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Chemical Castration Now Federal Punishment in Poland

December 1, 2009

BBC News Report on Poland’s move to mandate chemical castration for sex offenders

The president of Poland last week signed into law a bill mandating chemical castration as a punishment for those convicted of raping children or immediate family members. While chemical castration is becoming increasingly common as an alternative punishment, this is the first instance of a federal mandate. 

Chemical castration is the administration of drugs meant to reduce or eliminate the sex drive. This process does not physically remove the sexual organs, nor does it sterilize the patient. The chemicals employed are generally designed to counteract the effects of androgen, and the chemicals used include some (female) birth control hormones (such as Depo Provera, an injected contraceptive). 

Other countries, including France (after a series of violent sex crimes perpetrated by repeat offenders) and Korea (in the wake of a crime perpetrated by an older man towards an 8-year-old girl), are currently debating the possibility of enacting similar laws. Several US states, including Florida, Iowa, and California, have laws allowing chemical castration as a sentence, and in some cases mandating it. 

While human rights groups generally denounce mandating the treatment as cruel and unusual, the BBC also published an account from a chemically castrated former sex offender, who speaks positively of his experience with the drugs. As Open mentioned in last year’s news briefs, chemical castration has become increasingly common in some countries as an “opt-out” alternative to continued prison time, though it is argued that reception of this treatment is not always as “voluntary” as it is made to sound.

Real benefits? For some, yes. Human rights violation? For some, yes. Reminiscent of “A Clockwork Orange”? Probably.  We’ll see if this becomes a trend. 

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On that less-than-cheery note, hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving, and good luck to all Rice students with finals coming up!

Carrie Prejean – A True Social Conservative

November 20, 2009

Over the last couple of months, an unsavory character has been getting considerable media coverage for various displays of ignorance and pseudo-righteous self-assertion. Former Miss California 2009 and Miss USA first runner-up Carrie Prejean, has demonstrated that even the “best” of us are at times the worst of hypocrites.
During the question and answer portion of the Miss USA 2009 pageant, Prejean selected a question that was asked by gossip-blogger and socialite Perez Hilton. Perez wanted to know whether or not the future Miss USA agreed or disagreed with same-sex marriage, to which she replied:

“…you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there. But that’s how I was raised and I believe that it should be between a man and a woman.”

How very eloquent. Both Perez and Prejean have commented on how the answer cost the latter her title as Miss USA 2009. Prejean later said: “I knew if I told the truth, I would lose all that I was competing for: the crown, the luxury apartment in New York City, the large salary — everything that went with the Miss USA title. I also knew, or suspected, that I was the frontrunner, and if I gritted my teeth and gave the politically correct answer, I could be Miss USA.”

This issue provoked a sharp inflow of criticism both of Prejean and of Perez. Social conservatives and Christian groups lamented over the apparently unfair treatment that Carrie received, and notably Donald Trump reflected that “It wasn’t a bad answer, that was simply her belief.”

This is all splendid and we are all entitled to our opinions, right? No. The idea behind the Miss USA pageant (let us assume that there is a grand and lofty idea behind it) is to elect a young representative who will be open, empathetic and compassionate with the American population; a Miss USA is expected to be a representative. With her apparently admirable honesty, Prejean managed to alienate a significant portion of the American population – the LGBT community and sympathizers alike. As a regular person, Prejean is entitled to her opinion – as Miss USA, she most certainly is not.

But let us put this aside. Carrie Prejean comes from a strict, Christian family, has been raised to think in this way and there is absolutely nothing wrong with her beliefs or opinions. Let us assume that she is morally grounded, has a strong set of values and is sexually and socially conservative – which is in some regards admirable.

Shortly after the pageant fiasco, another Prejean-bomb hit the web. Unfortunately, sexually conservative Carrie Prejean once enjoyed the art of the sex tape. You can watch what she had to say about that on Fox News here.

Uh-oh, hypocrite. Well, if only that was the last we heard of Carrie Prejean. Turns out this model-Christian not only recorded a sex-tape “by accident”, she decided to record seven more “by accident”. Needless to say that it wasn’t just the Miss California pageant team that de-crowned her (you can read the details of why this happened here); the Christian organizations she was working with after her bold same-sex marriage statement found they couldn’t work with her either. Oh the tragic life of the two-faced liar.

Most recently, Prejean walked off the legendary Larry King Live show because she decided that Larry was being “inappropriate”. Click here for the video.

Well, what can I conclude from all this? I can conclude that Prejean is a genius.

Not even the best and most legendary Miss USA has gotten so much national media coverage. Congratulations, Carrie.

Transient Global Amnesia…From Sex?

November 11, 2009

According to an article from CNN, sex can be a trigger for a strange condition called transient global amnesia (TGA), in which an individual loses his or her short-term memory. Usually occurring in patients over the age of 50, TGA is triggered by strenuous activity, such as vigorous exercise, sudden immersion into cold or hot water, and, most commonly, intercourse.

The sudden change in blood flow for all these activities may be the culprit for initiating cases of TGA. Researchers who have studied the condition attribute the cause to the temporary lack of blood flow within the brain’s blood vessels, which occurs during sexual climax.

TGA is usually not recurrent, and its triggers are not powerful or stressful enough to leave permanent damage to the brain. Memory loss associated with TGA is brief and short-term.

Individuals with a history of migraines or headaches may be at a higher risk of getting TGA, which has been linked to the hippocampus.

Maine Voting on Same-Sex Marriage

November 2, 2009

Tomorrow, November 3, residents of Maine will decide whether to agree with the legislature’s legalization of same-sex marriage, or deny it via a “people’s veto.” If voters affirm the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry by voting against Question 1, Maine will become the first state to support same-sex marriage at the ballot box; thus far, same-sex marriages have been legalized exclusively through court rulings or legislative action.

Although the race has been close, Philip Spooner, a republican and World War II veteran who has a gay son (among four children), openly supports same-sex marriage and gave testimony for marriage equality on April 22 of this year. This testimony is now online, and has about 600,000 views (you can watch it, too, on youtube ).

As with all matters put to a vote, voter turnout is key. We’ll find out soon what the people of Maine decide.

UPDATE (Wednesday, Nov. 4th)- Well, no dice.  Maine followed California and Hawaii in overturning gay marriage rights granted by their governments, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Washington state, however, is still potentially poised to increase domestic partnership rights to those of married couples, making the difference semantic only, according to a writeup by examiner.com. According to numbers from late last night, the results are harrowingly narrow, with 51% in support so far. The geographic distribution is interesting, as most of the major population centers seem to be in favor, but most of the geographic area against. 

Vote distribution, from the Washington State Goverment via the Examiner.com article. Green is approval, Yellow is rejection of Referendum 71. 

For comparison, here is a map of population distribution by county in Washington, from the Department of Transportation

This is interesting to compare to the distribution in Texas of counties who voted in favor of Proposition 2 in 2006, to ban gay marriage: 

Again, it becomes evident that population density LOOSELY correlates to opinion, though of course, Austin county ( in green ) was the only one that did not actually support the ban with a 50% majority– the other colors only indicate decreasing degree of support.  (A few lightly populated Western counties are notable exceptions, though their <10,000 populations are perhaps too small as sample sizes. Anyone from out that way want to shed light on the political climate?)

Image from maps.com

I can’t claim to know quite what that means in terms of sociology, but it’s interesting to think about.

The Nude in Art: Where might discomfort lie?

October 30, 2009

Despite the fact that throughout history, the nude has been the subject of thousands upon thousands of paintings, in today’s society, the nude, as it is presented in art (both in visual and performance) still makes particular individuals uncomfortable.  It is the belief of scholars and artists that the nude in art adds a level of discomfort for the viewer because it allows the viewer to see a semblance of oneself in one’s most vulnerable form.
Why is the nude body seen as vulnerable?  This answer to many of you is likely an obvious one.  Clothing acts as a form of defense, a defense against other’s judgement, a defense against our own self-judgement, as well as a shield against possible predators.  Without clothes, we are exposed to the elements.
This lack of protection as presented through visual depictions of the nude through art accomplishes what I believe to be one of the most important duties of art:  it provokes self reflection as well as reflection of the state of society. The nude body in art displays our vulnerability.
At times, the nude is sexually charged.  This presentation of sex and/or the body as it would be in intimate moments causes a feeling of retreat for many people.  The nude is intimate.  One’s body can be said to be the only thing that belongs to a person.  It is the ultimate possession and it’s display, to some, might take away from some the only thing that is truly personal.

Gardasil for Men

October 24, 2009

From the AP: FDA approves Merck’s Gardasil for boys

So the FDA recently approved the administration of  Gardasil  to men as well as to women, in part because of its prevention of the acquisition of genital warts, , and in part because it would help stop the spread of HPV (to women).  HPV may cause cervical cancer in women, but does not seem to have life-threatening effects in men. 

According to the LA Times, however, a CDC advisory panel has already recommended that it not be used routinely, saying that men should be allowed to get it if they wish, but that a push should not be made.

Of course, in 2007, Texas Governor Rick Perry bypassed legislature to mandate that all schoolgirls entering the 6th grade as of September 2008 must receive the vaccine. I somehow doubt he’ll be making the reciprocal order any time soon. 

Is it ok to put that kind of burden of STD prevention on women alone, if women are the ones most adversely affected by the virus?  Should it be mandatory for either group? It’s an interesting question, given that it’s a virus that a man may not be at all aware of having (genital warts are not  caused by all strains of the virus, as I understand it) which may be indirectly fatal to a partner. Is $390 worth protection from that? 

(Of course, a new competitor for Merck’s Gardasil, GlaxoSmithKlein’s Cervarix, has just been recommended for girls by the CDC panel. It costs $385 and does not protect against GW. Go figure.)

Welcome to OPEN

October 18, 2009

Open is excited to present its first major foray into the Interwebs, in the form of a blog. We’ll be bringing you links and commentary regarding current and interesting stories on the interplay of sexuality and culture. We’ll also share important dates and deadlines and keep you updated on our events around campus. Let us know what you think, about the magazine or about anything else on your mind!

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