An Open Letter to Mike Huckabee

Dear Governor Huckabee,

I am reaching out to you as a brother in Christ, because I am concerned with your health. While I am not a medical doctor or a psychiatrist, I have observed in you symptoms of a condition that may affect your ability to be elected president or affect your fitness to govern if you are elected.

Let me back up. At first I was confused by your defense of admitted child molester, Josh Duggar. While it is Christian to forgive, and your compassion for a sexual predator was admirable, it seemed like an odd stance in today’s political climate for a man seeking higher office to publicly align himself with a sexual criminal, but now it makes sense why you had so much empathy for him.

This is nothing to be ashamed of, Governor, the condition you suffer from disproportionately strikes those of us who, like you and me, are male, heterosexual and cisgender. The fact that you are rich and white puts you at even greater risk. You, sir, suffer from a pathological urge to take your basest desires to sexually exploit those with less power and agency than you, and attribute them to others with less power and agency than you.

Case in point, much like Josh Duggar who publicly accused gay, lesbian and transgender people of being a danger to children while concealing his own past and a child molester, you have come forward with your wish to have pretended to be transgender in order to shower with girls in highschool.

While I’m thrilled that these revelations about you and Josh Duggar are bringing this horrible affliction to light, allow me to dole out some perspective: Your desire to ogle naked, teenage girls has nothing to do with the lives of people whose sincerely held belief (see what I did there) is that they were born the wrong physical gender and are willing to clear the hurdles (medical, financial, societal and other) to correct this fact and live as their authentic selves.

To put it bluntly, Governor Huckabee, you are not a machine that shines light through a transparency to display an image on a screen. So please, stop projecting.

In closing, it is my understanding that you wish to be president of the United States. Allow me to reacquaint you with the job descriptions: the president represents all Americans, not just the ones who think and feel as he does.

Your brother in Christ,

David Wraith

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The Facebook Status Update/Open Invite

I’m going to address something that I see quite a bit of on social media, but never hear anyone talk about.

There’s a decent number of  women in my life that I find interesting and want to get to know better, but with whom I don’t have the kind of relationship where we make plans to hang out, and if I were to suddenly try, it might seem like I was asking them out on a date whether I was or not.

At least a couple times a month, one of these women will post something on Facebook like this:

“I’m going for a hike today, who wants to come with me?”

Or:

“I’ll be a Black Thorn Pub in about an hour if someone wants to join me for a drink.”

Or:

“I’m binge watching Arrested Development on Netflix at my place tonight. Private massage me for the address if you want to swing by.”

Every time this happens, I get excited. I instinctively reach for the keyboard to respond. Here’s a chance to get some social time with this woman I’m interested in. Awesome.

Then the voice in my head kicks in. It says that this is a public post visible to everyone of her Facebook friends, of which she has about a thousand. She wasn’t thinking about me when she made that post. She probably doesn’t even remember friending me on Facebook and forgot I can see her feed. If I respond to this message or show up where she announced she will be, it will look really desperate and she will regret having posted this status update. In fact, the next time she thinks about making a similar post, she’ll remember that time David Wraith showed up and how awkward it was and then decide against it [like the time a guy I really didn’t want to hang out with, showed up at the bar where I was because he saw I’d checked-in there on Foursquare, and for months afterward, I only checked-in places as I was leaving to avoid that happening again].

Then the voice in my head tells me that out of her thousand Facebook friends, there’s probably only about thirty people she really wants to hang out with, and out of that thirty she’s hoping only about half a dozen with respond, and I am not one of those people. Then the voice in my head asks why didn’t she just send a private group message to those thirty people or adjust the privacy settings on her post so only they would see it. Then I’m pissed at her for being lazy and playing with my emotions, and then she and I are in a fight that only I am aware of, and then I’m thinking about unfriending or unfollowing her to prevent her from ruining my day like this in the future.

I can’t be the only person who goes through this, right?

 

On Public Speaking

Presenting on power exchange at Hustler Hollywood.

I have an unprecedented number of speaking engagements lined up for the first three months of this year. I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at public speaking in the last few years, but I’m always looking for ways to kick my skills up a notch, so I’m currently in the process of doing research on being a better public speaker, and I thought I’d share for those who are interested.

On his blog, Tim Ferriss, author of the “The Four Hour Work Week,” suggests pre-speech caffeine dosing. He always drinks a 16 ounce Diet Coke 45 minutes before a speech and another 20 minutes before the speech, for energy. He also suggest peeing before taking the stage.

Perhaps more helpful, Ferriss takes the amount of time he is expected to present and allocates half of it for questions and answers with the audience. He divides the remaining time into five sections: A short opening, a short closing, and the remaining three sections are divided equally and allocated to introducing and explaining a single point each. I think that’s a pretty good format.

So, worried you might forget one of your three points or the order you want to introduce them in? Try building a Memory Palace. A Memory Palace is a series of highly visual and often ridiculous images in a highly visual and ridiculous sequence of events. Each image represents a point or concept you want to remember and the sequence of events represents the order you need to remember them in. This is how competitive memorizers (yes, that’s a thing) prepare for competition. There’s a TED Talk on the subject: here.

Get nervous in front of crowds? Practice adopting confident body language for twenty minutes or so before giving your speech. Not only will you appear more confident to your audience, but you can actually trick yourself into feeling more confident. Here’s a TED Talk on that subject.

We’ve all heard the advice about about imagining your audience naked to feel more at ease in front of a crowd. In the book “Psycho Cybernetics” by Maxwell Maltz and Dan Kennedy, there’s a story of a woman who takes this concept to the next level. To get over being self conscious in front of an audience, she practiced her speeches completely naked while standing before a full length mirror. The logic being that when she could get through the entire speech, naked in front of a mirror, without feeling self conscious, being on stage fully dressed and unable to see herself would be a breeze. This technique could really come in handy for me, since it’s not rare for me to give presentations while almost naked.  Unfortunately, I don’t own a full length mirror, so I guess I’ll just have to invite some people over and practice my presentation in front of them in the nude. If anyone is interested in helping me out, just let me know.

Presenting on body image at Shameless Grounds.

R.I.P. Music Video

Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” didn’t kill music video, it just inspired this post mortem.

The strange relationship between art, commerce and technology is nothing new. Early burlesque performers probably had no idea what they were getting themselves into the first time someone asked to point one of those newfangled motion picture cameras at them. Then they discovered that men might not be willing to pay top dollar for a real, live woman when they could see the next best thing projected on a screen at the nickelodeon. Plus, film loops don’t require food or lodging and they never get tired so long as the sprocket holes last. When technology threatens a business, the business has to find a way of delivering something that technology can’t and so… the lap-dance was born.  

Early stand-ups comics learned the same lesson. There was a time when a comic could spend an entire career perfecting a tight fifteen minutes worth of material and put his kids through college in the process. Then, comedians started getting booked on television. Getting a spot on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” was many a comedian’s big break. It also meant that in one fell swoop, half the country knew all his best material. In the immortal words of Chris Rock, Sting can play the same songs in concert for twenty years. If fact, the audience will get mad at him if he doesn’t play those songs, but God forbid a comedian tell the same joke that was funny last year. Hence after Louis CK performs a joke in a televised special, he retires it. The artist has adapted to the technology.

Large corporations typically fear and resist the very technology they will soon come to embrace. The movies thought they’d be ruined by television. Nowadays, television (in the form of home video, video on demand and cable rights) is what makes most box office bombs ultimately profitable. Then the television networks went before congress to try to stop the mass marketing of Video Cassette Recorders, fearing that it would encourage piracy of their intellectual property. We can thank Fred Rogers of “Mister Rodgers Neighborhood” whose testimony before congress, about the benefits of parents recording a show like his to watch with their children, helped usher in the home video revolution which would ultimately begat the DVD player, Tivo, and the DVR.  Boxed sets of TV series became huge money makers, which would have been unheard of just a few years prior. The newfound permanence of the formerly ephemeral art form gave way to a need breed of television show that would stand up to and even reward repeated viewing. Hence shows like “Arrested Development” and “The Wire.”

Of course, the most technophobic industry has been the music. Dubbing an album from one analog cassette to another seems positively quaint in the iTunes era, but those of us old enough to remember when this was state of the art technology probably also remember when blank cassettes and dual cassette decks were the bane of record companies’ existence. So much so, they tried to get a tax applied to the sales of blank tapes that would kick back to them to offset the revenue they’d lose when people copied their music.

Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to the subject of music video. When MTV debuted in the early 80s, people doubted that there was or would be enough visual content to justify a 24 hour music network. Within a few years, record companies were proving that content to the tune of hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of dollars a pop. A new breed a visually savvy pop star emerged, bringing with them a new breed of young filmmaker. Perhaps no artist/director collaboration typified this more than the one between Madonna and a then unknown David Fincher.

But then the digital revolution happened. Songs could be downloaded for free from sites like Napster and its brethren. Kids who had once watched MTV for hours waiting for their favorite video to come on, could now get it at a moment’s notice on YouTube. MTV traded in music videos for whatever it is MTV plays now (I’m 40, so I have no idea). Record companies were tightening their belts due to lost revenue and at the same time they realized that they no longer had to make videos that looked good on a 27 inch TV screen, only videos that look good enough on a smart-phone or a widow within a window on a laptop.

