Festival of the Iron Penis
Japanese City Celebrates the Gods of Sexual Health
A study released this week found that Fox News watchers changed their views of current events and the network after just three paid days of watching CNN and more so after a month.
Researchers set up an experiment during September 2020, which our foggy brains may remember as the height of both the pre-vaccine pandemic and the presidential election. They recruited 763 Fox viewers, most of whom described themselves as conservative Republicans, and randomly assigned 40% of participants to the treatment group. (Yes, that’s what they called it.) These participants were paid $15 an hour to watch 7 hours of CNN each week preferably at the times they would normally watch Fox.
During that month, CNN told viewers that COVID-19 was a big deal while Fox told them not to worry or wear masks. CNN suggested vote-by-mail would be a good thing in the upcoming election while Fox told viewers it would lead to widespread fraud. In addition, the two networks said very different things about police shootings and protests for racial justice.
Researchers repeatedly quizzed participants about the facts and surveyed them about their attitudes and beliefs. Detox began after just three days when those in the treatment group already had more factual information about the pandemic and more accurate views of the presidential candidates’ positions. Differences in knowledge and attitudes continued over the month with treatment group participants losing faith in Trump, Republicans, and even Fox News itself. (Many agreed that if Trump made a mistake, the network wouldn’t cover it.)
Before we get too excited, the effects wore off once viewers went back to their previously scheduled media diet. Still, there’s lots to learn here. The researchers believe their findings contradict the theory that people simply choose to watch news that supports views they already have. On the scary side, this means that partisan media is telling people what to care about. At the same time, it means if you can reach people, you can sway them, and you don’t even need a cornfield to do it.
Hopefully, Democratic operatives have time to work these results into their midterm election strategies. (They do have midterm election strategies, right?) In the meantime, though, I think we could have a little fun with this. Worried that your MAGA uncle might start a fight over vaccines at Easter Dinner? Pay him to watch CNN all day on Good Friday. Rattled by the Uber driver who truly believes that Hunter Biden started the war in Ukraine? Offer double the tip and a 5 star rating if she listens to nothing but NPR for the next two days. Tired of hearing your officemate talk about the election steal? Pay him to sit through one week of The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. (Okay, that might be too much, too soon, maybe just do the Daily Show with Trevor Noah.)
Sex on Wednesday is going to stay free, but now I’m wondering if I should institute some sort of reverse paid subscription plan for Fox viewers. How much would I have to pay to get them to realize that’s not how it f**king works?
(Just a note: Next week is Spring Break for my kids, so I’m going to take the week off. See you after Tax Day.)
Unintended Pregnancies=Unsafe Abortions Worldwide, but U.S. Lawmakers Keep Trying to Make Things Worse Here
This week as state legislatures from Missouri to Colorado worked to further restrict abortion in the U.S., the United Nations Population Fund offered some disturbing statistics about pregnancy worldwide. In its State of World Population Report 2022, the organization explained that nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended, over 60% of unintended pregnancies end in abortion, and an estimated 45% of abortions are unsafe. The report further says that between 5% and 13% of maternal deaths each year are from unsafe abortions.
The report also estimates that there are 257 million women globally who want to avoid pregnancy but are not using safe and modern methods of contraception. In fact, it is estimated that in 47 countries about 40% of sexually active women were not using any contraceptive method at all. In addition, data from 64 countries suggests that 23% of women of reproductive age were unable to say no to sex, 24% were unable to make decisions about their health care, and 8% were unable to make decisions about contraception. The authors write: “Together, this means that only 57% of women are able to make their own decisions over their sexual and reproductive rights.”
It’s always seemed obvious that the way to stop abortion is to prevent unintended pregnancy, but politically that’s never been as much fun as trying to restrict access to abortion. While the UN says this report should serve as a wakeup call around the world, the U.S. is continuing to slip backwards. This week alone saw the Oklahoma legislature pass a law making all abortions punishable by fines and jail time, Missouri lawmakers flirt with (though ultimately abandon) an amendment that would have prevented abortion in the case of an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that starts outside the uterus which has no chance of becoming a baby but could kill the person carrying it), and old interviews surface in which a GOP candidate in Colorado explained that every abortion is “fuel for the demonic, because it is the sacrifice of a child at the altar of Baal.” (For fellow heathens, this is apparently a reference to the old testament when God orders Gideon to take down an alter full of false idols.)
Imagine what we could accomplish if we instead expended all of this political energy on making sure that everyone who wanted to avoid pregnancy had the contraceptive tools to do so.
Penis Festival and The Gods of Sexual Health
The Penis Festival began last weekend at the Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki, Japan. The annual event is actually called The Kanamara Matsuri, which roughly translates to the “Festival of the Steel Phallus,” and celebrates Shinto god Kanayamahiko and goddess Kanayamahime. The pair were originally gods of metal but legend has it that they healed the goddess Izanami after her lower body was injured giving birth to a fire god. When word got out, people began looking to them to heal sexually transmitted infections (STIs), bless them with fertility, make childbirth safe, and even bestow a happy marriage. Essentially, they became gods of sexual health.
The legend most associated with the festival, however, is one of a woman plagued by a sharp-tooth demon in her vagina that bit off the penises of her first two husbands. A local blacksmith helped her by creating an iron phallus designed to break the demon’s teeth. (One doesn’t see many sex toys made from iron these days.) Since then, an iron penis has been mounted in front of the Kanayama Shrine.
Since the 1600s, the shrine has been visited by sex workers who wanted protection from STIs and others asking for overall sexual health and fertility. The festival itself began several hundred years ago to ask the gods to “ensure the prosperity of the local sex industry and purify its inns and teahouses.”
A more modern version started in 1969 as a way to allow people to honor the shrine and pray for sexual health without fear of stigma. It became increasingly popular in the 1980s as the HIV/AIDS epidemic raised sexual health fears. Its popularity—especially with tourists—grew even more in recent years when pictures of the penis-inspired art, hats, puppets, and food (think carved daikon radishes) circulated on social media.
The event kicks off on the first Sunday in April with a parade of portable shrines. Hitachi, makers of the classic sex toy the Magic Wand, has donated one of the shrines—a black iron phallus mounted on a boat. Another is a giant pink penis on a wooden base that is carried in the parade by men dressed as women and women dressed as men. Not surprisingly, it was donated by a Tokyo-based crossdressing club. The oldest portable shrine is basically house for a penis—a wooden phallus mounted on a square base with a roof. (Photo credit to Shoku of Tofugu.com.)
After the parade, Shinto priests throw rice cakes they have blessed into the crowd. Catching one is said to be a blessing of fertility. Proceeds from the festival are donated to HIV/AIDS research.
Clearly we need to arrange a field trip for next year.