The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘sexuality’ Category

SEX AND THE SINGLE COLLEGE STUDENT

Once upon a time the height of sexual titillation was the “strip tease.”  That was when we were sexually repressed, believed the normal order in which life proceeded was courtship, marriage and then children and generally confined our sexual activities to the bedroom with the person who was our life partner.  As one person put it – “The strip tease is intended to tantalize but not to reveal all.  It leaves that to the imagination of the viewer.”  Things have changed – and arguably not for the better.

When I was in college, the focus was on trying to get an education.  While this was in the rebellious ‘60’s, getting laid was probably something that some of my fellow students hoped for (and in some cases were able to achieve), but it was not something in which the school participated through “educational” curricula on the subject.  Well, officially the University of Chicago is a school founded by a Baptist – John D. Rockefeller.   Perhaps that’s the explanation.

The recent “Rolling Stones” now discredited story about the female rape victim, Jackie at the University of Virginia, brought this to mind.  Rape is a dreadful crime.  As we know, it’s not about engaging in sex so much as it is about overwhelming the unwilling person, forcing him or her into doing something in which they do not want to be involved.  It is, in essence, an act of bullying – which like all bullying can carry with it both physical and psychological damage.  And that is something which all of us should find offensive and reprehensible.

We might have fewer rapes on our college campuses or elsewhere throughout the country if people simply applied the rule of common sense to the way in which we conducted ourselves.  Some of the things we could do or advise our children to do is to avoid places where excessive partying is expected to be the order of the evening; avoid excessive amounts of alcohol; don’t accept beverages from people whom you don’t know; have a companion with you who is looking out for you and for whom you are looking out; don’t smoke dope or take any pills while you’re out at the party.  While that will not eliminate the possibility of rape, following those simple rules might reduce the likelihood that it would occur.

But part of the problem I suspect, at least in some cases, is there can be a fine line between rape and consensual sex.  Naturally, if the “victim” willingly over drank and engaged in sex, buyer’s remorse might set in the following morning and perhaps the recollection of the events of the previous night might be blurred.  And part of the problem might be that while our colleges and universities are busily involved in investigating incidences of alleged rape on their campuses, many of them are promoting an agenda in which the lines between propriety and libertine behavior are aggressively blurred.  Allow me to offer a few examples.

To my recollection, during my time in college, I don’t recall anyone “streaking” the campus.  That might be because the weather in Chicago is cold and is well-described as having two seasons – winter and August.  But in some of our finer universities, not only is streaking commonplace – it’s evolved to the point of being an athletic event.  Among the schools that have nude athletes competing are Rice University; Williams College; the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill); Dartmouth College, to name only a few.

Without making a value judgment about public nudity, I think it is safe to say that if you are wearing no clothing or other accoutrements, it becomes more difficult to carry your Pagan Symbolism in Native American Basket Weaving syllabus to class along with your cell phone, your change and your lunch.  But nudity is merely the tip of the sexberg which circles our colleges’ ivy walls.  There’s “Sex Week.”  I’ve posted the calendar for Harvard University’s recently concluded 2014 Fall program below:

Sunday, November 2

Brown Girlz Do it Well: a Queer Diaspora Remix

2:00 pm, Ticknor Lounge

Join Harvard South Asian Association and SHEATH for a creative workshop by Dark Matter and a discussion on explore our own narratives of family, queerness, and diaspora. The intention is to situate our personal narratives within broader systems of racism, casteism, classism, islamophobia, and imperialism.

DARKMATTER is a trans south asian art and activist collaboration comprised of Janani and Aloo. Using poetry & polemic, tweet & tirade DM is committed to an art practice of gender self(ie)determination, racial justice, and movement building. DM has been invited to perform and facilitate workshops across the world. you can follow their antics at www.darkmatterrage.com or @darkmatterrage.

Monday, November 3

SEXY AND I KNOW IT: Sex Ed 101

5:00 pm, Sever 202

What’s an internal condom? How about a dental dam? If you’re looking for a sex-ed primer, this is the place to be. Sex educator Shira Cahn-Lipman will interactively teach us about the do’s and dont’s of safer sex practices in an inclusive way. All genders and sexualities are encouraged to join us for a primer or a refresher on how to safely enjoy sex!

