Sex & Culture

When Language Is More Important Than War

Sixteen million Americans fought in WWII. A half-million of them died in it. That’s equal to the entire population of Washington, DC. Or of Wyoming. Very few of those 16,000,000 are still alive, and a dwindling number of Americans actually knows one of them. To create and preserve a record of what actually happened, Ken Burns has made a 14-hour documentary for PBS. It has exactly four instances of words you might hear—or say—if someone were trying to kill you. The Parents Television Council plans to scour those fourteen hours for the four words they don’t want anyone to say…

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Ode to Skimpy Summer Clothes

There are so many things to like about summer—the great weather, all that fresh fruit, home-grown tomatoes (they actually taste like tomatoes), Sunday night baseball on ESPN, the twilight that seems to go on forever… And the skimpy clothes. Revealing, unintentionally daring, did-you-look-in-the-mirror- before-you-left-the-house clothes. Speedos so tight you can tell if the guy is circumcised. Bikinis that cover the front of the breast or the side, but not both. Baggy shorts that let a ball or two lazily poke out when a guy sits down. Thin white cotton skirts that need a slip to be proper—worn without a slip.…

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“Morality” Juveniles Quiver Over Exposed Breasts

Jordache Jeans has launched an entertaining set of print and TV ads featuring model Heidi Klum. On TV we see Klum’s topless back; in print we see her looking into a full-length mirror, her out-of-focus breasts sort-of visible, nipples strategically covered with hair. Predictably, those obsessed with hiding women’s breasts from unmarried Americans went berserk. Robert Peters of Morality in Media, for example, suggested that this represents the end of civilization as we know it. As a bonus, his press release also insulted sex education and readers of Playboy. Peters is especially miffed because the ad appears in “The N.Y.…

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No Sex, Please, We’re—Um, Liberal Bloggers

While in Chicago this week, I spent some fascinating time at the Kos Convention. There were 1500 people there working for progressive political change, most of them bloggers. I did an author hour, was interviewed for the virtual world Second Life, and went to a few sessions. Almost every progressive cause was represented: organized labor, farm reform, immigration, internet access for the poor, universal healthcare. Dozens of political figures attended, and Hillary, Barack, and the other aspiring Democratic presidential candidates held a spirited debate. The sessions had titles like “Countering corruption in Congress,” “Workers and the global supply chain,” and…

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O‘Reilly Freaks Out Over “Uterus”

Last night, Bill O’Reilly pretended to have a conversation about sex education with my dear friend Debra Haffner. She’s the co-founder and director of the Religious Institute for Sexual Morality, Justice, & Healing. The faux news hook was Barack Obama’s comment supporting sex education in kindergarten. The show’s producer helpfully cued the audience with a visual of condoms and oral contraceptives—completely irrelevant to the discussion, but predictably inflammatory. And that, not informing people, is the show’s mission. O’Reilly criticized some abstract “them” for injecting too much fear into the cultural dialogue about childhood sexuality—without, of course, noting that his show…

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“F-Word” Indecency

“F-word.” “F— you.” Do you know what these expressions mean? Of course you do. Everyone over the age of 10 does. And yet the American mass media continue to use these infantile symbols when they want to refer to someone using the word fuck. U.S. News & World Report is the latest grownup magazine to coyly play it both ways. In this week’s article on how John McCain’s “sharp tongue could affect the [presidential] race,” they noted he was reported telling Senator John Cornyn “F— you.” Later in the story, they reminded us that three years ago, Vice-President Cheney “famously…

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