LETTER from the EDITOR

It came as something of a surprise to me when I clicked to the Houston Chronicle website and saw their title for the story on Open Magazine: “Full on Porn to Essays.” Even after chatting with the Chronicle writer for an hour about the founding ideas of the magazine--to be an open forum for multiple views on sexuality and to be a mature reflection of the intersection of sex, culture, politics and history-- the article was published online with the misleading title. Lewd comments flooded in relaying reader’s knee-jerk reactions of the conflation of a University with Porn. A couple hours later that morning, the title of the online article mysteriously changed to “Sex to essays,” no explanation, no apology. Dismissive comments persevered but a couple were a reprieve, “They are trying to figure out who the hell they are, how they will live and by what moral and ethical standards, and what their bodies are all about. If our young people can cut through that confusion via open and honest discussion, then by God, more power to them,” wrote one commenter. The deceptive headline is particularly disappointing because porn- a transient brainless gratifier- is the exact opposite of what Open Magazine is. The media likes to gleefully harp on the radical extremes of sexual expression on college campuses as if they were the norm. By doing so, they propagate the myth that young people today are morally degenerating via the commitment-less sex of the so called “hook up culture.” Most of us are not engaging in frequent casual sex, but for those who are, it’s not quite the emotional Russian roulette that Tom Wolfe’s imagines in I am Charlotte Simmons, but rather an element in the bildungsroman that is college years. I think modern culture has become largely scared about sexuality because we are scared about a loss of control, of anything that overtakes our cerebral grip on reality. But we don’t have to live in fear of ourselves; our awareness of the state of sexuality in us can help us see past the labels of indecency that so many are quick to assign. By providing a platform to voice opinions on this intimate topic, Open is encouraging people to be smart about sex and their freedom. Whether we are active participants or not, the impact of society’s ever evolving approach toward sexuality is manifested in our collective consciousness in both subtle and striking ways. A history professor at Rice recently posed a question to me, which at first seemed to have an obvious answer, but upon further consideration, its negative implications questioned my assumptions. Her question: Have we progressed? While in many cases the answer is yes, in more ways than we would like to concede the answer is no. A slew of economic and health disparities, the constancy of environment degradation, the outright repression of minorities-things to consider before we lay back on our laurels of being enlightened. But now more than ever, there is reason for hope; the rise in the public’s awareness is breaking down the doors of complacency and catalyzing collaborative solutions to some of our most challenging problems. But how does this relate to sexuality? The first place we can begin to understand and improve our common humanity is within ourselves: once we understand seuxuality, an act at the very core of who we are, we can move beyond preoccupations with the self to address the larger order. Time and again we have seen that society needs redress of these seemingly basic issues, and when there is need for redress, there will be a need for publications like Open, and the discourse they provoke. It bewilders me that in a country founded on the premise of equality and the pursuit of happiness that we would so explicitly step on a group’s right to pursue happiness through marriage. In concert with an increase in mobility, freedom and new perspectives on gender roles, the nature of relationships is evolving to include non-marriage alternatives which can be perfectly healthy and acceptable for people who choose not to be limited to conform to tradition. But for those who do choose to celebrate commitment through marriage, who are we to stop them? Even while the government is struggling under the weight of national security, environmental and economic issues, certain individuals think it is a prudent use of an overstretched government’s regulatory powers to dabble in personal lives, imposing cookie cutter restrictions on a diverse populace. Bewildering. That’s all I can say. But again, there is hope: it is fascinating just how much public perception has been shifting on a supposedly set-in-stone moral standard on homosexuality. It was only in 1974 that the American Psychiatric Association removed it’s classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. That in thirty some years something changed from being viewed as a mental disorder to something that is generally accepted speaks to the fact that many sexuality issues are a socially constructed problems. In an excellent commentary on Proposition 8, MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann concludes his speech with the phrase “Good night and good luck-” the same closing used by CBS anchorman Edward Murrow when he exposed McCarthyism as a witch hunt- drawing parallels between the ignorance induced irrationality that gripped the nation during the Cold War and a similar irrationality that can be the only explanation of how Americans could vote to prohibit two people from marrying. Similarly, there are parallels between Hollywood’s alignment with humanitarian causes despite the Red Scare paranoia and its current sympathies for gay rights, demonstrated by a theater full of the titans of cultural influence applauding Sean Penn’s Oscar acceptance speech for Best Actor in Milk. In front of a television audience of 36 million Americans, Sean Penn announced, “I think it is a good time for those who voted for the ban [on same sex marriage] to think and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support.” If society as a whole is to make progress, we need not only understand our own motivations, but also to realize how our actions, both politically and socially, translate into how we respect others. And on a personal level, we need to realize the impact our sexual practices can have on other people’s lives. Thoughtfulness about one’s sexuality is, dare I say, not about the sex, but about how sex is a reflection of ourselves. Rachel Solnick

TABLE of CONTENTS
2 3 4 6 Letter from the Editor Table of Contents News Brief Survey

Poetry
56 57 59 60 61 62 62 63 64 65 66 68 69 70
Zara Ahmad-Post Ann Wang

Compiled by Christine Gerbode Compiled by Dayna Fondell

Metamorphosis Missed Connections Flitting By... Decanting Sillhouettes Plums
J. Rod Pannek

Articles
8 12 14 21 22 24
Meghan Baker Mihan Lee

Sarah Farid A. Iver

It’s Not Just About Sex: Prop 8 V-Day: Until the Violence Stops
Interview with Dr. Jeffrey J. Kripal by Klara Wojtkowska

The Serpent’s Gift Explained
Katherin Sudol

Anonymous

Dotted Line Close Call

MoSex

Jeremiah Bolinsky Loren Kwan

Christine Gerbode Zeno Yeates

Pure and Not So Simple Evolution and the Future of Contraception

Woman Spread and Wide Open Accordian In His Hands Once Upon A Time
Klara Wojtkowska

Vanessa Johnson

Perspective
28 30 32 33 34 35 36 38 40
Chaya Murali

First Comes Marriage, Then Comes Love What It Means To Be A Girl The Making of Love
Anonymous

Aaron Tallman Klara Wojtkowska Kris Wettstein A. Iver

Young Love Revolution Furrow

Katelyn Willis

Tit for Tat: Shake It Up for Mama, Boys
Tiffany Kim Anonymous

Unbound Circles

A Queer View on Sleeping Around Master of My Domain Stigma Published with generous support from: Dr. Bill Wilson Student Initiative Grant Campus Progress/ Center for American Progress (CampusProgress.org) Rice Wellness Center Wiess College Jones College

Jamie Sammis Rose Hansen

The “L” Word
Donna Huang Anonymous

My Sex, My Certainty

Short Stories
42 44 45 46 49 Lolita: On Acid
Gregory Laco Anonymous

Can’t and Fear Doux
Zara Ahmad-Post Christine Pao

Some Call It Band Camp
Lime

Love Question Mark

STAFF of OPEN MAGAZINE Editor-in-Chief: Rachel Solnick Design Editor: Celestine Shih Photography Editor: Ariel Shnitzer
Perspectives Editors: Christine Gerbode, Caitlin Miller Short Story Editors: Sarah Farid, Anastasia Harris Articles Editors: Kat Sudol, Sergio Jaramillo Poetry Editors: Klara Wojtkowska, Tema Watstein Design Team: Christine Gerbode, Jenny Chan, Lissa Glasgo, Lily Chun, Rachel Solnick Editorial Staff: Margaret McKeehan, Amanda Hu, Becky Leven Photographers: Matt Taylor, Amy Lanteigne Post Secret/Event Coordinator: Yesle Kim Business Manager: Denver Greene
Please submit articles, short stories, poems, photos and art to RiceOpen@gmail.com or : Open Magazine 6340 Main Street Houston, TX 77005
Submissions disclaimer: A submission becomes the non-exclusive property of Open . Photo by Ariel Shnitzer Cover photo by Will Fischer / Cover design by Ethan Feuer

Open is looking for writers, designers and editors for next year’s staff! Email RiceOpen@gmail.com. To advertise, contact RiceOpen@gmail.com Open Magazine is a literary arts magazine produced by undergraduates at Rice University. Copyright © 2009 by Open Magazine. No portion of Open Magazine may be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved.
Download a PDF:

www.openmagazine.rice.edu 

POLITICS

NEWS Christine Gerbode
constitutionality of Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment passed by 52% of voters this past November, which bans same-sex marriage. Campaigners say that the battle was won at the last moment by a huge influx of donated money, including a large show of support from Mormon groups and donors. California passed a similar measure in 2000, Proposition 22, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. A separate section of the constitution, however, recognized marriages formed outside of the state of California, regardless of involved genders. Several legislative measures to legalize same-sex marriage were passed internally between 2005 and 2007 but vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger on the grounds that the public had voted in favor of the ban. In May 2008, Proposition 22 was overturned by the California Supreme Court, which spurred the current legal battle. developing nations.” The “Mexico City policy,” which stripped of US funding any organization supporting, offering, or providing information about abortion to women in developing nations, was first announced by Reagan in 1984 at a United Nations conference regarding population and development. It was rescinded by the Clinton administration in 1993 but reinstated by Bush in 2001. The original implementation cut off 20% of all funding for the International Planned Parenthood Federation, and did significant damage to the budgets of other organizations around the world that refused to alter their stances. The scope of the policy made exceptions for abortions of children of rape or incest. Vermont Reconsiders SS Marriage–– On Monday, March 16, Vermont legislators began hearings on a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Vermont was the first state in the nation to implement civil unions as an option for same-sex couples, though nearly a dozen legislators who voted for the adoption of civil unions lost their seat in the election that followed. Vermont leaders announced several weeks ago that they intend to pass the bill before adjourning in May, though opponents want the measure to be put to a voter referendum. HEALTH AND SCIENCE 2006 Teen Birth Stats Released–– The Center for Disease Control released data on teen pregnancy for 2006, which showed an increase in birth rates among teenage girls for the first time in 15 years. Conservatives blame cultural glamorization of unwed pregnancy by movies such as Juno, as well as comprehensive sex education, while liberals blame abstinence-only education supported by the Bush administration and misinformation about contraceptives and their effectiveness. Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas were (in descending order) the top three states in terms of teen pregnancy, ranging from 68.4 to 63.1 births per 1,000 teen girls.

Plan B for 17 year olds–– A Federal Judge in New York ruled on March 23, 2009 to ease the age restriction to Plan B to allow women as young as 17 to purchase it. Plan B is a pill that prevents conception if taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. In 1999, access to the pill required a doctor’s prescription, but because of the short time window, the World Health Organization encouraged that the pill be made available over the counter in 2001. Five years later in 2006 it was finally available, albeit with an 18 year old age restriction set by the Food and Drug Administration in response to pressure from the Bush administration. The average age for first intercourse in the US is 17 years. According to the NY Times, the judge criticized the FDA for ignoring the advice of scientific panels and for appointing people with anti-abortion views to an independent panel reviewing Plan B.

Anti-Micegenation Law Repealed–– In July 2008, Massachusetts lawmakers ‘Red Sex, Blue Sex’–– Spurred by the voted to repeal a 1913 law preventing scandal surrounding Bristol Palin’s couples from marrying in the state if pregnancy and quick marriage, The their home states have laws banning New Yorker reported in November on their union. The clause is a holdover the work of sociologist Mark Regnerus from a diverse set of anti-miscegenation (UT Austin) regarding pregnancy laws passed and enforced in North and divorce rates among evangelical America since the colonial days and in Christians and “moral-values voters.” some cases not repealed until the late The data suggested that more than half 1960’s. The laws ranged from early of teens that take abstinence pledges Maryland law banning the marriage have premarital sex, and that such of whites to black slaves to Virginia’s pledges are only effective when taken “Racial Integrity Act,” which felonized by less than 30% of a social group any marriage between whites and non(adherence to the pledges tends to whites and was famously overturned in cease when pledge-takers are no longer the 1967 case of Loving v. Virginia that an “embattled minority”). The data declared all such laws unconstitutional. also suggests two emerging patterns The Massachusetts clause had been of marriage and divorce loosely used in recent years to bar some samemirroring American political divisions sex couples from marrying in the state. -young “red state” couples, who Connecticut is currently the only other marry before emotional and financial US state in which same-sex couples maturity are more likely to divorce, can marry. Internationally, only the while “blue state” couples, though Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain, typically more open to premarital sex, South Africa, and Norway officially are more likely to marry and have recognize and grant gay marriages. children later, and to stay together. ‘Global Gag’ Untied Again–– Barely a State Court to Rule on Prop. 8–– week into his term, President Obama On March 5, the Supreme Court of reversed what The Nation calls “one of the California began a hearing on the most damaging policies ever visited on

NEWS
Safe Sex, Over the Phone–– A group at Rutgers University is, with a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Health, developing a soap opera for cell-phones with a safe-sex message. Rachel Jones, a Registered Nurse at Rutgers College of Nursing who first came up with the idea, has spent years working with AIDS patients and information campaigning. Jones says that many women in her research tell her that unprotected sex is “what’s expected to hold on to a man.” The research group will distribute videocapable cell phones to 250 women, show them twelve 15-minute episodes over the course of several months, then survey them about behavioral changes. more light-hearted designs (“Got Laid. Was Happy. : -) Got Tested. Wasn’t Healthy : -(“), but all include a basic message that the sender has an STD and the recipient should seek testing. 

Gardasil for Guys?–– Since 2006, the popularity of the recent Gardasil vaccine put HPV on the radar for thousands of Czechs Castrate Sex Offenders–– teenage women considering protection Human rights groups are upset by the against the Human Papilloma Virus common use of surgical castration on and the cervical cancer it has been sex offenders in the Czech Republic. shown to cause. As of now, Merck’s Czech officials say the procedure is Gardasil is only FDA-approved for voluntary as an alternative to more jail women. But new research suggests that time, though the Council of Europe the same HPV that Gardasil protects claims that the prisoners in question against could be causing mouth and are often mislead during this decision- throat cancer in both genders. Normally making process. Particularly disturbing only seen in older patients who heavily are cases in which the punishment drink and/or smoke, oropharyngeal is used on first-time, nonviolent cancers for patients between 20-49 offenders (e.g., exhibitionists). The US have doubled in the past 30 years Supreme Court declared involuntary (National Cancer Institute), with 60% surgical castration “cruel and unusual” of the cancers in recent years being in 1985, though the practice was not caused by HPV. Merck is currently uncommon in the first half of the trying to get Gardasil approved for men. century for punitive or psychological reasons. “Chemical castration,” the CULTURE administration of medication designed to reduce sex drive and activity, has been used in 6 US states as punishment 3.8-Million-Dollar Baby–– A 22for sex offenders, and in California year-old Sacramento State student and Florida it is the mandated legal using the pseudonym Natalie Dylan punishment for certain offenses. is auctioning off her virginity to pay for her education. The deal is being STD Notifications Go Digital–– brokered through the famous Bunny Recently men and women have begun Ranch brothel in Nevada, where in sending e-cards to sexual partners to tell many counties off-street prostitution them to get tested for STDs through is legal with licensing. Dylan, ironically inSPOT, an “online partner notification or fittingly, has a degree in Women’s system.” The system was developed, Studies, and intends to continue on with the support of San Francisco to a Masters degree to enable her to health officials, by Internet Sexuality practice family psychology. Information Services, a nonprofit based in Oakland, CA. The choices range from Was the Pumpkin Complaining?–– the style of sympathy cards (“I hate to NBC rejected from this year’s tell you this...” in calligraphic script) to Superbowl lineup a commercial created

by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to promote vegetarianism, on the grounds that the ad “depicted a level of sexuality exceeding [the station’s] standards.” The ad states that “Studies show vegetarians have better sex” and shows women in lingerie licking, caressing, and grinding vegetables against their pelvic regions. A PETA rep complained that “PETA’s veggie ads are locked out, while ads for fried chicken and burgers are allowed, even though these foods make Americans fat, sick and boring in bed.” Another rejected PETA ad showed a finger playing with a pea in a half-open pod. Times Are Hard, Getting Harder–– The economy may be in a downslide, but the sex toy market is seeing a sizeable increase in sales, according to industry insiders. New lines of “designer” sex toys, employing clever aesthetics and carrying price tags upwards of $100, are drawing new customers in a time when most consumers are rethinking the difference between luxury and necessity. Claire Cavanah, a founder of the website and New York erotic paraphernalia store Babeland, says that sales haven’t spiked so dramatically since September 11, 2001. Sales of toys over $80 have risen by more than 50% in the last year. “People are looking for stress relief and a little connection,” Cavanah says. Popular “luxury toys” include Swedish company Lelo’s Gigi, which is “a rose-colored, spoon-shaped vibrator,” and pearl necklaces that double as wrist restraints. Tree Huggers Gone Wild–– These days, chaining yourself to a tree is so passé. A Norwegian group called “F*ck for Forest” is raising the bar. FFF is “a non-profit erotic ecological project made by concerned humans who wish to protect nature and liberate life,” according to the group’s website. “With the help from sexually free people and by showing the beauty of natural love, nudity and sex, we wish to direct attention to and collect money for the Earth’s threatened nature. Saving the planet IS sexy!” FFF is billed as the only environmentally-friendly porn site (and we believe them). 

S UR V E Y Dayna Fondell
hat do the questions say? What are the assumptions that go into them, and what norms are they promoting? Does the survey do more harm than good? High lights (pertaining to the almost 1,000 Rice students who took the survey): • 59.4% of students have had sex, 63.2% of which are men and 56.7% women. This is an increase from last year of males (up from 61.2%), but a decrease in females (down from 60.5%). The Engineering majors had the fewest students who reported having sex last semester (37.5%), while Music majors had the most students who reported having sex last semester (64%).
Sexual Activity By College
80 70 60 Percent of Non-Virgins 50 40 30 20 10 0 Baker Brown Hanszen Jones Lovett College Martel Sid Rich Wiess Will Rice

W

“Sexual behavior is a volatile and sensitive topic, and surveys designed to reveal it have both great power and great limits. By revealing the private behavior of others, they provide a way for people to evaluate their own behavior and even the meaning of information the surveys produce… yet results are limited by researchers’ often unrecognized preconceptions about what the important questions are and also by respondents’ ability and willingness to reveal what they have done. Surveyors frequently assume that the facts are historical realities to be tapped by experts rather than transitory events that are open to interpretation. And the ‘truths”’ surveys reveal have enormous implications.” - Julia A. Ericksen and Sally A. Steffen, Kiss and Tell: Surveying Sex in the Twentieth Century

On the next page are the results from a survey of 981 students at Rice University about their views and activity pertaining to relationships and sexual activity. This article will highlight some of the results, and you can see the full report at the Open website, http://openmagazine.rice.edu/. While it is interesting to look at the results and subsequent statistics about sexual activity at Rice it is important to keep in mind a few things. There were only 46 questions asked, and some may not have been the ‘right’ questions. Also, the survey was voluntary, and though there was large participation it is possible that people did not take the survey because they felt uncomfortable revealing private information, and that others may have not truthfully answered the questions. Additionally, participants may have interpreted questions differently. As I was interpreting the results I had to face the fact that the some of the questions had people place their sexuality into strict categories. Many individuals who identified as heterosexual have engaged in traditionally sexual acts with members of the same sex, and significantly more - especially females - reported having thoughts about engaging in sexual activity with members of the same sex. Perhaps the survey should also ask whether individuals have questioned their sexual orientation, determined their orientation based on experiences with both sexes, or been able to rank their orientation along a range between heterosexuality and homosexuality.* This survey, for me, raised as many questions as it ‘answered’ and I feel demonstrates the need for more open discourse about sex and sexuality beyond the categories commonly promoted.
* The most common scale used is the Kinsey scale with 1 representing strict heterosexuality and 7 representing strict homosexuality. Alfred Kinsey, the developer, estimated that the majority of individuals fall somewhere in the middle, therefore establishing some form of bisexuality as the actual ‘normal’ orientation.

Percent of Students in Each Year That Have Had Sex
90 80 70 Percentage of Students 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Freshman Sophomore Junior Class/Year Senior Graduate Student

• • • • •

More men than women reported that efforts to look nice are more for members of the preferred sex than for themselves. 5.7% of students say they have engaged in sexual activity (kissing to sex) in order to gain benefits (money, etc.). 14.2% of students have never “made out” with someone. 23.9% of males think previous experience is a turn-on, 20.5% think it is a turn-off. 26% of females think previous experience is a turn-on, 17.7% think it is a turn-off.

SURVEY
Relationship Status
60 

• • • • • •

50 Percentage of Respondents

40

30

20

10

0 Single Casually dating one person Seeing multiple people Serious relationship Serious relationship at Rice w/ someone not at Rice

83.2% of students have had an orgasm, 94.4% of which are males, and 75.3% of which are females. 63.9% of females who have had sex have experienced an orgasm during vaginal sex. 59.8% of people who have had sex had unprotected sex. Only 45.5% of these students have gotten an STI test, but 35.9% of all students who have had sex have had an STI test. 19.9% of females have taken emergency contraception, compared to 14% of college females nationwide. 8.1% of students say they have experienced some form of sexual abuse at Rice, down from 10.1% last year. (Despite this statistic, only one case was reported by RUPD last year).
Age of "First Time"
160 140 120

Relationship Status

Number of Respondents

• •

53.9% of males say their ideal relationship status would be a serious relationship with one person. 63.4% of females prefer this as well. (Currently being in a relationship has a statistically significant positive correlation to having had sex, and to a reported degree of happiness). 63.7% of students say that religion plays no role in their engagement in sexual activity. 80.5% of students masturbate.
How Often Do You Masturbate?
250 Men 200 Women

100 80 60 40 20 0 <13 14 15 16 17 18 Age 19 20 21 22 >23

Number of Respondents

150

100

50

0 Never Not Usually Frequency Sometimes Regularly

12.7% of students received abstinence-only sex ed, 26.3% abstinence-plus, 43.2% comprehensive, and 17.7% received no sex ed. (There was no correlation between having had abstinence-only education and having had sex, or age at which the individual first had sex).

60

How Often Would You Prefer To Have Sex?

50

Percentage of Respondents

Men 40 Women

30

20

10

0 Every day Multiple times a week Once a week Multiple times a month Once a month Once every couple of months Several times a year Yearly Only to have children

Frequency 

ARTICLES Meghan Baker

It’s Not Just About Sex: Prop 8
Meghan Baker is a University of Houston graduate student and President of Impact Houston, an advocacy group working toward equality for the GLBT community.

I

ronically enough, just about the only thing gays and lesbians can do under the full protection of the law is have sex. Thanks to the Supreme Court case of Lawrence v. Texas (2003), sodomy is no longer illegal in the United States. Up until the ruling, roughly 21 states, including Texas, had a law on the books making sodomy illegal. It may surprise you, however, to learn that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) individuals still do not have the right to be free from discrimination in the workplace. In fact, just recently a friend of mine was fired from her job as a social worker, because a supervisor asked her if she was “queer,” and she said yes. In theory, the law allows for heterosexuals to be fired on account of their sexual orientation, but that never seems to come up. We are also not allowed to serve openly in the military, even when we are willing to put our very lives on the line for a country that does not allow us the rights we deserve. This is outright discrimination. Gay Marriage (or the lack thereof ) in America While we have inaugurated our first African American President,
English common law criminalization of sodomy following a proclamation by King Henry VIII. Sodomy meant “any nonprocreative sexual activity.”

we are still perhaps decades away from providing full equality for the GLBT community, including gay marriage in all 50 states. Today, the only states that offer same-sex couples the same marriage rights as heterosexuals are Connecticut and Massachusetts. A

has its own version of what it calls “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships.” While some states, like California, offer many of the rights of marriage to couples that register as domestic partners, other states may only grant a few of the over one thousand rights that are afforded to straight couples, such as hospital visitation, adoption rights, or the right to file joint state income taxes. People often argue that if a civil union or domestic partnership did offer same-sex couples all or most of the rights of “traditional” marriage, than it should not matter whether or not you call it “marriage.” However, I would remind these people that the notion of “separate but equal” died back in 1954 when the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, a decision that eventually led to integration and sparked the civil rights movement. What Happened in California? On May 15th, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled in the case called In re Marriage Cases that it is unconstitutional for the state of California to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. In that decision, the Court ruled that marriage is a fundamental right under the California Constitution. However, those opposing same-sex marriage gathered enough signatures to get a measure on the November 4th, 2008 ballot which would
The Stonewall riots take place in Greenwich Village in New York City, effectively kicking off the latter day gay rights movement in America.

handful of states (less than 20%) do offer same-sex couples an alternative to marriage, usually called either a civil union or a domestic partnership. Many people mistakenly believe that these institutions provide same-sex couples with “the same” rights as marriage. In reality, there is no unified definition of what rights they entail, and each state
Homosexuals in Germany are held in concentration camps. When allied troops arrive, they are not released, but rather forced to continue their sentences under Paragraph 175 of the Reich Criminal Code.

1941-45

Photo by Amy Lanteigne

1533

The term “homosexuality” comes into existence.

The US Supreme Court rules in the case of Loving v. Virginia that marriage is a “fundamental right” which cannot be denied to interracial couples.

