How Many Condoms Does It Take to Choke a Lizard?
And the Secret Society of Douchey GOP Governors has More Members
I’m writing this on my birthday, and I will say this has been an interesting trip around the sun. It’s hard to imagine that just one year ago today, Trump was still President and still insisting he’d won the election (okay, that part hasn’t changed); the vaccines had not been rolled out; school was all online; I hadn’t hugged my parents in almost nine months; and the only option for a birthday with friends was outside with masks and fire. That feels like a lifetime ago. I am grateful to science for giving us back some of the normalcy we lost and sad that politics has interfered so much. Even as someone who has been steeped in anti-vax rhetoric for over a decade, I did not expect this much resistance. On my last birthday, as we heard promising numbers from the Pfizer study, I had (naively?) hoped that the assurance of not dying a painful death from a highly contagious disease would be enough to get us near-universal vaccination rates. Still, in the last week I rode Amtrak, visited friends out of town, and even ate lunch inside a restaurant. (I would have hugged my parents yesterday, but one of the kids has a cold and we’re still being vigilant about germs.)
I also gave my first in person talk in almost two years—a live-action version of That’s Not How It F**king Works at Harvard Sex Week. We paid homage to the Patron Saint Todd Akin and talked about all of the ways that legislators have gotten sex wrong in recent years. You can read the writeup in the Harvard Crimson (the article originally got both my first and last name wrong but the managing editor has promised to change that).
Governor Greg Abbott, Protector of Children, Goes After Library Books
Governor Greg Abbott is launching an investigation into the availability of pornography in schools. Last week he asked the Texas Education Agency, the State Board of Education, and the state’s Library and Archives Commission to investigate whether students are being exposed to “pornography and other obscene content” in schools and create standards to prevent it moving forward. In a letter to his Commissioner of Education, Abbott said that more had to be done to protect students and wrote: “During this investigation, I ask the agency to refer any instance of pornography being provided to minors under the age of 18 for prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”
Though this letter does not define pornography, in other musings on the topic the Governor has referred to books that were recently removed from some Texas school libraries, including Gender Queer: a Memoir by Maia Kobabe and In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado.
Most high school students in Texas are walking around with access to PornHub, xTube, and Jerkmate in their pockets, but, sure, let’s worry about literature that depicts LGBTQ characters and might make some students feel understood for the first time.
Another Texas politician, State Rep. Matt Krause, who is running for Attorney General, sent a list of 850 books to superintendents across the state asking them to note which libraries have these books and how much money has been spent on them. In case his list—which focuses on race, sexuality, and gender identity—doesn’t cover everything ever written, he also asks administrators “… to identify any other books that address human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, or any material that ‘might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress’ because of their race or sex.” (Two weeks ago, I made it my career goal to write a book that would offend the Bennetts, now I want to write one that gets on Krause’s list. Oh, wait, I already have.)
Republicans’ fascination with what young people are reading these days is part of their wedge issue playbook. Drum up moral panic among middle class, white parents about the boogeyman of the day [communists teaching sex education, gays indoctrinating the next generation, trans people in public restrooms, liberal elites teaching critical race theory] and use their growing fear of change and irrelevance to get elected to increasingly more powerful offices from school board to Sherriff to governor.
Abbott’s crusade will likely not go very far in the courts. Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at PEN America, told the Dallas Morning News that the law Abbott cites has a very specific legal definition of “harmful to minors” which notes that the material in question has to be “utterly without redeeming value.” That standard will be hard to prove when it comes to literature. As Friedman put it: “From a legal perspective, this is just kind of hyperbole in the wind.”
But from a political perspective, it could be gold. Just ask the newest member of the Secret Society of Douchey GOP Governors, Virginia’s Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin. He won, in part, by picking a fight with the late author Toni Morrison and her award-winning novel Beloved.
If Governor Abbott were really worried about porn, he’d take on websites not library books. Of course, if he were really worried about the health of the children in his state, he wouldn’t have tried to ban mask mandates in school.
Please Don’t Have Sex on This Beach
I’ve always thought sex on the beach is better in theory than in practice. In fantasies there’s a pitch black sky with a bright moon and twinkling stars, warm breezes, and the relaxing sound of the ocean ebbing and flowing. In real life, there’s sand, sand, and more sand. Irritating sand in sensitive places.
Apparently, other people don’t see it like that. In fact, so many people are having sex on the beaches of the Canary Islands that researchers conducted a study to determine the ecological damage it is doing.
The Dunas de Maspalomas Special Nature Reserve is on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria. The dunes there have been legally protected since 1982 with parts completely off limits to people. Still, they see lots of activity and are known to be a good “cruising” spot, especially during the local Gay Pride festival.
In their paper, cleverly titled "Sand, Sun, Sea and Sex with Strangers, the 'five S's,” researchers identified and examined 298 “sex spots” over a two square mile area—56 of these spots are in areas that are supposed to be closed to people. Their investigation found that tourists have trampled on vegetation, removed sand, and left a whole lot of garbage, including but not limited to condoms, cigarettes, toilet paper, and cans. Even worse, they leave behind human waste. These conditions are bad for the dunes themselves and for the wildlife that live there, most notably the Gran Canaria lizards.
In a separate article, Patrick Hess, one of the study’s authors, says that lizards (plural) have choked to death on condoms (though he does not say exactly how many lizards or how many condoms to choke a lizard). Hess writes: “We're not calling for an end to public sex—but we do want people to be aware of the damage it can do." He adds that one couple having sex on the beach doesn’t do harm, but thousands can do as much damage as off-road vehicles.
Interestingly, he does not talk about sand in the vulva or the butt crack.