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.

WTF Wisconsin?

December 31, 2010

by Jason Fischer

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled this week that committing a sex crime is not necessarily a prerequisite for ordering a convict to register as a sex offender (source). I tried reading the opinion to figure this nonsense out, but my head nearly exploded when I read the excerpted sentence below, and I had to stop.

In the present case, the parties agree that a fundamental right is not implicated . . . . (source)

Shock study: Increased availability of child porn results in lower rates of child abuse

December 20, 2010

By J. DeVoy

A new study from the Czech Republic claims that the availability of child pornography has led to lower rates of child abuse.  This result allegedly is consistent with similar observations in Denmark, Germany, Finland, Sweden and the USA.  Here’s the research’s crux:

The findings support the theory that potential sexual offenders use child pornography as a substitute for sex crimes against children. While the authors do not approve of the use of real children in the production or distribution of child pornography, they say that artificially produced materials might serve a purpose.

The inference to be drawn from this research is that legalizing and further increasing child pornography’s availability would decrease the incidence of child abuse.  The problem with these studies, and from which this one does not seem to be immune, is that there is no control for alternate or outside variables.  This research shows a correlation between availability of child porn – despite its illegality in most nations – and the decrease in child abuse, but ignores other explanations and ultimately cannot establish a causal relationship.

This leads the critical reader to a disturbing place: What content competes with child pornography?  For one, there’s the entire genre of “barely legal” porn – just do a search for “teen” and the market’s representation is readily apparent.  We don’t care or pass judgment on any kind of porn, so long as its made by consenting adults, but it seems far-fetched to think that its producers aren’t at least cognizant of the child porn market when they specialize in cheerleader themes, models in braces, and pigtails.  To their credit, they are providing a legal alternative and monetizing a market segment that can otherwise ruin lives if handled irresponsibly.

There is also the existence of virtual child pornography.  In 2002, the Free Speech Coalition won a decisive victory for expression over the DOJ in Free Speech Coalition v. Ashcroft, 535 U.S. 234 (2002).  In that case, the Supreme Court held that 18 U.S.C. §§ 2256(8)(B) and (D) were unconstitutionally overbroad, as their prohibitions on virtual child pornography and production or distribution of material pandered as child pornography – even if it is not – captured speech that was not unprotected within the scope of its earlier decisions in Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973) (defining the test for obscenity) or New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747 (1982) (allowing states to ban child pornography sales, as it was not protected speech).  While undoubtedly a small market – and one I have no interest in personally investigating – this allowance for computer-generated images and other “virtual” child pornography displaces the demand for actual child pornography, yet may contribute to the overall decline in child abuse crimes.

Other possible reasons for the decreased incidence of child abuse despite increased child pornography availability may be more related to features of criminal law rather than the adult marketplace or First Amendment doctrines.  First, state and federal laws may have become stricter against child offenses, inhibiting child abuse despite the availability of child pornography.  20 years ago, implementing a ubiquitous data repository for every sex offender to be mapped out like many states have done under their respective Megan’s Law provisions, as the internet was not available.  But today, those databases are active and seemingly everywhere, ruining lives while providing dubious benefits to public safety.  Depending on the relevant state’s laws, viewing child pornography may carry a lesser prison sentence than actually touching a child, and be the economically efficient choice on that basis.  Because fulfilling one’s desire is going to result in penalties and sex offender registration either way, a rational pedophile is going to choose the path that costs him the least amount of his life behind bars.  Furthermore, downloading child porn is more likely to put him into a federal prison upon conviction or reaching a plea deal – a depressing place, but far preferable to many state prisons.  Another reason for this perceived decline in child abuse is simply that reporting it has gone down.  With families more broken than ever in recent history, do parents care, and do their children even tell them if they were molested?

Ignoring these covariants and assuming the relationship between child porn availability and child abuse is causative, everyone from social scientists and policy-makers to parents is left with significant moral questions: Is it preferable to end child pornography so that the actors are not abused if it comes at the expense of the broader child population?  Or is it preferable that the actors suffer so fewer random children are victimized?  Ultimately this is a moral and ethical question that could be resolved with further research, but cannot be conclusively “answered” with any empirical truth.  Ultimately, society does not tolerate child abuse.  While the age of consent is an arbitrary line, the asymmetries of power and knowledge between adults and minors, wherever the line is drawn, makes preying on the young, the weak, the naive and inexperienced, so abhorrent.  Even if a 16-year-old is capable of forming subjective consent, the line is drawn at 18 (for production purposes) because, well, the line has to be drawn somewhere.