1869

1967

1969

ARTICLES
take that fundamental right away. My wife and I were married in California on August 11th, 2008, and I honestly did not think that the in a place like California, where many of my relatives live, people would go against their state Supreme Court and take away that right from others. November 4th and the days following the election were a time of mixed emotions for me, as well as for countless other GLBT people across the country. Here we were on what was to become a historic day; a day in which we hoped the majority would respect the rights of the minority and vote down Prop 8. But the majority of Californians voted against equality, and across the state, county clerks stopped allowing same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses. Not only was Proposition 8 passed in California, but Americans also voted to ban same-sex marriage in Florida and Arizona; in Arkansas voters took away the right of gay and lesbian couples to adopt. Across the nation, members of the GLBT community and our allies became frighteningly aware of the disparity between our nation’s progress with racial equality and the all-out attacks still being waged against the rights of GLBT people. As a result of this legislation, many in our community were outraged. We took our pain to the streets in cities across the country by the thousands, and a new wave of activists was born out of what began as anger, frustration, and heartbreak for many of us. A group called Join the Impact was started by a couple of individuals in Ohio who
The American Psychological Association (APA) removes homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders. 

made plans for a nationwide protest against Prop 8 to take place just days later, on November 15th, 2008. I was privileged to be one of the organizers here in Houston. Within a week, more than 4,000 people had been invited to the event on Facebook alone, and when the day came, more than 700 people from all over the state were in attendance. Ray Hill, the so-called father of the gay rights movement in Houston, gave an impassioned speech in which he quoted the late, great Harvey Milk- the first openly gay man to be elected to public office- as saying that what gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people need to do in order to make progress is “Come out, come out, come out.” As Ray so eloquently put it, if your family invites you home for the holidays but says your partner is not welcome, “then don’t f**king go!” What happened in California was remarkable in many ways. For one, the vote for Proposition 8, taking away the right of same-sex couples to marry, stood out as the single conservative vote in that state. Specifically, a majority of Californians voted for Barack Obama. They also voted to a pass Proposition 2, the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act which more strictly regulated the ethical treatment of farm animals. Although an unpopular bill in California, a state which thrives on its agricultural industries, it still passed. This prompted many to point out that apparently Californians care more about the rights of animals than they care about the fundamental rights of humans, specifically gay ones.
The US Supreme Court rules in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick that consensual sex between two people of the same gender is not protected by the Constitution

Finally, Californians voted down a ballot measure (Proposition 4), which would have tightened restrictions on abortion. On the surface, these votes indicate that even a left-leaning majority in California could not bring itself to allow same-sex marriage. Many people are still speculating as to how Proposition 8 passed in California. Everything from conservative African Americans and a heavily Catholic Hispanic population, to bad marketing and Mormons have been blamed for the success of this bill. One thing we know for sure is that the other side had more money, much of it from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Another thing we know is that the other side used all of this money to exploit and capitalize on peoples’ fears. They took advantage of the sheer ignorance that most lay people have about the laws, about equality, and about gay and lesbian people. Basically, they flat-out lied. Their ads spoke of family, and children, and exploited the myths about the GLBT community and about gay marriage in California. One ad (the only one I watched, as it was all I could handlewww.protectmarriage.com) set up a scenario involving neighbors. The first couple is a straight couple, Jan and Tom, who have two children and a dog, and own a minivan. “Tom mows his lawn on Saturday, Jan loves to cook...” The second couple is Dan and Michael, a same-sex couple. After explaining that Jan and Tom are torn about Prop 8, because they are good friends with Dan and Michael and have even entrusted
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is passed. States need not treat same-sex relationships as marriages. The federal government may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose.

1986

1973

Harvey Milk, member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the first openly gay man elected to office in California is assassinated by Dan White.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is signed into law by President Clinton, allowing the military to discharge servicemen and women who commit “homosexual acts.”

1978

1993

1996

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be heard as early as March of 2009. One of the main arguments against the passage of Prop 8 is that this law is not a constitutional amendment, but rather a revision. That is to say, that taking away a right, which the state Supreme Court had deemed to be a fundamental right, is such a major change that it requires the constitution be revised by passing through a 2/3 vote in the state legislature, not just a ballot proposition. By allowing Prop 8 to stay on the books, the Supreme Court would be saying that it is acceptable for a powerful majority to take away the fundamental rights of a vulnerable minority with a simple popular vote. This is exactly what the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was intended to prevent. In addition, the Attorney General for the state of California has said that he will defend in court the rights of those already married and has urged the Supreme Court to repeal Prop 8. Nevertheless, if the other side has anything to say about it (and they will), this will not be an easy battle to win. What does orange juice have to do with anything? If Prop 8 gave us anything other than a headache, it is an enemy to fight. Lately, I have heard people remark that it often takes a worthy adversary to get people in the community fired up and to breathe new life into the movement. Perhaps the most prominent example of this was the case of Anita Bryant, beauty queen turned singer, turned Florida orange juice spokeswoman, who became famous for her outspoken views
The Supreme Court rules in Lawrence v. Texas that it is unconstitutional to make sodomy against the law, overturning its earlier decision in Bowers v. Hardwick.

them with watching their dog, the ad then lays out all the various reasons why Jan and Tom should vote YES on Prop 8. It mentions that same-sex couples already have civil unions and uses a pathos based scare tactic, citing children in Massachusetts being read a book called King and King, where two men get married. The ad also propagates the myth that churches would be required to perform same-sex marriages. In fact, the Supreme Court decision in In re Marriage Cases specifically stated that churches would NOT be required to do so. In the commercial, Jan and Tom decide to vote yes on Prop 8, thereby taking away Dan and Michael’s right to get married. Nonetheless, the ad closes by saying that Jan and Tom are still good friends with Dan and Michael, and that in fact the families are having a barbecue together right now. I say that is bullshit. It smacks of the pejorative images common in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries of mammies and Uncle Toms, and it carries with it a false sense of acquiescence, which is misleading at best and dangerous and subversive at worst. In the days following the passage of Prop 8, I read many apropos quotes in reference to the Yes on 8 campaign, which all came from the same source. One example of these goes something like this “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.” The source? Adolf Hitler. The good news here is that a case called Strauss v. Horton has already been filed in California, which seeks to overturn Proposition 8, and which could
Vermont grants samesex couples the right to civil unions.

against gay rights. She was instrumental in creating the law in Florida that banned gay couples from adopting (a law which was just recently overturned by a Florida district judge), and she traveled the country fighting against policies outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation. She was even quoted as saying “If gays are granted rights, next we’ll have to give rights to prostitutes and to people who sleep with St. Bernards and to nailbiters.” This slippery slope argument, which suggests that if we allow a man to marry another man, then we will have to let people marry animals (or have plural marriages) is ludicrous and simple to avoid: simply allow for any one person to marry any other one person. The response of the gay community to Anita Bryant’s massive campaign in the 1970’s was monumental, bringing gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people out of the woodwork and amassing a visible force to reckon with. So, perhaps the passage of Proposition 8 was a blessing in disguise so much as it rivals Anita Bryant in its ability to spur excitement and energy in the fight for equality, a difficult feat indeed. Gay Texans? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Here in Houston, we have an even bigger battle to fight. Texas passed a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2005, and while some states, including California, offer samesex couples some rights of marriage in the form of domestic partnerships or civil unions, Texas offers none. Zip. Zilch. Zero. There are over 1,100 legal
Mayor Gavin Newsome authorizes the San Francisco county clerk to begin giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

June 26

2003 June 7
Gene Robinson became the first openly gay Bishop of the Episcopal church.

2004
The Massachusetts Supreme Court holds that full marriage rights, and not civil unions, are guaranteed under the state constitution.

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Feb. 12

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rights and responsibilities that come with marriage, and those of us who live here must pay a lawyer thousands of dollars to draft documents to secure about five of these, including medical power of attorney, second-parent adoption (if you can find one of only a handful of judges in this state willing to grant them), and inheritance (but without the tax benefits of marital trusts, of course). Nonetheless, this is a battle that those of us committed to fighting for GLBT rights are willing to tackle head-on. I have started a group called Impact Houston (www. impacthouston.wetpaint.com), which will work in conjunction with the nationwide efforts of Join the Impact to hold bimonthly protests, reach out to the community to educate people on the realities of how many rights we do not have, and to build coalitions with other organizations in the community to work toward our common goal of full equality. Adam and Steve at the Altar As a caveat to the debate about same-sex marriage, I would like to point out that gay people are getting married every day in this country, in every state, and probably in just about every city. How is this possible? The answer would surprise many people: Churches have opened the doors for same-sex couples to marry. For example, my wife and I were married here in Houston before we were married in California. We stood up in front of our friends and families and exchanged vows in the presence of a minister. He closed the
The California Supreme Court requires the City of San Francisco to cease performing samesex marriages.

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ceremony with these words: Out of the tangled world these two souls have found each other. They have courted, laughed, cried, and grown from being alone to being partners. Today they have publicly declared that their souls share a bond and their love has reached new depths. It is my privilege and honor to announce to all present that THEY ARE MARRIED! Let all persons everywhere and in all times honor their partnership and respect their home. Would you seal your union with a kiss? After the ceremony, we sat down to dinner, had our first dance as a married couple, shared a piece of cake, tossed matching bouquets, and headed off to our hotel room. In most ways, as special as it was to us, our wedding day was not unlike the countless weddings of people gay and straight that have been performed since before

the word “homosexual” even existed. It is truly ironic then that same-sex couples actually do have the right to marry in the most literal and traditional sense by standing up in a church and exchanging vows, but what we do not have are the legal rights and responsibilities which our government attaches to that act. This is a strange paradox in a society which looks to religion as its primary source of disapproval of gay marriage. Furthermore, this reality turns the idea of a separation between church and state on its head. Opponents of gay marriage often throw around the phrase “redefining marriage.” They talk about “tradition” and “one man, one woman.” However, it is vitally important to note that marriage today in the US is quite different than it was, say, in biblical times. We as a culture have “redefined” marriage (Cont’d p. 54)
The first nationwide protest organized under Join the Impact is held. Over 700 people attend the Houston rally.

2008
The California Supreme Court rules that it is unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry in In re Marriage Cases. Proposition 8 in California takes away the rights of samesex couples to marry. Similar measures are passed in Arizona, Arkansas, and Florida.

Photo by Amy Lanteigne

The Connecticut Supreme Court rules that it is unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the rights of marriage and orders the state to begin performing same-sex marriages.

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ARTICLES Mihan Lee

V-Day: Until the Violence Stops

V

ictory, Valentine, Vagina.

and

Photo by Matt Taylor

There are three V’s invoked and celebrated by the V-Day movement: Victory over violence against women, Valentine’s Day and its association with powers of love and healing, and most of all, Vaginas—the empowerment of women through the reclamation of their bodies and female sexuality. The V-Day movement is best known for its performances of “The Vagina Monologues,” a collection of short pieces that address a broad spectrum of the female sexual experience; love, sex, menstruation, homosexuality, heterosexuality, sexual harassment, date rape, gang rape, domestic violence, and genital mutilation. The play, written by Eve Ensler, began in 1998 as a collection and transcription of interviews with women of various ages, races, and backgrounds. On Valentine’s Day of that year, the play premiered in the Hammerstein Ballroom — and the movement was launched. The very next year, 1999, the movement expanded to include many new initiatives, including the V-Day College Campaign, which encourages performances of the Monologues by and for college students on campuses across the nation. In 1999, 65 schools accepted the movement’s invitation to take part in the Campaign, bringing the Monologues to an

audience of 20,000. Nearly ten years later, over 3700 V-Day benefits took place in 58 countries, reaching an audience of millions. Historically, the movement has been organized around shock value— the sheer audacity of young women who print and speak the word vagina publicly. Ensler’s play was advertised as her daring, purposely incendiary exploration of “the last frontier, the ultimate forbidden zone”—not only in terms of exploring her anatomy, but also her female sexuality, desires, and fears. One of the monologues in the play involves a woman demonstrating over twenty different kinds of moans (including the “mountaintop moan,” the “doggy moan,” the “uninhibited militant bisexual moan,” and the “surprise triple orgasm moan”). Another part of the play asks women to compare what their vaginas smell like—answers range

from “roses” to “fish” to a “brand-new morning.” One very short monologue basically consists of a woman slowly spelling out, repeating over and over, and exuberantly reclaiming the word “cunt.” As a result of its audacity, the movement has drawn criticism for being overly graphic and exhibitionist. Eve Ensler reports that the V-Day movement has “an impossible time raising money from corporations” because some companies refuse to associate with the word “vagina.” Barbara Walters of The View has called the movement’s general attitude “strident” and “embarrassing.” Socially conservative groups like The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property decried the Monologues as “lewd” and “replete with sexual encounters, lust, graphic descriptions of masturbation and lesbian behavior.” It urged parents and students to protest, resulting in the Monologues being banned at sixteen Catholic colleges. However, rather than being quieted, movement participants celebrate their boldness and ability to ignite controversy. Director of the Vagina Monologues at Yale, Presca Ahn, has said, “There’s no reason women should feel shame or anxiety about their vaginas, or any parts of their bodies; feeling comfortable with one’s physical self shouldn’t be hard, but a wealth of cultural facts and social pressures make it hard.” Ahn and her cast have actively and deliberately

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pushed beyond the boundaries of the “safe” in order to combat this culture of shame, boldly staking women’s claims to feel comfortable with and take pride in their bodies. Said performer Naomi Bland, “I feel that sometimes things need to be graphic in order to attract attention to an issue or cause…I feel it’s justified and necessary.” She added, “I do think the shock value benefited the performance. We raised issues that women and definitely men rarely address.” If anything, criticism of the movement from social conservatives seems to have simply spurred the movement’s members to further acts of outrageousness: the painting of bold, brightly colored vaginas as a backdrop to performance sets; the sale of vagina-shaped chocolate lollipops; the creation of a huge mauve “vagina cake” in London that no one is allowed to cut, and that hundreds of partygoers eat with their hands. There is no question that the movement has attracted the attention— and, despite all the criticism, the approval—of a broad base of women and men. In fact, with the recruitment of celebrity spokespeople like Rosario Dawson and Jessica Alba, the movement seems to be growing increasingly high-profile and mainstream. But at the same time, is there a limit to how much the movement can accomplish by “shaking things up”? Specifically, what is the cost of “shaking things up” in such a popularized, glamorized, and ultimately Western-specific way—who is celebrated, and who is marginalized? Whose voices get lost within the wild swirl of feather boas and mauve cake? As the movement grows, this difference between attracting attention—or “raising awareness”— and effecting practical, concrete change is thrown into increasingly sharp relief. From the outset, the V-Day movement has been strongly committed to achieving practical effects: proceeds from performances always benefit organizations that work to end violence against women and offer shelter to the abused. The website proudly proclaims, “94 cents of every dollar you give goes straight to ending violence against women and girls”—to organizations like shelters, safe houses, and educational programs around the world. Yet to some observers, the movement seems to focus disproportionately on “consciousnessraising.” One audience member commented, “It was a great show, and very empowering… but I would have liked to see more engagement with the tough issues, the global issues, not just, let’s-talk-about-our-feelings.” Arising out of the “selfawareness” trend set into motion by the Monologues, My First Time does for sex and both genders what the Monologues did for body image and women. My First Time, a play created from 40,000 first sexual experience stories sent into a blog during the same year Ensler wrote the Monologues and brought to off-Broadway production just two years ago, is already surfacing at college campuses, Rice University being one of the first to put on the play this year. Unlike Ensler’s work, My First Time does not aim to be theater with a specific social conscience, but rather an embrace of the individual and her or his trials with sexuality. The growing popularity of the collective navel-gazing nature of sexuality signals a preference for an inward focus over an outward attention to the problems that effect the fringes of society. But is that theater too powerful a venue to restrict to realm of “feelings” and forgo the chance to shine light on global issues? Like My First Time, the awareness-raising of the Monologues tends to focus on Western-specific issues, like body image and sexpositivism, rather than raising and addressing the realities relevant to poor, minority, or Third World women. Therefore, while the V-Day movement may supply aid to these marginalized groups, that aid is not generated or provided in a context that gives their stories equal standing. Ahn herself expressed frustration with the fact that

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such minority issues were relegated to second-tier importance. She said, “A lot of the ‘optional monologues’ [specified by the V-day movement to college groups putting on a performance] bring in the voices of women of color, nonAmerican women, or underrepresented groups like transgender women. While I think that’s a good gesture, I feel that it’s also an impossible one… it really is tokenism, and not at all sound, politically.” Bland agreed, “I definitely think the movement falls short when it comes to reaching Third World women and women of color. Some global goals [for the coming decade] should definitely pertain to diversity— a discussion of issues that pertain to women of color and Third World women specifically.” She added, “I believe the movement would gain more support if more collaboration with other multicultural groups existed.” Concrete and radical social change has always been the ultimate goal in mind for Ensler and the thousands who have performed her play. As the V-Day mission statement reads: “When all women live in safety, no longer fearing violence or the threat of violence, then V-Day will be known as Victory Over Violence Day.” In the past decade, the V-Day movement has clearly made huge strides to bringing the issue of violence against women into mainstream discourse in the West. In the decade to come, a key goal for the movement’s growth should be to expand its focus, and to stimulate discussion of women’s bodies and sexuality in a global context. By doing so, the movement will not only be made relevant to a wider audience of women, but will also better position itself to bring about concrete, global effects— asserting both symbolic and pragmatic solidarity with women around the world. Reprinted with permission from author and with added content from the editor.

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Photo by Will Fischer

Interview with Dr. Jeffrey J. Kripal by Klara Wojtkowska
nterview with Dr. Jeffrey J. Kripal, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University. Excerpts in this interview are from his book, The Serpent’s Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion (2006). KW: How can you tell that? JK: It’s in the Hebrew. Adam means “earth creature.” The English translation of “Adam” conceals this. Many early rabbinic or Jewish commentators were very clear about the androgynous nature of the Earth Creature. It’s some kind of male-female double who is then split apart to form “man” and “woman.” In other words, there’s no real female until God splits her off from Adam, which means there is also no real male either until that moment. At that point you have what we today would call sexual differentiation. And then, of course, there is the famous story about the fruit, which has been read in a hundred ways. The first thing that happens to the young couple when they eat the fruit – the very first thing – is that they become aware of their genitals. Instantly. And they become ashamed. Hence the very ancient and very traditional reading that the fruit symbolizes sex, that the young couple had sexual intercourse (other ancient stories have Eve having sex with the serpent), and that somehow

The Serpent’s Gift Explained

Adam, Eve and the Serpent: KW: In your last e-mail, you said we should talk about The Serpent’s Gift. JK: Yes. The reason that the book is called “The Serpent’s Gift” is because the whole book is a kind of meditation on the Adam and Eve story, a meditation that suggests that the story is not what people assume it’s about. If you read it very carefully, it’s, on one level at least, about sexual differentiation and sex. I mean, Adam is this human being, literally this Earth Creature, that isn’t even male or female when the story starts. It’s an androgyne.

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sexual intercourse is linked to the awareness of mortality and death. On one level at least, that’s what it’s about. The tragedy, I think, one of the many tragedies of Western religion, is that that gift of the serpent gets demonized in history. Sexuality becomes conflated with death and, eventually, with sin. So, for example, Augustine thought that “original sin” (another later theological invention) was literally carried in the sperm. Sin now was sex. KW: Yeah, that’s another interesting thing: why would that happen? JK: Because we’re naturally scared to death of our sexuality. There’s no devil in the story. There’s no apple. There’s no Fall, no original sin. None of that. If you read the story, you will see that none of these things are really there. They are all interpretations of the story that are imposed on it afterwards. Taken in its own terms and context, the story is about a snake, which is an ancient fertility symbol, giving some kind of fruit to this beautiful young naked couple, who eat it and … become aware of their genitals. It’s just so obviously about sex! And again, the sad part is that this then becomes a core story about the Fall, that is, about humanity’s early rebellion against God. Not that I think that this reading about sex and death carries no truth at all. I think there are very deep biological and psychological links between sexuality and mortality. Obviously, biologically speaking, the reason we have sex is because we die. Right? If we didn’t die, what would be the purpose of reproduction? It wouldn’t exist. And if we continued to reproduce and didn’t die, that would be a problem too. Clearly, biologically speaking, sexuality and mortality are two sides of the same coin. That’s how biology works. And so the story, I think, is insightful on that level, but the tragedy is that then there’s this conflation of sexuality and sin in the Adam and Eve story. So what I’m trying to do in The Serpent’s Gift is reverse all of that and write against the tradition: “No,” I say in effect, “the gift is a GIFT. Sex is good. Sex is divine.” Not only is it good, it’s a form of knowledge that divinizes us, that makes us “like God.” That anyway is exactly how it’s portrayed in the story. So what I’m doing in the book is writing about the study of religion as “the serpent’s gift.” And I’m promising people a certain erotic delight, even a certain humble divinization, but I’m also warning them that, if they eat this particular fruit of knowledge, it will almost certainly exile them from their former religious notions, from their literalizing naivete. So it’s this funny, paradoxical kind of gift that is wonderful and exiling at the same time. But I think that’s what we all go through when we grow up. You start off as this child, and you hit puberty and you’re exiled at that point. You can’t go back! But that doesn’t mean puberty is a bad thing. It just means that that’s the point at which you separate from the family and the maternal womb and all

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those things that revolve around infancy and childhood. You become your own self, your own authority. KW: All these people got very upset that biologically speaking, or the way we speak biologically, sex is to procreate. That there is the sexual act, and everything that comes before the sexual act we call foreplay – and that penetration and the male orgasm is ultimately the point of sex. And that because we can’t – JK: We don’t even need a female orgasm for reproduction. Is that what you’re getting at? KW: Exactly. So … but it’s not really a question, it’s more a discussion, because it goes hand in hand with this misogynistic interpretation, or religion, where it would be the male orgasm linked to procreation – JK: But see, I think you’re onto something really profound there. Because I think that this is why religious traditions and cultures in general are terrified of masturbation, lesbianism and homosexuality. Because none of those practices are procreative, right? It’s the use of human sexuality for just pleasure, or love or relationships –it isn’t linked to procreation in any way, and so it’s been traditionally conceived as bad or sinful. KW: So why are people afraid of it? JK: Well, I think it’s probably something really ancient, primordial even. I mean I’m guessing here, but at some point in human cultural evolution, I think it was probably really important that people really did have sex to reproduce, and didn’t essentially waste biological energy. As in Genesis, you reproduce and multiply – that was a pretty important thing when you’re this little tribe in some harsh climate and you really do need to reproduce a great deal when death rates in infancy are fifty percent and most women are going to die in childbirth at some point. If you’re living in that kind of biological reality, for a small society to survive, it really does have to be careful, I think. I’m guessing, though. Jesus’s sexuality: “It is the contemporary biblical critic Theodore Jennings who has most effectively advanced the idea that the gospels preserve multiple traces of a certain dangerous memory, the memory of Jesus as a lover of other men … It is in this same homoerotic context that we should perhaps read the Johannine [works related to the Gospel of John] expression ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved.’ The Greek expression, after all,

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carries with it some rather clear, if also somewhat sublimated, erotic connotations. Foremost among these are the Greek sexual conventions, based on standard pederastic models, of the active older ‘lover’ (erastes) and the younger passive ‘beloved’ (eromenes), who is the feminized recipient of the older male lover’s masculine advances. The Johannine beloved disciple trope, in other words, recalls the eromenos, or ‘beloved’ of Greek sexual conventions and, in the process, suggests that Jesus was the older erastes of the beloved disciple as younger eromenes. This ‘open secret’ has been muted or missed, if not actually censored, by a very traditional but fantastically false assumption that the Greek noun ‘agape’ … connotes only a ‘pure’ or ‘spiritual’ love, as opposed to the lustful meanings of the Greek eros … Rather, nominal and verbal forms of agape are consistently used both for sexual acts … and for the passions of divine love for individual human beings or the community of Israel. To assert, then, that God’s agape is necessarily nonsexual, or that texts about Jesus’s ‘beloved’ could have been meant only in a ‘spiritual’ sense is patent philological nonsense.”(4344) society or who was pious in any kind of religiously correct or conservative way. This is a man who systematically violated the purity codes and the religious laws of his own tradition. He hung out with prostitutes. He had a beloved disciple who was a man. There is no reliable evidence whatsoever that he was married. He counseled his closest disciples to castrate themselves. No, this is not a conservative individual, a “family man.” This is a dangerous man. A religious and social radical. “After taking his clothes off (yes, he strips) and tying a towel around his waist, Jesus does something that only slaves and women did in his culture, something that ‘real men’ never did: he washes other peoples’ feet. More provocatively still, it is this unmanly or womanly act, he teaches, that signals both his own divinity and the way he wants his own disciples to live. As Jennings has it, “Jesus’s ‘divine’ identity thus is expressed in his disregard for the most intimately enforced institutions of worldly society: gender role expectations … Dale Martin makes a (similar) point: although ‘Jesus allows a woman to wash his feet (and we biblical scholars – who know our Hebrew – recognize the hint [foot=penis]), when it is his turn, he takes his clothes off, wraps a towel around his waist, and washes the feet of his male disciples, again taking time out for a special seduction of Peter.’ Modern readers, then, may be blind to the gendered and sexual meanings of such acts, but the original participants certainly were not, nor are our contemporary Gnostic scholars.” (45-46) “One thing seems certain and beyond dispute, however: the eroticism of early Christian literature, of which the New Testament writings are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, is both immensely rich and richly complicated. Clearly, different early, very early, Christian communities remembered and/or imagined a Jesus in different erotic ways. Some appear to have advanced a homoerotic Jesus who loved men, others a heteroerotic Jesus who loved and kissed Mary Magdalene in special ways, others an entirely sexless Christ who avoided real sex from the very beginning, that is, from his ‘virginal’ conception and birth. John, Mary Magdalene, Peter, James, Paul – they and their communities all jockeyed for position, authority and power in those early years. They all fought for Jesus’s real and imagined love.” (58) KW: Are you advancing such ideas just as ideas, or are you saying, “I know this”?

KW: In the first chapter of your book, you say that Jesus might have been gay, or he might have not been gay, and nobody really knows. JK: Right, and isn’t that interesting? The argument is that there are all of these memories in these texts, that portray a homoerotic Jesus, and that there are these other texts that are ancient as well that portray a hetero-erotic, a heterosexual Jesus. And then, of course, there’s the orthodox tradition which portrays him as virtually a-sexual, or non-sexual. So you have this complete mess when it comes to deciding what the man’s sexuality actually was. And the point is that you can’t tell. And that, in itself, is extremely significant. KW: In what way? JK: Well, folks who want to use Jesus to advance some kind of conservative political or ethical argument today really don’t know what they’re talking about, that is, they don’t know how ambiguous the texts actually are. Granted, you can go into history and find just about any Jesus you want, but the Jesus in the canonical gospels is extremely subversive when it comes to any kind of purity code, and so my own feeling is that whatever his sexuality was, it was almost certainly subversive to whatever was religiously right or proper at the time. I mean, they killed this man! People forget this. He upset so many people, so many pious and religious people, that they killed him. This is not an individual who fits into

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JK: I am not offering pat answers here or certainty. I am offering provocations. And I am well aware that these are dangerous truths in most previous periods and even today in most cultures. Even today they’re risky, though not as risky, because we live in a different kind of society, and we have large institutions like colleges and universities and seminaries where people are actually encouraged to say what they think, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes people feel. That’s the job of an intellectual – to speak the truth as one sees it, without pretending that you have some access to total or complete knowledge. Our job is not to be infallible. Our job is to ask the difficult questions that no one else is asking. But the premise, at least, is very simple. It’s the same premise that undergirds any open liberal society. If people who are trained intellectuals speak what they think the truth is likely to be, then there can be these really interesting discussions and debates, and the ball will get advanced over the years and generations. But if people can’t say what they think, the ball goes nowhere. That’s the whole point of censorship and “being offended.” To stop the ball. To shut down the discussion. I know this is a long way from answering your question – I don’t think these ideas would play well, publicly, but for me this is no measure of their truth. Quite the contrary, I think the truth is often incompatible with what the public thinks, especially when it comes to religion. We hold a secret, not a popular opinion poll. KW: I think one problem is our tendency towards sensationalist culture now, in that you cited how would CNN do it – “Was Jesus Gay?” JK: It’s a sound-bite. That’s what you can do on CNN – sound-bites, which is to say not much. But you can do a lot in a book, and thoughtful people can pick it up, and they can really have their minds opened. And this is where people sometimes make fun of academics and the whole “ivory tower” thing. But that ivory tower is pretty important for precisely this reason. These are really difficult ideas, and they need to be protected, nurtured, and advanced in an environment where people feel safe doing that. And that’s what the ivory tower is largely about. When you teach a class, you’re working with young people for four months in what amounts to a safe space. It’s not always safe out there, emotionally now, or socially, but it’s safe in the classroom, and it’s safe opening the book in your own private thoughts. At its best, that is what a great research university should be all about—creating a safe space for difficult, liberating ideas. The open mindedness of higher education: KW: So have these kinds of theses about Jesus’s sexuality had any effect on contemporary religious thought – I mean, yes, they’ve had an effect on contemporary religious thought

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– but have they had an effect on the religions themselves? JK: I think that it’s difficult. I’m certainly not alone in these thoughts. In the essay you’re referring to, I cite a couple dozen other scholars who came to virtually identical conclusions, so there’s a fairly strong consensus among a certain kind of scholarship on this. But it doesn’t translate well into the pews. And I’m not sure how it would work on CNN. How would it work in a presidential election? I don’t think it would work very well. I think any candidate who got up and talked about the possible homosexuality of Jesus would lose the election. And I think any religious leader who got up and said the same thing would likely get kicked out of his or her religious community. Unless it was a remarkably liberal community, which by the way are inevitably small, even tiny. So I think that you have to distinguish between what the likely historical truth is, and what is possible in a particular social moment, or cultural moment. And so this is the reason I’m really interested in esotericism, that is, in the whole phenomenon of “secrecy” in religion and scholarship. I think people have known these things for a long, long time, but that they’ve kept them secret because they’ve lived in societies that would persecute, if not actually kill them for saying these things. Man’s relation to the divine in the Catholic Church: KW: So, why is it that if we can go back, reach back, and come up with really any sort of Jesus that we want – and we have these three really great options: homoerotic, heterosexual or celibate – why is it that celibacy survived? Why is it that one? JK: That’s a really good question. My broader work concerns what happens in the history of religion in general. What one finds, of course, is that it’s the men who control these traditions. Not the women. Historically, women have usually been prevented from even learning the reading and interpretive skills that would give them access to the scriptures, and thus to religious authority. That’s why most religious traditions are essentially male-oriented, if not actually misogynist. The question, then, arises, though: What sorts of men are attracted to the religious life? There is a huge variety and spectrum here, of course, but one of my conclusions is that, generally speaking, a kind of sublimated male homoeroticism leads to orthodoxy, whereas male heterosexuality, whether symbolized or acted on, inevitably leads to heterodoxy, if not actual heresy. Let me explain this. Take the case of Roman Catholicism. If you’re a man, and you happen to be gay, you can sublimate these energies, that is, not act on them but turn them inwards and upwards toward cultural and religious ends. If this sublimation is successful, you can have a very orthodox, deeply spiritual life in which you love

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… Put simply, ‘The family’ and particularly ‘the father’ function in the possession and healing scenes and in some of Jesus’s core teachings as social fictions that are essentially abusive … It is also a kind of convenient lie. There are in fact no objectively real ‘demons’ here, just abusive men and some fantastically furious women and children with no other culturally available means to express themselves... Davies’s conclusion is both simple and powerful: ‘Jesus’s clientele who came (or were brought) for exorcism were probably, more than anything else, victims of abusive family relationships.’” (35-37) KW: What was extremely interesting to me was what you wrote about how possession {by demons, devils, evil spirits} was a way of expressing sexual abuse. I mean, how did you come to that? Or, the people who you wrote about – how did they come to that? JK: Well, it’s a common thesis, particularly among scholars who are psychoanalytically inclined, that possession is rooted in some former abuse and trauma, and that it’s a way of externalizing it. So in cultures where a daughter or a wife, for example, is not allowed to swear at the husband or the father, she will be allowed to be possessed and have the devil say all sorts of horrible things to the patriarch of the family. It’s the old “the devil made me do it” strategy. It’s also probably why a lot of lore around witchcraft and demonic possession are so sexualized. It’s because people who are suffering are those who have been sexually abused, and people who have been sexually abused express themselves in hyper-sexual (and hyper-religious) ways. Historically, I think, they often frame it in terms of possession. KW: So when Jesus was healing or casting out demons – or really when anyone casts out these demons – from that standpoint, how does one communicate with that abused self? JK: Well, I think in those cases you always communicate the abused self through the language the culture gives you. So, if you’re living in first century Palestine, and you’re a charismatic healer, and people think you’re possessed by a divine spirit, then you can actually work with people and throw out their

a beautiful male deity, that is, Christ. You can even consume his body and his fluids every day. You can have this amazingly powerful, basically homoerotic relationship to the divine. [Dr. Kripal is referring to the priests within the Roman Catholic Church.] And that’s entirely orthodox, as long as you don’t act on it genitally, physically. If you’re a straight guy, however, you, of course, have no such options. There is no female divinity in Roman Catholicism, or in Western monotheism in general for that matter, with whom one can have an erotic-spiritual relationship. To conceive of the spiritual life erotically and heterosexually here is to guarantee that it will be deemed heretical, and that it will be rejected by the larger tradition. I can’t think of a single counter-example. Can you? KW: But what about Mary? JK: In the context of Catholic doctrine and piety, she’s your mother, and she’s also the patron of celibacy. And she’s a virgin. So, no, there’s no female divinity with whom one can have an erotic spiritual relationship in Catholicism. If you’re heterosexually oriented, basically what happens is you’re expelled from the core of the tradition, and it’ll bless you as an active man in society and everything, but it will not tolerate you in the core of the tradition. Because God is male, and you can’t act spiritually on your male heterosexuality in that context. You can’t even sublimate your heterosexuality there. It just doesn’t make any sense. But if you’re a man and you’re gay and you can sublimate it, then it all can become orthodox, and it’s perfectly fine. And it can be quite profound and very beautiful. So to answer your question, the reason that happens is because God is male in Western religion. And males control the religious tradition. So, over the years and decades and centuries, what happens, statistically we might say, is that the straight males fall out of the system and they go into society and reproduce, whereas the gay males stay in the system and learn to sublimate their sexualities, because they don’t have a place in society or out of the closet in religion anyway, that is, as active homosexual men. So they learn to sublimate, and they help create this homoerotic male tradition. Possession as expression of sexual abuse: “… Jesus’s healing ministry can be read fruitfully with the insights of anthropological research on possession cults in colonial peasant societies as a ministry of trance that sought to heal the possessed

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demons. It’s a kind of first-century psychotherapy. But if you live in 20th or 21st century America, you go see a therapist, or you go see an analyst. I’m not sure what it would mean if somebody possessed by demons in first-century Palestine started to theorize about sexual abuse. Probably, they wouldn’t get a voice in the culture, and there wouldn’t be any way to make that have any sense. It’s too abstract. KW: There wasn’t really a language for it, was there? JK: No. Not until the 19th and 20th centuries. That’s the genius of Freud and those who followed him. They forged a language in which we could talk about sexuality in an abstract analytic way. They fashioned a whole set of disciplines that involve talking about sexuality, being critical of it, trying to step back, and trying to be much more tolerant of it. Whereas before that, there were lots of languages that were sexual, of course, but there really wasn’t any language of sexuality per se. Sexuality did not have its own discipline, its own department or program, as it were. Historically speaking, the language was the language of law, purity, and pollution. It was about whom you can have sex with, and when, and for what reasons. It had to do with social status. It had to do with sexual property (i.e., wives and children), with lineage, inheritance, social structure, and social stability. Most of all, it had to do with social hierarchy and boundaries. It was all about the very opposite of what we call democracy, social justice, and human rights. And that’s where a lot of my work comes from. From this shared academic and ethical way of talking and thinking about sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender in the abstract, but also openly and honestly, without shame or fear. I think the reason that work like this has a kind of draw for people, or a kind of shock value, is that, of course, all those earlier religious worlds, not just early Christianity, but other religions as well, lacked this kind of speaking, this kind of thinking. So all that stuff is going on, but it’s all implicit. And so when you take this modern theoretical language, like psychoanalysis or gender theory or queer theology, and you apply it, Boom! The stuff starts popping everywhere. Because it’s THERE. It’s just not explicit until you put on the right set of glasses. And then it’s obvious. It’s like, “Oh my God, why didn’t I see that? Then you can never again not see it. You’ve bitten the serpent’s gift, and you can’t go back to the garden of religious naivete and sexual ignorance. Priests in the Catholic Church: JK: But you know, let me flip it for you. One of the things people don’t understand about celibacy is how incredibly attractive it was, and still is, to gay men and women. If you think about it, if you’re living in the 3rd or 4th century, and you’re a woman, you are likely going to be married to a man

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whom you don’t know or don’t love. You’re probably going to be 14, 15, 16, 17. You’re probably going to be pregnant for most of the rest of your life. You’re going to lose half your children, and there is a fairly good chance you will die at some point in childbirth. You’re not going to get an education. And you’re not going to have a profession. That’s not a terribly promising future. But, if you become a celibate nun, all of a sudden there are no men around (none at least having sex with you), there’s no pregnancy, you will get a really good education, and you will be looked up to by society. You can see why throughout much of European history, so many women wanted to be nuns. It was a very good deal. And you can see why so many gay men would’ve wanted to be priests or monks. Because there’s no place in society for them where they can join this same-sex community and live with other men. That makes perfect sense. That’s not to say there were no straight priests – of course, there were. But statistically, I’m just trying to explain what the patterns were and what it would’ve likely have been. And, of course, what changed all of this was a number of things, including modern medicine and the pill, as well as the decline of religious authority in society. And these are some of the major reasons that there are virtually no nuns left, and precious few celibate priests, in Western societies. Basically, there are just way fewer reasons. KW: What about the shortage of priests? JK: Well, what happened after Vatican II was thousands and thousands of priests left … to do what? To get married. KW: Left the Catholic Church? JK: Yes. There were thousands of priests who left the priesthood after Vatican II, which took place from 1962 to 1965. This is when the church finally attempted to embrace the modern world instead of running away from it or simply condemning it. The church basically liberalized, and in the late sixties then, thousands and thousands of priests in America left the priesthood. KW: Why? JK: For lots of reasons, but often to get married. KW: But why then? JK: Because it was a liberalizing moment in the church and there were a lot of things going on … but my point is, if most of the priests left to get married, what this, of course, means is that the straight guys left. So you can see there’s a kind of sexualization of the church going on through this liberalization process. Before there were all sorts of reason

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The positive side here—I don’t want to paint too dark of a picture—the positive side is that most religious traditions have ways of reforming themselves. They have commentarial traditions. They have religious specialists who can come up with new ways of thinking about the tradition. And you’re seeing that. You’re seeing a bit of that in our own culture right now. And so whereas the Christian church split in the 19th century on the issue of slavery, now they’re splitting on the issue of homosexuality. They’re doing it all over again, as if we didn’t learn anything from the civil rights movement and our history of racism. It’s sad. It’s really, really sad. And the irony is that the set of texts that were used in the 19th century to justify enslaving and torturing black people was, of course, the Bible. That’s where you went to justify these horrible criminal acts. Now, where do you go to justify discrimination against gay and lesbian people? You go to the Bible. It’s the same strategies all over again. Even though there’s virtually nothing in the Bible on homosexuality. KW: Yeah, you take quotes out of context … JK: There’s only a handful of quotes on anything even approaching what we call “homosexuality,” and even these aren’t really on a sexual orientation but on specific sexual acts. There may be six or seven lines in the whole thing. There are probably more lines about not eating shellfish or pork and not touching an animal or human corpse than there are about homosexual acts. Well you know people go to Red Lobster and play football (which involves a whole lot of touching a dead pig-skin). So really, what are we doing here? KW: I was just thinking back to a major complaint or issue that a lot of Protestants have with the Catholic Church, which is that a lot of Catholics ‘worship’ Mary, that she is in a deified position. JK: I know they are not supposed to, officially, theologically, but I think they probably do, and I think that’s just fine. I mean, people need a feminine divine presence too. Otherwise, God is just too darn male. There’s just nothing feminine in the tradition. Human beings are male and female (and transgendered, and bisexual, and . . . ). They’re paternal and maternal. They need a mother. They need a father. They need the feminine, as it were, and the Virgin provides a little bit of that, but not enough, not really enough. It’s not very accurate or healthy either, I mean, how on earth can you be a mother and a virgin? What kind of a model is that? I think that kind of doctrine leads to a great deal of suffering. “It is certainly true that religions consistently sexualize their heresies as rhetorical ways of stirring up fear and dismissing their religious competitors as perverts: from the early (Cont’d p. 55)

for men, straight or gay, to be priests. Being a priest carried tremendous cultural prestige – it was like going to Harvard. But after Vatican II, there’s very little cultural prestige, and so there’s very little reason to stay a priest, particularly if you’re straight and you want to love a woman and have a family. Why do this anymore? KW: Why do you think that the Church still doesn’t allow women priests? JK: This is what I think: they do not allow women priests, and they do not allow married straight priests either. My suggestion is that they deny both for the same unspoken, maybe even unconscious, reason: either one of these sorts of people would mess up the male homoerotic structure of the church. The whole system is based on this sublimated male homoeroticism. If you let women in there, that would mess it all up. And if you let straight, sexually active guys in there, that’ll mess it all up. In my opinion, the liturgy, the language, the vestments, just about everything, is a product of this sublimated male homoeroticism. Women in Christianity: KW: You mentioned in your article on sexuality that research has shown that religious traditions that have a divine feminine don’t have a better situation for women. In fact, they usually have a worse situation for women. It’s kind of like it’s bad if there isn’t, it’s bad if there is. It represses either way. JK: Right. And that’s because these traditions have been created and controlled by men, not women. So can a religious tradition be sexually healthy today by extracting itself from these older traditional values that in the light of things like psychoanalysis, feminism, civil liberties, and modern biology we just see as wrong? So the issue for me isn’t idealizing one religion over another. It’s not as if there’s a traditional religious answer here for sexuality. There’s not. Almost all the religions are equally bad when it comes to honest questions about sexuality and gender. It’s really quite abysmal, to be quite frank. The question for me, then, is how do we today reform our own religious traditions in light of what we know now. They simply didn’t know these things 2,000 years ago, or 1,400 years ago, really any time before the nineteenth century. They knew nothing about genetics. They knew nothing about embryology. They knew nothing about human sexuality and how it works chemically and hormonally. Nothing. So why take these traditions that were formed in cultures that were largely ignorant and make them the standard bearer for what we should be doing or feeling today? It makes no sense to me. But this is exactly what you see conservative religious groups trying to do.

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21 Katherin Sudol

MoSex
nuggled cozily between other buildings on the corner of 27th St. and 5th Ave. of New York City, the Museum of Sex hardly catches the eye of passing pedestrians. It lacks the architectural splendor of the Met or the futuristic silhouette of the Rose Center at the Museum of Natural History. Do not let that humble façade deceive you though. Three galleries, a gift shop full of “sexy” memorabilia and the excitment of the unexpected attract significant crowds each day. The Museum of Sex first opened its doors to the public on October 5th, 2002. Founded by Daniel Gluck, it was meant to explore “the history, evolution and cultural significance of human sexuality.” An important aspect of the endeavor was of course censorship. As stated on the museum’s website, the goal was to encourage “open discourse” and allow the public to experience “the best in current scholarship unhindered by self-censorship.” Six years later this goal is still alive in the provocative exhibits, daring lecture series and an unusual gift shop. So what can you expect to find at the MoSex? One of the first things you’ll encounter upon entrance to MoSex is the gift shop. Now, this isn’t just your conventional museum gift shop with themed books, posters, t-shirts, etc. You’ll find much more than a Bettie Page pinup or a copy of the Kamasutra on these shelves. So do not be surprised if you stumble upon a cabinet full of vibrators right across from a glass display of pocket vaginas, or jars filled with condoms packed into lollipop wrappers or key chains. And the gift shop is just the beginning… As you enter the galleries you transition from the loud, excited buzz of the lobby to a more subdued buzz of intellectual curiosity. The first gallery contains seasonal exhibitions, which change every few months. Past exhibits include the acclaimed “NYC Sex: How New York City Transformed Sex in America,” “Sex Among the Lotus: 2500 Years of Chinese Erotic Obsession,” “Sex Machines,” “Disability and Sexuality: Intimate Encounters,” “Kink: Geography of Erotic Imagination” and many more. All exhibits employ a wide range of media: from photographs, paintings, and sculptures to actual sex toys/machines, bondage equipment and pornographic cinema. The current exhibit is titled “The Sex Lives of Animals,” on view until spring 2009, and explores a variety of sexual behaviors observed in the animal kingdom. It contains extensive and very insightful captions supplementing each photograph, video and sculpture. The premise of the exhibit is to explore sex beyond its reproductive purposes. A range of sexual practices is examined, with cuddling, masturbation, mutual stimulation, group sex, polygamy and necrophilia

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among others. For instance, one video displays female Bonobo monkeys engaging in genito-genital rubbing, which involves heterosexual female monkeys rubbing their genitals together as means of tension reduction and reconciliation. There is also a significant emphasis on homosexual and bisexual relations and practices among species. The exhibit portrays animal sex lives as much more than a Darwinian means of passing on genes. It focuses on the pleasure-seeking and companionate aspects of animal sex, things often overlooked when thinking of the sex lives of animals. We move on from the first exhibit, climbing a cozy staircase to the second story, which currently holds the visual exhibit “Action: Sex and the Moving Image.” This exhibit is a virtual journey through time, from the very beginnings of sexual imagery in cinematography, through the first explicitly pornographic movies, to porn as we know it today. Lined with screens, projectors and screening booths, the exhibit is meant to show the chronological development of sex and its impact on film, television and advertising. The sexual imagery ranges from the subtle metaphors of Dracula (1931), through the more explicit Deep Throat (1972) and Debbie Does Dallas (1978), to contemporary hits like One Night in Paris (2004). The exhibit also explores issues such as race and sexuality, and how they shaped the development of sex on screen. Overall the gallery is an enlightening overview of how far we have come in the last century in exploring and embracing our sexual nature. Leaving the movie room, we enter the museum’s final gallery, which currently holds the exhibit “Spotlight on the permanent collection.” This collection explores eight themes: “sex education, mapping sex in America, sex in art, law and public morality, sex in advertising, sex in technology, sex and entertainment, and the significance of the Museum of Sex in New York City.” The themes are represented through books, photography, art (Manga), cinema (Anime), and sculpture (“The Sex Lives of Robots” by Michael Sullivan). The uninitiated and connoisseur alike will delight in seeing the variety of devices, many registered with the U.S. Patent Office, aimed at enhancing sexual pleasure. Also here, you can see the famous “Real Doll,” a life-size sex doll with a PVC skeleton and silicone flesh. So, if you ever find yourself in New York City with some time to spare, put MoSex on your list of destinations. The jewels in New York’s crown of museums - the Met, the MOMA, the Guggenheim Museum - may shine bright and attract hoards of tourists, but for a real gem with exhibits you can really engage in, make sure to head to MoSex.

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ARTICLES Christine Gerbode

Pure and Not So Simple

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Photo by Rachel Solnick

n a culture in which sexuality casually saturates so much of our daily life, where political wars are fought over sex education and LGBT rights, the support of abstinence as a lifestyle has become increasingly stigmatized, in the same way that support of casual sex has been stigmatized by another camp. To many Americans of newer generations, purity balls, large events at which a father vows to protect his daughter’s purity, may seem archaic at best; at worst, an infringement upon a woman’s autonomy. But Randy Wilson, the creator of the Father Daughter Purity Ball, quotes Anaïs Nin (incidentally, one of the first writers of female erotica) to counter this evaluation: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” There is a blurred line, a continuous spectrum, between judgment and prejudice, and anything taken out of context is an easy target for those who choose not to see what something means through another’s eyes. The Ball is centered on a ceremony in which fathers sign a vow to lead lives of integrity as a model for their daughter, as well as to serve as her “authority and protection in the area of purity” as she becomes a young woman. Wilson and his wife began hosting the annual ball in Colorado Springs in 1998 when their oldest daughter was 13. In an emailed interview with Open, he writes, “We were inspired to create these events by a sense of the importance of speaking to our children-- who we saw them to be, and who we saw they could potentially become. The idea was to grow with the needs of our children as they moved from childhood into their teen years. We felt the father-daughter relationship was key to the success of our daughters as they stepped into their adult years.” Recent statistics do show a correlation between strong father-daughter relationships and success in academics and other areas.

Often times the Balls are extravagant events. Wilson’s speaks of his own daughter’s Ball: “I believe the feminine thrives in beauty, which is one of the reasons to host this event at a five star hotel. This event says to them that they are worth an investment of time and resources.” The Wilson’s website, Generations of Light, says that “because we cherish our daughters as regal princesses—for 1 Peter 3:4 says they are ‘precious in the sight of God’—we want to treat them as royalty.” While the pledge and some symbols used in the ceremony relate specifically to Christianity, Wilson explained that the focus is on building healthy familial relationships. “Certainly our faith is seen in [the Ball], but it was not designed as a religious event; rather, a fatherhood event. We call all fathers to it. It is our event and there are components of our faith in it, but there is no proselytizing.” What is “purity,” in this case? Wilson gives a definition far broader in scope than merely abstinence. “Purity defines the whole person, body, mind, our emotional well being and soul. Our sexualized culture seeks to isolate that sexuality and define the person as such. This is dangerous-- it exploits our daughters and wrongly assigns a lack of value to those who don’t fit the cultural mold for beauty.” While the girls participating in the annual ball in Colorado Springs do not explicitly pledge abstinence until marriage, many girls do at similar events across the country, and it is understood to be an important part of leading a “pure” life. Purity Balls are also held for boys. A main purpose of the ceremony is to instill in young men a responsibility to treat women with respect. In addition to pure behavior, Wilson brings up the issue of exposure and how to remain faithful to that purity. In the face of a sometimes lewd reality, the men’s Ball seems catered toward grooming men to see clear-cut but respectful gender roles. Wilson encourages

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young men to “protect the feminine around them by treating them with respect in conversation and they way they look at them…[For example,] pornography is devastating to both men and women. It is devaluing and exploitative and it establishes a false truth for men about what beauty truly is.” A commitment to abstinence and purity, then, does not stem from a view of sexuality as wrong or sinful; on the contrary, the Wilsons believe that abstinence until marriage heightens a beautiful experience, in that it frees a couple from making comparisons to past sexual encounters. Wilson believes that “many performance issues are due to experiencing multiple partners.” His third daughter, Jordyn (a current college student), touched on the subject as well: “My two older sisters are both married now and they both have expressed to me how incredible it is to be able to give everything that they have saved to one man--the man they have committed to love, honor and cherish for the rest of their lives... I want to be a whole person going into marriage with everything to offer my husband for the first time in covenant marriage.” Wilson says that the concept began to spread without any sort of marketing, and indeed, without his knowledge. “We were contacted by O Magazine in 2006. Their reporter alerted us to the growth that was occurring across the country. We had no idea. We were just minding our own business in Colorado Springs hosting the Ball each year. People had visited and inquired as to how to host a ball. We gave answers, and unbeknownst to us, it multiplied. ...The popularity of the event is indicative of the need our culture has for order in families and relationships.” Such an event, clearly, is not for everyone. Critics, while often supportive of an event designed to encourage father-daughter bonding in and of itself, question the linking of such an experience to a focus on the daughter’s sexuality. Statistics also deeply question the effectiveness of teen abstinence pledges, though few (if any) studies have been done with respect to the impact specifically of purity balls within the communities that put them on. According to Wilson, however, the results are visible. “We have seen families and marriages restored and relationships strengthened. The Ball gives men a model of what it looks like to engage their daughters in a meaningful, healthy relationship, and conveys the importance of positive, affirming words spoken from the father to the daughter.”

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Jordyn shared the same sentiment, reflecting upon her own experience with the event. “I was greatly impacted by the fact that my dad chose to invest in an event like this just to show me how much he values and loves me and wants to be there to launch me into life and relationships. There are no words to describe how cherished and valued I felt that night.” “I am not judging anyone for choosing to live differently than this,” she continued, when asked about what her peers thought of her participation in the Ball. “I have just seen the dramatic difference between purity and promiscuity and I have found that I do not want that kind of lifestyle for myself... I have known girls who struggle with [sexual] pressures and what I try and express to them is that they are too valuable to be disposable!...I have loved being a part of this incredible event and it has only strengthened and inspired me in my choice.” We see things as we are-- but what Anaïs Nin understood is that what we make of the world is not always the full story. When I began to examine this movement, I wasn’t certain I could write about it politely; after looking deeper, I find myself wondering if I have managed to adequately convey the respect that I feel is due. In a culture that, for all of our purported open-mindedness, loves polarizing our options, we forget that there is more than one perspective with something to offer. At the heart of this event is a universal question, what Wilson calls the “need our culture has for order in family and relationships.” The purity ball, for some, is a beautiful answer.

Photo by Rachel Solnick

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ARTICLES Zeno Yeates

The Evolution and Future of Contraception

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Photo by Taylor Johnson

istory has shown that human insight and behavioral patterns are largely a product of trial and error learning. Accordingly, the development of contraception has followed a tortuous path of mistake and reapplication before arriving at the sexual revolution with the development of more effective and easily administrated means of birth control in the mid20th century. However, the human need for more effective contraceptive methods surpasses the aspiration for total sexual control. The population explosion witnessed in the past century represents an unsustainable trend that will inevitably be curtailed by either prophylactic methods or Malthusian means. Despite the stagnating research and development in this area over the past three decades, numerous innovations lie on the horizon that may constitute milestones in the age-old struggle for birth control shifting societal norms as similar developments have for many past generations. Given man’s desire to limit family size, the link between the emission of semen and conception was an early discovery. In this regard, the most primitive approaches to contraception most likely included abstinence and withdrawal (Coitus interruptus, first mentioned in the book of Genesis), while breast-feeding,

which inhibits normal ovarian activity, was one of the most important means of limiting fertility following delivery. Barrier methods came into practice soon afterwards, as documented by the Kahun Papyrus (1850 BC) that describes a pessary of crocodile dung and fermented

bread dough in addition to vaginal plugs made of honey, gum, and acacia tree bark. Sonarus of Ephesus of ancient Rome (circa 2nd century AD) provides detailed instructions for mixing fruits and nuts into

highly acidic, spermicidal concoctions. Soft wool was soaked in these mixtures and placed in the cervix. The first oral contraception consisted of potions made from plants and bark. Likewise, Hippocrates described the use of wild carrot as both an oral contraceptive and abortifacient. In addition to using plant extracts, humans have consumed other substances thought to be contraceptive, often with toxic or fatal results. In the Middle Ages, women often died from lead, arsenic, and mercury poisoning after drinking these agents for their supposed contraceptive effect. As recently as the nineteenth century, women in Canada brewed dried beaver testicle in alcohol to create a contraceptive potion. However, not all methods were allopathic, as exotic dances, charms, and incantations were frequently employed. For centuries, it was a common practice for women to position lemon halves over the cervix – a crude barrier method that also created an acidic environment. Inventors developed and patented a variety of barrier methods in the 19th century, and early contraceptive sponges appeared during the beginning of that century. Intravaginal plugs made of wood and other materials also emerged during the 1800s, as did a variety of pessaries, including one that contained quinine (an antimalarial agent used in tonic water) that was used in England until the 1940s.

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Other nineteenth century contraceptives included syringes used to inject alum or zinc sulfate solutions into the vagina immediately following ejaculation. Cervical caps and diaphragms also appeared during the 1860s, and although the method was never widely practiced in the United States, it had become the most frequently prescribed contraceptive in England by 1930. The first published account of diaphragm use appeared in the 1880s, and diaphragm use increased in the US during the first part of the 20th century. Diaphragm popularity only began to wane with the introduction of oral contraceptives (OCs) and the intrauterine device (IUDs) in 1960. Researchers began experimenting with chemical inhibitors of sperm in the 1800s. By 1950, more than 90 spermicidal products were commercially available. Until the second half of the 20th century, the only other artificial method of contraception was the intrauterine device. It was first developed in 1909 in Germany from loops of silk-worm gut, later from silver–copper alloys and eventually from plastic. The modern IUD appeared in 1969 when copper was added to the plastic frame, improving contraceptive efficacy and allowing the size of the device to be reduced. IUDs fell into disrepute in the mid-70s when a device known as the Dalkon Shield was shown to be associated with pelvic infection and infertility. Nevertheless the IUD is one of the most commonly used methods of contraception in the world, attributed mainly to its widespread use in China. The advent of the modern condom can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where they were fashioned out of animal intestinal membranes. Protection against disease was the goal of these early devices, which eventually evolved into linen condoms during the 16th century. Some historians trace the origin of the word “condom” to a 17th century physician with the same name. Doctor Condom is believed to have served the playboy king, Charles II, who often grumbled about the sheer number of his illegitimate children. Cloth, linen, and animal membrane condoms were all used to varying degrees during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The vulcanization of rubber in 1844 lead to the development of rubber condoms by 1850. The development of liquid latex coupled with modern manufacturing methods helped make condoms durable and inexpensive during the twentieth century. Finally, condom usage increased dramatically during the 1980s and 1990s with the increasing prevalence of AIDS. The oral contraceptive pill was first marketed in 1960, and heralded a revolution in contraception and arguably laid the foundations for women’s sexual liberation. Perhaps the most widely researched drug in the history of therapeutics, the pill has been repeatedly shown to be safe and effective. It has been, and remains, a favorite subject of media hype, and despite its safety record, the majority of women still perceive the pill as potentially dangerous. In actuality, it is statistically much safer than pregnancy. New developments following the introduction of the pill have been largely limited to toying with the chemical composition and the routes of administration of synthesized hormones. The knowledge that would allow a more exciting approach to new contraceptives does exist but is hampered by financial, political, and religious issues. Although the pharmaceutical industry still seems fixated on altering the dose and type of steroids, research into hormonal contraception in the last twenty years has shifted to the development of new delivery systems. Avoiding the oral route, the pill, has the theoretical benefit of bypassing metabolism through the liver while providing constant rates of steroid release. It also has the very real benefits of reducing or eliminating the need for compliance in taking the pill. Hence, injectable progestogens were approved in some countries in the early 1980s, and combined injectables (containing both estrogen and progestogen) are now widely used in the United States. Also included in the list of new delivery systems is the contraceptive vaginal ring

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(e.g. NuvaRing), which is worn in the vagina for 21 days and removed for 7, and the contraceptive trans-dermal patch. Lagging behind is the development of a trans-dermal gel and trans-nasal spray delivering contraceptive hormones. If and when these become available, all the different routes of administration of hormonal contraception will finally have been exhausted and innovation might employ some radically different concept. Thus, the idea that contraception can be used not only to prevent pregnancy but also to confer health benefits, and particularly to reduce the frequency of menstrual bleeding, has received considerable interest in the last couple of years. The use of selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SERMS), for example, to develop a contraceptive pill that reduces the risk of breast cancer is one possibility. The feasibility of hormonal contraception for men has been recognized for more than fifty years, as it is based on the same concept as the existing pill. A variety of regimens have been tested, most of them comprising a progestogen to suppress spermatogenesis, combined with testosterone replacement to maintain sexual function. The long delay in the development of a hormonal method for men can be attributed partly to the lack of an appropriate long-acting form of testosterone replacement, but also to the commonly-held belief that men would never use it and that women would never trust them to take it. Driven by the potentially huge market of testosterone replacement therapy for ageing men, the pharmaceutical industry has at last made a tentative commitment to the development of hormonal contraception for men. Immunocontraception also seems to have been in the research and development pipeline for an inordinate amount of time. Vaccination against the egg, sperm, and embryo are all technically possible. However, progress has been hampered by a variety of factors, including uncertainty about the long-term effects of immunizing against

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nonprofits no longer regard contraceptive research as a priority. It is indeed true that in the thirty years between 1965 and 1995 the total fertility rate (TFR) in the world fell from 4.9 to 2.8 children per woman and that in 1997, fifty-one countries – accounting for over 44% of the global population had fertility rates below the replacement level. However, the TFR in most countries of the African continent is over 5.5, and in these same more than thirty years. The majority of women will do almost anything to avoid an unwanted pregnancy and presently tolerate the inconvenience, side effects, and associated risks of currently available methods. In 1800, U.S. women had an average of seven children. The U.S. total fertility rate had dropped to 3.5 by the beginning of the 20th century. Following the beginning of the modern birth control movement in the early 1900s, fertility rates declined further, reaching a pre-World War II low of about two children per woman in the U.S. Fertility rates climbed during the baby boom of the 1940s and 1950s, then dropped following the 1960’s introduction of OCs and IUDs. Since the mid-1970s, average family size in the U.S. had leveled off at approximately two children per woman. In the United States today, only a few methods of birth control predominate. Approximately onequarter of all women using contraception rely upon oral contraceptives for birth control. About the same number depend upon female sterilization. One-fifth of all couples rely upon condoms, while another 10% have chosen vasectomy. These four methods account for about 85% of contraceptive practice in this country. Each of the remaining available contraceptive methods is used by 3% or less of US couples. In developed countries, about half of a woman’s life is spent in her “potential reproductive years.” For most women, the span consists of five stages, each characterized by specific fertility goals and contraceptive needs. Safe, effective, reversible contraception is required during the first four stages of a woman’s reproductive life span. During the fifth stage, which is reached after attainment of desired family size, method reversibility is less important, although

Photo by Logan Beck

human tissues. Additionally, there are fears that contraceptive vaccines too easily lend themselves to coercive family planning policies. Perhaps the greatest promise for a radically new method lies with the use of antiprogesterone. Taken as either a daily or once-a-month pill, the antiprogesterone mifepristone is now marketed in China as an emergency contraceptive. In other countries, its development is seriously inhibited by the anti-abortion lobbyists, since mifepristone was historically used as an abortion pill. The chronicles of mifepristone illustrate the difficulties that almost every advance in contraception has encountered in the face of social, cultural, moral and religious factors. The increasing tendency towards litigation has also stifled the development and availability of new methods. All these influences generate anxiety for the pharmaceutical industry when it comes to taking on new leads. In recent years, research progress has depended largely on nonprofit organizations, such as the World Health Organization and the Population Council. However, two significant factors have had a major effect to curb their enthusiasm for the development of new methods. The first is the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Although it led to the revival of the condom and a renewed interest in the development of more effective barrier methods, it reduced the interest in developing other new methods of contraception. This is partially because of the commonly-held view that it is unethical to pursue new methods of contraception that do not simultaneously prevent HIV transmission. The second major impediment to contraceptive development has been the widespread view that the population problem has been solved, with the result that donors of the

countries fewer than 20% of married women are using contraception. Despite higher contraceptive prevalence, abortion rates continue to rise in most countries worldwide, including the developed world, and unwanted pregnancy accounts for tens of thousands of maternal deaths each year. As more and more women start having sex at an earlier age, delay childbearing for longer spans of time, and have smaller families, many of them are destined to use contraception for

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this conceptual framework may hold less true with increasing rates of divorce and remarriage. Over time, more U.S. women have delayed marriage and the onset of childbearing. Between 1960 and 1985, the proportion of unmarried women aged 20 to 29 years more than doubled. Moreover, the most significant have been changes in laws surrounding the distribution of birth control. In 1873, the newly enacted Comstock law outlawed all contraceptive devices and information in the US. In addition, many states had laws banning birth control. Family planning advocate

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Photo by Dina Yangirova

a growing number of women are opting to postpone pregnancy after marriage or have no children. Consequently, stage 5 of the typical woman’s reproductive life span has been decreasing in length, while stages 2 and 3 have been increasing. As a result, the need for effective reversible contraceptive methods in the United States has grown substantially over the past several decades. The large number of unintended pregnancies in the U.S. also may indicate an unmet need for convenient, reliable contraception. Each year, nearly half (49%) of all U.S. pregnancies are unintended. Of these, 54% end in elective abortion. These rates are much higher than the rates of many other industrialized nations where the number and variety of available contraceptive methods are greater. In accordance with these numerous innovations, a number of political and legal developments during the past century have closely followed the advances in contraception. Among

Margaret Sanger was charged with violating the Comstock law in 1914, although the case was later dropped. In 1916, Sanger again challenged birth control laws by opening the first family planning clinic in Brooklyn, New York. The police closed her clinic, but the court challenges that followed established a legal precedent allowing physicians to provide advice on contraception for health reasons. During the 1920s and 1930s, Sanger continued to promote family planning by opening more clinics and challenging legal restrictions. As a result, physicians gained the right to counsel patients and to prescribe contraceptive methods. By the 1930s, a few state health departments and public hospitals had begun to provide family planning services. Remaining state laws prohibiting contraceptive use were overthrown by a 1965 US Supreme Court decision. The case of Griswold v. Connecticut had originated four years earlier when Estelle Griswold, Executive Director of Connecticut Planned

Parenthood, opened four clinics in New Haven in defiance of state law. When the case reached the high court, a 7-to2 vote rendered the Connecticut law unconstitutional on grounds of privacy. Societal, legal, regulatory, and financial pressures have all but stalled efforts to develop new contraceptives, resulting in few breakthroughs since oral contraceptives and intrauterine devices led the “contraceptive revolution” of the early 1960s. Most development activity has focused on modifying existing hormonally based methods rather than on creating truly innovative new techniques. The high rate of unintended pregnancies and abortions indicate that our current array of contraceptive choices is simply not adequate for many people in the United States and worldwide. The design of new contraceptives will also have to take into account the rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases. The costs to society of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease are tremendous, especially when considering the costeffectiveness of preventing them using contraceptive methods. Contraceptive research priorities should be weighted toward the overall reproductive health and general well-being of women : the development of improved options for women, specifically methods that act as chemical or physical barriers to conception and to transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV; once-a-month methods that induce menstruation, targeted at different points in the menstrual cycle; and contraceptives to expand the choices available to men. Hopefully, we will see the day when contraception will be as improved from today’s options as our current methods are from the crocodile dung and animal intestines of the past.

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y parents first saw each other in April Vanraj. Upon his marriage to Nandini, a devoted Vanraj 1983. They were married in August learns of his wife’s undying love for Sameer and does all in his of the same year. Two weeks after my power to reunite the lovers and ensure his wife’s happiness. paternal grandparents first met, they Unfortunately for Sameer, when he and Nandini finally meet celebrated their wedding. Married at 17, again, she has learned to love the husband who selflessly put my maternal grandmother had a baby by the time she was her joy ahead of his own. Sameer becomes the unrequited 18. Though these hurried nuptials may seem the actions of lover, and Vanraj walks off with the love and loyalty of his wild romantics, plunging into marriage wife, leaving Sameer behind to declare with abandon, my relatives are in that though Vanraj may have Nandini fact quite the opposite: pragmatists, for this lifetime, she will be his for traditionalists—people who follow the the next ten thousand. Bollywood dictates of custom and family. These theatrics aside, what stuck out the various and sundry marriages grew not most to me in this film was the sage out of the first blushes of love but out advice of Nandini’s blind grandmother. of the tradition of arranged marriage. To Nandini’s daadi, marriage precedes I moved to America when love, and not the other way around. In a I was four years old and grew up movie that seems to blatantly privilege watching Full House and Saved By arranged marriage over love marriage, The Bell. I was an average little girl the pithy statements of Nandini’s in the States, avidly watching Disney daadi should not have provoked much movies and filling my mind with interest or surprise, yet her words made images of myself in a voluminous ball me think. gown waiting for a handsome, faceless This May I visited India with my prince to come along and sweep me father. Our shared Americanness in off my feet. Unaware that my culture the face of our alarmingly foreign privileged practicality over the whims homeland engendered camaraderie,and of emotion, I had no idea that my I took advantage of the companionship parents’ marriage was arranged. On the to ask about his early married life. One contrary, I thought that all marriages night as we waited for a delayed bus in began when parents met one another Thanjavur, where my parents first met, in high school or college, a belief that I asked Appa about his pen paakarthu probably grew out of Zack and Kelly’s (literally, seeing the girl) ceremony relationship on Saved By The Bell and with Amma. I knew already that my one that prompted me to ask my mother mother and father had seen hardly any whether she and my father went to the other boys or girls, respectively, before same college. Her answer was no-- so they met one another at the requisite I asked whether they went to the same ceremony and agreed to marry— high school. Again, her answer was no. without their consent, the “match” Nonplussed, I burst out, “Then where would not have moved forward. But did you and Appa meet and fall in I knew nothing about their folkloric love?” Amma’s response to this naïve meeting. Had sparks flown? Had Appa Chaya Murali query was a chuckle. The memory of been entranced by Amma’s thick curly the proceeding conversation fails me, but it culminated in hair? Were the sweets and coffee she prepared and served something of a romantic disillusionment for me: not all to him and his parents exceptionally tasty? And what were people have a great, dramatic love story. Thus began my own they both wearing? What was it about that chaperoned struggle with the enigmatic conception of love. introduction that convinced both of them that they had In the late ‘90s, a wildly popular Hindi movie called found the person with whom they would spend the rest Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam came out, starring the gorgeous of their lives? When I asked my father, “What made you Aishwarya Rai. The film told the story of the rebellious want to marry Amma?” his response was disappointingly Nandini who, spoiled by her doting father, brazenly falls in devoid of romance, even from a man I knew to be nothing love with Sameer, a visiting guest. When her father discovers if not practical: “My parents thought her parents were good the unbidden love, he orders Sameer to leave for good, as he people.” This was not the answer I’d hoped to receive, but he has already arranged Nandini’s marriage to the respectable followed this dry response with an anecdote that softened

First Comes Marriage, Then Comes Love

Photo by Viju Rao

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the story of the beginning of my parents’ life together. About a week after he and Amma were engaged, Appa boarded a train to Delhi, where he was working in a bank at the time. The train was derailed, and a few tables were upset and injuries suffered in the dining car. Thankfully, nearly everyone, my father included, left the train unscathed. Upon disembarking, Appa sent two telegrams conveying his safety and continued journey towards Delhi. One telegram went to his parents in Trichy. The other went to my mother and her family in Thanjavur. And just like that, after one meeting, one engagement ceremony, my father committed himself to my mother. This, to me, is arranged marriage. A willful commitment. An unbreakable bond. Just like any other marriage-- only the commitment tends to come before the concomitant emotion. The significance of the second telegram may be lost upon those who can see arranged marriage only in the light of traditional Western marriage: love marriage, as my family calls it. Before April of 1983, my father had never seen my mother. He didn’t know her name, her family, her face— he didn’t know of her existence. All he knew was that a wife-figure loomed on the horizon of his life, the details of which would be fleshed out in the future but were currently unimportant. Yet once his family started “looking” for a girl for him, once my mother was “found,” he was suddenly faced with the woman he would live the rest of his life with. From a faceless, vague character, my mother became a very real person, and the transition from having an unnamed wife to meeting a physically present fiancé must have been disconcerting to Appa. All his life, he had only been answerable to his parents. Now he owed allegiance to my mother. It was this new connection, this unprecedented loyalty, that was symbolized by the telegram that went to my maternal grandfather’s home in Thanjavur. Growing up the daughter of an arranged marriage presents interesting complications for a girl in America. These complications normally do not arise in the form of having to explain this tradition to others; most everyone I know is aware of the existence of arranged marriages, though I cannot say that everyone understands the reasons behind the custom. In fact, even I don’t understand all of the reasons. The realm of dating and relationships is treacherous for anyone, but it feels like a veritable minefield to me. Perhaps my problem is that I, like Nandini’s grandmother, think that the label comes before the love—if I can say that I am in a relationship, I’ll automatically know what it is to be in a relationship. Or perhaps the situation is more nuanced than that. Or not. Most probably the little girl within me longing to be a Disney princess still believes that Prince Charming will come along some day. Unfortunately, I have come to realize that nothing is ever as black and white as it seems in childhood. Most likely, even if a prince does come along, he’ll

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bring his own set of doubts and questions along with him. I will probably not know the security of having my spouse pre-screened and selected for me by a cadre of well-meaning relatives with my best interests at heart. For my parents and so many of the couples that came before them, marriage came before love. The decision was made, and the commitment came logically. The organic development of a relationship, of emotions growing to fruition, of this fruit yielding a commitment, still seems an enigma to me, and the absence of this gradual development in my familial history makes the mystery still deeper. The nice thing about arranged marriage is that it makes the ending knowable. His name and face may be a blur, but he will doubtlessly be well educated, from a “good” family of solid social standing, and he will bear the stamp of parental approval. This type of predictability, of knowing whose silhouette will accompany mine as we walk off into the sunset, is tantalizing. Yet the capriciousness of love marriage still holds an allure, for what is more exciting than falling inexorably in love? But because I have no parental reference point, I’m afraid I simply won’t know how to do it. Emotion will poke its head tentatively around a corner, but I’ll deny it my glance, looking past it for the label my mind insists should come first. In fact, the labels and emotions associated with the beginning of a relationship are probably much more entangled than I imagine them to be, the mixture complex and the order of which came first and which second indistinguishable. Still, I wonder if it wouldn’t just be simpler if the concrete name came before the nebulous feeling. Reverse the childhood rhyme, put the marriage before the love, and make the process intelligible. Somehow, I suspect that it won’t be that simple for me, that it’s never that simple for anyone. In the final analysis, life is not like a fairy tale, a movie, a song: the ending is unpredictable, the last scene unknowable until it unfolds. Marriage may come, love may come, but no one, myself included, knows when.

Photo by Viju Rao

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PERSPECTIVE Katelyn Willis

What It Means To Be A Girl

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he first time someone told me I needed to start wearing a bra under my dress, I was eight years old. My principal approached my mother and told her that she thought it was necessary for me to start wearing support garments because I might be a distraction with my rapidly-developing breasts. I was repulsed by the thought of donning a lace-covered contraption adorned with bows and wires and other such torture devices.They itched and rubbed in all the wrong places, and I was given to defying the command: What right did my principal have to think that I would be a distraction to the boys in my third grade class? Could she think I would be a distraction to my male teacher? We compromised; I wore sports bras until 10th grade. When I was in first grade, Manuel made me and several other girls climb to the top of the jungle gym with him and pull our pants down, so he could see why girls were different. Even with the 100degree weather, my stomach turned cold at the sight of his penis. I went and told the playground monitor, but she didn’t do anything about Manuel. For years afterwards, I saw penises every time I looked at a boy. In fifth grade, Hernán told me he liked my legs and wanted me to go out with him; later, I said yes. He followed me home from school, trying to figure out how to get me to kiss him. But I wouldn’t, so he decided his other girlfriend Violet was good enough and dumped me. When I tried to sit with the other kids out by the merry-go-round, they threw rocks at me and moved away to go talk somewhere else. Two years later, Ché said Hernán had told everyone I’d let him put his hand inside my bra. I got my period the summer before sixth grade while we were staying at a hotel in Odessa. My mom wanted to take me out to eat to celebrate. My dad congratulated me because I was a woman now, and offered to buy me something new.

I was annoyed; I just wanted to go swimming, but I couldn’t because I would get blood in the hotel pool. In sixth grade, I wore boys’ pants whenever I wanted to look nice. They didn’t stretch to fit my curves like girlpants do, and Bridget had told everyone that I wore a C-cup. At eleven years old, I looked like a woman. Hernán made fun of my breasts, pushing his chest forward with a pompous stride and saying “Look at me! I’m Katelyn!” In sixth grade, I learned how to slouch. It felt like hiding. I was the only girl in my fencing class. My coach was so nervous when he tried to explain about genderspecific protective equipment for fencing bouts, he ended up yelling “breast protector” very loudly across the room. All the boys turned and stared. I stopped wearing mine, which was hard plastic and didn’t fit properly, except at competitions, where they checked. When I got to college, my fencing coach yelled at me for it because trauma to the chest can cause breast cancer. My closest friends were all boys. I tried to upstage their masculinity whenever I got the chance. Jamie was particularly difficult; he worked out every night and was strong, so he could win a bout purely by being persistent, using his strength to overcome superior tactics. I learned to aim for his crotch because I knew it would hurt him, and that he would remember that I was better. I patronized newcomers, pretending that I was the Master and they were my Padawans. Because I was better, I felt better about myself. I cut my hair really short before college, and my advisors and I dressed up in drag for a meeting with our sister group at Martel. I wore men’s basketball shorts and a super-large t-shirt, paired properly with a backwards baseball cap and Adidas sandals. Vishal told me I captured masculinity perfectly. I wasn’t sure if that meant I looked like

Photo by Rachel Solnick

PERSPECTIVE
a boy. I thought my boobs were big enough that no one could mistake me for a boy. I tried to be friends with girls my freshman year at college. From high school, I was under the impression that girls were backstabbing and obsessed with things like boys and makeup and self-image. But at college, there was a group of girls that shared a lot of my (rather female) interests: musicals, Disney movies, painting, writing, tea, cooking. They were super-feminine, wearing dresses or skirts and a confident attitude, and I thought I could get a normal girl experience, without all the backstabbing, if I hung out with them. I liked girls and wanted to be considered one by my guy friends. However, my “normal girl experience” included a lot of drama anyway; when Elyza asked me if I would vote for her for secretary, I honestly answered, “No.” She didn’t speak to me for the next three months, and I gave up on girls. I found my place amongst a group of boys that didn’t get upset over trivial things, or gossip about who likes whom and whether someone else has already laid claim to a certain boy, or expect me to know what colors are associated with which season (I’d never even heard of Color Me Beautiful before, but I did know about makeup). Instead, we watched Trigun and Samurai Champloo and played video games, sitting clustered around a mini-TV with a freshly-opened package of Oreos and a few cartons of milk. I learned about boob engines (the script used to generate breast motion on female characters in video games), and we made fun of Voldo from Soul Caliber because his whole body was a giant boob engine. When we came back to school at the beginning of my sophomore year, another girl tried to become a part of my group of boys. Teagan was ultra-feminine, and there was something about her that just oozed sexuality. She wore lowcut shirts that left little to the imagination, and she had this way of inserting herself into any conversation and becoming the center of attention. I was appalled to discover the sway she had over my group of friends. When she started dating Wesley, my highly charismatic but arrogant friend whom I had at one point been interested in, my dislike for her materialized. She was high-maintenance, demanding much of his time, dictating the time that he didn’t spend with her (she tried to forbid him from playing his favorite video game), insisting that his roommates come to her orchestra concerts or watch the movies that she wanted to. She became like a toothache,

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and I wanted to get rid of her. She talked about boobs, she played hentai games, she bought a copy of the highestgrossing porno and gave it to the boys as a gift. She made me horribly aware that boys — even my wonderful guy friends! — thought of girls as sex objects. Suddenly, it didn’t matter to me that I was the one the guys would call when they wanted to watch Lost or waste an afternoon playing Staggy the Boy Scout Slayer. I fretted about why I wasn’t sexually interesting. Around that same time, I tried pursuing my first relationship. I went out on a date! Sitting across from him at his favorite Indian restaurant, Jonathan told me I was beautiful, comparing me to the lightning that flashed around us. He liked that I was strong, that I could “pwn” him in fencing class. To me, that was affirmation that it was okay for me to be who I was, a strong girl seeking always to be accepted on the same level as men. And when he told me I was hot, I believed him. Things ended badly. A week after I finally admitted to Jonathan how I felt and asked him if he wanted to start dating officially, he stopped returning my calls. He un-friended me from facebook with no accompanying explanation, and he stepped down as Treasurer for Fencing Club. That same week, Teagan and Wesley broke up. Wesley yelled at me for being insensitive when I didn’t want to watch the movie he wanted to, even though no one else wanted to either. He said “Come on, Katelyn, I’ve had a bad week. Teagan and I broke up.” All the other boys knew about what had happened to me, but they didn’t say anything to Wesley, so I didn’t either. We watched what Wesley wanted to watch. Finally, I was one of the boys, but was I any happier? It’s like this: I have two boobs, two ovaries, a womb, a vagina. My voice and my body fat ratio are higher. I am shorter, I am curvier and I bleed once a month. Here is the truth: when we climbed to the top of that jungle gym in first grade, Manuel pulled his pants down for us to see. It was a revelation of sorts, seeing that 6-year-old penis dangling in front of me, just above the top of his khaki shorts. I recognized then that this symbol of masculinity he shared with us, small and shriveled and nothing more to me than an extra flap of skin, was something that made me different from Manuel. He was a boy, I was a girl. In first grade, it didn’t matter. We were still one gender, playing together, pretending to be Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Why did that simplicity change two years later?

Photo by Logan Beck

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Photo by Anonymous

looked up from my Orgo book and stared out the was gay non-consensual erotica involving characters from window. The clouds outside were fluffy and high and anime shows. She thrust these stories at me, 12 years old and it seemed so easy to just dive to the outside and leave utterly innocent, saying “you’re so good at English, just do it behind work for now. Shaking my head, I bent down for me”. I still remember the first sentence of hers I read– “the over the Alkyl-lithium reaction I was supposed to room stank with the smell of blood, sweat and sex” – needless be learning about. It’s just that, I thought almost plaintively, to say, I was freaked out. With shaking hands, I returned to almost anything else was more interesting. And why was I so her the next day, whispering “I edited it, but I don’t want to distracted? Was it my boyfriend? I ever again”. Sandy looked through hadn’t seen him today, maybe I’d give my changes, smiled slightly, and him a call…but no, I couldn’t, he had said, “But you’re so good at this! I’ve a meeting right now. Was it friends? never had such good feedback!” And A test? Family? I went through the so, through simple flattery, Sandy list, one by one, until I was only left had a new pre-teen editor. Through with one explanation for my inability her 13-year-old words (how mature to focus: I was horny. “I really don’t she was!), I learned about 69ing, anal, have the time for this,” I muttered, vibrators, bondage and many other trying to ignore the increasing things that often go into erotica. pulsing from my center. But I knew “No wonder I turned out so I was going to lose this battle as I did screwed up,” I told myself, scrolling every time; the drive to masturbate, through pages and pages of naked I have decided, knows no bounds. bodies, seeking the stimulation that Since the age of four, when I found I knew deep inside was not coming. that grinding against the floor felt Instead, my thoughts moved back to good, I have known this pull, and seventh grade again. have always accepted it as a chore to Within months, I had be taken care of. Like the annoying become a pro at my trade. I edited cousin you only babysit for money, with eyes trained for what sexually this need was unavoidable, and I active high school kids would look only fulfilled it to get the payoff, a for, knew what was too graphic and minute of relaxation before the real not graphic enough, and soon found world set in again. myself getting frustrated with Sandy. Moving over to the Couldn’t she see all the mistakes computer, I searched “free porn she was making, how this sentence online” and clicked the first hit – it altered the flow, how this piece of didn’t really matter what it was, after dialogue was just a bit too contrived? all. I felt myself getting wet, leaning I had long ago become familiar forward in anticipation of the video with the internet, and often read Anonymous titled “Young Virgin Gets Fucked”. similar stories by different people on And, just as promised, the video showed some youngish fanfiction.net. It was amazing; thousands of stories written brunette with braids getting pounded from the back. And, by thousands of people about cartoon characters having sex. just as expected, my desire wilted. Out of these stories, only 1 in 40 was written with any real It’s an odd thing, really, but the number-one skill. I knew I could do better. guaranteed way to ensure that I am turned off is to show So I did. me porn. I don’t know why, but for some reason it just is From age 13 to 15, I wrote about stuff I had never so uninteresting to me that sex itself is momentarily known in the real world: gay sex, straight sex, space sex, hobbit uninteresting as well. Odder still, perhaps, is the fact that sex, sex with robots, sex on carnival rides, sex in every place every time I get bothered, I think porn will be hot. Why is it and situation possible. Where the real world had boundaries, that, even after so much negative reinforcement I still think the fictional world was boundless. There, my slowly emerging “Busty Teen Loves Raw Sex” will get me off? hormones could range freely, lolloping in the grass of web It all started in middle school with a friend who erotica. The best part was the online comments. Every time led me into my first sexual exploration. It wasn’t at all like I posted a story, compliments from other readers (who were it sounds- I was her editor. At the tender age of 13, Sandy probably, like me, lying about being 18) would pour in, filling wrote fan fiction; her specialty, she would proclaim loudly, me with confidence in my writing abilities. (Cont’d p. 55)

The Making of Love

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33 Tiffany Kim

Tit for Tat: Shake It Up for Mama

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hy is it that our society condones the exploitation of women in commercial ads for pretty much any commercial product? Clothes, perfume, watches, soft drinks—the list goes on. Sex is EVERYWHERE and at times may seem excessive. However, when we’ve reached the point where we use sex to sell even charitable causes like PETA’s “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” ad campaign (which also only portray naked women), we’ve affirmed that sex is effective, sex communicates, sex grabs your attention. My point, then, is if we’re going to have this game of sexy time all the time, let’s level the playing field. Because really now, the products may be for women, they don’t put on a $10+ million Victoria Secret Fashion Show every year just for female patrons. This gender-imbalanced sexploitation not only pertains to our commercial practices but also our highly sacred American traditions. Take Halloween, for instance. For all the sexy maids, school girls, cats, and witches, where are the sexy butlers, school boys, dogs, and wizards? Where are the boys gone wild? Surely, for every girl who likes wearing a wet t-shirt and wrestling naked in jello, there is a boy who enjoys the same?

three-dimensional and are actually preferred that way, while female superheroes are restricted to their one-dimensional sexy cop act. If Supergirl, She-Hulk, or Invisible Girl were half as emo as Spiderman or Batman, their personal turmoil would be dismissed as PMS. Similarly unrealistic limitations extend to the behaviors of supervillainesses. Wouldn’t it just be a little freakin’ ridiculous for Doc Ock to have the same sexy slur that Catwoman or Poison Ivy possess? Why is it necessary for every bad girl in a Bond movie to sleep with 007? It’s like, “Sleep with Bond? Check. Now I can use the laser to destroy the moon.” But don’t get me started on Bond movies. (Two words: Pussy Galore. Two more words: Holly Goodhead. One last word: Octopussy.)

Why are female superheroes denied pants? It’s actually pretty hilarious when you pay attention to how women are unnecessarily sexed up, but this objectification can’t just go ignored. All I really ask is that we be fair. We’ve had plenty of tit—aren’t we due for some tat? Women have been putting out in our sex-driven society for a while now, and it’s about time that men reciprocate. Gentlemen, practice your bend-and-flick a la Legally Blonde. Start eating strawberries, cherries, or anything else in the berry family with some seductive determination. For every movie with cheap boob shots, there should be a movie featuring leather-Speedo-clad manly men. (If you don’t believe that 300 is the best chick-flick to have come out in years, I think you should watch it again, hetero-males-indenial.) How about a male equivalent to Strip Aerobics by Carmen Electra? We demand an upgrade from the Richard Simmon’s Groovin’ with the Oldies moves. Shake it up for Mama, boys! Let’s make The Game more interesting for everyone to play.

Men’s Watch Ad vs. Women’s Watch Ad This unfair standard towards women can be somewhat epitomized by our conception of female superheroes. As if Wonder Woman’s feats of strength and flawless appearance weren’t enough, the fact that she fights crime in a corset and has never had a nip-slip is truly a wonder. Are there any ugly female superheroes? Even The Thing has a girlfriend, but if Elecktra put on some pounds or forgot her mascara, she’d be ostracized by society. Male superheroes get to be

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PERSPECTIVE Anonymous

A Queer View on Sleeping Around

Photo by Ariel Shnitzer

South, where kids are raised to respect sex and to not enter into a sexual relationship lightly. Despite being raised in the South, my parents were not overly religious when I was growing up. They are both Christian to this day, but allowed me and my siblings to form our own opinions about religion, politics, and society. This allowed my views to develop differently in theirs. My parents would much rather that I remain a virgin until marriage, or in my case, a commitment ceremony or civil union. I am not scared of having sex, but afraid I might regret having had sex too soon. When I am old and decrepit, I want to be able to remember the first person I was intimate with and smile. I want to remember what he looked like, how we met, what he smelled like, and most importantly, his name. For these reasons, I have made the decision to wait to have sex. I will never say that every person in the LGBT community agrees with me and because of this, the article I read holds some truth. Promiscuity exists within the gay community, as it exists in any social, cultural, or gender group. I have met both gay and straight people, men and women, Americans and Europeans who sleep around or participate in alternative sexual practices. I applaud them for wanting to express their sexual urges. But then I have also met both straight and gay people who are waiting until marriage. Whether by religious choice, or an event in their lives that made them want to save themselves for a single person, they have made the choice to remain a virgin until marriage. I made a similar decision. Not to be the cliché gay guy who sleeps around for years, but to be comfortable enough with whom I am until I am ready to take the next step with the right person. Sure, beguiling promiscuity exists within any community or social demographic, but I am not sexually promiscuous. This choice, cultivated through a combination of my own desires and childhood upbringing, is not something that I will apologize for or allow others to belittle; it is a decision I hold with no regrets.

Photo by Amy Lanteigne

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recently came across an article detailing gay sexual behaviors and their effects on public health within the United States. Published by the online Catholic Education Resource Center, the article gave several arguments against sexual behaviors that gay men and women engage in. The article detailed common sexual acts like anal and oral sex alongside fetish activities, like fisting and coprophilia (sexual pleasure derived from human feces), and suggested that these alternative sexual practices are common among the gay community. I am not going to try to argue that their data is wrong— although the data suggesting that over 25 percent of gay men will have over a thousand sex partners in their lifetime does seem a little blown out of proportion— or that Christianity is evil for publishing such things, but the apparent lack of understanding among certain groups with regards to gay sexual patterns bothers me. While the belief that gay men sleep around and take part in sex that could be seen as sadism or masochism may hold true for certain people within the LGBT community, not all gay men, including myself, are looking for a simple one night stand. Everyone knows there is a cliché about gay men in the United States. We are characterized as effeminate, shallow, drugged up, and promiscuous. This characterization of gay men angers me. I admit I am an effeminate-sounding, musical-theater-loving guy who likes to shop with one of his best friends; but that does not mean that I automatically fit into every aspect of the stereotypical gay male. My friends can attest to the fact that my favorite movie is an action film (Children of Men was AMAZING!) and that I have been known to quote Power Thirst at inappropriate times. Some of my friends, including one of the editors of Open, were surprised when I stated my stance on sex and relationships. I just simply point out that it was in my upbringing in the

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Photo by Dina Yangirova

einfeld fans will recognize the slogan “Master of that there is something “wrong” with people who masturbate My Domain.” You can get it printed on a t-shirt (or at least something sinful about the act itself ). I don’t know or a coffee mug as an homage to the episode where how everyone seems to come to an unspoken understanding Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer place bets on of this when it seems no one ever wants to talk about it. who can go the longest without masturbating. Maybe it’s the fact that there’s such a taboo against even Kramer is quickly out of the competition, followed by talking about it that makes us cognizant of the fact that doing Elaine, but George and Jerry stick it out until the end of the it must be particularly terrible. Heck, even in the Seinfeld episode, a feat made more episode that’s entirely difficult by the fact that about masturbation, they Jerry is dating a virgin, so never once say the word! his sexual frustration is The concept is one that doubled. most Christians come to I have a friend associate with shame and whose study of the sin. human body and brain A brief review has led her to repeat to of the literature makes me often that “humans it clear that the topic are very sexual creatures.” is hotly debated even She and I grew up in the within the Christian same upper-middle class community. When you conservative town, went come right down to it, to the same church, were there is no verse in the confirmed in the same Bible that explicitly year, and had parents with states “thou shalt not similar (and somewhat masturbate.” However, out-of-place) progressive there are a lot of verses leanings. I can attribute that address topics close my own somewhat enough for those arguing prudish attitude toward against it to back up their Jamie Sammis sex in a large part to my claims with Scripture. upbringing – whether it Verses condemning lust was in church, health class, or at home, the message was the are riddled throughout the Old and New Testaments alike same: sex is good, but only in the appropriate context. As far – 1 Corinthians 6:18, Matthew 5:28, Job 31:9-12, Galatians as I am concerned, marriage is the appropriate context. In 19-21, to name a few. Is it possible to masturbate without my time at Rice, however, I have realized that my personal a feeling of lust? Maybe. Next objection: self-centeredness. views are not shared by a significant proportion of my peers. The Bible tells us repeatedly to be selfless, with the Greatest Essentially, my friend’s assessment is well-founded: humans Commandment reminding us to love the Lord our God with are animals, and sex is part of an animal’s existence. all our heart, mind, and soul, and to love our neighbors as The first time I saw the term “masturbation” was ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). Christians are called to think when reading one of those “What’s Happening To My of others before we serve ourselves, and faith is supposed Body” books parents like to give to their pre-pubescent kids to be God-centered. It can be argued that masturbation is to avoid having The Talk. I remember being struck, and purely self-centered, and therefore sinful. And then there’s perhaps a little confused, by the passage that explained what the argument about what separates us from animals anyway: it was. The book acknowledged that many people, men and in Genesis, God commands Adam and Eve to be “masters women, partake in self-stimulating activities without any over the fish and birds and all the animals” (Gen. 1:27), and apparent long-term negative consequences. In the same Paul lists self-control as one of the nine essential Fruits of paragraph, it stated that many people were opposed to the the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). 1 Corinthians 6:12 states, “‘All concept “for religious reasons.” I wasn’t really sure what the things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are beneficial. Lutheran stance was on that kind of thing, but figured I ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated should probably cover my bases and avoid it, just in case. by anything.” Essentially, if we allow a behavior to control In retrospect, it is interesting that my first encounter us, rather than maintaining control over it, it becomes a sin. with the term “masturbation” came from such a secular source. The same argument could be used against substance abuse or It seems to be common knowledge among many Christians gluttony; masturbation is not unique (Cont’d p. 54)

Master of My Domain

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PERSPECTIVE Rose Hansen

Stigma
nce when I was fourteen, I was playing cards with the neighborhood boys when they started cracking jokes about masturbation. At that age, it seems like I should’ve been uncomfortable, but in truth, it wasn’t a new topic to me. I’d had my first orgasm about a year before, in the shower, when I accidentally sprayed myself between the legs with the detachable shower head. So when these boys started joking about “slapping the salami,” I jumped into the conservation without hesitance. Their reaction was something between erotic shock and disgust. While one told me I was awesome for admitting it, the other didn’t speak to me for weeks. As he put it, I “freaked him out.” I learned the hard way that fourteen year old girls aren’t supposed to masturbate and talk about it – a twist to the don’t “kiss and tell” game. Little has changed since then. The whole topic of masturbation is a social taboo. While our culture is clearly capable of carrying out open discussions about most forms of sex – vaginal sex, anal sex, casual sex, good sex, and bad sex – masturbation, or sex with yourself, is virtually excluded from most conversations. And while masturbation is expected of men (consider all the slang terms to describe it), it’s often portrayed as a

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shameful, pathetic activity for women. Religious activists claim it’s gluttonous, self-centered, and downright sinful because, well, God knows we shouldn’t embrace the joy of self-pleasure. The only time masturbation ever seems encouraged for females is if they’re doing it to enhance sex with a partner. Read the sex advice sections of women’s magazines like Self, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour. The most common published motive for masturbating is to learn how to achieve and orgasm and then transfer this knowledge to intercourse. Not only do you get to orgasm, but you can teach your partner how to make you orgasm too. This is great. Your partner should know how to make you orgasm. But in my experience, men become obsessive with making girls orgasm because it boosts their ego to succeed – not because they were concerned about their partner’s sexual satisfaction. When I masturbate, my pleasure – not someone else’s ego – is my number one priority. And that’s how it should be. But there’s nothing published in women’s magazines about masturbating just because you want to. Think about it. When’s the last time you heard a girl say, “Well, I was horny and I just felt like masturbating”? The only time I ever hear girls talk about masturbating is when they admit to engaging in mutual masturbation or using it as a sleep aid.

Photo by Matt Taylor

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Last term, I was invited to an all girls “Passion Party” party that sold things like dildos and vibrators and female lubricants. It’s kind of like Mary Kay or Avon get-togethers, except sex is the theme rather than cosmetics. I thought it was a great idea at the time (what’s better than a bunch of girls emphasizing and capitalizing on their own sexuality?), but a few minutes into it, I realized all the products being sold were pitched simply as intercourse enhancers. In fact, I was the only single person at the party.

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Photo by Matt Taylor

Ironically, out of all the girls there, I won the grand prize: a vibrator. It was my first vibrator – battery operated, green, and phallic. It’d be nice to call it revolutionary, but the vibrator didn’t change much except for the fact that it made coming a much quicker business with less clean-up. I wish masturbating was the deep, emotional, spiritual affair that many women experience, but it’s just not like that to me. I don’t do the whole bubble bath, candlelight thing. The home I was raised in didn’t emphasize sex as a sin or a pleasure. It was just something people did. To me, masturbating is just something I do, just because I have the appetite for it. It’s like a snack. But remember all the rumors and assumptions that floated around about masturbation in grade school? People who admitted to doing it were considered perverts. Some said you’d go blind. Even worse, some were told by parents

or religious leaders that masturbation was a sin that would send you to hell. The myths might be broken, but the stigma still lingers. But if you think about it, it’s amazing that masturbation isn’t widely encouraged at a younger age. It’s a natural form of self-exploration, and though they never said it during the sex education I had in middle school, it’s the safest sex you can have – assuming you’re not going to burn in hell for indulging in yourself. Giving myself an orgasm is a little harmless gift. It doesn’t hurt feelings, doesn’t get me pregnant and doesn’t put me at risk for sexually transmitted infections. I might be a sinner, but I love myself and my body and I’m not afraid to make myself feel good – and masturbating is one, of many, ways to express that. Laugh or curse all you want, but as Woody Allen famously said, “Don’t knock masturbation, it’s sex with someone I love.” And that’s more than can be said about other forms of sex. Of course, that’s not something you can openly say. For as easily as we engage in dialogues about intercourse and oral sex, how many of us are openly willing to admit to having healthy sexual relationships with ourselves? Not many. While it’s socially assumed and accepted that virtually all men masturbate, on average, a fairly popular consensus is that 60-70% of women admit to partaking in self-pleasure (key word: admit). When it comes to masturbation, the subject still makes us shift in our seats. But masturbation is a healthy expression of sexuality, and the physical and psychological benefits of it deserve recognition. It can relieve stress, pain (such as menstrual cramps or migraines), and increase self-awareness. And yes, when incorporated into sex with a partner, it can make foreplay and intercourse better. But best of all, it feels good. So why aren’t we doing it more often and talking about it more openly? Until we’re ready to engage in open dialogues about it, the association of it as a deviant and shameful activity will never break, and that’s a shame in itself.

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PERSPECTIVE Donna Huang

The “L” Word
comes down to it, it seems like the “L” word has just fallen out of fashion. Rather than conjuring images of candlelit dinners and long walks on the beach, nowadays love seems more often to connote the mundane, the uncool, and most of all…the hard work. Loving, committed relationships appear to take a level of devotion and labor that many of us seem unwilling or unable to conjure up, as evidenced not only by the university hook-up culture, but also by the staggering rates of divorce in our country. Are romantic love and the committed monogamous relationship just social constructs that have fallen out of step with the times? Is there any biological basis or advantage for the sensation of love? Perhaps most important of all, is there any hope for love, or is love just a thing of the past? Hopeless romantics, take heart. Research has shown that there is a biological underpinning for love and committed monogamous relationships, and that furthermore, such relationships are beneficial to, or even vital to, a person’s well-being. The idea of a biological basis for love may at first seem incongruous. In light of the argument that during any given organism’s life, its main goal is to procreate, love and the elaborate rituals and dating and marriage that come with it seem to be completely accessory to this most primal and basic of biological goals. Despite the best efforts of some self-purported “liberated” minds to write off love as a purely societal construct that binds individuals to an antiquated and restricted model of human interaction, we may not be able to help falling in love. Recent research has indicated both strong biochemical factors driving the sensation and process of falling in love as well as some compelling evolutionary arguments for why love exists. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist t is a story familiar to many college students across from Rutgers University, has conducted functional magnetic the nation: “ Oh man, I was so wasted last night and resonance imaging (fMRI) studies of the brains of people in I hooked up with fill-in-the-blank.” Hooking up, love, and has traced both the strong initial feelings of new or engaging in casual sexual activity ranging from love and the less-exciting stability of habitual love to specific kissing to intercourse with a people whom one is not regions and neurotransmitters of the brain. According to in a committed relationship with, is becoming an increasingly Fisher, romance is processed in three regions of the brain: widespread phenomenon among university students in the the ventral tegmental, the accubumens, and the caudate United States. Hooking up has an undeniable allure; it is nuclei. The exciting feelings of strong, near-obsession that exhilarating and gives heady and instantaneous gratification. people newly in love experience originate in the ventral In this whirlwind of excitement, the emotional and tegmental and the accubumens. These brain centers are psychological connections between two people that are part major processing sites of the neurotransmitters dopamine, and parcel of a normal romantic relationship are often left vasopressin, and oxytocin, all of which are released when a by the wayside. As a matter of fact, more than simply being person is falling in love. Each of these neurotransmitters overlooked, love and romance almost seem to have become binds potently and elicits powerful reactions in the brain, taboo and passé.Two people can hook up regularly for months, particularly oxytocin. The release of oxytocin and vasopressin but mention dating and everyone becomes more skittish in humans is stimulated by many factors in an individuals than Madoff when the SEC comes to call. “Commitment” environment, including sex, thus making it very difficult and “exclusivity” have become dirty words to be said with a chemically speaking, for a person not to form the dreaded wrinkled nose, kind of like “chores” and “taxes.” When it emotional attachment after the random hook up. In 2000,

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Photo by Taylor Johnson

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Andreas Bartels and Semir Zeki of University College in London found that the brain regions stimulated when a person is falling in love were different from those stimulated when a person experiences other strong emotions such as fear or anger. Surprisingly, rather than resembling the brains of people experiencing strong emotions, the brains of people in love resembled those of people who had snorted cocaine. In other words, the centers of the brain controlling the love sensation are the same as those that generate the euphoria and addiction associated with cocaine use. In short, we are literally addicted to love. As anyone who has been in a committed relationship knows, the excitement of the new relationship does not last forever, and eventually the relationship settles into a more stable, albeit less thrilling, mode of existence. This stage of love, what Fisher calls habitual love, is generated by the caudate nuclei. The caudate nuclei also are responsible for storing the memories of how to do mundane things such as typing and driving. One thing notable about the caudate nuclei is that the memories stored here are virtually permanent unless the brain sustains extraordinary injury or trauma. Thus, the feelings that are made extremely powerful by the ventral tegmental and the accubumens are made permanent in the caudate nuclei1. This is the point at which, for better or for worse, you’re probably more likely to stay in and watch a movie with your partner than go out; you’re probably not

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trying to impress each other any more; and there is very little, if anything, that can be described as “exciting” about your relationship. The initial excitement of dating and courtship as well as the comfortable plodding of long-term companionate

love can ultimately be linked to the quest for reproductive advantage and success. What differentiates humans from other animals, and what ultimately preserves us as a species, is our intelligence. It is a trait that through the ages has been selectively favored over other advantages (for instance, extraordinary strength or speed, or the ability to fly). Accompanying this increased intelligence, however, is an increased amount of time needed to grow and develop this intelligence, hence an extended period of reliance of offspring on their parents. Fisher theorizes that habitual love developed as an adaptation to the protracted dependency period. If two partners are to successfully raise their offspring, they need a strong bond that will allow them to remain together throughout the offspring rearing process without an all-consuming passion that might distract them1. The ritual of dating may have an evolutionary purpose as well. Besides the immediately practical purposes of avoiding unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, some anthropologists hypothesize that the elaborate courtship rituals present in many societies may have developed as part of a genetic screening process. The idea is that if an individual offers up his or her reproductive services too easily it may be because they are trying to compensate for not being able to offer a very good selection of genes. On the other hand, an individual who more conscientiously guards against promiscuity may have a better hand, genetically speaking, and thus are able to demand more from prospective mates. Not only is there evidence to suggest that love is biologically hardwired, there is also evidence to suggest that love is good for our health. Studies have shown that love has beneficial effects on stress levels and autoimmune function. Conversely, a lack of positive social support, including but not limited to loving romantic relationships, has been linked to both mental and physical illness. By avoiding commitment like the plague as we do in university culture, are we stunting our future ability to develop normal, healthy relationships, thereby inadvertently hurting our health? Supposedly, if we are merely fighting a phenomenon that is biologically hardwired into us, it doesn’t really make a difference in the long run. Love is a phenomenon that is only beginning to be understood by the scientific community. The more that is understood, however, the more the evidence seems to indicate that love is important, beneficial, and, at the very least, inevitable.

Photo by Jeremy Morrell 

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PERSPECTIVE Anonymous

My Sex, My Certainty

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Photo by Matt Taylor

he last night of his visit, suitemates studying just beyond the door kept us quiet, just as responsibilities waiting on the morning alarm kept us desperately intent on each other’s bodies. We pressed together in a simple way- finding the sweet familiar rhythm that would bring him to a finish. This night we weren’t attempting to be wild, or sexy, or epic, instead we were just calm, loving, reaffirming- we were attempting to ingrain impressions of being held in each other’s arms. As the minutes wore on, though, it became apparent to us both that something was wrong. Our simple lovemaking became a twisting struggle to keep him hard long enough to finish what we had begun; trying to find contentment that we had experienced each other one last time. Finally, finally, deflated and a little confused, I settled back into the pillows wondering what, on such a ritually important night, had diverted his attention from our love-making. He partially rolled on top of me, his arms squeezing my torso, his cheek over my belly button, the words “I’m sorry” brushing my stomach as he said them. When I felt droplets of moisture well up between us, I began to understand how much this parting was hurting him.

Of course we’ve had better sex; this is only one of the many shades we’ve experienced over the course of our relationship. With the two of us tightly intertwined, a thousand variations have come in their time- gentle, loud, delicate, rough, quick, languid, experimental, exquisite, dissatisfying, and, of course, absolutely perfect. There is so much we have experienced through sex, feelings so monumental and detailed that every couple is certain no one else could have experienced them before. As exciting, as romantic, and as pleasurable as sex can be, it is sometimes in the moments of commonality, flawed awkwardness and upset- the times when sex is not hot, not spicy, not dark or film-worthy, that sex communicates the most. The very first time we had sex, the night I “lost” my virginity, was anything but romance novel material. We’d been experimenting for months; as I tested the waters that I was initially convinced would leave me feeling drained, degraded, or downright evil. We’d quietly, self-consciously rubbed against each other, then touched, stroked and revealed our way to a place where I was recklessly certain- not that I wanted to have sex- but that the vacillations of my own mind were enough to drive me crazy. Loving the self-aggrandizing

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feeling of reckless danger it gave me, I bustled into his room, closed the unfinished paper on his computer, coaxed him to his bed, and kissed my way to my own deflowering. It was stilted and awkward, uncertain and jittery. Nothing hot, nothing to haunt my memory with its pleasures for years to come. I was scared, and he was scared and self-conscious. Blown away by the seemingly sudden decision on my part, he was afraid of hurting me, and worse yet, afraid that we’d reach the end of our little escapade up and down each other’s bodies only to find that I regretted my choice. It was this consideration, this nervousness, and his utter determination to be as gentle as possible, that really reassured me that I hadn’t made a mistake. People talk about “losing” their virginity, and goodness knows I was terrified of being less of a woman the other side; truthfully, I never felt that at all. The next morning, I was calm and confident in the change that had come over me, and absolutely certain, through the experience and his tender self-carriage, that I was more mature than I had given myself credit for, and that he was and is incredibly special. Only through the experience of sex have I unavoidably come to have the physical truth of him and his fine, caring character impressed on me so deeply. I haven’t lost anything through having had sex before marriage, I have gained so much more- a sense of pride in my body, a confidence in my ability to handle complex and weighty decisions, and an utter certainty in the solidity of our relationship. Every time one of us steps off the plane we rehearse a familiar scene. We get to the bedroom of whoever is playing host that weekend, him, me, him, me, back and forth in turns. We kiss tentatively. We want to kiss deeper, but find we have forgotten how, and where and when. It’s been such a long time since we’ve seen each other, and we’ve forgotten how to read the other person, what moments and parts are the right ones. Finally, one of us will get brave, and begin stroking the other. We’ll stumble, sans foreplay, into the tentative, awkward sex that means thank-God-for- 

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you-welcome-home. It isn’t perfect, it isn’t even physically enjoyable, but it is so exquisitely comforting for the soul, for our long-distance-hearts, to finally put the pieces back together, that though the sex would make any observer squirm- to us it is perfect, comforting, healing, and often tear-inducing. The mere fact of the other person, so close, so insistent, even more present through the pinches and twists, is enough to make it feel like absolute perfection. It’s surprising what two months apart between each visit can do to one’s sex life. While the youth and naivety we experience in our relationship can be seen as positive, adding extra life and vigor, it creates no end to awkwardness to our physical life. While my passion and appetite for him grows exponentially during our time apart, my body and his stamina do not keep pace. Without practice, without exercising those muscles, our mere physical realities cannot keep pace with our wanton desires. This leads to no end of comically early finishes, cramps in all the wrong places and times, and dissatisfied expectations. We often become re-accustomed to each other’s physical capabilities and sweet-spots only when the time for a trip to end has arrived. Back to that night, with the two of us curled on a mattress. We’d dropped the mattress off the lofted bed, onto the floor, so that the carpet could accommodate limbs stretching beyond the comfortable confines of a single-person, extralong twin bed. His lips brushed my stomach, tears welled between his cheek and my stomach, and I knew deeply, because of his physical faltering during our last precious episode of making love, just how much he loves me, and how much it hurt him to leave. And while I feel this pain too, while I hate the specter of the silver plane that waits beyond the alarm clock, I am grateful in the comfort that our feelings for each other are so real, so deep, and so everlasting. It is through the physical reality of our lovemaking, the dynamics of expression that outdo the words of all other senses, that I know with all the conviction my frail heart can allow, just how certain our relationship and our future together is.

Photo by Dina Yangirova 

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S H O R T S T O R IES Gregory Laco

Lolita: On Acid

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he year of 1998 was a trying and turbulent year I would never like to repeat. It was the year that I was sued by a man I thought to be one of my best friends, the year I made a failed attempt at law school, and the year I became acquainted with Kristen Pedersen. Indeed, a year of one disappointment after another. I don’t remember the first time I laid eyes on Kristen, though prior to the momentous event of meeting her I remember her being in my periphery for some time. With her long flowing blonde hair, white dress, and black knee-high boots Kristen appeared the quintessential Goth angel. I had known for some time that when the time was right I would talk to her, and so on that special night in the spring of ’98 I did. There was nothing too remarkable about our first meeting. I only remember shooting a couple games of pool with her and exchanging numbers. I came to find that she was quite good at pool, and in the weeks that followed I would lose many a game to her. The discovery that she already had a boyfriend was the first clue that I should have somehow escaped from the spell she had me under. Was I naïve? Weak? No. I fell for her fast and fell for her hard. Try as I might, there was no escape. What followed thereafter was a rather twisted love triangle. You see, unlike myself, her boyfriend had a respectable job, and lived in League City. Because of the pressures of his work and the distance between them he was generally only available to Kristen on weekends, and being a social butterfly all of eighteen years (I was 36 at the time – exactly twice her age) this did not assuage her need to go out during the week. Enter me. And so it was that Kristen began to call me two, three, even four times a week to go out. She always called between 7 and 7:30 P.M., and like a giddy schoolgirl I would wait by the phone each evening in anticipation of her call. I would ask her what she was doing, and invariably she would ask if she could come over. Without exception my answer was always in the affirmative. Eagerly I would await her arrival.

What would it be this night? Dancing at Numbers or The Orchid Lounge? Pool, foosball, or air hockey at Emo’s? Any of these was par for the course. All of these involved, at least for me, the consumption of alcohol that, for a time, allowed me to forget that I was in competition with her boyfriend, a man I had never met. In this manner I could for a time delude myself into thinking she was all mine. And a delusion it was. The summer before I began law school was not spent reading and preparing for the arduous grind that awaited me, but in becoming a hopelessly deluded alcoholic with an unquenchable obsession with a woman exactly half my age. Indeed, this became a downward spiral which by late fall left me nearly destitute. The pinnacle of our relationship occurred the first week of August that summer. Without much effort I was able to convince Kristen to travel to New Orleans with me for a couple of days. She developed an alibi to give her boyfriend and off we went. I should remark here that from the beginning of our relationship, I was very sympathetic with the character of Humbert Humbert in Nabokov’s novel Lolita, but at this moment I felt like I was becoming him. Just like Humbert, I was living out my dream of running off with a child with whom I was in love. Walking with Kristen down Decatur in the French quarter and through Jackson Square was like walking through a heavenly dream. To me, she was the most beautiful creature there that magical day. As 1998 was the height of the big band / swing dancing revival, we both quite naturally were into swing dancing, though I never fancied Kristen to be a very good dancer. She liked to take big steps, and insisted I do the same, which I’m sure made us look like a couple of rank amateurs. Regardless, swing dancing was in the plan, and with a little persistent research we discovered New Orleans’ premiere swing dancing venue. The place was rather elegant and we were decidedly underdressed. We had a couple drinks and danced poorly to three or four pieces and decided to be off on our next adventure. It was at about this time that I mentioned to

Photos by Gaelyn Rose (top) & Dina Yangirova (bottom)

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Kristen that I had brought with me a few hits of acid; I asked her if she would like to dose with me. She was adamant in her refusal, but since New Orleans is such a wonderful place to trip, I popped a couple hits under my tongue. We spent the rest of the evening walking through the quarter and taking a leisurely romantic stroll down the river walk. Sitting on the banks of the Mississippi River next to the woman I loved and gazing at the transcendent vista of the moonlit water was no less than idyllic. This moment was perhaps the very pinnacle of our short time together. Oh, how I know how Humbert must have felt having, however briefly, realized an impossible dream. We finished the evening at the famous Café du Monde, lingering over beignets and hot chocolate – then it was back to the motel. She did not beat around the bush in expressing that we would be sleeping in separate beds - a fact I had anticipated and did not protest. Alas, she did already have a boyfriend, and I respected her decision to be faithful to him. As Kristen got ready for bed, I spent some time staring into the mirror as I often did when I was on acid. While tripping I would see the image of God while gazing at my own reflection. (It was kind of a Lewis Carroll Looking Glass moment.) As she came out of the bathroom and got 

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Photo by Viju Rao

into bed I asked her to look at me and tell me if she could see what I had seen in the mirror. Not really knowing what I was alluding to, she gave me a puzzled glance and asked me to turn out the light. Turn out the light? She had not seen what I saw. Obediently, I turned out the light and got into my own separate bed and looked over at my lovely angel. Coming down off the acid, I lay awake the rest of the night weeping as I thought sweet thoughts of this object of my devotion. There she was sleeping just a few feet from me, yet I knew it would take a miracle for her to ever become mine. I literally wept until dawn. Two short weeks later, I began my studies at law school. It was immediately apparent that I was in for a workload like none I had ever experienced - some 70 plus pages of reading per day of books that might have well been written in hieroglyphics. A good part of the lectures too seemed incomprehensible. As the days elapsed it was pretty clear that I was in over my head. Also, to my detriment was the fact that Kristen did not seem to understand the pressure I was under, and continued calling me in the evenings to go out. Since I was still hopelessly enchanted by her, I could

never refuse her. My beer drinking escalated to the consumption of hard liquor, and it was becoming quite apparent that my life was spinning out of control. A couple of my married law school buddies told me of the happy relationships they shared with their wives; all I could do was to hopelessly pine over Kristen and wonder why theirs was not my lot. Absolutely overwhelmed with anxiety, frustration, and confusion, I withdrew from law school within a month of starting. Near the end of our relationship, I finally got the chance to meet her boyfriend. Kristen finally introduced us to each other at a Halloween party. He was dressed as a Viking warrior, horns and all, and of course she was dressed as a Viking princess. To my dismay, he was really a nice guy. Friendly, intelligent, and in his mid-twenties, he was certainly more age appropriate for Kristen than I was. I have to admit that I actually liked the guy. With this concession I knew the end our relationship was drawing near. A week or so later, on one of our usual nights out I foolishly decided to mix alcohol and Klonipin, a drug my psychiatrist had prescribed to lessen the great amount of anxiety I had been experiencing since the whirlwind of law school. He had warned me not to mix it with alcohol, and on this fateful night I found out why. I had noticed as of late a distance growing between Kristin and me, and it was on this night that I really clinched it. We had gone to Numbers that evening, and as I drank I began to slip into another psychic realm. I am tempted to call it a blackout, only I remember the details all too clearly. Suffice it to say that it brought out some terrible demons in me. A quarrel ensued between Kristen and me and it was mutually decided that she would take me home. In front of my apartment, I finally exploded in a rage of jealous fury. Like a damn breaking, I let the emotions I had felt for so many months burst loose, going on and on about how I felt I was superior to her boyfriend and berating her for not seeing this. Unable to endure the idea that there was another guy out there who couldn’t possibly love her as much as I did, I broke. And there I was, urging her to see this, but she just kept telling me to get out of the car. I put my heart on the table and she told me to get out of the car. The mystery was over; we were over. This was the last time I ever spoke to her. Her calls stopped and she did not return the pathetically apologetic voicemails I left. I saw her on only one other occasion some months later. She was walking out the rear door of Cactus Records, escorted by some other guy I did not know. Whether she noticed me or not, I’ll never know. Though I remain single, I have given up drugs and alcohol, and have been clean for about seven years now. I have learned my lesson well. 

S H O R T S T O R IES Anonymous

Can’t and Fear

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can’t. I want to say something, but my mind and body aren’t connected with my thoughts, so I just lie and say everything is fine. For days, maybe weeks, I have felt a change, a difference in the touch, the voice, and the kiss. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s her. The sex might not even be the same anymore. I lost my virginity to her so this new feeling is one that I begin to regret, to try to hold back, but I won’t say anything. I’ll just sit, listen, and think all day about what I think about all night. I’m scared of the loneliness, the feeling that things won’t ever be the same again. So long has her comfort provided me with the feeling of everything being perfectly fine when in truth, we are far from the reality we dream of. Nothing is what it should be, but nobody can see that, not even us. The touch is cold, but it feels warm; the voice doesn’t care, but it sounds beautiful; the sex is just an act, something we do to keep the feeling alive, but its dead. I never have been good at the skill that makes the guy uncaring enough to end the relationship and act like it didn’t mean a thing, going and drowning my problems in alcohol, drugs, or more sex. I did that it once and I don’t want to do it again, yet somehow I feel as if there isn’t another way around the situation, that we will never be “us” again. It ended relationship, but that I’ll never get it behind me. Every day of the last year, going with her and watching movies all day and laying lying together at night. Loving her in a way I could only describe as just that – loving

her and knowing it. But now, something has changed, and I am as lost as I have ever been. In time I will see if everything is fixed and will change. If it doesn’t, I will end it and things might never be the same. She’ll cry and I will too, and she’ll be pissed and I will too, but…when it’s done it’s done, and as sad as I am, I will wake up again and try to be the same person she made me, but I no longer can. Struggle is one piece, but denial and anger are the others, but I know I can’t go back. So where does that leave me? As sad as I’ve ever been but hopefully with the opportunity to be happy in the future, I tell myself. We still talk when we get a chance, and we definitely try - because on that day on that brown couch in her house, everything changed. I don’t have any new interests and neither does she. Maybe slightly: for her, a guy named Eric who likes to go spelunking. Either way, has things changed any more since that day? I’m inclined to say they haven’t, because all the changes happened before it ended. Is there love? I might have to say, there probably still is, but maybe it was the distance, the time or the experiences, because for the second time in my life, love wasn’t enough. But she’s having a good time, loving life and going camping and getting it done. And me, well, I still have doubts about why I did it, regrets as well. Emotions vary, but thankfully no walls have holes, nor are pillows soaked with nights of self pity, most definitely not. Still, there is something that never did change. I never did get to thinking that I was good enough.

Photo by Rachel Solnick

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Photos by Matt Taylor (top) & Ariel Shnitzer (bottom)

e had pet names dollars left of her paycheck not already for her: “Dahrling,” spent on imitation high-fashion went spoken like a rolling into a frilly, pink bottle of champagne, breath pleadingly bought to share, partly in jest, partly in tracing the creases in spite, partly in the hopes that he might her palm, “Bay-be,” the first syllable find her gesture endearing. She secretly long and whining, the last bouncing loved the condescending way he doted on off his frowning lips. He called her her contrived mid-twenties naïveté. Just his gorgeous girl, ceaselessly satisfied out of the rain at the top of the subway with his alliteration. It was overused. station stairs she downed a mini-bottle of She wanted nothing more than to Captain Morgan’s, paid for at his expense hear her real name as the two of on their last weekend trip upstate. She them twisted and crumpled under thought of his fingertips; the same ones the sheets, confined to the width of at that moment being enclosed by warm her tiny bed. She wanted to keep him breath, caressed by a more experienced there until morning, for a shower, a tongue than hers. Stepping out at her stop, quick breakfast; until sunrise: for some teetering on the spot she wiped her chest warmth, please, some affirmation; just after spilling the next mini-bottle down for an hour: let me make you stay, the front of her black silk dress; he was dare me to make you stay. She offered busying himself unfastening buttons that sex as atonement for her stubborn bound breasts larger than hers. Fumbling requests, to appease arms impatient with her sling-back she found herself on for their liberation from hers. his stoop, spins blocking her vision as she In the daytime he might tried to ring his bell to be buzzed up. She Zara Ahmad-Post invite her to lunch across town, away thought better of it and sat down to smoke from her clustered, dirty sidewalks, away from the prying eyes a soggy cigarette. It wasn’t enough. She reached in her clutch of his sky-rise business district. She read discarded newspapers and found her mirror and a straw; he dug in his drawer for as she waited six subway stops away from the university; he plastic and latex. He found his prize, this wealthy specimen of listened absent-mindedly to public radio in the cab. As they a woman, smooth and loose, bendable, indifferent. They started walked slightly apart to the restaurant, she would chase his at the sound of a buzzer. He pushed her off carelessly and indifferent glances through the streets, from traffic lights to navigated the minefield of her lingerie.The two women shared swimming puddles, following the rain dripping off the awnings the stoop for a brief minute. One lingered unknowingly in the under towering suites and up the minimalist hemlines on the drizzling runoff, battling her impending shame. One slumped women combatants who waited underneath. Every stocking was against the doorframe, dress stained and stretched, eyes turned a threat; every dress a round of ammunition; every high-heeled upward to his window. A click cued her entrance. boot a high-speed rocket launched by high society against her They awoke in the morning, hung over, silent, moody, depleted physique, her paling skin. old. For the first time, they dressed together, drank coffee, took There were more than a few women she had reason to turns brushing their teeth. He answered his phone as she put on suspect- all with impeccable East-end style and eyes as big as her makeup. their wallets, all with mockingly sharp wit, all with climbing He came into the bathroom, kissed her quietly on the connections made through their husbands. In her devastating forehead. “Bye, baby. Call me later?” As he walked away she insecurity, in the crippling anger so strong her hands would heard his phone click shut. tingle, she sometimes decided to get even with his charm. She knew the game inside and out, she had a formula for temptation, perfected during her teasing days of abstinence. Now and then she’d call up a college friend, she’d run into a fellow smoker in her apartment complex and with a look, a brush of her skin, she’d get an invitation for later. She never brought them to her studio apartment. She never gave them the release they sought, but in the same way she once seduced a professor, she would pretend to listen, pretend to engage when they sat her down on an asymmetrical couch under a cubist print. She was drunk by the time she reached his flat. The few

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on my face, on my hip thrust out as I stood in the airconditioned lobby. Mid-thought, a blue cello case, laminated in provocative bumper stickers emanated a silent scream of rebellion as its rightful owner wheeled it past me, a beam of light in the darkness. One look and I was convinced. She was everything classical music wasn’t, and so was I. We would be best friends, soul mates even. I had met my match. Later that night, her bow clung to the strings of her cello, the sounds of Metallica ripping through the politically correct walls of the institution. She fought desperately to rid classical music of everything tedious and clean and I felt as if I had been drafted along side her many years previous, veterans of a cruel war. Emma was the daughter of two traveling artists. She had been bulimic for three years and I found her unusual life fascinating. She was an alien specimen, a kindred spirit. She worshiped me because I was from a big city and I had been out to see the world. She wanted to own Juicy Couture and give the world’s best handjob/blow-job combo. She called her mother “Vicky” and her father “David,” and I was jealous of the way Emma could detach herself from the seemingly unspoken need to love the people called family. We rode in the backseats of cars driven by boys who would pick us up on the side of the road. We would always put on lip-gloss careful to make eye contact with the boys in the rear view mirror. Sometimes we would kiss them; sometimes we would kiss each other for attention as they cheered and offered us cigarettes. There was always Sheryl Crow’s voice whining through the window, as they drove off, the dust enveloping us like doves beneath a magician’s cloak. We disappeared from sight, we were mysterious. Our sixteen-year-old selves were bored, reluctant of conventional stimulation. We wore blinders, and we were fitted. In search of worthy excitement we raced down the stairs. 1-2-3-4-5-6 steps to the door and we counted all the way. We were bored! And then we saw him. He was innocent. A being of purity in jeans and a tee shirt, headphones blaring Brahms, and all we saw was opportunity. Our egos grew as we lured him into our room with nothing but our beauty. Short skirts do wonders, or maybe it was the fact that it was 8:00 in Bloomington. Once in our room, he sat in our closet, silent, while we downed painkillers and took turns taking hits from the inhaler. “What would happen if I took a couple more?” she mused. We pressed him up against the wall, kissing his face and messing up his hair. We asked him up to our room because we thought he had a Scottish accent. “Every boy here thinks you girls are hot. What do you do in here all day anyway?” We could tell he was nervous; he didn’t have an accent. We forced him to drink a bottle of cough syrup and told him we’d tell everyone he was getting high in our room if he mentioned this to anyone else. He seemed scared, intimidated even, but we knew he would later go brag to the

Photo by Amy Lanteigne

Some Call It Band Camp

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Christine Pao

welcoming mix of concrete, grassy fields, and small town paradigms, Indiana was far from home. I spent that summer making secrets, and doing what I called “coming alive.” I was attending a summer music festival for what felt like the fifty-seventh time, and was hell-bent on making this summer mind-blowing. On move-in day young musicians drifted past me towards check-in, a sea of naivety and dread fueled by homeschool educations flooded over me. I am too cool. I am too cool. I am too cool for plain, for awkward, for band camp, for them. A mantra I proudly chanted, a mantra that seemed to radiate from the inner core of my musical heart. It showed

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other boys that we had invited him up to our rooms. He would elaborate the story, telling them we had given him more than we had, shown him more than we had. But what he failed to realize was that he was just our entertainment for the night. As we sat together in my tiny dorm room, the world and time altogether stopped; the room swirled all around me in great big calico-colored stripes, pulsing in and out of focus. Gomez on the radio crawled out of the speakers and everything surrounding me seemed to creep oh so slowly out of place every time I looked away and then back again. I tried to get up. My brain told my arm to move but it refused, then five minutes later rose up like a piece of machinery completely separate from all other parts of my body and brain. I took gigantic breaths and suddenly I could breathe in an infinite amount of oxygen. All of the air in the room, and in the world for that matter, seemed to surge into what seemed like my open chest cavity. I was amazed and frightened by these two simple procedures, arm moving and lungs functioning. My eyes were suddenly awakened and all other aspects of my body disintegrated into the thick air that hung like burgundy velvet curtains in the late night atmosphere. My eyes made their way up to the top bunk, oblivious as to whether the rest of me was still on the floor or if it had chosen to rise to the occasion, literally. The next thing I knew I was laying on my back in the middle of my bed analyzing the difference between melody and harmony. Rufus and Martha Wainwright took turns creating the most beautiful, pure sounds I had 

ever heard. Crisp noise, so alive, that it engaged every particle of my existence in each pronounced syllable. The melody dangling from the ceiling like brightly colored silk ribbons, while the harmony, like burlesque acrobats, wrapped itself around the melody. Enveloping its rich, low tones around the static-seeming colorful banners of the melody. And my mind shrieked as my heart said, “this is love.” I was sixteen. And then I fell asleep. As summer bolted ahead, and I became more accustomed to the Indiana firefly, we became famous, like the voices emerging from my speakers, the speakers of the cars we rode in, the speakers of his headphones. The college boys who had stayed over the summer knew us, knew every part of our tanned legs, the dips in the backs of our heels as we skipped in the rain. Men sat in rocking chairs and called to us from rickety porches, drooping with the weight of time and the number of cat calls distributed to the many lucky ladies they’d momentarily loved. Boys and men and individuals who had not yet identified with either stage of maturity, approached us on a daily basis to tell us they knew who we were. “I know who you are, where’s your friend?” they’d ask if either one of us was alone. Every day was Valentine’s Day and that was the way we liked it. We liked it while it was loud, while it was on the tips of everyone’s tongues, while we were in the spotlight. We had a routine of going into town, flirting with boys, shopping a bit, and then going to get food before the evening concert, which we usually skipped anyway. Most

Photo by Anonymous 

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life sucked. 1.) Boys suck, fuck them. 2.) Alex is a short midget fucker who only wants to get in our pants because we’re hot. 3.) Marcelo thinks we’re bisexual hookers, he can go fuck himself. 4.) Fuck everyone, fuck fuck fuck. Later that night we took off our clothes and ran out into the Indiana rainstorm. It was past dinner and we had seen Marcelo go outside. “Marcelo, fuck you, come back and kiss me,” I yelled, just because there was nothing better to do. The world engulfed my words as they left my mouth, keeping them for a later date, perhaps as an embarrassing reminder. Marcelo had been outside and we chased him down the path next to the pond and up the hill where the road met the highway entrance. An enticing riddle, a curving paradise, a paralyzed board game. He turned around, smiling, his curly hair dripping wet over his face, “no, I don’t want you anymore, because you don’t want me and I know it.” We let him run away while we stood there half-naked with nothing left to say. The forbidden fruit of boundaries pushed too far hung in the air, hovering in front of my face, a perfect bite removed where my mouth had indulged, and I, for the first time, felt the weight of my nakedness. We walked back to the dorm without saying a word. I sat in the air-conditioned lobby on Emma’s comforter. The artificial cold pierced my skin and I felt deafeningly pathetic. A boy whose name begins with a “t” but who I barely remember sat down on a bench a good ten feet away from me. Looking down at me he growled, “Damnn, girlll,” the two words encompassing an Atlanta adolescence, “you girls aree crazzzaayy. You got all the boys up in here talkin’ bout ya’ll and you don’t even give a fuck.” I got up with the comforter wrapped around me, took the elevator up to my room where I got in bed, and sobbed with the Counting Crows playing out of cheap stereo speakers. My thoughts were too loud and I struggled to hold onto the boredom I’d built for myself. My wall of safety torn down by my deafening actions. Self-destructive, and I was no longer too cool. My mind-blowing summer was catching up with me and I wasn’t anything better than too alone. “You should have come and woken me up,” Emma told me in the morning while I sat in her lap. “You can’t do this alone. Neither can I. This afternoon we’ll go buy some Peachy-O’s and go shopping for new underwear, everything will be better.” Later that day we did just that. And it was [better]. We held hands everywhere we went, for moral support, for self-defense, and I guess, in some ways, as a conscious way of reminding each other that we weren’t unloved. Sometimes I wonder if this was all a dream. Sometimes I wonder why I never talk about this with anyone. And sometimes I find the idea of this whole experience disturbingly attractive.

days we asked for a restaurant recommendation from any man passing by, just to get him to talk to us. One day the suggestion was the Trojan Horse, and after one time there we were hooked. Baklava at the Trojan Horse was $4.50. Every time we went there we got sick, but no one cared because it made things a little less dense. It spiced up the midday mix of boredom and the unsatisfying feeling of indifference. Emma was in charge of passing out the pills, before and after meals, two at bedtime and several when we woke up, one with lunch and any amount for the tiny parts of our bodies and minds and hearts that ached at any moment of the day. “He doesn’t like us,” we agreed as she placed a pill in the center of my hand. It didn’t matter who the “he” was or what he had done. There were too many to keep track of anyway. We’d gotten good at taking pills without water. “Get ready,” she’d announce and we would both gather up as much spit as we could hold in our mouths before throwing back the pills. On the walk home from the Trojan Horse one day, I threw up in every trash can we walked by. Maybe because of the food, or maybe because we’d chosen to finish off the Codeine that day. We never talked about what we were doing or why we were doing it. It didn’t matter who the boys were, what we did with them, or what we were on. We focused on our self-made misery and wallowed in how horrible we said the boys were. We cried and took turns resting our heads in each other’s laps while the other smoothed their hair, stroking their head and saying, “at least you’re prettier than all of them combined.” “How many times a week is it normal to have sex?” Emma would ask. “Three to four, I guess,” I would volunteer. “I want a new pair of Juicy jeans.” I spent most of the rest of that summer in my underwear, out in the rain, learning what it meant to have power over boys in mysterious ways. Each boy of the moment was at some point intriguing, and so we put up with his antics. “It’s a rolled ‘r,’” he touched my mouth as his tongue lightly brushed against his front teeth for the soft ‘r’ sound. “Mar-celo,” I said with the hardest ‘r’ I could produce, pulling away, just out of reach of his outstretched arm. “I guess I can’t say it,” I said half-playfully, half-disgusted. That night he came into our room and got in bed with us. Under Emma’s down comforter he touched both of us and laughed. “Tonight the boys all talked about having a threesome with you girls. Are you bisexual?” he thought he was being witty but his words clung to images of Spanish transvestites clad in trashy vinyl thongs. I pushed him out of the bed and we locked our door behind him. It wasn’t funny anymore. We sat in the middle of the room. Our embarrassment hung in the air as thick as the mid-July humidity and we sat on the filthy floor, next to the spot where the carpet had been branded with a bright turquoise triangle in the shape of the iron I’d left sitting there all day long. We wrote a list of why

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Lime

Love, Question Mark

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hhh, uhhhm, uhhh,” that’s my sex noise, just soft moaning. It’s pretty consistent. “Yeah, how does this feel?” That’s Alex’s. He’s a talker. He reaches around my body and starts pinching my nipple. Then he crawls his hand down and started toying with my.. Click, silence, footsteps “Shhh,” my boyfriend puts his moist index finger against my lips. I turn to face him, and see his eyes staring intently into the darkness, in the direction of the door. They are enlarged with fear. Someone is in the adjacent room. Someone is walking around the small and immaculate blue-tiled men’s bathroom thinking intently about their next move. Someone is pondering whether or not he should investigate the strange noises coming from the shower, or the whereabouts of the cushy purple plaid bench missing from the break lounge Someone already knows what is happening, and is just questioning if he wants a hot story to tell at parties, or another visual with which to jack off. Someone decides against the gossipy voyeuristic tendencies we all have, and leaves with the shower room unexplored. “Well that’s what happens when you try to do it doggie style in a public restroom,” I whisper with a smile as I rise off my knees, checking the bench for indentions and wetness. Alex is already buttoning his shirt, on the floor, in the corner. He turned the light on when the curious stranger decided to leave. He still looks terrified. Most people think it’s goofy and awkward to get caught, but Alex has a serious

fear. He has these two roommates, and every time we’re in bed, he tells me I have to be quiet, or whenever we’re done, we have to get dressed right away. It’s almost as if he thinks Sam and Chen are going to charge right into his bedroom and arrest us. After lacing his shoes, he finally looks up at me; happy to see I finished dressing. I have on my ripped blue jeans and tight spaghetti strap top. He stares for a minute, counting my freckles and mangled red dreads, before he stands up and puts his arms around me. His hair smells like sweat. It’s straight and blonde and hangs limply, while his stubble tickles my neck. He’ll shave before work tomorrow, and he’ll cut his hair soon too. He cuts his hair every four months, the first day of the month. “Do you think they’re gone?” “Yes.” “Are you sure?” he asks in his pillow talk baby voice. He uses that same voice when he’s pissy and pouty, and also during foreplay. It always makes my skin crawl. “Yes.” He opens the door a crack and peeps out like an anxious child checking to see if his parents are in the next room waiting with a belt. There is no one. He holds my hand and leads us both out. “I wonder who that was.” “What are we going to do about the bench?” “Don’t you think we should just leave it?” “Um, no, we should put it back,” I say in slight disbelief. “Well we have to make sure no one is here first. I mean, if people see us carrying the coffee room bench down

Photo by Matt Taylor

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We never take the night bus. Alex tries to enjoy the outside world to the utmost when he’s not in that flea circus. I just like feeling the wind against my face without having to roll down the window. It’s a nice walk. After he punches in the code at the graduate apartments, Alex starts heading to the first floor rooms next to the pool. Apparently he thinks I was sincerely going to give him up in order to console Anita. “Let’s go this way,” I say and direct him to the right. He grins like a naughty boy who just found his older brother’s porn collection. With a quickened pace we walk to section C of the complex. His apartment is on the third floor. By the time the elevator reaches the second floor my tongue is tracing the back of his teeth, while he pins me against the wall and feels me up. Once, we’re at the third floor and the door opens, no one could guess that a practiced public hookup just occurred. We walk down a dingy hallway, with flickering lights, and peeling wall paint. Finally, we come to door marked 342. Alex starts struggling with his key; he can never unlock anything. Chen opens the door for him. “Dude, your phone’s been off for two freakin’ hours. Sam and I were craving some boba tea and wanted to know if we could borrow your car. Where have you been?” Chen is a cute kid. He’s 21, so he’s relatively young for a first year grad student. He’s Chinese American, and thin. Even though he works out every chance he gets, my 15-year-old brother could bench press one and a half of him. “Oh, um, we’ve just been walking around.” Alex suddenly has an idea of who could have been snooping around the lab.

Art by Tamisha Anthony

the stairs, they’re gonna have questions.” “They’re gonna have questions regardless. I mean who hangs out at a giant ant farm in the middle of the night on a Friday?” “It’s a Hymenoptera lab. We’re studying social insects, in particular, invasive species and…” “I know what you’re studying.” “Well, you should care because you’re allergic to fire ants…” “Got it.” I’m kinda mean. I interrupt people, but only when those certain people repeat the same sentences everyday. “Anyway, we should put it back. If you’re so worried about someone finding out, maybe we shouldn’t have sex in public places.” “Shhh,” Alex looks around. “It was your idea.” True. I give Alex an agreeing nod and head back for the bench. He follows me, almost picks up the other two legs, and decides against it. Instead, he runs down a flight of stairs and checks all the stations for some poor, sad, and lonely specimen. He finds no one and helps me with the bench. “Man, I wonder who that was. I’m the only person who was supposed to work tonight.” “Not even the security guard?” “Security guard? Why, so Winnie the Pooh won’t steal from our honey bees?” I smile at Alex. I cannot believe I’m dating a guy who references Winnie the Pooh at 24 years of age. “You know your teeth are still whiter. I think it really worked.” “How can you tell? It’s dark out.” We had finally made it out a few minuets ago. “Well, I noticed inside, but I just didn’t say anything.” “Well, thanks.” I look at the stars and spin underneath them. The air is cool and crisp and there are sprinklings of auburn leaves on the moist ground. The Southern fall is one of the gentlest seasons. It’s beautiful in its subtle transformation from boiling summer to unsubstantial winter. “How can you work in there on a night like this?” I point to the dreadful insect lab. “I think of you.” “You’re sweet.” Uh oh, I already know where this is going. Someone wants to finish what we started earlier. I don’t really have anything to do tomorrow morning, so we might. We start walking to the grad student apartment complex down the street from Juviam University.

SHORT STORIES
“You look nice in that shirt Jeanie.” Sam is also a little creepy. The shirt doesn’t look nice. It’s too tight, and partially transparent. It’s the kind of shirt you distract your boyfriend with when he’s supposed to be in lab all night. I don’t really mind, Alex however, can’t stand it when Sam gives me extra attention. “Thanks Sam.” I try to seem bothered by the compliment and politely cross my arms over my chest. Alex’s hurries over and puts his arm around me. “Why do you wear clothes like that,” he snarls a whisper in my ear. “Because they look good on me,” I say back, defiantly. Alex shoots me a disapproving glare. His eyes soon travel below my collarbone, and his expression softens. “Do you wanna go back in my room?” “Sure.” I say my goodnights to Chen and Sam as we pass by the immaculate but tiny kitchen and enter the room to the right. Alex’s bedroom is nothing but a desk and a bed. All of his papers, books, and clothes are tucked away in desk drawers. The only thing in his closet is his dress suit. Normally, the shirt I bought him is kept in the closet too. He wears it every Friday because that’s normally our date night. Alex doesn’t buy himself anything new. He buys used and refurbished, practical gadgets. He rarely even spends money on me, but when he does it’s always at a restaurant he can’t afford. I think he calculates a percentage of his income, sets it aside for me, and then spends it all every two months on a traveling musical and a three course meal for two. I really appreciate that, not the food, but the theater. I’m an actress, and a trivia expert when it comes to musicals. Granted, I’ve only seen about seven shows, but I’ve heard soundtracks from almost every Broadway or movie musical. We also see a lot of movies. I work part-time at Bleakstreet Theater; which means free tickets for us. It’s a pretty cool place, and the room walls are littered delicately with local artist’s paintings. It’s the type of art that looks like your three yearold cousin could have splattered the technique, but never in your life could you have conceived it. About once a week Bleakstreet has midnight showings of cult classics, with post parties in the bar on the second floor. It’s a great way to make connections. That’s how I met Kevin. I think about Kevin a little too much. Considering how fast we got started in the elevator, we hesitate a bit to get to the bed in his room. Alex takes hours unlacing his black tennis shoes. He then takes off his khakis and folds them into his drawer before he hangs up his shirt. He leaves on his tighty-whiteys and meets me under the covers. I still have on my clothes when he gets in the bed. Alex likes to undress me. He’s not very good at it. He tries to unbutton my jeans, while we kiss. He fails, and I arch my back with my hips up, and in one swift movement completely pull off my jeans. I don’t wear underwear anymore just to

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cut down the time spent fumbling. I’m naked first, as usual, and he starts squeezing my breasts and biting my neck. His hands move to my pelvis and he begins to finger me, until I can’t help but touch his penis. He stops me before I can take off his underwear and tells me to pick a condom from the stash he hides in the side of his bed. He’s ridiculously afraid of pregnancy even though I’m on the pill. Alex and I use three types of condoms on average each time we’re in his bed. First we have the normal lubricated Trojans that he started buying when my panties started going off. He comes really quickly the first time around so I always consider that foreplay. I put the condoms on him because Alex never learned how, it’s like a mini hand job, and I think that’s why he never lasts very long. Next we always use these performance enhancer condoms. Its Alex’s way of showing he’s making a genuine effort to be a generous lover. He does make an effort, the problem is these condoms numb his cock, and sex just isn’t good if the other person isn’t enjoying it. So round two always lasts really long, and we go through various positions. I tend to get bored really quickly, and I know he gets frustrated. There’s only just so much thrusting a person can take, especially if their partner rarely hits the right spot. “Sorry,” Alex mumbles as he rolls over next to me, still involuntarily shaking. “Don’t worry about it.” I never orgasm. Never. I don’t really know why. Alex really tries to please me. He surprises me with new tricks he reads from Women’s Health Magazine almost ever other day. Apparently, alternately pulling and pushing on a girls ass cheeks is supposed to help her orgasm, or so I learned today. Nothing ever works, and it eats him alive. I don’t really care. I didn’t start dating him because I thought the sex would be good. Plus, he could make me orgasm. We both know that. He just has some strange Ychromosome hang up which demands that he only uses his penis for such things. He could easily give me a hand job, and there’s always oral sex, but no, that’s not something he’s willing to do. I know it’s not because he’s grossed out. He actually has an unnaturally high tolerance for bodily hair and the like. He doesn’t care if I haven’t brushed my teeth or showered. He doesn’t even mind blood. I think oral and manual sex just aren’t intimate enough for him. “What are you thinking?” Alex turns towards me and rubs my stomach. Our skin looks good together. Mine’s a light caramel brown, and his is like sweet cream with a hint of gold. We’d make one mean layered cake. What am I thinking? I look at the ceiling. It’s white and lumpy due to the years of painting over the damage caused by the careless and young. I consider myself an honest person, but I would never tell Alex I’m thinking about how bad he is in bed. “I like you a lot.” Alex smiles. He’s smart enough to know that’s not what I was thinking, but he appreciates the gesture.

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visions no else sees. Visions that they will sacrifice for no one, visions over which they are prepared to fight, or starve. I wish I saw the world in dots, or thickly painted swirls. I would never want to see the world in ants. I met Alex after my first day of classes at Juviam. It was raining outside, and I was walking back to the apartments. He had an umbrella and offered to walk me home. After that he walked me home every other school day for about a month, until he finally mustered up the courage to ask me to come over and hang out at his place. We played cards and he told me all about the differences between short tongued bees and parasitic wasps. I wasn’t at all surprised when he asked me to be his girlfriend, and I don’t think he was shocked in the least when I said no. For a year he continued to walk me home. We both stayed at school for the majority of vacations. We’d pick the same week for me to visit my brother, that he would visit his parents. We’d call each other almost every day, and sometimes fall asleep on the phone. After that Christmas break he asked me out again. I rejected him, probably because I didn’t want our friendship to get sullied through a possible breakup, but I told him, and myself, that it was because I wasn’t sexually attracted to him. I dated an asshole named Jason for two weeks after that. He was a slim shouldered guy with a goatee who wanted to have sex with a black girl. I just wanted to avoid being single, and I did for about a month. Alex helped me recover from Jason, and a few other guys. By the summer I was his. “You know I think you’re sexy.” “Yeah, I know I have no problem turning you on. It’s just finishing the job. I have to go shave.” Alex gets up and leaves me dumbfounded on the bed. He’s normally so docile. Even at his angriest, he just sits in silence and cries. He takes his green and slightly tattered bath towel out of his desk drawer, wraps it around himself and storms out of the room. I remain sitting on his bed, realizing for the first time how naked I am, how vulnerable. Anita would tell me to put on my clothes and get the hell out because I shouldn’t take that tone from a man. She doesn’t understand why I spend so much time with Alex, as opposed to her, anyway. Anita’s single. She has a lovely Argentinean nose, and eyes like coals. She’s going to make a great doctor one day, but she’s alone right now, like me. Teardrops hit my thighs in increasing frequency, as I understand I could lose Alex. As I realize that sometimes people aren’t meant to be together, and there is nothing a person can do about it. Sometimes sex does matter. Sometimes people are better as friends. Then the door opens. Alex storms in, drops his towel, and jumps me. He sucks on my mouth like he used to when we first started dating and he hadn’t quite remembered how to kiss. There’s saliva everywhere, and I practically choke on his tongue. Then he starts giving me hickeys. Alex always bites my neck,

“I like you more,” Alex says in his baby voice and puts his left arm over his head. That’s his way of signaling me to lie on his chest. His left arm then travels to my hair, and his right arm goes to my waist. We sleep for six hours. Then we use the third kind of condom. These are the generic throwaway condoms I steal from the health center on my way to acting class. The strange thing about sex with Alex is, that no matter how bad it is the day before, I always want more in about six hours. Maybe I have a problem, or maybe I love him, which could also be a problem. I don’t know if he loves me. He’s never said it, and he treats me like I’m his dirty little secret. He’s had girlfriends he loved before, but he lost his virginity to me. Before him I’d never been with a guy for more than two months. “Sorry I didn’t last very long.” “It’s ok.” I think for a minute. You know, that doesn’t matter to me. It’s enough just to be with you.” Why am I saying this? “Oh.” Alex faces me, looking confused. He then closes his eyes and turns back against the wall. He’s crying. Alex cries a lot, almost every time we fight, but we’re not fighting now. “Alex?” “I don’t know… I just want to make you happy. I just…I don’t know what else I can do… I thought maybe I was too boring…That’s why I agreed to the lab thing, but then...fucking Chen…I mean that could have been the first time we both…and then, I thought maybe this morning if I didn’t make us get dressed right away last night…maybe you’d feel more comfortable …I just…I’m good at everything else…I know I don’t have a lot of money, but you like the shows, and…” “Alex.” I lean over him, and wipe his eyes with my fingertips. “I try to be supportive…I don’t really understand acting, but I know it makes you feel good…I want to make you feel alive…I want to take care of you…” “Alex, you give me everything I need,” I say, completely shocked. “No, I don’t. I don’t.” Alex stares at me for the first time during this episode. His eyes look angry. I didn’t start dating Alex because I thought the sex would be good. I started dating him because we were really good friends and I had already refused him twice. I refused him twice because I wasn’t attracted to him. He looked too much like the lab rat he was. I don’t have set standards of what looks good to me in a man. Anita, my roommate, would argue that I liked artsy guys. Directors, writers, and grown men who spend hours every day trying to capture what it means to be oppressed inside ones own mind with a set of tooth picks, wood glue, and felt. Guys with questionable sexualities and drug habits, that’s what she thinks I like. She’s wrong though. I do like artists because they are bizarre, but also because they have

SHORT STORIES
but he’s never given me a hickey before. I recognize, as his face lowers onto my breast, that he is half shaven. His chin hairs scratch my nipples before he begins pulling them from my body with his teeth. His hands clench my butt, and he spreads my legs a little further with his elbows, preps my vagina with his fingers, and enters me. No condom, no words, I am completely shocked but enraptured in his aggression at the same time. Within two minutes my head is hitting against the headboard. Alex notices, pulls us both back, puts one hand on my hair to protect my crown, and the other on the headboard so he can get more leverage. I hear his knuckles smacking against the headboard. After five more minutes I can tell by his involuntary facial movements, and quickening pace that he is about to cum. He doesn’t though. He stops for a few moments, and then slowly moves inside me. In a matter of seconds, my voice reaches higher pitches than I thought were possible. I start to feel colors and bright light, vibrating ringing, pulsating freezing heat, and waves of release, deep mind numbing release. Alex holds me for 10 seconds while I convulse in a stupefied coma. Then he slowly inches out of me still hard. “Why’d you stop?” I say out of breath. “I don’t want to come.” “What?” “We’re both pretty sweaty. You want some ice cream?” “What?” “Don’t worry. I’ll get it.” Alex gets off the bed and wraps the same green towel around himself. This time as he leaves he’s strolling, albeit slightly awkwardly, instead of storming. My legs are still shaking and I can’t close them without a good bit of effort. Alex sits in the bed next to me and hands me the bowl. “Here we go, vanilla with butterscotch syrup. No, no, no, I want to feed you.” “Don’t you have work?” I strive to articulate with a mouthful of ice cream. “Yeah, I’m about to go, you just looked like you might pass out, so I wanted to make sure you had some sugar in your blood.” “Shut up.” I smile at Alex and touch a smooth patch on the side of his face. Alex is trying very hard not to look too pleased with himself. “Yeah, I missed a few spots shaving.” He winks at me and then helps me finish the ice cream. With a kiss on the forehead, he picks up his towel and finally leaves for the bathroom. After he cleans up for work, Alex waits for me to shower and change. We walk to Juviam together, both of us working on a Saturday. It’s 11 o’clock. I’m wearing his old brick red sweater, with my ripped jeans, and he’s wearing khakis and a faded red polo. We decided to match. Holding

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hands we amble to the Visual Arts department. He always drops me off first. Unlike the rest of the non-descript Juviam campus, the Visual Arts building is nice. Not because of architecture, but because I fit inside it. It’s a place to create things, a slightly dirty canvas. Alex turns towards me and we kiss more rapturously than we normally do in the open air. “Your teeth really do look good. What are you doing today?” “Thanks, um, just some psychedelic tortured scenes.” Since I got an agent at the beginning of the year I’ve been able to get paid for doing student films. That was my goal: to get paid for making art without selling out. However, when I auditioned the agency loved me, except for my teeth. I had to get them whitened. It cost 99 dollars and Alex convincing me that I wasn’t morphing into some Hollywood hopeful with no sense of self. I got my pearly whites peroxided a month ago and he assures me everyday that it was the right decision. He really supports people when they’re insecure. “Any nudity or adult content?” Alex doesn’t even pretend he’s joking. He has a hard time trusting me, and he doesn’t understand that sometimes kissing another actor is appropriate in art. “No, just torture, I’m really not looking forward to it actually.” “I thought you always liked working with Kevin.” “I’m just not in the mood today, I guess.” I do normally treasure every moment I spend with Kevin. He’s a genius. There are few people in the world that blow me away with their artistic creativity. He’s one of them. I don’t know if he’ll ever amount to anything besides being a poor indie director who daylights as a waiter. That doesn’t matter though, not to me, or to him. Kevin rounds off at a nice six feet. He’s got unruly brown curls that frame his face like a cherub. All of his work has an innocence to it. It’s innocent and abstract. In the movie we are filming today, he’s trying to capture the unsettling frustration of standing in line. The catch is, there’s no line, no other people. It’s really about waiting for time to turn. Waiting for life to start, waiting for something to happen, torture. Kevin never uses scripts. He just lets his actors improvise. He thinks I’m talented, and he doesn’t hand out compliments. He stretches my ability, and allows me to imagine myself in situations I’ll never encounter. Normally I love working with Kevin, but today I’m slightly distracted. “I see. Well, do you want to get dinner around six?” “Sure,” I say with a grin. Alex’s shoulders look broader. “Okay, well I’ll see you later.” “Alright, bye.” “Bye.” Then with more intensity than I probably deserve, Alex allows his eyes to settle on mine. Then he walks off towards the giant ant farm.

5

CONTINUED

(Cont’d p. 35) For me, the issue of sexual morality comes down to my personal belief that sex is sacred, something to be shared with only one person, and only after I have pledged myself to that person for the rest of my life. Why? For one thing, on my wedding night, the last thing I want to hear is, “Well, that was okay, but my last girlfriend was much better,” or (even worse) “I think I can do it better on my own.” Sex is a gift, and it has a purpose. Being Protestant, I can even comfortably suggest that its purpose is not solely for procreation (though I respect that point of view too). It is an act of intimacy and communication; it is a shared vulnerability, and something you probably get better at with practice. For all of these reasons, I don’t need a specific Bible verse condemning masturbation for me to realize that sex is probably simply better with two people! Do I condemn Kramer or Elaine for their weakness and inability to remain “masters of their domains”? Not particularly. That isn’t my place. Let’s say (for argument’s sake) that masturbation is definitely a sin (even though it isn’t specifically stated as such in the Bible). Is it worse than any of my sins? I’ve disrespected my parents, worked on the Sabbath, and lied - three thing explicitly condemned in the Ten Commandments. Dare I call myself less of a sinner than men and women who masturbate, or can I accept that all sins separate us from God, and are therefore equal in His sight? When it comes down to it, what another person chooses to do with his or her body is none of my business. And really…who am I to judge? (Cont’d p. 11) many times. We have decided that plural marriages should not be legal, we have set and adjusted the age at which a person can consent to marriage and, as recently as 1967, we have decided that interracial marriage is okay after all (see the case of Loving v. Virginia). Returning to Barack Obama, a close look at his transition agenda (http://change.gov/agenda/civil_rights_ agenda/) reveals that Obama does not support gay marriage, but rather he “supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples.” It is entirely paradoxical to me that our first African American President plans to pursue what is essentially, if you follow my argument, a reincarnation of the aforementioned doctrine of “separate but equal.” It is also ironic, considering that Barack Obama’s own parents would have been denied marriage on the basis of race in many states, when they married in 1961.

What is really at stake here? While there is and will continue to be a huge emphasis on same-sex marriage in the gay rights movement, I do not want to leave you with the impression that this is all we are fighting for. In fact, many of our brothers and sisters around the world are fighting just to survive. Recently, the U.S. refused to sign a UN declaration on human rights advocating for the decriminalization of homosexuality. The declaration was proposed by France as a way to address the fact that in over 60 countries homosexual acts are punishable, often by execution. Joining the U.S. in its refusal were the Vatican, China, Russia, Syria, and all of the Arab nations. In support for this decision, U.S. officials cited possible legal snags and“Don’t Ask,Don’tTell.”Nonetheless,gay rights activists and human rights activists alike were outraged. Just last month, a young woman in San Francisco was gang raped just because she was a lesbian. Violence against the GLBT community and especially against transgender individuals is still quite prevalent in our society.This is something that often goes unnoticed. And yet, it makes me wonder if it is not a bit poetically ironic that the U.S. has aligned itself with countries in which homosexuality is still punishable by death. Civil rights icon Harvey Milk, now made more famous by the movie Milk, was quoted as saying “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.” He was in fact assassinated on November 27, 1978 by a fellow member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Dan White. It has been just over thirty years since that day, and while much progress has been made during those years, there are still many allegorical closet doors keeping the GLBT community from the full equality that Milk and countless others before and after him have envisioned. Therefore, it is important for us to remember that this fight is not yet won. And until it is, I know I will continue fighting, or die trying.

Photo by Nirav Sanghani

CONTINUED
(Cont’d p. 20) patristic attacks on the Gnostic communities to the Malleus Maleficarum [a medieval guide for hunting and punishing women ‘witches’ written by two Inquisitors of the Catholic Church]and its medieval witches (who were said to gain their magical powers from actual intercourse with the devil), the history of Christian heresy is also a coded history of (male) sexual phobias and fears projected onto the religious other, particularly women.” (54) JK: It’s a recipe for guilt and pathology. I’m not a fan of the Virgin, I’m afraid. My own hope is always for internal transformation, for the traditions to change themselves through millions of conversations and books and honest brave people. They also need external or “outsider” critics. They need the study of religion. That may be naïve and sound self-serving, but I happen to think it’s all true. Religion causes so much suffering, every day, every hour, every minute, in this world of ours, particularly with respect to gender and sexuality. And yet, it can also liberate, and provide meaning, power, and hope. It’s up to us. KW: That’s a great hope to keep. JK: Again, it’s why I’m in education and not in politics. I don’t think you can impose things on people. But you can change their minds. “This is what believers so often misunderstand about history and faith: the ‘Jesus’ or ‘Mary’ (or ‘Moses’ or ‘Muhammad’ or ‘Buddha’ or ‘Krishna’) that they know did not come down to them from the sky or even from an accurately recorded history. Rather, such figures and all that they represent come to us from those who won the cultural wars and defined what would become orthodox, that is, ‘straight’ or true. As has often been pointed out, such things as history and religious creeds are written by the winners. Our beliefs, for better or for worse (often for worse, I think), thus follow closely on the heels of those who shouted down, threatened away, or simply destroyed the historical memories, sometimes even the bodies and persons, of the rest of us. Perhaps this is one reason why our faith traditions are essentially oppressive when it comes to gender and sexuality: that is how they won, that is how they got there in the first place, by oppressing and suppressing the alternative voices. This is also, by the way, why doing real history is so often a heretical exercise. Much of it, after all, is essentially about recovering the voices of those who lost.” (50-51)

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Photo by Dina Yangirova

(Cont’d p. 32) It seemed that my prowess knew no end, that I could endlessly write bigger and better stories, that I could become the authoress of Gundam Wing, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings porn. And then my older brother caught me at it. Coming up to get me for dinner, he came in the room just as I was typing “he could feel the other’s cock straining in his pants”. My brother was 20, I his 15-year-old little sister; I can’t even imagine what he thought. Needless to say, he was shocked. Half yelling and pointedly not looking at my face, he said “I won’t tell mom and dad. Just don’t… ever… write that stuff again”. With a deft nod, I scampered away. I kept that promise, for the most part. I only published one more story, felt guilty about it, and then only surreptitiously wrote little snippets in my room after that. I still read a bit, but less and less as I got the feeling that I was just too old for it. When I got to college (and got a faster internet connection), I tried out pornography for the first time. Surely a visual representation of what I was writing about would be good. But I was disappointed. I didn’t care about the people in it at all-there was no familiar feeling of lust in my mind. What is interesting about fan fiction is that the characters are so well-developed, so loved, that sex generally was genuinely hot because we understood the long wait they suffered, how well the characters connected, how necessary the sex was for them. To the writer and reader of such erotica, sexual contact is just the natural extension of characters’ relationships. There was none of that special spark in porn. And yet, every time I am horny, I expect the porn to work- I expect to be turned on, and I am thoroughly let down each time. And so here I was, hands playing at the bands of my pants, watching some girl with too much eyeliner get nailed on a chair while a guy grunted “oh yeah, yeah …wooooh”. I shrugged, and with a sigh, I typed in my erotica site, unzipped my pants, and got to work.

5

POETRY Zara Ahmad-Post

Metamorphosis

T

o _____,

These long two years I’ve been tormented, diseased by a venomous bite that has refused to dislodge itself from my tendon. Most days are fine; I sometimes go twenty-four hours without naming the snake. I sometimes make it through a week of work without hearing the tongue in my ear. I sometimes convince myself I’m permanently distracted. And then. And then I hear his voice on the drunken dialing end of his sister’s phone. And then I see him unexpectedly at an intermission. And the aftermath is predictable and formulaic: vodka, tequila, anything to temporarily forget, to have a few laughs before sighing into my pillow of poetry and burrowing deep into my covers of remorse. It’s then that the pain and disbelief come rushing back. I saw ____ last weekend, and I’m abruptly set back two years. I sit on a stoop, on a bed, anywhere that will offer a place to hang my head between my knees and melt. I’m dismantled into a contortion that glides like silver mercury over the cold tile floors in my bathroom. Metamorphosis: I’m a poet turning her drawers inside out in an explosion of recycled paper, helpless in the pursuit of diction. Metamorphosis: I’m nine years old, overcome by this suddenly tangible specter of life shared by a never-ending chain of unsuspecting women. Metamorphosis: I’m a drunken idiot who desperately attempts to analyze a movement of Bach at three in the morning, hoping against hope that the unrequited love she’s

Photo by Soobin Sunwoo

known for so long won’t affect her interpretation in the morning. And so a week has gone by, and more will follow. And I’ll go out to bars with friends, some of whom are lovers past, some of whom radiate a quiet desire, some of whom are brothers, and I’ll smoke a silent cigarette by my window and shiver in my underwear, drenched in the silvery gray light of needlessly cold March evenings. And nothing changes. I’ll wake up at eight and go on a run, do homework, make it to rehearsal five minutes early. Another Saturday. Another weekend passes and his faint sent will trickle periodically down my brain. Life goes on, and I’ll wait for the fleeting images of the exotic yet familiar places I travel to in unpredictable seconds. I’ll wait for the strength of his arms, the sound of his laugh that will surge forward and fade again in tides guided by lunar memory. And the only sure thing I can foresee in my future are these visions, the only thing I know I’ll always have. It’s not condemnation, it’s comfort: it’s knowing. So here’s to the inevitable! Drink up to what we have no way of predicting! Lift your glasses to what can never be and take pride in what is! What else can we do but buck up and grin in the face of our own poetically futile purposes? Perhaps the great equalizers in our world are the symptoms of our desires, of love, and the aching guilt and arching restlessness in the discomfort it all brings. And I have very little perspective to offer, very little advice to give as one who too frequently deals with her pain and heartbreak in self-destructive ways. All I know how to do is embrace my lot, stand on the wet sand at the shore of acidic longing and let the alternating despair and sweetness wash over me. Live it! To deny ourselves feeling, to view emotion as distraction, to refuse our joy and sorrow, or worse, to call them unjustified, is to actively close ourselves off to the depths of human emotion, human potential. We can find the tools to bottle them up, dismiss them hazardous weaknesses. Or perhaps we can use these expanses to launch into unknown existence. Burning and inconvenient, enlightening and liberating. Dive in.

POETRY

5 Ann Wang

Missed Connections
(The following were pulled from actual craigslist.com missed connections) SUBJECT You pass my cube almost every day - m4w (financial district). Your name means purple flower. Class of 1990. To Aliza Alissa Rachelle Rachel Rochelle Adrien Adrienne Adrian. You touched my moustache in front of an empty store. Jeff in the black speedo. Stella. You helped me put on my clown make-up. You told me how your father was an alcoholic clown. YOU’RE MEXICAN AND YOUR FRIEND IS BLACK AND FILIPINO. I think your name was Mandy or Roberta. Cute, young, half-breed. You stole my jacket while I was taking a dump-MESSAGE I saw you today. You walk like a sociopath. Whatever you were doing, exactly, you knew what you were about. I tried not to stare at your collarbones and read your tattoo. I take off my ring every so often. A lot of people think I’m gay. My eyes are very expressive. I asked you for the time and now I’m wishing I’d asked for your number. You didn’t tell me your name...even though I asked like twelve times... You found me at a bad time in my life. My monkey costume makes it hard to hear clearly sometimes. I saw you at the zoo recently; you were late 30’s, telling a little kid how cute the koala bear was. Well they aren’t bears. They’re marsupials, and not even that closely related to bears. That’s about all I wanted to say. Actually one of the worst things for someone is solitary confinement and I feel like that. I would like a smile please...I would like a warm honest smile and I would probably cry.

Photo by Logan Beck

5

POETRY
realized that you’ve sort of been bullying me. You couldn’t put me first. Alcohol/cocaine/your job are first. I guess I dodged a bullet. Never: make someone else a priority when you’re only an option. MESSAGE Free: Broken Time Machine: Date: 2008-07-07, 4:33PM EDT: Never got around to fixing it, all the buttons are stuck so it doesn’t go in reverse only forward at normal speed. Come pick it up whenever. I sent you a sealed wine bottle with a message in it. I hope you got it. HOLD ME: Sad to have lost you. Can we fix that? I’m kind of a weak-sauce quitter like that. Re: HOLD ME: Hell no. Though I left the city, I still hear things. If I weren’t so fervently opposed to weakness I might be dead right now. I worry about you with all that’s going on in the world. I know we had something. I still have your belt. You were always there. I’m here now. I’M AT MY MOMS IF YOU WANT TO PLAY SOME CARDS God, I hope this works.

To be honest, I’m dating one of your friends, so my situation is of an unfortunate nature. CONNECTION Your mouth was another story. Later, I made us lemon blueberry loaf and some tea. Tonight, I’ll bring the disco ball and you wear that dress. I wanted to tell you, love is radical because it is a direct action. I have been shaking all night. You make faces when you sleep. Is it you, is it me. It’s enough as it is. What if I love you? MESSAGE I cannot be with a woman without a conscience. “Me me me me me me me!” -You Emotional prejudice. You’re cute but shallow, like a tide pool. So, I cannot do this love quadrangle any longer. Someone should leave you in a ditch with just your head out of the ground, a face full of syrup, an army of red ants. And I don’t know if I’m realistic but I don’t want true love, to be collateral damage. Like ever since the shit hit the fan on 10th and Howard, I

Photo by Viju Rao

POETRY
Flitting by...
Something about the candor of that first smile still holds true It penetrates my thoughts occasionally Submerged beneath the emotional drama of our times There was something primal in the way you became mine In our very own battlefield We kept the spark alive Alliances, ploys, victories We traveled to unknown dimensions in sobriety So much to cherish, despite the uncertainty Adrift Afloat Striving to be happy What happened along the way? There are so many things we never got to say Or ask of each other, by the way Time detracts and it was never meant to stay We steered away onto a collision course Daylight trickles into the morning sky as darkness wants out As I gaze out the front porch at one more brilliant sunrise I am again hit by a wild surmise What is mine is what I took away When we walked in separate directions that fateful day A treasure-trove of memories Reverberating laughter mingled with unspoken insecurities More significantly, the liberty To discover that every being is hindered by some selfconstructed boundary Banishing which can reveal your soul’s true identity Human nature is persistently searching for more For some maladies there is no cure Every experience teaches us more Whether ordained or consciously chosen Life is this spirit’s quest to be proven

5

You try to acquire what then you most adore.

-Sarah Farid

Photo by Rachel Solnick

In this complex search for possessions galore 

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POETRY A. Iver

Decanting Silhouettes
It starts with the looseness of a dream. Our faces crowned with smoke. Nervous nodding. Half-spoken agreement. A shaking of hands, fingers, bones. A cup of coffee. A fantasy and a whim. My shuddering, your breath. Later—the dream: hazy contour of lips and neck. A tracery of half opened eyes. The moment it stops. The moment you stop. Waking— warm sheets. The bed widening, empty. Making pressure where there is no pressure. Anticipation. It starts with the looseness of a dream. Or does it start at all? The chest full of blackbirds in flight. The miserable auguries we keep.

Photo by Soobin Sunwoo

POETRY 

1 J. Rod Pannek

Plums
for Christine Just now as I finished reading your letter, where you told me I made you feel again, I remember I left two plums sitting in a bag on the kitchen table. I open the brown bag and by the weight of each fruit choose the sweeter and hold it close to my nose, inhaling what has taken a week to develop. With my palms down and thumbnails together I press into the flesh and wince at the first squirt. Pulling apart skin and lapping the juice. Already, a bruise forms and the motion of my thumbs and tongue bring more sweetness to the opening. Pulling it and playing like a child might with a loosened tooth, I nibble at the meat and suck away the liquor, tugging at the pit that stands abruptly out from the meat, with the tip of my tongue. In a shiver the fruit is gone and I can relax with my sticky fingers and sugar coated lips and lie in the grass outside my door imagining you and how like a plum you must be. Until now, I assumed to be near you is to be with you. But these are two different things, the one wanting of the other.

Photo by Matt Taylor 

2
Dotted Line

POETRY
skid marks burned asphalt, a hit and run. I stood by, pacing, biting my lip, eyes glued to the road Justice was blind, But she argued semantics. Underneath all the Swerving, screeching The line started to smear Fade away. Out came the binoculars, I almost issued a ticket. Eventually, A truck came inching by And left behind, A coat of yellow paint Painting fresh, shiny, dotted lines _ __ __ Passing allowed_ _ _ _ _ No one sent me the memo Lenience lead to lost cause The committee deemed Law enforcement futile And as the truck trudged onward Erasing my authority I stood there lost -Anonymous

For the convenience Of the readily defined, I drew a line, One yellow line Straight down the middle _________No passing__________ Once out of the way Enforcement expedience deemed everything else Fair game Fishtailing, speeding, running lights even drunk driving I sat on the curb Smug in my confidence Of cheating the system Allowing mischief Just no passing the line. But laxity lead to neglect hubcaps went flying ,

Photo by Jeremy Morrell

Close Call
Into the silent car we quickly duck the slamming door sends shivers down the street to kiss and reach at clothes and, with some luck, end up aflushed and panting on the seat. But then a beam moves fast across the night, invades with light that place where flesh convenes, and snaps our heads towards a ghastly sight: a Geo Metro ‘round the bend careens! As I prepare to answer for answer for my sin I see two bloodshot eyeballs through the pitch and gasp aloud in fright and with chagrin as they reveal my ex, that crazy bitch. Thank God she didn’t crash: we got away to live and thrive and fuck another day. - Jeremiah Bolinsky

Photo by Soobin Sunwoo

POETRY 

3 Loren Kwan

Woman Spread and Wide Open
You are beautiful and not Because you’re the first, perhaps Only woman I have seen in that position. Not because I don’t know your name (I’ll never know). Not because no one would ever guess it would be You sprawled there, splayed wide open, after the penetration Of the planes. Not because your back is cracked and arched Upon a xerox machine, and your ribs, Bent, are jutting from your skin— Not because your chest is raised and flattened, An altar made of your sternum, How your breasts curve Around the cleanly shaven teacups of your armpits For the dust to settle. You are beautiful because I can offer you Nothing else, No gesture of chivalry that would have caught you Or kept you from the eyes of men. You are beautiful because there must be a word That says No, not this. Not this. Anything but this. --9/20/2001 Written in 2001 after seeing a photo of a woman at the World Trade Center who had fallen or jumped and died

Photo by Carolynne White 

POETRY Vanessa Johnson

Accordian In His Hands

A man stands with an accordion in his hands— compress, decompress; squeeze, release.
Photo by Jeremy Morrell

Accordingly, his eyes mine. but want and wait

meet

Even without his hands, I expand for a press.

POETRY 

5 Klara Wojtkowska

Once Upon A Time
When I was a child, I would pluck petals off roses. The first petal was soft and shy. I held it reverently, fingers tracing the delicate veins, fields of raised hairs, pillows of color, rivers of life. Then I let it fall. More petals followed until, in a frenzy of curiosity and anger and helpless desire to know, I fulfilled my infatuation and the rose lay Bare. Why could I not, in those days – Old enough to know disappointment lay cradled in the petals – Why could I not create baskets of blades, Kiss flowers into being, emulate Softness and Light, Rock my folded hands and sculpt the wind, Encourage the rose to breathe. Maybe there was something wrong with my impulsivity. Acts of creation eluded me, So I aimed to recreate the destruction of things I could not see. Gleaning beauty from flowers, I shredded through them snorting sunsets and chewing cracked lips, Basking my loneliness in pieces of pieces. Lying in petals of petals, sobriety reminded me of Humanity: The discontent, the Self stuffed in a pocket, Impossible to pull out. Exiled from Completion Like abandoned paintings, we cry Graying sunsets sinking into skeletal gardens. Adam and Eve couldn’t have been human They only had one bite of the apple. And they didn’t ravage the tree. One Bite? What remarkable self-control! A kind of primordial anorexia! Was that what the journey was for then? They left the Garden out of respect and longing. They said, We need more. They are still searching. In the meantime, God ate all the apples. Then he chopped down the tree, And built a boat, And sailed away.

Art by Viju Rao 

POETRY Aaron Tallman

Young Love
Five years young and I’m still learning to live in Atlanta both my parents still earning salaries and my mother has news concerning a trip: Australia will be our new home. a plane flies us as fast as the world is turning for a day and a night. I’m in business class watching clouds that pass and as I leave them behind like my friends too distracted by what this trip begins to realize what it ends. Spirited away to a strange land estranged by a strange style of speech and a lack of self control. But the girlies think I’m cute, so I don’t notice it. Now it’s summer and I am seventeen driving to a choral camp in Florida my mom lets me drive for a bitI settle in and we say goodbye. I like singing, I feel at ease. At lunch a girl offers me a seat surprised, I accept. We exchange names. She’s chattering about this and that asking me about myself and I feel the full table become just me and her. I have time to think. We see each other around and I feel a connection grow. I’m hesitant But she’s trying to show me I can trust her. We meet up on our last night we talk, we share our pasts then eventually our lips touch and then our hands. I’m still hesitant. But she is willing to teach. She tells me, shows me. hands on mine, guiding, teaching. Makes my hair stand on end. I’m concentrating, I want to learn. At three we part she has a solo in the morning Before the concert, I don’t get to see her she’s busy. Everyone’s busy.

But I trust her. I love to sing, and her solo is perfect We say goodbye. For weeks, we talk every day I plan to visit. My mom drives me down again. We spend a day kissing. I remember where to touch how to listen with my body And I’m a quick learner.

Photo by Matt Taylor

POETRY
The night passes. She picks me up in her car Her house is empty, she says the science museum can wait. We’re on her bed. Unzipping unbuttoning to feel closer As if we might find a piece we could take and keep for ourselves for when we are apart. She stops kissing me, “you would, wouldn’t you?” I nod. While she goes to get a condom I search myself for that shred of doubt, that fear of regret. But I don’t find any. I trust her. I’m a grown man. I’m a big boy. Our romance dwindles but it starts and stops though the rest of the year We meet up again at a year later. The passion is there, but the butterflies left some time along the way. It’s no one’s fault. That we didn’t have the time, to keep up a friendship at college, Like strings our lives came apart We stopped finger stitching I don’t pull on the strings. I refuse to let our past unravel. The skepticism of my youth tells me It wasn’t love, She fooled you. But I don’t care Illusions as beautiful as that, I’ll live believing I’ll still trust. Love is like a perfumed mist and if you try to illuminate it you find yourself alone with a sweet smell and a memory. 

Photo by Ariel Shnitzer 

POETRY

Revolution
It begins with the impulses of the body: the thoughtless grooming of your kidneys, the primal, swirling dance of your blood, the exhilaration of the inhaled lungs, and their wisdom in letting go. Your skeletal Christmas tree is joyfully draped in veins and nerves and meat. It begs to slam, to scatter, to swing; to run, rear, roar, roll, rise like the sun. The thrilling manifesto of a shooting star soars within your flamboyant hair, Torpedoes your limbs through space, splayed in a supernova of defiance. Move! You are not an abstraction but an obstruction! We are the exclamation points to ourselves! Crowing our delight and desire in the steady growth of fingernails, Our bodies writing impulsively on our palms: Go, Go, Go. Admired by Mountains for the mobility of your unshakability, You are a great dilemma, the unavoidable contradiction. Abandon the parasitic planners and the sheepish grin of clothes, Celebrate the glitter of your skin in sunlight, it is you who sparkles. You cannot forget yourself. You are impenetrable and fantastically stubborn, You cannot whisper or vanish or quail, You are here, You are now.
Photo by Carolynne White

-Klara Wojtkowska

POETRY 

Kris Wettstein

Furrow
Pardon me, lovely, turn your eyes down To me, lying here, adoring you. Those brimming eyes probably cannot see it, and your head Busy cascading brown, possibly cannot fathom, But I am stuck. Planted In the furrow of a hymn. Untwist your brow, and don’t be troubled (trouble casts shadows, And I will brook no clouds in those azure globes) I dug this rut myself— Pacing some old preordained path Until buried, like so much seed. I’m meant to be flowering, but mostly I just lie here On wet earth, in this carved-out slit, With my heart restless near your feet… Lover, do not stiffen upon feeling the trenches In my skin. They are merely the tracks and trails of melodies, Those psalms I sung, Where words were pushed along one path, and all thoughts Harnessed to a tune I voiced in such a tuneless way That its rough treading left me sore And bound my body in a maze I’m aching for you To explore. But, my Love, the truth stands between us like a dam, like bright angels guarding a gate, burning so hot I can’t bear to look, and I must burrow my head in your shoulder as I tell you that I am a riverbed. Yes, there was once water, and I was filled to the hilt: All my life I cradled it, tasted it, guided it between my fertile banks, felt its enormous weight, silt of centuries passing over in a dread solemn drift, until one night I bubbled. I didn’t mean to but I did. Bubbles that surfaced, popping, like impertinent questions (How did I come to be underwater? Did I fall? Was I pushed? Am I held here? Am I trapped?) --I felt a rift in my lungs-( Just what is this water made of? The sky? And where does it come from? Does it emanate from the ocean? Or could it slink from a hose turned on long ago and forgotten?) -- a seam opened in my side, air poured out-Like a thick serpent the billowing belly of the current slid over me, and I began to choke and struggle, kick and flail, in vain, my vision faltered like lightning bolts, and with my failing breath I cried out-- “I am not a riverbed and you are not a river!” --thunderclaps faded in the darkness to silence-I was wakened by the incessant cawing of a circling buzzard whose meandering shadow tickled my dry banks. The water was gone. I was left a Wadi, (an absence, a hole prickled and barren) under a remorseless sky, unblinking, looking ceaselessly past me. Surrounding plants turned their petals from me in shame. And you, lying here, testing scars with fingertips, when you know the stark loneliness of a bed long deserted, will you also turn? For all that lives in me is one last question-taken root like jimson weed, climbing my stomach-the loneliest question of all: whether anything can grow here again.

Photo by Soobin Sunwoo 

0

POETRY A. Iver

Unbound Circles
A cyclical hunger, a patterned love. The room filling with smoke— settling, twisting, wreathing the ceiling fan, writhing on the floor. On the couch, my blood ran thickest in the skin closest to yours, the blood hot, pooling smoke, fingers leaking smoke, trailing fog, appetite. The night before all things ran slower, the air clear and slick with the smell of lime oils and juniper breath, the absurd recurrence of desire, fog forming again and again. I wish I could lay you down in this poem and force the smoke from your lungs, gasping. But I cannot. Instead, the vacancy of our bodies, separate, separating from themselves— the skin flaking with the breeze. Instead, we read our way into one another and write ourselves apart. A love that knows seasons, burning low. Only the smoke in our mouths thickens, choking off words, our perpetual desire. You’d call it lust, I’d call it the dip and rise of your eyelashes, the stretch of sweeping cliffs, the curving, the caves; a moment’s shelter, from minutes. The slenderest of hands.

Art by Melody Yenn

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