As Goes Iowa…

January 5, 2011

By Chad Belville, Guest Satyriconista

Iowa, a square state in the Heartland, is one of the few states in the US that allows any two adults of legal age to marry, regardless of gender. Unlike every other state where Supreme Courts found that government should legally recognize the unions of two same-sex adults, the Iowa decision was unanimous and shot down all arguments against limiting legal recognition, including those of tradition, religious bias, and the red herring argument that removing the gender restriction of two adults to enter into a bi-lateral contract will lead to allowing persons to enter into contracts with plants, animals, or upend the entire bi-lateral nature of the marriage license and allow polygamous marriages. The decision was well-written and should be a foundation for all other states to follow.

Immediately following the decision, the usual right-wing activists vowed to reverse it and take those rights away with an amendment to the Iowa Constitution. This requires approval by both House and Senate in two consecutive sessions of the Legislature followed by a popular vote. Democrats in control of both chambers refused to bring the issue to the floor, thus maintaining the equal rights of all adult citizens.
This past November, Republicans took control of the Iowa House of Representatives, who vowed to pass a bill that could eventually send the issue to the voters. The Iowa Senate remained in control of the Democrats and the Leader of the Senate, Mike Gronstal, has vowed not to bring this discriminatory amendment for a vote. Senator Gronstal can effectively keep such an insidious vote at bay for this legislative term but what happens beyond 2012 remains a mystery. His position is that civil rights of minorities should never be subject to approval by a popular vote, and he is absolutely correct.

As more time passes, more people realize gay people are not imported from far-away lands to indoctrinate kindergarteners but instead are their friends, neighbors, and relatives. Attitudes change and the urgency to take away the legal right to not testify against a same-sex spouse fades. These right-wing wackos know that time is not on their side; they know that if they do not pass constitutional amendments right now their battles will be lost as public opinion turns against them. Massachusetts has a similar system of amendment; after passing once and failing the second time through both Houses the issue died off. The fanatics moved on to take away or prevent establishment of rights for gay couples in other states where their shrieking could be effective.

In the State of Iowa, one man really stands in their way. Senator Gronstal’s position on equality and civil rights has painted a target on his back for the social conservatives who wish to turn back time. The National Organization for Marriage will expend millions of dollars to unseat him as punishment for opposing their bigoted beliefs, regardless of whether or not they can ever succeed in passing an amendment through both Houses in consecutive sessions. They led a successful campaign to remove 3 of the 7 Justices from the bench of the Iowa Supreme Court so their threats must be taken seriously.

Over the next two years, tremendous pressure will be put on Senator Gronstal to allow a vote on the floor of the Iowa Senate. Groups that are friendly only to Ozzie and Harriet-style families but not any others will pour money into anti-gay campaigns in an attempt to roll back the rights of a very small minority for the sake of their religious purity. Iowa is a small state, and the money from outside organizations will have a serious effect on the outcome. For now, equality in marriage is the law of the land in Iowa, but it is extremely vulnerable. The old saying is that “So goes Iowa, so goes the country” which used to apply to Presidential primaries but applies here and now to the issue of equal rights in the eyes of government. I have donated directly to Senator Gronstal’s campaign and to OneIowa, the umbrella civil rights organization that is countering NOM’s campaign of bigotry. I will continue to donate all of my equal rights contributions to Iowa organizations because the battle there is so acute and my donation dollars can do the most good. While I support things like the Employment Non Discrimination Act, the outcome of national equal rights activism is not on such a tiny fulcrum as in Iowa. I am asking anyone that will listen to join me in donating to the campaign of Senator Gronstal and OneIowa where small donations WILL make a difference.

Increasing the tax base

December 19, 2010

This editorial calls for the elimination of the charitable giving deduction. He says that the mortgage deduction is firmly in place, given the current housing market. I disagree. It would be a great time to yank that absurd deduction – even when I owned a house, I thought it was absurd that since I was wealthy enough to own my house, I got my living expenses subsidized by the poors who lived in the apartments down the street.

While we’re discussing widening the tax base, perhaps it is time to end the deduction for cult-meeting houses, child-rape institutions, and shrines to ignorance and superstition churches.

Maybe it was the Jesus, and not the Dope?

November 25, 2010

Nobody fucks with the Jesus

The Hunterdon County (NJ) Democrat had a headline that read: Marijuana-crazed teen runs from Clinton Twp. home in pajamas, barefoot, prompting widespread search, police report

The boy’s parents told Patrolman Sean Ross that the boy had been at home with a group of friends when he suddenly burst into their bedroom proclaiming “Jesus is our savior” and other related comments, police said. When the teen’s father tried to grab him, he ran from the house, leaving his friends upstairs, according to police.

After the friends were taken home by their parents, his father contacted them and found his son had become agitated and uncontrollable after smoking marijuana with them. The boy has no history of such behavior, police said. (source)

When they finally found him, apparently he had no memory of the past three and a half hours.

How come they blame the marijuana? Wouldn’t you think that bizarre and stupid behavior might more naturally be related to someone believing in a magic space zombie jew, than it would from smoking a plant?

Koran-Hating Pastor Heads Cultish Ministry

September 9, 2010

by Charles Platt

Terry Jones, who has backed away from his plan to burn Korans this weekend, turns out to run a ministry which has cultish attributes, including a rule book that encourages the faithful to limit contact with unenlightened family members, it says here. What a surprise.

12 People in Forrest City, Arkansas are True Patriots and True Americans – Thank You

September 4, 2010

By Marc J. Randazza

In St. Francis County, Arkansas, local prosecutors are apparently the kind who think that the whole “First Amendment thing” is a bit over-blown. Despite taking oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution, they brought the owners of “Adult World” up on two felony counts of “promoting obscene material” for selling a couple of movies starring consenting adults to consenting adults. (source)

These prosecutors alleged that Jim Philpot and Wayne Philpot, as owners of the store, violated state law by selling “obscene materials” in their stores. Prosecutor Fletcher Long told the media that he devoted a lot of time and resources to shutting down this “threat.”

“We have made cases in the past against the clerks and the manager out there, and for the last year we’ve been investigating the gentlemen who own those businesses,” prosecutor Fletcher Long told the Times Herald. (source)

Long compared the stores to methamphetamine dealers. I guess that is why he devoted so much of his office’s resources to trying to put an end to the sale of dirty movies.

“I’ve heard the argument that these people are operating a business, and with the tough economic times we’re facing we should just leave them be, but my issue is with the law,” he said. “If someone was operating a business which sold marijuana or methamphetamine and the times were tough, would they have a problem with it? What is being sold out there is just as illegal as marijuana and methamphetamine, and is no less against the law to promote, sell or possess.” (source)

I’ll give him a pass on the “sell or promote” part, but apparently this dumbass doesn’t know about Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557 (1969). “If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his house, what books he may read or what films he may watch.”

Sometimes, when a public official places his hand on the Bible and swears to uphold the Constitution, sometimes he bungles that equation up and seems to think he is supposed to do the opposite. This happens most often in the former Confederacy, but this disease is not unique to the South, nor is the South without its patriotic citizens who understand what the Constitution is all about. That is particularly apparent today, as twelve Arkansans chipped away with that stereotype.

Fellow First Amendment Lawyers’ Association member, JD Obenberger was there to observe the trial, and he provided an account of the proceedings: Obenberger reported that the prosecution put on a case against the Philpots for selling two DVDs. One called “Reality” featured double penetration, some multiple ejaculations, some ass-to-mouth content. Another, called “Grudgefuck” included choking, throwing of a female onto a bed, stuffing a female’s mouth with underwear, ass to mouth, facial ejaculation, choking, and other material going to a fantasy of hostility.

Obenberger said (in an email), “The judge gave the defense almost no breaks and gave the prosecutor just about everything he wanted. The instructions included some way-over-the-line language including morality and decency. The judge denied the defense the opportunity to put on evidence of comparable material being sold elsewhere in the state because, apparently, he felt the sales were not so open and obvious as to make them relevant as to what the community knows about and accepts.” In other words, the judge didn’t seem too disposed toward the defendants.

One of the corporations got tossed out of the case because there was no evidence that it was involved in the sale of either video, but the rest of the charges and defendants were placed at the mercy of the jury. After four hours of deliberation, the jury acquitted all defendants on all counts.

Obenberger reported that this trial, aside from being an affront to liberty, was part of an ongoing vendetta:

This drama has been going on for years and it reflected a crusade by local politicians to close the remaining store down. There had been raids on the store with multiple arrests of clerks and the manager. At trial, the manager was given immunity and compelled to testify, fairly dramatic stuff, especially because she apparently is facing allegations of probation violation for continuing to work at the store, the probation being the result of a nolo plea and an arranged disposition.

