Monday, August 27, 2012

New Tax in Illinois Misses the Point

This weekend I read a post about a new tax on strip clubs in the state of Illinois. The tax will apply to any club offering live nude entertainment and will amount to about $3 per customer. The money from the tax will go into a fund that will be dispersed to Illinois sexual assault centres.

This is being lauded as an awesome move. Fund the Sexual Assault Centres! Yay! Give money to victims of sexual violence. Yay! Tax those pesky strip clubs for all of the evil they perpetrate on our society. Yay!

Sure, yay for the government of Illinois. Until you start to think about it. First of all, why is it that the SAC's so desperately need this money? It's because their funding has been significantly cut, every year for the past three the state. Yes, that's right. They receive funding from general revenue from the State of Illinois. but that funding has been cut by more than 1.2 million over the last 3 years. So if they've chosen to cut that funding and reallocate that money, why are they not considered the villains in this story rather than the heroes? They have the option of revamping their budgets and reinstating that funding. Instead, they are pushing that responsibility off onto private business owners.

What no one seems to be explaining here is why they consider it the responsibility of the strip clubs to pay for the sexual assault services. Why should there be an extra tax on strip clubs at all? Strip clubs already pay for all of their licensing and follow the guidelines that are set out for them in order to operate in the districts that they are in. Why should they have to pay another tax just to stay in business? I know the connection probably seems clear to some people but it certainly doesn't to me. The existence of strip clubs does not cause sexual assault and strip clubs do not cause any outright risk or harm that is not already dealt with under their security and licensing requirements.

Yes, strip clubs have sometimes been associated with organized crime. But that can be true of any business that deals mostly in cash and customer service rather than sale of goods. It's easy to launder money in a situation like that. But that has nothing at all to do with sexual assault. There are measures under taxation laws in place to deal with that.

This is just another instance where people are trying to get rid of something that they don't like. Or, if they can't get rid of it, punish it severely.

A $3 per person surcharge is rather hefty. The clubs will have to pass that on to their patrons and that is going to affect their business. If they have to pay to much to come in, people will stay away. The people who dreamed up this stupid tax know that.

Of course I think that funding the sexual assault centres is a good thing. It's an important thing. It's very important that those centres stay open. But if the state had funded them previously, it needs to keep doing that. This is just putting a burden onto business owners that should not rightfully be theirs. If I owned a strip joint in Illinois, I would be rallying my fellow business owners to launch a massive discrimination suit against the state.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Another Hot Mess of a Talk Show

I stumbled across a post about Bethany Frankel having sex toys on her talk show. Sadly, I do know who this woman is. She got famous on one of those housewife shows and now it seems you can't turn on the TV without seeing her. I didn't know she had her own talk show. Well, she does and she had some vibrators on it. Here it is:

Notice anything weird? They won't show you the vibrators! I don't get it. Why would you have a segment about vibrators if you can't show the vibrators? This is so weird to me. Anytime I've ever seen any other show do this, they either pick out innocent little toys that don't look like penises or they put a warning on the show that it has adult content - or both. Why would you do this? They don't even say the names of most of the toys so you can't even google it to figure out what the heck they were playing with.

I don't understand the logic in what's okay to show and what's not either. The one that was shocking those too is the Jopen Intensity. It is phallic shaped but it doesn't look like a penis. It's a straight purple shaft with two metal contact plates on it. Why can't you show that on TV when you can show an Inez which is also metal and phallic shaped? I think they figure they are very salacious and edgy by having these toys on the show, but then they totally back down by now actually showing them on TV. If you're going to do that, you could, at the very least, take the dots and blurry spots out for the version that ran on Bethany's blog.

The Pleasure Chest in L.A. is actually one of my favourite stores but I'm not loving this woman here. I think she was having a hard time getting a word in edge-wise and that could explain some of her troubles. A lot of her information is not quite right.

Vibes that were use to treat (not cure) hysteria, were generally used externally only and vibes that were sold by mail order in the 20's were advertised as vibrators for the body and health (they didn't say how you were supposed to use them, you had to figure that out), not as furniture polishers etc. Also, the Inez is no solid gold, it can't be. It's gold plated.

Good try Bethany, but it's a miss.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lelo Gets it Right the Second Time Around

When the Sense Motion toys from lelo came out, I was so excited because I have been looking everywhere for a good quality remote toy. This was Lelo so of course it was going to be good. At first, they seemed amazing. They vibrated to the motion of the remote! They had a commercial that hit youtube that shows a guy dancing with the remote and driving his partner mad.

How fun is that?

Sadly, many of us found out that the Sense Motion toys weren't quite as awesome as all that. They worked well for a lot of types of play but most of them had major problems with interference. If you put the remote in your pocket or the toy in your pants (or in you), often they would lose the remote connection and you'd have to get the toy and the remote close together to get it going again. They were nice toys but they just weren't as good as they should have been.

About a month ago, Lelo announced they were putting out an upgrade - a second version of the Lyla, Tiani, and Oden Sense Motion toys. We finally got them in this weekend and I'm super-psyched to say, it works!

First of all, these toys are stronger vibration. So that, in and of itself, is reason to get it.

But the remote is so much more responsive and it's not sensitive to interference! When this works the way it's supposed to, it's super-cool. With other remote toys, it's lots of fun to give the toy to your partner and change the settings and watch them squirm. But with this one, you don't just change from one speed to another, you control exactly what happens to the toy by the way you move it. Even just a little shake or turn of the toy changes it. It's so much fun!

I had to test it out so I had my partner put it in his pocket and do a little dance for me. It worked! I was vibrating to his movements. Then he got really crazy and started jumping up and down. It was awesome! I ran into the other room to see if we would lose the connection. Nope! It still worked through the wall - I could feel all of his jumping around and dancing. I think this is going to be the new workout trend.

Oh how I wish Lelo had not jumped into production on these toys until they figured out how to do it properly. When it works right, it is really amazing. This may be the most fun partner toy I've ever seen.

I have to say, I don't like the shape of the Tiani for partner sex. You're supposed to use it like a We Vibe and I find that it's not the right shape for me for that. But what it is good for is making a vibrating panties idea. By itself, the internal part of the toy is totally comfortable and it anchors it so you can wear it inside your underwear pretty easily. The external part is small enough to get away with it under loose fitting clothing. This is a great thing because most toys like this are too big and too loud to be discreet. The cool thing is, your partner doesn't even have to touch the remote. They can just throw it in a pocket or purse and everytime they move, you'll get a nice surprise.

We have only one Tiani left in the store right now. I wanted to check it out and see if they got it right. We will be getting more soon and the Lylas should be in by the end of the week.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Stitch and bitch

A womens group in my hometown of Lethbridge is rallying people to take up their knitting needles for a cause. They are leading a protest against MP Stephen Woodworth's private members bill that would redefine when life legally begins. They are concerned that if this motion passes, it will reopen the abortion debate and lead to eventual criminalization of abortion. Ya, you and me both!

I was pleased to find out about this on the cbc website. I'm glad that the bill snd the opposition against it is getting somme mainstream media attention. I don't believe it really has to this point and that is exactly what Woodworth and his ilk are hoping for. They would love to just slip this one under the radar and then bust it out when they are ready to launch their full-on attack against women's rights. 'Well, actually, Canadians may not be aware of this but the definition of life was changed in 2012 so technically abortion has been illegal since then so we're just bringing the code up to date by making it illegal under the code.'

The comments under the story on the cbc site are mostly supportive of the womenspace position but most of them seem to think it's no big deal. 'There is no way abortions are going to become illegal in this country again.'. I'd love to believe that but I can't when I consider these two things. First, although abortion is legal in Canada, it is by no means accessible. It's possible to get an abortion only in major centres which means time, travel, and money for women who don't live in or close by one. As pressure from anti-abortion groups and violence against clinics and their staff increases, fewer doctors want to perform abortions so this problem is getting worse. There are no abortion services at all in Prince Edward Island. Out of province health coverage for abortion services is difficult to access. Usually women have to pay upfront and get reimbursed. This is just not possible for some people. The fact is, with the small but vocal opposition to abortion, there is already a lot of pressure against the service providers which make it difficult for a lot of women to get an abortion and this is getting worse. It may be legal but it's not easy.

Second, although abortion has been legal in the USA since Roe vs. Wade, in many states, they have managed to make it effectively illegal by enacting laws related to it - limitting how it can be paid for, when and under what circumstances a woman can get an abortion, and what requirements are necessary prior. Although our system makes this impossible - provinces would not have the right to enact these kinds of laws - our federal government can do the same by sneaking in little rules and biols like this that won't outlaw abortion outright but essentially make it impossible to access.

Should we be worried? Yes,I think we should be. If we want to protect our right to abortion services, we need to let our government know that we dont support this bill. Now, not all of us have time to sit down and knit a uterus - you dont need to, just send a letter or email to your MP and let them know how you feel.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Vancouver Shutting Down Sex Shops?

A small adult toy shop in downtown Vancouver has been denied a license to operate. The Supreme Court of B.C. has just upheld the decision by the City of Vancouver. Yipes! This sort of headline strikes fear into the hearts of all adult oriented businesses. What the heck is going on here?

When you look at the facts, from the city's side, it sounds fair. The owner of the store bought it from someone else who had been running it mainly as a mainstream video store and turned it into an adult toy store that sells videos and offers peep shows. The city said that he did not have the proper license to run an adult store. Ok fine, apparently in Vancouver, you need to have a particular license to run an adult toy store (here is yet another example of why Edmonton is cooler than you think - our city does not require that - you merely need a retail sales license and comply with the retail zoning regulations and signing requirements where you operate) so all he needs to do is get the right license.

When the owner applied for the license though, he was denied and told that his signage, his black-out windows, and the interior layout of the store did not conform to zoning regulations for that license. So he made plans to bring it up to their standards - drop the peep shows, put in tasteful window displays instead of blackouts, change the signage, and the interior layout. All of this, I'm sure, cost him considerable time and money. Should be all good then, right? Wrong. The City refused again to issue the license mainly because they had surveyed the neighborhood about the proposed license and many people were opposed.

This is where it becomes so not okay. I do agree that neighbors should know what kinds of business are going into their area and should have the opportunity to express concerns but I think they have to be legitimate concerns. If they had real complaints like not wanting a night club there because of the noise, or not wanting a Tim Horton's there because the line-ups would plug up the traffic through the whole block, that's all right. But it's not fair to shut down a business solely because the people around it don't want it there. If you follow this logic people objecting to a sex store because it makes them uncomfortable or people could object to a mosque or a Asian food store or Salvation Army shelter because that makes them uncomfortable. If there's a real reason, fine, but if the reason is that people just don't like it, that's so not okay. Now that I'm a home owner, I get letters all the time about proposed businesses and changes going on near me - a lot of these are for churches and religious organizations (I don't know what's up in my neighborhood but there are a crap load of churches there). I am opposed to organized religion and I think I have legitimate reasons to be so. But I know that having another church next door to me is not going to cause any problems for me and my daily life whatsoever. I don't really want to look at that, but it's not causing me a problem. So I don't object to it. The sex store is the same thing. He is going to change the signs and the windows to make it more suitable for the area. It won't stand out. It won't be offensive. So it's not going to affect anyone. But still people don't like it just because they don't like it. That should be their problem, not the business owner's.

The City is saying that the physical configuration of the building will make it impossible for the owner to comply with the requirements necessary to issue the license. I have to wonder what that means. If that's the issue, why do they bother to talk about the neighbor objections at all? It sounds like this is something they can hang their hat on to legitimize the decision and to stop this guy in his tracks. They have said he will never be able to comply so he needs to stop trying. He's supposed to close the store within the next 90 days.

