Abstinence and Virginity Aren’t The Same Thing

Oh, Texas. We laugh because we’re trying so hard not to cry.

Actually, I don’t have any laugh left in me.

The situation in Austin has devolved to the point that the only thing keeping me from crying is the white hot rage burning through me* as I am forced to confront the fact, over and over, that reckless, bloviating know-nothings are in charge of the future of our state.

Here’s the Texas Observer on part of yesterday’s debate over the budget in the House of Representatives:

Texas has the third highest rate of HIV infections in the country, but that didn’t stop lawmakers from passing an amendment that defunds HIV/STD prevention programs Tuesday. The amendment to the House budget proposal—offered by Rep. Stuart Spitzer (R-Kaufman)—diverts $3 million over the next biennium to abstinence-only sexual education programs.

House Democrats fought against the amendment in a debate that rapidly devolved into awkward farce, with Rep. Spitzer revealing details of his own sexual history as proof of the effectiveness of abstinence. For those keeping tabs at home, he was a virgin until marrying his wife at age 29, although he declined to answer a question from Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) on whether she was the first person he propositioned. “Decorum,” shouted state Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs).

Setting aside how you feel about Rep. Spitzer’s virginity, his claim that it proves “abstinence works” makes two very important points that, if logic were part of the equation, would have totally undermined his budgetary diversion from HIV education to abstinence-only not-really-sex education programs.

(1) You may be a virgin, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you abstain from all sexual activity. Depending upon how you define virginity, you can absolutely still be at risk for sexually transmitted infections.

(2) Even if you do not engage in any sexual contact, there are other ways to contract HIV that will not be mentioned in an abstinence-only sex (mis)education class, so remaining a virgin until you marry at 29 does not in any way guarantee you will not expose yourself to HIV.

This may be as good a time as any to remind you that Rep. Spitzer is actually also Dr. Spitzer.

As in Stuart Spitzer, M.D.

As in, he’s got a medical degree that strongly suggests he should really fucking know better.

I wish Rep. Dutton, or someone else, had questioned Rep. Spitzer about exactly how he defines virginity. A fairly standard working definition many people use is that virginity is abstaining from penetrating a vagina with a penis. You can find that definition on a website called Biblical Truths, for example, and you can read about the consequences of that narrow definition in peer-reviewed scientific research; namely, that teens engage in all sorts of higher-risk sexual behavior, like anal and oral sex, so they can claim to be virgins in a technical sense.

There are many ways you can contract a sexually transmitted infection, from gonorrhea to HIV, without having any vaginal penetration by any penis. And there are some infections that can be transmitted sexually, like HIV or Hepatitis A, B, or C, which you can also get even if you never, ever, ever have sex. Even if you are wearing clothes the whole time.

Rep. Spitzer, abstaining from putting your penis in a vagina until you are married does not protect you, necessarily, from a whole host of problems.

And let me assure you, your preference and experience are not typical in this great big ol’ state. Trust me.

At what point will performers announce they are not touring in Texas because they can’t risk exposure, for themselves or their roadies, to shamefully high rates of STI and HIV infection, or to impregnating people who don’t understand the basics of birth control or reproductive anatomy because all they were taught in school was just say no.

At what point will large corporations say that they cannot ask employees to move to a state in which those employees’ children will be taught misleading pseudo-science—instead of age-appropriate, medically-accurate facts about sexual health—that includes fire and brimstone warnings about damnation from “deviant” sexuality, which is any sexuality that takes place outside a heterosexual Christian marriage with penis-in-vagina sex?

Do not be fooled. Abstinence-only programs are not kind and not truthful when it comes to people who do not plan to engage, one day, after man+woman marriage, in penis-in-vagina sex.

Oh Texas, we have got to stop this madness. It is killing us. Are we going to have go all people’s filibuster on this budget?



*I have received extensive age-appropriate, medically-accurate information about healthy sexuality, so I know that the white hot burning I feel *is* rage and not something that needs to be treated with a broad-spectrum antibiotic. If Rep. Spitzer has any white hot burning sensations, he should get them checked out.