Should a causative or at least highly correlative relationship between child pornography and child abuse in fact exist, it would not be the first time such a finding was made.  In a study tracking rape data from 1980 to 2000, there was a .95 r^2 correlation between internet access and per capita incidence of rape; in the four states where internet access was highest, rapes per capita fell 27%; the four states with the least internet availability saw the per capita incidence of rape increase 53%.  Granted, this study as well was subject to the covariants I mentioned above, as the states with highest internet access (New York and California, among others) tend to be the most liberal and presumably disinclined to rape, but a .95 r^2 is damn high.  If not causative, it at least suggests that pornography was a meaningful substitute for sex among potential rapists.  Where pornography was not available, the incidence of rape increased, and porn’s inaccessibility very likely was a factor.  At the very least, it controverts the feminist claptrap that sex is about power — wrong, sugar: It’s about sex.  This consideration is orthogonal to the Czech Republic study, though, as it does not address child pornography and the important social, legal and political issues it entails.  Virtually nobody objects to consenting adults filming their sex acts; nobody can ignore the problems presented when children are involved with sexual content.

Bob Guccione belated RIP

November 1, 2010

by Charles Platt

I’m slightly stunned to learn that Bob Guccione died ten days ago. Why would I care? Because he was an idiot-savant of the sexual revolution who also launched Omni magazine, a bastard mix of science fiction and science. It spawned a slew of imitators, including Discover, which I think is the sole survivor.

I used to write for Omni, and thus was invited to a party at Guccione’s brownstone on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in the early 1980s. Sinister Sicilians in dark blue suits stood guarding million-dollar oil paintings that were hung casually, as if they were mere reproductions. A swimming pool occupied the entire basement. Strange-looking women with big mouths and revealing dresses were tottering around on high heels, and I wondered who they were, until Isaac Asimov remarked to me, “It’s quite an experience to see real glamor models in person.” Belatedly, I realized that the women were Penthouse Pets.

Guccione was not a very civilized character, but he played a role in securing the sexual freedoms which we now take for granted. Hefner, at Playboy, had brought naked pictures to the masses by wrapping them in intellectual pretensions (Norman Mailer used to be published in Playboy). Guccione made Hefner look old-school with a more in-your-face attitude and, of course, photographs showing pubic hair. Larry Flynt, in turn, made Guccione look staid by revealing the inner folds of female genitalia, and then the World-Wide Web superceded Flynt by showing pictures of absolutely everything else, from bestiality to fisting. On this tawdry basis we affirmed serious intellectual liberties to write anything and depict anything with impunity, so long as it doesn’t involve children. Generally, I think this is a good thing.

When porn first appeared on the Web, I felt sure that federal legislators would find a way to shut it down. But the Communications Decency Act was deemed unconstitutional, and crusaders for clean living never figured out a way to get around that. So here we are now, in a world where acts of unspeaking depravity are a mere mouse-click away. Like most print publishers, Guccione never adapted to it, and he had to sell his mansion and his art long before he died.

Because who cares if it’s your kid?

November 1, 2010

By J. DeVoy

Troubling news from Britain, America’s canary in the coalmine and a target of immense reverence from college students who lived there – in a nice part of town, with other Americans – while studying abroad.  From a Spectator article arguing for the complete end of DNA paternity testing:

At a stroke, the one thing that women had going for them has been taken away, the one respect in which they had the last laugh over their husbands and lovers. DNA tests are an anti-feminist appliance of science, a change in the balance of power between the sexes that we’ve hardly come to terms with. And that holds true even though many women have the economic potential to provide for their children themselves. (source.)

First and foremost, let’s put the shoe on the other foot: Aren’t feminists constantly calling for tort consequences against men who make minor verbal misrepresentations to get laid?  Certain women seek to denude men of their tools for getting what they want while keeping their own.  Also, it seems imbalanced for feminists to deride men for using verbal and physical tactics to make themselves more appealing  – “game,” writ large – while 1) they do the same thing with makeup and dating guides like The Rules, and 2) the “one respect in which they had the last laugh over their husbands and lovers” has consequences much farther reaching than waking up one morning, rolling over and realizing you were – by your own consent – pwned by some dude with a weak chin and guyliner.

The way McDonagh describes her venomous opposition to paternity testing in the article reveals much about those who would take it away: It’s not about equality, or even fairness, but about power. (I want to note now that this is not the majority or even a sizable number of women, but a vocal segment nonetheless; this is addressed at the end of the post.)  Through science, men have empowered themselves to determine whether they are the parents of the children borne by their lovers, spouses, or complete strangers alleging paternity.  A particularly shrill segment of society wants to end that for no reason than consolidating power for themselves – ultimately in the form of child support expropriated from men by the state – and by using shame to do so.

The next Bridget Jones movie may turn this under-discussed issue into a talking point. For those who didn’t follow the columns that took our heroine into the next stage of female angst — about being childless rather than single — the gist is that BJ becomes pregnant, but she is not entirely sure by whom, having been seeing the nice Colin Firth boyfriend, and the bad Hugh Grant one, in pretty short order. The matter could have been fruitfully ambiguous, with Bridget having a choice of fathers, but it was resolved in sordid contemporary fashion, one of the candidates being wrestled to the ground by Bridget’s girlfriends, so as to swab his inside cheek for a DNA sample. And so she found out the paternity of the baby and the most ancient game of humankind, Guess the Daddy, wasn’t played any more.

Bridget Jones never quite caught on like Sex and the City did, but the movies have always had a following.  With this third movie, the die is cast and a seed is planted in the public psyche; people who never would have considered the implications of paternity fraud will have the opportunity to question whether it’s right for them, like some service touted on Oprah, and if they shouldn’t settle for less than the father they feel their child deserves.  Paying the bill for this, of course, will be men, as detailed in a lengthy New York Times exposé from November 2009.

Now I can see that some men might rather welcome an end to the old-fashioned scenario whereby they find themselves held to account for the paternity of children born to girls with whom they just happen to have had sex.

You don’t say.

The actor Jude Law recently found himself in just this position, and unhesitatingly and ungallantly demanded a DNA test.

Reframed: Jude Law saw millions of dollars potentially flying out of his pocket to a child that possibly wasn’t his.  True to the Reagan maxim, he verified what he had been told by the mother.  He saved himself a life of financial hardship to support someone else’s offspring, as any rational person would do.  Is the reasonableness of this decision noted?  Is the fact that this is what any mother or father would counsel their son to do recognized?  No, the reason Jude Law shouldn’t have tethered himself to a child that wasn’t his is shame.  It was ungallant for Law to demand a paternity test.  Surely he should have “manned up” and paid someone vast sums of money for being cunning enough to accuse him of being the father.  Similarly, I have my own characterization for this argument: bullshit.

By contrast, the old situation, in which women presented men with a child, and the man either did the decent thing and offered support, or made a run for it, allowed women a certain leeway. The courtesan in Balzac who, on becoming pregnant, unhesitatingly sought, and got, maintenance from two of her men friends, can’t have been the only one. Uncertainty allows mothers to select for their children the father who would be best for them.

Finally, and with refreshing honesty, the article reaches why certain women fear DNA paternity testing.  DNA testing requires mothers to go with the dads they have, rather than the ones they want.  Admittedly, this doesn’t address step parents or adoptive parents who stand in to raise someone else’s children, but McDonagh’s article similarly does not address this point — as they are fully aware of the family situation they enter, rather than being deceived into raising a child as their own, step parents and adoptive parents seem outside the scope of this situation.  When it comes to cuckoldry, though, there is no better asset in the resource-gathering war than ambiguity.

Banning DNA testing essentially would reduce paternity disputes to the dark ages.  It does not seem unreasonable for a woman to want the most honorable and successful man to raise her child.  He would be the most likely to accept, too, fearing the social repercussions of being accused of not taking responsibility for his child.

Many men have, of course, ended up raising children who were not genetically their own, but really, does it matter?

Yes.  Only in this sick, broken world, sliding into a new dark age with hollow politically correct platitudes serving as truth, could the author ask this question deadpan.  Many parents lovingly adopt or raise children who are not their own, but this ignores McDonagh’s broader question of “does [paternity] matter?”  Legally, and for the cuckold who believes the child is his, and raises it under those circumstances – rather than as an adoptive parent or step parent – it absolutely matters.