That’s how we went from a multi-million dollar production of Michael and Janet Jackson recreating the Mikhail Baryshnikov / Gregory Hines dance-off from “White Nights” in a Kubrickian space station…

…to Beyoncé and a couple of back-up dancers in front of a white wall.

In a world where a cat riding a Roomba or a young woman sitting a toilet has just as good a chance of going viral as the products of most major record labels, artists have had to find new ways to cut through the clutter. OK Go cracked this nut with their intricately choreographed video for “Here it Goes Again,” but they also pigeonholed themselves as a band know for its intricately choreographed videos more than for its music.

This brings me (finally) to them man who, until this summer, I knew primarily as Alan Thicke’s son and Paula Patton’s husband. Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is the first music video I was compelled to watch through word-of-mouth since Johnny Cash’s “Hurt,” (still the greatest music video ever produced by the medium, in my humble opinion), but what Thicke discovered was that you don’t need a big budget, a dying music icon or an intricately choreographed stunt to get a buzz. All you need is the oldest special effect in the book: Hot Naked Ladies.

I’m not going to discuss the political ramifications of this video. The fact that it was directed by a woman, Dian Martin, who claims that her use of women’s bodies here is subtly subversive, and the fact that Thicke has claimed to enjoy “degrading” the models in the video, makes that subject worthy of its own conversation.

I’m simply pondering what “Blurred Lines” means for music video as an art form (and yes it IS an art form, or at least it was). For me, it symbolizes the end.

Of course there are hundreds of awful rap videos that are a thousand times worse than “Blurred Lines, but for reasons related to both race and musical genre, those videos never enter the mainstream consciousness  the way this video by a safe, white, pop-R&B artist has. (As an aside, though, I remain convinced that long after Nelly’s music has been forgotten, his enduring legacy will be the music video “Tip Drill” which will live on in Women’s Studies texts as the apex of misogyny in the music industry.)

“Blurred Lines” director, Martin, says she was inspired by the work of fashion photographer Helmut Newton, of whom I’m a big fan, but I think the video is much more evocative of Terry Richardson. For those who don’t know, Richardson is a hack photographer who took the magazine world by storm with his porn influenced, poorly composed, over exposed, harshly lit, snapshots of clothed men and naked women in front of bare white walls. Watching “Blurred Lines” for the first time, I actually thought he might have been the director. For my money, Richardson is to Helmut Newton what Robin Thicke is to Marvin Gaye.

At the end of the day, I don’t knock Robin Thicke’s hustle. His gambit was successful. The man I knew as Paula Patton’s husband is now a household name. So much so that it was my 61-year-old girlfriend who neither watches TV nor listens to pop radio, who convinced me to watch the video. Thicke is just another in a long line of artists adapting to technology’s effect on his market place, although probably more in the tradition of a stripper giving a lap-dance than Louis CK or the creators of “The Wire.”

Juror B37

Yet another post about Trayvon Martin. Add it to your collection. Amass the whole set.

Watching the L.A. riots, I was so sad I almost cried. I felt the same way watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It usually takes devastation on a pretty mass scale to move me even close to tears for people I don’t know. I wasn’t sad when I heard about the shooting of Trayvon Martin, I was angry. I wasn’t angry or sad when I heard about George Zimmerman’s acquittal; I was something more like… exhausted.

Knowing how flawed our judicial system is, I still try to have faith in it. I was never one of those people saying “Free Mumia!” I simply said, “Retry Mumia.” I was not convinced of his innocence, I was convinced he never got a fair trial and I feel that everyone deserves one. I never wanted George Zimmerman dead, I didn’t want his head on a platter, I didn’t want them to lock him up and throw away the key without due process of law. I simply wanted him to be charged with a crime and after 45 days and massive public outcry, he was.

I told myself I had to accept the jury’s decision no matter what, because that’s how the system worked. I could not convict George Zimmerman from my living room, because like everyone else on the planet other than Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, I wasn’t there I and didn’t see what happened.

I mean, I know what I read: that Trayvon Martin had none of George Zimmerman’s DNA under his fingernails, that there was none of George Zimmerman’s blood on the sleeves of Martin’s now famous hoodie. I know what I saw: pictures of George Zimmerman’s face and head before and after the EMTs cleaned the blood off of him which seemed to show that the blood was the result of superficial cuts to his skin. I know what I didn’t see, any photos of bruises on George Zimmerman. All of which seems to me to be inconsistent with the beating the Zimmerman allegedly took at the hands of Trayvon Martin.

