Posts Tagged ‘sex’

Harvey Havel: Dealing with rejection

May 23, 2020

This big fat book showed up unexpected in my mailbox. Harvey Havel is a fixture in the local literary scene. Chatting with him at a recent author talk, it had emerged that we’d both published blog essay collections. So he sent me his. He’s a sweet person. Also tormented.

The book starts with political essays (a decade and more old). Perhaps unusual for a professional writer of color, his viewpoint is determinedly centrist. And Olympian, looking past the issues of the day, in a larger perspective, trying to see the tectonic forces shaping our politics. As a professional writer, Havel has a glib command of the relevant lingo. Yet I found his analyses somewhat oversimplified, falling short of profundity. (Sorry, Harvey.)

So after reading some of this I decided to skip ahead to the later sections dealing with more personal matters, and stuff like sexual politics. This was much more engaging. Havel speaks from the heart with unsparing candor.

Like about his alcoholism. It nearly destroyed him; he believes it’s actually necessary to sink that low before one can overcome. He’s apparently been off the stuff for a good long time now, but alcoholism still looms as a big presence in his life.

He was also ruined, he says, by money. Given a big lump sum by his father upon college graduation, he lived the high life, as though it would never run out. Of course it did, while turning him into “a man of low morals and character,” blocking his capacity to grow. Thus he says he remained a child (as of 2005 anyway). He had to learn the meaningfulness of earning what one has. He feels his “relationship with money now is the happiness and satisfaction that I have somehow rid myself of it.”

Here, and elsewhere, he brings in belief in God, crediting that for positive change in his life. I know many people feel the same. But Havel never really analyzes this (as he analyzes so much else). I have no such belief. For me, divorcement from reality cannot be the basis for an authentically meaningful life.

One 2009 piece starts off, “read this poem and then we’ll have a discussion about it.” Titled “Qualm” it ostensibly debates pushing an airplane alarm button, and Havel does discuss it at length. Finding this in the book was a nice surprise, as the poet is Therese L. Broderick (my wife).

Havel is not one of those many people who write as a sideline or hobby. Instead, he decided out of college to make this his career. Now approaching 50, he’s been at it for decades. With little reward. He has self-published many books (including this one), but his indefatigable efforts with established presses have met with constant rejection. Publishers tend to be very picky; selling printed books that make money is extremely hard; so a stream of rejection letters is inevitably part of any writer’s life.

But, having indeed devoted his life to this, Havel cannot just shrug off the disappointment. He has quite a lot to say about it. Mostly he discusses this as a sociological/cultural phenomenon. But one essay tells of his reading a terrific short story. Bringing on an attack of FAS — “Failed Author Syndrome” — and its corrosive resentment of others’ literary success. (He doesn’t mention dissecting that story to tease out what made it so good.)

I am no stranger to literary rejection myself. I spent years struggling to get my magnum opus (The Case for Rational Optimism) published. UntiI finally remembering the press that, over 30 years prior, had reissued my Albany political book. I’ve had ten book publications and made money on all but one. But the loss on that one exceeded all the gains. So I guess I’m no literary success either.

Havel also writes about rejection by women. This too resonated with my own history.

He has a “thing” for white women. Who, he says, generally refuse to view him romantically because of his color. For me it was height (or its lack). One guy’s recent radio essay related how he’d meet women for dates and see their “libido drain away” when he’d stand up, revealing his shortness. I was clueless in my own younger days (part of my problem), but in hindsight being 5’4″ explains a lot.

Back to Havel and his attraction to white women. One entry in the book is actually titled “In Defense of White People.” I was expecting something sardonic. But no. Havel explains that at one time he did share the stew of negative feelings toward whites that some non-whites hold. However, he says, he joined a white family for a time — what he means by this wasn’t clear to me — but anyway, he received acceptance and love, leading him to reject, as simply incorrect, the standard indictment of whiteness.

Of course that doesn’t mean all whites are good. But white people are, mainly, just people, and most people are good. Yet it almost seems as though Havel puts whites on a pedestal.

Perhaps this partly explains his attraction to white women. Then again, a majority of American women are white, so Havel may actually be conflating an attraction to women with one for white women. But he does feel his color is a barrier with white women in particular.

