Writing about a Bambi spin-off in 1930, [Karl] Kraus claimed to detect the sound of Jewish dialect—or “jüdeln”—in the speech of Salten’s hares. Salten was a hunter (a humane one, he always insisted), and, as it happened, he had just published a piece about his love of hunting. Kraus joked that Salten’s hares had adopted a Yiddishy tone of voice in order to blend in with a special type of enemy—the Jewish hunter. The hares were “perhaps using mimicry as a defense against persecution.” When Salten died in 1945, an American critic found a more straightforward connection between the plight of some animal characters and that of the Jews. In his obituary for Salten, the critic, having noted Salten’s “Zionist sentiments,” maintained that the fox in Bambi not only comes across as the rapacious “Hitler of the forest,” but also has a mentality of hatred and rage that bears similarities with Goebbels’ anti-Semitism.
It was not until a decade ago, however, that an actual reading of the “Zionist overtones” in Bambi was proposed.
Reflecting on the way a number of evangelical heavyweights havepraised Pope Francis, the Catholic commentator Raymond Arroyo explains the reasons behind the ecumenical admiration:
One is the great warmth, affection and magnetism of this man—Francis—and his willingness to allow the gospel to shape his ministry in a very profound and visual way. Additionally, the pressures of the culture we find ourselves in has, in a way, forced Catholics and Protestants together in a new way, where they realize that what divides them is far less than what unites them. … And when you hear a Pope stand up and talk about mercy, and forgiveness, and the broken hearts we all endure, and the need to push gossip aside and how destructive that can be in our lives, he’s getting down to the very granule level of faith that I think is appealing to the evangelical and Protestant mind.
Bill Keller, an erstwhile Catholic, recently reiterated the case against priestly celibacy (NYT):
The arguments for lifting the requirement that priests forswear sex and marriage are not new, but they have become more urgent. Mandatory celibacy has driven away many good priests and prospects at a time when parishes in Europe and the United States are closing for lack of clergy. It deprives priests of experience that would make them more competent to counsel the families they minister. Celibacy — by breeding a culture of sexual exceptionalism and denial — surely played some role in the church’s shameful record of pedophilia and cover-up.
“Lots of people don’t see [celibacy] as some extraordinary act of witness,” said Thomas Groome, who heads the department of religious education and pastoral ministry at Boston College. “They see it as just a peculiar lifestyle, and one not to be trusted.” Groome was a priest for 17 years but left to be a husband and father. “The loneliness of it, I think, can drive people crazy,” he told me. “I’ve known hundreds of priests in my life,” from student days in an Irish seminary through the priesthood and decades as a theologian. “I don’t know too many diocesan priests, maybe three or four, who have lived a rich, life-giving, celibate lifestyle.”
James Martin, a Jesuit priest, read the piece with exasperation, noting that the article is “based largely on the opinions of two priests who left the priesthood and a sister who left her order, and [Keller's] own speculation about what the celibate life must be like”:
Maybe it would have been helpful to look at some actual data.
Your post quoting Francis’s wish for a “bruised, hurting and dirty” Church suddenly sparked a match in my head – the face of the Whiskey Priest, the protagonist from one of my favourite novels, Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory. And all at once I put my finger on what it is that makes Francis so exciting – he is Greene’s pope. The priest of that novel is drunken, adulterous and self-destructive, weak and self-pitying. He is a “hollow man”, filthy and unshaven. But he is the greatest priest in all fiction because his is the church of the street, the church that will take you however awful or fallen or destitute you are. The church needs to hurt and fail too, if it is to properly care for a fallen people.
“It was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful,” reflects the priest. “It needed a God to die for the half-hearted and corrupt”. Even as an atheist teenager I remember being struck by this radically beautiful idea. I came to see two Catholic Churches in my head: the untouchable hypocritical Ratzingers caught up in that perfect web of procedure, and the repugnant filthy whisky priests seeing pity in all humanity. That Francis sees the ideal of the Church to be poor tells me he’s on the right track.
