Archive for November, 2006

Happy Meth Awareness Day, Everybody!

November 30, 2006

I don’t talk about drugs much, you know; it’s not what people seem to want me to address, and I’ve actually used way fewer drugs than the average hip person. It’s not like I get invited to groovy drug conferences like Annie Sprinkle (www.anniesprinkle.org), who is in the loop with all the mind-expansion folks who go to Hawai’i for their shindigs. Of course this is understandable, since being with Annie is very mind-expanding whether or not you do drugs at the same time.

I don’t talk much about rock and roll, either. But it’s Meth Awareness Day, and I just feel like celebrating with a little awareness of something other than the War-On-Drugs variety.

So two things. One, I want to send my thoughts into the ether for all the people I know who’ve died because of meth. It turns out that this party girl Tina has a very nasty side, and several people in my life have crossed her unsuccessfully. And I want to sing out to my old friend who’s still fighting speed — that’s what meth is, speed — because after losing his dear lover to AIDS, it’s easier to go out and get on with his life when he’s high. I hope his life is returned to him in one piece, and without the meth.

You know, just about the time when San Francisco was becoming a beacon of the sexual revolution, people stuck signs up around town that said “Speed Kills” — I wish people today would remember that, and realize that they were right.

One problem is that speed makes people mad to fuck. Dancing and having sex — it’s a pure party drug for many people. What’s not to like about something that can make you do both activities all night? But anything you take to make you more into the sex gets in the way of the sex: you have to pick the mind-altering space you *really* want. Almost every kind of drug, especially done to excess, gets in the way of sexual connection eventually, though some are much, much worse than others… even aclohol and nicotine. Hey, don’t you remember the billboard with the limp-cigaretted Marlboro Man? What do you think they were trying to get at?

But let’s look at the other side of the coin for a minute. I just had dinner with the inimitable Violet Blue, and she told me something I had somehow missed: the Meth Act is actually *part* of the Patriot Act. Now, which war do these people want to fight? There’s *already* a war on drugs, one that costs our culture plenty (I wonder if it’s an accident that a report came out today stating that one out of every thirty-some people is in jail, many of them on drug charges). And I am trying my best, though I’m no friend at all of meth or meth-cookers, to wrap my mind around the idea that stopping meth use will also stop the terrorists at the border.

It won’t wrap. Perhaps I need some LSD? Sweet mama, I hope the Republicans are not getting into acid now. That is just the *last* damn thing we need.

Sudafed or other epinephrin analogs can only be sold now if you sign a paper at the drugstore and get your name put into a database. The Patriot Act, like the country’s biggest direct mail clearinghouse, is not collecting enough names just by tapping phones and scamming libraries (to which the librarians, bless their little hearts, put a stop as if Bush and Rove were snot-nosed spitball-throwers in the stacks). Now, perhaps being inspired by the snot-nosiness of it all, they’re taking your name if you have allergies.

Happy Meth Day, people. Let’s all celebrate by taking a nice spin with the ol’ vibrator — it’s a natural high.

Sexual Freedom

November 30, 2006

One of the things that I enjoy most about the Good Vibes culture is how diverse the company actually is. Our offices and stores are filled with people representing a variety of ethnicities, orientations, shapes, sizes, genders and political viewpoints. The one thing that we all share in common is our dedication to sex positive education. The good vibes vibe goes way beyond tolerance. People don’t “tolerate” each other here; they genuinely embrace diversity in an accepting, nonjudgmental way.

Lately, I’ve feel marginalized (and offended) by peoples closed minded attitudes quite a lot in other aspects of my life. At graduate school, I have an instructor who describes BDSM as “something rich people do out of boredom”. During a meeting of sex educators recently, I heard monogamy referred to as “boring, unexciting & something vanilla people do”. While meeting with a psychotherapist who supervises one of my therapy cases she heard me use the word “poly” to describe a client and accused me of “putting the words into her mouth” because it didn’t sound like something “a client in Marin would say”.

I feel myself being pulled in fifty different directions. To traditional groups I’m a pervert; to self proclaimed perverts I’m boring, to my lesbian friends I’m either a breeder or in denial. Why is it that people feel the need to analyze and negate the parts of me that don’t fit in with their paradigm?

The world needs to pick up more of the good vibes mentality. Sexual relationships can be exciting whether monogamous or polyamorous. Gay, bisexual and straight people can have meaningful relationships. Being proud of who you are doesn’t mean being embarrassed for people who are the opposite. The next time you start to judge someone’s life, think twice about it, don’t tolerate them, accept them as you would hope to be accepted and share some good vibes.