Posted in politics, Texas | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Oklahoma Beats Texas

I’m not talking about football.

The University of Oklahoma President David Boren released this statement less than a day after a video showing Sigma Alpha Epsilon (ΣΑΕ) brothers signing a blatantly racist song:

To those who have misused their free speech in such a reprehensible way, I have a message for you. You are disgraceful. You have violated all that we stand for. You should not have the privilege of calling yourselves “Sooners.” Real Sooners are not racist. Real Sooners are not bigots. Real Sooners believe in equal opportunity. Real Sooners treat all people with respect. Real Sooners love each other and take care of each other like family members.

Effective immediately, all ties and affiliations between this University and the local SAE chapter are hereby severed. I direct that the house be closed and that members will remove their personal belongings from the house by midnight tomorrow. Those needing to make special arrangements for possessions shall contact the Dean of Students.

All of us will redouble our efforts to create the strongest sense of family and community. We vow that we will be an example to the entire country of how to deal with this issue. There must be zero tolerance for racism everywhere in our nation.

President Boren

Unequivocal, and a wonderful highlighting of the fact that free speech does not mean consequence-free speech.

Stark contrast, as well, to a tweet from The University of Texas when a student inquired about an equally offensive racist incident perpetrated by the fraternity brothers of Phi Gamma Delta (ΦΓΔ). An incident which, by the way, had happened a full two weeks prior to the tweet:

Zamora and UT Tweet 2 27 2015

Oklahoma could have made the same statement, saying the incident took place at a private event (and, unless the bus was driving through the campus, likely off-campus as well), but they did not. They took decisive action which showed exactly what values are truly part of the university’s core.

Almost yearly, white students at The University of Texas stage parties with racist themes. They make big news, students are moderately contrite, and then, it happens again. Perhaps The University of Texas could try it Oklahoma’s way next time.


Worried they’re only racists? Never fear! The California Alpha Rush Chairmen from 2010 posted this picture at the bottom of their information page. What were they trying to tell potential members of the rush class?


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Speak Up & Speak Out

I believe Free Press Summer Fest and Pegstar should cancel their contract with R. Kelly so he does not perform at FPSF this summer. They should do so because of R. Kelly’s extensively documented history as a sexual predator who attacks girls. I’m not the only person who thinks this.

cancel r kelly

I’m a huge fan of Summer Fest. It gives local musicians and our local music scene great exposure, is a really solid mid-summer bump to the economy, and showcases one of the prettiest parts of our swampy ol’ town.

My own livelihood doesn’t depend on what I do or don’t say about this issue.

For some performers, however, especially local ones, the stakes are higher.

Easy for me to demand they give up a job on a matter of principle, but in reality, it goes beyond playing this one festival. They’ve got to live and work here. It is unfair for those performers to be put in the position of sharing a bill with someone who is known to be a child rapist. I don’t judge them for remaining silent in public.

Right now, I only know of one band speaking out publicly. From their Facebook page, the Free Radicals say:

Either Free Radicals or Free Rads 2nd Line has played every Free Press Summerfest except the first one, but… Free Rads 2nd Line has decided to stand with Girls Rock Camp Houston this year. We won’t play FPSF2015 (or offer to play since we usually kinda sneak in at the last minute) unless the Girls Rock Camp Houston’s demands about R. Kelly are met. Free Press and Pegstar have been our supporters, friends, and allies over the years. So, we hope they handle this right!

They’re not declaring war, and they are acknowledging the complexities of the multiple relationships, but they are very clearly saying where they stand.

Who else with a stake in the industry will speak up? I know it can be risky, but how can we ask the girls harmed by R. Kelly’s sexual predation to speak up if we can’t speak up on their behalf? How can we expect them to know that we care, that we believe them?

What does Weezer have to say? Would Belle and Sebastian care to comment? The Decemberists?

What about Professor Bun-B, once of UGK and now of Rice University?

Or the People’s Champ, Paul Wall?

Maybe Robert Ellis, who has not only earned nationwide recognition for his incredible talent, but who has managed to earn mailbox money and praise (instead of accusations of selling out, which lesser-loved artists might face) for writing and staring in a commercial for a newfangled shaving cream can?