If DNA testing ever was to be banned in the United States, it would raise an interesting constitutional question.  Matters of birth and abortion are generally covered by a broadly defined right of privacy that governs martial relationships and reproduction.  First established in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), then expanded to cover abortion by Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and sex in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).  Under Roe‘s progeny, a woman has broad rights over her pregnancy and ability to take it to term, but states may require DNA tests after birth to confirm or deny paternity.  If this practice is banned, it may create a question of whether child support payments would constitute an unconstitutional taking of property.  When paying judgments or taxes, the government takes steps to ensure that the right person is paying the judgment.  Even now, the government has stepped in to halt a foreclosure process that cannot produce the notes of delinquent mortgage holders — despite many of them rightly being subject to foreclosure.  Whether the government can take property from a putative father based on a woman’s say-so, and without using testing that was previously available, would be an important but dangerously uncertain question.

There is an essential caveat to this position.  This post does not apply to all women, or seek to imply it addresses all of them.  In fact, the segment of society seeking to end DNA paternity testing is small and on the fringe of political activism.  Similarly, these changes would affect only a small portion of the population. Historically, however, it is the squeaky wheel that receives the grease.

Among my age group, the ideas of marriage and children are met with a blend of derision and fear.  Men, women and children didn’t change; the legal and social atmosphere did — and neither gender seems particularly happy about it.  A couple’s higher earning spouse lives in fear of divorce, particularly in no-fault divorce states.  The costs associated with divorce and child support contribute to men being unwilling to marry.  Based on the concern over men’s hesitation to marry, it seems that women don’t envy the prospect of endlessly dating and potentially missing out on the brass ring of marriage, either.

Removing the protection of DNA paternity testing will only agitate existing tension and mistrust between the genders, which neither of them seems to have particularly wanted.  Nobody wants to be divorced, or live constantly on guard to the prospect of his or her partner being constantly solicited – or soliciting others – in pursuit of the elusive “something better” that we’ve been told is waiting for us.  Few men or women will ever need DNA paternity testing, but eliminating its existence likely will create paranoia and distrust between men and women that otherwise would not have existed.  It will only serve to make degrading gender relations worse and, in the end, hurt everyone.

The safest sex ever

October 5, 2010

By J. DeVoy

Ultra-safe sex in 27 short steps.

Guatemala has regrettable, sloppy hookup with United States

October 1, 2010

By J. DeVoy

And all it got to show for it was Syphilis and Gonorrhea!

No, this isn’t some tribute to Larry Flynt and Hustler’s famous ad about Jerry Falwell; we actually did this.  Consistent with the CIA’s penchant for involuntary testing of chemicals – such as LSD on Americans and the French, and extreme plutocratic capitalism throughout Central America – this time an unnamed branch of researchers infected hundreds of Guatemalans with gonorrhea and syphilis without their knowledge. (source.)

Naturally, Hillary Clinton and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius fell over themselves to over-apologize.

“The sexually transmitted disease inoculation study conducted from 1946-1948 in Guatemala was clearly unethical,” according to the joint statement from Clinton and Sebelius. “Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health. We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices.”

This is an unfortunate development, even if its roots are more than a generation old.  But, as with most failed social service programs, the road to hell was paved with good intentions.

The researchers were trying to determine whether the antibiotic penicillin could prevent syphilis infection, not just cure it, Reverby writes. After the subjects were infected with the syphilis bacteria — through visits with prostitutes who had the disease and direct inoculations — it is unclear whether they were later cured or given proper treatment, Reverby notes.

Many of the test subjects were prisoners and patients in Guatemala’s National Mental Health Hospital.  Even if they wanted to refuse the study, they could not.  The United States isn’t solely to blame in this situation, though, as it had the Guatemalan government’s cooperation.

The STD experiments were conducted with the cooperation of the Guatemalan government. During that time, the U.S. — which had a long association with the Guatemalan military — exerted a powerful influence in the Latin American country, largely in order to protect the interests of the American-based United Fruit Company. In 1954 the U.S. CIA helped overthrow Guatemala’s democratically elected president because of land reforms that opposed the multinational corporation.

Many countries have had bad hookups with the United States, including Iraq and Afghanistan (and those were in the 1980s, before shaving and waxing came into vogue – yikes!).  This is one of the first times, though, that regrettable diplomatic relations have carried the same consequences of similarly ill-planned sexual experiences.