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June 11, 2007

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Maybe it's the reverse - abortion is so horrible that Hollywood doesn't want to stir up opposition to it by portraying it in films.

As for the eugenic aspect, the 'abortion-cuts-crime' theory was discredited, first by Steve Sailer, then by professional economists. Levitt's reasoning was explicitly eugenic and racial, in the article discussing the theory, saying basically that blacks had abortions at a higher rates than whites, meaning that crime should then decline.

But that prediction is based on some questionable assumptions. Say blacks have more babies as a result of the availablity of abortion, and become a greater fraction of the population, even though they get abortions at a higher than average (or white) rate. Then abortion raises, instead of lowers, crime, all else equal. Of course, the black:white crime ratio varies over time too. If you look at actual reality, as Sailer did, crime actually rose. See his debate with Levitt on Slate. http://www.slate.com/id/33569/entry/33571/

And, just because abortion didn't cut crime, it doesn't follow that banning it will reduce crime. People's mores mightn't bounce back to pre-abortion standards, raising crime even more.

Dude, are you sure he censored it? I see he links your blog post. I file you and him in the same brain cell so it'll be a challenge to oppose him.

Eh, there's no conspiracy. Gay guys are kind of funny (to us straights) so they can be shown in a humorous way. Think of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" or "Will and Grace". The only "serious" main stream gay movie is Brokeback Mountain, but these other films with a humorous portrayal of gays laid the groundwork. People still shat bricks over it though. Honestly, while I don't support discrimination against gays, I'm not comfortable seeing anything remotely homosexual between two men.

With abortion, there's no funny introductory angle. There's no anesthesia to dull the pain for the American psyche. There's no funny Will and Grace sitcom script for that.

I remember reading an article awhile back where Baby Boomers women were dismayed at the way Gen. X women didn't see abortion as woman's automatic right. Then again, what of ye olde times when infanticide and abandonment where all the rage? As Ling-Ling put it "for female baby you sure don't seem very tied up and dropped into river!".

DML has a point, gay people can serve has humourous characters for on sitcoms. Look at how long Will and Grace lasted with gay jokes and references to celebrities and other forms of pop culture. In contrast, you can't make a show out of abortions, and pregnancies and miscarriages are much more dramatic and serve as great fodder for primetime dramas and soaps. Plus, TV characters who get pregnant and keep the baby are rich and never have financial problems.

I'll add that from watching daytime TV for a number of years, you'll notice that abortions are non-existent, and white upper middle class women seem to have the birth control habits of poor women. Yet none of the women ever consider an abortion. I'd guess in this case, it's due to daytime TV's somewhat more conservative audiences made up of stay at home mothers would become angry at watching rich glamorous women abort their way out of the children that currently saddle their lives. It's probably the same reason why interracial relationships are relatively non-existent on the most popular soap, Young and the Restless.

Oh, I hadn't read your post all the way through when I wrote that last comment. I can see where it could have disturbed Douthat a little. I'll reread it when I'm less tired and can properly scan for irony, red herrings, et al.

I just don't get why some straight guys are so perturbed by (usually vanilla) portrayals of gay sex and affection. I'm especially surprised to hear it from an educated man in Manhattan. I'm a straight woman, and I don't mind lesbian stuff.

In "Wild at Heart" Laura Dern had an abortion. Well, there was a flashback to one. But then she had Nick Cage's baby, even though he went to prison.

I don't think Hollywood people are anti-abortion; I think they just recognize it's a real downer for a lot of people. It's probably not a useful plot device.

Gay people, on the other hand, are very capable of being interesting fictional characters and having interesting fictional relationships.

You think two percent is generous? I'm virtually certain more men than that have sex with other men, even if they're not exclusively gay.

Nah,

Hollywood just wants a story. When you have a dead body in the study, you can weave a who-dun-it out of it. When you have an abortion, it's the end of the story right there. No guesses as to who did it. Plus, babies are characters too, you know. Hollywood is simply self-interested in this case; abortion stories simply go nowhere. You can't even have a funeral.
Now the gay stuff, that's where Hollywood's inclinations and Hollywood's need for a storyline can come together. That's why they are "winning" as you say. I don't think they are winning much at the box office though. In general, it's Hollywood making films to satisfy Hollywood.

I'm especially surprised to hear it from an educated man in Manhattan. I'm a straight woman, and I don't mind lesbian stuff.

Ah, we do have a girl here! Does someone want to explain to her the difference between male homosexuality vs hot lesbianism's affect on straight men? Or should I take this? I feel guilty taking the soft balls without giving someone else the opportunity first(no pun intended).

"sex" is supposed to be reserved for the act between men and women

According to whom? Jerry Falwell? The term "sodomy" remains in use only in legal and moralistic contexts. To claim that what gay people do in bed is so fundamentally different from what straight people do that it cannot even be described as "sex" -- well that's really an argument intended to dehumanize gays.

Does no one here see this?

Damn, this post pissed me off. This has been my favorite blog for over a year. I had no idea who you really are.

Damn, this post pissed me off. This has been my favorite blog for over a year. I had no idea who you really are.

You had no idea that Half Sigma was very conservative on a lot issues? I could tell after reading a few dozen threads.

On the other hand, for a single guy who lives in Hell's Kitchen, HS is a lot more conservative than I would expect.

Gay guys are kind of funny (to us straights) so they can be shown in a humorous way.

I agree with this so, so long as they are shown acting stereotypically gay in a platonic kind of way.

As soon as they start kissing other men, or wind up in bed without a shirt on, fondling another guy, and leaving the rest to the imagination, it becomes something extremely un-entertaining.

To claim that what gay people do in bed is so fundamentally different from what straight people do that it cannot even be described as "sex"

What heterosexual people do leads to having children, assuming both people are fertile and not using birth control--that's pretty fundamentally different from what gay people do. Not to mention some of the other differences.

Sex is short for "sexual intercourse," which until recently meant the penetration of the penis into the vagina, and I don't really like it when meanings of important words and phrases like "marriage" and "sexual intercourse" have to be redefined to appease a small minority in order to make them feel more normal.

Bill Clinton certainly agrees with my definition of "sex."

for a single guy who lives in Hell's Kitchen, HS is a lot more conservative than I would expect

It's a convenient neighborhood in Manhattan, and even Ben Linus the leader of the Others lives here.

I don't think the Pope could have put it better H.S.

Although I am not a big supporter of government health programs or the high taxes that they require, I do feel that abortion/birth control should be government- subsidized and free to all. Rich women have ready access to these services because they can afford to pay for them, but the effect of unplanned/unwanted pregnancies on poor women is devastating - not to mention the direct and indirect costs of taking care of their unwanted children.

Not only does an abortion make for a dead-end plot device (no pun intended), but Hollywood doesn't want to unnecessarily offend pro-lifers, who are obviously a large market given the success of Chronicles of Narnia, The Passion, etc. It's all about the Benjamins.

or wind up in bed without a shirt on, fondling another guy, and leaving the rest to the imagination, it becomes something extremely un-entertaining.

Perhaps HS's imagination is more vivid than most.

I don't see why the whole straight-guys-like-porn-lesbians thing is relevant. What seems relevant to me is that I, as a straight person, can watch homosexual activity involving my gender without freaking out, yet HS can't. I don't get it.

I don't think Douthat should have censored his comment (if he did), but I'm dismayed to see HS basically equating gays with AIDS and HIV, as though there weren't a vast majority of gays without HIV, and as though that were the only thing about gay people that mattered.

I don't see why the whole straight-guys-like-porn-lesbians thing is relevant.

I don't think that's what DML was getting at (if that's what you were referring to). I think he was referring to studies regarding arousal when men look at gay sex compared to when women look at lesbian sex. For whatever reason (social programming, biology, etc) the reaction is completely different.

Not only does an abortion make for a dead-end plot device

It's not necessarily that it's a dead-end, it's that once you pull that trigger the plots that inevitably follow are extremely controversial. It essentially becomes a very political debate on a very incendiary topic. If she keeps the baby they get to sidestep the controversy.

