Monday, November 4, 2013
Salon: The 10 strangest facts about penises, by Tracy Clark-Flory:
Simone de Beauvoir called it “a small person … an alter ego usually more sly … and more clever than the individual.” Leonardo da Vinci said it “has dealings with human intelligence and sometimes displays an intelligence of its own.” Sophocles said that having one was to be “chained to a madman.”
These great thinkers were referring so exasperatedly, so powerlessly, to none other than the penis. That’s a lot of hype for a body part that can “be seen as something the Creator doodled in an idle moment,” as Tom Hickman puts it in the new book, “God’s Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis.” . . .
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
MotherBoard: Should We All Stop Taking Birth Control?, by Kelly Bourdet:
What is our obsession with the “natural” state of humanity? As if that is a thing, a truer state—a toolless, techless, laudable past we ought to revere. We’re urged to unplug; every time I use the internet I’m accosted with the warnings of a generation, endless articles shrilly decrying how this technology or that one is hastening the end of human connection or communication or authenticity. Inherent in this worldview is the idea that the tools created by humanity are somehow so “other,” so opposed to the natural world, that they manifestly alter our relationship with ourselves and with our destiny.
Holly Grigg-Spall’s new book, Sweetening the Pill: Or How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control, available in the US on September 7, investigates our complex relationship with human alteration, pharmaceutical interests, and the benefit of a “natural” state of femaleness. . . .
Monday, March 18, 2013
SCOTUSblog: Ask the author: Linda Greenhouse on "Before (and After) Roe v. Wade: New Questions About Backlash", by Kali Borkoski:
In 2010, Linda Greenhouse, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who spent three decades covering the Court for The New York Times, and Reva Siegel, Professor of Law at Yale, published Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling. (SCOTUSblog’s Q&A with both authors is here.) The authors recently released a second edition of the book, which is available for free from the Yale Law Library or can be printed on demand ($10) from Amazon, with proceeds going to the Yale library. The second edition includes a new afterword, Before (and After) Roe v. Wade: New Questions About Backlash, in which Greenhouse and Siegel use the source materials republished in the book to challenge the conventional wisdom that, “if the Court had stayed its hand or decided Roe v. Wade on narrower grounds, the nation would have reached a political settlement and avoided backlash.” Once again, Linda Greenhouse has graciously agreed to answer a few questions about her work on this subject. . . .
Sunday, September 16, 2012
The New York Times: Upstairs, Downstairs (book review of ‘Vagina: A New Biography,’ by Naomi Wolf), by Toni Bentley:
Sit back and relax, will you? Naomi Wolf has got her orgasm back. Yep. I know you were worried. We were all worried. I mean, to lose one’s orgasm at a time like this, what with Syria undergoing mass civilian murder and Romney closing in on Obama, it is really enough to put a liberated gal’s thong in a knot.
But Wolf didn’t just get back one of those little clitoral thingamajigs that Masters and Johnson so laboriously put back on the map after Freud had brushed them aside. Or rather inside, where he felt they belonged. She has reclaimed the Great Big Cosmic I-Am-a-Gorgeous-Goddess (Feminist-Goddess, that is) kind. Phew!
“Vagina: A New Biography” should have been an important book. A very important book. . . .
Monday, April 16, 2012
NPR: Writing the Messy Life of a Sexual Health Pioneer, hosted by Michel Martin:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. As women around the world are rethinking and rewriting their roles in society, we decided to take a look at how the biographies of notable women reflect those changes. So, throughout women's history month, we've been digging into biographies of all kinds of women, divas, dancers, leaders of nations and queens of fashion.
And, today, we're talking about a woman who, although she died four decades ago, is back in the news. We're talking about nurse and activist, Margaret Sanger, the founder of the organization that eventually became Planned Parenthood.
Sanger began her efforts in behalf of sex education and contraception at a time when even talking about contraception was considered obscene and, in some places, even criminal. Women risked arrest when they sought out makeshift birth control devices that were often unsafe.
To this day, Margaret Sanger is lauded by many for her work in changing that and, as well, vilified by others for ushering in a culture that her critics say devalues life and women in the process.
Her life and work are chronicled in the new book, "Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion." The author is Jean Baker. She is an historian and history professor at Goucher College and she's with us now in Washington, D.C. . . .
Audio of the interview is available through the link above.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
The Washington Post: 'Our Bodies, Ourselves' taught women about sexuality and reproductive health, by Stefanie Weiss:
When it comes to women’s sexuality and reproductive health, I’ve come to believe that the world divides into two camps: those who know something about hand mirrors and those who don’t.
My sister Julie, solidly in the first camp, recently went to a 30-something female gynecologist, who’s in the second. At Julie’s first mention of hand mirrors, she told me, her doctor was more than a little taken aback.
“You did what?” she asked. . . .
Monday, September 19, 2011
Washington Post - Political Book-Worm blog: Levi Johnston on love, sex and abstinence, by Steven Levingston:
As Levi Johnston tells it, it was love at first sight — or at least what counts for love in a 15-year-old. He ran into Bristol Palin in the local grocery store back when he was a student at Wasilla High playing on the hockey team. “She had on a soft-pink turtleneck sweater. Hot,” he writes in his new book, “Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin’s Crosshairs.” . . .
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Salon.com: Blaming abortion for disappering girls, by Mara Hvistendahl:
NYT's Douthat thinks curtailing women's rights will solve the problem of sex selection. Here's why he's wrong
This article is in response to Ross Douthat's New York Times column about the implications of Mara Hvistendahl's book, "Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men." Ross Douthat posted a follow-up piece on the subject on Thursday.
In a 1994 article for the journal First Things, Amherst College political scientist Hadley P. Arkes outlined a calculated plan for the antiabortion movement. "We seek simply to preserve the life of the child who survives the abortion," Arkes wrote. "From that modest beginning, we might go on to restrict abortions after the point of 'viability,' or we could ban those abortions ordered up simply because the child happens to be a female." Such limitations were useful steppingstones toward achieving what Arkes called the "ultimate end": banning all abortions.
Arkes saw opposing sex-selective abortion as a tactical maneuver, not a remotely feminist act, and 17 years later his strategy has taken hold. Antiabortion legislators are using the prevalence of sex selection in Asia to justify restrictions on abortion in the United States. Bans on sex-selective abortion have passed in four states -- Illinois, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Arizona -- and been proposed in five others this year -- Massachusetts, Rhode Island, West Virginia, New York and New Jersey. These bills are filled with language intended to set a precedent for declaring a fetus equivalent to a life. . . .
Thursday, April 7, 2011
NY Times: Casualties of China’s One Child Policy, by Lesley Downer:
In 1989, the Chinese writer and broadcaster Xinran was in a remote mountain village in Shandong Province having dinner with the headman when she heard cries from an adjoining room, where his daughter-in-law was giving birth. A while later, as the midwife collected her fee, Xinran noticed a movement in the slops bucket. “To my absolute horror,” she recalls, “I saw a tiny foot poking out of the pail.” But she was the only one who was shocked. “It’s not a child,” the headman’s wife told her. “If it was, we’d be looking after it, wouldn’t we? It’s a girl baby, and we can’t keep it.”. . .
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Newsweek Magazine: What the Bible Really Says About Sex, by Lisa Miller:
New scholarship on the Good Book’s naughty bits and how it deals with adultery, divorce, and same-sex love.
The girl returns his lust with lust. “My lover thrust his hand through the hole,” she says, “and my insides groaned because of him.”
This ode to sexual consummation can be found in—of all places—the Bible. . . .
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Time Magazine: Chinese vs Western Mothers: Q&A with Amy Chua, by Belinda Luscombe:
"A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies," writes Amy Chua in her provocative new book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. "Well I can tell them because I've done it." With those words she set off a storm of controversy.
Chua's book, which she wrote as a memoir of her conversion from authoritarian Chinese drillmistress to marginally less authoritarian drillmistress has led to people calling heartless and worse. She makes one daughter, Lulu, play piano late into the night until she gets the piece exactly right, with no water or bathroom breaks. She never lets her girls have sleepovers or do drama at school or get less than A on report cards. Result: one daughter gets to play a piano recital at Carnegie Hall. The other, Lulu, rebels, drops violin and takes up tennis. . . .
Monday, October 4, 2010
NY Times: Brennan’s Biographer Took His Time, by Adam Liptak:
In 1986, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal made an unprecedented secret deal with Justice William J. Brennan Jr., who had by then served on the Supreme Court for 30 years and was its leading liberal voice.
“I basically would sneak up to his chambers at 7 o’clock in the morning and interview him and go through papers,” the reporter, Stephen Wermiel, said last week. Over the next four years, Mr. Wermiel conducted 60 hours of interviews. . . .
The book is brisk, accessible, fair-minded and studded with surprises. Among them, Mr. Stern said, was how often Justice Brennan’s votes in cases like Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion, were in tension with his personal views.
“He has discomfort with women in his workplace,” Mr. Stern said, “yet he’s a champion of women’s rights in his decisions. He’s uncomfortable about abortion, but his privacy decisions make Roe possible. The press infuriates him at a personal level, and yet he’s a champion of the press.” . . .
Monday, September 27, 2010
Slate Magazine (Double X): Lessons From the Womb, from Amanda Schaffer to Annie Murphy Paul:
How Does Anxiety Affect Fetal Development?
We must begin with the water-balloon condoms. In the 1950s, researchers balanced these on the bellies of pregnant women and sent sound waves through them, as part of the invention of medical ultrasound. This allowed them to peer into the womb for the first time, as you describe in your elegantly written book Origins. Early glimpses, like "grainy footage beamed back from the first moon landing," begot more sophisticated images, like the clay-colored, sculptural ones you got to see of your own son when he was in utero. I love these details, both for their own sake and as emblems of the scientific desire to eavesdrop on fetal life.
As you write, researchers have increasingly probed how a little "lima bean with a beating heart" interacts with its mama, her womb, and the chemical and sensory "postcards" it receives, care of her, from the outside world. You argue that old-school Western medicine often viewed the fetus as a "perfect parasite," relatively impervious to external influence—yet today, a burgeoning literature lays out the lasting influences of the mother's environment and behavior, including her diet, stress level, mood, and chemical exposures. . . .
Monday, July 19, 2010
Newsweek Magazine: 'Pornland': How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, by Gail Dines:
Profits, not pleasure, drive the porn industry. Indeed. Playboy logos adorn backpacks and Miley Cyrus looks like a stripper dancing on a pole. Yes. Female porn stars are simultaneously dehumanized and exalted. All of it is quite familiar, but recited together, as Dines has done in her book, it’s a sobering reality check. And if, as Dines argues, porn really is becoming a celebrated, completely commonplace facet of American life, this voice railing against the sex-saturated machine testifies to some pretty miserable sexual values infiltrating the culture.
What’s the Big Deal?
Pornographers are no longer in the business of making love, Dines says. Now, they’re making hate. With more than 370 million Internet sites, that means it takes something pretty shocking to stand out. The result? Dines argues that aspiring producers are turning out more and more “gonzo porn,” which is extreme, is graphic, and was once relegated to the fringes. Now it is mainstream, and undermining the ways men and women approach sex. . . .
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
NPR (Fresh Air): The Rhetoric That Shaped The Abortion Debate:
Before the Supreme Court struck down many state laws restricting abortion in the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade, the Justices read briefs from both abortion-rights supporters and opponents.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Linda Greenhouse has collected the best of these briefs — as well as important documents leading up to the decision — in a new book, Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court's Ruling.
In an interview on Fresh Air, Greenhouse explains the arguments in favor of decriminalizing abortion — and the rhetoric used by both sides of the debate that continues to resonate more than 35 years after Roe. . . .
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Wash. Post: In "America and the Pill," Elaine Tyler May traces the pill's influence on women, by Elaine Tyler May:
AMERICA AND THE PILL: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation
"I would be perfectly happy if not for the same old thing -- too many babies too close together," wrote a young mother to birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger in a letter Sanger included in her 1928 book "Motherhood in Bondage." Like many women seeking Sanger's advice about contraception, this mother was probably poor, uneducated and, by her own admission, desperate. One pictures her at her kitchen table, pen in hand, a child in each arm and on a knee. "My third baby was born a week after the first one's third birthday," she went on. "Just three babies in three years and I am only twenty-two years old. . . . I am also so nervous sometimes I don't know what to do." . . .
Friday, January 22, 2010
Salon.com: Can we ever win the abortion wars?, by Lynn Harris:
The fanatical fringe has hijacked medicine and wrought terror. But there is hope, says the author of a new book
As jury selection continues in the Wichita, KS trial of Scott Roeder -- whose alleged murder of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was lauded by the extreme anti-abortion group Army of God -- the title of sociologist and reproductive rights historian Carol Joffe's new book becomes all the more chillingly apt. In "Dispatches from the Abortion Wars," Joffe shows that the battles over abortion rights in the United States are being "fought on numerous fronts": not only with guns, bombs and fire, and not only in foreign relations, national politics and state legislatures.
Anti-abortion forces, Joffe writes, also deploy the psychological weapon of anti-abortion stigma, a potent contaminant of conscience and community that has led to, among other things, "a chronic shortage of [abortion] providers" and even anti-abortion hospital practices "that put women's health at unacceptable risk." . . . .
Monday, November 30, 2009
Slate Magazine: The Alienator, by Emily Bazelon:
Making sense of Justice Scalia's personality—and his theory.
In Joan Biskupic's new biography of Antonin Scalia, American Original, the justice wears a wreath of superlatives. He is the most quoted member of the Supreme Court and the one scholars write about most. He is the justice who writes the most concurrences—separate opinions that accept the holding of a majority opinion but usually part company with its reasoning. He is also the justice who prompts the most laughter at oral argument, according to two bona fide studies. Court observers pick Scalia as the most talkative. He disagrees with that one. They would probably call him the most argumentative. And he'd disagree with that, too.
Here's my superlative, to add to the pile: Scalia is the justice liberals most love to hate and conservatives most love. He is also the only justice to use the Sicilian finger flick in public or to say "quack quack" during a speech (after he was asked to recuse himself from a case in which Dick Cheney was the named plaintiff, because he'd gone duck hunting with the vice president). As Biskupic says, her subject is "a showman, a streetwise guy, and a pulverizer." The more I read about his penchant for battle, and in particular about his unrelenting pattern of pushing away other justices at critical moments, rather than compromising to win a majority, another label occurred to me: the alienator. . . .
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Wash. Post: The Tiny Differences in the Littlest Brains, by Emily Bazelon:
Book Review: PINK BRAIN, BLUE BRAIN: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps -- and What We Can Do About It, by Lise Eliot
In one of the eye-opening studies cited in Lise Eliot's masterful new book on gender and the brain, mothers brought their 11-month-olds to a lab so the babies could crawl down a carpeted slope. The moms pushed a button to change the slope's angle based on what they thought their children could handle. And then the babies were tested to see how steep a slope they could navigate.
Girls and boys proved equally adept at crawling and risk-taking: On their own, they tried and conquered the same slopes. But the mothers of the girls -- unlike the mothers of the boys -- underestimated their daughters' aptitude by a significant margin.
"Sex differences in the brain are sexy," Eliot writes. And so we tend to notice them everywhere. "But there's enormous danger," she says, in our exaggeration. It leads us to see gender, beginning at an early age, only in terms of what we expect to see, and to assume that sex differences are innate and immutable. We forget that the differences within each sex -- among girls and among boys -- are usually greater than the gaps between the two. . . .