Friday, June 3, 2011

But - I Thought He Was a Virgin!

(The video above may be NSFW; don't play it with the sound on in front of your aged grandmother, anyway.)

This morning one of my Facebook friends, whose presence there mainly consists of linked news stories which generate a lot of comments, linked to some story about the Anthony Weiner scandal-in-waiting. Oh yeah, it was this one, and the commenters went ballistic over it, as they also did over this one, which was about John Edwards, but the commenters were obsessed with Weiner, even though it still isn't known whether the "crotch-shot" photos are of him, let alone that he sent them to anyone. The friend who posted the link wrote, "It's not the 'scandal' that's the problem, so much as the ducking and dodging of questions by Weiner. It makes him come off as a liar, even if he's technically not lying."

Actually, it is the scandal that is the problem. Suppose that the photo is of Weiner, and suppose further that he sent it to someone. Whose business is it? I know I'm tripping, but I wish a politician would, in circumstances like these, say, "This is my private life. It's consensual. It's my business and the business of the people I interact with. It is none of your business. So fuck off." There is no reason I can see why there should be a scandal here, except for the frenzied prurience of the people in the corporate media.

What's a "character flaw" about exchanging sexy pictures of yourself? If the women he's been interacting with online are of age, it's creepy to characterize them as "young girls." (Of course online you can never be sure about the age of the people you're interacting with, which should also be taken into account.) I don't even believe that many of the people who are having hissyfits about this are virgins; probably they have secrets of their own. There's something very suspicious about all this excitement. I can understand why party politicians and the corporate media would rather dwell on stuff like this than deal with issues. But why should human beings get worked up over it?

One person argued that it matters because Weiner is married. But that still doesn't make it anyone else's business, let alone a scandal. According to all accounts, the person who went public with this story was not the woman Weiner allegedly sent the picture, nor Weiner's wife, but an outside party, a right-winger who had obsessively been looking for ways to sabotage Weiner's career. But I have to remember that many people (maybe most people?) can't tell the difference between consensual and forced sex. We've seen that in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal. And even more people are terrible hypocrites about sex. So I shouldn't be surprised. Despite all the cultural changes we've seen since the 1960s, the alleged Sexual Revolution we went through, far too many people are still living in the 1950s at best; or in junior high school, where talking about sex makes them all giggly and squirmy and grossed out.

Then, this evening, I found this depressing story.

Anna Fowlkes, 64, didn't date for years after her husband, Sonny, died of a brain tumor. And after she finally did, she learned she’d become infected with HIV. She taught her son about safe sex, she says, but, like many other seniors, it didn’t occur to her that she needed to practice it too.

“We are of a generation where that was not something we have to think about,” she says. “Now I know better.”

The first cases of AIDS in the US were reported almost exactly thirty years ago, on June 5, 1981. Admitting that Anna Fowlkes is a heterosexual woman who was probably married in 1981, if we're going to talk about generations, hers (and mine -- I'm four years younger than she is) is exactly the generation that had to come to grips with the syndrome and its effects on our lives. We didn't grow up with AIDS, but that also meant we had to think about it more.

So, she taught her son about safe sex? I wonder what she taught him. The relative risk levels for heterosexual males and heterosexual females remain disputed, but in the US it seems to be agreed that female-to-male transmission is much rarer than male-to-female. And, of course, "safe sex" isn't limited to HIV; there are other sexually transmitted diseases that can affect heterosexuals, to say nothing of unwanted pregnancies, and they were relevant to sexually-active persons of any sex or sexual orientation when Ms. Fowlkes and I were coming of age.

I shouldn't judge Ms. Fowlkes, but I can't help wondering why she didn't see safe sex as something she had to think about when she started "dating" again. We've heard so much about young people's tendency to think themselves invulnerable or immortal, but apparently older people can be just as thoughtless. According to this article, whose statistics seem a bit iffy, the rate of infection among older women is significantly higher than it is among younger women.
Today, Fowlkes is an advocate for HIV prevention among her peers. “I don’t want [others] to have to go down the road I’ve gone down,” she says. “I want them to get tested.”
Testing is fine, but as HIV prevention it's like shutting the barn door after the horses have gotten out. Preventing infection in the first place should be a higher priority.