Monday, February 27, 2006

Nossuh, There Ain't No Guilt 'Round These Here Parts

Just in time for the end of "Black History Month," come these images from the Birmingham News. These were taken 50 years ago, and weren't printed because:

"[T]he newspaper didn't want to draw attention to the racial discord of the 1950s and 1960s, news photographers from the period said.

"The editors thought if you didn't publish it, much of this would go away," said Ed Jones, 81, a photographer at The News from 1942 to 1987..."--AP News

(this is the guilt being mentioned in the subject title, by the by)

These are some powerful images...

Once, while in Houston helping a friend sell his art, I ran into a booth full of racist images and memorabilia ("Li'l Black Sambo Loves His Coca-Cola Wit' His Watermelon, Oh Yes He Do").

Interested, I stopped by and spoke with the proprietor, a black gentleman with an interest in preserving these images. We talked about how necessary it is to face up to this past of ours; not just to rebuke it, but to understand where it is that we, as a culture, came from. Also, the old adage about being doomed to repeat history was mentioned.

50 years isn't that long ago, in the grand scheme of things.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

...and After Your Local News...

I just spent the last hour looking for a link of last night's Stephanie @ The Olympics bit on David Letterman, with no luck. I used to really like the Stephanie segments, though the actual footage was pretty funny (Stephanie went around showing the non-english speaking locals her backpack that had wheels on it. "I'm on American Television," she'd say, and the locals would go "oohhh," as if that explained everything)...This is the kind of gal I can go for in a heartbeat: Goofy, a good sport, and willing to laugh at herself.

She's been on the spotlight for so long, though, that the initial innocent goofiness has worn off. I don't think anything will phaze Rupert Gee, though.

One of the better things about not having cable (not constantly sucking on the cathode teat, for one thing), is that I get to keep up with David Letterman, who is something of a personal hero to me.

And, after weirdly deflating for a number of years, I'm glad to see that he's become an ornery cuss again, with jabs taken at CBS executives, the station's programming, and the current presidential administration (despite being a rumored moderate conservative). If you haven't seen him dismantle Bill O'Reilly, get your self to google now.

Like Carson's fans before him, I've been with Letterman since the moderately early days in the 80s; enough to remember his picking on other unsuspecting women in NYC, most famously the woman who was a receptionist across the way from Rockerfeller center. He pestered her through several birthdays, promotions, engagements and marriage before he stopped.

I guess his is a benevolent lechery (at least, no one has sued him cough>Bob Barker!<cough), because there's been a few other targets before Stephanie came along. And, I'm sorry, but Beat The Clock (in which the participant, usually at Hello Deli, isn't given a task to beat the clock with, leading to 30 seconds of them staring at the camera and listening to frantic music) still kills me.

Letterman's still king in my book.

And you know, seeing as this entry has absolutely zero focus, Craig Ferguson is growing on me!

At first I didn't know what to make of the guy and his rambling opening monologue (after which I usually go to bed), but I've come to appreciate the friendly way he approaches the enterprise.

As opposed to Conan. People will argue that Conan's funnier, and I'll give them that, but the 60 minutes of shtick-n-mug-o-rama can get old for me. Besides, it's not the same without Andy Richter (who really deserves a much better career).

Which leaves us with Jimmy Kimmel, the lucky bastard currently involved with Sarah Silverman (need there be a diatribe about unworthy suitors?). I don't really watch his show, was never that big on The Man Show, and Crank Yankers always had a funny bit or two in every show. Beyond that, I can't really say much.

Oh, sorry, forgot about Carson Daly. Yup.

I'll tell you what I occasionally miss: Later with Bob Costas, back when he was NBC's baseball guru and still humble enough that his intelligence didn't get in the way of an entertaining interview. Because his background wasn't in comedy, he was one of the few talk show hosts, along with Johnny C., who wasn't afraid to laugh and laugh big. I still fondly recall the infamous two-part episode with him and Richard Lewis. Infamous, because Costas essentially spent the hour on the floor laughing hysterically. Lewis was killing with the segues, to use an old comedy term. Costas eventually asked that the episodes be edited or never shown again.

Shame that.
In other news:

--Tonight I'm doing a staged reading, along with purplestine and Rob, that I directed, think good thoughts.

--Tomorrow night, I co-host Spaz 360, Seattle's own version of Dance 360, as MF Beige.

--This weekend I head out of town for another writer's weekend.

--Oh, and could someone go to JJ's blog and reassure him that potty training ain't the end of the world?


Friday, February 10, 2006

Spout Off: Gender Grooming

Another Spout Off within a week of the last one? Well, don't get too used to it. Do look forward to more happening with these; I know that JJ has specific things in mind.

Beyond this, I'm looking to expand a touch, and so:

Grooming. We all have our preferences. One woman's sexy stubble that tickles, is another's painful crotch burn and eyesore. One man's hot French chick, is another's way too butch dyke (or one man's pleasant shag rug, is another's Searching for Dr. Livingstone. Women, please share your equivalent to this phrase).

Please allow me to introduce this entry's spouters! In this corner, from Philadelphia, a woman not too afraid to shy away from cute euphemisms for "vagina," the baby attacked Patrice! And in this corner, from Seattle, a fastidious word fetishist, fuckwad and closet-gay extraordinaire, Rob!

All right, kids, have fun. Ladies first:

Let me start off by breaking down the societal norms of hair growth for men and women, in this country, based on areas that women and men tend to have hair that needs to be groomed. For women, there's the head, obviously. Moving down, we have the eyebrows, above the lip, the underarms, the "bikini" area, and the legs. For men, there's the head and the face. Just those two.

What's interesting about this is that men, typically, are more hirsute than women. They tend to have more instances of back hair, neck hair, and ass hair. And the hair they have in the same areas that women are supposed to shave tends to be much more thick - think bushy eyebrows,underarms and crazy leg hair.

So while we don't ask men to shave their backs and their necks and their asses, we do ask women to shave their legs and their underarms and their hoohas. (The hooha-shaving will be discussed in depth a few paragraphs from now.)

The debate at hand is what parts of the body SHOULD each gender groom? For most hairy areas, for women, it's all or nothing. Or rather, it's nothing or nothing. Legs are supposed to be hair-free and smooth, as are underarms. If you're unfortunate enough to have a fem-stache, that is either supposed to be waxed away or bleached. The only areas where it's acceptible to leave a faint trace of the hair that NATURALLY grows in that area are the eyebrows (unless you're my mother in law, who has tattooed eyebrows and regularly waxes that area. for reals, yo.) and the crotchetal area.

Meanwhile, men can choose to have a beard or be beardless. And in terms of beards, there's a ton of different styles to be had - the soul patch for the minimalist, the ZZ Top special, the goat...hell, you can even shave zigzags into your beard. Conversely, men are the only folks that can shave their head and not look like a cancer patient. (Of course, they also have to deal with hair loss way more than women do, but since that doesn't support my argument, I don't care.)

So the question, for me, is this: How is it that society has deemed the natural occurence of hair on our bodies as normal for one gender, and unsightly or even disgusting for the other? Clearly, women and men are both repulsed by excess female body hair - even me. In fact, I took a shower while in the throes of early labor expressly to shave my legs, lest I be stubbly for when the entire universe was looking into my birth canal. Why??

Oh, I'm sure it has to do with feminine this or that. Bah. We don't wear bustles or bloomers anymore, so why do we hang onto old social mores that dictate how much hair we can have on our bodies? I just don't get it. And even though I don't get it, I'll still continue to shave my legs and armpits because I will feel like a disgusting hippy if I don't. I'm not part of the solution, I'm part of the problem. So are you.

And now, let's talk about the hooha. When I was a teenager, it was a standard thing to shave your bikini line, because bathing suits were getting tinier and you didn't want anyone to know that you, just like every other human on the planet, have pubic hair. For some reason, we had to keep that a secret. Anyways, the shaving really only had to be done up to where the suit ended.

Nowadays, people are doing landing strips, "brazillians", and going completely hairless. Completely hairless! I can see only one advantage to this practice: no hair stuck in the teeth while performing cunnilingus. And if you find the man or woman who is dining SO OFTEN at the Y that they have to insist that a woman have no hair whatsoever, I need to meet him or her.

I do see about a million disadvantages to the practice, though. First of all, THESE WOMEN LOOK LIKE CHILDREN. Creepy. Real creepy. Second, shaving down there isn't an exact science. I'm talking folds, peaks,'s not the same as shaving a leg. And you're going at your most sensitive parts with a fucking RAZOR BLADE (or, if you're me, 4 blades, a la Shick Quattro) which, when you think about it, is real, real dumb. Third, there's upkeep. Like major, daily upkeep. And if you skip a day, there's some hard-core itching. So once you go bare, unless you're waxing (and I don't even need to paint THAT mental picture for you) you're pretty much going to have to stay hairless. Or schedule a long weekend at home where no one cares if you're scratching your labia raw.

And conversely, I see only male porn stars shaving their pubes, and that is supposed to be only to make their wangs look longer. (And ps, doesn't fool anyone, dude.) And when I do see a shorn male, it looks...freakish. I mean hell, dongs are freakish already, and we shouldn't advocate making them appear even freakisher.

So where does that leave me, specifically, on the whole gender grooming issue? Men have it easier. Social convention forces women to continue to shave. I hate shaving. I will continue to shave. I am part of the problem. I suck. But then, so do you.

Thank you. Good night.

I believe it was Cary Grant who once said, "If I am forced to look at a fellow and talk to him, the least he could do is comb his hair and brush his teeth." I believe it was also Cary Grant who was addicted to LSD, but that's beside the point. When he wasn't beating off purple tigers that were landing on his face and imagining "a world of healthy, chubby little babies' legs and diapers, and smeared blood, a sort of general menstrual activity taking place," Mr. Leach was waxing spot on about a plague that has racked humanity since the advent of the shower: Grooming standards and some people's failure to adhere to them.

It never ceases to astonish me how many people refuse to take pride in their personal appearance. Yes, I know not everybody was born with voluminous hair and perfectly straight teeth, but that doesn't mean we, as a whole, can't daily run a brush across either. Even if your genes have saddled you with some pendulous facial protuberance or other frailty that society deems less than beautiful, why wouldn't you put a little effort into mitigating or drawing attention away from your plight? Grooming practices are relative to the individual; personal taste, style and genetics are all factors in how we take care of ourselves and the way we look. Being as such, your personal appearance is an aspect of self expression. As terrible as it may be, humanity is one big prejudiced, reactionary, judgmental high school clique. How you look speaks volumes: Who you are, for what you stand, how much money you make, what you do for a living, sexual proclivity, dietary habit and even religious belief is information available to the world at a glance, all because of your personal appearance. Regardless of whether this is right or wrong it's the way things are and it's ridiculous that anyone would present themselves in any way other than their relative best. Yet we see it everyday…

…and we see it mostly in men. Beige asked for us to be fair; not to go too easy on our own gender. As far as men's grooming standards go, I'ma get fucking fierce. It pains me to see other gentlemen walking about either completely clueless as to how absurd they look or delusional to the point that they think they look good. Starting with the easiest: Hair. There is no reason why men's hair should be anything less than orderly. With the bevy of products, implants, shit…even surgery available, a man with a full head of hair has no excuse not to have decent looking coiffeur on any given day. Men's hair should reflect them personally and…for the love of god…be topical and/or current. Mullets and bowl cuts are never acceptable. Ever. For men with hair that is thinning or balding, you can still look good. Take a leaf out of Stewart or Willis's tome: Keep it short and sexy. Comb-over = youwillbemasturbatingtoscrambledcablepornin yourmother'sbasementfortherestofyourlife. Please have some self respect. I grow weary of laughing at you.