So in that sense Stevens is right and Douthat is wrong. But Stevens is wrong that Hollywood being at all hostile to abortion rights in its product. As often as not a fictional abortion is coupled with a pro-choice "it's-my-choice" argument. Ironically this leads pro-lifers to think that Hollywood releases pro-abortion propaganda and pro-choicers to think that Hollywood releases anti-abortion propaganda.

In "Wild at Heart" Laura Dern had an abortion.

The female lead in Hi-Fidelity had an abortion and it was mostly uncontroversial. The guy went on a tirade about how he should have been consulted and so forth, but admitted that his entire argument was BS.

I think he was referring to studies regarding arousal when men look at gay sex compared to when women look at lesbian sex. For whatever reason (social programming, biology, etc) the reaction is completely different

OK, but HS's reaction seems on the strong side, doesn't it? He stopped watching a show he otherwise liked because of some very lightweight man-on-man affection.

I could see where maybe a man would be turned off by gay sex by envisioning anal sex. Yet apparently that's not the case, what with all the man-on-woman anal propaganda out there, and the fact that straight men like to have stuff put up their rear ends to tickle their prostates. Really, it would be logical if gay male sex turned women off more than men.

Damn, this post pissed me off. This has been my favorite blog for over a year. I had no idea who you really are.

I could totally see a comic book about the creation of HS. Let's see ... a nerdy Jewish scientist captures a redneck and performs an experiment designed to enlighten and civilize him, but it goes horribly awry. There's a terrible explosion, and when the smoke clears ... redneck and Jew have fused into one being!

The only exception I know about ... is the character Claire in the HBO series Six Feet Under.

I never saw that episode, but I read about it, and after her abortion, Claire supposedly has a vision in which she is confronted by the soul of her aborted child. So even your one-off actually has a pro-life subtext.

I'm with you, though, on the whole gay sex thing. Homosexual characters have been a useful plot device at least since Brideshead Revisited. But the actual depiction of gay male sexual contact invariably has me reaching for the remote. (Lesbian sexual contact, in contrast, I kind of get . . . but it's still immoral!)

I could see where maybe a man would be turned off by gay sex by envisioning anal sex.

Bingo.

Yet apparently that's not the case, what with all the man-on-woman anal propaganda out there, and the fact that straight men like to have stuff put up their rear ends to tickle their prostates.

Just because some very small minority of straight guys might like that doesn't invalidate HS's reaction.

Really, it would be logical if gay male sex turned women off more than men.

And who says that it doesn't?

I generally have the same reaction that HS does. If that makes me reactionary or uptight, well, I guess that I'm reactionary and uptight. It's how I feel at some very very basic level, and I don't forsee myself changing.

It's not necessarily that it's a dead-end, it's that once you pull that trigger the plots that inevitably follow are extremely controversial. It essentially becomes a very political debate on a very incendiary topic. If she keeps the baby they get to sidestep the controversy.
Which is sort of the point; profit motive rather than political motive.

WTF, Half Sigma.

and I use the word sodomy because "sex" is supposed to be reserved for the act between men and women).

What are you, Ann Coulter? What do you mean "supposed to be?"

Sodomy is bad because it spreads AIDS

You're being imprecise, aren't you? Unsafe sodomy is bad because it spreads AIDS. And even that isn't as precise as unsafe sex is bad because it spreads AIDS. But I guess the more precise facts don't fit your natural revulsion of homosexuality.

There's no such thing as HIV-AIDS. It's the greatest hoax of the 20th century.

http://www.virusmyth.com/aids/

OK, but HS's reaction seems on the strong side, doesn't it?

Yeah, somewhat. It doesn't get in the way of my enjoying Six Feet Under (which I've stopped watching, but mostly because I need less negative influences on my psyche these days), but it does make me a bit queasy and I would not watch a drama that hinged around homosexual behavior as easily as I'd watch one about heterosexual relationships.

I saw a romantic comedy a couple years back about a Mormon missionary and a west LA gay dude. I remember thinking throughout the movie that I was able to enjoy the movie more because it got me to care about the characters well before the inevitable love scene.

There really does seem to be something visceral about it. Even if it's a socially programed behavior, it's somewhere out of our grasp to reach and change. Even guys that are socially progressive on the issue very often feel it.

On a sidenote, the queasy distaste I have for it is equal between guys kissing and engaging in anal sex. Curiously, though, gay oral sex is even more off-putting to me. No idea why.

Which is sort of the point; profit motive rather than political motive.

Okay. I just thought that you were attributing an artistic motive rather than a political motive. I think it's a bit of all three, actually.

HS, you're all over the place with this post. As noted above, a pregancy is an inherently dramatic action, when you bring children into the world, you're giving a hostage to fortune and all that. An abortion is a rather more, well, clinical. Doesn't make for a very dramatic story.

Further, while a large percentage of the population despises abortion, everyone (well present company excepted I guess) loves babies. So a film or TV show doesn't alienate nearly as many people by having the character bring the pregnancy to term.

Finally, you need to make more gay friends. As a straight guy-- all I know is that when I was a teenager I thought gay guys were freaks and yet lesbians were so very intriguing. In the real world, I've discovered that gay men tend to be friendly, and easy for a straight guy to get along with while lesbians generally despise straight guys (not all of them of course, but that's been the trend).
Since I have gay but not lesbian friends, I'm more likely to watch a TV show or movie about gay men than lesbians. And no I'm not a fan of either gay or lesbian porn. For that matter, I don't watch morbidly obese straight porn either. Unattractive people are never fun to see naked and we all have different definitions of what's attractive.

Incidentally, most "lesbian porn" seems to be between bisexual women. Go search dating site pictures for women seeking women. You'll see a noticeable physical difference between real life lesbians and porn world lesbians.

What you see in Knocked Up is best defined as Anti-Abortion Lite. By largely avoiding the whole issue of abortion, the movie makes only a weak, indirect anti-abortion message. If it wanted to make a stronger message, it would have the character agonize over the abortion decision, deciding to have the baby only after all kinds of soul-searching, and then once the baby came everyone would live happily ever after. Actually, an even stronger anti-abortion message would involve her having the abortion and then deeply regretting it afterwards, with her life spinning downward into the abyss. Of course this would be very hard to pull off within the comedy format.

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I don't see why the whole straight-guys-like-porn-lesbians thing is relevant. What seems relevant to me is that I, as a straight person, can watch homosexual activity involving my gender without freaking out, yet HS can't. I don't get it.

It might just be simple anatomy. Two women can get romantic with each other, and it's difficult to tell if and when "fooling around" crosses the line into "sex." With two men, however, there comes a point - okay, two points - at which their activities unequivocally turn into full-fledged sex. Given these unavoidable facts, man-on-man activity is considered more serious than woman-on-woman activity.

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the fact that straight men like to have stuff put up their rear ends to tickle their prostates

They call it "postillionage" in The Joy of Sex.

"You're being imprecise, aren't you? Unsafe sodomy is bad because it spreads AIDS. And even that isn't as precise as unsafe sex is bad because it spreads AIDS. But I guess the more precise facts don't fit your natural revulsion of homosexuality."

JewishAtheist does have a religion after all.

I could see where maybe a man would be turned off by gay sex by envisioning anal sex. Yet apparently that's not the case, what with all the man-on-woman anal propaganda out there, and the fact that straight men like to have stuff put up their rear ends to tickle their prostates. Really, it would be logical if gay male sex turned women off more than men.

I'd leave it up to an Evolutionary Psychology type, but male/female anal would involve acceptable gender roles. In hot [tm] lesbianism it would be submissive/submissive so thats still ok. Male/male would be jarring because it would involve a male being submissive. Women are ok with gays because the are non-threatening to them.

Actual lesbians making out do tend to skeeve men out.

You had no idea that Half Sigma was very conservative on a lot issues? I could tell after reading a few dozen threads.

I wouldn't characterize HS as conservative -- and neither does he, as his tagline reminds us. I share his analysis of every other social issue I can think of off-hand, and on quite a few economic ones as well.

Most straight guys have an instinctual revulsion to male homosexuality. The question is whether this reaction can serve as the basis of a persuasive argument. HS has mistaken his own personal preferences for virtues. It is certainly possible to make coherent anti-gay arguments, but they can't rest on an appeal to revulsion.

Bill Clinton certainly agrees with my definition of "sex."

In the original post, HS wrote about the "supposed" meaning of the word "sex." But in his subsequent comment he acknowledges that the usage has changed. There is no sense to the idea that a word is supposed to mean something other than how it is used. Usage defines meaning; linguistic change is a fact. You may as well complain about the movement of tectonic plates. Clinton's statement was rightly viewed as deceptive. Speakers don't get to define words according to their agenda, which ironically is what HS is attempting here.

Hypothetical: Let's say that HS gave a guy a blowjob (to "completion," as they say on craigslist). Could HS then claim he had never had sex with a man?

Uh, no. Freud had a term for that.

Jennifer Jason Leigh's character "Stacy Hamilton" had an abortion in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Abortion works in a plot that shows a woman's life overtime such as a year of a high school student/college student.

The abortion was not shown as being that negative but as something that happened to middle class suburban girls.

In the real world, I've discovered that gay men tend to be friendly, and easy for a straight guy to get along

When did I ever say that gay men weren't nice people to talk to? I agree, gay men are very nice folk, except when they are engaging in risky sexual activity.

I just think that Hollywood is wrong to glamorize "gay sex."

I just think that Hollywood is wrong to glamorize "gay sex."

We've got a candidate for Surgeon General who wrote the definative paper on why anal sex is so dangerous.

AIDS is but one risk.

HS:

You haven't addressed my point. Why are you making the split between gay sex as risky and straight sex as safe, when a much more correct split is protected sex is safe and unprotected sex is risky? While it's true that unprotected anal sex is riskier than unprotected vaginal sex, I'm not sure why you act like that's more important than the protected/unprotected distinction, other than to attempt to justify your feelings of revulsion towards gay sex.

You don't have to justify your feelings, HS. They're just feelings, not philosophical positions.

I just think that Hollywood is wrong to glamorize "gay sex."

It will get more one sided. Check out Nikki Finke's column in the LA Weekly: ABC Regularly Airs Anti-Gay Storylines; Hypocrisy Of 'Grey's Anatomy' Scandal
I am specifically referring to the network's recent plots portraying non-heterosexual men as serial killers or accused multimurderers or suspected deviants on its three daytime soap operas.
http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/abc-regularly-airs-anti-gay-programming/

Not being glowingly positive is the new anti-gay.

Dude, are you sure he censored it? I see he links your blog post. I file you and him in the same brain cell so it'll be a challenge to oppose him.
This is a common problem people have. You might not see much of a difference between Trotskyists and Stalinists but they hated each other's guts. Just because two people's views look similar from where you stand doesn't mean they can't still be different enough to fight over those differences.

I don't see why the whole straight-guys-like-porn-lesbians thing is relevant. What seems relevant to me is that I, as a straight person, can watch homosexual activity involving my gender without freaking out, yet HS can't. I don't get it.

It's strange, but true. There seems to be some strong hardwired revulsion us straight guys have to watching man-man sex acts. I'm in favor of gay marriage myself and would love to see drag queens kiss on Bush's front lawn, but I still do tend to turn my eyes when I see men kiss. For that matter, my first subconscious reaction when watching a straight love scene is 'get the guy out of here!'. Probably has something to do with competition for mates, though I don't see how that applies here when gay men aren't competing with me by definition.

What HS does miss, in my view, is film as moneymaking instrument. Filmmakers make lots of money by showing their audience what they want to see. He complains that Knocked Up is unrealistic, but the idea of turning an unreliable man into a reliable one is obviously powerful enough for women to make the movie into a hit. Similarly, Star Trek is unrealistic in that transporters violate the Heisenberg uncertainty principle (you have to know exactly where every atom in Kirk's body is so you can reconstruct the guy when he beams down), but it lets them move the crew around. Lightsabers make no sense as weapons--they're no better than ordinary swords--but damn, they look cool, and let us nerds have the romance of fantasy and the gadgets of scifi at the same time. Don't even get me started on Doctor Who. But it's fun to watch the killer pepperpots shouting 'EXTERMINATE' and chasing the Doctor and his gal-pal-of-the-season around, because you know despite all odds the nice eccentric fellow will triumph.

Movies are about wish fulfillment and fantasy, not reality. If movies were realistic, nobody would watch them. Even the cinema of 'realism' heightens certain emotions the audience is interested in experiencing.

they're no better than ordinary swords

Not to flash my geek feathers, but they have one huge advantage over swords: they're completely retractible.

I agree with everything else you said, though.

Evolution has programmed males to interpret just about any sexual behavior by females as signaling receptivity. This reptilian part of the brain is so primitive that it'll kick in well before the "higher" centers of the cortex have even figured out what's going on downstairs.

One pathetic example of this is the flat-headed boring beetle in Australia, that so regularly mistook a particular brand of beer bottle for a female buprestid (with massive tracts of land!) that the company redesigned the bottle lest the poor creature go extinct. [from "Buzzwords: A Scientist Muses on Sex, Bugs, and Rock 'n' Roll" by May R. Berenbaum]

At the same time, the gut instinct is for males--especially once the sexual stakes get raised (for whatever reason)--to identify other males as competition and start (often literally) butting heads. For many mammals, this includes their own male offspring, once they hit puberty.

The irony here is that the more gay men there are in a population, the better the odds for straight men (assuming the percentage of lesbians remains constant). Unfortunately, the male brain on sex has a hard time processing information like this.

Though from a Darwinist point of view, given the strength of the male sex drive, evolution should default to an instinctual attraction toward woman at the height of fertility (i.e., young), and an instinctual revulsion toward non-reproductive sexual relationships. Or as George Carlin put it, "If I could do that, I'd never leave the house!"

From the Times article:

Though conservatives regularly accuse Hollywood of being overly liberal on social issues, abortion rarely comes up in film.

This is objective reporting? The hilarious part is that in trying to mock those wacky conservatives who think the media is overwhelmingly biased leftward, the columnist demonstrates just that. Even the title: On Abortion, Hollywood Is No-Choice

. . . is wildly incorrect. The character in the movie did choose - she chose to keep the baby instead of aborting it. The extremist conflation of 'Pro-Choice' with 'Pro-Abortion' is proof that the Times is biased in just the way those 'nutty' conservatives "accuse". I don't recall any "anti-choice" preaching in Knocked Up, or, in fact, in any other movie or television program. The best examples cherry-picked in the article, actually show the opposite, that to the extent it is mentioned in entertainment media it is supportive.

To the far Left anything short of propagandistic tub-thumping for Leftist causes is evidence of conservative bias. Since the media is biased Left these inaccurate complaints are also printed as "News", while the accurate conservative complaints about bias (which really are News) are relegated to the opinion columns.

Also, by what standard is Knocked Up - full of graphic language and lewdness, and celebration of premarital sex and drug use, NOT "liberal on social issues"? Apparently if you merely choose not to have an abortion, or abandon the woman you got pregnant, you are promoting the Republican party! This article is self-parody.

I just think that Hollywood is wrong to glamorize "gay sex."

Hollywood glamorizes hoodlums. They show them as being cool people and little boys want to become them.

Hollywood glamorizes Air Force pilots. They show them as being cool people and little boys want to become them.

Hollywood most certainly does NOT glamorize gay sex. I've never seen a gay couple and thought, wow, I want to get sodomized!

Only people who are already gay anyway could possibly see gay sex as "glamorous".

"He complains that Knocked Up is unrealistic, but the idea of turning an unreliable man into a reliable one is obviously powerful enough for women to make the movie into a hit."

SFG, That's an excellent point. By the end of the movie, he had moved out of the drug den and into a nice apartment, gotten a job and even started to dress decently (he still needs a haircut and shave but we're all a work in progress). Without question, hooking a girl out of his league made him step up his game. And yes, that is a common female fantasy or perhaps delusion.

The best book I read last year, Clotaire Rappaille's The Culture Code touched on this subject in the chapter on American's concept of love:
http://www.randomhouse.com/broadway/culturecode/

"A woman searches for "Mr. Right" because she believes the stories she reads in books or watches at the movies, finds someone she believes she can "change" into her ideal man, and disappointedly sees her efforts fail."

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