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"'Grey' exposes why obscenity laws should be repealed"

on Friday, 20 February 2015. Hits 315

OC Register

BY ERWIN CHEMERINSKY

The phenomenal success of “Fifty Shades of Grey” – as a book and now as a movie – should provide the impetus to finally repeal federal and state laws that prohibit obscene material. It is long overdue for the Supreme Court to reverse its decisions holding that obscenity is unprotected speech.

 

There is no doubt that, through much of American history, those who published and sold “Fifty Shades of Grey” would have faced obscenity prosecutions. The many sexually explicit passages in the books (which I have read) are far more graphic than those in works by D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce and Henry Miller that were the basis of successful obscenity prosecutions. The movie (which I have not yet seen) is R-rated and, inevitably, less explicit than the books, but still would not have been allowed through much of the 20th century.

 

Attitudes toward depictions of sex obviously have changed since the 1950s and 1960s, when television and movies had married couples shown sleeping in twin beds. The “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy has sold an astounding 100 million copies, and the movie had a record-setting opening weekend of over $90 million.

 

Federal law continues to prohibit the interstate shipment of obscene materials, and from time to time, especially when there are Republican presidents and attorneys general, there are obscenity prosecutions. For example, in 2005, the George W. Bush administration created the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, which launched a number of prosecutions. During the Reagan administration, the Meese Commission on pornography urged aggressive enforcement of anti-obscenity laws, and many prosecutions resulted. Virtually every state has a law prohibiting obscenity and these, too, continue to be enforced sometimes.

 

In 1957, in Roth v. United States, the Supreme Court held that obscenity is speech that is not protected by the First Amendment, and thus its sale and distribution can be constitutionally punished. Roth never has been overturned and was subsequently reaffirmed by the Supreme Court.

 

Roth was wrong for many reasons. First, there is no evidence that obscene material causes any social harms. Many studies have been done by social psychologists, and, while some suggest a correlation between exposure to violent material and anti-social behavior, none indicates that exposure to sexually explicit material causes harms.

 

Violence, though, is speech fully protected by the First Amendment.

 

Second, it is impossible to define “obscenity.” In Roth, the court said that obscenity is material that appeals to the “prurient interest.” According to the dictionary, “prurient” means arousing lustful or lascivious thoughts. “Fifty Shades of Grey” does this, but so do writings and films that are far less sexually explicit.

 

Perhaps the most famous admission of an inability to define obscenity was when Justice Potter Stewart declared that he could not definite obscenity, “but I know it when I see it.” ...

 

International Media Update: "Sex Toys Craze Sweeps Russian City After Release of '50 Shades of Grey'"

on Friday, 20 February 2015. Hits 281

The Moscow Times

Residents of the Urals city of Yekaterinburg have flocked to local sex stores to stock up on whips, handcuffs and other S&M toys following the release of the erotic film "50 Shades of Grey," a news report said Thursday.

 

The U.S. film, which follows the foray of an innocent young female student into the thrilling and sometimes painful world of kinky sex, has prompted a spike in demand for accessories such as silk ribbons for binding and bondage ropes since it was released in Russia on Feb. 12, according to the local news site Ura.ru.

 

"It's usually very rare that we see any demand for BDSM [bondage, discipline and sadomasochism] goods," Dmitry Shchepin, commercial director of the company Casanova 69, which sells erotic toys, told Ura.ru.

 

"People usually come in and ask the sales assistants to show them an assortment and tell them about it. The showing of the film '50 Shades of Gray' has given rise to a palpable surge for that kind of [BDSM] product, and now people have started to come here specifically for that," Shchepin was cited as saying.

 

"They come in couples, though the greatest influx has been women," he added.

 

Some movie theaters in Russia have refused to screen the film, based on the book of the same name, over its sexual content. ...

"A Parent’s Survival Guide To ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’"

on Thursday, 19 February 2015. Hits 445

The Federalist

By Stella Morabito

Sexual violence against women has never been so mainstreamed as it is now with the hype surrounding the film release of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” based on the bestseller by E. L. James. The publicity campaign is saturating the public square, exposing youth to its hard sell of bondage, domination, and sadomasochism (BDSM). Vacuous celebrities like Kim Kardashian are fawning over its tale of a rich and attractive guy who stalks and targets a vulnerable young woman to be his “submissive.”