I found this odd. No doubt some racist women would manifest this, but in my observation, many if not most females are sexually receptive to nonwhites, many indeed positively attracted to them. Secondly, while Havel is slightly brownish, his ethnicity is far from evident visually. In fact, being of Indian ancestry, he is caucasian. Also, while I’m no great judge of this, I would rate him pretty good looking.

So what, really, was the trouble? Relating an actual romantic debacle might have helped elucidate this, but Havel includes none. The book makes it sound as though he never actually had a relationship (despite a lot of sex). However, there are some clues in the book regarding his mindset about women. It smacks of that old stereotype, “objectifying” women. He wants one not just white, but beautiful, well-educated, and affluent; it’s very much a package. He seems to believe the ideal way to get such a woman is to fight for her — literally. Physically fighting other men. His writing so often of “winning” women does make it sound like a competition. And he posits that what a woman most wants from a man is to be protected by him.

How about just relating to a woman as a fellow human being?

The accusation against Biden — Who are the hypocrites?

May 5, 2020

Republicans call Democrats hypocrites for believing charges of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh but not Joe Biden.

Most women making such accusations are truthful. A lot of men behave like pigs. Especially powerful men with a sense of entitlement and impunity. Like Weinstein, Cosby, Trump, with proven patterns of behavior and numerous victims whose stories taken together lend credence.

The #metoo movement, calling them to account, was long overdue. Much justice was done. But women as well as men are fallible, and facts matter. Here is my assessment of the facts.

Kavanaugh had a clear history of major alcohol abuse, if nothing else, that gave credibility to the accusation, by a woman whose own reputation was stellar.

Biden’s case is entirely different. The alleged conduct would have been totally out of character. His open physical demonstrativeness toward women is not remotely comparable. As David Brooks commented, Tara Reade’s story entails not only lasciviousness but cruelty. That just is not Joe Biden. No similar accusation has ever previously surfaced, and nobody who knows him well believes it.

Having hormones myself, I understand the attraction of illicit sex. But mature, sane people control their impulses. The alleged behavior would have incurred huge risk for meaningless momentary jollies. That doesn’t sound like Biden either.

Reade, who briefly worked in Biden’s Senate office before being terminated, says she filed complaints at the time (1993), but no record of them has been found. People on Biden’s staff who would have known of it remember no such complaints, which they say would have been very memorable.

A few of Reade’s acquaintances, and her mother, have said she spoke of the incident at the time. That does not corroborate the story’s truth. Meantime, just months ago, her public story was totally different, claiming merely that Biden’s physical demonstrativeness made her uncomfortable — a far cry from the crude sexual assault she now describes.

This new story reeks of being contrived, pasting together stereotypical parts. Especially quoting Biden, “You mean nothing to me.” That’s the cruelty Brooks mentioned. It loudly rings false.

Why is Reade doing this? Who knows what demons can motivate people. Reade may actually now believe her tale. Memory plays tricks on us — particularly in the fraught realm of sex. The documentary film Capturing the Friedmans showed one young man literally writhing in anguish over his memory of sexual abuse. Which in fact never occurred.

One clue about Reade: She’s been quoted extravagantly gushing over Putin. I wouldn’t suggest she’s part of a Russian plot. Just nutty.

It is reasonable to believe Biden rather than Reade. At the very least, to give Biden the benefit of the doubt.

Now about those Republican taunts of hypocrisy. They not only defended Kavanaugh but of course disregard all women making accusations against Trump, well into double digits, up to and including outright rape. “Grab them by the pussy” is on the record. Likewise illegally paying off women to silence them regarding sexual transgressions. Amid all his innumerable other corrupt deeds (Trump University, charitable foundation fraud, etc., etc.), lies, and offenses against public decency. Yet these Republicans point fingers at Democrats? Who’s hypocritical?

But this is not about principle. For Republicans, all that matters is power. No ploy is too cynical if it might help keep them in power.

Biden has proven himself a thoroughly decent human being, an honest, responsible, public-spirited man, with deep regard for other people.

Everything Trump is not.

Are Men Necessary? (Is Hillary?)

