Category Archives: Sex

Remembering ‘American Girl in Italy’

american_girl_in_italy

The girl in the famous photograph became an old woman, and died this week at the age of 90.

I just thought I’d post the picture and see if y’all wanted to discuss it. I hope this will be seen within the bounds of Fair Use, because I can’t afford to buy rights to photos.

It should stir all sorts of reactions based in all sorts of worldviews. At one end of the spectrum is the attitude of the woman herself, who “said the image represented nothing more than admiration and curiosity and was ‘a symbol of a woman having an absolutely wonderful time.'” She elaborated:

“Women look at that picture and feel indignant, angry,” she told the Times. “They say, ‘That poor woman. We should be able to walk wherever we want to and not be threatened.’ As gently as I can, I explain I was not feeling fear. There was no danger because it was a far different time.”

On the other end of the spectrum is the whole #metoo movement, and the notion that what the photo depicts is barely distinguishable from sexual assault.

As for me, I’m somewhere in between. I personally would never behave like the men in the picture, and yes, some of that is a matter of character — a gentleman does not act that way. But maybe I’m just less honest than those guys. Also, I’m not Italian and I wasn’t alive in 1951.

My wife backpacked around Europe with another girl the summer before we met, and in Italy she experienced worse than what is depicted here. Which, needless to say, displeases me and makes me feel protective. But it happened before I knew her, and she came through it OK, and, generally, seems to have done OK taking care of herself without me.

My reaction to that picture lies somewhere between a wry smile at human nature and a contemptuous “look at those a__holes….”

Sex, and the way people are about sex, are complicated things. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully understand it with regard to myself, much less other people. This picture remains iconic because it depicts the power of sex both as a creative and destructive force.

What does it say to you?

OK, Trav, this is kind of silly

This came in from SC Democrats over the weekend:

A PORNSTAR, THE PRESIDENT, AND HENRY MCMASTER
Henry McMaster rolled out the red carpet for President Trump, will he do the same for the president’s mistress this weekend?330px-Stormy_Daniels_2010
Columbia, SC — Over the last several days, the Wall Street Journal revealed that President Trump’s lawyer used a Delaware corporation to pay hush money to pornstar Stormy Daniels weeks before the 2016 election to keep her from revealing an affair she had with the president while he was married to his third wife, First Lady Melania Trump. This weekend, Stormy Daniels will be visiting Greenville for a public appearance in which she will certainly talk about the president.
“Henry McMaster and Catherine Templeton have gone above and beyond to associate themselves with everything related to President Trump,” said South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson. “From what we know about the president, Stormy is bound to be his fourth wife and I can’t believe that Henry and Catherine would miss the opportunity to seek her endorsement. It’s the perfect time for them to talk about their South Carolina values as she kicks off what she is calling her ‘Make America Horny Again’ tour in Greenville.”
###

Yes, the thing about the porn star is a part of the general pattern of sleaze (along with the “Access Hollywood” tape, the multiple allegations of sexual assault, the behavior running beauty pageants, the casinos, professional wrestling and reality TV) of the most unfit man ever to hold our highest office.

And yes, wrapping yourself in the Trump mantle means wrapping yourself in sleaze. It’s a legitimate point, as far as it goes.

But this effort to be cute kind of misses the mark. Perhaps it’s the “Stormy is bound to be his fourth wife” part that throws it off….

Maybe we need to start putting something in the water

Potassium nitrate -- saltpetre, the stuff of many a rumor in the Army

Potassium nitrate — saltpetre, the stuff of many a rumor in the Army

Saltpetre, perhaps?

All these celebrity sexual harassment cases are one thing.

But we also have all these other cases not involving celebrities. Some of them close to home, such as:

SC preacher accused of leading a cult arrested on sexual misconduct allegations

A South Carolina man who has been previously accused of sexual misconduct and of leading a cult in Colleton County was arrested Monday.

Ralph Gordon Stair, 84, was arrested on eight warrants the Colleton County Sheriff’s Department and the State Law Enforcement Division, according to Live 5 News. ABC News 4 has reported he is facing charges of assault with intent to commit first-degree criminal sexual conduct, third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, kidnapping, first-degree burglary, second-degree burglary and three counts of criminal sexual conduct….

And then there’s this really horrible one:

Midlands man accused of sexually assaulting 6-year-old

Words fail me.

Everywhere we turn, there are men who have not only lost control, but whose impulses have become twisted in bizarre and sometimes horrific ways.

