Gender & Sexuality

Jerry Sandusky and Horace Mann

As you may have heard by now, last weekend the New York Times Magazine ran an in-depth article called " Prep School Predators : The Horace Mann School's Secret History of Sexual Abuse." In tremendous detail, author Amos Kamil, himself an alumnus of the school, details allegations that in the 1970s and 1980s, the administration of an elite New York prep school, Horace Mann, ignored teachers who sexually coerced, assaulted, and otherwise abused their students. Most of the stories Kamil was able to establish were of adult men exploiting boys, but he writes that there were just as many teachers exploiting girls: Shortly after my arrival, a new friend walked me around the school, pointing out teachers to avoid. “What do you mean? Like, they’re hard graders?” “No. Perverts. Stay away from them. Trust me.” I heard about some teachers who supposedly had a habit of groping female students and others who had their eyes on the boys. I heard that Mark Wright, an assistant football coach, had...

My, My, My Vagina

Ever since I heard about Representative Lisa Brown's censure for using the term in this post's headline on the floor of the Michigan legislature, I've had trouble getting the 1980s pop song "My Sharona" out of my head. It's playing, over and over, but with "vagina" instead of "Sharona." My, my, my, whooo! I know I have to take this kerfuffle seriously, but it's almost beyond sarcasm: it's just flat-out funny. So it's okay to legislate what women do with their body parts—or, pardon me, how they should be punished by having their choices taken away from them if they dare to have sex that leads to conception—but not to use accurate language to talk about it? As I'm sure you've read by now, one Michigan Republican, Representative Mike Callton, actually said as much, saying that Brown's comment "was so offensive, I don't even want to say it in front of women." Really? Because women don't know that they have one? Because women don't know that you know that they have one? Among the other...

Why is William Saletan Apologizing for Slate's Mistake?

Two days ago, I wrote that Slate’s editors should be ashamed of having published Mark Regnerus’s propagandistic tripe about his “study” comparing how children fare under intact families versus how they fare when their biological parents have a rocky time because one discovers or accepts that he or she is lesbian or gay. I’m honored that William Saletan has taken my criticism seriously enough to reply, naming me along with the major LGBT groups that took aim. As you may recall, I wrote that Slate clearly knew it was publishing dangerous nonsense, because right before Regnerus’s article, they put the link to Saletan’s analysis tearing it apart. Nevertheless, here’s what Saletan writes about the responses: Wow. Regnerus’ paper certainly has flaws. But before we all go get our stones, pitchforks, and kerosene, may I suggest an alternative? Trust science. Don’t bury this study. Embrace it. The evidence Regnerus collected can help all of us rethink our ideas about sexuality and marriage. It...

Chart of the Day: What War on Women?

I know, we're all used to hearing "war on women" mean the fight to defund and limit women's reproductive health. But this chart just astonished me. Take a second to compare (all) American deaths in combat with women's deaths at the hands of men who putatively loved them. Now, which war, again, is being funded with billions of dollars and covered every day with high-profile news coverage and media punditry?

Almost Time To Go Back to the Boy Scouts

(Flickr/kylerush)
Last week, I was a guest at the LGBT Connect day at Netroots Nation, meeting all kindsa people I've mostly encountered online. You know how these kinds of conferences go: glasses are hoisted, gossip is swapped, and you learn the story behind the story. While there, I learned that the Boy Scouts are "reviewing" their anti-gay policy—a first step to rejecting it. You remember their policy, right? No atheists, no gays. They went to the Supreme Court in 2000 to defend that exclusion, winning the right to be wrong in a 5-4 decision penned by Rehnquist and joined by Kennedy. (Trivia: B oy Scouts of America v. Dale was argued on the LGBT side by Evan Wolfson, who then left Lambda Legal to found and run Freedom to Marry .) But 12 years has gone by, and the social tide has turned. And so the Boy Scouts are starting to clear their throats publicly in the direction of change, in official discussions like this one with David Crary, social issues reporter at the AP (who, by the way, I rely on on...

What Hurts Children More: Having Lesbian and Gay Parents, or Junk Science About Their Parents?