August 6, 2015

UnknownWhen I reported buying, at a used book sale, Maureen Dowd’s Are Men Necessary? I said I’d let you know the verdict after reading it. I bought it because Dowd is – can I say this? – one bitching writer. In her columns she’s a zingermeister who loves playing with words (though that can get wearying at times).

imagesThe book is basically about what used to be called “the battle of the sexes.” Dowd, calling herself a feminist, unsurprisingly takes the side of women. But she’s an equal-opportunity cynic, skewering both sides of every controversy. While she doesn’t like Clarence Thomas, she thought his feminist critics were disingenuous, using the sexual harassment stuff as cover for what was really a (failed) political take-down. Unknown-1And Dowd is scathing about the hypocrisy of those same feminists, so censorious toward Clarence Thomas, but all too willing, because of politics, to give Bill Clinton a pass regarding Monica (not to mention Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, and Kathleen Willey). Dowd’s chapter on the episode has a pages-long riff about how he became obsessed, deranged, by thoughts of Monica and sex. But it turns out the “he” is Kenneth Starr (Clinton’s prosecutor).

Dowd also drops a dime (writing in 2005) on Hillary. It’s a good reminder (I haven’t forgotten, though most people seem to have) about all the unseemliness: the mysterious profits trading commodities futures; her healthcare debacle; images-1and how on leaving the White House the Clintons “backed up the truck” and made off with $86,000 worth of furnishings. Et cetera. Dowd doesn’t even mention the mystery of the subpoenaed Rose Law Firm records, the Marc Rich pardon, the Lincoln Bedroom, and to me the most disgraceful of all, Travelgate.)

If you’re counting, that’s eleven past scandals (not even considering Whitewater, or the new one, e-mailgate). Do we really want these grifters back in the White House?

But the book is mainly about the male/female thing. images-2One chapter concerns orgasms, with Dowd wondering why women have them at all, evolutionarily speaking, since they’re unnecessary for procreation. She winds up theorizing that it makes women favor men considerate enough to pleasure them, who will probably be better daddies too. But my wife pointed out that orgasmic contractions help move sperm toward the business end of the plumbing. Unknown-2And I thought Dowd missed the most obvious explanation: orgasms make women want to copulate. (Any Muslim practitioner of female genital mutilation would have told her that.)

Here’s an example of Dowd’s sardonic style: “deep down, beneath the bluster and machismo, men are simply afraid to say that what they’re truly looking for in a woman is an intelligent, confident and dependable partner in life whom they can devote themselves to unconditionally until she’s forty.”

That’s a good description of my own marriage, minus the last bit (at 56, my wife is still a keeper). But it may be true for the kinds of people Dowd hangs out with in her high-powered life as a big-time syndicated columnist.

Unknown-3This was a problem I had throughout the book. For example, Dowd talks about cosmetic reparation, like Botox, which everybody now does – everybody – men included. Well, maybe everybody in Maureen Dowd’s fey cocktail party milieu. But she has nothing to say to, or about, ordinary “everyday” folks. The book is mildly amusing, but if you want to find out whether men are necessary on Main Street, look elsewhere.

Christians, Gays, and Sin

July 5, 2015

UnknownEven before the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling, I wrote that gays (and the left in general), having basically won this fight, should ease up and be magnanimous, allowing their beaten foes some space for living their beliefs – just as, for years, gays begged for that themselves. The principles of tolerance and pluralism run both ways. But many on the left act as though only their freedoms matter.

On the other hand, some anti-gay and Christian advocates seem to have become unhinged. Listening to them you’d think anti-gayness is the very heart of their religion. As if the Bible’s main message is gay-bashing.

imagesMore generally, the Christian side in the “culture wars” of recent decades seems to exhibit an obsession with sex (as David Brooks discusses in an excellent recent column). These folks do a great disservice to their faith. No wonder younger people, with more relaxed attitudes, are abandoning traditional religion in droves.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I’m no fan of religion, but surely it has a better story to tell that is getting lost in all the noise about gay sex. This meshugass makes religion even more absurd than it was already.

The Obergefell gay marriage decision is not going to become another divisive Roe v. Wade. It wasn’t surprising that Roe provoked a huge backlash, since that ruling was legally, culturally, and morally weak. Legally, because its dicey “privacy” theory was not in the Constitution; culturally because the country wasn’t ready for it; and morally there were reasonable, deeply felt arguments against it.

Unknown-4In contrast, there are no good moral arguments against gay marriage. Just because the Bible says something is wrong doesn’t make it so. Christians choose to ignore many of the Bible’s outlandish, atavistic pronouncements (like gathering sticks on the Sabbath also being a sin punishable by death). The true moral criterion (rationally speaking) is whether anyone is harmed, and gay sex and marriage harm no one.