I don’t think any of these performers risk too much by speaking out. Fair to say that the festival needs these performers more than these performers need the festival.

The Girls Rock Camp participants are listening. The girls who’ve been targeted by R. Kelly, or people behaving like him, are listening.

I hope the leading musicians on the FPSF bill will be music to girls’ ears. Their lives matter. Let’s honor that fact.

Posted in advice you didn't ask for, feminists & feminism, Houston, live music | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Doing Business in Texas the Republican Way

All the conveniences of home while viewing wildflowers by Jack via Flickr

All the conveniences of home while viewing wildflowers by Jack via Flickr

I am a small business owner, and an investor in two businesses that offer accommodations to the public, and I am here to tell you that Republican elected officials in Austin and elsewhere are impediments to doing business in the State of Texas.

Their latest?

They are inserting business owners into the business of people who are, well, just trying to do their business.

Yes, while we grapple with school funding, crumbling roads and bridges, and uncertainty in the energy market, Republicans in the legislature want to talk about bathrooms.

The latest example is HB 1748, filed last Friday by Rep. Debbie Riddle, a Republican from Spring, a northern suburb of Houston. It would amend the law requiring that the “operator, manager, or superintendent of a public building, schoolhouse, theater, filling station, tourist court, bus station, or tavern” provide and maintain sanitary toilet facilities for use by the public to say that:

 An operator, manager, superintendent, or other person with authority over a building described by Subsection (a) may not allow an individual who is at least seven years of age to repeatedly enter a locker room, shower facility, or toilet facility in the building that is designated for use by persons of a gender that is not the same gender as the individual ’s gender. A violation of this subsection is a state jail felony.

How, exactly, does the author of this bill expect business owners to avoid violating this law and being found guilty of a state jail felony?

If a woman comes into a business and goes into the women’s bathroom, a reasonable Texan would assume that person is a woman. Rep. Riddle, however, would make me, a business owner, responsible for ascertaining whether that person had, at birth, at least two X chromosomes, but not one X and one Y chromosome, before adjudicating which bathroom that person could use.

I humbly suggest that it is an overwhelmingly unreasonable burden on the small business owner’s ability to run a tavern, filling station, hotel, theater, or other public businesses to expect that person request a report on birth chromosomes from patrons wishing to use the toilet facilities.

Can you imagine the lines for the bathroom at Minute Maid Park or the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion as we wait to present our lab work?

This could shut down Buc-ee’s, and friends, that would be a tragedy of epic proportions.

Even more offensive would be the notion that business owners could be forced to figure out gender some other way, like requiring patrons to display their genitalia to gain access to the appropriate facility.

Most offensive of all would be the idea that we could be found guilty of a state jail felony if we allowed a woman dressed as a woman, but a woman who was born with X Y chromosomes, to use the women’s bathroom.

We’re not even going to delve into what chaos Rep. Riddle creates by specifying that this applies to “repeated visits.” Consider the multitude of health conditions, both chronic and acute, that might compel a person to make more than one trip to the facilities. Do you really want to be the arbiter of what constitutes a legal or illegal repeat visit when a fellow human has an urgent and compelling need?

This is Texas. We’re smart. We’re courteous. We value our privacy, and expect others to respect ours like we respect theirs.

Almost all of us, at a very early age, mastered the skill of using a bathroom without either exposing our genitals to anyone else or peeking at others’ taking care of their business. For those who haven’t mastered those skills, there are already adequate remedies in local and state criminal codes.

The Republican Party of Texas, of Rep. Debbie Riddle, is not the party of business. They are not conservative. They are not the party of small government, less government, or limited government.

They are declaring themselves, with this bill and others, to be the party that wants everyone to have access to what’s going on under your skirt.

I don’t think that’s very Texan.



Posted in politics, Texas, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

I Want To Hear The President Speak

Tonight, the President of the United States will announce he’s taking executive action to change immigration policy because neither he nor our country can wait any longer for Congress to do something. Like their job.