When is a new study “research,” and when is it propaganda? That’s the question to ask when looking at Mark Regnerus’s “study,” released this past weekend, on children who had a parent who had an affair with someone of the same sex. Regnerus compares children who grew up in an intact household from birth to adulthood with children who started in a heterosexual marriage but who had a parent who crossed over to the gay side. And yet Regnerus is touting it as a study on the real-life experiences of children who grew up with lesbian or gay parents. Here’s what he says in Slate , of all places, which I usually respect: … [M]y colleagues and I randomly screened over 15,000 Americans aged 18-39 and asked them if their biological mother or father ever had a romantic relationship with a member of the same sex. I realize that one same-sex relationship does not a lesbian make, necessarily. But our research team was less concerned with the complicated politics of sexual identity than with same-sex...

Will You Marry Me?

How same-sex marriage will be won in the states

(Flickr/Fritz Liess)
I’m married in Massachusetts. I’m not married in the United States. That paradox is untenable, the First Circuit Court of Appeals declared in May as it unanimously struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act—the portion of the 1996 law stating that, for federal purposes, marriage is between a man and a woman. Most legal observers believe the Supreme Court will agree, and the feds will have to recognize my marriage. That would leave me almost fully married, but not quite: Thirty-eight states still ban recognition of same-sex marriages. So what’s the path to marriage equality nationwide? President Barack Obama hinted at an answer, two weeks before the First Circuit decision, when he announced his support for same-sex marriage, adding that it shouldn’t be a federal issue. The states were working it out for themselves, he said approvingly. Some impatient liberals carped at the suggestion. “I don’t think civil rights ought to be left up to a state-by-state approach,” Congressman...

Sally Quinn Laments The End Of (Her) Power

In the Washington Post Magazine this weekend, Sally Quinn—wife of former legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, former religion columnist and social lioness—wrote a jaw-dropping piece about How Washington Has Changed For The Worse . As a friend said, "Every time you think this column can't get more deranged, there's another paragraph." Here's a summary: Crude people like the Kardashians and the Gingriches are getting attention, instead of my husband and me. That's appalling. We important people used to be in charge of getting things done here in Washington. But now people like me are pointless, because Washington is all about money. Important people won't even come to my dinner parties any more. Well, f*** 'em, I'll just have friends instead. The astonishing part is that she publishes it as if we ought to sympathize. Some excerpts: Money is power. The fundraiser has replaced the Washington dinner party. Washington has become a community of small groups of people, mostly staying...

Are You a Carrie or a Lily?

Lily Ledbetter—complete with sensible blond bob and an Alabama drawl—is the kind of lady who would tell a you to stop wearing peek-a-boo blouses to work and making cookies for the office because both make you look unserious. The poster girl for the 77 cents to a dollar that American women make in the workplace compared to their male counterparts, Ledbetter's not one to be trifled with. The personification of the Obama campaign’s somber economic appeal to female voters, she’s also the kind of lady who calls Mitt Romney out for not taking a stand on equal pay issues. She also appeared in a video released by the Obama campaign talking about what the Congress can do to alleviate barriers to unequal compensation. But Ledbetter’s substantive, real-world message of feminism in action is being undercut by some old-fashioned sexism. Sarah Jessica Parker’s promotional video for the Obama campaign stands in stark contrast to Ledbetter’s. Parker, of Sex and the City fame, is throwing a campaign...

How the Gay-Rights Movement Won

(AP Photo/ Ron Lewis )
Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution—How a Despised Minority Pushed Back, Beat Death, Found Love, and Changed America for Everyone By Linda Hirshman, Harper Collins, 464 pages, $27.99 Fifty years ago, being gay put you beyond the social pale. You could be savagely beaten, kicked out of public spaces and private clubs, arrested, fired, expelled from your family, and scorned as a pariah. Today, lesbians and gay men are all but equal, with full marriage rights in view—supported by President Barack Obama in action and words. How did we win so much so fast? It’s a natural question after any major social change, especially for those hoping to apply the lessons elsewhere. How did smoking go from ubiquitous to despised? Why did feminism and black civil rights get so far, while unions gasped? Which made the difference: the low-lying social movement or the high-altitude legal and legislative efforts, the messy masses or the charismatic leaders? Historians can spend decades combing through...

Ho-Hum, Another Day, Another DOMA Defeat

How boring are marriage equality wins now? So boring that yesterday's DOMA defeat isn't even on The New York Times home page this morning, as I write this. And yet it's a big deal. Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer were together for 44 years. (Do go see the adorable movie about their life together; they're a very cute couple.) They married in Canada in 2007, a marriage that was recognized by their home state of New York. But when Thea died, the federal government taxed Edie on her estate as if they were strangers. The ACLU brought the suit, there were some private grumbles that there were already plenty of DOMA lawsuits and that a plaintiff as well-off as Windsor wouldn't be sympathetic—but I don't think anyone wants a widow stripped of property that she's treated as her own for decades. And in any case, there are so many lawsuits at this point, who even notices the plaintiffs? Yesterday, a federal district court judge in New York ruled that, at least in this case, DOMA's Section 3 "does...

November’s Looking Good for Marriage Equality

Here’s some absurdly good news. As Garrett Epps told us , the Ninth Circuit yesterday decided to stand by its panel’s decision in the Prop 8 case and kick it upstairs to the Supremes. Maybe SCOTUS will refuse to take the case; that would be fabulous news, turning California immediately into a marriage-equality state without causing me any anxiety about someone up there writing a decision that leaves a bad precedent. But the good news is that the First Circuit’s nice, narrow ruling striking down DOMA’s section 3 will probably get there first. When the Supreme Court does hear arguments on marriage equality, however narrow or broad, here’s what will help: There are four votes on marriage coming up this fall. One of them is a state-level Defense of Marriage Act; three others would be votes in favor of removing the gender requirements in the state’s marriage laws, thus enabling qualified same-sex couples to marry. And in all four, the polls are looking good—so good that I’ll take cash bets...

Prop. 8 Heads for the Show

(Flickr/OZinOH)
One of the most important functions of a dissenting opinion is to throw red meat to op-ed writers. Justice Antonin Scalia is a master of the form. Witness his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, warning that, if same-sex sodomy laws are voided, government may soon force the unwilling to accept gays and lesbians “as boarders in their home.” Justice John Paul Stevens also perfected the zinger; he capped his dissent in Citizens United by saying, “While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.” As a gesture of defiance, then, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain’s dissent from denial of rehearing in Perry v. Brown Monday is a bit of a damp squib. The meanest thing O’Scannlain can find to say is that Barack Obama has recently come out in support of gay marriage. That may be the measure of how strongly the tide is running, both in legal circles and in the larger culture, against those who want to...

Are Men Just Better Than Women at Everything?

Well, yesterday I got all Tigger-ish about marriage equality . But ladies, we’re still losing ground. Today, your Senators discuss whether you deserve a more robust law protecting your right to equal pay for equal work. Why do we need one? Well, consider this article in Women’s E-News in which Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Barnett analyze the fact that as white men increasingly move into what once were considered women’s occupations—nurses, teachers, social workers, dental hygienists, and the like—they get paid more and get promoted faster. Yes, you read that right. When white men go into “women’s work,” they earn more money and move up more quickly, out-earning equally qualified women. Because, you know, white guys are just better at everything. Social scientists have been writing about this phenomenon for a least a decade. They call it the “glass escalator”—men are moved up invisibly by social expectations – and contrast it with the “sticky floor”—women have a harder time proving...

Wedding Bells in Illinois?

(Flickr/Benson Kua)
You all have got to be tired by now of me celebrating good news for LGBT rights, bouncing around in my Tigger-y fashion, showing yet another way that we're winning. But I can't help it. As we've discussed, I grew up in the Pleistocene era, when you still had to look over your shoulder leaving a gay bar. Now I'm married to another woman, at least in the eyes of Massachusetts. It's crazy to live through so much social change in just a few decades. (A friend of mine says: "E.J., you sound like one of those older black folks who talk about how miraculous it is to no longer live under Jim Crow." Well, it's true! Being me is no longer a felony!) All of which is to say: here are two more little bright spots that show how fast the tide is changing, coming back in to wash away all the nasty old antigay state DOMA laws that piled up when the shockingly new idea of marrying same-sex pairs was first discussed in 1996, 2000, and 2004. Bright spot #1: Recently the ACLU and Lambda brought two...

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