Yesterday (Nov. 17, 2010) I was a guest on “Voices of Diversity,” a weekly community radio show on KBCS. The topic of this week’s show was Bullying in schools. The audio of the show will soon be available on audio archives at KBCS, but in the post below I follow up on the question of whether or not everyone *really* wants to get rid of bullies. …. See below for my elaboration:


The recent rash of high profile suicides by boys who were bullied for gender and sexual non-conformity has created a wake up call for parents and school administrators in the U.S. To create a broader base of support from heterosexual allies, as well as to reach out to GLBT youth themselves, a number of new educational and activist initiatives have emerged. Dan Savage created the “It Gets Better” video project, directed at GLBT youth in despair over hostile treatment and at risk of killing themselves. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD) declared Oct. 20, 2010 Spirit Day to call attention to and memorialize the recent suicides. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even released her own version of an “It Gets Better” video.

Predictably, given the larger antagonistic climate toward non-heteronormative youth, not all heterosexuals have responded with as much compassion as the current US Secretary of State. Arkansas School Board vice president Clint McCance has made himself the most recent poster child for non-compassion (AKA being a big jerk) after he wrote on his Facebook page a variety of obscenities including:

“Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide. The only way i’m wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide.”

“It pisses me off though that we make special purple fag day for them. I like that fags can’t procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other AIDS and die.”

And perhaps the most cruel of all (at least for me as a parent):

“I would disown my kids if they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off.”

Since Facebook is a semi-public forum, many people outside of McCance’s circle of like-minded friends witnessed his rant. All kinds of people — including people in his own community — started to wonder: Does Clint McCance *really* wish all gay kids would just kill themselves? Even if they were his own children?

After uproarious calls for his resignation (including, unfortunately, similar verbal assaults against McCance and his family), the Arkansas school board vice president agreed to an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN (who, coincidentally, maintains a private identity but is widely reported to be gay, and whose brother committed suicide at the age of 23). Looking like a kid caught for bad behavior, McCance had little to say but claimed to be remorseful. When pressed by Cooper as to whether or not he would resign (for technical reasons he could not be fired), McCance said, yes he was resigning from the School Board.

Now that McCance is now gone (at least for now) from a school administrative position, has anything changed in his surrounding cultural and institutional system? Human behavior never happens in a vacuum – there is always a surrounding cultural and physical infrastructure that creates messages or opportunities for people to act in cruel or inequitable ways. This is more complicated than thinking about pro-social versus anti-social behavior; about “bad” school board members versus “good” ones.” This is because cruel behavior is sometimes completely in line with the social agenda of larger systems of power.

There seems to be an assumption in mainstream media outlets that “everyone” wants to get rid of bullies. But this is actually not the case, since bullying is, at a very basic level, a technique for ensuring and preserving separate and unequal distinctions between people.

In fact, people and institutions interested in preserving their separate and “superior” distinction — whether this is based on race, religion, sex, and/or sexual orientation — meet anti-bullying legislation (or related events such as “spirit day”) with lukewarm or even hostile responses.

For example, in 2001, Christian Right lobbyists stalled the first attempt to bring anti-bullying legislation to Washington State. In 2010, Clint McCance and others balked at the suggestion of a special day for mourning youth suicide connected to anti-gay bullying. In both cases, the resistance is around deep seated beliefs that boys/men and girls/women must conform to traditional gender roles (with men being “masculine”, powerful, and exclusively attracted to women; and women being “feminine”, submissive to men, and exclusively attracted to men). If they fall out of line, the logic goes, they must be corrected. Ridicule, shaming, social exclusion .. these are all forms of maintaining rigid and unequal distinctions between insiders and outsiders; they are also forms of bullying. Hence the resistance to anti-bullying legislation by some who want to maintain rigid and unequal distinctions.

Why is it that bullying tactics work “better” on some kids than others? Why don’t all queer kids commit suicide in the face of severe public ridicule and social excommunication?

One reason may be that the ones who survive — like Constance McMillen (who was subjected to a dramatic network of lies and harassment by students, teachers, and parents alike) — have access to deep resources, support, and identity outside of their world of bullies. If excluded from the bully group, they don’t feel that their entire world will disappear.

After many months of discrimination, harassment, and being lied to by school administrators (who created a secret prom that she wasn't invited to), Constance McMillen continued to fight with the strong support of her parents and the ACLU. Constance won a law suit and international recognition, including most recently being named one of Glamor Magazine's "Women of the Year."


But sometimes, even for those kids who carry on in the face of bullies– more drastic forms of violent control occurs. This was the case for Matthew Shepard and Lawrence King — both of whom were murdered by other boys who were angry that they were not sufficiently hiding their feminine or “gay” characteristics.

So to sum up: for those of us truly interested in creating bully-free zones, we must directly speak out against not just individual acts of cruelty, but infrastructures which create and reinforce distinct, segregated, and unequal categories between people. This means directly questioning (not just staying silent or “neutral” to) common beliefs about what constitutes a “superior” and “inferior” person and what justifies differential treatment. It is only then that we can start to dismantle the bully. 

Related Sexuality & Society stories:

Recommended References & Resources:

The winning entry for Project Condom Season 2. Designed by University of South Carolina junior Marquis Bias; modeled by USC senior Danielle Watson.

I recently attended the massive American Public Health Association meetings in Denver, where there were a number of scientific sessions on topics related to reproductive and sexual health. One of the more exciting sessions for me was a session on “Sexual Health Issues of Youth,” where Professor Lisa Lindley (Global & Community Health, George Mason University) discussed the philosophy and impact of a creative sex education program called “Project Condom.” This program combines the concept of “Project Runway” with condom couture for the intended impact of promoting safer sex.

Powerpoint slide from Lindley's APHA presentation, borrowed with permission.

“Project Condom” is the creative brainchild of Ryan Wilson, who works in Student Health Services at University of South Carolina. Together with Lindley (who was then a professor at USC) and a team of USC faculty, staff, and students, Wilson has now seen Project Condom through its third season. (In addition to being inspired by Project Runway, Wilson’s team was also extending the work of Adriana Bertini, a designer/activist credited for creating the idea of condom couture.)

Student groups participating in Project Condom are provided with 1,000 condoms in assorted colors. Each group develops a PG-13 theme for their design (e.g. pregnancy prevention, STI/HIV protection, abstinence). The judges (most recently including Santino Rice from Project Runway) rate the designs on 5 criteria: Overall concept and theme, use of condoms or abstinence symbol, creativity, stage presence, and interview justification. To see video footage of Project Condom click here: Project Condom, Season 3

Besides offering a forum for artistic expression, there is evidence that Project Condom is increasing both awareness of sexual health and propensity for using condoms amongst USC students. (Evidence based on surveys of audience members of Project Condom as well as increased volume of free condoms being taken on campus).

Project Condom is now being replicated at George Mason University as well:

We at Sexuality & Society applaud Wilson, Lindley, and the Project Condom team for this promising Sexual Health approach!

In societies with strict rules, sanctions, and moral/institutional hierarchies attached to sexuality, we find gaps between people’s reported sexual identity and what they actually do. Because the stakes are high if people fall from esteemed sexual categories, people in these societies are invested in maintaining at least the perception of sitting on sexual high ground. 

Different societies and organizations vary in their strategies for addressing gaps between identity and behavior. In the U.S. there is an entire media/medical/criminal justice industry built around catching, shaming, treating, and punishing (or at least exposing hypocrisy) for those who fall from their esteemed socio-sexual positions (e.g. Cheating Celebrities, Pedophile Priests, Gay Anti-Gay activists).

A newly released study indicates that from a sexual health perspective it may be more important than ever to acknowledge these known gaps in identity and behavior, especially when it comes to young people. This study, lead by Dr. Preeti Pathela of New York Department of Public Health and Mental Hygiene, found that for sexually active teens, nearly 1 in 10 engage in same-sex sexual activity; an increase over previous studies. (It is not clear whether this is a result of an actual increase in same sex behavior, sexual behavior in general, or whether respondents in this study were just more likely to report their same sex activities).

Regardless of the reasons for the reported increase in same sex sexuality, since teens in this often stigmatized group are also less likely to use condoms and other safe sex precautions, some sort of strategy is needed. From a sexual health perspective, creating space and decreasing stigma for same sex attraction in curriculum and school cultures is a basic first step. Below is a summary of the study:

By Zach Gottlieb

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – A new study suggests that nearly one in sexually active ten teens have same-sex partners — almost twice as many as previous research found. According to a 2002 study of Massachusetts and Vermont teens, only 5 percent to 6 percent of teens had same-sex partners.

In the new study, 9.3 percent of teens said they did.

“Clearly there’s a high rate of same-sex partners among teens, and we need to recognize any vulnerabilities that may be associated with these behaviors,” said Dr. Susan Blank, an assistant commissioner at the NYC Health Department. Blank, who was not involved with the study, was referring to a lower rate of condom use and unwanted sex among teens with same-sex partners seen in the study.

The new research, published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at more than 17,000 teens in New York City. It found that teens who had sex with only their own gender or with both genders were more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, putting themselves at greater risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of the 18 million new cases of STDs that occur each year happen among people aged 15 to 24.

Such risky behaviors included not using a condom during sex and having forced sex. More than half of boys who engaged in bisexual behavior didn’t use a condom, compared to a fifth of those who engaged exclusively in heterosexual behavior. The difference was not quite as large for girls who engaged in bisexual behavior and those who engaged exclusively in heterosexual behavior, but it was similar: About half of the former didn’t use a condom, compared to 30 percent of the latter.

About a third of those teens who engaged in bisexual behavior had forced sex at some point in their lives, much higher than the 6 percent of those boys who engaged exclusively in heterosexual behavior and the 16 percent of the similar group of girls.

Elizabeth Saewyc, a researcher at the University of British Columbia, told Reuters Health that these teens may engage in riskier behavior because sex education programs don’t always acknowledge gay, lesbian, and bisexual relationships.

“Some teens I’ve seen tell me that they completely check out of sex ed because they feel what they were learning didn’t apply to them,” said Saewyc, who was not involved in the new study.

She suggested that educators need to acknowledge gay, lesbian, and bisexual relationships more often in sex education curriculums so that teens are more likely to listen and will feel more comfortable discussing any issues.

Though the authors of the new study report that the rate of same-sex partners is higher than previous studies, Saewyc pointed that this rate is actually similar to what she has seen in her own work and other studies.

In the 2008 British Columbia Adolescent Health Survey, for teens who were sexually active, 8 percent of males and 10 percent of females reported having had a same-sex partner. In a study looking at the 2001 Minnesota Student Survey, 9.4 percent of teens reported having had partners of the same or both sexes.

Dr. Preeti Pathela, lead author of the new study, said the results may have been different this time around because some states do not measure same-sex encounters. Still, Pathela said, it’s clear that some teens are more vulnerable to risky behavior and STDs than others. In discussing sexual relationships and potential risks, she said it is important that parents, educators, and researchers focus on behaviors and not just on sexual identity.

“How teens identify themselves doesn’t always correlate with actual behaviors,” said Pathela, a research scientist in the New York Department of Public Health and Mental Hygiene. “Behavior is a better measure of what’s actually happening because teens are changing rapidly.”

SOURCES: Pediatrics, October 25,2010.

Two weeks ago, Indiana University researchers at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion debuted the results of their mammoth National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. The study, released Oct. 4, 2010 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, reported that adults in the U.S. have substantial variety in their sexual lives and that American teens are far more likely than adults to use condoms. 

As a sexuality researcher I was (and am) impressed by the depth and breadth of the study as well as the vast amount of media coverage it received. News headlines around the globe proclaimed that people in the US are getting “friskier,” and “branching out sexually.” The Colbort Report and Saturday Night Live both mentioned the report in friendly comedic skits.

(By the way, since Kinsey’s studies in the mid-twentieth century we’ve known about enormous sexual variety in the U.S.  Without systematic historical data it’s unclear whether or not all Americans are actually getting “friskier,” but this new study does a fantastic job of systematically documenting what people across many generations are doing today).

My main surprise around this study? The virtual non-response by conservative religious bloggers and organizations, who are usually quick to offer their critique on cultural trends which indicate approval of (or even a neutral stance on) sexuality outside of adult heteronormative marriage.

This study certainly indicates such a cultural trend, both in its survey design and in its results. Below is a summary of findings, borrowed from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior’s website:

“Many surveys of adolescent sexual behavior create an impression that adolescents are becoming sexually active at younger ages, and that most teens are sexually active,” said Dr. Fortenberry (one of the study’s authors). “Our data show that partnered sexual behaviors are important but by no means pervasive aspects of adolescents’ lives. In fact, many contemporary adolescents are being responsible by abstaining or by using condoms when having sex.”

The graph below illustrates the striking inverse linear correlation between age and condom use (contradicting common patronizing assumptions about “our youth” being sexually irresponsible):

Condom Graph

The following bullet points are also taken from the study’s website: 

  • There is enormous variability in the sexual repertoires of U.S. adults, with more than 40 combinations of sexual activity described at adults’ most recent sexual event.
  • Many older adults continue to have active pleasurable sex lives, reporting a range of different behaviors and partner types, however adults over the age of 40 have the lowest rates of condom use. Although these individuals may not be as concerned about pregnancy, this suggests the need to enhance education efforts for older individuals regarding STI risks and prevention.
  • About 85% of men report that their partner had an orgasm at the most recent sexual event; this compares to the 64% of women who report having had an orgasm at their most recent sexual event. (A difference that is too large to be accounted for by some of the men having had male partners at their most recent event.)
  • Men are more likely to orgasm when sex includes vaginal intercourse; women are more likely to orgasm when they engage in a variety of sex acts and when oral sex or vaginal intercourse is included.
  • While about 7% of adult women and 8% of men identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, the proportion of individuals in the U.S. who have had same-gender sexual interactions at some point in their lives is higher.
  • At any given point in time, most U.S. adolescents are not engaging in partnered sexual behavior. While 40% of 17 year-old males reported vaginal intercourse in the past year, only 27% reported the same in the past 90 days.
  • Adults using a condom for intercourse were just as likely to rate the sexual extent positively in terms of arousal, pleasure and orgasm than when having intercourse without one.

