As proof that God disapproves of homosexuality,
several clergy members cited the unusual weather
during the civil ceremonies--cold, with snow and
some wind, despite the fact that it's January.
Texas Taxes Tassled Titties
The Texas legislature needs a lesson in American
On January 1, the state started taxing strip
clubs $5 for every customer who shows up to watch
some bare flesh. That's bad enough, but the state
plans to use most of the money it raises to help
This is a shocking abuse of power, and a repulsive
attempt to link two completely unrelated activities--strip
club attendance and rape. There is no data anywhere
that people who do one are more likely to do the
other. Members of the legislature should be ashamed
at their obvious pandering to the public's emotions.
Who's going to say "I'm against helping rape
The 2007 bill was sponsored by State Representative
Ellen Cohen (D-Houston). (She's also the president
of a women's center that could receive financing
from the new law.) Her bizarre "reasoning"
insults the intelligence of anyone within earshot:
"This is an industry that largely employs
women, and [the tax] gives them an opportunity
to raise funds for a crime that affects women,"
Other industries that routinely employ mostly
women include supermarkets, hospitals, and nail
salons. Why not tax them extra, giving them the
The strip clubs, of course, are protesting the
tax as an infringement of their right to free
expression. According to American law, legislators
can't single out expressive activities they don't
like--such as nude dancing--and burden them with
special taxes. Jonathan Turley, a constitutional
law expert at George Washington University notes
that "Laws like this would expose any unpopular
industry to punitive taxes. It could be abortion
clinics." Or stores selling Western shirts
to overweight non-cowboys.
While the Texans who want to tell everyone else
how to live fume over the rights of those evil
club owners, and everyone ignores the rights of
the dancers who will lose their jobs because smaller
clubs can't pay the tax, what about the consumers?
Consumers of foreign cars yell loudly when the
government tries to raise import duties, and consumers
of Chinese products yell loudly when it's revealed
that they're made with near-slave labor. What
about strip club consumers? Where is their voice,
as their recreation is smeared as a precursor
to rape, and their clubs are slapped with vicious
million-dollar tax bills?
Increasingly, if you want a lap dance, you have
to be willing to stand up and demand your right
to buy one. Of course, if you're hiding your hobby
from your wife, or your employer thinks your periodic
private pleasure makes you unfit to work, you'll
be pretty slow to identify yourself and air your
And there's the failure of democracy when it
comes to sexual rights. The marketplace of ideas
only works effectively when people can discuss
things on a level playing field. The decency police
who want to dictate the way everyone lives are
counting on their victims feeling intimidated
and silently bending over as their rights are
Anatomically, you lose your lap when you stand
up. Ironically, Texans will lose their lap dance
if they don't stand up.
Deluded puritans like Ellen Cohen expect that
discouraging men from going to strip clubs will
somehow discourage them from raping women. And
what will men do with all that extra time? Undoubtedly,
they'll start reading romance novels and sharing
their feelings more.
What I Wanted for the Holidays
The holidays have come and gone. Happy New Year.
Other than some rest and great home cooking (my
own), I didn't get one single thing I wanted.
What was on my list? All I wanted was for everyone
to receive their basic sexual rights. That, of
course, would allow me to have mine. Here are
a few things I was hoping Santa would deliver
to my country:
* Free condoms
Every time someone uses a condom it benefits everyone,
so let's make them free. They should be available
everywhere: gas stations, ATMs, the place you
rent skis. In fact, there should be a dispenser
in the wine/beer/booze section of every supermarket
and 7-11. Government should supply the condoms,
and require a dispenser if you want a license
to sell alcohol.
While we're at it, could we please start packaging
condoms in non-slippery containers?
* Encourage the study of child porn & pedophilia
"Everyone" knows child porn is increasing,
it's horrible, it ruins lives, etc.--except that
no one knows anything.
The government won't let anyone study child porn.
All we know is what "morality" groups
scream at us, and phony numbers like "X number
of children exploited and abused" (what does
that mean?) and "Y number of children sexually
solicited on the internet" (most of whom
are teens, contacted by other teens).
People who make or use child porn can't be studied
because anyone who listens to them can be forced
to disclose their identity and activities. So
society is stuck with stereotypes like "all
molesters look at child porn" and "everyone
who looks at child porn is a molester"--both
of which are obviously untrue.
The government should establish a license permitting
individuals and institutions to possess and study
"child porn." A background check and
project proposal would be required, along with
a description of what will be accessed and for
how long. Similarly, legitimate investigators
should have immunity to study specified populations
for specific projects.
Of course, fewer and fewer Americans actually
believe, much less understand, science. But science
is the only way to get the facts about this supposedly
widespread phenomenon that frightens and angers
so many people.
* Publish the criteria used in internet filtering
The makers of filtering software claim the criteria
for blocking sites is proprietary, like the formula
But this blocking software is now a quasi-public
utility, as libraries, schools, and government
offices are increasingly required to use it. Corporate
lawyers are seeing the software as good insurance,
So the public has a right to know--how does the
software decide what to block? If it blocks breast
cancer sites, youth soccer league sites ("boys
under 14"), Middlesex County, and my blog,
can we really say these sites "block porn"?
More importantly, the media should stop saying
that people against mandatory filters are "against
protecting kids from porn."
* End the legal concepts of "obscenity"
Sex is not dangerous. Sexual words and images
are not dangerous. Limiting access to these words
and images doesn't necessarily increase a community's
"morality," just as expanding people's
access doesn't necessarily decrease "morality."