I do not dismiss the dissenters’ contention that this should have been decided by democratic processes, not judicial fiat; I so argued myself, a few years ago. However, I have come around to the Court majority’s view that “equal protection of the laws” properly applies here. Thus Obergefell has much stronger legal legitimacy than Roe did. As for democracy, it seems more like the court was bending to popular opinion than defying it. The nation was ready for this.

images-1The argument that it opens the door to polygamy and so forth is ridiculous. There are sound social policy reasons to ban polygamy (we wouldn’t want Donald Trump hogging all the women – though perhaps any who would join his harem are best left out of the marriage pool anyway). Gay marriage, in contrast, is a positive societal good, with no downsides. More child-friendly two-parent families will help counter the decline of traditional marriage and the resulting social dysfunction.

All this suggests that Christian resistance is not only a lost cause* but a very bad one. Surely religious believers can find better things to talk about than what married people do in bed. Aren’t there worse sins in the world to get upset about than (a small minority of) people loving the “wrong” partners?

Unknown-3I’ve never understood anyway why Christians get so manic about other people’s sins. If they truly are sinful, they’ll simply go to Hell, no? Why isn’t that the end of the story?

Worry about your own sins.

* Who are they kidding, talking of a constitutional amendment? Hello, it would need ratification by 38 states – whereas nationwide public opinion goes the other way.

Campus Rape and “Affirmative Consent” – Feminism Off the Rails?

December 4, 2014

Unknown-1One in five college women is sexually assaulted – we’re told. I have a daughter in college (see her comments, below). But I’m skeptical about that statistic; kind of depends how one defines “sexual assault.” I recall one study showing horrendous spousal violence rates. Turned out “spousal violence” included raising one’s voice. What one girl considers a sexual assault another might not.

Campus rape has been a big topic since the federal government, under Title IX, faulted many colleges for insufficiently tough policies about it. images-3(How this became a federal issue I fail to understand.) And California has adopted a new “affirmative consent” standard – it’s rape if the female doesn’t explicitly say yes before and during. (It’s not required in writing, and notarized – yet.) New York has now followed California’s lead.

I consider myself a feminist. But this seems like an anti-male hysteria. images-1If previously the culture in this regard was skewed against women, now the pendulum is swinging too far the other way, with too much presumption against the male in a situation and too little consideration of mitigating factors – including female behavior.

The California rule reflects ludicrous disregard for the realities, subtleties, and complexities of human interaction. Sexual dynamics are not like contract negotiations; a lot is wordless. Just when we’ve gotten Big Brother out of gay bedrooms, we’re letting him back in to campus bedrooms through a back door, attempting to regulate the details of a sexual encounter, going far beyond merely banning what’s conventionally been understood as assault.

Further, while college administrators do have a proper concern with what goes down among students, it is hugely misguided to task them as judges and juries in what are really criminal justice matters. images-5No one would imagine a student shooting another is a disciplinary issue properly handled by school personnel, rather than the police and the courts. Sexual assault is likewise a serious crime that belongs in the criminal justice system, not campus disciplinary tribunals. Universities are not places where the writ of society’s law does not run.

This matters a lot because the constitutional protections applicable to criminal defendants are absent from campus proceedings – including “innocent until proven guilty.” Whereas in criminal trials the prosecutor has the burden of proof, a student accused of sexual assault may find himself with the burden of proving his innocence.  Furthermore, the “affirmative consent” policy deems a drunk woman incapable of consent, thus applying a concept the law calls strict liability for any sex with a drunk girl. If she was drunk, you’re sunk. And school administrators often tend to apply a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, rather than “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

"Or after." Better get a crystal ball, guys.

“Or after.” Better get a crystal ball, guys.

All this can put a male in a very tough position – when there’s normally no independent corroboration of what happened and the words said – and when any sex that a girl later regrets can be deemed equivalent to rape. (Am I exaggerating? See pink box at left.)

And it’s not as though such campus proceedings are less consequential than criminal ones. True, a college can’t send you to prison. But it can expel you – ruining your life just as surely.

In a case of rape as conventionally understood, of course the perpetrator should be punished, one way or another. Yet, for all the scare statistics, I suspect that such crimes of violence among students are actually fairly rare, with the far more typical situation being far more murky and ambiguous; and college guys being more opportunists than they are sexual predators.

images-6But it’s not good that any student sexual encounter can blow up into a federal case, putting a big dark cloud over sex. Reminds me of southern blacks in Jim Crow days – subject to lynching if a girl cries “rape.”