One of the most important issues in an obscenity prosecution is the rule laid down in Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973) that the work must be “taken as a whole.” Government zealots usually like to cut out the most disturbing scenes and show those to the jury. Some shitty judges allow that. This judge may not have been friendly toward the defendants, but he allowed the movies to be shown in their entirety. This turned out to be key, because the films included documentary-style trailers. The prosecution only put in its “shorter summary” which conveniently omitted those parts. After the movies were shown, one juror applauded.

Obenberger reports:

In the closing argument by D.A. Fletcher Long, after he announced that these out of state defendants took all their money out of the state, leaving the residents of St. Francis County with only the filth, Fletcher went on to say that [the defense’s] arguments arguments would lead to the destruction of civilization – and the availability of videos showing dogs killing dogs. [Defense Attorney Louis Sirkin] objected at a sidebar and the jury went back to deliberate. [Sirkin] was then able to get access to the Internet in the courtroom and obtain a summary of [United States v. Stevens] which he read to the court, and he told the judge that though he could not print it out, the court could read the text of the opinion acknowledging First Amendment protection with respect to such materials. Judge Neal said that he’d heard about the case, and the Prosecutor was wrong to so argue, but he didn’t think it important enough to pull the jury out and tell them so.

In the end, the jury of six blacks, six whites, six men, and six women, acquitted on all counts. These twelve people, whoever they are, are hereby awarded the First Amendment Bad Ass award.

I am certain that aside from the guy who clapped, most of these jurors did not like the material they saw. Hell, even I don’t like the material they saw, and I’m about the most disgusting libertine that most of my acquaintances have ever met. But, that is not what freedom means. Freedom does not mean that a zealot prosecutor gets to look at material he does not like and decide that since his imaginary friend would disapprove, that his fellow citizens belong in prison for selling it. Freedom means being able to make the choice to watch “Grudgefuck” or to boycott it. To buy it and throw it in the trash, or to protest outside the store that sells it. These 12 Arkansans apparently understood that.

While we’re handing out First Amendment Bad Ass awards, I would like to hand a couple out to Louis Sirkin and Jamie Benjamin, both brothers of mine in the First Amendment lawyers’ association. They were defense counsel in the case, and because of them, and these 12 Arkansans, you are more free today than you were yesterday.

CNN: Most young christians are actually massive hypocrites

August 31, 2010

By J. DeVoy

CNN has a story about the hollowness of youth spirituality that is not terribly surprising, but affirming in some aspects.

The Pros: CNN notes that most young Christians are callow and spineless, claiming to believe in their religion while doing all the drugs, partaking in the materialism, and having all the premarital sex and children that their professed faith forbids. [Ed.’s note — we’re very much in favor of all of these things at the Legal Satyricon, but we’re also not running a cult bent on limiting its followers’ personal freedom.]  By latching onto the “we’re all sinners” meme, young Christians use God and fellow fallible believers as a rationalization tool for their choices; additionally, the strength in numbers of many Christians using God as an excuse for their behavior has an “esteemsters” effect, allowing individuals to justify the cognitive dissonance between their beliefs and their actions because everybody else is doing it, boosting individual and group self esteem.

The Cons: The article’s subject believes that the way to overcome this is by inspiring deeper, more passionate faith in young people.  If only they took their faith more seriously, they wouldn’t sin as they do.

Well, .500 is pretty good in baseball.

To wit: The last name of the girl pictured in the CNN piece is “Havard.” Prestigious?

Applause for Mayor Bloomberg

August 17, 2010

I have nothing to add:

Transcript of his speech:

“We’ve come here to Governors Island to stand where the earliest settlers first set foot in New Amsterdam, and where the seeds of religious tolerance were first planted. We come here to see the inspiring symbol of liberty that more than 250 years later would greet millions of immigrants in this harbor. And we come here to state as strongly as ever, this is the freest city in the world. That’s what makes New York special and different and strong.

“Our doors are open to everyone. Everyone with a dream and a willingness to work hard and play by the rules. New York City was built by immigrants, and it’s sustained by immigrants — by people from more than 100 different countries speaking more than 200 different languages and professing every faith. And whether your parents were born here or you came here yesterday, you are a New Yorker.

