In a recent essay for Salon, I examined the suicide story of a college wrestler who suffered from multiple concussions, to argue that, in addition to damaging the lives of countless women, the mindless macho culture of many men is also self-destructive.
In a new feature at AlterNet, I interview documentary filmmaker, Dawn Porter, about her important and moving new film, Trapped.
Trapped tells the story of abortion practitioners, and the women they serve, in Southern states where prohibitive regulations have all but stripped away the constitutional rights of women seeking reproductive health services.
Read the feature at AlterNet, and keep an eye out for the film, which is set to air on PBS soon.
Recently, I wrote some critical essays for the Daily Beast. The first was on the comeback tour of Garth Brooks. I had the opportunity to interview Brooks for the essay. We discussed his music, his evolving role in country music, and music culture in America. Brooks was a boyhood idol of mine – my first musical love. While I still respect and admire him, I don’t have the same love for his music. That being said, I enjoyed his concert, and was thrilled to meet him. Read the essay here.
Shortly after interviewing Brooks, I had spoke with Sean Jablonski, the creator of the USA series, Satisfaction. Satisfaction, unlike much of American entertainment, intelligently and maturely deals with the complexities of adult sexuality. Jablonski and I had an interesting conversation about his show, sexuality, American culture, happiness, and his own Buddhist inspiration. Read the essay here.
In my latest essay for the Federalist, I indict American feminists for their obsession with petty, frivolous issues, and their indifference in the face of real women’s suffering in America, and around the world.
One of the few insights from Karl Marx still relevant is the need for international solidarity among oppressed people. If American women truly believed they were oppressed, they would have all the more reason to zealously advocate for the liberation of their African and Asian sisters, but instead they will obliviously protest that the existence of suffering elsewhere is no reason not to focus on making improvements here, no matter how marginal those improvements seem. The defense proves hollow when American feminists refuse to even come to the aid of fellow Americans, whether they are the impoverished immigrants suffering under the cruelty of Islamic insanity, or the working-class women of the military, who too often encounter an institution more worried about public relations than justice for rape victims. In an irony invisible to the Left, American feminism has become an elitist expression of upper-class concerns. Highly educated and paid women endlessly describe their own inconveniences, while ignoring the legitimate suffering of the poor, in foreign countries and their own cities.
Read the rest at the Federalist.
After the sad death of soul legend, and rhythm and blues, funk master Bobby Womack, I immediately wrote a tribute. Not only was Womack one of my favorite singers, he was also a passionate and powerful advocate for mutual pleasure – sexual democracy – in romance.
Unlike rap and unlike rock ‘n’ roll, but very much like the tradition of soul that formed Womack in the womb of musical greatness, his sexual testimony is one of mutual pleasure. It is an expression of masculinity that gains lasting, body-aching, and spirit-raising pleasure only if the man is comfortable and confident in the assuredness of giving a woman pleasure.
Read the rest of the essay at the Daily Beast.
“Phil Robertson—the knuckle dragger of Duck Dynasty—is the most truthful and accurate representative of Christianity’s position on homosexuality in the public eye. More than liberal Christians who try to have their wafer and eat it too (the Bible is the “word of God” except for the parts that conflict with their politics), and more than the hypocritical and hollow Pope who makes a few friendly statements about gay couples, but does nothing to alter the anti-gay policies of the church he leads, Robertson had the highest degree of Biblical authority when he compared homosexuality to bestiality and paraphrased Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Read the rest here: Duck Dynasty, Christians, Gays, and The Bible
Read my take on the failure of the contemporary left, and the need for obscenity, humor, and sexuality in cultural discourse here: Nerd Land and the Left
In my new essay for the Daily Beast, I offer a syllabus for self-transformation. From my introduction to the book list:
As the New Year dawns, let’s admit that the American psyche is a dilapidated maze of funhouse mirrors that leads nowhere. It should not shock even the most credulous patriot that many people who spend their internal lives within this maze of narcissism and dysfunction have major problems. One in five Americans suffers from some kind of mental illness, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The New York Times recently reported that suicide rates are rising so rapidly and steadily that more Americans now die of suicide than in car accidents. In a turn that vindicates Aldous Huxley, one in ten Americans ingests their daily Soma supplement in the form of antidepressants.
Many Americans are like Soren Kierkegaard’s allegorical corpse who did not realize he was alive until the morning he woke up dead—aimlessly wandering around in a drug addled haze, indulging smart phone addiction, disconnected from reality and community, while wondering why they feel unhappy and unfulfilled.
To worsen their condition of alienation and dejection, many Americans, in an attempt to feel better, read books that manipulatively sell mindless optimism and pathological hope. The cult of positive thinking turns out one hit after another, both secular—The Secret—and Christian—Joel Osteen’s prosperity gospel. The delusion that changing a life is as simple as believing it will change, and the poison that pretends God wants people who pray early and often to win the lottery, only raise expectations to unrealistic heights, and set desperate people up for a crushing fall with a crash landing.
Since Americans seem to love making New Years resolutions, now might be a sensible time for many to resolve to gain maturity and perspective in 2014. Such a process of self-education can and should begin with the close reading of books containing wisdom that will alleviate their anxiety, provide edifying purpose, and begin to transform their minds from circuses to cathedrals.
Check out my ten book recommendations, including Albert Camus, Ernest Hemingway, Gore Vidal, American history books, sexual advice, and a “loafer’s manifesto”, at the Daily Beast.
State Has No Business Banning Gay Marriage
Indianapolis Star: December 5, 2013
The Indiana State Constitution is based on the United States Constitution – perhaps the most important document in the history of humanity’s fight for freedom. Considering the legal brilliance, political empowerment, and spiritual hope that the Constitution embodies, it would set a dangerous precedent, and betray the meaning of America to amend the constitution – at the state or federal level – to limit liberty, rather than enlarge it.
The ink that the American founders used to write the Constitution doubled as the concrete that provided the foundation for Republican Democracy around the world. An essential part of its vision is the separation of church and state. While that actual phrase might not appear in the Constitution, the founders, especially Thomas Jefferson, made it clear in letters that they intended to keep bureaucrats out of the business of religion, and keep clerical bullies from imposing their dogmas on the duties of governance. The Supreme Court has upheld and validated the separation interpretation of the Establishment Clause in dozens of cases dating back hundreds of years.
It is for these reasons that any thoughtful, reasonable, and moral person must vehemently oppose the proposal to change the Indiana State Constitution to include an amendment banning gay marriage.
It is not the State’s role to make judgments on the consensual sex lives of adults. If America is to remain a friendly home for freedom, it must extend that freedom, and the equality of opportunity and dignity that goes along with it, to gay Americans – the majority of whom are law abiding, taxpaying citizens who conduct themselves with decency and responsibility.
Homosexuality is not only a form of sex. It is also a form of love. All Americans, but especially those who wear the label of “family values conservative,” should seek to honor that love in the maintenance of a society that values romantic commitment and familial care.
The entire debate surrounding gay marriage is cartoonishly absurd, given that there is no credible argument against it. One side uses legal precedent, philosophical argumentation in keeping with the American tradition of individual liberty, and simple kindness, while the other recites passages from a book written thousands of years ago.
The Bible, along with any other religious text, is to have no influence on the laws of our secular government. Any religious doctrine can influence the way people think and behave in a free country, but the Constitution clearly prohibits the exercise of religion during legislative activity or judicial decision-making.
When gay marriage opponents claim that their argument is The Bible, they are confessing that they have no argument.
American opinion is reaching a favorable consensus on gay marriage, and when legalization does inevitably occur, no church will have to marry a gay couple. The beauty of the separation of church and state is that it is mutually protective of religion and governmental autonomy and interest.
That being said, on the issue of religion, gay marriage opponents have yet to answer important questions.
The Bible prohibits adultery, divorce, eating shellfish, working on the Sabbath, wearing clothing of mixed fabrics, wearing gold, and touching a woman experiencing her period. For most of these crimes – including working on Sundays – the penalty is death.
Why are the loudest defenders of Biblical law, who so eagerly denounce gay marriage, not insisting that these injunctions also influence government legislation?
Might it be that they are not truly motivated by religion, but that they are using religion as a cover story for the exclusion and hurtful treatment of people they just don’t like?
David Masciotra is the author of All That We Learned About Living: The Art and Legacy of John Mellencamp (forthcoming, The University Press of Kentucky) and Against Traffic: Essays on Politics and Identity. For more information visit http://www.davidmasciotra.com.
Mark Sanford won a special election for Congress in South Carolina this week after many pundits and politicians believed his career was over due to his irresponsible actions as governor. He left the state for six days to win the affection of an Argentinian journalist with whom he had fallen in love and exchanged emails for over a year. He left his wife and risked his political career in making the trip, and said that he did so, because “he could die knowing that he found his soul mate.” Sanford and the journalist are currently engaged.
I am not sure if it is politically good that Sanford now has a seat in Congress. I don’t really care. Culturally, however, it is very good.
American culture needs examples of romantic bravery and, instead of punishing those who risk everything for love, we should respond with empathy and even measured respect.
I make this argument in my new essay for The Atlantic – “Mark Sanford, Romantic Hero.” It is sad and unfortunate that Sanford hurt his wife and children, but those who understand and appreciate the power of love realize that it is a mysterious and frightening directive. It can inspire beauty, cruelty, and a combination of both. As the Rev. Al Green sings, “Love and happiness / It’ll make you do right / Make you do wrong.”
In the essay, I contextualize the Sanford affair by placing it smack dab in the middle of an American culture committed to denying the power of love – “Sanford’s display of romantic bravery that rivals the depiction of the mysterious directive in tragedies and epics is rare in politics. In fact, it is rare in American culture where more and more people prefer to play it safe. Hooking up, online dating, and resistance to the traditional date are simply ways of disguising a guardedness that betrays a fear of love. Real love will make people behave like Sanford, and that is frightening. As essayist Cristina Nehring points out, American culture offers the twin gods of ‘meaningless sex’ and ‘meaningless marriage’ in order to quiet such fear.”
Life is a complicated affair and those who live it on the emotional edges run the risk of creating messy and hurtful situations. To look at the general response to the Sanford affair, however – and the comment section of my article gives a good illustration – is to believe that everyone has lives that are neat, clean, and never marked by the foibles of love and lust. Human affection and intimacy are good, they have value in themselves, and they deserve honor and respect. Sometimes, they win the day, and in the process, leave a path of wreckage, but that wreckage is easier to manage than the quiet death of ignoring the dictates of the heart and the truth of the imagination.
Read the entire essay to learn how I separate Sanford from Clinton, Craig, Spitzer, and other public officials disgraced by sex scandal, and to learn how I would cast the romantic comedy inspired by Sanford’s story.
Liberals are obsessed with condoms. They are convinced that teenagers, adult couples, and gay men don’t use condoms because they don’t have sufficient “knowledge and awareness,” and they believe that the Catholic Church is primarily responsible for the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, because of its stupid policy of preaching against condoms.
In my new essay for The Atlantic – “Why Still So Few Use Condoms” – I take on these myths, and I acknowledge the politically incorrect truth, logic, and reality that most people don’t like or use condoms because they significantly rob sexuality of pleasure, intimacy, and spontaneity.
I also write about how the unlikely and unholy alliance of Planned Parenthood and the religious right have convinced generations of Americans that something they invented call “precum” can impregnate women, despite a mountain of evidence proving that the opposite is true.
It was possible for me to write about all of this, because of the necessary, noble, and heroic work of Bill Gates, who after finding that in Africa most people don’t use condoms because of the pleasure factor, he has offered a $100,000 grant to anyone who can present credibly demonstrate that they are developing a condom that will “enhance pleasure.”
I begin my essay with a few quotes from the mighty Norman Mailer who put it best when telling Madonna, of all people, that “the only thing you can depend on with condoms is that they will take 20 to 50 percent off your fuck.”