It’s doubtful all this serves girls either. College adjudicators may be less keen on protecting them than on protecting the institution. A girl suffering a real sexual assault should go to the police. Otherwise it falls under the heading, “human relations.”

To me, the current climate, with differing rules applicable to males versus females, is ironically the antithesis of sexual equality and a woman-empowering feminism – its assumption seems to be that women are just helpless victims without personal agency.

Let Women Go Topless in Public?

August 14, 2014

UnknownI recently wrote (disparagingly) about Muslim craziness with covering up women. Shortly after, I heard a radio discussion about public breast-feeding and, more generally, laws against “indecent exposure.” Some callers (all female) decried the “sexualizing” of women’s breasts, and argued that if men can go topless in public, so should women.

I consider myself a feminist. But some feminists seem to say women are not only equal to men, but the same as men. Thus they pilloried Harvard’s Lawrence Summers in 2005 for suggesting women’s under-representation in science and engineering might be partly due to innate brain differences. (Yet feminists celebrated a 1986 book, Women’s Ways of Knowing, that did argue women’s brains work differently. I guess it’s feminist when women say it but anti-feminist when men do.)

imagesSo now some women say their nipples are no different from men’s. Well, of course they are different. I’ve never been able to get milk from mine (and believe me, I’ve tried).

But seriously: is “sexualizing” women’s breasts wrong? True, their headline function is feeding babies. But because breasts are thusly associated with female fecundity, evolution has made men sexually attracted to them. It’s a handy visual cue. This is why breasts are positioned front and center. Men whose genetic makeup attracts them to mate with persons having noticeable breasts would tend to leave more (and healthier) offspring than men indifferent to breasts (who might mate with the wrong thing altogether). Hence genes favoring breast attraction have spread.*

images-1Because this is biologically wired in, men can’t just be told to stop “sexualizing” breasts – any more than women can be dissuaded from attraction to cute guys (see illustration above); or gays from attraction to the same gender. People are sexually attracted to what they are attracted to. It’s what we call a “fact of life.”

Furthermore, in addition to their child-feeding role, during a small part of a woman’s life, breasts do have a sexual function too, for a much longer time – breasts are highly erogenous – for women themselves. (I speak from happy experience on this.)

Unknown-1Those female radio callers saying (in effect), “Stop being attracted to my breasts!” – what were they thinking? Most of us (and this is again programmed by nature) want to be attractive to potential sex partners, however we can. Women whose breasts attract men should be glad. Next we’ll hear men shouldn’t be attracted to their butts, their legs, their hair, their eyes, their lips. Maybe we should only be attracted to their personalities. When pigs fly.

Yet these same women are the ones saying they should be allowed to go topless in public. Hey – if you object to men “sexualizing” your breasts, maybe going topless is the last thing you’d want to do.

images-2But actually, as a libertarian, I’m all for permitting bare breasts. Nothing should be outlawed absent real harm to others. Many Muslims see harm if any female skin or hair is visible because men supposedly can’t handle it. That’s insulting to men and obviously nonsense. Nearly naked women on beaches (commonly topless in Europe) don’t unhinge men. Exposing a little more flesh won’t bring down civilization. It might even make us clean our glasses better.

*But humans are complicated; acculturation is a factor too; and bigger is not always better.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Female Genital Mutilation and Islam (WARNING: Graphic content)

July 15, 2014

UnknownAyaan Hirsi Ali’s beautiful and inspiring memoir is titled Infidel. Born in Somalia, she escaped to the Netherlands from an arranged marriage; became a member of parliament; worked with Theo Van Gogh on a film critical of Islam; he was murdered by a Muslim fanatic; and she wound up in America, at a think tank. Along the way she freed herself from religion.

Hirsi Ali had lived in Kenya and Saudi Arabia as well as Somalia, her father usually absent on revolutionary organizing. As a young woman she tried to be the perfect Muslim. But the Koran’s fulsome verbiage about Allah’s justness jarred with how unjustly she saw women treated.

This is heart-rendingly portrayed in the unhappy saga of Hirsi Ali’s mother. But she was almost fortunate to have an absent husband, because domestic tyranny and wife beating is the norm to which Muslim men are acculturated. The picture contrasted harshly with my own loving marriage.

