I’m not sure what Thomas Aquinas – peace be upon him – would make of this latest revelation about “natural law”:

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather k0nt91liu3XXmP47novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but related species in the genus Neotrogla, are the first example of an animal with sex-reversed genitalia. “Although sex-role reversal has been identified in several different animals, Neotrogla is the only example in which the intromittent organ is also reversed,” says Kazunori Yoshizawa from Hokkaido University in Japan.

During copulation, which lasts an impressive 40 to 70 hours, female insects insert an elaborate, penis-like organ into males’ much-reduced, vagina-like opening. The researchers speculate that the insects’ sex organs and sex-role reversal may have been driven over evolutionary time by the resource-poor cave environment in which the bugs live. Males of the genus provide females with nutritious seminal gifts in addition to sperm, making it advantageous for females to mate at a higher rate.

The more we learn about nature, the more the notion that the universe reflects a cosmic version of human heterosexuality gets discredited. Gender can be fluid in some species; in others, females have the testosterone; in this case, females have dicks. And rather elegant ones at that. We now know what Victorian scientists discovered but hid: that same-sex behavior is also endemic in the animal kingdom, unusual, but widespread. We know that some humans are born with indeterminate gender, that others have a gender that belies their external sex organs, that others still have no problem with their gender but are emotionally and sexually attracted to their own.

The reason why this matters is that the vast apparatus of “natural law” still permeates a huge amount of our thinking about human sexuality and emotion.

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Quote For The Day

Apr 17 2014 @ 11:49am

“White feminist Germaine Greer can speak at Brandeis because, in one of the more whimsical ideological evolutions even by dear old Germaine’s standards, Ms Greer feels that clitoridectomies add to the rich tapestry of ‘cultural identity’: ‘One man’s beautification is another man’s mutilation,’ as she puts it. But black feminist Hirsi Ali, who was on the receiving end of ‘one man’s mutilation’ and lives under death threats because she was boorish enough to complain about it, is too ‘hateful’ to be permitted to speak. In the internal contradictions of multiculturalism, Islam trumps all: race, gender, secularism, everything. So, in the interests of multiculti sensitivity, pampered upper-middle-class trusty-fundy children of entitlement are pronouncing a Somali refugee beyond the pale and signing up to Islamic strictures on the role of women,” – Mark Steyn.

Now you could argue that Hirsi Ali has also been invited to speak at Brandeis after the shabby withdrawal of an honorary degree. But Greer was not told she had to engage in a dialogue with her critics on the question of mutilating girls and women. She was given a platform denied to a victim of female genital mutilation. I don’t think it’s Islamophobic to note that glaring inconsistency.

The Cutting Truth

Apr 17 2014 @ 11:25am

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In an essay on the experience and expression of female pain, Leslie Jamison considers cutting “an attempt to speak and an attempt to learn”:

There’s an online quiz titled “are you a real cutter or do you cut for fun?” full of statements to be agreed or disagreed with: I don’t really know what it feels [like] inside when you really have problems, I just love to be the centre of attention. Gradations sharpen inside the taboo: Some cut from pain, others for show. Hating on cutters—​or at least these cutter-​performers—​tries to draw a boundary between authentic and fabricated pain, as if we weren’t all some complicated mix of wounds we can’t let go of and wounds we can’t help, as if choice itself weren’t always some complicated mix of intrinsic character and agency. How much do we choose to feel anything?

She confesses:

I used to cut. It embarrasses me to admit now, because it feels less like a demonstration of some pain I’ve suffered and more like an admission that I’ve wanted to hurt. But I’m also irritated by my own embarrassment … I hurt myself to feel is the cutter’s cliché, but it’s also true. Bleeding is experiment and demonstration, excavation, interior turned out—​and the scar remains as residue, pain turned to proof.

(Photo by Kristina Knipe, from her self-harm series “I Don’t Know The Names of Flowers”)

Psychoanalyzing Putin

Apr 17 2014 @ 11:04am

Joseph Burgo makes the case that the Russian president really does suffer from narcissistic personality disorder:

In exploring the past of prominent figures who seem to display features of narcissistic personality disorder, I have found that many of them were childhood bullies who may also have been bullied by others.

