The amendment to the Russian Federal Law, effectively banning the "propaganda" of same-sex sexual relations to minors, what are called "non-traditional sexual relations," makes for chilling reading. Stephen Fry’s likening it to anti-Semitism may not be far wrong; it is aimed at invalidating LGBT people which, in turn, fosters a climate of hate. To highlight this, the text of an "Explanatory Note" published with the Bill and the new clause of the Legal Code of the Russian Federation itself, approved by Vladimir Putin on 29th June 2013, is reproduced below with the words "non-traditional" sexual relationships and "homosexuality" replaced with "interracial" relationships, for its resemblance to Nazi racial laws of the 1930s is among this law’s most terrifying features.
What follows is based on an accurate translation of the original Russian documents. The Explanatory Note would read (with modifications in bold):
The promotion of interracial relationships has sharply increased in modern-day Russia. This promotion is carried out via the media as well as via the active pursuit of public activities which try to portray interracial relationships as normal behavior. This is particularly dangerous for children and young people who are not able to take a critical approach to this avalanche of information with which they are bombarded on a daily basis. In view of this, it is essential, first and foremost, to protect the younger generation from exposure to the promotion of interracial relationships, this being the aim of the present bill….
It is therefore essential to put in place measures which provide for the intellectual, moral and mental wellbeing of children, including a ban on any activities aimed at popularizing interracial relationships. A ban of this kind on propaganda as an activity involving the intentional and indiscriminate spreading of information which may be injurious to physical, moral and spiritual wellbeing, including instilling distorted ideas that society places an equal value on traditional and interracial sexual relations, amongst people who are incapable, due to their age, of critically assessing this information on their own, cannot in itself be considered a breach of the constitutional rights of citizens.
In view of the above, a bill has been drafted which introduces amendments to the Legal Code of the Russian Federation by making the promotion of interracial relationships to minors illegal. However, it would not be an offense to be a person in an interracial relationship but only to promote interracial relationships to minors.
The bill confers the right of drawing up charge sheets relating to activities carried out in public which are aimed at promoting interracial relationships to minors on officials of the authorities responsible for internal affairs (the police) and of considering any resulting cases on the courts.
The text of the new clause, again replacing "non-traditional" with "interracial," would be as follows:
Article 6.21. Promoting interracial sexual relations to minors:
1. Promoting interracial sexual relations to minors by spreading information aimed at instilling in minors interracial sexual arrangements, the attractiveness of interracial sexual relations and/or a distorted view that society places an equal value on traditional and interracial sexual relations or propagating information on interracial sexual relations making them appear interesting, provided that these activities do not involve criminal acts which are punishable under the law, will be punishable by the imposition of a fine ranging from four thousand to five thousand roubles for individuals, from forty thousand to fifty thousand roubles for officials, from eight hundred thousand to one million roubles or suspension of operations for up to ninety days for legal entities.
2. Activities stipulated in section 1 of the present article carried out using the mass media and/or information-telecommunications channels (including the internet) provided that these activities do not involve criminal acts which are punishable under the law, will be punishable by the imposition of a fine ranging from fifty thousand to one hundred thousand roubles for individuals, from one hundred thousand to two hundred thousand roubles for officials, of one million roubles or suspension of operations for up to ninety days for legal entities.
3. Activities stipulated in section 1 of the present article carried out by foreigners or stateless persons provided that these activities do not involve criminal acts which are punishable under the law, will be punishable by the imposition of a fine ranging from four thousand to five thousand roubles plus deportation from the Russian Federation or detention for up to fifty days plus deportation from the Russian Federation.
4. Activities stipulated in section 1 of the present article carried out by foreigners or stateless persons using the mass media and/or information-telecommunications channels (including the internet) provided that these activities do not involve criminal acts which are punishable under the law, will be punishable by the imposition of a fine ranging from fifty thousand to one hundred thousand roubles plus deportation from the Russian Federation or detention for up to fifty days plus deportation from the Russian Federation.
Clearly this modified version of the law would be wholly unacceptable. But the original text is no less obscene in targeting sexual rather than racial minorities. It has already been used against Russian citizens and foreigners. Legal sanctions also legitimize the victimization of LGBT people, which has led to some horrific violence. Minors are, of course, everywhere, and the law’s provisions are so far-reaching, including all communication channels, as to make any attempt to speak about, defend or demonstrate sexual orientation or trans-gender identity publicly under any circumstances subject to fines and imprisonment. There can be no support for gay teens in schools and even to discuss issues around bullying and suicide would break the law, as would a challenge to the law in the courts or the Duma. This is a step back to the graveyard of state-sponsored bigotry reminiscent of Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa and some pre-1960s southern states of the U.S. [via]
When Mel Reiff Hill and Jay Mays’ gender-variant friend needed to give something to his mother that would help explain what was going on with him, they began to create a solution. They created The Gender Book. The book was designed to help both allies and people who are discovering the complexities of gender within themselves.
They wanted to make sure it represented a wide range of people:
We acknowledge that we as creators are pretty gender fabulous, but could never speak for other people’s experiences. Our intention wasn’t to be experts on anything but to share the diversity of a big awesome community (geographically, ethnically, generationally, etc). We wanted as many voices to speak for themselves as possible in the project.
They used personal examples from people who responded to online surveys. For example: “Sometimes I have to hide under the pretext of being ‘male’ or ‘female’ for the sake of surviving, and moving through the world with (some) ease. But I’m still me, despite whatever mask I may be forced to hide beneath. And no matter what, I try to be as true to myself as the situation allows.”
They’re still collecting answers to their survey here. Although all of the responses obviously can’t be put in the book itself, they hope to create a way for people to see all of the responses on their website. And, although they didn’t realize it was going to go as well as it has, they hope to publish it as a real, physical book — as soon as they can get together the funding and find a publisher (hint: you can donate here.) You can download the book for free here!
Masturbation doesn’t make you sexual, says sex expert Lori Brotto. She estimates that half of all asexuals stimulate themselves on a fairly regular basis. "People may ask, ‘How can they be asexual if they masturbate?’ I admit the finding did surprise me, too," said Brotto, the director of the University of British Columbia’s Sexual Health Laboratory. "When you talk about masturbation, you may think of it as a sexual activity, but actually masturbation is not inherently sexual. [Asexuals cite] boredom, stress reduction, helping them to get to sleep, etc., as reasons behind masturbation."
Several male asexuals told us they masturbate frequently, some every day, and most used the phrase "cleaning the plumbing" to explain why they do it. One female asexual said that while she masturbates about once a month, she has no idea why she does it; it just feels like something she’s biologically compelled to do.
Though asexuals (or "aces") are often seen as individuals who are devoid of sexual desire, incapable of sexual arousal and averse to interpersonal intimacy, both researchers and asexuals alike say these are largely misconceptions.
In a 2010 study, Brotto says she found evidence that asexual women have a similar genital response to stimuli as sexual women — in other words, a comparable sexual arousal response. Still, despite evidence that sexual desire and arousal are not usually absent in asexuals, current research indicates that aces do have significantly lower sexual desire and arousal than sexual individuals. Orgasmic function also tends to be lower. Several aces even said that while they can experience orgasm (a reflexive response), it is almost always — and this is a direct quote — "meh."
Brotto’s study indicates, however, that these lower levels are not caused by an "impaired psychophysiological sexual arousal response." As one asexual put it, "everything works, we just don’t want to get somebody else involved." Read on…
The Walker family is good at keeping secrets from the world. They are even better at keeping them from each other. Max Walker is a golden boy. Attractive, intelligent, and athletic, he’s the perfect son, the perfect friend, and the perfect crush for the girls in his school. He’s even really nice to his little brother. Karen, Max’s mother, is a highly successful criminal lawyer, determined to maintain the façade of effortless excellence she has constructed through the years. Now that the boys are getting older, now that she won’t have as much control, she worries that the façade might soon begin to crumble. Adding to the tension, her husband, Steve, has chosen this moment to stand for election to Parliament. The spotlight of the media is about to encircle their lives.
The Walkers are hiding something, you see. Max is special. Max is different. Max is intersex. When an enigmatic childhood friend named Hunter steps out of his past and abuses his trust in the worst possible way, Max is forced to consider the nature of his well-kept secret. Why won’t his parents talk about it? What else are they hiding from Max about his condition and from each other? The deeper Max goes, the more questions emerge about where it all leaves him and what his future holds, especially now that he’s starting to fall head over heels for someone for the first time in his life. Will his friends accept him if he is no longer the Golden Boy? Will anyone ever want him—desire him— once they know? And the biggest one of all, the question he has to look inside himself to answer: Who is Max Walker, really?
What makes Golden Boy work for me as a book about intersexuality written by someone who (as far as I know) isn’t intersex herself is that Tarttelin presents Max’s secret as a horrible problem only in the eyes of characters who think it’s a horrible problem. The problem is secrecy, not anatomy. As Max says late in the book, secrets “get out of you and they eat the air around you. They make it all thin, so you can’t breathe.” Read on…
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
The classic play about a girl who washes ashore after a shipwreck and disguises herself as a boy was banned in a New Hampshire school system by a rule titled "prohibition of alternative lifestyle instruction," which means that teachers in the district are forbidden from discussing homosexuality in the classroom. The plotline in which Viola, dressed as a boy, falls in love with Duke Orsino was deemed inappropriate.
Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault
The fairy tale of a little girl who is led astray by a wolf while on the way to her grandmother’s house was banned by two California school districts because one of the refreshments for her grandmother that Little Red Riding Hood carried in her basket was wine.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Frank L. Baum’s classic story about a girl and her friends traveling through the mystical land of Oz came under fire for its perceived socialist values, but it was also banned because it described witches as good – as in Glinda, the Good Witch of the South.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The story of a Southern family that confronts racism in their town may seem like an inspirational tale that’s appropriate for everyone, but it was banned by one school in Minnesota for inappropriate language because the heroine Scout swears, and by a school in Texas because it "conflicted with the values of the community."
Night Shadows: Queer Horror
What scares you the most? Some of the biggest names in queer publishing come together to share tales of things that go bump in the night, murder and revenge most foul, and dark creatures that will haunt your dreams, while putting a decidedly queer twist on the literary horror genre. The fourteen stories in Night Shadows are disturbing tales of psychological terror that will continue to resonate with readers long after they finish reading these delightfully wicked stories. Don’t read these stygian tales when you’re alone — or without every light in the house burning! English, 264 pages, ISBN: 978-1602827516
Chocolatiers of the High Winds
This gay steampunk romance follows the globe-trotting adventures of young Mayport Titus, the sole scion of the Titus Chocolate fortune. Mayport’s father, an adventurer and entrepreneur, established the intercontinental chocolate trade using sugar from India, cacao from South America, and a factory in New Amsterdam, before he and his wife were lost when their airship went down over the ocean and left Mayport orphaned. Now determined to make his own way in the world, Mayport attempts to resurrect his father’s old airship, The Dutch Process, with the help of Thiervy, an intimate school friend who happens to be both a pilot and an engineer. Together Mayport and Thiervy not only rebuild the ship, and revolutionize the moribund chocolate industry, they bring a new way of doing things to the world. English, 332 pages, ISBN: 78-1613900505
For Colored Boys
For Colored Boys, addresses issues like sexual abuse, suicide, HIV & Aids, racism, and homophobia in the African American and Latino communities, and more specifically among young gay men of colour. The book tells stories of real people coming of age, coming out, dealing with religion, seeking love and relationships, finding their own identity in or out of the LGBT community, and creating their own sense of political empowerment. For Colored Boys is designed to educate and inspire those seeking to overcome their own obstacles in their own lives. English, 300 pages, ISBN: 978-1936833153
Now for something completely different, as prescribed by ze Doctor, a quite sexual experience brought to you by the ever so sensual voice of Mr Cumberbatch (such a poetic name as well
So called “child porn” is a difficult and touchy subject. It’s obvious that no one wants kids to get abused. But we live in times where people get harsher jail terms for having some photos on their PC than people who actually rape kids. Where 17-year-old teenagers get charged with the production of child pornography because they made a photo for their boyfriend. Where drawings and stories. while never hurting any kid, are considered to be as evil as photos of sexual abuse. Where the copyright lobby admits to love child porn because it makes it easier for them to get their draconian censorship and surveillance laws passed.
In such times it must be possible to have a serious discussion about our priorities. Do we rather put people on trial because they own some comics with drawings of scantly clad teenage characters than going after the people who actually rape real kids? Do we want to pass laws which are being abused to spy on everyone of us without helping a single child in the process?
And now we might actually get to have this discussion thanks to an opinion piece published by Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party. He is explaining how our current laws are written by religious fundamentalists, how many, many innocent people, both adults and teens, are caught in the process and why we might want to reconsider the laws concerning the possession of “child porn” – which was legal until 1999 in Sweden and many other countries. The Swedish Association of Journalists still is against the ban as the Destroyer blog is pointing out.
This article argues that our current laws on the topic are counterproductive, because they protect child molesters instead of bringing them to justice, they criminalize a generation of normally-behaving teenagers which diverts valuable police resources from the criminals we should be going after, and they lead to censorship and electronic book burning as well as unacceptable collateral damage to innocent families. Child abuse as such is not condoned by anybody, and this article argues that current laws are counterproductive in preventing and prosecuting it.
I urge you to actually read the whole essay before you leave any heated comments. Falkvinge is not arguing for the abuse of children to be made legal in any way. Please keep the discussion civilised, thanks.
Rarely has a book for young adults been so eagerly anticipated as Tricks of the Trade, the third book by the popular young author Floortje Zwigtman. She understands better than anyone else that adolescents aren’t looking for a neat book of instructions for the future. These are stories that tell it like it is, historical novels about surviving in conditions where the laws and morals of polite society no longer seem to apply.
Adrian Mayfield is born in the poor East End of Victorian London, the son of a pub landlord and a seamstress. However, a different career lies in store for him. It’s not a scenario that the street-hardened lad could have envisaged: a wealthy older gentleman falls in love with him and takes him home. The man is Augustus Trops, a second-rate artist from Flanders. He introduces Adrian to the flamboyant circle of Oscar Wilde, where he meets other men like Augustus and finds work as an artist’s model. The work pays well and he meets the most interesting and powerful people of his time. Adrian is very pleased with his new life at first. Everything appears to be going swimmingly. Until, that is, London’s beau monde decamps to Europe for the summer holidays, as happens every year. Adrian, by now accustomed to luxury, ends up without any income.
In a male brothel he discovers the flip side of his new life in the twofaced London of the nineteenth century, where gossip, blackmail and brutal police violence make homosexuality a highly dangerous way of life. Then he faces the choice of whether to put his integrity and his friendships on the line so that he doesn’t have to live in a mouldy, cockroach-infested garret.
Tricks of the Trade is an intense book that is difficult to put down. It draws the reader in without resorting to cheap sensationalism. This is a result of Zwigtman’s unique ability to combine critical distance with open intimacy. The raw, breathtaking writing of this sharp, historical portrait really makes the reader think about life. Zwigtman is one of the great modern writers of books for young adults.
This is the first book in a series of three and was published in Dutch under the title Schijnbewegingen and in German as Ich, Adrian Mayfield. There is no English translation yet because all interested publishers asked the author to removed some of the detailed sex scenes considering the age of the target audience but Zwigtman, luckily, refused to do so.