More SF Values!

November 28, 2006

Well, friends, I just couldn’t stop thinking about all the election-time hurlyburly about values. So I also should have said (but was in a mad rush to get that last SF Values piece actually posted ON election day):

Safer sex is a San Francisco value we exported to the rest of the country, and which has been under particular attack under the Republicans: its abstinence-only education is, in part, a strategy to undermine youth’s access to information about sexual health. They’re interested in just the opposite, because they don’t fundamentally believe sex *is* healthy. And the Bush administration has gutted safer sex education not only in the US but all over the globe by choking off funds to organizations that discuss it too frankly.

Caring for people with AIDS is a SF value that, at the height of the epidemic here, consumed almost the entire city, and so while the Republicans have tried to offload social services onto the private sector, I believe San Franciscans proved we could do it first and better; the only remotely comparable situation I can think of, Hurricane Katrina relief, was done similarly: in the face of great government neglect, by citizens, friends and lovers of a town everyone looks to as a refuge from the *rest* of the country’s values.

Sex-positivity itself is a notion that developed here and continues to spread like a healing meme, an alternative to the right-wing idea that sex is primarily for making babies and giving straight people an excuse to get married (except when you really need to call a gay hooker with some meth to help you unwind, and even then it’s dangerous and problematic). Short definition of sex-positivity: the notion that sexuality is or could be a positive part of every person’s life, and that everyone has the right to pleasure and his/her/hir own erotic desires and sex/gender identity, as long as it’s consensually expressed.

Along with safer sex and sex-positivity comes a high value placed on sexual communication. And it’s surprising that the rest of the country doesn’t clamor for this, because for one thing, people who want to be monogamous *really* need to learn how to do it. I think people move to San Francisco not just to be themselves sexually and genderally (I think I just made that word up), but just to be able to find others with whom they can comfortably communicate about this most important element of their lives.

Finally, what’s the opposite of hypocrisy? That’s a crucial San Francisco value and is what, I believe, moved millions of voters at the polls last week. They saw not only what hypocrites some of their leaders were, but also saw the effects of that hypocrisy on people personally (Rev. Haggard’s wife and kids, for instance) and also socially (Haggard visits the White House to help drive anti-gay policy, except when he’s busy with a nose full of Tina and a dick in his mouth). After that, who wouldn’t find it a relief to look to a city where lying isn’t required?

***

These actually got put on paper thanks to my friend Violet Blue, whose new column at sfgate.com covers the sex waterfront; visit her at http://www.sfgate.com/columnists/violetblue/ and get an earful. Maybe “ear” isn’t the right part to be citing, hmmm.

AND! Quite an honor: the paragraph about caring for people with AIDS, which Violet quoted in its entirety, was nominated for Quote of the Day last week by Greta Christina, who blogs at http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/ … and they used it on November 21! I heard about it from Susie Bright, who E’d me with this: “this is so prestigious, you are the quote of the day! i have been getting this for years, and it’s nearly always someone who’s dead! you’re a living legend!”

Awww, thanks, Susie, and geez, I *hope* I didn’t die when I wasn’t looking. To receive the wisdom of mostly-dead people in your inbox, Greta tells me you can sign up here: quotationoftheday_request@yahoo.ca

Susie, by the way, herself a major living legend and primo exemplar of SF values even though she lives in Santa Cruz now, blogs at http://susiebright.blogs.com/.

This Is Why I Love the Midwest

November 16, 2006

Reason One: I love the midwest because as I passed the cozy lobby of the Walden Inn on the DePauw University campus (which is where I am tonight, about to read seditious literature to the students), I overheard a group of middle-aged Indianans, or possibly they were Academics and hence fundamentally stateless, playing “It Had to Be You” on lutes.

I think they were lutes, anyway.
depauw.jpg

And if that is not reason enough, here’s Reason Two:

Because the campus paper, The DePauw, this Tuesday published an edition containing a “Sexual Negotiation Agreement” tucked in at the center fold, a two-page spread featuring photos of the last football game. (The sports photos came complete with the obligatory costumed mascot, in this case a tiger, and the pic of the guy in the tiger suit together with a piece of paper that said SEX at the top made me think uncontrollably of furries. But then I got hold of myself and moved on to read the contents of the sheet of paper.)