And yeah, I know saltpeter doesn’t really work as rumored. I just mention that because it’s the first alleged anaphrodisiac we think of. And no, I don’t want to chemically neuter the good guys who wouldn’t think of doing any of these things.

I’m just thinking how much of this stuff there is going on out there, often right under our noses. And how do you stop all the assaults by aggressors we don’t even know about?

That’s why I threw out the Swiftian proposal of putting something in the water. No, I wasn’t serious. But I wish I could think of something that would put an end to this stuff — without, you know, putting an end to the species…

What?!?!? They’re having a HEARING already on the Bathroom Bill?

This is just bizarre, people. They’re already having a hearing on Lee Bright’s Bathroom Bill — Wednesday morning.

We’re talking about a bill that fits neatly, or should, into the “people can file a bill about anything, but that doesn’t mean it will go anywhere” category.

Lee Bright

Lee Bright

If anyone in the State House agrees with Bright that this is a needed bill, I’ve missed it. Oh, I’m sure some would vote for it, but I’ve missed the groundswell that called for immediate action.

And yet, in the blink of an eye by State House standards, they’re having a hearing on this? While critical legislation that speaks directly to lawmakers’ core responsibilities languishes? So did lawmakers deal effectively with road funding and DOT reform and ethics reform when I wasn’t looking, thereby clearing their decks for this stuff?

This thing was introduced less than a week ago. Unfortunately, the news story didn’t get into what I want to know, which is how this hearing came about — who decided to schedule it, and how. It doesn’t even mention which committee is holding the hearing.

In any case, it says Bright hopes he can have the bill to the Senate floor by next week. And given the speedy hearing, I suppose he has every reason to hope that.

This is absurd…

 

But we’ll all keep reading ‘Playboy’ for the ‘interesting articles,’ right, guys?

And we’ll mean it — if we bother. Which I doubt. Seriously, those of you who are no longer adolescent boys — when was the last edition you bothered to pick up?

The shocking news:

Last month, Cory Jones, a top editor at Playboy, went to see its founder, Hugh Hefner, at the Playboy Mansion.

In a wood-paneled dining room, with Picasso and de Kooning prints on the walls, Jones nervously presented a radical suggestion: THE magazine, a pioneer of the revolution that helped take sex in America from furtive to ubiquitous, should stop publishing images of naked women.

Hefner, 89, but still listed as editor-in-chief, agreed. As part of a redesign that will be unveiled in March, the print edition of Playboy will still feature women in provocative poses. But they will no longer be fully nude.

Its executives admit that Playboy has been overtaken by the changes it pioneered. “That battle has been fought and won,” said Scott Flanders, the company’s chief executive. “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”

For a generation of American men, reading Playboy was a cultural rite, an illicit thrill consumed by flashlight. Now every teenage boy has an Internet-connected phone instead. Pornographic magazines, even those as storied as Playboy, have lost their shock value, their commercial value and their cultural relevance….

In other developments:

  • Apple will no longer produce cool gadgets for the consumer market.
  • Coca-Cola will drop its line of sugary soda.
  • Carter will no longer produce its little liver pills.

OK, that last one might have actually happened. At least they don’t call them that any more. But you get the idea.

Frankly, I’d call this a desperate plea for attention. I mean, seriously — if nudity has become passé, why remove it? Why not have your models nude sometimes and not nude other times, as the photographer chooses? Since it’s so last century and all to care about it.

Also, you know, there’s nothing particularly new about this. In the past, the centerfold models were often partly clad. Partly because that was sexy, and partly to distinguish “Playboy” from “Penthouse” and “Hustler.”

I’m thinking the plan is to get people to run out and buy the first edition under the new policy just to see what the clothed centerfold looks like, then everybody will say “uh-huh,” and go back to not buying the magazine, ever.

Because, as everyone knows (hence the joke), the articles around the nekkid women weren’t really that “in-ter-esting.”

The last “Playboy” I bought for the “interesting articles,” and I suppose the last one I bought, period, was the November 1976 edition — the one with the Jimmy Carter “lust in my heart” interview.

And you know, I haven’t missed it. I don’t think I will in the future, either.

What does this picture have to do with reading books?

It seems like I’ve written in the past about those come-ons you see online that say something about, “Discover the shocking secret of youth” or something, with a picture of a very attractive young woman dressed to show off her most dramatic assets.

Some of them are there to promote treatments for low testosterone, which makes me wonder, If it’s that low, why would this grab your attention?

Others, strangely, allege to be enticing you to learn a foreign language — which seems an odd juxtaposition.

But few are odder than this one I saw today at Slate:

books sex

The picture is SO tiny that you almost don’t know what you’re looking at. But it does pull the eye. Curious, I clicked.

Here are the five books. If any of them has anything to do with a woman flashing thigh while getting out of a car (I think), I can’t tell.

Oh, and by the way, the headline on the teaser was misleading, too. It was “5 Books to Read in Your 30s,” not “before you die.” Although, I suppose, one hopes that that would be before you die…

That female person of interest in Paris attacks

I know practically nothing about Hayat Boumeddiene — variously described as the “partner,” “common-law wife” and “widow” of Paris kosher-grocery attacker Amedy Coulibaly — but I had several thoughts in quick succession when I read this over the weekend:

French authorities on Saturday were hunting for a woman said to be “armed and dangerous,” who they believe is connected to three days of violence that reached a bloody denouement in twin sieges Friday.hayat-boumediene-e1420918057857

Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, may have fled France ahead of the attacks and may now be in Syria, French media reports said Saturday. The reports, which cited unnamed police sources, raised further questions about the attackers’ connections to organized Islamist militant groups.

Boumeddiene, 26, is the partner of Amedy Coulibaly, who on Friday seized a kosher grocery store in eastern Paris, killing four people at the height of pre-Sabbath shopping before being killed himself after an hours-long standoff. A day earlier, he killed a Paris police officer, authorities believe. During the Friday standoff, he said he was affiliated with the Islamic State, which is headquartered in Syria…

The thoughts, such as they are, were:

  • The initial, visceral one: What a lovely young face (despite that jaded look in her eyes). If she is actually a terrorist, what a terrible waste of someone who looks so fresh and innocent. One wants to protect her. (In other words, the male equivalent of the way various women, particularly the motherly sort, viewed the picture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of Rolling Stone.)
  • “Armed and dangerous?” What is this, a return to the 70s? Are we back to the days of Red Brigades and Baader-Meinhof, with young women who are every bit as radicalized, unfeeling and violent as the most testosterone-infested young men?
  • This really explodes one of the stereotypes of Islamist terrorists. The caricature is of sexually frustrated young men who can’t get a date, who will do anything to get at those 72 virgins. But at least one of these had a girlfriend.
  • Hold on a minute. We also tend to think of these terrorists as guys who are such devout Muslims that they are psychotically obsessed with what they imagine their religion’s demands to be. But what even mildly devout Muslim lives with a woman without benefit of marriage?

None of which is helpful to the investigation or anything (turns out she wasn’t even in the country at the time of the attack, but it’s understandable that authorities would like to talk with her), but those were the things that occurred to me at the time….

In memory of Jack Bruce of Cream

Upon the death of Jack Bruce, legendary bassist for Cream, my elder son posted the above video on my Facebook feed.

To which I responded, “That’s my favorite! And not only because I suspect it may have inspired ‘Stonehenge‘…”

Yeah, this is just the kind of over-important, mock-epic kind of rock song that Spinal Tap was making fun of, but I love it anyway. I’ve always seen it from the perspective of the adolescent boy I was, as an evocation of the way the seemingly (to an adolescent boy) supernatural allure of women can drive a young man mad (which is what the story of Ulysses and the sirens was about, after all), done through the lens of the gods of rock, which made it all that much more meaningful.

I like it musically as well. I love the shift back and forth from the hard-driving parts to the bits that go, “Tiny purple fishes…” with a thin line on Clapton’s guitar gently hovering and Ginger Baker using his cymbals to evoke the sound of waves kissing the shore and receding…

It’s interesting how the star of this video is Bruce. I guess the camera crew on the Smothers Brothers show figured since he was singing, he was the front man. They didn’t quite get who Clapton was yet. You hardly even get a glimpse of his face (he was in a mustache phase), or even of his guitar.

Rock and roll! Everyone hold up your lighters now…

(c) Manchester City Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

No, Nicholas Kristof is NOT putting you on; he doesn’t do that

Nicholas Kristof is a serious, earnest journalist who writes about serious, earnest topics.

So I thought, when I looked at the graphic that appeared with this Tweet, that somebody from The Onion had hacked his Twitter account:


But no, the piece he was linking to was sober and earnest, and no one was trying to make game of the lightly educated. It was just an unfortunately funny example of a sad phenomenon…