I was in fight with my brother, he punched me once and I looked worse than this for days afterward. Alas, I did not have a gun.

But again, that’s me trying to litigate the case from my living room. And I didn’t even watch the trial on TV. So when the jury handed down its not guilty verdict, I tried to accept it. Not because I thought George Zimmerman was innocent, but because I assumed that the laws in Florida, the instructions to the jurors and the high burden of proof put on the prosecution, left the jury no choice.

Then, juror B37 went on Anderson Cooper and fucked up my whole day.

I don’t watch cable news as a rule, so when something on cable news makes its way to my consciousness, it’s a bad sign.

There’s fact that she disregarded the judge’s instructions to not consider some of Detective Chris Serino’s testimony, the fact that she cited the Stand Your Ground Laws, even though they weren’t used in Zimmerman’s defense, her descriptions of Rachel Jeantel which seemed to have everything to do with her own projections on to Jeantel personally and not on the substance of her testimony, her assertion that Trayvon Martin could have just “walked away,” when on the 911 tape Zimmerman says that Trayvon was running away and so he pursued him, her assertion that the possibility that Zimmerman had racially profiled Martin was never discussed…

It was after listening to quotes from this interview on NPR, that the weight of the tragedy finally hit me. For the first time since hearing about Trayvon Martin’s death, I was not angry, but sad. I felt like I had been reminded once again that my life has less value; that the lives of my nieces, nephews and cousins have less value. I was reminded that as black man, everything I do is suspect, even walking in down the street. If I stand up to an assailant, he may kill me because he fears for his life, but if I flee, he may chase me because the act of fleeing is deemed suspicions and “these guys always get away.” I was reminded that as a black man, I am always armed, even when I’m unarmed. I am reminded that no matter whom I’m up against; a man with a gun or four police officers with guns, nightsticks and Tasers, that as long as I’m black and they are not, they will always be overmatched because my skin color  is a weapon in and of itself.  

For the first time since the shooting of Trayvon Martin, I am more sad than angry; sad for myself, sad for Trayvon Martin and his family, sad for Jordan Davis and his family, sad for Darius Simmons and his family, and yes, sad for juror B37. I’m not angry at juror B37. She didn’t invent injustice even if she is an unwitting participant in it. She is a product of her culture just like I am a product of mine. She can no sooner imagine what it’s like to be me or Trayvon Martin, or Rachel Jeantel, than I can imagine what it’s like to be her.

God help us all.

My Klein Grid Score

Klein Sexual Orientation Grid

I scored an average of 1.33

   
0 1 2 3 4 5 6
Heterosexual Bisexual Homosexual

 

Meaning

This result can also be related to the Kinsey Scale:

0 = exclusively heterosexual
1 = predominantly heterosexual, incidentally homosexual
2 = predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
3 = equally heterosexual and homosexual
4 = predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
5 = predominantly homosexual, incidentally heterosexual
6 = exclusively homosexual

Summary

The idea of this exercise is to understand exactly how dynamic a person’s sexual orientation can be, as well as how fluid it can be over a person’s lifespan. While a person’s number of actual homo/heterosexual encounters may be easy to categorise, their actual orientation may be completely different. Simple labels like “homosexual”, “heterosexual”, and “bisexual” need not be the only three options available to us.

Take the quiz on Young Southampton

Confronting My Friend’s (Alleged) Rapist

A photo from SlutWalk STL.

Hey what did you do last Wednesday? Me? Oh, not much. I went to work, wrote a post that went “Kinky & Popular” on Fetlife (the Fetlife equivalent of going viral). I went to see “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” And, oh yeah, somewhere in there I confronted the man my friend accused of raping her.

Here’s what the two of them agree on. They were at a bar, drinking. They went back to his place and drank more. She asked if she could sleep it off there and slept in his bed.

Here’s where the stories differ. He says that she had been flirting with him all night, the sex was consensual and she was the aggressor. She says she passed out in his bed and woke up to him having sex with her (with no condom, just for good measure).

She told me the story shortly after it happened, back in July. I was very upset by it, but when I tried to get her to talk about it further, she balked and I didn’t press. A couple weeks later I attended SlutWalk STL. I spent the better part of twelve hours marching with and for sexual assault survivors and participating in workshops. Women I had only just met came to me with their stories of survival. One trend I noticed in these stories was a desire on the part of the survivors for their rapists (sometimes friends or family members, some of whom were sexual assault victims themselves) to acknowledge what had happened. Not to have them arrested, tried and sent to prison, but just to acknowledge that the incident occurred.  