We will never get a whiskey Pope, I suppose, which is a shame.But something tells me Greene would have liked the idea of a hurting church and a Pope who washes the feet of convicts.
Group pictures flatter individual faces more than solo shots, recent research suggests. Cindi May describes a study that “shows that individual faces appear more attractive when presented in a group than when presented alone — a perceptually driven phenomenon known as the cheerleader effect“:
Consider the Laker girls or Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. To many, these women are beautiful and sexy. However, their perceived beauty is in part a visual illusion, created by the fact that cheerleaders appear as a group rather than solo operators. Any one cheerleader seems far more attractive when she is with her team than when she is alone. …
[Researchers Drew] Walker and [Edward] Vul posit that the cheerleader effect arises from the interplay of three different visuo-cognitive processes.
Maria Konnikova considers why, “in the current media environment, a list is perfectly designed for our brain”:
Lists … appeal to our general tendency to categorize things—in fact, it’s hard for us not to categorize something the moment we see it—since they chunk information into short, distinct components. This type of organization facilitates both immediate understanding and later recall, as the neuroscientist Walter Kintsch pointed out back in 1968. Because we can process information more easily when it’s in a list than when it’s clustered and undifferentiated, like in standard paragraphs, a list feels more intuitive. In other words, lists simply feel better.
But the list’s deepest appeal, and the source of its staying power, goes beyond the fact that it feels good.
Focusing on the Discovery Channel’s new series Naked and Afraid - which chronicles the experience of “one man and one woman [who] are stranded nude in hostile wilderness without food or water for 21 days” - Joan Marcus examines how she is both drawn in and repulsed by the genre:
Over the years I’ve watched everything from the 2004 makeover show The Swan, in which normal-looking women undergo radical plastic surgery and then compete in a freakish beauty pageant, to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, that grotesque excuse to mock the taste level and dietary habits of the working poor in rural Georgia. I teach a college pop culture seminar, and I like to write about pop culture, which gives me a handy excuse to indulge in reality dreck ad infinitum.
Shows are always upping the ante — increasing the shock factor, finding new ways to traffic in the risqué, the humiliating, the dangerous and disgusting. The more morally questionable a show is, the more likely I am to tune in on the excuse that anything this excessive has to be examined. I do like to think about how, in affording us the pleasure of judging real people in stressful and potentially humiliating situations, these shows palliate us — situating us comfortably in our own realities, reaffirming our cultural norms and making us more satisfied with our own lot in life. But of course my interest is not just intellectual. I’m as rabid a consumer as anyone, and shows like Naked and Afraid that push the boundaries of ethics and decency are on some primal level just a really, really good time.
Daniel Mandelsohn, the classicist and essayist, reflects on the rudiments of good criticism:
One of the courses I like to teach is a Great Books course that’s mandatory for first year students, and after I read their first papers it’s always very clear to me that they have no model, no template for what a critical essay is supposed to do—what (or how) you’re supposed to be arguing when you’re writing about a text or a movie or anything. They don’t understand there is a rhetoric of criticism—that there’s a stance you have to have, that you have to position yourself, that you don’t just blather about your impressions or your “opinions” or, worse, your “feelings” about a work. They literally have no idea, at first, what the point of being critical is—no doubt because, in part, they are being raised in a culture where a bland, everything-goes, multi-culti niceness is the paramount virtue. You have to know who you are—as a person, but also as a member of a given civilization—in order to speak about a work.
I always tease them at the beginning of the semester about their writing—I say, “Whenever you write me at 11 o’clock on a Thursday night begging me for an extension on the paper, the prose is always so beautiful and the email is so wonderfully structured.”
Mairead Case contemplates Beckett’s 1958 work Krapp’s Last Tape, a one-act play “about power, ritual, sound, and men, set on a ‘late evening in the future’”:
It is small, a punch: Krapp, a desk, a banana, a closet with a light, a tape recorder, some reels, and some fart jokes. Every year on his birthday, Krapp records a tape about his thoughts and whatever’s happening in his life. Then he listens to it and the ones he made earlier. The play is very funny and very sad and still beautiful. It is barely half an hour — all power, no clutter. There is no one else, not even a dog or a landlady, and since Krapp doesn’t seem cold or hungry or locked in we think yes, okay this is how he wants it. …
The first five minutes — or ten or fifteen — of the play are silent. Krapp shuffles around the stage; he eats a banana, pours himself booze. When he finally speaks — “spool” — it’s funny, like blowing a raspberry at a funeral to make a baby laugh. First Krapp listens to older reels — here he is, throwing a ball for a little white dog; and there in a boat, with a lady who has gooseberry scratches on her thigh — and next he records a tape for this year, his sixty-ninth. He has to restart it a couple times. He is freaking out about his dogs loose in the desert. “Everything there, everything on this old muckball, all the light and dark and famine and feasting of… the ages!” Krapp says. “Yes! Let that go! Jesus!” He is passionate and so crabby.
Case imagines a conversation between Krapp and Gertrude Stein:
A long excerpt from David Foster Wallace’s “The Depressed Person” (pdf), which first appeared in the January 1998 issue of Harper‘s:
The feelings of shame and inadequacy the depressed person experienced about calling members of her Support System long-distance late at night and burdening them with her clumsy attempts to describe at least the contextual texture of her emotional agony were an issue on which she and her therapist were currently doing a great deal of work in their time together.
Eva Holland recounts her journey to the site where Christopher Johnson McCandless, the idealistic hiker depicted in Into The Wild, died in the Alaskan wilderness in 1992. Admirers of the young adventurer – some of whom Holland met in the above video – still retrace McCandless’s steps to see the abandoned bus where he spent his last days:
Fairbanks City Transit System Bus #142 has become a shrine, its rusting shell etched with motivational phrases left by visitors. But the pilgrimage is risky. One hiker died while crossing the Teklanika [River] in 2010, and dozens more – 12 in the summer of 2013 alone – have become lost, hurt or stranded by the rising river and have needed to be rescued by local authorities. …
The trail is nobody’s idea of a lovely hike – one of many things that mystify the Alaskans who watch the McCandless pilgrims set off each year. (“Of all the places you could hike in Alaska …” one local had said to me two nights earlier, shaking her head in disbelief.) The Stampede Trail is a boggy thoroughfare for motorized off-roaders. During the day that I spent on it, I counted seven bus-bound hikers, 22 four-wheeling moose hunters, two guided Jeep tours and one guided ATV [all-terrain vehicle] tour. Hiking there today is no way to capture the solitude and engagement with nature that McCandless was seeking. As I slogged back to my waiting car, I could not see the point of the pilgrimages. Nor could I fathom how the loss of more young lives honored his memory.
The pilgrims, of course, see the journey differently.
Vauhini Vara draws attention to the plight of the lower-middle class – families who make between $15,000 and $60,000 a year:
Compared with the poorest families, lower-middle-class families are more likely to be headed by married couples and to benefit from two incomes. They are also more likely to include a family head who has attended college. So far, so good: studies have shown that children who live with two parents are more likely to be more economically secure and to be healthy, as well as to graduate from high school; other studies show similarly positive effects for children of college-educated parents. And parents benefit, too.
And yet, many of these lower-middle-class families are still struggling to get by. About 60 percent of families below the poverty line receive food stamps (shown in the chart [above] as SNAP, for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program); so do more than 20 percent of lower-middle-class people. All told, more than 30 percent of lower-middle-class people receive food stamps, unemployment benefits, welfare, or other benefits.
