression in a community. And that campaign, in turn, is typically part of a broader national movement—supposedly about enhancing morality, or protecting women, or preventing crime, but really about increasing the political power of the Christian Right and imposing religious doctrines on the entire country.
Hanna exposes common myths the Christian Right (and local law enforcement) uses to limit adults' access to strip clubs: clubs cause crime, they lead to sexual violence, they coerce women into dancing, and they often involve underage dancers and audience members. None of these four common assertions is true. In fact, to rid themselves of strip clubs communities often write emergency ordinances that declare these beliefs to be facts, and therefore not requiring proof. That's because for the most part there is none.
Whether you're interested in stripping as an art form (with a long and complex history), as the focus of a long series of Constitutional cases (which Hanna describes in entertaining fashion), or as a case study in the rise of organized religious activism (Roe v Wade, anyone?), you'll find this book an enjoyable, thought-provoking read.
It's a great companion to G-Strings and Sympathy, Katherine Frank's 2002 book about customers' experiences as strip club regulars. Frank analyzes the psychological dynamics of the patrons, while Hanna analyzes the political dynamics that restrict or prevent patrons' access to clubs.
Together, they make fascinating reading about an enormous subculture that mainstream society disdains—and, as Hanna documents, ferociously attacks when it can.