Sunday, July 26, 2009

An orgasm a day, Ben Roethlisberger, and robot models

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

This is a little old, but I thought it was very worth sharing. Britain's National Health Service in the city of Sheffield has produced a pamphlet which has a surprising message for teens - sex doesn't automatically equal moral degeneracy and STIs, and sometimes it actually feels good. What is this, you say? We should be telling our youth that sex is something that should be enjoyed? The pamphlet includes a section called "an orgasm a day" that focuses on the positive physical and emotional results of sex and masturbation. It also contains information about safe sex, but the creators are definitely unique in their ability to connect safe and pleasurable sex. Steve Slack, one of the designers of the pamphlets, says that one of the key aims is to make sure that teens can delay sex until they know that they are physically and emotionally able to enjoy it (which is why it is so important to talk to teens about masturbation), but of course there are those who think that this pamphlet will lead youth straight down the path of sin and gonorrhea.

"Some of it is good sense, but I think it's wrong is to suggest that 16-year-olds should wantonly enter into having sexual intercourse for pleasure," said Anthony Seldon, headmaster of Wellington College, a school for teens. "I think this is medically wrong and emotionally wrong and will increase teenage pregnancy and impact negatively on the formation of a long-term loving relationship." Well, there you have it. Sex and long-term loving relationships have nothing to do with each other - and god forbid that sex should feel good. And we wonder why there are so many adults who are totally uncomfortable with their sexuality.

The NYT has also had a slew of good articles recently, which I'll run through quickly. Nicholas Kristof's latest column tells the story of a young Pakistani woman who was kidnapped at the age of 16 and repeatedly raped by a group of thugs and then, when she was finally delivered to the police, raped by four police officers. Instead of committing suicide, which would be the socially acceptable way to cleanse her family of the shame that she brought by enduring horrible pain and violation for a year, she has chosen to do the unthinkable, and prosecute the rapists and kidnappers.

Women are better managers? An interview with Carol Smith, senior VP for the Elle Group. I'm always a little wary of trying to compare people's work skills based on little things like their genitalia, but it is refreshing to see people asking why there aren't more women in corner offices, when they are clearly incredibly qualified. I didn't appreciate some of her generalizations about men and women though.

This is just fucked up. A robot walked the runway in Japan this week - just to emphasize the extent to which our standards of beauty are completely fucking unrealistic. But at least the robot did give "sidelong glances" to the front row, so she's almost as good as a real woman.

Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is being sued for rape by Andrea McNulty, a hostess at a Harrah's in Lake Tahoe. This is causing quite a stir over at ESPN, which told its reporters not to cover the story - ostensibly because no criminal charges were filed. The whole situation is proving that rape culture is alive and well - starting with Harrah's security chief Guy Huyer, who apparently told McNulty that she should feel "lucky" that she "got" to have sex with Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers have an insane fan base (I should know - my dad is a Steelers fan from way back, and our house goes crazy whenever they play), and McNulty is getting some pretty brutal treatment in the press and on the internet. The phrase "lying golddigger" is getting thrown around a lot, simply because McNulty filed civil and not criminal charges. Jaclyn Friedman has a great post here about why civil charges were filed, but sadly, I think we can expect even more attempts to tarnish McNulty's reputation as the case goes on. She's a brave woman for standing up to this kind of horrible scrutiny, and we can only hope that the fact that it's being covered at all will force people to recognize that this happens far more often than we allow ourselves to think.


At July 27, 2009 at 5:11 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

Women are clearly better managers than men. I once worked under an excellent woman manager, which goes to show that women are better managers than men. The fact that profit-maximizing businesses are willing to give up all that managerial talent just to prop up crappy male managers goes to show the hidden power of the Patriarchy.

At July 29, 2009 at 5:42 AM , Blogger TommyD said...

"He said/she said" sexual assault allegations are a Rorschach test for our own biases, and this McNulty/Roethlisberger case appears to be no different. Calling McNulty (someone I assume Amelia has never met) "a brave woman...standing up to...horrible scrutiny," is just as biased a comment as calling her "a lying golddigger."

The truth is that there are men who sexually assault women, and there are women who make up allegations of sexual assault. So what happened in this case? I don't know. I wasn't there--and neither were Amelia, the Jezebel writers, or the millions of Steelers fans defending Roethlisberger.

Hopefully, a civil inquiry will shine some more light on what happened. But until it does, whom and what we believe says more about us than about either Ben Roethlisberger or Andrea McNulty.

Here's an excellent piece about this topic:

At July 29, 2009 at 7:41 AM , Blogger Amelia said...


You're totally right that it's premature to either convict Roethlisberger of rape or McNulty of lying. But the treatment that both are receiving does deserve to be called out, and written about - and regardless of whether McNulty is lying, she is a brave woman, because nobody deserves to be dragged through the mud the way she is. The thing is, people falsely report rape about 2% of the time - which is about the same as any other crime. But if Andrea McNulty were saying that Ben Roethlisberger had burgled her, you can definitely bet that people would not have said to her, "You should feel lucky to have been burgled by someone like Ben Roethlisberger."

At this point, it's not about guilt or innocence. It's that instead of examining what actually happened, millions of people are assuming the worst of McNulty - and that assumption is going to make it impossible to determine guilt or innocence. I am reserving my judgment about whether McNulty is telling the truth until the facts come out - but ESPN is not, when it refuses to cover the story, and neither are Roethlisberger's fans, when they ask whether she's a "woman scorned" or that she's "crazy and imagined it." McNulty made an allegation, and she deserves a fair and honest trial. Professional sports are especially an arena in which rape apologists thrive - ESPN doesn't want to complicate the image of a hero-athlete, and fans don't want that image complicated.

I think we need to step back from "he said/she said" accusations, because I frankly don't know what McNulty is saying - only that Roethlisberger is denying it already, and that his millions of fans will back him up and decry her as "crazy" or "money-hungry," without listening to a word she says. McNulty and Roethlisberger both deserve a fair trial, but if this media coverage continues, neither of them is going to get it.

At July 29, 2009 at 8:01 AM , Blogger TommyD said...

I second that, Amelia

At July 29, 2009 at 3:41 PM , Anonymous AC said...

Roethlisberger is fortunate in that he does indeed have "millions of fans" to defend him. Most men falsely accused of sexual assault or harassment have no such defense, and the assumption of guilt in HR offices is staggering.

The incongruity in this article is that the man in this case is not helpless.

At August 4, 2009 at 10:23 AM , Anonymous LSG said...

Thirding Amelia's comment.

We don't know the facts of this specific case, so we aren't in a position to make a judgment about this specific case. However, I think that we need to be wary of setting up false equivalencies. I think your first comment is right, Tommy, but I'm afraid that even true statements like "there are men who sexually assault women, and there are women who make up allegations of sexual assault" can give the impression that these are equally prevalent phenomena. In reality, there are far more rapes than false allegations.

AC, once again I am hesitant to respond because I don't think you're actually trying to engage. If you are, however, I'd like to point out that due to the power imbalance in our society and our willingness to blame, shame and attack women who accuse men of rape, men are very seldom "helpless" in the face of sexual assault allegations. If they are, there are usually race and class factors in play.

You have already decreed this to be a false accusation. As Tommy says, that reveals far more about you than it does about the situation.

At October 2, 2009 at 1:09 AM , Blogger formerly deceived said...

Actually, Amelia, I've heard different figures from other sources. According to one Men's Group as many as 40% of rape convictions are false... but those aren't necessarily because of the allegations themselves. More often, the police end up catching the wrong suspect while the real criminal gets away. At least that's what they say on the Innocence Project (

In the McNulty-Roethelisberger case, on the other hand, it looks to me as though the victim and the suspect both knew each other, so there are no mistaken identities there. Personally, I'm more inclined to believe McNulty than the football player but because I don't know what actually happened, any more than those who are calling her a "lying golddigger", I'll leave it up to the courts to pass judgment.


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