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Looking Back On Leaning Out, Ctd

Apr 17 2014 @ 10:43am

A reader argues that our post was based on “a common misconception” about Lean In:

Sandberg doesn’t champion working over staying home. When she tells women to lean in, she’s not telling them to work: she’s saying that for as long as they choose to work, they shouldn’t have one foot already out the door because of what having a family might demand of them in the future. It’s a carpe diem message, and an argument against approaching your career with a defeatist attitude.

Another isn’t sure what attitude to take:

I’m so glad you’re talking about Lean In and hope that it ends up as a thread. I’m a 36-year-old woman acting as the executive at a small organization with a big budget. I love my work, my peers, the intellectual stimulation, my ability to call on my brain to perform backflips and contortions. But I tell you what: it doesn’t make me happy.

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Faces Of The Day

Apr 17 2014 @ 10:19am

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Biden’s first selfie. The Onion’s version to follow (I hope).

A Short Note

Apr 17 2014 @ 10:17am

In a late night fit of pique, I foolishly argued that Jo Becker’s new book trashing the entire marriage equality movement before 2008 should be withdrawn. It was a stupid thing to write. Of course it should not be withdrawn; it should be engaged, debated and scorned.

Amber Frost has the archival news footage to prove it:

If you’re under the impression that tragic disasters used to be held in a respectable reverence in this country, please refer to the vintage bit of newstainment above, a 1937 Universal Studios newsreel on the Hindenburg explosion. From the Hollywood sturm und drang musical accompaniment to the announcer (who feels freshly picked from a radio soap opera) this little five-minute news reel is pure spectacle. There’s an explosion sound effect, studio-recorded screams and a police siren added, apparently to “recreate” the story. It’s at least as vulgar as anything on cable news today, and they didn’t even have the benefit of CNN’s holograms!

The question left unanswered at the end of the film: What caused the explosion? Scientists just last year settled on an answer:

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To Make A Short Story Shorter

Apr 17 2014 @ 9:29am

In a review of Lydia Davis’s new story collection Can’t and Won’t, Christine Smallwood observes that the famously concise writer “makes the impossible look easy”:

Like Proust, whom she has translated, Davis writes the act of writing itself. I don’t just mean that her narrators tend to be teachers or authors, though that’s true; I mean that her stories are filled with moments of crisis about how to carry on, or what word to put down next, and fears that it could all mean nothing in the end. She’s a theorist of the arbitrary. The fact that she makes it look so easy—so arbitrary, even—is part of the fun.

Chloe Schama declares Davis “the perfect writer for the Twitter era”:

Davis does not just turn dada doodads into text with grammatical coherence. She produces stories that are inevitably compared to poetry, not only because of their concision and appearance on the page, but because of their obvious care of construction. “A fire does not need to be called warm or red,” she writes in one of the stories, “Revise: 1,” included in her new collection; “Remove many more adjectives.” I haven’t counted the adjectives in Can’t and Won’t, but I’m certain the total would be paltry. Most of the stories in Can’t and Won’t are just a page or two; the longest—“The Seals,” a poignant reflection on the loss of an older sister and a father—is just over 20 pages, and it feels like a marathon.

Davis is perhaps the sparest contemporary fiction writer we have—breathtakingly bold in the limits she imposes on herself.

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Revisiting Fargo

Apr 17 2014 @ 9:03am

Linda Holmes explains the premise of FX’s new Fargo series:

It seemed, candidly, like an absurd idea when FX announced that it was making a TV series based on Fargo, the Coen Brothers film from 1996. That was a completed story that didn’t lend itself to a lot of obvious “further adventures.” It didn’t seem like very much more activity could be … afoot. Furthermore, the film was full of performances surely no one would be dumb enough to try to do over, like Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson and William H. Macy as Jerry Lundegaard. The Coens were on board as executive producers; what could these people possibly have in mind?

As it turns out, what they had in mind was a completely new story borrowing the tone, some of the dynamics, and some of the atmosphere of the film, but not the characters and not the story itself.

Choitner notes how the show plays off the original:

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Embrace The Boredom, Ctd

Apr 17 2014 @ 8:31am

A few readers complement this post with some classic writings:

I’m heavily invested in the notion that idleness, laziness, and procrastination are vital to the full flowering of human life. (If they aren’t, I’m fucked.) I’m reminded of this passage from Emerson’s Experience:

We do not know today whether we are busy or idle. In times when we thought ourselves indolent, we have afterwards discovered, that much was accomplished, and much was begun in us. All our days are so unprofitable while they pass, that ‘tis wonderful where or when we ever got anything of this which we call wisdom, poetry, virtue. We never got it on any dated calendar day. Some heavenly days must have been intercalated somewhere, like those that Hermes won with dice of the Moon, that Osiris might be born. It is said, all martyrdoms looked mean when they were suffered. Every ship is a romantic object, except that we sail in.

Another:

I saw your post on idleness and I wanted to share what I think is the best piece ever on the virtues of idleness – Chesterton’s essay on lying in bed. The gist of it:

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The View From Your Window

Apr 17 2014 @ 7:58am

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Bedford Hills, New York, 8.20 am.  “WTF? I thought we were done with this crap.”

Hyperactive Prescribing? Ctd

Apr 17 2014 @ 7:32am

A reader writes, “I figured I’d chime in on the ADHD thread, since there’s still apparently one voice missing: someone who was diagnosed as a child”:

That’d be me. At the age of six, in my second marking period in first grade, I was diagnosed with ADHD. Though my memory is hazy of that time, what I recall is being inattentive in class and extremely disruptive. I remember one time being at a hospital for something unrelated, and they put me in a straitjacket to calm me down.

I can’t emphasize enough how hyper I acted as a child, and how quickly that changed when I began to take Ritalin.

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The Best Of The Dish Today

Apr 16 2014 @ 9:05pm

On another topic, sometimes, you’ve just got to face the music:

As any biologist will tell you, beards are indeed sexy. The question is, does the sexiness of beards depend on the hairiness of the rest of the males in the population? Or is the allure of a beard the same no matter what? To find out, the researchers recruited 36 men who were willing to grow beards. … When facial hair was rare among faces, beards and heavy stubble were rated about 20% more attractive. And when beards were common, clean-shaven faces enjoyed a similar bump, the team reports online today in Biology Letters. The effect on judgment was the same for men and women.

Yes, it was cooler/hotter to have a beard a few years ago. But I think I’ll stick with mine until I hit the Santa look. And Aaron’s is non-negotiable.

Today, I tackled the growing support for the ACA, including my own personal experience. We’ve already received a bunch of emails detailing your experiences – and we’re going to start a new reader thread, “The View From Your Obamacare.” Stay tuned – and email us your stories. I also took on the appalling new book by Jo Becker which purports to describe the marriage equality movement, which began, according to Becker, in 2008 with one Chad Griffin as our Rosa Parks (yes, she actually wrote that and someone actually published it!). Many readers are also piling on. One writes:

I just put the book down. What a useless history and distortion.

I’ve been involved in that battle as a foot soldier for 20 years, but my first memory of marriage equality battle was as a teenager in 1977 when a clerk in Colorado issued a license to a gay couple. What about the intellectual history as you mentioned, and a huge part of? Hawaii was nothing? What, Massachusetts wasn’t a watershed moment? All the anti-gay marriage amendments I fought hard against in 2004 , and galvanized so many, meant nothing? I remember all these very clearly.

We got ‘married’ on February 15th, 2004 during Gavin Newsom’s San Francisco marriages. The same marriages that led to the California supreme court decision, which led to Prop 8, which led to the US Supreme Court decision. How can that be minimized?

It can only be minimized by an author who knows nothing of the history of the movement except the self-serving account of those who jumped on the bandwagon at the last minute and to whom she was given complete access. And an excerpt from this travesty will appear in next Sunday’s New York Times Magazine! I know it can seem self-serving to point out the book’s contempt for those who actually built this movement. But to read Evan Wolfson dismissed as less integral to the struggle than Tom Daley’s boyfriend is simply a disgrace. The book should be withdrawn. [See update]

The most popular post of the day was indeed “Jo Becker’s Troubling Travesty Of Gay History,” followed by “The Neocons Lose Their Shit Over Rand Paul.

See you in the morning.

A Poem For Wednesday

Apr 16 2014 @ 8:41pm

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Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

r. erica doyle is the winner of this year’s Norma Farber Award from the Poetry Society of America for a first book of original poetry written by an American and published in a standard edition in 2012. Doyle’s book entitled proxy is powerful and has inspired powerful praise, including the following from Marilyn Nelson, who judged the contest, “Every surprising, beautiful, take-no-prisoners sentence of proxy reminds me how inventive language might expand our experience of our flesh, make it new, deepen our connection to it. . . .” Below is a prose poem from this award-winning book.

An untitled poem from proxy:

If she were any closer, you’d eat her for dinner. As it is, you’re starving. And not. You weather this all with seeming good humor. Write notes to amuse yourself. You have become too earnest, trying so hard to mean something important. Watch the drain and hear your stomach growl. Negroes make me hungry, too, she says. You need an explanation but say nothing to this boastful non sequitur. You want to amuse her with your bones.

(From proxy © 2013 by r. erica doyle. Used by kind permission of Belladonna Press. Photo by Flickr user Greg)

Face Of The Day

Apr 16 2014 @ 8:09pm

Holy Week Celebrated In Larantuka

A Catholic worshipper holds Virgin Mary picture as he prepare for Holy Week celebrations, known as ‘Semana Santa’ on April 16, 2014 in Larantuka, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. Easter celebrations in Larantuka started in the 16th century, when Portuguese missionaries entered and acculturated the local people. The ritual appeals to the pilgrims and people from various regions in Indonesia, who come to follow the procession. Holy Week marks the last week of Lent and the beginning of Easter celebrations. Catholics make up approximately 3% per cent of the population of the predominantly Muslim country. By Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

Seth Masket reviews many studies on the question:

Your allies may be quick to abandon you during a scandal if you’re expendable (think John Edwards), but if you’re, say, the president, they may be more likely to rally to your side. Scandals may also be more damaging for black candidates (PDF) than for white ones.

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3D Printing Is Building Itself Up

Apr 16 2014 @ 7:16pm

Reason checks in on the growing 3D printing industry:

The latest breakthrough:

For the first time ever, scientists have 3D printed a cancer tumor in order to study how to kill it.

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Sex, Lies, and Text Messages

Apr 16 2014 @ 6:45pm

A new study reveals that people often lie while exchanging sexy texts with their significant others:

“Deception during sexting with committed relationship partners appears to be fairly common,” writes a research team led by Michelle Drouin of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Its study is published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

Of the 155 participants (average age just under 22), 109 reported they had sent a sexually explicit text message. Among that group, 48 percent admitted lying during sexting with a committed partner. Specifically, 20 percent said they had lied about either what they were wearing or what they were doing, while 28 percent had lied about both. Women were the more frequent liars, texting untruths far more often than men.

Katy Waldman compares these findings to our deceptions in real sex:

Of course, we all lie in person too—is a fake sext any different from a fake orgasm?

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When The Cover Is The Story

Apr 16 2014 @ 6:14pm

Jill Filipovic suggests that the Rolling Stone gaffe that has fact-checkers around the world snickering shows just how much magazine covers still matter:

Some of us still buy print magazines, but ever more of us are reading the articles on tablets or laptops instead. And the volume of accessible content online far exceeds that at your local newsstand or grocery store checkout. And yet, despite such an enormous quantity of high-quality, cover-worthy imagery, the photos on the covers we can actually hold in our hands are what become online content fodder.

That scarcity may actually be the point. There’s not a widely read website in Internet-town that keeps the same photo on the front page for more than a day, let alone a week or a month. Magazine real estate may be rendered more valuable by virtue of the fact that it’s more permanent – if you have a hard copy of a magazine you can store it away without the fear that you might go to read it one day and find an “Error: Page Unknown” message. And although fewer people may purchase a copy of Rolling Stone over the course of a month than click over to the homepage of a popular website, the eyes on a magazine cover may be more valuable than those on a quickly changing web page.

Even if you only look at magazine covers while waiting to check out at Walgreens or getting your nails done, your eyes are settling on a small handful of options, making each of them resonate more strongly than the hundreds of pictures in your 15 open browser tabs.

By the way, Julia Louis-Dreyfus set the record straight via Twitter:

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