Unknown-1The twisted Muslim mentality about male-female relations is epitomized by the cover-up fetish. Hirsi Ali’s culture insisted that glimpsing female skin or hair* would make men crazy – so she was astonished that in the West, bare limbs hardly rate a glance, and men don’t lose it even on beaches with practically naked women. images-1To my eyes such scenery provides a pleasurable frisson but nothing more, thus it’s wholly innocent. In Muslim societies there is no innocence; the men seem unhinged by the very concept of feminine sexuality.

Female genital mutilation is widely practiced, mainly in Muslim Africa and the Middle East. It’s been done to an estimated 125 million women. Muslim immigrants bring it to their new countries. It was endemic in Hirsi Ali’s Somalia. “Circumcision” is a euphemism; it’s in no way analogous to the procedure for males, which normally has notable benefits and no real downsides. For girls it is an atrocity of sexual mutilation.images-2

I first learned of it long ago from a big New York Times feature, which puzzled me because it gave no clue why this is done. In fact, it’s to curb infidelity by preventing females from enjoying sex.

Muslims are obsessed with female “purity” and in genital mutilation this goes to an extreme. Not even virginity is enough; an uncut girl is not considered pure. (“Pure from what?” a Western friend once asked Hirsi Ali, unsettling her.)

Use your imagination

Use your imagination

Infidel graphically describes Hirsi Ali’s own mutilation at age eight: cutting out the clitoris and labia, usually without preparation or anaesthetic – obviously exceedingly painful and traumatic. The wound is sewn up, so scar tissue forms to largely close the vaginal opening.** Lifelong pain and complications are common. The death rate is significant.

Hirsi Ali says that “excision” doesn’t even actually keep girls from wanting sex. In her own case, reading novels – specially Harlequin romances! – revved up her hormones, and she fell in love and into a quickie quasi-legal marriage with a cousin. She lusted for him – but the wedding night was a grotesque disappointment.

What I never realized until reading her book is that for sex the man must tear through the scar tissue sealing the opening, and not only is this of course agony for the girl (it took her weeks to recover), it’s really hard work for him (often an extended process, even requiring a knife). imagesCan’t be much fun for men either. Maybe the frustration helps explain all the wife beating and other “Muslim rage.”

We constantly hear the words “sick society” applied to ours. While multiculturalists say one society’s practices aren’t better or worse, just different. And I’ve reviewed here a book that used “the Muslim question” as a pretext to focus on supposed “oppression” of women in America and the West.

Hirsi Ali is clear-sighted about what garbage that all is. It was a joy to read of her culture shock upon arrival in the West, which she’d been taught all her life to despise. While many Muslim immigrants do sustain that attitude, not Hirsi Ali.*** One of her first encounters was with a policeman – helpful, not predatory. Unknown-2That blew her mind. She grasped immediately that here is a society that works – far better, in enabling human happiness and flourishing, than any of the Muslim ones she’d known. Especially for women.

Hirsi Ali wanted to understand the root of this difference. She came to trace Muslim dysfunctionality to Islam itself – the very word means “submission,” denoting a master-slave relationship with God. A religion of fatalism. And assuredly not one of peace – the Koran incites a culture of sacralized violence. Genital mutilation fits right in, but Muslim societies are more violent in numerous other ways. Whereas the West had managed to confine its soldiers of faith to their barracks, Islam has not. Nor has there been a Muslim equivalent of the West’s Enlightenment. images-6“We had been hiding from reason for so long because we were incapable of facing the need to integrate it into our beliefs,” she writes. “And this was not working; it was leading to hideous pain and monstrous behavior.”

Our society, where men and women can relate to one another as free and equal human beings, is virtuous. A society that tyrannizes, brutalizes women – one that cuts out their genitals – is vile.

* BTW, I’ve read the Koran, and it merely tells women to dress modestly, that’s all.

** Hirsi Ali relates accompanying another Somali girl to a Dutch gynecologist who recoiled in horror at the sight.

*** Muslims were inundating the Netherlands, whose values of freedom and tolerance empowered those immigrants to undermine those very values. Defending those Western values against the multi-culti onslaught was what brought Hirsi Ali to prominence.

Weiner, Spitzer, and Other Shameful Characters

July 30, 2013

OK, so I can’t pass up this topic.

