Perverted News Roundup #3

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This edition of the news roundup is devoted to Verizon, who managed to help delay it by dropping my internet connection for about three hours yesterday, and then kept me on the phone for about an hour doing all sorts of useless shit to the computer before realizing that there was an outage in my area. Thanks, guys.

In Ducks, War of the Sexes Plays Out in the Evolution of Genitalia (NY Times, Registration Required): Since 1999, Dr. Patricia Brennan of Yale has been studying duck genitalia and the forces that have driven some very unique evolutionary adaptations in both males and females. The construction of duck dick is very interesting: "A bird phallus is similar — but not identical — to a mammalian penis. Most of the time it remains invisible, curled up inside a bird’s body. During mating, however, it fills with lymphatic fluid and expands into a long, corkscrew shape. The bird’s sperm travels on the outside of the phallus, along a spiral-shaped groove, into the female bird." Brennan's theories have a lot to do with the role of "forced mating" (aka rape) in the development of both sex's genitals.

Dr. Susan Block: Hookergate II (Counterpunch): The big item in perverted news this week is the legal problems of one Deborah Jean Palfrey, known to the press as the "D.C. Madam." Ms. Palfrey, having been accused by the government of running a brothel, decided not to go gently into that good night and immediately sold off her phone records, said to implicate dozens of Washington insiders, to ABC. The first one to bite the dust (and so far, the only) was one Randall Tobias, known as the former CEO of Eli Lily, the producers of Prozac and Cialis. Until his name showed up on the phone list of a suspected madam, he was the Bush Administration "AIDS czar." Strangely, for a guy whose resume includes one of the top-selling pecker pills in existence, Tobias's job was to push "abstinence-only" programs on a global scale. Not surprisingly, Susan Block indulges in some righteous schadenfreude here, and we're only too glad to join her.


Will the “Washington Madam” Scandal Help Destigmatize Sex Work? (Sex in the Public Square): Elizabeth Wood shows less schadenfreude in the demise of the abstinence king's public career, and looks in a more practical manner at what it could mean in the long run for the dignity of sex workers. A lot of the modern-day gains for gays and lesbians, after all, came about because massive numbers of gays came out of the closet or were outed. And, she points out, while legalization of prostituion would be a step in the right direction, true dignity for sex workers will never come about while the stigma attached to their work allows society to mark them as disposable.

Mistress Matisse Takes a Call From Imus (The Stranger): Don Imus apologized for his racist statements about the Rutgers University women's basketball team, but no one seems to be concerned about his slander of hard-working "ho's." Mistress Matisse thinks that should change, and gives you the transcript of the phone call she wants to have with Don.

Is Stripping a Feminist Act? (Alternet): When I first glanced at this, I thought it was going to be just another hatchet job on sex work and pro-porn feminists. Alternet, after all, tends to favor that kind of approach. After reading it, though, it's a little more than that. It's true that Sarah Katherine Lewis starts off with a straw person: the alleged hordes of people who think that sex work is automatically liberating and feminist. But she also neatly disposes of the other side of the debate, those who think that choosing sex work is tantamout to treason by providing a realistic portrait of her own experiences as a stripper.

Wisconsin one of three states considering sex offender license plates (Fond Du Lac Reporter): The states of Wisconsin, Ohio, and Alabama are considering legislation that would force anyone convicted of a "sex offense" to have brightly-colored license plates on their cars. The plates would be fluorescent green in Ohio and chartreuse-green in Wisconsin. (Don't even ask me what chartreuse-green looks like.) The sex-offender hysteria provides a paradox: these paranoid fantasies of hordes of depraved men who skulk the streets like starved coyotes searching for prey is, in a way, a warm and fuzzy myth. The enemy is them, and it is profoundly comforting knowing that these sickos are them and not us. And as scary as the idea of all those shadowy perverts trawling for prey on the streets and on the Internet is, compared to the truth, it's a story as maudlin and cozy as a Frank Capra film: most kids are molested by sweet Uncle Bobby or the nice man who lives a couple of doors down and is a trusted by the community. As long as no one can face up to this, and it's more profitable for politicians to substitute humiliation and petty vengeance for real justice, more people, both children and adults, will be needlessly hurt.

30 Strangest Animal Mating Habits (Neatorama): In college, you met that hottie who seemed to have it all: style, grace, a fashion sense, a gift for witty repartee, and endowments that wouldn't quit. Only problem is, they wouldn't actually do the deed unless they could dress up like Little Orphan Annie and you pretended to be "Sandy," her dog. Oh. Wait -- that was just me? Never mind. Anyway, the point is, no matter what strangeness lies in your past, it probably pales compared to the mating rituals of the animal kingdom. Take the bedbug, for example. The male actually impales the female with his sexual organ to deposit his sperm. Straw itch mites start to mate with their siblings within minutes of birth. The paper nautilus, or argonaut, actually detaches its organ and lets it swim to the female. And the male anglerfish, born without a digestive system, attaches to the female and wastes away soon after birth, actually becoming part of her. Don't you feel downright vanilla now?

Miss America to testify in sex sting (AP, via Yahoo): Here she comes.... It's Miss Congeniality all over again -- but in reverse. The current holder of the crown, one Lauren Nelson, recently starred in an episode of "America's Most Wanted" where she posed as a teenager online and helped lure 11 men to meet her at a home, where they were immediately arrested. The case almost fell apart, though, when Her Highness said that she wouldn't testify. The prosecutor talked her into it, though, and will be making her next appearance on a witness stand in Long Island.