Reflecting on the demise of three alternative weekly papers in Connecticut – the New Haven Advocate, Hartford Advocate and Fairfield County Weekly - Brian LaRue laments “the loss of opportunity for journalists, particularly young journalists” it reflects:
Oh, sure — it’s 2013, and there’s no shortage of outlets for a young, loud, opinionated writer to be loud and opinionated in media. But oftentimes — and I’ve written about this before, talking about the shift in media from the all-hands-on-deck newsroom to these networks of isolated bloggers — you lose the wisdom of the tribe that comes from being part of an editorial staff at a decades-old publication. And beyond that, working at an alt-weekly teaches a journalist so many important lessons. For reasons I’ve already laid out, when you report for an alt-weekly, you have to go deep. You have to figure out the not-obvious story. You have to become an engaging storyteller, not just a sharp transcriber. The editorial staff is small. (When I worked at the New Haven Advocate, the most full-time editorial staffers we ever had was seven, and that didn’t last long.) Your beat is broad. You need to learn your history, fast, so you know what to ask about and who to talk to. In general, you need to get really good. Really. Goddamned. Good.
He goes on to argue that alt-weeklies aren’t just important, “they’re also fun“:
They kind of have to be. The salaries are typically atrocious, the hours are long and the benefits are slim. … In his excellent appreciation of Boston Phoenix upon that esteemed alt-weekly’s shuttering, former Phoenix editor S.I. Rosenbaum pointed out how “the job itself had to be the reward.” You work for an alt-weekly because, every week, it feels like some combination of a public service and a tremendous prank you can’t believe you’re getting away with. You spend countless days in which you work from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed again because you know you’re helping to create an ongoing community institution, something thousands of people rely on for an experience they can’t get anywhere else, and you have to bring your A-game for them.
But there’s at least one state where the alt-weekly still thrives: Vermont. In September, Jim Fallows spotlighted Burlington’s Seven Days, a print newspaper that:
James Hamblin digs into what’s really going on with Toxoplasmosis gondii, a parasite spread by cats, and its effect on the human mind:
Toxo has been all over the news in recent years, since it became known that the parasite manipulates people’s behavior. Maybe most interestingly and notoriously, it seems to make men more introverted, suspicious, unattractive to women, and oblivious to the way others see them. Infected women, inversely, have been shown to be more outgoing, trusting, sexually adventurous, attractive to men, and image-conscious. Infected men tend to break more rules than their uninfected peers, and infected women tend to pay them more heed. Infected men and women are 2.5 times more likely to have traffic accidents, more likely to develop schizophrenia, and more likely to engage in self-directed violence. …
Paul Waldman wonders about the moment when click-bait burnout sets in:
Once you’ve clicked on a few posts that promised to make you cry or change your view of the world forever but didn’t deliver, your default assumption will become that when you see something like that, it means somebody’s trying to get you to be a part of something artificial. It’s one thing to send something truly inspiring or outrageous to your friends or Twitter followers and brighten their day for a moment, but nobody wants to be a tool of someone else’s phony marketing campaign or mean-spirited hoax.
And I think that’s the danger for these ventures. The more conscious people become that by passing something along they’re not so much participants in a beautiful collective celebration of our shared humanity, but are instead part of an intentionally constructed attempt at content viralization, the less they’ll want to be a part of it. Because after all, one of the hallmarks of not just Millennials but the couple of older generations going back at least as far as Generation X is media savvy, or at least the desire for media savvy. We all want to think we’re immune to advertising’s manipulations and we don’t get suckered by even the cleverest marketing campaigns.
Paul Pillar points out the costs to the US of applying sanctions to foreign countries, particularly countries like Iran:
The formidable, fear-inducing enforcement of U.S. sanctions against Iran entails substantial costs for U.S. companies. Not only are these companies excluded from some major opportunities for new business; they have to jump through additional hoops to make sure they do not run afoul of the enforcers in areas where they still are doing business. A Washington Post story concerns how this fear leads American companies to report to government regulators in excruciatingly minute detail anything they do that could conceivably brush up against the sanctions. Citibank, for example, felt it necessary to report that it made four dollars in profit from ATM transactions in Bahrain that involved a joint venture that included two Iranian-owned banks.
