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  • Originally published 08/07/2014

    Why We’re Scared of Masturbation

    It would be a mistake to view Western fears about masturbation as an ancient line of thought stemming from Judeo-Christian religious texts.

  • Originally published 07/08/2014

    Read Warren Harding's Love Letters

    "I love you more than all the world and have no hope of reward on earth or hereafter, so precious as that in your dear arms, in your thrilling lips, in your matchless breasts."

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Jon Wiener interviews Dan Savage for The Nation

    Jon Wiener teaches US history at UC Irvine.Dan Savage started the “It Gets Better” project in 2010, with a short video online addressed to gay, lesbian, bi and transgender young people facing harassment, letting them know that, yes, it gets better.  Today more than 50,000 people have posted videos at ItGetsBetter.org, which have been viewed more than 50 million times.  He’s also a best-selling author whose new book is American Savage.  He lives in Seattle with his husband, Terry, and their 15-year-old son, D.J. Jon Wiener: How did you feel when you first heard the news that the Supreme Court had overruled DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act that had defined marriage as limited to two people of the opposite sex?  I’m morbid, so my first thought was ‘I can die now.’Dan Savage: You didn’t think “now we can live happily ever after”?

  • Originally published 05/20/2013

    Rock music historians debunk myths about Rolling Stones

    Many stories and figures have emerged from the hazy shroud of the genre-defining, five-decades-long sex-, drugs-, and rock n’ roll-fueled bender of The Rolling Stones. God knows some of the stories are exaggerated, while others are even more outrageous than we know.In celebration of The Stones’ 50th anniversary, broadcaster and music historian Pete Fornatale endeavored to get to the bottom of many of the stories surrounding The Rolling Stones’ members and catalog. He passed away in 2012 shortly before the release of his book, 50 Licks: Myths and Stories from Half a Century of the Rolling Stones, earlier this year, but I recently spoke with his two co-authors: son Peter Thomas Fornatale and broadcaster Bernie Corbett....

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    What the sculpture of Pan reveals about sex and the Romans

    Nothing is more likely to inspire us to see for ourselves than a warning about the effects of looking. Take the media interest this month when it was revealed that the British Museum's exhibition, Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum, is to include a "parental guidance" notice. The reason? An ancient marble sculpture of the god Pan (a part-human, part-goat figure) having sex with a she-goat is not to be segregated, as it has been since its discovery in 1752, but displayed openly with the other exhibits – a liberal move by London, if also one which dulls the object's impact. Getting this story into the news ensures that centuries of censorship are not swept under the carpet, and that Pan, and the show he speaks for, remain "hot property".But the news story also exaggerates this censorship. Far from being forgotten in its first modern home in the royal palace at Portici on the Bay of Naples, the sculpture, which was part of a restricted collection in the cellars, was quickly a celebrity.

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    France's national library hopes to buy Sade's "120 Days of Sodom"

    PARIS — “The 120 Days of Sodom,” by the Marquis de Sade, is one of the most perverse works of 18th-century literature.It tells the story of four rich “libertines” who lock themselves in a remote medieval castle with 46 victims (including eight boys and eight girls, ages 12 to 15). The men are assisted by four female brothel keepers who arouse their hosts by recounting their outlandish (and embellished) experiences....Even Bruno Racine, director of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the National Library, calls it “depraved.”But that hasn’t stopped him from negotiating long and hard to buy Sade’s manuscript. He has convinced the Foreign and Culture Ministries of its importance. He has argued in front of the Commission of National Treasures to declare it provisionally a “national treasure” that needs to be preserved in the library. And he is ready to pay more than $5 million to get it....

  • Originally published 01/16/2013

    Blain Roberts: The Ugly Side of the Southern Belle

    Blain Roberts, an assistant professor of history at California State University, Fresno, is the author of the forthcoming book “Pretty Women: Female Beauty in the Jim Crow and Civil Rights South.”...From 1921, when the contest began in Atlantic City, through World War II, only one woman representing a former Confederate state won the competition. Then, beginning in 1947, when a woman from Memphis earned the top honor, the fortunes of Southern contestants rose precipitously. From 1950 to 1963, seven southerners were crowned (each served the following year), including back-to-back wins by Mississippians in 1958 and 1959 — though southerners made up only one-fifth of the possible winners.These were, of course, the years when black Southerners opened a full-scale campaign against Jim Crow, prompting a bitter backlash by white Southerners. White resistance began in earnest in 1954, when the Supreme Court issued Brown v. Board of Education, its decision to desegregate public schools.

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