If you want to hear what he says, I hope you can find a live broadcast to watch. I don’t have cable, so I can’t watch C-SPAN. I just have over-the-air, old fashioned antenna teevee. Provided it isn’t too windy, I can watch at 8 pm EST tonight:

  • ABC: Grey’s Anatomy
  • CBS: The Big Bang Theory
  • NBC: Bad Judge

But I can’t watch the President make what will unquestionably be one of his most controversial, endlessly debated policy announcements of his two terms in office unless I tune into Univision. I’ll do so, but it comes higher up on the dial, so reception is much spottier for me. Here’s hoping for no wind or Comcast not screwing up my broadband in case I can stream it. (Pinning one’s hopes on Comcast … )

One report:

President Barack Obama will announce his highly anticipated plan to deal with millions of illegal immigrants tomorrow night. While the cable news networks will carry the 8pmET announcement, the broadcast networks — deep into November sweeps — will not.

According to network insiders, the White House did not request time from the networks for tomorrow night’s primetime speech. But because it comes at 5pm Pacific Time the network evening newscasts will have to update their programs.

I’m not sure, but wonder if the White House didn’t ask because they knew they wouldn’t get it? To be fair, though, that is “according to network insiders,” so who knows whether that is true or what game is being played.

We wring our hands about low voter turnout. We all post the video of Texas Tech students unclear on when the Civil War actually took place, or who won. But we have major networks whose broadcast licenses are awarded as a public trust, and they won’t broadcast a major policy decision that affects the future of our nation, the stability of our economy, and the lives of our families, friends, and neighbors.

We don’t have to figure out whether to blame the networks for pandering during sweeps, the populace for demanding our bread and circuses, or the government for refusing to function except in crisis mode. There’s enough blame to go around.

It seems like spitting into the wind to suggest emailing, calling, or tweeting the networks, or the White House, or both, but the day we get tired of raising our voices is the day we lose them completely. So, get to it.

ABC Email comment form 
@ABC (ABC News)

CBS Email comment form
@KHOU – Houston CBS affiliate

NBC Email comment form

The White House Contact the White House

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The Cult of Mommy and The Cult of the Fetus

If I were in charge of lay-out for the New York Times, I would have printed these articles on facing pages:

Our ‘Mommy’ Problem
Motherhood. Is it a private relationship between a parent and child, or something that gives just about anyone the right to participate, direct, comment upon, or otherwise influence the way you interact with your child or children, and to reduce your meaning in the world as only that interaction and relationship?

I’m not a mommy, and won’t ever be one, and yet there are people, mostly men but not always, who will address me as such at random times and in random places. I’m even a little guilty of it when I assume, when talking to women about politics, that I should bring up education as an issue that will no doubt be important to them. Because mommy.

Pregnant, and No Civil Rights
As states try (and try and try, and sometimes succeed) to enact personhood laws, women are not only reduced to their potential role as mommy, but they are legally shown to be less valuable, less worthy of civil rights or humane treatment, than even a fetus which exists entirely within their own bodies.

How does this play out? Based on the belief that he had an obligation to give a fetus a chance for life, a judge in Washington, D.C., ordered a critically ill 27-year-old woman who was 26 weeks pregnant to undergo a cesarean section, which he understood might kill her. Neither the woman nor her baby survived.

In Iowa, a pregnant woman who fell down a flight of stairs was reported to the police after seeking help at a hospital. She was arrested for “attempted fetal homicide.”

The organization National Advocates for Pregnant Women is a critical part of the reproductive justice movement, expanding our notion of what it means and whether it really is possible to choose whether, when, and how to parent. They’re documenting a disturbing new reality:

Last year, we published a peer-reviewed study documenting 413 arrests or equivalent actions depriving pregnant women of their physical liberty during the 32 years between 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, and 2005 . . . Since 2005, we have identified an additional 380 cases, with more arrests occurring every week.

What on earth is wrong with this country that in 2014, we still cannot handle women as fully actualized humans worth of respect and civil rights completely apart from any propensity to procreate?

Posted in feminists & feminism, politics, pro-choice activism | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments