A look at some new national laws, and more news from the world of sex.
Sex offenders banned in public places in U.S. counties
America's weird fascination with sex offenders continues: two U.S. counties formally banned sex offenders from public places, just this week. In Yakima, WA, they were banned from using public swimming pools, while in Orange County, California, the ban included harbors, beaches, parks, and playgrounds.
It’s hard to think of a more universally demonized group than sex offenders (except maybe gay immigrant sex offenders), and there’s easy political capital in passing legislation like this. Which is obviously why people do it.
Here’s the funny thing: nowhere has it actually been shown that these sorts of bans have any effect on reducing sex crimes. The only place that "registered sex offenders + beaches = rampant sex criming" is in our imaginations, or at least the imaginations of our elected officials. And the whole thing suggests the prurient interest of a lot of sexually repressed people.
Imagine a middle-aged state senator with some sexual hang-ups of his own looking at a pool full of young people swimming and thinking, "Man, a creepy sex-offender would think this was totally hot. Not me, I don’t think this is erotic at all, but some freak criminal would really get off on all this. Better make a law about that."
Is drop in teen-pregnancy rates because of abstinence, or birth control?
Abstinence is big business in this country. And apparently, that holds true whether you’re actually preventing teen pregnancy and STDs or just talking about it on television.
Bristol Palin — everyone’s favorite teen mom turned abstinence advocate — received over a quarter of a million dollars last year from The Candie's Foundation [sic, if you can believe it], an organization that uses celebrity endorsements and initiatives to fight teen pregnancy. Of its more-than-two-million-dollar annual budget, the agency spent about $35,000 on actual initiatives at health centers. Many have since criticized them, arguing that if you want to stop teen pregnancy, putting money into actual centers and initiatives focused on actual teens is more effective than highly paid celebrities and TV ads. But as long as the people giving Candie's their money don’t care, there’s nothing really to say.
The percent of sexually active teens is down almost ten percent since 1991, and teen pregnancy rates are dropping along with it, according to a recent CDC study. Abstinence groups like Candie's would surely like to take the credit for those figures, but it's important to note that teen contraceptive use is also up — and a study from 2006 finds that safe sex (as opposed to no sex) is responsible for 86% of the drop.
But you’ll never hear that from Bristol Palin. Even though she’s walking proof that when you tell kids to skip sex and don’t give them condoms, you end up with babies.
Same-sex couples use tax forms as protest
Tax season season sucks for everyone. But, like so many things, it sucks a little bit more if you’re gay. Even in states that recognize gay marriage or civil unions, federal law still sees marriage as between a man and a woman. Because of that, gay couples are forced to file taxes separately, and inconveniences aside, they’re not only forced to declare themselves “single” in the eyes of the law, they often lose money because of it.
A new campaign, “Refuse to Lie,” is encouraging gay couples to change that by asking them to joint file, just like their straight-married counterparts. In the state of Massachussetts, it might just be legal, since the state declared the Defense Against Marriage Act unconstitutional last summer — a case that’s currently pending.
However, in other states, there are plenty of reports of gay couples filing jointly and getting their returns with no troubles. This likely has less to do with some compassionate soul at the IRS choosing to turn a blind eye and more with the fact that the forms are processed by machine and there’s no gender indication. While there’s still the chance that couples who so file will get audited, I’d like to hope that by the time anybody gets around to it, the law will have changed.
Yale’s Title IX problems continue
A reporter from Good Morning America visited Yale this week to cover the giant Title IX lawsuit the university faces. And apparently, the situation on the ground is as dire as we’ve heard.
According to reports, right as the reporter arrived, she heard a man yell “a sexually explicit,” not-nice-to-women remark, proving that Yale is a hotbed of misogynists run amok. It sounds like that scene in a movie where you step off the bus in a bad neighborhood and see muggings and stabbings and drug-dealings.
Title IX is an equal-opportunity law that aims specifically to protect women in high education. Sixteen students and faculty members sued Yale under Title IX claiming that the university had failed to correct a “hostile environment” towards women.
Several incidents provoked the lawsuit. Most recently, Yale was in the news when the brothers of Delta Kappa Epsilon had some sort of fraternal rape parade, and walked around chanting, “No means yes. Yes means anal.” A memorable slogan if there ever was one.
Porn Wikileaks is still pissing everyone off
Finally, in the last couple of weeks, a new web presence has set itself out to become the Wikileaks of the porn world. Except, where Wikileaks' goals were lofty (if, some might say, misguided), Porn Wikileaks was seemingly driven only by a malicious, homophobic desire to embarrass a lot of people.
Porn thrives on secrecy — most adult-film performers use false names, keep their real identities secret, and then after a couple years, go on to become teachers, lawyers, and the like. And, while not a week goes by where you don’t hear about someone losing her job when her seedy past is exposed, most people seem to keep it quiet. At least until now, the guy behind the site — a failed porn star named Donny Long — has posted the names and home addresses of over 15,000 people, and wrapped them in more crazy homophobic and misogynistic slurs than you can think of.
Despite all the hubbub, however, there has been little to no news of people adversely affected. Lots of people have been annoyed and feel violated, but there are no reports of anyone losing their jobs. Perhaps that's because the site, despite all the press it’s been getting, doesn’t seem to be up, at least not as of this writing. It may have been overwhelmed by traffic or taken down. I'd also like to think that maybe something like this bring us a little bit closer to admitting that porn isn’t such a huge deal? Since everyone watches it, wouldn’t it be great if we could admit that some people have to be in it, too?