 

No doubt hoping to capitalize on the money bonanza, the Vermont Teddy Bear company advertised a “Fifty Shades of Grey” bear for a Valentine’s Day gift. The stuffed animal wears a grey suit and holds a mask and handcuffs. Yeah, cute. Meanwhile, “bondage” and “leather cuffs” were among the tamer words for kids to find in word search puzzles passed out in class to some middle-schoolers in Monessen, Pennsylvania recently.

 

The “Fifty Shades” feeding frenzy is in your face. Go to the grocery store, and you’ll likely see a display stand of paperbacks. Go to a Target store and you can see “Fifty Shades” paraphernalia along open aisles. This, of course, is great news for the BDSM lobby. Its main advocacy group, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, considers the movie its “Stonewall moment” as well as an opportunity to launch a membership drive.

 

But what if you’re a parent concerned about the fallout of the “Fifty Shades” on your children’s health and relationships? You have a friend in Dr. Miriam Grossman, author of “Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student.” She’s a pediatric and adolescent psychiatrist who tracks and analyzes cultural infections like the “Fifty Shades” phenomenon.

 

How to Talk to Your Child about Sado-Masochism

Grossman posted an open letter to youth as well as five installments of A Parent’s Survival Guide to Fifty Shades of Grey on her blog because, in her words, “‘Fifty Shades’ is so extreme, so over the top.”

 

It presents not only the duty to talk to your children about intimacy but the perfect opportunity to discuss a difficult subject like BDSM the next time you see an ad or reference. She appeals: “Moms and dads, guardians and grandparents, I urge you: no matter how awkward it is, you must speak to your children about intimacy – what it is, and what it is not. I’m talking not only about teens, but also tweens who are mature, or who hang out with teens.”

 

I’d only add: Damn any teen eye-rolling! Full speed ahead!

 

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Teaches that Humiliation Is Erotic

Grossman begins by noting that in her decades of counseling teens and young adults, their number one problem is figuring out romance. They are “utterly lost,” and ask questions like: “What do I want, and how do I get it? How do I deal with peer pressure and navigate the hook-up culture? Are there consequences to sex, or is it just about fun? What’s normal? What’s not?”

 

Fifty Shades of Grey teaches your daughter that pain and humiliation are erotic, and your son, that girls want a guy who controls, intimidates and threatens. In short, the film portrays emotional and physical abuse as sexually arousing to both parties. ...

"WATCH: Hate Group's Hometown Loves Fifty Shades of Grey"

on Wednesday, 18 February 2015. Hits 293

Rachel Maddow notes the irony that the film is the hottest ticket in Tupelo, Miss., home base of the virulently antigay American Family Association.

The Advocate

by DAWN ENNIS

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC's self-described “liberal TV lady,” could barely contain her glee in sharing the news with her cable TV viewers that Tupelo, Miss., home to the virulently antigay American Family Association, is also the epicenter of Fifty Shades of Grey movie fandom.

 

“Mississippi: the most eager state in the country to see Fifty Shades of Grey!” Maddow declared on her Thursday show, reading headlines from two of the state's newspapers, Jackson's Clarion-Ledger  and Tupelo's Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

 

“Nowhere in the country are people so hot to see this movie as the people of Mississippi!” Maddow said, displaying a bar graph from Fandango and The Washington Post, which showed Mississippi theaters with at least double the rate of advance ticket sales compared with Alabama, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Carolina, Iowa, and Tennessee.

 

Theaters in Arkansas, West Virginia, and Kentucky had greater sales than other Bible Belt states, but they couldn't beat Mississippi, which sold nearly four times its average for advance tickets.

 

And, Maddow noted, Tupelo is the first city in the nation to sell out screenings of Fifty Shades of Grey. ...

Stalled by UUA, Leather & Grace Seeks Mediation

on Tuesday, 17 February 2015. Hits 432

NCSF has supported our Coalition Partner, Leather & Grace, as they have worked to gain greater tolerance for kinky members and staff of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Unitarian Universalists have a long history of courage in tackling issues around human sexuality, yet the UUA's current leadership has not responded well to Leather & Grace's concerns.

 

"Communication with the UUA has been a struggle since Leather & Grace got off the ground in 2011," reports L&G's Moderator, Desmond Ravenstone. "The litany of issues basically comes down to our perceiving a lack of clarity, responsiveness and credibility on the part of the Association’s leadership and their designated liaison."

 

In response, L&G's leadership has selected an outside intermediary, for the purpose of helping negotiate a covenant of right relationship with the Association.