I started thinking about my friend. Now I’ve heard a lot of rape stories from a lot of women. One thing all the previous stories had in common was that I didn’t know their rapists. I could just be a supportive friend and take them at their word, since I had no personal frame of reference for the men who’d raped them.

This was different. The man my friend was accusing of rape was someone I knew. We had lots of friends in common. We’d worked together on several projects in the past would definitely run into each other in the future. I wasn’t sure what to do; as a man, as a friend or as someone who presented himself as a sex-positive, anti-violence activist. Immediately after SlutWalk, I called my friend and asked if we could talk.

We met at a bar and I asked her to tell me the whole story and she did. I held her hand and she cried. I said I didn’t know how I would handle it if I ran into him. She asked me not to say anything about the incident until she had a chance to talk him and I agreed. In the meantime, I just tried to avoid him.  

A couple weeks later, a woman who had attended SlutWalk approached me at Shameless Grounds. She had wanted to discuss SlutWalk with me, but when she looked me up on Facebook, she had seen my friend’s alleged rapist on my friends list and that stopped her from contacting me. She’d had a (much less severe) negative experience with him and the fact that he and I were “friends” was enough to call me into question in her mind. I explained to her that he and I weren’t really friends and I wanted nothing to do with him.

That was July, 2011. I have successfully avoided this guy and have not brought up the incident again to my friend. But I have thought about it. Is it possible that my friend got drunk, initiated sex with this guy and didn’t remember it? Of course. But I know her pretty well and it doesn’t seem like her.  She and I have had sex in the past. I’ve had sex with her when she was drunk and when she was sober. The one time we had sex when she was drunk out of her mind, she remember everything the next day with no regrets.  There have been times when she was in a relationship and giving off strong monogamy vibes. She’d crash at my place, too drunk to drive herself home and we’d share a bed without so much as touching each other. So, I have a hard time with his version of the story.

Now to her alleged rapist. I am not unbiased. I have a long history with this man. While my friend is the first person to out and out say to me that he raped her, she’s not the first woman to come to me, unsolicited, with tales of his in appropriate sexual behavior. About fifteen year ago, my ex-girlfriend got drunk at a party and went to sleep on the living room couch of the host. The man in question tried to coax her into having sex with him and she refused, several times, but he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. You may ask why she didn’t just get up and walk away. She couldn’t walk. Added to which, the man in question was in between her and her wheelchair. She was sleeping on the first floor because of her inability to climb stairs. The man in question’s unwanted sexual advances were so persistent; the host of the party had to physically get in between them and carry my ex to one of the upstairs bedrooms.

My ex asked me to speak with him about it. Now, I should stress that she was no shrinking violet and was accustom to fighting her own battles. When I’d offered to intervene on her behalf in the past, she’d always said “no,” but this was serious enough for her to ask me to have words with the man. I found him at a bar and called him out. I told him to stay away from her and he did. This was in 1997.

Fast forward to December, 2011.

I got an email from my friend saying that she’d confronted him in a bar. She’d looked him in the eyes and said, “You raped me.” To which (according to her) he replied, “Well, that’s one way of looking at it.”  

I was hot! I went to a place where I knew he’d be and asked him to step outside. I told him to think long and hard about what had happened that night with my friend, and if there was any doubt in his mind that the sex had been consensual, that he should admit to her what he did, apologize and beg her forgiveness. And, I told him to have her tell me not to tell anyone about it, because if she didn’t, I would tell what he had done to anyone I saw fit. Just like the time, several years ago, when he’d heard that I’d had consensual sex with his ex-girlfriend, which he then repeated to many of our friends, regardless to the fact that it hadn’t happened. That fact that I would later have sex with his ex-girlfriend is beside the point.

All and all, it had been a surprisingly civil conversation. He seemed calm and reasonable for a man being accused of rape.

I got a text from him later that night. He said he’d apologized and tried to talk to her and she’d punched him in the face.

I also got a text from my friend with her perspective. She said that he had ambushed her at a bar with no warning (to be fair, that’s what I had done to him. But also, to be fair, I hadn’t raped him. And for the record, when I told him to talk to her, I was thinking maybe a phone call, first).  According to her, he apologized for “upsetting her” and said that he was sorry about “what she thought had happened.” She said she asked him several times to get away from her, but he insisted that they talk then and there and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer (see a pattern?), so she hit him. I’m not happy with how things shook out, but I won’t shed too many tears for my role in a(n alleged) rape victim getting to punch her (alleged) rapist in the face.   

After their altercation, I felt like I’d fucked up. I felt like I’d inserted myself out of ego and machismo and had made a bad situation worse. I felt better, however, when my friend sent me a text thanking me for having her back. Still not sure what the best course of action is in situations like this. What would you do?