For my extraterrestrial readers, Eliot Spitzer, former governor who resigned in a prostitution scandal, and Anthony Weiner, former congressman who resigned in a sexting scandal, are now running for New York City comptroller and mayor respectively. (And Vito Lopez, finally forced to resign as state assemblyman for serial sexual harassments, is running for city council.)

Weiner's weiner

Weiner’s weiner

And now it comes out that the married Weiner (a/k/a Carlos Danger) engaged in even more and even dirtier stuff with even more women, since his resignation. (Alas, Spitzer may now seem almost clean by comparison.)

I never liked any of them. Spitzer and Weiner were both “progressive” blowhards. Spitzer was acclaimed as the “Sheriff of Wall Street;” I thought him a bully who abused his position and the law to curry popular favor shaking down unpopular targets. His governorship was a disaster even before the sex thing because he foolishly continued to act the bully. Weiner was no legislator, just a self-promoting publicity hound.

Neither man’s prior accomplishments merited the “redemption” implicitly sought by their new campaigns. Neither did anything to earn restored trust. In Spitzer’s case, his failed governorship was followed by a failed stint as a political pundit. In Weiner’s, nothing except his (ahem) naked ambition.

And speaking of political pundits, Dr. Alan Chartock, head of WAMC, the local National Public Radio station, has been on the air relentlessly insisting (with typical insults toward contrary opinions, e.g. by Rex Smith, Albany Times-Union editor) that calls for Weiner to quit the race are wrong, and voters should decide. That’s almost as loopy as Weiner’s behavior itself.

San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego Union-Tribune

True, he has a right to run, and voters a right to back him. But Anthony Weiner is one very sick puppy, whose conduct shows deranged detachment from reality. “Let voters decide” makes no sense; entrusting high office to such a man is out of the question, and his quitting would not somehow wrongfully deny voters an opportunity to elect him.

And speaking of detachment from reality, Chartock also says Weiner’s quitting would destroy his political future. What political future? While Chartock cites Weiner’s leading the polls – with twenty-something percent in a fractured field – that predated the latest blow-up. Any fool would know Weiner is finished. (A new poll shows him running fourth.)

Furthermore, in criticizing newspaper calls for Weiner to quit, Chartock implicitly impugns the whole idea of editorializing. As the ever polite Rex Smith patiently observed, it would mean newspapers never endorsing candidates – just “let voters decide.”

images-2Chartock denies this, insisting his point is rather that the media has been too eager – or is too infuriated by Weiner’s disobedience – or something. But no matter how it’s parsed, it amounts to saying the media has no business saying what it’s saying.

Surely newspapers have a right to weigh in on such matters. Just as Chartock himself has the right to state his opinion.* But such a bizarre, nonsensical opinion shreds his credibility as a political pundit (professor emeritus of political science though he may be). He too should quit.

*However (as I’ve said before), Chartock’s blatant on-air partisanship is indefensible for a radio station receiving public money through both direct grants and tax deductibility of contributions.

“Ask” — A Very Personal Story

April 3, 2013

There’s a radio show called “The Moth” where people get up and tell stories, often highly personal and self-revelatory. I’ve wondered what story I might tell. Well, here’s one.

When I was a kid, I was sick a lot, and small and shy, and skipped some years of school making me younger than my peers, all of which retarded my social development. I must have been the youngest in my law school class, and still lived at home. I had little interaction with anyone, let alone with girls – unthinkable for me while under parental scrutiny. My hormones were normal, but I just repressed it.

UnknownIn 1970, almost 23, I became a lawyer and moved away, and finally felt free to pursue women. It was akin to a new toy when I discovered I could get dates on the slenderest of pretexts. Like a supermarket check-out girl: “Hey, I’ve seen you in the cafeteria,” I said. “Wanna go out?” She did. Quite attractive and intellectual too.

So I dated a lot. But building a relationship was a different matter. How a couple reaches a concordance to have sex was a mystery to this still inhibited and somewhat clueless fellow. I wanted more, a real intimacy (especially because I still didn’t actually have friends), but it seemed elusive.

Active in politics, it was at a 1971 political meeting that I first met “Jane McCall.” School board candidate, wife of “John” (my ward leader, a charismatic man with a romantic Scottish burr), mother of two, Jane was thirty, petite, honey-colored, lovely, articulate, vivacious, enthralling. I suddenly saw everything I desired in a woman. On the spot, I all but fell in love with her.