Losing Your (Concept of) Virginity

6:00 – 7:30 pm, Harvard College Women’s Center (Canaday B basement)

This event aims to explore the myths, stigmas, and popular ideas surrounding virginity. Through documentary clips, activities, and group discussions, we will consider the historical context of virginity and its different social, political, personal, and religious meanings. All are welcome to attend and share their thoughts, though no sharing of personal experience is required, and no identities are assumed. Does virginity matter? How does a person lose their virginity? What does virginity really mean? And what does it mean to you?

Tuesday, November 4

What What in the Butt: Anal Sex 101

5:00 pm, Sever 113

Come learn everything about anal sex from the experts of Good Vibrations, a sex-positive store located right in Brookline! They will dispel myths about anal sex and give you insight into why people do it and how to do it well. They will cover a wide variety of topics, including: anal anatomy and the potential for pleasure for all genders; how to talk about it with a partner; basic preparation and hygiene; lubes, anal toys, and safer sex; anal penetration for beginners, and much more! Learn the facts about this exciting yet often misunderstood form of pleasure, find out the common mistakes people make, and get all your questions answered!

#SellingSexy – How our social culture is shaping the future of entertainment

8:00 pm, Sever 113

Cosponsored by the Radcliffe Union of Students

Wednesday, November 5

#HearOurStories: A Digital Story Screening

7:00 pm, Fong Auditorium

An exciting event on sexual rights, social justice and young parenthood. In partnership with the UMass Amherst Hear Our Stories project, the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy and the Harvard College International Women’s Rights Collective are proud to host a youth-led screening of digital stories created by young mothers as part of Harvard Sex Week. This event will illuminate the multi-layered identities of young parents and intersection of issues faced by young people including violence, discrimination, and homelessness. Following the screening will be a panel with some of the young women who created the digital stories.

Cosponsored by the Harvard College International Women’s Rights Collective

Thursday, November 6

Sexual Health Career Panel

4:00 pm, Ticknor Lounge

The annual Sexual Health Career fair will highlight opportunities available to students for careers in sexual health, reproductive justice, BGLTQ advocacy, and other related fields. Come speak to representatives from a wide range of organizations, including the Aids Action Committee, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Planned Parenthood, and Global Protection Corps, and hear about summer internships and post-grad job opportunities. The event will feature a panel discussion on career paths in sexual health, followed by a meet & greet career fair. Hosted by SHARC (Sexual Health and Relationship Counselors) in partnership with Sex Week at Harvard.​

Cosponsored by Sexual Health And Relationship Counselors (SHARC)

Jungle Fever: On Exotification

6:00 pm, Ticknor Lounge

Have you ever said or heard the following?

I love [insert racial or ethnic group here] because they always [insert stereotype about said racial or ethnic group]!

If so, then you have either experienced or participated in exotification. Exotification means objectifying someone’s racial or ethnic identity, treating that identity–and that identity alone–as what defines them or makes them desirable. To learn more about exotification and its problematic nature, come to the exotification panel on November 6th from 6-8 pm in TIcknor Lounge.

Cosponsored by the Harvard Asian American Women’s Association, Latinas Unidas, and the Association of Black Harvard Women

Friday, November 7

Fifty Shades of False: Kink, Fantasy, and Fetish

4:30 pm, Sever 106

Fifty Shades of False: Kink, Fantasy, and Fetish will explore supposedly “taboo” topics in sexuality, namely the kinky. Munch, Harvard’s Kink and Alternative Sexuality group will run a presentation on kink through the lens of the ever popular Fifty Shades of Grey. This presentation will attempt to expose and attempt to correct inaccuracies in the book’s portrayal of kink.

Cosponsored by Harvard College Munch

Open Mic Night

8 pm, Dudley Co-Op

Join SHEATH and Speak Out Loud, Harvard’s only spoken word poetry group, at 8pm on Friday, November 7th for an open mic! Poetry, food, and friendly faces will populate this casual Sex Week event while providing an open and relaxed space to consider the other topics addressed throughout the week. Following the open mic will be the annual Sex Week party (more food!).