“We may not always agree with every one of our neighbors. That’s life. And it’s part of living in such a diverse and dense city. But we also recognize that part of being a New Yorker is living with your neighbors in mutual respect and tolerance. It was exactly that spirit of openness and acceptance that was attacked on 9/11, 2001.

“On that day, 3,000 people were killed because some murderous fanatics didn’t want us to enjoy the freedoms to profess our own faiths, to speak our own minds, to follow our own dreams, and to live our own lives. Of all our precious freedoms, the most important may be the freedom to worship as we wish. And it is a freedom that even here — in a city that is rooted in Dutch tolerance — was hard-won over many years.

“In the mid-1650s, the small Jewish community living in lower Manhattan petitioned Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant for the right to build a synagogue, and they were turned down. In 1657, when Stuyvesant also prohibited Quakers from holding meetings, a group of non-Quakers in Queens signed the Flushing Remonstrance, a petition in defense of the right of Quakers and others to freely practice their religion. It was perhaps the first formal political petition for religious freedom in the American colonies, and the organizer was thrown in jail and then banished from New Amsterdam.

“In the 1700s, even as religious freedom took hold in America, Catholics in New York were effectively prohibited from practicing their religion, and priests could be arrested. Largely as a result, the first Catholic parish in New York City was not established until the 1780s, St. Peter’s on Barclay Street, which still stands just one block north of the World Trade Center site, and one block south of the proposed mosque and community center.

“This morning, the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission unanimously voted to extend — not to extend — landmark status to the building on Park Place where the mosque and community center are planned. The decision was based solely on the fact that there was little architectural significance to the building. But with or without landmark designation, there is nothing in the law that would prevent the owners from opening a mosque within the existing building.

“The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right. And if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

“Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.

“This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.

“Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.

“For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes, as important a test. And it is critically important that we get it right.

“On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked, ‘What God do you pray to?’ (Bloomberg’s voice cracks here a little as he gets choked up.) ‘What beliefs do you hold?’

“The attack was an act of war, and our first responders defended not only our city, but our country and our constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked. (emphasis added)

“Of course, it is fair to ask the organizers of the mosque to show some special sensitivity to the situation, and in fact their plan envisions reaching beyond their walls and building an interfaith community. But doing so, it is my hope that the mosque will help to bring our city even closer together, and help repudiate the false and repugnant idea that the attacks of 9/11 were in any ways consistent with Islam.

“Muslims are as much a part of our city and our country as the people of any faith. And they are as welcome to worship in lower Manhattan as any other group. In fact, they have been worshipping at the site for better, the better part of a year, as is their right. The local community board in lower Manhattan voted overwhelmingly to support the proposal. And if it moves forward, I expect the community center and mosque will add to the life and vitality of the neighborhood and the entire city.

“Political controversies come and go, but our values and our traditions endure, and there is no neighborhood in this city that is off-limits to God’s love and mercy, as the religious leaders here with us can attest.”

FSM Displays His Awesome Might

June 15, 2010

His blessed sauceliness has declared, “Thou shalt have no other monsters before me.”

H/T Jessica K.

Zealot’s censorship attempt backfires (the best $40.96 I ever spent).

May 6, 2010

Tina Harden of Longwood, Flori-duh decided that four books in the Lake Mary public library did not meet her standards of morality. The Cecily von Ziegesar books Reckless, The It Girl, Notorious, and Don’t You Forget About Me apparently clashed with Ms. Harden’s view of what other people ought to read. So she refused to return them from the library.

“If I turn them in, they will be put back into circulation and they’ll be available for more young girls to read,” said the mother of three, who keeps the four books hidden in a closet. “Some material is inappropriate for minors.”

Harden said she doesn’t want them banned, but she does want the library to put a warning label on the four titles — one in the Gossip Girl series by Cecily von Ziegesar, and three in a spin-off series called It Girl — and make them unavailable to minors. (source)

The Seminole County Library agreed to reshelve them in the adult reading section, but refused to make them unavailable to minors. Jane Peterson, the county’s library services manager said “If we denied access to this particular title, it would be censoring.” (source)

That’s not good enough for Harden, who said that as a taxpayer she should have a say in which books land on the libraries’ shelves. “They’re supposed to be public servants,” she said.