It is remarkable that some members of Congress who otherwise do not hesitate to preach that onerous government regulations and the administrative burdens they impose are bad for the American economy are also enthusiastic backers of the sanctions.
Richard Cooper worries that “comic-book movies are all about superior beings dominating everybody else”:
The main problem is force: sheer physical force, which lies at the heart of the superhero myth, something Steven T.Seagle observed nicely in “It’s a Bird…”, his poignant autobiographical graphic novel about his reluctance to write for a Superman comic, in which he points out that Superman triumphs by being able to move faster and hit harder than everyone else: essentially a fascist concept. … Fascism also relies on people who must be crushed. The Batman films — and indeed the entire Batman mythos — are based on the idea that what criminals really need is a damn good thrashing, because it’s the only language these punks understand. The vicarious thrill in seeing Batman yell “Swear to me!” at some pitiful creep who swears to God he doesn’t know anything is for the nasty-minded child in all of us: an innocent pleasure until you start to think about the politics.
This week, two thieves in Mexico made off with a truck full of cobalt-60, a radioactive isotope with medical applications. But it seems they didn’t know what they were dealing with:
While Mexican officials initially feared that the material could have been stolen as part of a plot to build a dirty bomb, the material itself has since been recovered. What hasn’t been found are the two carjackers, but they won’t get far: authorities say the thieves will almost certainly [die] of exposure if they haven’t already … It wasn’t initially clear if the thieves knew what they were stealing. But when a small amount (a few dozen grams) of the cobalt-60 was found removed from its casing, authorities figured the duo had no idea what they had, as a thief deliberately targeting radioactive material probably wouldn’t have exposed himself to a deadly dose of radiation.
Julia Fisher details what that level of radiation exposure does to a human body:
It’s worth recalling the glee with which many hacks determined that the Obama presidency was over before the second term had really kicked in, well, only a month ago. The Healthcare.gov fiasco was Katrina; the Syrian pivot was a disastrous wobble; the Iran negotiations were abject surrender; the economy was going nowhere. And it’s not as if there weren’t good reasons for the punditocracy’s sudden lunge for the presidential jugular. The botched website launch remains a pretty unforgivable product of presidential negligence.
But it’s worth digesting how all these alleged disasters have settled down. Obama’s alleged surrender to Putin on Syria … has led to something no one really believed possible: a potential shut-down of Syria’s WMD potential. What Bush failed to do in Iraq (because Saddam’s WMDs were a fantasy), Obama has almost succeeded in doing in Syria – with Putin’s help. The Iran negotiations – far from being a surrender – have set the stage for a real rapprochement. Les Gelb notes:
The Obama team has won the first round on the six-month agreement with Iran by a knockout. The phony, misleading, and dishonest arguments against the pact just didn’t hold up to the reality of the text. As night follows day, the mob of opponents didn’t consider surrender, not for a second. Instead, they trained their media howitzers on the future, the next and more permanent agreement, you know, the one that has yet to be negotiated.
Even George Will has conceded as much. There is a chance that the Middle East, far from exploding in another spasm, is actually safer today than in recent times. Netanyahu’s worst instincts have been rather coolly checked. The reactionary forces in Iran are on the defensive. Kerry has in no way given up on a two-state solution on his watch. And today, we got a glimpse of a much stronger economy than most were expecting, and the disastrous website … has been patched up as promised (with, of course, some ways to go). Alec McGillis sums it up:
The bungled healthcare.gov Web site emerged vastly improved following an intensive fix-it push, allowing some 25,000 to sign up per day, as many as signed up in all of October.