Cosponsored by Harvard College Speak Out Loud

Saturday, November 8

Love @ First Swipe: Online Hookup Culture

4:30 pm, Sever 113

Grindr? Tindr? whats the technique? whats the upside/downside?

Cosponsored by Harvard College Queer Students and Allies, CONTACT Peer Counseling, Response, and Sexual Health And Relationship Counselors (SHARC)

Given our younger generation’s liberation from society’s repressive view of healthy sexuality as evidenced in part by the contents of Harvard’s Sex Week program, it does give me pause to wonder why rape is such a problem for these kids.  After all, isn’t the rapist merely expressing her or himself in a way which is meaningful to that person?  Shouldn’t a permissive and inclusive society accept that person’s right to be that person?  Why all the noise about rape on campus – or elsewhere?  Bill Cosby, stand up and take a bow.

California has certainly got the vision since they are in the process of passing a law which would define a sexual relationship between a teacher and a student of at least fourteen years of age as being “consensual.”  Way to go California Teacher’s Union.  You certainly have the best interests of your young students at heart – preparing them well for a continuing education in our institutions of higher learning.

Now I realize some of my readers might consider our current views toward human sexual expression as being – may I use the word – perverted.  That just goes to show how old-fashioned you are – and you need to enroll in a class immediately which will help you evolve from your antediluvian views.  But even you, I think, will have to admit that there has been at least one positive development that has come out of our current sexual enlightenment.

We are all familiar with what was once considered a rather coarse expression,  “GO F*CK YOURSELF.”   Now there’s a college course that explains how to do that.

THE TRANSGENDERED SUPREME COURT

A trip to the dog park is usually a peaceful, relaxing experience – perhaps more so for Gracie than for me.  Most of the folks who show up regularly find that sports is the subject of choice and the mornings are replete with stories about how they “would have hit that eight teamer … if only (fill in the blank) hadn’t happened.”  This, of course, reminds me of the old story that if only the bull had teats he would have been a cow.

Well, this morning, things were slightly different.  And the basis for the minor brouhaha had not to do with sports but stemmed from a discussion about dogs.

As three of us regulars were talking, the question of the genetic background of a dog who appears only occasionally arose.  The dog is a Labrador/French poodle mix which the owner had hoped to breed but ultimately could not find any takers so he had the dog neutered.  One of us, she maintains homes in Las Vegas and southern California made the observation that, ‘In California it’s illegal to cross breed dogs.”  She herself has a lovely Golden Retriever.

This prompted the other party to this conversation to make an observation about the stupidity (although he didn’t use that term) of all the laws in California and how Jerry Brown and the Democrat controlled chambers were ruining the state.  The statement went unchallenged by the woman – until my friend left – and she then lambasted me for the statement made by my friend who had already left.  My friend and I are both more closely attuned politically – and the woman who was incensed leans decidedly to the left.

In her rant, she said, “I’m tired of being attacked for my political views.”  In fact, nothing had been said about her views – merely about the governor of California.  She went on to say that, “Neither of you lives in California – so what right do you have to an opinion about how the state is being run?”  That statement so artfully fits into the thinking of those on the left that I suspect that if there is a manual on “How To Be A Liberal,” that primmer extolls that viewpoint in its first chapter.

I find it rather telling that in a state committed to “diversity” there should be an interdiction against creating dogs that are more “diverse.”  Hasn’t anyone wondered what the offspring of a Great Dane and a Chinese Hairless would look like?  And more to the specific point, the Golden Retriever, a breed which I love, has only been recognized as a “purebred” by the AKC since 1925.  The breed came about as the result of mixing Wavy-Coated Retrievers with the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel.  Had the California law been in effect when the breed first saw the light of day it might never have come into being.

Returning to the point that, “If you don’t live there you’re not entitled to an opinion,” this is merely the outgrowth of a liberal philosophy which, by extension, should require that accused rapists can only be tried by a jury of other accused rapists; accused murderers should be tried only before others who were themselves accused of murder; and only women should be permitted to enact laws or adjudicate them which are relevant to other women.  Which brings us to the interesting question of why is it that the left endorses the 7 – 2 Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade which was handed down by an all male court?  There is, however, an explanation.  I will leave it to you to determine its plausibility.

It’s been forty-one years since that decision was rendered.  Back in those days most Americans recognized people who belonged to one of two sexes.  That was before we became more enlightened and aware that there were also people whom today we call transgendered which, if I understand it properly refers to people who may be anatomically identified as belonging to one gender but who psychological identify as a member of the opposite sex.

While the number of people in America who are transgendered is difficult to ascertain accurately, the most recent data, which includes a survey that the State of California conducted, suggests that the total transgendered adult population is approximately 0.3% of the population, although other estimates suggest the number may be as high as 3.5%.  In 1973 when Roe v Wade was adjudicated, the total adult population of the country was 180 million – only a small percentage of whom, thankfully, were lawyers – and an even small number of those held positions as Federal judges – the primary recruiting source from which Supreme Court justices are recruited.

If we accept the premise that only women can logically decide issues that pertain to other women, then it would seem we are left with two rather disparate possibilities with regard to the landmark case.  Either the seven male Justices who voted in favor of legalizing abortion made a mistake; or the seven male Justices who voted in favor of legalizing abortion were actually transgendered.  Who knew that it would be possible to stack the court with that many transgendered people?

I look forward to my visit to the dog park tomorrow morning.  Who knows what else I’m going to learn?

THE DUCK THAT QUACKED

Phil Robertson and “Duck Dynasty” have developed one of the most successful franchises in reality television.  The show, aired on the A & E channel, holds a first place rating among viewers.  Or, at least it did until Mr. Robertson’s interview with GQ magazine was printed.  In that interview Mr. Robertson expressed his personal view on homosexuality which runs contrary to the current cultural trend of acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle.  His opinion was an expression of his fundamental Christian beliefs.

A & E responded to the interview almost immediately by “indefinitely suspending Phil Robertson” from his own show.  They went on to make a statement that, “They (A & E) have always supported the gay community.”  Apparently this has not completely quelled the issue as A & E is getting push back from a large number of their viewers who believe they did not respond appropriately and who are threatening to boycott the network.

There are a number of important issues that this whole controversy raises.

The first, and probably the least consequential, is whether or not a business has the right to conduct itself according to self-imposed standards.  My response to that would be, “Yes it does and A & E made its decision based on its well-established philosophy.”  Of course, if we accept that premise, does that not imply that a company such as Hobby Lobby has the right to refuse to purchase health insurance which mandates that it provide abortion, prophylactics or abortifacients in contravention of its religious beliefs?

The second is whether Robertson’s opinion is protected by the First Amendment and whether A & E is essentially abridging his right to state his beliefs and therefore violating his constitutional protections.  Certainly if he had made his statement in the course of filming an episode, A & E might have the legal right to edit out the comment if if offended their policy.  But to take an interview in a different medium as the basis for their action seems to overreach their authority and to be an infringement on Mr. Robertson’s rights.  We would do well to remember Voltaire’s statement, “I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.”  Whether Mr. Robinson made the statement or withheld it, no doubt it reflects his beliefs.  If we invoke cloture on free speech, whether or not we agree with what is said, what is next – restriction of what a person is allowed to think?

Perhaps the most important point this raises is that proponents of PC thinking are engendering the very thing that they purport to correct.  They define people not as individuals but as mere subsets of some larger group – whether that is based on race, sex or sexual orientation.  Their activities perpetuate all the “isms” and “phobias” which they seek to extinguish.  They presume that all gay or straight people, all men or women, all blacks or whites think and act identically based on the way they perceive the group to which the PC police have assigned them think and act.  That is ludicrous on its face and obviously untrue.  This philosophy strikes at the heart one of their most precious principles – allowing for diversity among members of society.

Whether or not I agree with Phil Robertson is irrelevant.  But I believe that those who see this issue only as a matter which pits one individual against a vocal group are missing the point entirely.  If we are willing to throw someone under the bus because we might disagree with his beliefs, the question is how much faster are we heading toward the point where our own opinions, however mainstream they might currently be, come under fire and we are told to recant – or else.

SENSITIVITY AND COMMON SENSE

Whether you feel a lot safer because we are now requiring rodeo clowns to attend “sensitivity training,” I want to admit that when I heard this I breathed a sign of relief. Of course, I first thought this applied to all clowns – so I thought that when Congress and the president returned from their vacations, this included them as well.  Well, one small step for America – but it could have been much greater.  By the way, I understand that the instructor is going to be Bill Maher with Vice President Joe Biden on standby as a sub.

I do not disagree with the premise that there is a lot of sensitivity training that needs to be done in America.  Little things like helping an elderly person with her groceries or actually allowing pedestrians the right of way used to be things that we did regularly.  We didn’t need to go to a special classroom for this training – because our classrooms were to be found all throughout the country.  We called them our homes.

Not every home had the perfect environment and our parents didn’t always make the best decisions.  But if I had to choose between having mom and dad tell me what to do or having government do that, I would opt for listening to my parents.  I think most people would.

So now we come to the state of California and its recent provision that will allow transgendered students, beginning in kindergarten through high school, the ability to use either the boys or girls bathrooms; to play sports on either the boys or girls teams; and to use either the boys or girls locker rooms – depending on which side of their personality they felt was dominant – irrespective of their genitalia.

When I was a kid, the assistant superintendent in our apartment building was a man by the name of Willie.  He was a really nice guy – but there was something about him it was hard not to notice.  He had a condition which caused large growths that literally covered his entire face and were also visible on large portions of his arms.

I remember trying very hard not to notice this “deformity” but it was pretty tough.  On more than one occasion I remember reprimanding several of the other kids in the building after they made a disparaging remark about Willie’s condition.  It just wasn’t acceptable behavior to make fun of him – at least it wasn’t to my mind because of the way my parents raised me.

And as a kid, I thought to myself how lucky I was that I didn’t have Willie’s condition.  I could only imagine how he was treated by people who met him.  I could picture that he must have endured thousands of involuntary stares and each one of those must have hurt.  And there was nothing that he could do other than to go on with his life in the best way he could.

I’ve never met another person with Willie’s condition – and I’m not even sure that it has a medical name – although I suspect it does.  There were no special accommodations made by our society for Willie – no special programs and no special assistance.   Like all of us, he had to make his way just as those of us who did not have his condition.  Perhaps we should have done something more for him.

But on the other hand, I also wonder how Willie would have reacted had he received some special “consideration.”  I say that because a black friend who got a promotion in his Fortune 500 company confided that he wasn’t sure whether he got that out of merit or because his company needed to have more minorities in mid-level management positions.

But back to California.  I have to admit that I don’t know anyone who identifies him/herself as transgendered.  I can only imagine how confusing that must be.  Nor do I know the approximate percentage of our population who view themselves that way.  But I suspect that the number must be nearly miniscule – perhaps a fraction of one percent of our population.  That doesn’t mean that we should disregard that small segment of our population.

But in creating legislation which attempts to assist transgendered students, we should also be cognizant of the fact that we are infringing on the rights and sensibilities of the 99% of students who are clear on their sexual identity.  A reasonable person has to question whether this is a productive way to try to address this question.

Common sense would suggest otherwise.

NOSTROVIA (На здоровье)

A long time ago it was grapes.  And then it was lettuce.  Back in the 70’s we consumers knew how to make our voices heard.  So we boycotted those commodities to bring pressure on the growers to improve the wages and conditions of the migrant farm workers.

Whether it was withholding our purchases from these products which ultimately caused the growers to increase the wages they paid their workers or some other factor I’m not sure.  But at least we believed that we had helped make a difference.

if you’ve read this blog for any length of time you certainly realize that I view life through a relatively conservative set of glasses.  So saying that I participated actively in the grape and lettuce boycotts might surprise you.  Let me set the record straight.

No, I did not have some major catharsis which switched me from a liberal view of life to one that was more conservative in nature.  Unfortunately, largely due to an extremely biased media, we have come to equate the terms conservative and uncaring as being interchangeable.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I believe that it is every person’s moral responsibility to help our fellow man out as best we can.  That applies across both sexes and irrespective of race or creed.  I believe and always have that we are supposed to “Do unto others…” and that we are each others’ keepers.  I believe that is the message of true conservatism – however it may have been corrupted in practice or mis-stated on television.

For years I boycotted the products of Canada.  Not that I have anything against our friends to the north.  But I could never in my mind, after seeing several videos and the activity once in person (and that was enough) justify the slaughter of harp seal pups in front of their helpless mothers – all for the sake of human vanity.  That personal encounter left me sleepless for weeks afterward.

As a conservative (and a capitalist) I thoroughly endorse the concept of consumer boycotts.  If the basis of capitalism is making money, then withholding the lifeblood that sustains a company whose products we abjure, for whatever reason, seems a reasonable way to make our demands known and to instigate change on the part of the entity whom we consider an offender.

If you think about it, if we really wanted to force our lawmakers to implement a simplified and equitable tax code instead of spending generations talking about it, there is a simple way to achieve this.  This next April 15, if twenty million people simply refused to file their returns it would make a statement that would awaken even the most hard of hearing in the halls of Congress.  There is something to the concept of strength in numbers.

And that brings us to the topic of a boycott which is currently underway.  The target is Stolichnaya which we all know is a Russian vodka.  Actually, most of it that is produced for export is manufactured in Latvia (Premium Vodka) as opposed to the bottles which are produced in Russia and bear the labels (Russian Vodka).

The boycott began in gay bars in New York but have spread around the world to other such establishments because of the extremely oppressive stance that Vladimir Putin has taken regarding gays in mother Russia.  It is hard for me to comprehend Comrade Putin’s position.

This is not a matter of gay marriage (that is not anywhere near being on the table in Москва).  No this is simply a matter of human rights – and I would hope that people, whatever their sexual orientation, would come together solidly on the side of supporting those for everyone – including our LGBT brothers and sisters.

Perhaps the most difficult to convince in this struggle are those who self-identify as “conservatives”.  I can imagine what a member of the Westboro Baptist Church might do if they were to hear someone preach a sermon on the subject.  The result might be no different than the fate a gay man would expect in most of the Muslim world – death at the hands of an angry, righteous mob.

In St. Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Contra Gentiles” he offers the following about God and His creation:

“For the virtue of a being is that by which he operates well. Now every operation of God is an operation of virtue, since His virtue is His essence, as was shown above. Therefore, God cannot will evil.”

If God cannot will evil, then certain other conclusions follow.

“[1] From this it appears that the hatred of something does not befit God.
[2] For as love is to the good, so hatred is to evil; for to those we love we will good, and to those we hate, evil. If, then, the will of God cannot be inclined to evil, as has been shown, it is impossible that He should hate anything.”

Well, the Stoli boycott has uncovered a worm in the Tequila (pardon the mixed metaphor).  The Latvian gay community has appealed to their brothers and sisters to stop it – for fear that their this might upset their tenuous position in their home country.  We always should be cognizant of unintended consequences when we embark on something like this.  Whether their words are heeded by their brothers and sisters in the U.S., UK and Canada remains to be seen.

Let me close with a small consumer tip.  I used to drink Stoli.  It is good vodka.  But if you want to have some excellent vodka at a fraction of the price all you need to do is the following:

Buy a charcoal-based water filter (such as a Brita).  Use this filter solely for the purpose of filtering vodka – unless you want your kids walking around all day half smashed.

Instead of purchasing a premium vodka, (Stoli or Grey Goose or such), buy your vodka in the 1.75 liter size (usually around ten dollars).  Gilbey’s and Gordon’s both offer a good product – among others.  Run it through the filter twice, then store it in glass bottles and put it in your freezer for later consumption.  You’ll be amazed at how this improves the flavor and resembles the taste of the premium vodkas that are on the market.

I know that those of you who are vodka drinkers out there will be thanking me for this advice later.  But until then На здоровье!  (And “chin chin” to boot).

FORBIDDEN LOVE

It was a Friday evening after a rough week and I had gotten home a bit late.  Tristan, my Irish Setter and Josh, my Belgian Shepherd/Newfoundland mix were waiting attentively at the door.  They really wanted to go for their walk.  So I dropped the mail on a table by the entryway, put on their collars and we hurried across the street to the park where the boys quickly relieved themselves.

