Should The Pill be available over-the-counter?

Kelley Blanchard makes the affirmative case:

The pill meets F.D.A. criteria for over-the-counter medications. Women don’t need a doctor to tell them whether they need the pill — they know when they are sexually active and want to avoid pregnancy. Pill instructions are easy to follow: Take one each day. There’s no chance of becoming addicted. Taking too many will make you nauseated, but won’t endanger your life, in contrast to some over-the-counter drugs, like analgesics. (There are even side benefits to taking the pill, like reduced risks of ovarian and uterine cancer.)It’s true that the pill could be dangerous for women with certain conditions. Women who are 35 or older and smoke, and those with high blood pressure, are at greater risk of a heart attack or stroke if they take oral contraceptives that combine estrogen and progestin. But these are not complicated conditions to identify; women already have to tell their doctor about their health problems when they get a prescription, and research shows that women can screen themselves for contraindications almost as well as providers do.

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Should condoms be mandated for porn stars?

Kent Sepkowitz makes the affirmative case:

Twenty-two cases of HIV in porn actors have been discovered in the last six years; that, plus a high-profile, though limited outbreak in 2004, piqued such concern that California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a branch of the Department of Labor, is now formally hearing a request from an AIDS advocacy group to require porn actors to suit up before copulating. The concern is that the absence of condoms places porn workers at undue risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The activists propose government-mandated protection (e.g., condoms) just as safety regulations were enacted in previous generations for those workers stationed at assembly lines or picking grapes.Naysayers argue that it is beyond the reach of government to dictate who wears what when consenting adults go about their business in front of cameras and crew—plus there is a less-emphasized but probably critical concern that the presence of condoms may chill porn’s “sizzle.” Furthermore, they point out that the porn industry encourages actors to submit to regular HIV tests and exams, though many doubt the industry’s sincerity. The problem, however, is that HIV tests in newly infected (and contagious) people may come up negative for the first days or even weeks after infection—a phenomenon referred to as the “window period.” The 2004 outbreak investigated by the CDC was attributed to this route of transmission, demonstrating that screening itself, even if carried out diligently—which is debatable—may fail to prevent spread. (For those interested in reading about sex as written by a nonemotive, wonk-speaking robot incapable of prurience, titillation, or innuendo, the CDC article is a must.)

Another possible advantage of interposing a condom into the ongoing riot of porn conjugation is the off chance that some viewer, somewhere may absorb the message about safe sex. If the cool porn guys are doing it, maybe I should, too: a teachable moment, the ultimate example of monkey-see, monkey-do. Admittedly this assumes that the fellow renting porn from his hotel room after a long day of airports, meetings, and bad buffet food is indeed educable on these matters and will use a condom the next time he encounters a partner, but hey, you never know. Certainly the push against movie stars smoking cigarettes on screen was born of a similar hope and dream.

From a public-health perspective, the necessity of adding condoms into the mix is extremely compelling—such a move would, perhaps more than anything else, normalize protected sex. For those producers, script writers, and directors worried that fans will flee their fave porn site because the guys are sheathing up (thereby reducing the overall kinkiness quotient), fear not. NASCAR watchers didn’t jump ship when the seat belt was mandated. Even if you feel trapped in a latex nightmare—dental dams, eye gear, disposable gloves—I promise: There still is plenty of kink and danger to go around. Plus, guys, a real man will stand by his product even if—especially if—small concessions are made in response to this or that annoying reg.

The crux of the issue, though, is this: Are porn stars humans? We go to great and absurd lengths to “humanize” our traditional movie stars. Since Hollywood began, we have had interest in Greta and Marilyn, in Marlon and Clark, in Tom and Katie. An industry has evolved to show us their “true” selves—fan mags and talk shows and the like. But we are completely unwilling to humanize or even pseudo-humanize porn stars. We impute to them the same inner life as their soul mates in manufacture, Barbie and Ken—room-temperature mannequins without thought, motivation, introspection, or sore feet. Their resolute unhumanness extends, of course, to their nonprimate anatomic parts, their endurance and passionless gymnastics, their over-lit human faces. We don’t want to know anything about them—not about their children or their girlfriends or their budding interest in Scientology, much less whether they drive a Prius.

But humanize them we must for their sake and for ours. The simple fact is that porn isn’t going to disappear: It has been with us for thousands of years. (The big discovery from excavating Pompeii was not the size of the chariot wheels.) The porn industry is just that—an industry—and it serves a purpose, however difficult to characterize or endorse. It is flippant to allow our discomfort with the specifics of the enterprise to translate into impatient neglect and scorn. Acknowledging that porn stars have risk for disease humanizes them as nothing else can and is perhaps the only way to liberate them from the dungeon of our collective fantasy life.

I think any condom-mandate could be tricksy to enforce. In theory, these days anyone with a webcam, PayPal account, some Astroglide and a dearth of inhibitions can be a porn star. Moreover, the San Fernando Valley porn stars don’t file their taxes as “porn stars”. To wiggle around California’s outlawing of sex work, they’re technically actors, whose acting gigs just-so-happen to to involve lots of formulaic, really uncomfortable looking sex-scenes. So I’m not sure how legislators could phrase their condom-mandate in such a way as to not acknowledge the actual status of the work going on in San Fernando.