 

"The UUA appoints Right Relationship Teams at its annual General Assembly, to deal with issues of conflict and miscommunication," Ravenstone explained. "Based on that model, we recommended that someone be appointed to serve a similar function in our case. But that was rejected, and the bulk of the problems faced by kink-identified UUs still remain. So we’ve taken it upon ourselves to find someone willing to fulfill this task, and to ask the UUA’s leadership to respect our wishes that any further communication be channeled to that intermediary."

 

Many difficulties stem from the refusal of their designated liaison to communicate L&G's questions and suggestions to various UUA departments, compounded by non-committal and evasive answers from UUA leaders to a number of questions. Issues reported by kinky UUA staff, for example, took two years to be resolved. Meanwhile, L&G has repeatedly pointed out a major problem with the criteria for recognizing "related organizations," which the UUA's senior administrators have failed to address.

 

"We will continue our mission of educating and building greater awareness among all UUs," Ravenstone affirmed. "But our experience with the UUA's current administration has led to a serious erosion of trust, and it will take sincere effort to repair this breach. We believe the intermediary we've found will be able to help. It's now up to the UUA to take the next step."

"Scientists Have Discovered How Common Different Sexual Fantasies Are"

on Tuesday, 17 February 2015. Hits 303

The Business Insider

by JESSICA ORWIG

We all have at least one, and most of us have many: Sexual fantasies. In fact, it's normal, and even healthy, to have sexual fantasies.

 

What might not be normal is the type of sexual fantasy you're daydreaming over. A new study is helping shed light on which sexual fantasies are prevalent and which are unusual and rare.

 

Until recently, scientists had limited data on what constituted a normal sexual fantasy versus an unusual one, and most surveys that had explored this sensitive territory had surveyed only university students. But a big new data set has changed that.

 

To find out once and for all what the general population thinks about, a team of scientists at the University of Montreal in Quebec, Canada, straight up asked 1,517 adults residing in Quebec about their sexual fantasies. They published their findings on Friday in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

 

"Clinically, we know what pathological sexual fantasies are: they involve non-consenting partners, they include pain, or they are absolutely necessary in deriving satisfaction," lead author Christian Joyal said in a statement released by the university. "But apart from that, what exactly are abnormal or atypical fantasies?"

 

The team conducted an internet survey with 799 women and 717 men, where the mean age of the subjects was 30 years. Of the sample, 85.1% said they were heterosexual, 3.6% said they were definitely homosexual, and the rest were in between.

 

The survey involved 55 statements that probed the nature and intensity of the subject's sexual fantasies. The subjects rated each statement on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 meaning they had experienced a very intense fantasy about what was described in the statement and 1 meaning they had not felt any intensity at all for that fantasy. ...

"Therapy, ‘50 Shades of Grey’ Style"

on Tuesday, 17 February 2015. Hits 369

OZY

BY NATHAN SIEGEL

You go to a therapist. You dump all your neuroses out. The therapist prescribes antidepressants against your will, tries to get your children taken away from you and reaches for the phone to call the cops.

 

Probably not what you bargained for. But it’s just one of the stories Charley Ferrer has heard from a client who told a past therapist she loved being whipped. Ferrer is a sex therapist and psychologist who specializes in clients who prefer so-called kinky sex, which essentially means unconventional sex practices. Ferrer’s particular focus is on people who engage in BDSM, or bondage/discipline, domination/submission, sadomasochism — think whips, blindfolds, paddles, cuffs and more. “It’s my job to help people accept themselves,” says Ferrer.

 

Turns out, a huge chunk of the population is kinky. A 2005 Durex survey reported that 36 percent of Americans used masks, blindfolds or bondage during sex, and the more than 3 million users on Fetlife.com, a social network for kinky people, is a good indicator of how widespread kink is. What’s more, observers have seen an uptick in both therapists and clients — Ferrer’s have tripled in a few years.

 

But therapists with kink know-how are hard to come by — there are only 1,500 listed in the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom’s Kink-Aware Professional Directory — meaning millions are underserved. And those who practice it say this community in particular needs access to therapy: Stigma is still widespread, and past traumas can emerge during BDSM sex. Ferrer recalls clients breaking down when a suppressed experience came rushing back after a flogging session. The trauma could be the result of child/domestic abuse or even something seemingly unrelated. Other times, therapists have to help clients whose fetish is taking over their lives moderate their extracurricular activities. Plus, the overall social stigma can cause people to second-guess what they find attractive and develop anxiety or depression, says Dr. Randy Carrin, a Connecticut-based clinical psychologist. ...