When we returned to the condo I put their dinners together and sat down with an adult beverage for myself, kicking my shoes off and resting my tired feet on the coffee table in the living room.  I was just starting to get comfortable when the phone rang.

I debated for a moment whether I wanted to bother answering it or let Jeeves the Butler, the voice on my answering machine, pick it up.  But I was feeling a little more relaxed and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to unwind on the couch as Tristan had finished his dinner and wanted me to play with him.  So I told him to stay on the couch and went into the library to grab the call, setting my scotch on a coaster on my desk.

The caller was a friend named Marty.  I could tell he was upset and the reason for that soon became clear.  His lover of three years, Ted had dumped him and told him he had to move out of Ted’s apartment.

I’m not quite sure why, but for virtually my entire life, people have always asked for my advice or looked to me to provide a shoulder to cry on when they needed one.  I guess that’s a sort of compliment.  But sometimes I feel like the proverbial pile to which flies are drawn.

Because I try to be a compassionate person, I normally acquiesce to their request to provide counsel.  Usually, this leaves the person making the request feel good – and me feeling rather drained.

Anyway, Marty and I talked for a few minutes but I was really tired and the scotch was beginning to kick in.  So rather than go through the blow by blow, I invited Marty to dinner the following evening.  I had planned on making a roast and there would be more than enough for both of us and the two puppies who always expected to get some of whatever it was I was eating.

So the following night, Marty came to the apartment for dinner and he told me the whole story.

The two of them had met about four years earlier at a party which a mutual friend had hosted.  At the time Marty was 24 and working in a salon as a stylist (or in the parlance of the gay community was a “hair burner”).  Ted was 41 and worked in a corporate law department as an attorney.  About three months later they began dating and nine months after that, Ted asked Marty to move in with him.

Ted had an apartment in the Halsted Street area of Chicago’s near north side which was alternately known as the “Gay Ghetto” or “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”  I  was always incredulous that people who lived in this neighborhood could ever develop lasting relationships.  In a five block span there were at least 12 gay bars, each of which had a special night to attract revelers.  And the bars usually overflowed onto the street.  So many men – so much temptation.

And that is what ultimately did their relationship in.  Ted had gone out one night for a “walk”, met someone coming out of one of the bars; their eyes met and before you knew it the two of them were passionately in love and having sex in this new person’s apartment.

As Marty told me this story I tried not to show that I felt that was all rather sordid and shallow.  But that was a story not unlike many others that could be told in and of the gay community.  I learned that when I was first introduced to the phrase, “Your future ex-husband.”

Whether straight or gay, we’ve probably all had a relationship that ended – or hoped for one that never began.  So in that regard I could understand what Marty must have been experiencing.  But I realized how relationships were even more difficult within the gay community than in the straight world when Marty said, “You know, if I could choose to be, I would choose to be straight.”

I knew Marty better than I knew Ted.  And he always impressed me with his boyish good looks, but more than that with his romantic soul.  On several occasions he told me that he couldn’t be happier because he had met the man of his dreams and was deeply in love with him.  He looked forward to living out the rest of his life with the love of his life.  It just happened that the two of them were gay.  And because they were gay, there was no legal commitment into which they could enter.

I decided to stay up late tonight and write this piece (it’s nearly midnight) because I just read an article that gay marriage is going to become the law in the UK within a matter of days – although it won’t be implemented for a year.  And, of course, we all are familiar with the same issue being heavily debated in the U. S.

I have to admit that I can see both points of view on this issue and can’t say that I have really come down firmly on either side.  If I were on my high school debating team and the subject of gay marriage were the topic, I think I could advance arguments equally effectively either for the “Pro” or the “Con”.

As I think back thirty years to my conversation with Marty that Saturday night, I wonder, if gay people had the right to get married back in the ’80’s  and Marty and Ted had tied the knot, might that have provided some stability of which they were deprived and might that have resulted in their relationship continuing, even today?

On the other hand, I look at the failure rate of marriages among the straight community and wonder if having a contract “until death do us part” has any relevance in today’s world.

And let us not forget that there are any number of our Hollywood types who simply move in together, have some kids and years later decide to make it “official”.  Or not – as they deem fit.  No one seems to raise much of a stink over that.

