E.J. Graff

E.J. Graff writes on social-justice and human-rights issues, particularly discrimination and violence against women and children; marriage and family policy; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lives. She is a resident scholar at the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center and the author of What Is Marriage For? The Strange Social History of Our Most Intimate Institution (Beacon Press, 1999, 2004).

Recent Articles

So You Say You Want a Sexual Revolution, Huh?

After my post last week on whether "sexual liberation" leads to monogamy , Amanda Marcotte and I twittered briefly about the myth of progress in sexual mores. The progress myth goes like this: Once upon a time, all was repression, imposed by religion/patriarchy/the establishment/your-nominee-here. But that theory is wrong: As with all fashions, libertinism comes and goes, alternating with restriction. Think the wild 1920s, then the marry-young 1950s (whose unexpected procreativity literally gave birth to the baby boom), then the swinging 1970s, then the Just-Say-No 1980s. Then I discovered that Ariel Levy laid out the evidence for this view far more thoroughly in her book essay in the last New Yorker. It's fascinating to see her find evidence of various sexual revolutions dating back to 18 th century, and she suggests that the pattern dates back much further. Check out this parenthetical aside about a device invented in the 1880s as a treatment for female illness: The vibrator was...

The Real Contagion

While we're talking about how policy failures can help illnesses spread, let me pass on some news from organizer Ellen Bravo of Family Values @ Work. As flu season starts (file under: Contagion ), Bravo's group is stressing that real contagion can be prevented if more people had paid sick days. Every year, 44 million low-wage workers go to work even if they or their children are sick because they still have to pay the rent and buy food. Those are the people who handle our food, clean up our tables, change our sheets in hotels and hospitals, and take care of our children. She writes: Seattle just won paid sick days Monday with an 8-1 vote in City Council... looking for another win soon in Philly on an ordinance requiring those who receive contracts or subsidies from the City to provide paid sick days. Denver voters will decide a citywide ballot initiative there Nov. 1. Many other campaigns gearing up for 2012.

Back-Door Anti-Abortion

Earlier this week I posted an excerpt from a funny diatribe by Jeffrey T. Kuhner of the Edmund Burke Institute, published in the Washington Times , that linked contraception with abortion. Kuhner ranted that almost every major religion and civilizations have always opposed contraception, homosexuality, adultery -- oh, pretty much anything having to do with sex unless it's a husband and wife making babies. A Guttmacher Institute staffer very kindly got in touch soon after to let me know that, um, that's not really true; in fact that most Americans, including church-going Catholics and evangelicals, regularly use birth control . Intellectually, Kuhner and his kin are direct descendants of Anthony Comstock , the late-nineteenth-century figure whose "chastity laws" fought contraception, pornography, and all kinds of whoredom ( i.e., any attempt to sever the direct link between sex, marriage, and birth). But while I'm way too easily amused by out-of-control screeds, the underlying reality...

Taking a Stand on Standing

At the Prospect on Monday, Chris Geidner took a principled stand on the procedural question of who should be able to defend Proposition 8 in the courts: Do only California state officials, who have declined to support this antagonism toward marriage equality? Or do Prop. 8's authors and backers. The LA Times essentially agreed that Prop 8 deserves a full hearing in court so that it can die on its merits, saying here: [T]he state should be required to hire an attorney to provide the best possible defense. The constitutionality of Proposition 8 is for the courts to decide, not state officials. Shannon Minter and Chris Stoll of the California-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the big three LGBT legal advocacy groups, disagree , saying: But Prop 8 has already had its day in court. It lost -- and not because there weren't any lawyers to defend it. Despite hiring a large team of experienced lawyers and putting on the best case they were able to muster, the supporters of Prop...

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go to the Salad Bar ...

In theory, your lunch is soon to be a little safer . In part as a response to Harvard Public Health Review editor Madeline Drexler's devastating food-safety critique in the latest issue of Good Housekeeping , the USDA just announced it would designate all "Big Six" strains of E. coli as "adulterants" -- previously, only one E. coli strain was counted as dangerous. That means food producers are supposed to test for and eliminate them in their products. Drexler's piece opened with the heartbreaking death of a healthy child from an E. coli O111 infection, a strain hitherto permissible in the food supply. As the child's mother said, "I feel like my kid was murdered." Declaring a potentially deadly bacterium an impermissible "adulterant" was long pushed for by consumer groups and legislators, and strongly recommended in the article. Drexler's 2003 book Secret Agents , recently updated and reissued as "Emerging Epidemics: The Menace of New Infections," stopped me from ever eating raw bean...

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