 

As the community steps out of the shadows, “an explosion” of Ferrer-types will soon come around, predicts Susan Wright, founder of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom , an advocacy group for alternative-sex practitioners. Indeed, post-Fifty Shades of Grey,  the public conception of whips and cuffs is changing: Until 2013, the American Psychological Association considered people mentally ill if they fantasized about or were voluntarily “humiliated, beaten, bound or otherwise made to suffer.” The new definitions undid that, opening the door for more Ferrers to abound. But the APA says it has no “official recommendations” on how treatment for kinky people should change.

 

We’ll see how many more clients step through Ferrer’s door now that Fifty Shades has hit theaters.

"Beyond 50 Shades Of Grey: Are Kink And BDSM Following In The Footsteps Of The LGBTQ Movement?"

on Monday, 16 February 2015. Hits 494

Collectivity

by Lindsay Schrupp

I watched 50 Shades of Grey last night, and all I could think about through that long, sloppy, and ultimately failed orgasm was Gigli.

Oh, you remember Gigli. How could anyone forget Ben Affleck as a disgruntled hornball in a leather jacket who holds hostage and verbally abuses a differently-abled man? Or Jennifer Lopez as the lesbian turned straight by Affleck? That one is seared into our collective memory forever.

Unsurprisingly, Gigli walked straight into a Sandlot-style smack-down of criticism following its release, including disapproval of its anachronistic plot device of 'curing' a gay person into becoming straight. People were like, "It's 2003! We know Mel Gibson just won a People's Choice Award so no one is going to look back on this year as a landmark time for progress, but… seriously?"

Fifty Shades of Grey, the erotic romance novel by E. L. James that originated as fan fiction for Twilight enthusiasts, is now bringing its Gigli-inspired non-conventional sex shaming bullshit back to the big screen. Just in time for V-Day.

Mr. Grey Just Up And Decided To See You Now

50 Shades tells the story of Laney Boggs from She's All That, err... I mean the young, white, ponytailed virgin known as Anastasia Steele (played by Dakota Johnson), who falls in love with the closeted BDSM practitioner, Christian Grey (played by Jamie Dornan). Christian has a 'damaged' past that leads him deep into the Conradian heart of kinky darkness with a Regis Philbin haircut to boot. The story revolves around Anastasia's descent into Christian's kinky underworld, with her playing the Submissive and Christian as the Dominant. Throughout the film, Anastasia works ridiculously hard to 'cure' Christian of his interest in kink through a combination of dopey eyes, sad faces, and compelling arguments, like "can't you just not?"

Now, pretend you've never heard of 50 Shades for a moment. Journey deep, deep down into the recesses of your televised memory (if you hit Cool As Ice you've gone too far-- get outta there). Try to picture the last BDSM practitioner you've seen characterized on screen. It's probably not an Oscar-worthy moment.

"Kinky people are really discriminated against because of the misconceptions out there," said Susan Wright, spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), over the phone. "We were considered mentally ill. We had to fight that misconception."

NCSF has been leading the charge for years to dispel that myth that kinky people are mentally-ill or somehow damaged. "Millions of people do this," said Wright. "Some people are just wired to like intense sensation. Some people like extreme sports and some like extreme sex. Look at Christian Grey—he had a hard life, right? 50 Shades really repeats that tired old stereotype. But that's the romance novel trope; the wounded hero has to be saved."

50 Shades might be able to play the "romance novel trope" card to get away with advancing the denigrative stereotype that an interest in BDSM, kink or fetishes is derivative of childhood abuse or qualifies someone as mentally-ill, but really this misconception is much bigger than one giant ejaculation of box-office garbage. It speaks to a larger issue of oppression and vilification of non-normative sexual expression by larger social and political structures, including psychiatric and medical institutions, mainstream media and pop culture.

In a 2008 survey conducted by NCSF, 26 percent of nearly 3,000 kinky people reported being discriminated against because their SM, leather or kink fetish or perceived fetish. Six percent reported a loss of child custody, 20 percent reported a loss of job or contract, and an additional 13 percent reported a loss of promotion or demotion due to their sexual expression or a perception thereof. NCSF hit a landmark moment in 2010 when the American Psychiatric Association agreed to change the diagnostic codes for BDSM, fetishism, and transvestic fetishism in the revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for 2013. This pathology had real repercussions for kinky people--particularly when used in court battles over child custody.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should. NCSF is up against a battle that LGBT and queer activists have been fighting for decades. In fact, it wasn't until 1974 that the listing of homosexuality as a mental disorder was removed from the DSM-II, and only to be replaced by ego-dystonic homosexuality until its removal in 1987. ...

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