Perhaps the solution, whether for the straight or gay community, is to enter into a “time limit” contract – for say, three or five years, renewable on expiration.  It’s only a thought – but it might save thousands in the fees for attorneys who specialize in divorce.

After dinner, I told Marty that I had an extra bedroom and he would be welcome to use it until he situated himself.  He thanked me for my offer – but Hyde Park was too far removed from his familiar stomping grounds and, to my knowledge, there was never a gay bar in the community.  So I think he felt that if he moved in he would be hampered in his search for the next love of his life.  He declined my offer and took an apartment with one of the female stylists from the salon.

He was involved in two more semi-long term relationships by the time I left Chicago.  I never did run into Ted again after the two of them broke up.

I believe that each of us has a need for love – both to give and receive it.  It’s hard enough to do that as a straight person.  And my heart goes out to our gay population who the straight world tells, even if they find that special someone, that relationship is forbidden.

ROBBING THE CRADLE; HASTENING THE GRAVE

For people of my generation, if someone spoke of a person’s “robbing the cradle” that phrase meant that a man or woman married someone who was significantly their junior in age.  That was before Roe v. Wade.

Words, phrases and attitudes have changed in the forty years since the Supreme Court declared abortion to be legal.  The thrust of this post is not going to be an examination of the morality, immorality or amorality of that decision and the consequences we have seen as a result of it.  There is more than sufficient material on that topic which has already been published.

Rather, I thought I would examine one possible outcome for our society as our attitudes toward human life and death have evolved as a result of the decision.  But before we peer into a possible future, it might be useful if we used the guidance of history to review how we have gotten to our present state of mind.

With Roe v. Wade we redefined human life.  We declared pregnancy to be a “sickness” and insurance companies were mandated to cover pregnant women for the condition as they would “any other illness”.  Thus, a woman was empowered to “take control of her body” in the matter of her pregnancy in much the same way that she was able to purchase aspirin for a headache.

Gone were the days when an unwed, pregnant mother-to-be was whisked off to a geographically distant relative on some pretext of helping an “aging family member” until the time of her giving birth to her offspring.  Now science and society had created an alternative to deal with the problem or, should I say, the “illness”.

We had, by legally defining a fetus as a “non-person,” been able to hold our heads high and repeat those famous words that “All Men are created equal.”  Since a fetus was not a man (or woman) it was not entitled to those rights or privileges any more than your ordinary house cockroach.

In the ensuing years, having started down the path that says that the ultimate concern should be for the potential mother’s health, (that is both a physical and mental matter), we have gradually been able to extend our original definition of non-humanness through the advances which science has made.

Now a fetus who may have Downs Syndrome or Cystic Fibrosis or may simply be the wrong gender can be identified.  In the interest of the mother’s mental health, this unwanted child may be terminated because it doesn’t fit into either its parent’s view of what is best for her or what society deems best for itself.

It should be clear from our history that mankind is a “discriminating” lot.  If it were otherwise, we would not have felt the necessity to  create an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to cite one obvious example, nor would the KKK ever have had any membership.

So given our history of discriminating against others, now that we have the ability to discriminate against “non-others” as many think of human embryos, let’s picture how this attitude might play out were a despotic government to come to power.

In this future, women who rejoiced in having the “right to choose” might no longer have that right if the State didn’t consider them to be suitable breeding material.  Those who were required to donate sperm would be carefully screened for the physical and mental characteristics that the State deemed desirable.  Those of both sexes who did not meet the State’s defined criteria would be sterilized to limit population.

The State and the State alone would determine what and who was of value.  All those who did not contribute to its own well-being would be eradicated.  This, of course, would be most noticeable among the population of the elderly as they were systematically decimated either through neglect or by means of euthanasia.  End Of Life Panels would have the final word on who would receive and who would be denied medical treatment – all in an effort to make ours a beneficent and utopian society.

This is, of course, an imaginary future and could never actually happen – at least not in America.  We are a noble people dedicated to a great purpose.

I wonder if that was what the guards said to themselves as they pulled the lever, releasing the gas in the showers of the death camps as they purged their society of several hundred more whom the State had declared undesirables.

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