Now, for starters, DePauw does not think of itself as a super-progressive campus. Close to 70% of its students live in or are affiliated with the Greek system, and all you dirty-minded personal-ad freaks out there should take note that I am talking about fraternities and sororities, not Greek Love. (Which itself is far different from Geek Love — when is Katherine Dunn going to write another novel?)

So at dinner with a number of the Queer/Straight Alliance youth whose organization is helping to promote my visit to campus the issue of frats and sororities came up. One young man said his frat had about a half-dozen gay guys who were out, and all agreed that being gay in one of DePauw’s greek houses probably wasn’t as big a deal as it might be at some other schools; we theorized that this might be due to the high number of students affiliated with the system. You’d just about have to have extra diversity in the houses than you would where frat residence identifies your politics and class background, not to mention your dad’s frat experience and your own putative sexual orientation.

But it certainly is a reason to dig DePauw.

Another reason: the Sexual Negotiation Agreement includes spaces for *three* participants to sign their names, not just two.

Sex toy use is included as one possibly-negotiable erotic act. (DePauw: Good Vibrations salutes you!)

Nice emphasis on consent, including one’s ability to withdraw consent at any point, and emphasis too on drug/alcohol use.

And on the other side of the paper, in case any of you are secretly horrified that I want you to sign a piece of paper before having sex (with me or anybody else), comes the kicker: “Wouldn’t it be easier just to talk about it?” It’s paid for by The Initiative for Sexual Consciousness, whose motto is “Ask Questions. Inform yourself.”

And a couple of pages later, The DePauw features a really, really sensible op-ed about poor sex education.

Now, a school outside the Midwest could do this too, a consciousness-raising semi-spoof that will hopefully leave campus abuzz for a few days and leave a lasting impression in the minds of its readers. But the point is, this *isn’t* UC Santa Cruz or Columbia, home of the splendid “Go Ask Alice” sex ed website. This is a school in Greencastle, Indiana. So what I love about the Midwest is partly that the whole blue state/red state divide is way too simplistic to allow us to understand whaat’s really going on oout here. So many people on the coasts subscribe to that insulting “fly-over state” mentality that any visit to the students, or the queer communities, or the progressive bookstores and sex shops (hello, Left Bank Books of St. Louis! Hello, A Woman’s Touch of Madison!) would likely leave them completely flummoxed. It’s great to go to the midlands or the hinterlands and have “Everything You Know Is Wrong” experiences (I write more about these in the intro to the second edition of my book Real Live Nude Girl) that teach more about diversity in America than any lecturer could.

Also on campus tonight is women’s studies she-ro Carol Gilligan, whose book You Just Don’t Understand exposed gendered communications styles (and whom I studied as an undergrad back in the early ’80s, just before Kendall and the other splendid youth who brought me out to DePauw were born). I’m sure Gilligan didn’t anticipate feminist porn as she was penning that book, and I wonder now, as I get ready to read to the Queer/Straight Alliance and their friends from PoMoSexuals, what kinds of changes to our cultural landscape these young people will inscribe. Kicking around issues at the dinner table as diverse as African-American fraternities, the Rocky Horror Picture Show and Rape-O self-defense condoms, I look forward to finding out.

****

Hey, everybody! Since I mentioned my books Real Live Nude Girl and PoMoSexuals here, you might be interested to know that this month Good Vibrations is having a sale on all the Cleis Press books they carry… including those two. This sale also covers a bunch of Violet Blue’s books (my essay on visiting the Kinsey Institute, my only other time in Indiana, can be found in her Best American Sex Writing tome), The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex, and more.

Ooops. A Derailment on the Track of Memory

November 16, 2006

OK, so before you all tell me, let me make a correction to my last column’s Erratum (the one I’ve caught so far, anyway):

Carol Gilligan didn’t write You Just Don’t Understand, Deborah Tannen did.

Gilligan wrote In A Different Voice.

Both extremely worthwhile, and then there’s a cool late-90s book to follow up with whose name I of course do not remember, being in the midst of this derailment, but I’ll find it on my bookshelf when I get home and report back. It has a big set of lips on the cover.

I bet they hate being confused, too. Sorry, Great Women of Gender Communication Note.

So What DO They Mean by San Francisco Values?

November 7, 2006

Is it really just that our queers can come out without persecution and our mayor wants everybody to be able to get married? How ironic that *getting married* is the issue that has right-wing panties so in a bunch: in my youth, conservatives moaned that we *didn’t* want to get married, and indeed I still haven’t (Robert and I are on the Alternatives to Marriage website along with Sartre and de Beauvoir, but that’s not a San Francisco thing; I think it started in Rhode island).