Joe Lhota’s prognostications of doom (seen above) are looking ever more unfounded. NYC mayor-elect Bill de Blasio appointed William Bratton as his new police commissioner on Thursday. Bratton, who led the NYPD under Giuliani in the ’90s, was the architect of the very same stop-and-frisk program de Blasio ran against during campaign season. Mychal Denzel Smith is disappointed, but not surprised, at the choice:
While he criticized outgoing commissioner Ray Kelly for the “overuse-and-abuse of stop-and-frisk,” de Blasio has stopped short of calling for an end to the policy altogether. He has been in favor a “mend, don’t end” approach, supporting the reforms as handed down by US district court judge Shira Scheindlin as a result of the Floyd v. City of New York case. His choice of Bratton for police commissioner is consistent with his previously stated positions … The mayor-elect had an opportunity to signal a fundamentally new approach to the way policing would be done in NYC, but chose instead the safe and familiar, which has never benefited the communities that elected him to office. De Blasio has always been the most progressive candidate with a chance of winning, not the most progressive.
Heather Mac Donald declares Bratton’s appointment proof of “the limits that now constrain even the most left-leaning urban politicians”:
Though de Blasio demagogued against the NYPD during the election campaign, his selection of Bratton shows that he understands that his mayoralty will be judged first and foremost on whether he maintains New York’s status as the safest big city in America …
Earlier this week, Suzy Khimm outlined a possible budget deal:
Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan, Congress’s budget leaders, are currently aiming for a deal that would undo somewhere between $60 and $80 billion of sequestration cuts over the next two years, according to Congressional aides and others familiar with the talks. Overall, the deal would raise 2014’s discretionary spending levels from $968 billion to $1 trillion, and Republicans are insisting on additional deficit reduction.
The basic outlines of the deal are still in flux, and those figures could change in the coming days. “The actual numbers are very fluid. I wouldn’t take them as certain by any means,” said one Republican aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
I can buy the idea that Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), who is leading negotiations for House Republicans, will reach a spending deal with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) I remain skeptical that such a deal can pass the House of Representatives with a majority of Republican votes, and without making outside conservative groups go insane, before the government shutdown deadline of Jan. 15.
What appears to have happened here is that Republican leaders who’d like very much to do something positive gave a sunnier take to outlets such as Politico than was warranted, perhaps in an effort to build momentum toward a deal.
Please take a moment to merge your miscarriage series with the religious corporations thread, because science: Plan B does not cause abortion because it does not prevent implantation. Plan B is progesterone. It does absolutely nothing if you have already ovulated and had the misfortune of having conceived the night before. In fact, as every woman who has had trouble staying pregnant knows, progesterone is what they prescribe, after a few miscarriages, to help a fertilized egg implant and “stick” in the uterus. So it actually HELPS pregnancies become more viable.
But if you already conceived, you are screwed; Plan B actually ups the chances that you will end up with a baby. Plan B only works if you had sex and have not yet ovulated, in which case the hormone surge will push your ovulation a couple weeks into the future, preventing you from releasing that egg down into the fallopian pool of waiting sperm. It in no way whatsoever interrupts an actual pregnancy after the moment of conception. It does not harm a single hair on a blastocyst’s one-celled head.
Indeed, an overwhelming number of studies in the past decade back up the reader’s point that Plan B does not prevent implantation. Last year the NYT did an extensive investigation that showed how all the ambiguity around the issue is traced to the FDA’s dubious labeling of Plan B back in 1999:
Labels inside every box of morning-after pills, drugs widely used to prevent pregnancy after sex, say they may work by blocking fertilized eggs from implanting in a woman’s uterus. Respected medical authorities, including the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic, have said the same thing on their Web sites. … But an examination by The New York Times has found that the federally approved labels and medical Web sites do not reflect what the science shows. Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say. Rather, the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming.
It turns out that the politically charged debate over morning-after pills and abortion, a divisive issue in this election year, is probably rooted in outdated or incorrect scientific guesses about how the pills work.
The above video of Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens cracking a joke at the expense of sick people makes Kilgore, well, sick:
The robust laughs of Hudgen’s audience when he compared pre-existing condition coverage to an ex post facto request for auto insurance collision coverage after a motorist causes a wreck is about as disgusting as the stupid analogy itself.