Unfortunately, Harden’s view of what a “public servant” is supposed to do is a bit skewed.

I used to live in Lake Mary, and I was unfortunately not very surprised that this story took place there. There is a mormon temple right around the corner from this library. My former homeowners association’s treasurer (who claimed that he had a “bachelor’s degree in law” put up a confederate flag to welcome a black family to the neighborhood. That said, Seminole County isn’t all white trash, and they deserve access to books just like the rest of us.

So I called the library and told them that I would pay to replace the books. They were most grateful.

After my check went out, I received the following email from the library:

Ms Harden will be returning the books to the Northwest Branch today. We have also already received several donations of the books. We appreciate you offering to give a donation but since she is returning the books I wanted to let you know that you do not have to send us a check.

Of course, they can keep my $40.96.

Nice work, Harden, you nitwit… now, not only did you fail miserably, but more people than ever before will now have access to the books.

Pope pwned, merry Christmas!

December 24, 2009

By  J. DeVoy

A woman got a little too carried away with the holiday spirit and tackled the pontiff during his midnight mass procession.  And you thought this kind of barbarism only happened in lines to burst through Walmart’s doors.  Unless her wish was a night in the slammer, she won’t be having a very merry Christmas.

Jesus and His Blasphemous Nails

September 30, 2009
Jesus Does His Nails by artist Dana Ellyn

Jesus Does His Nails by artist Dana Ellyn

By Tatiana von Tauber

Today is Blasphemy Day and its objective is to “open up all religious beliefs to the same level of free inquiry, discussion and criticism to which all other areas of academic interest are subjective” according to Center for Inquiry, the host of the Blasphemy Day Artist Showcase exhibition. Meet Dana Ellyn. She’s the showcase artist and she’s getting lots of attention she doesn’t want for a painting which was spurred by creativity and a theme.

“I don’t want to be the poster child for atheism. It is a fact that I don’t believe in god or practice any religion – but that is not what defines me or my art.”

The attention Ellyn is getting is on her Jesus Does His Nails painting and the religious community is angry. CNN interviewed her last night. Pharyngula picked her up as did Politics Daily. Bill Donohue is mad and a slew of religious folks have been sending her hate mail. That’s nothing new in the controversial world of art and free speech. However, I got an inside scoop to some questions a pastor who’s a self announced “fundamental Christian” asked Ellyn. The question which poked me hardest served as an example of the crux of the problem with intolerance and that is simply blatant assumption:

“What would you say to someone like me, a Fundamentalist Christian, who has a hard time believing your statement that your “point is not to offend” after viewing paintings like “Jesus Does His Nails“, “Silly Rabbit, Myths Are For Kids” and “Bottled at the Source“? It would seem, in my opinion, the offensiveness is not only intended, but is quite possibly the objective of such pieces. Your response?”

Dana Ellyn was kinder than I would have been because if Ellyn really wanted to insult, she as many others, could find truly insulting and offensive imagery to blast at the religious community.  What Ellyn has is provocative art and that’s one of art’s purposes. Ellyn said she’s never consciously and intently sat down at an easel to paint something that would purposefully offend. What Dana Ellyn does – as many or most artists do – is she sits down at an easel with intent to provoke human emotion in order to ignite discussion, thought, critical thinking, or simple pondering. As Ellyn states,

“I hope they (art pieces) foster open-minded discussions. And perhaps induce a giggle or two along the way.” (Personally, I love her take on motherhood. Hook me up, please!)

To be fair, as I always try, of course the religious minded have the right to speak their mind too. That’s what freedom of speech is about – everyone having a voice. However, when speaking one’s mind turns into crazy forms of verbal harassment with blatant lack of tolerance as seen in the many comments on this article, one has to wonder what sunday school or God his behavior and ethics are modeled after when he attacks with things like Dana Ellyn must be stopped and punished. To Ellyn, that’s no longer simply a heated difference of opinion; it’s conscious – and proud – intent of wishing someone bad via punishment and full censorship for what is ultimately subjective expression. Ellyn views her art – as explained referencing to her piece Bottled At the Source (Dive Wine)- “as a literal depiction of what I had read – realizing that people may be offended but my inspiration for the piece was solely rooted in the desire to ‘illustrate’ the written words which explained the communion.”

Freedom of voice and expression are natural birthrights, yet those rights require self-responsibility. The responsibility some feel is in those who make controversial statements or art and that’s a thin line but really, the responsibility rests on those who interpret what is ultimately one subjective view in a sea of billions. Clearly, it’s a self-made problem.

Ellyn’s paintings hardly seem something to fear and yet, so many do -not the paintings of course but their message which shakes faith just a bit if not a lot. That’s not new in the ways of confronting firm ideology over generations but if Dana Ellyn’s few religious themes provoke people to ask her questions, then she’s initiated some discussion while expressing her freedom of expression. When those very people twist things on her and, as the pastor example shows, basically spell out for her what she thinks and intends – aka assumption- then it feeds the fear of “losing my religion” .

Dana Ellyn’s paintings are fresh interpretations of myth and reality and the absurdity which surrounds us daily. She plays with her inner child and together they paint a “new world” to adults who take themselves, their ideas and their God too seriously and literally. Lighten up. It’s only a painting and Jesus is only what one makes him to be and nothing more. Diversity demands tolerance. Tolerance requires freedom of expression and freedom of expression is what Americans advocate.  Some do, anyway.


Here’s the CNN article, which slants a bit in Ellyn’s favor.  It’s a good article.

“Why I do it” — An Erotic Documentarian’s Viewpoint

May 21, 2009

by Tony Comstock
Special Guest to the Legal Satyricon

In a world that seems awash in sexualized imagery, why is it that so little of this imagery speaks to the common pleasurable reality of sex? We’ve been producing the “Real People, Real Life, Real Sex” erotic documentary series for some time now, and I’ve heard the same kinds of questions dozens, perhaps even hundreds of times from people who know and love our work, from therapists and counselors, from people in pain about their sexuality, and from people enjoying their sexuality as part of full and wholesome lives. Over and over, I am asked, “Why are films like ours, films that depict sex in a way that is joyous and cinematic, almost nonexistent?” “Why are art films that contain explicit sex always so downbeat?” “Why does pornography look and feel so different from the other sorts of visual images we see?” “How does what we do — and do not — see in cinema affect our understanding of our own sexuality?”

I’d like to say the answer is that I have a special insight into the human sexual condition as it relates to cinema, but it’s a little more complicated than that. To truly understand why sex on film looks the way it does, one needs to look at the history of sexual imagery in cinema, the history of obscenity laws, and the business and technology of image making. Once you have that background, you can explore how cinematic images actually work, and how that relates to cinematic depictions of sexuality. I have spent many years investigating that background, and the more I learn, the more I am driven to make the films that we produce.

I have been a photographer my entire adult life. I believe passionately in the power of the moving image to help us understand who we are as human beings. I’ve documented unspeakable suffering, violence, and death. For that, I’ve been called a courageous witness.

In bearing witness to sex, I sometimes get called other, less charitable names. Sometimes this hurts my feelings. Sometimes it makes me feel like quitting.

I bear witness to the sex act because I believe that depictions of truly joyous and wholesome sex — depictions that represent the overwhelmingly positive and important role that our sexuality plays in our humanity — are all but absent from the cinematic landscape. Moreover, in an age where it is easier than ever to see sexually explicit imagery, it is harder than ever to find imagery that reflects the common reality of sex: that sex is nice; that sex is normal; that sex is good.

I’d like to share a comment left on my blog about three years ago. As you might imagine, doing this work and demanding that it be taken seriously can sometimes be a struggle. But when I despair, I go back and read this:

I have issues with sex. I’m a sexual abuse survivor. Anyone who’s been sexually abused comes into sexuality with a handbag and two trunks of emotional baggage.

When we were trying to conceive there was a blatant point to having sex: having a baby. That made it okay. After all, society couldn’t look down it’s nose at a married couple — young, still facing fertility problems, trying to have a child.

And then when the child is born, you get the excuse of body recuperation. And if your child is sick, you get a bonus 6 month reprieve. However, there does come a point where sexuality, motherhood, couplehood, and life clash. I’m tired. Sex requires energy. So does doing the dishes. But sex requires an emotional investment, something I’m not ready to make, something I feel inferior making. So the dishes it is. And laundry for good character.

I feel conflicted by sexual imagery. I sometimes like what I see. I sometimes like it a lot. But sometimes it scares me. I’m not pretty like Eva Longoria. I’m not thin or have shiny hair. I don’t have nice breasts. Mine are saggy and droopy and currently nourish the body of a very rotund 9 month old. They serve a purpose, and purposeful breasts aren’t sexy — to me anyway. And besides, they don’t LOOK like the breasts I see on TV. Perfect, sculpted breasts. Breasts that boys like. And bodies. Don’t get me started on the bodies.

What we see isn’t real. It’s said over and over. I know there are 50 people off-set creating the magic. What they’re feeling isn’t real. What they’re doing isn’t real. And it makes me wonder if what I’m doing is okay. Emotionally un-investing myself in my relationship. Because really, I can’t ask family about sex. I can’t ring my mother-in-law up and ask her if she ever felt this way when looking at her naked body. Or ask her if she felt hung up on emotional issues when her husband’s hand touched her bottom.

Abuse survivors bring guilt into the game as well. Not only do we have more bodily hang-ups, failed relationships and mental problems, but we have guilt about sexuality. About wanting sex. About feeling GOOD about sex.

Today though, something struck me in just in the right spot. I had one of Oprah’s famed “a-ha” moments. A link took me to Dubbed: “Real People, Real Life, Real Sex” the site explores sexuality for real. In a documentary style, we meet and enjoy the couple and then venture into the velvety movement of their bodies.

I must say. I was stunned. I’m not a fan of porn. I am disgusted by a lot of what is sold to men. The fairytale behind that isn’t charming, in my opinion. But watching these clips I thought, wow. Oh my goodness. So THIS is sex. For real. And I loved the charming banter of the couples. I feel grown up right now. Like a real adult. I’ve confronted one of my demons — enjoying a sexual experience — and I can actively admit that I enjoyed it. Which is probably a lot more information that you’ve wanted to hear from the mother of a child who doesn’t do a lot of sleeping. If you’ve got the time and the inclination I encourage you to take a step into the realm of Comstock films. It’s the first step I’ve taken to embracing that humans are allowed to be sexual beings. – Jen P.

Award-winning filmmaker Tony Comstock frequently lectures on the legal and business realities that shape and too often warp the sexual imagery we see. Drawing on examples from Hollywood’s history of self-censorship, landmark obscenity cases, and the collision of technology and image-making, Comstock offers an expanded framework for understanding of how what we do and do not see in cinema effects our understanding of our own sexuality.

Obama Art Unveiling Suppressed

April 29, 2009

by Jason Fischer

Artist Michael D’Antuono was scheduled to publicly unveil his painting (pictured below) in New York’s Union Square Park this morning, to commemorate Obama’s 100th day in office. However, due to “thousands of emails and phone calls; online blogs and other public commentary received in the first 48 hours following its release”, the event was canceled. (source)

Should this speech be suppressed? What do you think?

Save Cynthia Logan

April 14, 2009

If Def Leppard were around today, maybe they would name their album "Sexting"

If Def Leppard were around today, maybe they would name their album 'Sexting'

I have great compassion for Cynthia Logan, but she must be stopped. Well, more to the point, it is time to save her from those who are exploiting her for their own gain.

Cynthia Logan is the mother of Jessie Logan. Jessie Logan made what some might call a “bad decision.” She took sexually provocative photographs of herself and sent them to her high-school boyfriend. When the two of them broke up, he childishly sent them to all his buddies, and they forwarded them, and so on. Jessie recently took her own life, and as often happens her mom has been making the talk show circuit calling for “tougher laws.”

Jessie’s parents are attempting to launch a national campaign seeking laws to address “sexting” – the practice of forwarding and posting sexually explicit cell-phone photos online. The Logans also want to warn teens of the harassment, humiliation and bullying that can occur when that photo gets forwarded. (source)

I don’t want to cause any pain to the Logans, but lets assign blame where it is due before we start running off at the mouth that we should add new laws to the web of idiotic laws we already have. Why would Jessie be so despondent? Was it really all about “sexting?” Is the “sexting can kill” statement a whole lot of BS? Parry Aftab says that Sexting Can Lead to Death! On the other hand, Dr. Marty Klein tells us “Sexting” Can’t, Repeat, Can’t Kill Anyone.”

For the record, I’m going with the Doctor over the lawyer on this one.

What gets conveniently buried in this story is that just before Jessie Logan committed suicide, she attended the funeral of a 16 year old classmate who took his own life. What is completely omitted from the coverage is any call for personal responsibility — or perhaps any mention that our society’s absolute paranoia and erotophobia might have contributed to Jessie’s death. Why? Because the “fear of sex for profit” industry wouldn’t have anything to sell if those factors were taken into account.

The fact is that every damn kid thinks about suicide — it is a normal part of teenage hormone-driven angst – and teens require advanced parenting. Teen suicide doesn’t need an engine like “sexting,” and Jessie Logan is unfortunately not special. She’s just one of many teenagers whose parents didn’t see the warning signs and now they are looking to find someone, anyone, but themselves to blame — an eminently normal and forgivable reaction. I’m not saying that Jessie’s parents are to blame. They are as blame-worthy and blame-less as any parent of a teenager who commits suicide. They are blame-worthy for not seeing the signs, but blame-less because frankly, they can be almost impossible to interpret until after the fact – as virtually any parent or friend of a teenager who has taken his or her own life will tell you.

Do we need new laws? Is “sexting” really “dangerous” as those in the fear-mongering industry want us to believe? No, it sure isn’t. Lesson 1 is to communicate with your children about the over-arching issue here — teen suicide. When I was a kid, my parents suggested that if I ever wanted to kill myself, I could just decide to fuck my life up instead. I always kept that in mind as a backup plan.

Lesson 2 is to teach your kids to either not sext, or if they want to be comfortable with their sexuality and do so — to be prepared for the consequences. If those consequences arise, they just might need to understand that high school is only four years long, and once they get to college they can be whoever they want to be. I know a lot of girls who got tagged with the “slut” or “whore” label. You know how they dealt with it? Some reinvented themselves when they left for college. That’s part of the wonder of going away to college. Some just reinvented themselves in high school, turning Goth or some such silliness. Others reveled in the label and enjoyed their youth in a shower of promiscuity. Lets face it, sluts have more fun, and usually those doing the taunting are at their life’s unhappily low peak. You want proof? Go to your next high school reunion and look where the bullies are today.

Jessie Logan’s epitaph should not be written by the fear-mongering industry. If it is, there will be more Jessie Logans, they’ll just use stupid 18 year old logic to make permanent decisions about another temporary problem. But, if her epitaph is written by the fearmongers, we’ll have exactly the same number of teen suicides, but at least one more dumb law that encroaches on our liberties.

The bigger problem is the fact that the “fear of sex” business, both the right-wing religious nuts and the left-wing “junior anti-sex league” types has turned any exposure of a healthy interest in sexuality into something that an 18 year old girl needs to fear and be ashamed of in the first place. Instead of running around the country with shrill “warnings” about the “danger” of sexting — maybe Cynthia Logan’s message should be to tell kids that their interest in sex is normal and that there are options to suicide.

Losing a family member does not make you an authority on anything except grief. Cynthia Logan has the right to lecture on how to cope with losing a daughter — but losing a child does not give anyone the mental capacity to draft laws nor to lobby for other fools to draft them. In fact, it does the opposite.

Cynthia Logan should be forgiven for reacting foolishly. Any mother who loses a child shouldn’t be expected to think clearly. However, it is clear that she’s being exploited by people with a vested financial and political interest in fear mongering. It is up to us to stop that exploitation.

Iowa Idiot Calls for “Executive Order” Staying State Supreme Court Decision on Gay Marriage

April 13, 2009

Bob Vander Plaats on the campaign trail

Bob Vander Plaats on the campaign trail

This is a new “tactic” by the American Taliban.

In Iowa, Bob Vander Plaats, a Republican candidate for governor has issued a statement that demands that Iowa’s current governor “immediately intervene” to set aside the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling that the Equal Protection clause of the Iowa Constitution requires that marriage be offered to all Iowans.

“I don’t want to wait two years,” said Vander Plaats. “I want this governor to issue an executive order that says there will be a stay on all same-sex marriages until the people of Iowa have the right to vote. If I were governor today, I would issue that executive order immediately.” (source)

And if I were a leprechaun, I’d shit gold nuggets and piss Guinness beer.

In the next election, when the people of Iowa are considering their choice for governor, I hope that they will remember Vander Plaats’ stupidity and his bush-like misunderstanding of what the executive can do. The governor doesn’t get to issue “executive orders” that overturn supreme court decisions.

H/T: Brian B. Vakulskas