The idea that our local, state, and federal governments
can actually prevent us from reading, hearing,
or seeing certain words or pictures for any reason
is actually staggering. Here are just some of
the governmental agencies screening your life
for "obscenity" or "indecency":
~ Federal Communications Commission
~ Justice Department
~ Commerce Department
~ Customs Service
~ Department of Homeland Security
~ Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms
~ state alcohol control commissions
~ city & county zoning commissions
I'll tell you what's obscene: people who would
rather prevent me from watching South Park than
use the "off" button on their TV remote.
Darn those people.
* Sexual rights as human rights
Being able to take that for granted would be a
wonderful, life-affirming gift. I hope you--and
all of us--get this very, very soon. Happy 2008.
Sexual Intelligence in India
From November 22-December 13 I toured India,
an amazing adventure. Here are some thoughts from
the trip. For my complete travel blog, see www.MartyInIndia.com.
India's Ancient Erotic Sculpture
In the coastal state of Orissa, I went to several
1,000-year-old Hindu temples. They are well-preserved,
gorgeous, spectacular. At the enormous temple
in Konark, every inch of the stone exterior is
carved with scenes from local and palace life
from 10 centuries ago.
And so today's visitor sees wonderfully-preserved
scenes of battles, animals, musicians, families...and
sex. Lots of sex, in just about every position.
Same-gender sex, threesomes, group sex, oral sex--you
get the picture.
Well, perhaps not. Here, sitting in a park, is
this display of explicit erotic behavior bigger
than the Lincoln Memorial. And people from across
the country come to see it--many, of course, with
their families. There are dozens of smaller temples
like this throughout the area. You celebrate life,
you celebrate sex--that's the way it was here
a thousand years ago.
It's not like that here anymore, of course. Sexually,
India is quite conservative on the usual measures,
such as contraception, sex ed, and pornography
(legally, you can't even show pubic hair). Even
modern women here dress modestly, and while TV
and videos do feature a sly, sexy tease, you certainly
won't find the bare breasts of German TV or the
coarse sexual lyrics of American music videos.
Where India does differ from the U.S. is in allowing--actually
encouraging--public access to monuments like this
across the country. At one site I saw a gaggle
of soldiers on leave, praying in a still-active
temple that depicted fellatio and other sexual
delights carved on its outer walls. Ironically,
many of them had probably never seen an actual,
fully-nude woman in their own bed.
Honorable mention goes to the Victorian-era Brits.
Thanks for not destroying the temples depicting
erotic themes onto which you stumbled 100 years
ago, despite your disapproval of them. The Taliban,
the Vatican, and Morality In Media should take
Male & Female In India
Here are some observations on gender and male-female
relations in India.
* First, it really matters which India we're
talking about--Muslim, Sikh, Kerala, tribal, etc..
For example, most women in the south are so liberated,
even Catholics use birth control; in Orissa, by
contrast, a friendly adolescent girl said I couldn't
take her photo because "my husband wouldn't
* Regardless of location, though, India remains
a sexually conservative country. Clothes don't
reveal women's bodies. This seems normal after
just a short while here, and then any Western
woman wearing a revealing top or exposing her
legs looks dramatically provocative.
* Couples simply do not hold hands in public.
This is made even more obvious by the fact that
women hold hands with their girl pals/cousins,
and men hold hands with their male chums/cousins.
One never sees couples of any age kissing or even
* In America, all women wear jewelry, although
real gold is reserved for the well-off. Here,
even the poorest woman wears gold earrings and/or
bracelet every day of her life. Her home may lack
hot water, her village may lack reliable electricity,
she may be washing her few clothes in the river,
but she wears gold while she's doing it. It's
a matter of family honor. In some areas the custom
is silver rather than gold, but it's real, beautiful
* The families of girls and young women still
pay dowries to the family of the man she is marrying.
Sometimes dowries have to be borrowed, which can
set back a girl's family for years. And sometimes,
the groom's family demands a second dowry payment
a year after the couple is already married. Imagine
the problems that creates for everyone.
* Most marriages here are arranged or semi-arranged.
Newspapers are full of ads looking for suitable
marriage partners. Unlike in the U.S., the looks
and social class of both parties are explicitly
* Little moments: it's funny (albeit sensible)
to see able-bodied men walking with open umbrellas
in the blazing sun; it's amazing to see women,
young and old, working road construction (shoveling
gravel, carrying bricks, etc.)--while wearing
* The saris are, in fact, beautiful--colorful,
flowing, absolutely nothing like western clothes.
And young women wear them as much as their mothers
and grandmothers--they're not in any way considered
But they certainly limit mobility and a whole
range of physical movements. You simply cannot
effectively run in one. In this respect saris
are like the bustles, corsets, and other complex
dress of Western women until just a few decades
ago. In America's wild west films, the primary
symbol of independence for women is pants.
* As in Islam, Christianity, and Orthodox Judaism,
Hindu religious duties--which is to say, Hindu
religious privileges--are segregated by gender.
* Aborting female fetuses because they will become
girls is actually increasing here, as gender identification
technology becomes cheaper and more available.
This has enormous ramifications for many parts
of society, including marriage, economics, and
arrangements for the aging. Everyone decries it,
and it's even against the law. But how do you
criminalize technology in a capitalist, democratic
In America, religious people have criminalized
technologies like stem-cell research and abortion
in an attempt to impose their moral vision on
others, or to create "a more moral society"--both
clearly unacceptable in a democracy.
But in India, criminalizing gender testing and
gender-oriented abortion is based on avoiding
a scientifically demonstrable problem--which makes
it a more complicated issue. Still, it's troubling
to criminalize technology for any reason. And
it opens the door to banning other troublesome
technologies, including, say, chemical food preservatives,
the distilling of alcohol, and of course boom
boxes that play any music that I don't like.