Oregon Lawmakers OK Domestic Partnerships (AP, via The state of Oregon has all but legalized domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian couples. It passed the state senate 21-9, and the governor is certain to sign it. This makes seven states that allow same-sex couples to have civil unions or domestic partnerships. I don't think that marriage is the Holy Grail of civil rights that it's been portrayed as, but every little step is good to see.

No (Lesbian) Sex in the Stacks, Please (Violet Blue, When I was a kid, two of my favorite forbidden pleasures from the library were the paperback collections of Mad Magazine and a copy of The Best of the Realist, an anthology of articles and cartoons from Paul Krassner's famous underground newspaper. They were both covert pleasures, and the latter was especially verboten, since it contained Wally Wood's infamous cartoon of the Disneyland Memorial Orgy, which showed Mickey shooting heroin, Minnie turning tricks, and Tinkerbell performing a striptease for Peter and the Lost Boys. What was so thrilling about both was that they peeled back the curtain behind childhood and adulthood, showing me my first glimpse of what grownups kept hidden in their closets and behind their faces, even before I understood the appeal of Playboy and Penthouse. And having spent so much of my formative years in libraries, I take it personally when Bowdler wannabes use their beloved children as an excuse for gutting libraries of anything that makes them uncomfortable. Which brings us to Bentonville, Arkansas. Earl Adams is pissed off because his darling boys, Kyle and Ryan (14 and 16 years old), were browsing in the "military academy" materials at their local library and stumbled across a copy of The Whole Lesbian Sex Book, by Felice Newman. Like any adolescent boys, Kyle and Ryan were simply traumatized by finding a book with female naughty bits and text about female ejaculation. According to their father, "My sons were greatly disturbed by viewing this material and this matter has caused many sleepless nights in our house." The trauma led him to demand that the book be completely removed from the shelf and to sue for $20,000 in damages ($10,000 per boy). Violet Blue not only writes about the incident in more detail and more graceful snark than I can manage, but presents a brief interview with Felice Newman about her thoughts on the events.

Age of Innocence Revisted (Wall Street Journal): Maybe even more than the fracas surrounding the "D.C. Madam" and her little black book, the possibility of "Girls Gone Wild" millionaire Joe Francis serving some well-deserved jail time is causing a lot of discussion about the role of public sexuality, and not all of it hysterical and polarized. One article that's inspired a lot of commentary is Garance Franke-Ruta's piece in the Wall Street Journal, calling for raising the age of consent to be in an erotic film or photograph from 18 to 21. While Franke-Ruta's article itself is pretty damned hare-brained, other, more well-spoken people have been debating the pros and cons of her idea in the blogosphere. Avedon Carol points out the fundamental madness of the idea: of making pictures of fully-grown women "child pornography." The child porn statutes that are already on the books lend themselves to hysteria and abuse already, and people are regularly busted for having pictures of their kids in the bath. And let's not even start with the question of what a "sexual" image is; there are people out there who think that there's nothing sexier than a woman popping a balloon. At Alas, A Blog, Ampersand seemed to endorse the idea wholly, barely deigning to notice the undercurrent of slut-shaming that is implicit in Franke-Ruta's proposal. Like Amp, Jill Filipovic at Feministe isn't in the least ambivalent about her distaste for porn, both personally and politically, but writes a really fucking smart analysis of why Franke-Ruta's proposal is a Bad Idea and looks at alternative ways to address the issues, in particular Ezra Klein's idea of making the drinking age 18, and enacting "impaired consent" laws for pornographic films. Klein's idea is sensible, but I don't see any reason to treat softcore porn films differently than any other decision; when you're plastered, you're not in proper condition to agree to any legally binding contract. Jon Swift, of course, thinks that neither Klein nor Franke-Ruta go far enough, and instead proposes that the minimum age to appear in pornography be raised to 65: "Requiring that porn stars be elderly would open up new career opportunities for senior citizens, which would be an excellent way for them to supplement their retirement and social security incomes. It would certainly prove more diverting for many than playing bingo at the senior citizen center." Amanda Marcotte sees such an age increase as an opportunity not to protect the girls from themselves, but to allow kids to have more spaces for debauchery and sexual experimentation "without some dick shoving a camera at them in the process of making porn movies that are punitive in nature." She also somewhat facetiously that we should establish a minimum wage for being in a porn movie: $1000 a minute. Facetious it might be, but I like the direction she's going with that: it should be obvious that the work involved in being in a porn flick is worth more than what your average porn star makes, and even if a woman does nothing more than flash her tits, she certainly deserves a fuckload more than a cheap t-shirt with a logo on it.

Giving Good Head (Jamye Waxman): Jamye Waxman may not have written the book on cocksucking, but I'm pretty sure that's only because she's been writing the book on masturbation. Until she gets around to the book, though, this is a great place to start. If I have one perversion, it's that I'm an oral slut; I'll put damn near anything in my mouth, and so I always appreciate other people who appreciate the flexibility of the mouth as an erotic tool and realize what a subtle art is involved in either simply kissing or going down on someone. Not only are Jamye's three posts on cocksucking both artful and practical, but they're so hot that they could qualify as porn in and of themselves.