This might sound unusually callous, even for a Georgia Republican — or like typical reactionary anti-Obamacare horseshit taken just a bit too far. But it’s actually worse. It’s a symptom of how deep the rot of 47 percenter thinking has crept in the conservative movement.
About fifteen years after most gay men figured it out, Mark Joseph Stern stumbles onto the truth that, with HIV no longer a death sentence in developed countries, the era of simply scaring gay men away from unprotected sex is over. And, unlike so many well-meant public health campaigns, he is prepared to tell the obvious truth:
Bareback sex feels better for both partners. At some point, almost every gay man will learn this fact—so why lie about it?
Indeed. That one fact combined with one other – that middle-class gay men can suppress the virus indefinitely with the cocktail – has to be integrated into a sane, safer sex message. I’ve been banging on about this for years, of course, and there have been initiatives, in San Francisco particularly, where these insights have indeed been integrated into public health campaigns. And they’ve been among the most successful in restraining infection. But Stern goes one step further:
If we don’t give gay men the promise of the reward, a foreseeable end to the hassles of condoms, they’re bound to get frustrated and either slip up or give up. Giving men the goal of a committed relationship—and with it, the perk of unprotected sex—might convert barebacking from a forbidden fruit to a reward worth working toward.
Yes, and no. First off, can we retire the term “barebacking” and simply refer to it as sex without condoms, i.e. the activity formerly known as sex? Stigmatizing latex-free sex as “barebacking” may have had some logic in the plague years, but it can be psychologically toxic today. It renders the most intimate of sexual interactions a pathology, and that can’t be right.
Second, the prize of non-rubbered sex in a monogamous relationship is a little more fraught than Stern makes it out to be. It makes huge sense if both men are HIV-positive. In that case, there is no danger that sex outside the marriage – sometimes lied about, or hidden, or unspoken – can lead to indirect infection, because both men are infected already. But if both men are negative, it puts much more pressure on monogamy and on a marriage than might be wise. One slip and you’re not only betraying your partner, you could also be deeply damaging his health. Although it’s noble as an ideal, the standard here may be simply practically too high, certainly over a lifetime, for most men to achieve. And the consequences of failure can be terrible for a relationship.
I think we should leave it to married couples or committed lovers to figure their way through this – and avoid harshness and easy judgment. We’re all human and in sexual desire, more human and flawed than in most other areas. But, as a practical matter, you don’t have to restrict non-rubbered sex solely to monogamous married couples to have an impact on infection rates.
On December 4th, the lower house of parliament voted [268 to 138] to make prostitution a crime for those who pay for sex, subject to a fine of €1,500 ($2,030) for a first offense and €3,750 thereafter. “I don’t want a society in which women have a price,” said Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the women’s minister. She wants nothing less than to “abolish” prostitution in France. With Germany having second thoughts about its decision over a decade ago to liberalize the world’s oldest profession, the French have decided to follow Sweden, Finland and Norway in restricting prostitution. Paying for sex is not now illegal, although brothels, soliciting and pimping are.
The bill must still pass the Senate and be signed by the president before it becomes law, a process that could take several months. Christopher Dickey calls the debate “ferociously ideological in ways that are very French indeed”:
While just about everyone denounces the trafficking of women and men treated as virtual slaves, much of the most passionate debate has focused on the cases of independent sex workers, a relatively small minority, and whether they have the right to use their bodies – and sell their services – as they see fit. The free-wheeling publication Causeur provoked sensational headlines when it issued a manifesto signed by hundreds of self-proclaimed “bastards” – all men – warning the government, “hands off my whore.” “We love liberty, literature and intimacy,” it claimed, “and when the state concerns itself with our asses, all three are in danger. … Against the ‘sexually correct,’ we intend to live like adults.”
But the most intense debate is not so much with or against macho posturing, it is among France’s feminists. The daily Le Monde discerned four or five distinct currents: