Gender & Sexuality

Michael Sam, "Distraction"

AP Images/Brandon Wade
Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam was the co-winner of the Defensive Player of the Year for the powerhouse Southeastern Conference. While a little undersized for an NFL player at his position, Sam was certainly a decent pro prospect certain to be selected in the upcoming NFL draft. But Sam is no longer just of interest to SEC fans and NFL draft obsessives. On Sunday, Sam came out as gay . If he makes an NFL roster, he would certainly not be the first gay man to play in the NFL, but he would be the first to be out to the public during his playing career. Whether he will get a fair shot to make it as an NFL player, however, is not entirely clear, as multiple NFL decisionmakers have announced their intent to discriminate. Of course, these anonymous executives and coaches who spoke to Sports Illustrated cloaked their bias in various passive-aggressive evasions. A gay player would "chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room" said one. "[D]o you really want to be the top...

Why Anti-Choicers Can’t Take Credit for the Falling Abortion Rate

On Monday, the Guttmacher Institute released a study that seemed, at first blush, to vindicate the anti-choice movement’s increasingly feverish attempts to end abortion through state-level restrictions on women and providers. Using survey data from 2011, the research organization—which leans pro-choice—found that abortion rates have plummeted to a 30-year low. Since 2008, the number of abortions performed in the U.S. fell 13 percent. Anti-abortion activists pounced to take credit, criticizing Guttmacher for “failing to acknowledge the impact of pro-life legislation” in its explanation for the sudden drop. The Guttmacher researchers point out, quite reasonably, that the most recent wave of anti-choice legislation began in earnest in the months after the 2010 midterm election, when abortion rates were already falling. If anything, abortion’s decline was in spite of anti-choice sentiment, not because of it. As the abortion rate was falling, so was the birth rate. Fewer women were seeking...

Ain't Nothing But a Vagina Thing

Courtesy of the "A Is For" Campaign
div#in-article-ad { display:none !important; } ol.conversation { margin-bottom:20px !important; } T he poster above may have some social conservatives in Texas clutching their pears, but it was feminists who were fighting over whether “A Is For”’s ad campaign was offensive last week. Shortly after the group kicked off its campaign to raise money for four Texas abortion funds, a debate erupted on Twitter accusing the organizers of a concert benefiting several Texas abortion funds for being cissexist and bioessentialist in their advertising campaign. For those who may not have been hip with the lingo, a cisgender person is someone whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth. Here’s a sampling of the exchanges: Crucial cause, but can we not with the cissexism/bioessentialism, @AIsForOrg ? https://t.co/0B6rcihkjX — Jane Doe, MD (@DrJaneChi) January 19, 2014 @DrJaneChi Agreed. I love @AIsForOrg and that we're focused on solidarity,...

What Can Obama Actually Do to Solve Campus Sexual Assault?

AP Images/The News and Observer/Travis Long
Courtesy Alexandra Brodsky Last week, student activists against sexual assault got some exciting news: The president announced that he was forming a task force to tackle the epidemic of sexual violence on college campuses. “An estimated one in five women is sexually assaulted in college, and that’s totally unacceptable,” Obama said in his weekly address. “We’re going to do help schools do a better job of preventing and responding to sexual assault on their campuses, because college should be a place where young people feel secure and confident.” Obama gave the task force ninety days to come up with an “action plan” for combating campus rape. In conjunction with Obama’s announcement, the White House Council on Women and Girls released a report full of grim statistics . Only 12 percent of college sexual assault survivors report their rape to law enforcement officials. Alcohol plays a major role, with perpetrators preying on incapacitated students or plying their victims with drugs or...

Why Republicans Keep Calling Women Sluts

What are these strange and frightening concoctions? (Flickr/Sarah C)
As you've heard, yesterday Mike Huckabee stepped up to the plate and smacked a stand-up double in the GOP's ongoing effort to alienate every woman in America, when he said , "If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government then so be it! Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be." As expected, Huckabee quickly explained to his supporters who the real victim is here ("I am apparently the worst conservative ever or at least the most annoying one according to the left wingers in Washington today"), but the question is, why do they keep doing this? After all, every Republican knows by now that their party has a problem with women; Mitt Romney lost their votes by 11 points...

Free at Last: A Gay Republican Leaves the Fold

Photo courtesy of Jimmy LaSalvia
Photo courtesy of Jimmy LaSalvia J immy LaSalvia has spent part of his political life explaining himself to people like me: gay liberals who don't understand why he's a Republican. LaSalvia, who remembers putting up signs for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in junior high, left his native Kentucky in 2006 to join the staff of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay conservative group. Dismayed at what he saw as the Log Cabin's leftward drift—the group declined to endorse George W. Bush in 2004, and barely came out for John McCain—and its focus on social instead of economic issues, he co-founded GOProud in 2009. The organization, which co-sponsored the 2010 Conservative Political Action Convention before conference organizers decided to exclude the group in subsequent years, made headlines for outing Rick Perry pollster Tony Fabrizio after the campaign released a homophobic ad and hosting conservative firebrand Ann Coulter at its annual fundraiser. It has affiliates in several states and...

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole of NYC’s Lena Dunham Obsession

Vogue Magazine
Flickr J ust as twentysomethings aren’t the ones writing about millennials ( that would be Ross Douthat ), Lena Dunham’s contemporaries aren’t the demographic that considers Girls its television muse. No, that would be over-twentysomething men, who make up over 20 percent of the show’s viewership and a perhaps even healthier percentage of the bylines featuring name drops of Dunham in the New York media ( this would also be Ross Douthat). Everyone who’s been having heart palpitations over Hannah Horvath’s desire to be a voice of a generation seems to have missed the New York old guard’s intention of making her the voice of the whole damn city. Since 2001, The New York Times has published over 300 articles mentioning Dunham, about 99 percent of which have been written in the past four years. And, except for the early days, right when Tiny Furniture became a thing and Girls screeners became zeitgeist incarnate, she’s hardly ever the subject matter. Any story with a wisp of beard, a hint...

Can States Protect Access to Reproductive Health Clinics?

The fate of Massachusetts's buffer-zone law doesn't look promising after yesterday's Supreme Court oral arguments. 

AP Images/Steven Senne
Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCullen v. Coakley, which concerns a challenge to a Massachusetts law creating a 35-foot buffer zone around health clinics. The Court upheld at least one form of buffer zone in the 2000 case Hill v. Colorado. But as the Prospect 's Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux noted in her comprehensive preview of the case, personnel changes to the Court put the buffer zone on much thinner ice. Two members of the 2000 majority (O'Connor and Rehnquist) have been replaced by justices much more likely to be hostile to the law (Alito and Roberts.) The oral argument generally support this head-counting—the question appears to be not whether Massachusetts will lose but how bad the loss will be. Workers at clinics and women seeking reproductive health care may pay a substantial price. The key issue in the case is whether the 35-foot buffer zone is constitutional as a "place, time and manner" restriction on speech. Speech that would otherwise be constitutionally...

Rape on TV—More Than Just a Plot Twist

Producers often use sexual assault to heighten drama, but depictions of sexual violence offer a greater opportunity to educate viewers.

Courtesy of PBS/Masterpiece
Mild spoiler warning for U.S. Downton Abbey viewers. Courtesy of PBS/Masterpiece O h, Anna. Couldn't you have become a Jazz Baby or something? For those who missed out, this Sunday's episode of the British upstairs/downstairs saga Downton Abbey wrapped up with a visiting valet abruptly raping beloved ladies' maid Anna. I wasn't the only one tempted to break up with the Crawleys over it. Downton 's clumsy attempt came right on the heels of another botched rape plot, Scandal 's flashback rape of First Lady Mellie at the hands of her father-in-law. How these shows handle rape matters. I was sexually assaulted over 20 years ago, and even after all this time, unexpectedly watching Fitz' dad rape Mellie on Scandal kept me up into the wee hours that night. When it was Anna's turn, I turned off the TV and curled up in a ball. That said, I never want narrative television to stop depicting rape. Television is perfectly suited to telling complex, challenging stories that evolve over time. And TV...

Rebuffing the Zones?

AP Images/Steven Senne O utside Planned Parenthood’s clinic in downtown Boston, a painted yellow line swoops across the sidewalk and into the well-trafficked street, marking a 35-foot half-circle around the entrance. Most days, anti-abortion demonstrators gather on the edge of the line, holding signs and rosaries, and clutching bundles of pamphlets. As women approach the half-circle, the demonstrators spring into action. The goal is getting the women to pause and talk to them before they cross into the “buffer zone” on the other side of the line, which Massachusetts law declares a protest-free space. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about the constitutionality of these buffer zones tomorrow, in McCullen v. Coakley . The arguments won’t tackle the polemical question of whether abortion should be available; instead, the justices will be asked to consider whether the buffer zones violate anti-abortion demonstrators’ First Amendment rights. The petitioners are a small group of...

I'll Be Gay for Christmas

On (not) going home for the holidays

Flickr/MTSOfan
Flickr/MTSOfan I haven’t been home for Christmas in ten years. The excuse I always gave was that the holidays stress me out, which isn’t untrue. I can’t stand to watch once the local news station starts its seasonal coverage. You know the hard-hitting journalism I’m talking about: brave reporters staked out at Wal-Mart before it opens at 6 a.m. on Black Friday; with a frumpy Jane Doe browsing Amazon.com on Cyber Monday; and, around now, live on the scene at the airport giving updates about the bad weather, long lines, and flight delays. Just thinking about standing in a security line for two hours makes me want to punch Santa. There’s buying and wrapping gifts, writing and sending cards. If your family is anything like mine, Christmas is also when everyone comes together, gets drunk, and airs the grievances they’ve been holding onto all year. After that come the teary expressions of love and forgiveness. I’m one of five kids, my dad is one of eight, and my mom is one of four. All that...

Polyamory, the Right to Privacy, and Religious Freedom

Last week, a federal District Court judge in Utah struck down a law used to prosecute members of polyamorous relationships. Predictably, some conservatives immediately brought up the slippery slope to legalized adult incest and legal " teen sex cults ." However, the decision is a very rational and straightforward application of core principles of the right to privacy and religious freedom. It is crucial to understand, first of all, that Judge Clark Waddoups's decision in Brown v. Buhman did not "legalize bigamy." The lawsuit was brought by the reality television star Kody Brown, who lives in a polyamorous relationship with four women but is only legally married to one. Brown did not even contest Utah's limitation of marriage to couples, and Judge Waddoups deferred to a Supreme Court precedent dating back to the 19th century holding that bans on bigamy are constitutional. Rather, the decision concerns an unusual, extraordinarily broad provision of Utah law under which "[a] person is...

Out of Birth Control—At Least the Long-Term Kind

Press Association via AP Images
Beleaguered fans of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) got some encouraging news on Wednesday morning: The contraceptive mandate is working. A study released by the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that supports abortion rights, revealed that the number of privately insured women who paid nothing out of pocket for birth-control pills nearly tripled since the fall of 2012, from 15 percent to 40 percent. More women are also getting the vaginal ring at no cost. This financial bonus is courtesy of an ACA rule requiring private insurance companies to cover preventive care—like contraceptive products, procedures, and counseling—at no cost to the patient. Although some insurance plans are still “grandfathered in,” which means they don’t need to conform to the ACA’s requirements for now, millions of women became eligible for no-cost birth control at the beginning of the year, and they’re taking advantage of it. There is some bad news sandwiched in with the good. Although the number of women who...

The Year in Preview: Taking the Offensive on Reproductive Rights

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Read our earlier "Year in Preview" pieces on the media and voting rights here. Check back tomorrow for previews on the 2014 Supreme Court schedule and poverty politicking from the right. AP Photo/Eric Gay T he four horsemen haven’t appeared on the horizon yet, nor has the sea turned to blood, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that when it comes to reproductive justice in the United States, the end times are just around the corner. In 2013 alone, states enacted gobs of restrictions on early access to abortion. From Texas to Ohio to Iowa, dozens of clinics shut their doors. The courts are abortion-rights advocates’ best hope for stemming the tide of regressive legislation, but as Scott Lemieux has extensively documented here at the Prospect , their judgments have been decidedly mixed. In this ever-growing maelstrom of incursions on abortion rights, pro-choice politicians have stayed on the defensive, clinging to the standards established by Roe v. Wade even as conservatives whack...

NBC's Big Fat Gay Mistake

The network's half-hearted attempts to appear gay-friendly while broadcasting the Sochi Olympics only underscore its complicity with the Kremlin's crackdown on LGBT rights and freedom of the press.

Flickr/Edgar Zuniga
Flickr/Edgar Zuniga T here is no longer even the illusion of a free press in Russia—not after yesterday, when the Kremlin posted a decree on its website announcing the liquidation of RIA Novosti , the leading state news agency. “The move,” the news service wrote in its own account of the story, “is the latest in a series of shifts in Russia’s news landscape, which appear to point toward a tightening of state control in the already heavily regulated media sector.” That “tightening,” which intensified when Russian President Vladimir Putin returned to power last year and immediately set about silencing any form of opposition to his notoriously crooked government, has reached a fever pitch in the months leading up to Russia’s hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi this February. The country and the games have come under increasing international scrutiny and criticism: First, in the wake of the Kremlin’s passage, this past June, of a trifecta of draconian anti-LGBT laws...

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