The owner raised the objection that most of the adult stores in the city don't have the proper license either so the City has said they will now be investigating each one of those stores. I hope this doesn't open up a can of worms for all of the adult stores that have been operating successfully in peace and quiet for years. No one has been bothered up to this point but if they start having to reapply for business licenses and notifying their surrounding neighborhood, are people suddenly going to start popping up saying 'Hey, there's a sex shop around the corner? No way! I don't like that!'. For my colleagues in Vancouver, I certainly hope that doesn't happen.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Very Scary Study Shows How Far Some Doctors Will Go to Make Girls be Girls

I got a note from the New View today about a study that appeared in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry last week. It exposes the fairly commonplace practice of prescribing the steriod dexamethasone to pregnant women who have a potential genetic risk of having children with congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Why is that scary? For a whole lot of reasons.

First of all, dexamethasone has never been approved for this use. This is an off-label use of the drug. It's a steriod that is used mainly as an anti-inflammatory. Some people use it illegally as a sports performance enhancer. Dexamethasone is a potent drug with very serious side effects. There have never been any studies proving the efficacy and safety of its use prenatally. One recent small study showed some effects of the drug on the working verbal memory of children who's mothers took it during pregnancy. It has also never been shown to effectively prevent or treat CAH in utero.

So if this random off-label use of a serious drug with major side-effects isn't scary enough on it's own, check out the reason they are prescribing it. Congential Adrenal Hyperplasia is a genetic defect which can result in females being born with ambiguous or more male-looking genitalia. It affects the production of sex steriods and so can have an effect on primary and secondary sex characteristics and sexual development. The object of the prescription is to attempt to 'normalize' the development of the fetuses.

The fact that we are not entirely sure what this drug actually does to kids who get it before they are born aside, it may seem like a perfectly legitimate thing to do. The study provides quotes from doctors explaining the potential long-term life-altering effects of the masculinization of female genitalia due to CAH including potential wrong gender-assignment at birth, psychological problems, and painful genital surgeries with major risk of side effects. So yes, maybe one could see that as legitimate, except that most of those things can be avoided simply by not focussing on a binary gender assignment for a child at birth and not insisting that genitals look 'normal'. But it gets worse, the study goes on to quote doctors positing that one of the main issues with CAH girls is that they don't act like girls, often have little interest in dolls and other girl activities and show much less interest in getting married and having children than non CAH girls. They believe that this originates in the brain and that dexamethasone can change that. No, I am not making this up! Read the study, it's right in there.

So really, what's happening here is that doctors are prescribing a drug to try to prevent a condition which makes girls not look and act like girls - and there is no evidence that this drug actually works and no evidence that it's safe to use in this way.

I know it's hard to believe that this could happen. Surely, you might think, the side effects must be minimal and this drug must be relatively safe in general, otherwise they would never do this. But it has happened before. From the 1940's to the 1970's, millions of women were given DES (diethystibestrol) - mostly to alleviate morning sickness and miscarriage. Later, it was discovered that DES is actually carcinogenic and caused serious issues for children who were exposed to it. Girls who's mothers took DES have a greatly increased risk of cervical cancer amongst other reproductive problems. So yeah, it can happen and it does happen.

This is another case of rushing to a medical/pharmaceutical intervention when none is really even required. The study shows that women have been given this drug if they have the genetic makeup with the potential to have a child with CAH. They can't know if the baby has CAH until it's born. Only one in eight women that are identified as at risk will actually have a child with CAH so 87% of these women will end up having taken this drug and exposed their children for no reason whatsoever.

The only thing I can say about this is that we really have to be advocates for ourselves when it comes to health care. I don't know if this is happening in Canada. This study was done only in the USA. But other things like it are happening. We really need to question our doctors when they suggest prescriptions and treatments - find out what's in them and what the side effects are and how serious the condition actually is in the first place. Sometimes the treatment is worse than the disease.