Speaking of tired, will someone please put the mustache to sleep? There are approximately 4 men on whom a mustache is palatable and they were all in Tombstone. Facial hair is another excellent way for most men to express themselves. I've attracted the attention of many a lady-type with my facial hair (I am not kidding). Why would anyone wield this foil so poorly, nay, fall on it by wearing ridiculous facial hair? A mustache and it's bizzarro opposite, The " Lincoln", are examples of fashions that should not even be options. There should be some sort of gene that causes men's faces burn horrifically if they have a mustache or Lincoln for more than 3 minutes. Once again, it depends on the individual. On some people, these things work. For most, however, a full beard (kept neat according to taste) or sideburns (up to and including chops) are as far as you should go. Goatees are pretty post, but still acceptable.

Gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine. She's little, highly squeezable but can still take a goodly amount of abuse…which is great because I've taken her places so ugly it would leave hardened criminals pissing themselves in the corner of their cells. Her name is tweezers. Use her. In your nose. Fucking PLEASE. I know it's not a place we normally look when we're giving ourselves the once over before stepping out the door, but if I can see tufts of hair sprouting from your nostril like amber waves of grain, it's time to harvest, motherfuckers. Don't leave them for me to watch flapping in the wind as you talk because, trust me, that's all I'm focusing on. I fear them as the animated Japanese school girl fears the tentacocks of cephalopodaic manga demons. While you're at it, Thufir Hawat, don't be afraid to use that bitch to hedge your flocculent brow. You don't need to go sculpty or nothin' but if you got a coupla caterpillars up there, you might want to think about morphing them into beautiful butterflies.

Now, before everyone gets all, "Damn, Rob…I thought you were a guy. Why you getting' all Queer Eye on us?" you should know that there are some grooming habits for men that I abhor. For instance: Waxing, for men, should be reserved for the back only. Guys who wax their bodies and go completely hairless are fucking pussies and should have their testosterone card revoked tut de suite. Furthermore, men's hands and bodies should be, at least, a little calloused. Lotions, balms and salves that soften your skin also soften your masculinity. While I'm a big fan of bathing in general, the length of a man's shower, minus however long it takes to rub one out, should never exceed 7 minutes. As George Carlin once put it so adroitly, " Let me tell you something, my well-scrubbed friends. You don't always need to shower every day. It's overkill. All you really need to do is wash the four key areas: armpits, asshole, crotch and mouth. That's all. And you can save yourself a lot of time by simply using the same brush on all four areas."

Obviously, the above statement on bathing is something of a simplification. I stand firm on how long a man's shower should take, however I disagree with Carlin on the frequency of bathing. If you go out in public every day, you should clean your body… every day. The only thing more offensive than having to look at your unkempt and ugly ass, and this goes for the women, too, is having to smell your unkempt and ugly ass. Olfactory presence is key. It's true that scent is keenly tied into memory. Do you want to be mistaken for the smelly person? Men: Use underarm deodorant and, if necessary, an aftershave or cologne that compliments you and your body chemistry. Nothing more. It's not a sin to put some thought into this either, guys. Find a good scent and it will last you for years. Ladies: Do the same but feel free to go further with it. For you, complimentary scents that also work with your body chemistry is the sexy twist of the knife that adds insult to injury. I've encountered women whom I normally wouldn't think about sexually but because they smelled so god damned good, my mind wouldn't let me go anywhere else. Smell good. It's crucial.

Speaking of the ladies, I find it much more difficult to harsh on you and your grooming practices. What with societal standards telling the average woman that she must work her ass off to be beautiful as a rule, it kinda leaves a bad taste in my mouth to be authoritative about how you must groom to putt par with me. But, fuck it. I'm not here to pussyfoot about the issues. I'm here to tell you how things should be.

Basic rule of thumb*: If it's going to be exposed, it should be hairless. Of course I'm talking about legs, underarms, face or any other visible part of the body where unseemly hair might sprout. If you're going to be wearing feminine clothing such as a skirt, crop or halter top or a strappy dress, your body should look feminine to compliment the statement that you're making with your clothes. Body hair is not feminine.

Hair on the head, however, in usually always feminine, no matter what the style. (The exceptions, of course, are once again, mullets and bowl cuts…er, sorry…Dorothy Hamiltons.) Short hair, long hair, no hair: Usually all good to me. I ask that women put some thought into how the hair frames their face when they go to get it styled/cut. At the time of this writing I can't stop thinking of this girl I know who has hair shorter than most men but how it frames her face and compliments her personality freaking kills me it's so stunning. I also ask that women not be afraid to be adventurous with their hair when they style it in the morning or before they go out. If you can pull it off, don't be afraid of the braids or the pig-tails or the braided pig-tails. If it works on you…it works on you. Nobody's gonna think you're some little hussy with an Electra complex looking for a spanking from daddy…but does it really hurt if secretly they do?

You know, I can take or leave finger nails aesthetically. I do like the look of a set of well manicured nails, and I love the feel of fingernails on skin/scalp, but I don't need them. If you're gonna grow them out, keep them at a relatively uniform length. If you want to get yourself a nice manicure, go for it. It can only help. You don't need to have spectacularly painted nails, but you should keep them looking good with at least a bit of clear lacquer, if just to keep them strong.

That all said…pedicured toes with a little french tip equals hhhhhhhhHHHOT!

Finally, ladies: Make up. I'll be honest, you don't need it. I'll be doubly honest, you look better with it. When you want to look tasty, a little base or powder will do. When you want to look hot, add some eyeliner. When you want to look positively stunning cum fuckable; lipstick and mascara. That's all. Don't go nuts. That's our job.

I hate to belabor, but how we look is who we are. Yes…we are all beautiful on the inside but if we don't take care of what's on the outside, who's going to want to get close enough to find out? Personal appearance is also a form of expressing yourself. Without it, you may as well be a formless voice…a stream of ones and zeros…a series of…posts… on…the we…

Wait…can I take back some of the shit I've been saying?

*Apropos that I should begin what could easily be a sexist tirade with a sexist cliché.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

All Right, Seattle

Or: How a City Learned The Importance of Self-Respect (One Hopes)
by B. Jones

So, it takes a poorly officiated football game to get you off of your apathetic asses, huh? I guess the attendant media outcry kinda helped, didn't it?

Okay, well, before the flame is extinguished, let me ask you: What's wrong with holding on to that spark?

I'm not talking about complaining contiguously about the game, for that will surely get old, if it hasn't already. Yes, the game was called poorly, with numerous plays that would normally go uncalled suddenly being called. So, yes, odds are that the interception that led to the 21 - 10 score was probably influenced by the bad call two plays prior, but it doesn't change the fact that the interception was thrown. (Let's not dwell on the bad call that took place at the end of that play...insult to injury, really.)

No, Seattle, you're not thinking big enough, as usual. Quite frankly, the poor officiating is the result from the lack of respect the rest of the nation gives Seattle. Think I'm kidding? Let's see:

"You Seattle fans don't just accept mediocrity. You crave it. You support your boys come hell or low water. You show up at the rate of three million a year for the Mariners, who never fail to let you down. Even the stadium sounds cuddly: Safeco Field. You pack the house for the underachieving SuperSonics, led by the NBA's nicest loser, Ray Allen. Your Seahawks went 21 years without a playoff win, and the fans didn't so much as clear their throats...Hey, you can't spell Seattle without settle...Walruses don't do triple Salchows, and Seattle teams don't win titles." -- Rick Reilly, Sports Illustrated

"The Seahawks have the league MVP, a dazzling offense and at least one budding superstar linebacker, but they're the personification of their town too. That is, the town that gets no love from the national sports media, unless you're talking about the national sports media in Japan." Also:

"And you, Seattle Seahawks. Yeah, I'm talking to you. Where the heck is Seattle, anyway? Isn't that in, like, Canada? Why do they let minor-league cities like that into the NFL? You better hope that judge in Texas takes your side on the 12th Man thing, because you're going to need all the help you can get. You might need 15 men on the field to win this game.

Did your receivers ever learn to hang on to the ball? I don't pay attention to foreign news so I haven't been keeping track. Is Shaun Alexander still crying about that one yard he didn't get last season for the rushing title? I see you're the NFC champions. Did you play any teams this year with actual football players on them?"
-- King Kaufman, (granted that second quote was an example of what trash talking should be)

Not enough? Okay, let's get ridiculous. Q: What was the music played to get the Steelers onto the field? A: Fatboy Slim's Right Here, Right Now. Q: What music did they use for the Seahawks? A: Verve's Bittersweet Symphony.

I mean, what kind of biased bullshit is that? Whoever programmed the music was dissing us even before the fucking game started! I mean, The fucking Verve? The only kind of bullshit early 90s music that could actually be outdone by Fatboy-goddamn-Slim, in the genre of sports arena bullshit themes?

What's that? Is that a sliver of anger I sense? Good, good. Put down that passive aggressive shield you're so accustomed to, step closer to me.

Do you know who's to blame for this sorry state of affairs, General Seattle Populace (GSP)? You are. Yes, you.

When the Sonics went to the Finals against the Bulls a decade ago, and took them to game 6; who were the first people to say it was a sign of the Sonics' weaknesses, instead of decrying the superstar treatment given to the Bulls? You, GSP, you.

In fact, this attitude could describe the next 8 years, in which every surge towards breaking that national obscurity would fold, and then would be immediately followed by a "yeah, we suck, don't we" kind of mentality (the Mariners' 117 win season is a prime example). I mean, where's the umbrage, people?

"Oh, but, that's baseball and basketball, son. We're a football town."

Izzat so? I refer you back to Rick Reilly's comment above. How many seasons outside of playoff contention?

No, Seattle isn't taken seriously, because you don't take yourselves or your city seriously, GSP. This fair-weather mentality of yours has made you a laughing-stock to the rest of the nation, to the point where refs and umps don't think twice about giving us the shit treatment; to the point where a vastly superior team becomes the underdogs in a national championship.

What? Now you're feeling down, GSP? Dumbasses! You're supposed to be more pissed off, you morons! Fucking release the anger! Lose the hipper-than-thou facade! I compel you to feel something other than diffidence, you charmless robots!

For the sports franchises, the job is a bit easier. Sonics/Mariners, get your fucking shit together assholes, earn our respect. Seahawks, they say you won't be back on the national championship level for a while to come. Are you gonna take that? Go kick their sorry asses, next year. And no excuses next time.

GSP: Take this last national dis and own it. Think about it, no one takes anything you do seriously. They think you're nothing but pasty cave dwellers who can't recognize that grunge is dead, and that hi-tech is still our saviour. They think we take our morning mochas more seriously than life, love, and the arts. They think we'll be satisfied with simply whining away this last Sunday.

Does this describe you, you pathetic lumps? Is this all you are? Is that what this town represents? Are you going to take any of this shit?


I give up.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Spout Off: Age Of Consent

Or: Do We Trust The Little Fuckers or Not?

Oof, this one's gonna be interesting...

I mean just a quick look at Wikipedia shows us that the world is of various minds on the topic (FYI: The average in the US is 16, but it ranges from 13 - 18 depending on the circumstances. Lowest in the US: New Mexico - 13, if the partner is 17 or younger. Overall Lowest in the US: Iowa - 16, no age restrictions on the partner; though states like Virginia and Texas seem to take it on a case by case basis. Lowest worldwide: South Korea/Spain - 13, but that changes if we're talking about illegal activities like prostitution, South Korea goes to 19. Spain has some "possible restrictions" for kids under 16).

That said, it seems like at least once a year I hear some mind-boggling story about kids as young as 8 engaging in "sexual activity" with kids in their age range. Apparently the game of Doctor has become the game of Fluffer. (Where is an eight year old getting these ideas? Did someone forget to replace the porno with the Boohbah tape/dvd? Is the babysitter taking numbers? What?)

The most recent example of this that I can think of concerned a group of 12 - 14 year olds, who created an "oral sex club" at their Junior High; where two people would couple up and experiment with oral sex. One at least hopes that the experimentation crossed the gender roles, but knowing Jr. High, odds are not.

(Sidenote to all of the Aunts and Uncles: As your sibling is unlikely to have a realistic talk with their kids about sex, do your nieces/nephews a favor and tell them to not only be attentive of their partners, but to make sure their own needs are met. Boys don't need the latter part of this discussion so much, but it wouldn't hurt to reinforce it. Whatever you do, don't just sit them down in front of the TV with a video tape labeled Swedish Erotica. "What's that midget gonna do with that champagne bottle?" should not be a question anyone learning about sex should ask. Not that I speak from personal experience...ahem.)

There are other issues here, such as should homosexuality change the age differential? Why does the Older Woman/Younger Boy combination seem more palatable that the inverse*? What influence, if any, will Grandma's Boy have on any of this?

I'll let our spouters get on with their business.

*My answer would be a showing of the pre-pubescent male wish fulfillment movie, Private Lessons.
[JJ opines:]

This is already feeling as though it may have appeared more juicy than it actually is.

Because, age of consent is essentially a legal classification, and has very specific parameters. The social aspect, probably the more fecund area of inquiry, seems to be limited to how the AOC laws are enforced.

I’ll start simply: Do I believe that AOC laws should exist? Yes, I do, for the simple fact that I do not believe, for example, that a 10 year old can give informed consent to sex with a 21 year old, irregardless of what the 10 year old might think or claim, and that there needs be a statute to which to appeal in such cases. I think that the 10 year old would be unable to supply consent in such a case because of a lack of maturity and the power dynamic created by age disparity. Granted, I’m using an extreme case, but merely establishing that I agree with them in general concept as a starting place.

The question then becomes how to determine what the age of consent should be, and I think it has to be a function of local cultural factors. The age of consent has edged higher not because we have raised the standards of maturity, but because our local culture (US as a broad stroke) produces maturity at a slower rate. At one time, a 10 year old was equipped to handle responsibility, even on the order of a child, but we produce no such 10 year olds these days. I think there is little question that we infantilize our children, not by underestimating their development, but by actively retarding it, but I digress.

So, I think the age of consent has to be determined by maturity as judged by local cultural standards, and I believe they should take into account power dynamics, including age differential and other structures (e.g. boss or teacher (and have I ever told you how much people that don’t know the difference between e.g. and i.e.?)).

Should the age be different for homosexual sex? No, that is ridiculous bias.

Should the age be different for different sexual acts? No, that is a silly way to try and fly under the radar of the bias above, but to the same end. And should consent prove to be for a bit more that the consenter bargained for (I didn’t know that would hurt so much!), it is important to note that I believe consent is withdrawable mid-act, and failure to respect the withdrawal is assault.

But, really, I feel like the laws should be there so there is a law to appeal to when conflict arises, but that socially we have to be selective about how we enforce. A couple of 10 year olds get carried away with their game of doctor and end up 69-ing each other, I don’t think AOC laws should come into play. On the other hand, I can conceive of the 12-14 year old oral sex club involving power dynamics and coercion, and the AOC laws becoming potentially applicable and useful, but that would depend on the specifics of the situation.

To recap – AOC laws useful, and determined by local standards, and should be enforced based on thoughtful analysis of individual cases. The gender of who you bang and how you bang them should not be a consideration.

All you, Houndster.
[Lyamhound replies:]

Like JJ, I agree that this may not be the fertile ground for debate I thought it was (although, being a non-parent mostly surrounded by parents, some of my thoughts may seem a little controversial). What's more, I don't think my position is all that different from the one JJ has laid out.

I'm uncomfortable with passing any kinds of laws that apply to sexuality or human interrelation. My primary objection to such is that any code is going to be subject to possible exceptions. Too broadly worded a law gives enforcers and interpreters room to intuit, and I'd rather they had no such space (I trust no one's intuition but my own and those I dearly love . . . and even then . . . ). Too narrow a law takes the room for intuition out, but it can create a statute that, strictly followed would apply to the two 10-year-olds to whom JJ refers later in his post.

All that said, I'll grudgingly admit that we DO need a statute to which to appeal when those who are clearly adults engage in sexual relations with those who are clearly children. Furthermore, I think lack of maturity in, say, a 10-year is enough reason to believe that she (or he) is unable to correctly identify exploitation and power dynamics.

The problem, in my mind, with allowing age of consent to be a function of local cultural factors is the problem that always dogs my extremely mixed feelings regarding states rights: The trouble of existing and functioning as a U.S. citizen in a statutory patchwork of local, state and regional norms. There's a part of me that thinks there's some good to be gained from kicking questions like marriage, abortion and, for the sake of argument, AOC down to the state level (where the latter already lives, per TBO's post); but how many of us study the constitution and acquired legal precedent of a given state before moving? I can see both sides on that matter. So recognize that I believe that AOC should be uniform, but that I don't know if it can be made so without a risk of endangering either local sovereignty or unwelcome compromises.

I think any age-of-consent statute should make a clear line of demarcation between the pre-pubescent and post-pubescent child (and as such, if sizing up potential "offenders", the difference between a pedophile and a pederast). I think that the primary function of age-of-consent should be to target adults exploiting children, so I think they should apply, in terms of enforcement, solely to offenders over the age of 18, if not 21; this may depend on the age of the "victim", as an 18-year-old high-school senior sleeping with a 14-year-old freshman cheerleader is already violating this statute if the age is 16, which I can't imagine most reasonable people would consider a crime.

I also agree that age-of-consent should not address issues of gender or sexual orientation, or of specific sexual asks. And obviously consent can be withdrawn--this is already the heart of current law regarding rape.

As I tend to believe in a more uniform application of AOC--as opposed to a local approach (see my hemming and hawing above)--I'll go out on a limb and propose the age of 14. Not because 14-year-olds should be having sex (although I was already trying--I didn't have sex 'til 18 because, with some notable exceptions--one of whom I've married--I've always had a devil of a time convincing women to have sex with me), but because a) 14 years accounts for puberty, with a little extra room for late-starters and b) 14 is when we generally start high-school, and we're understood to be in the sexual arena. More importantly, it addresses the senior/freshman problem explored above.

Just a couple of individual points to touch on:

The age of consent has edged higher not because we have raised the standards of maturity, but because our local culture (US as a broad stroke) produces maturity at a slower rate. At one time, a 10 year old was equipped to handle responsibility, even on the order of a child, but we produce no such 10 year olds these days. I think there is little question that we infantilize our children, not by underestimating their development, but by actively retarding it, but I digress.

How, exactly, do we infantilize our children? I actually find that, in many ways, children today are frighteningly more mature--at least in certain areas--than I was. They may have an underdeveloped since of responsibility compared to what we may have had, but that may have to do with our whole culture being less mature.

To recap – AOC laws useful, and determined by local standards, and should be enforced based on thoughtful analysis of individual cases.

I agree and disagree here. The power differentials, in the sense of teacher/student, seem easy enough to codify in and of themselves, and I'm not sure on what basis under any statute you'd address the 12-14 oral sex club (what IS coercion, exactly?). My trouble is that the "thoughtful analysis of individual cases" is going to be done by people, with all biases and moral preoccupations intact. There should be some room for such analysis, but I think that statutes need to be specific enough that no one is over- or underpunished based on a whimsical reading of overly vague language.