Is it that when women find themselves pregnant and not in a position to have a child that they can still find a doctor to perform an abortion? (Though choice is under attack on our ballot today just as it is in so many other states, at least the pro-“life” guys who murder physicians pretty much stay out of our town.)

Is it that transsexuals are taken seriously in San Francisco more than in most other places? At Good Vibrations we’re proud to be one of the private companies employing a significant number of transfolk. And we certainly live in one of the least bigoted cities in the US regarding this issue, though even here there remains much to accomplish before transphobia is truly a thing of the past.

Is it the salacious pics the world gets to see from the Folsom Street Fair? I suppose you think we dress in black leather all the time here. It’s not true, and I personally prefer rubber; it’s clingier.

Is it our feisty sex workers? Can it be that the (anti-)SF Values fulminators are still tweaked that Margo St. James ran for supervisor? (I just saw the great Margo, founder of COYOTE, or Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics, last week; young sex workers whom she inspired gave her an ward of appreciation. You can usually find her here around Hallowe’en, a national holiday for hookers as well as queers.)

Old Tired Ethics, in fact, seem to be at the heart of this war of words. If the Republicans can’t think of anything fresh, and they can’t, they recycle a few things from a playbook that must really be dog-eared by now: Bash San Francisco: sex, drugs, Summer of Love, fruits and nuts… they’ve been at this for forty years, people! Freak people out with homophobic slurs (which mostly require a large glop of untruth even to stick; accusations of pedophilia work the best). Erotophobia works too, in all its many variations, with points if you can work in a nasty racist undertone (“Harold! Call me!”) — even though sexual varition aplenty can be found in towns all across America, even or maybe especially Washington DC and wherever the leaders of megachurches go to relax. Calling out San Francisco values just makes the callers seem like Harper Valley hypocrites.

Look, if the vaunted notion of freedom means anything at all, it means that people can, as long as they’re not hurting other people, make lives that suit them. How is it that the culture-warmongers on the right can’t find a way to respect what’s good about diversity, sexual and cultural as well as all the other kinds they periodically have spasms of bigotry about? (“…Harold!…”) What part of “pursuit of happiness” don’t these sourpusses understand?

I’ve spent more time in the heartland that the average queer left-coast sex activist, and I can tell you that many people there, living right next to neighbors who seem to buy this load of crap uncritically, do not buy it at all. We have cultural and sexual and gender diversity in every corner of this great country, just as we have queer-bashing and transphobia and cops who won’t help if a hooker gets attacked. We have a lot to be thankful for, and a lot, a LOT of work to do to make sure everyone here has a chance at a good life, and I’m not just talking about a living wage (an issue on which, nyah nyah, San Francisco’s also leading the country).

So start by voting today. Follow up by communicating about the issues that have meaning for you: to each other, your neighbors, the politicians, the op-ed page of whatever new or old media you consume. I used to kind of like the old anarchist quip “Don’t vote, it only encourages them” — funny, huh? But then I got older and saw what happens when fewer and fewer folks vote. And THAT, people, REALLY encourages them.

It’s Not Homosexuality, It’s Hypocrisy (and a Word About San Francisco Values)

November 6, 2006

I had just about worked up a head of steam about Mark Foley. And now this! Ted Haggard, whose name probably felt especially apt this weekend, is outed by a gay sex worker. Can schadenfreude get any sweeter? (Well, it could, actually, if it were revealed between now and tomorrow which White House denizen last year’s gay hooker-turned-Republican-“journalist” used to go visit.)

I suppose the extreme right’s spin on this is that homosexuals have slithered quietly into seats of power and influence, there to be outed just in time to influence the election. Maybe they’re even making all this “San Francisco values” noise to subliminally remind the US of this. It’s really not so much about that big bulldagger Nancy Pelosi after all.

(Sorry, Nancy, I suppose I should spell out for them that I’ve just used *irony*, a sharp left-wing tool that the far reaches of the GOP has not yet learned how to operate.)

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My friend Seth does the Mark Foley look on Hallowe’en with his “page” Ian.

But these big right-wing homos are not associated with San Francisco, are they? No, WE have homosexuals who are OUT. These are Florida and Denver values on display, not San Francisco’s, and in fact, I owe another apology here to the lovely LGBT communities of Florida and Colorado who are out as well. Another moment of irony here is that in either place, Mark Foley or Ted Haggard might have chosen a very different life-path than the closet.
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