Ratzinger is innocent because he looks like Palpatine, or something

It is totally legitimate, fair-minded, and not at all childish to post this picture so as to illustrate E.D. Kain's point.

E.D. Kain claims Ratzinger is being unfaily singled out for crticism not because three offices he saw sheilded at least three (one, two, three) pedophiles from justice, but because he is ugly. I wish I were kidding.

Why a man who is so extraordinarily similar in faith and politics to his predecessor – the much beloved John Paul II – is a question that has been bothering me for some time, and I think I’ve stumbled on the answer. I think it is entirely an aesthetic obsession which motivates Benedicts fiercest critics. Let’s face it, unlike the charismatic John Paul II, Benedict has a somewhat sinister look about him. He has aged in such a way as to make him look less the cuddly grandpa and more the evil villain; he bears an uncanny resemblance to Emperor Palpatine.

 mean no disrespect to the Holy Father in pointing this out. It isn’t exactly something he has control over, nor is it any way to judge a man’s character. But it is easy for us to subconsciously find ways to despise something we find to be ugly or flawed, and I really do think that this entirely incidental feature influences the way people think about the Pope in ways which they’re not even fully aware of. If you doubt me, just look at the pictures critics use in their posts or articles – always the least flattering they can find. And how many people have it in their heads that – unlike John Paul II – Benedict is some arch-conservative? Is there any reason for this belief beyond a dislike of the man’s face?

There’s reason for belief in Ratzinger’s “arch-conservatism” in his record. He re-approved the recitation of of the Latin mass that includes a prayer for the conversion of the Jews to Catholicism barred even celibate gay men from joining the priesthood, and his opposition to contraception is so fervent he spread falsehoods about condoms exasperating the AIDS crisis in Africa. Then, of course, he invited Anglican clergy who disapproved of LGBT-inclusion and women’s ordination to join the Catholic Church, even suspending celibacy requirements to do so.

Marketing small and regular-sized condoms

Via The Atlantic’s Menachem Kaiser, which commednably keeps an adequate level of seriousness without being clinical:

There are products where smallness is a marketing virtue, like cellphones or thong underwear. But small condoms are a marketing nightmare. If advertising is about creating consumer desire, who aspires to a size extra-small? The result is a condom aisle at the drug store where all the men, a la Lake Wobegon, are “above average.” But the status quo may have dire public health implications.

According to the medical journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, 45 percent of men reported that they had experienced an ill-fitting condom within the last three months. The misfits were significantly more likely to report breakage and slippage, along with difficulty reaching orgasm, both for their partners and for themselves, and a host of other sexual mishaps. Not surprisingly, men with ill-fitting condoms were more likely to take them off before sex was even over — all of which adds up to a massive failure for the one job a condom exists to fulfill.

[Aside]from the machismo-imbued “Magnum” designation, you’d be hard-pressed to find any size labels. What’s a modestly endowed guy to do? And perhaps more importantly, are the condom manufacturers being irresponsible by not being transparent in their sizing? Do they even make small condoms?

In fact, there is some size variation in condoms, but it’s couched in jargon. LifeStyles has by far the most direct code, called “Snugger Fit.” Here is a sizing chart for Durex condoms. Trojan seems to have recalibrated its sizes a la Starbucks (and there is something appealing, if patronizing, about the idea of buying a “Tall” condom when in fact it’s the opposite). The company organizes its products by Regular, Large, and Extra Large. Ah, so the regular is actually a small? Wrong. The regular is actually regular — 35 of their 42 lines fall under this category — not exactly following the bell curve.

Buying condoms online neatly sidesteps this entire mess, though even on the ostensibly private and shame-proof internet, a comparison of the smaller condom selection vs. the large condom offerings is instructive. But condoms tend to be unplanned, impulse buys — hence the rather limited number of bulk purchases, despite considerable savings and a condom’s 3-5 year lifespan.

So what’s to be done? It’s tricky territory. TheyFit Condoms offers seventy different sizes (none of which are labeled “small”), and guarantees a “custom” condom. But in order to enjoy that superlative fit, you’ll have to measure

George Stephanopolis and Lady Gaga

It’s not mad-libs. It’s morning TV, with frank discussions of women, HIV/AIDS, and safer sex.

WI bill would mandate contraceptive education

Via the JSOnline:

All public schools that teach sex education would be required to instruct students about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases, under a bill headed to Gov. Jim Doyle. The Democratic governor said Thursday he would sign the bill, which all Republicans opposed. It’s unclear how many school districts would have to change their curriculum, but the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District would have to end an abstinence-only program it offers.

Best flash mob ever?

Via Copyranter:

Flash mobs are the new utterly lame ad “events” of the oughts. But this cocky one, conducted by Italian humanitarian organization Cesvi, is by far the best I’ve seen yet. They enlisted 200+ university students in Milan to fill the Magnum XXXXXXXXXXL rubber. The stunt, held last week, was to raise awareness and funds for women with AIDS in Zimbabwe.