Edvard Much: "Despair"

Edvard Munch: “Despair”

I walked home with a leaden ball of despair in my heart. Of course Jane was unattainable; that was a given; but how could I ever hope for one like her? Jane McCall made all the girls I’d been chasing seem trivial, third-rate, a waste of time. It wasn’t that Jane herself was out of reach; the ideal she represented felt unattainable.

Years went by; further Jane McCall encounters only intensified the feeling. Meanwhile, with the girls I dated, sometimes a relationship might seem to be developing, but it never panned out. I would see romantic couples everywhere, and yearn for what they had.

In 1974 there was “Rosemary Ryan.” A tall, long-haired, slender sylph, warm, funny, gentle, smart. After our first date, her reaction was an enthusiastic, “Wow!” I could hardly believe this; virtually Jane McCall caliber. We dated for a while, it was lovely, we seemed like soulmates, and of course I ached to take it to the next level. But she confided that she was having an affair with a guy she couldn’t even talk to, who only wanted her for sex. She even took me to a party where I met him. What fun. In the end, Rosemary avowed, weeping copious tears, that she and I could never be lovers. Her last words to me: “You haven’t suffered enough.” Well, maybe; but I thought I was suffering plenty right then.

imagesA vicious cycle was operating. The more I wasn’t having sex, the more intimidating it seemed. In hindsight, some girls I dated might have been seducible, but I was too timorous. I felt myself sexually handicapped. I wasn’t bad looking, but rather short, and realized this was a deal-breaker for many women (including, finally, Rosemary). But it seemed there was more to it. I came to feel like a sort of untouchable, wearing sign on my back reading, “Don’t have sex with this man.” Or maybe even, “This is not a man.”

I had dated a fellow lawyer during stints at hearings in New York City. In my usual timid pattern, I had tried to get romantic – up to a point – but when “Karen” failed to say, “take my clothes off,” I would desist and say goodnight. But, unusually in this case, after the relationship fizzled, I continued to see her occasionally as a friend. Following the Rosemary Ryan debacle, I opened up to Karen about my problem. And she explained to me The Facts of Life. How a woman has sexual desires too, but may be shy and inhibited, waiting, even hoping, for the man to be the initiator, and probably wouldn’t slap him. Karen’s sage advice came down to one word: just “ask.”*images-1

This sounded like a good plan, and I resolved to try it at the earliest opportunity.

Soon after, an acquaintance told me his wife had left him. I assured him how sorry I was to hear this terrible news. Then I ran to the phone and asked her out. She, after pondering for some minutes, said yes.

Following dinner, we went to my tiny one room apartment on some vague pretext of playing chess. images-2Sitting on the bed, she said, “Well, what now?”

Taking a deep breath, I replied, “We could play chess, or . . . go to bed.”

Good God, I had said it.

Her hand rose to my cheek, but not to slap it. I’ll never forget the look in her eyes – an uprush of hunger.

In that instant my life was transformed; from black-and-white to Technicolor.  And this was not just any woman. This was Jane McCall caliber.

In fact, it was Jane McCall.

Unknown-1It’s so ironic. I’d dated a parade of girls, some second rate, or third rate, some borderline sluts, and not with any of them had I been brash enough to just “ask.” Now here is Jane McCall, the one woman I’d worshipped, on a pedestal, for years, the unreachable dream incarnate, and the first moment I’m alone with her, almost vulgarly, I just “ask.” And she leaps into my arms.

My romance with Jane did not last long. A callow lover, I myself was not Jane McCall caliber. Even naked in my arms she was still a fantasy for me. And losing her didn’t even hurt, because afterward I was a different man. No longer was I the man with the sign on his back. Now I was The Man Who’d Slept With Jane McCall.

Another irony is that never again would I “just ask” – at least not so crudely. In 1975 I met a girl with whom I spent twelve years. It was a troubled relationship, and she finally left me. Within another year, I found Therese, and we’ve been happily married for almost a quarter century. In relation to all those I’d ever pursued, Therese is absolutely the finest of the lot. And I’m more in love with her now than ever; still constantly viewing our marriage through the lens of my history four decades past. It’s this story that brought me, by a long tortuous path, to Therese; and this story that makes our love so powerful for me.

* “Ask” became a chapter heading in my autobiographical memoir. Years later I read physicist Richard Feynman’s, and was amused to see a similar chapter heading: “You just ask them.” (His answer, too, for bedding women.)