These findings provide important information for many, including parents, partners, and sexual health workers. As a way to avoid erroneous advice and policy it’s important for all of us to update our assumptions about who does what sexually.

But why the lack of moral uproar? Perhaps this silence is the true sign of a cultural shift — a striking contrast to the conservative backlash to the Kinsey reports. Then again, the scientific magnitude of this study does make it relatively impenetrable — just like a good condom when used correctly.


Also recommended (for a brief overview of the Kinsey studies, an important historical precursor)Jim Burroway. Jan. 3, 2008. “According to the Kinsey Reports: A Noisy revolution in social science and popular culture.” Box Turtle Bulletin. 

Sexuality & Society welcomes this guest post from Karen Rosenberg, who holds a Ph.D. in Women Studies and directs the Writing Center at the University of Washington Bothell.


It has been more than 15 years since The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Since becoming law on Sept. 13, 1994, VAWA has provided billions of dollars to bolster the criminal legal response to violence against women, provide services for domestic violence and sexual assault victims, and increase protections for battered immigrant women. 

I got into anti-violence work in VAWA’s infancy and continue to wrestle with the questions that brought me to the movement in the first place. These questions include: Why is there so much violence in intimate relationships? What kinds of activism are most effective for reducing this violence? What role should the state play in regulating (reducing violence in) romantic relationships? What role should the criminal legal system play? What role should our communities play?

Working as a legal advocate in a mainstream anti-domestic violence program in the mid-1990s, I saw VAWA as unquestionably good. Finally, there was federal recognition that violence against women is pandemic, and serious, and worthy of public attention. Federal dollars–billions of them—were going to every corner of the country.  

I worked on several projects funded with VAWA dollars. I collaborated with cops and prosecutors to design trainings and improve the criminal legal response to domestic violence. I began to see fewer cops saying “we don’t get involved in domestics,” or telling violent husbands to “take a walk around the block to ‘cool off.’” I helped women navigate the legal system and advocate for their interests and the interests of their children. I brought the concerns of battered women to policymakers. And every few years, when VAWA came up for re-authorization, I contacted my senators and urged them to continue funding VAWA. I saw these changes in the criminal justice and legal systems as the unquestionably sweet fruits of feminist activist labor.

It wasn’t until I interviewed feminist activists in the course of my dissertation research on responses to violence against women in Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia, that I realized that the larger social justice picture was quite a bit more complicated. One activist I interviewed had a particularly powerful critique of VAWA:

“…At first we’re like VAWA has both good things and bad things.  But then I really understood the bad things about VAWA and understood that it was part of…this big, gigantic, monstrous crime bill and inside of this crime bill was where we got…the bullshit around three strikes and mandatory minimums and things that were devastating to our communities.  So if you ask me now whether or not we should have supported VAWA given the money that came to programs and given the general attention that was put on violence against women, both of which are good, I say ‘no.’ (Seattle feminist activist)

Soon after transcribing these words, I began to do some homework. I learned that VAWA, indeed, was part of a massive crime bill. Though then-Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del.) initially introduced VAWA as a stand-alone bill in 1990, it did not command the necessary support to pass. After 4 years of lobbying and revising the legislation, Congress folded it into a comprehensive crime bill. As legal scholar Rachelle Brooks explains, embedding VAWA into a comprehensive crime bill “…placed many feminists in the awkward position of mobilizing around a measure with which they did not agree.” She goes on to say that:

“…the symbolic act of consolidating VAWA in the Crime Bill means that the legislative system grouped domestic violence with other violent crimes and has framed it as a criminal problem.  By associating domestic violence against women with other criminal acts the state can ignore the many other roots of this violence” (Brooks 1997: 79).

Indeed, a look at the budget for the initial VAWA legislation reflects this commitment to the law and order response: over half of the funding—almost one billion dollars—was allocated to criminal legal system remedies. This was a significant infusion of money into criminal legal organizations and contributes to the perception in the US that cops and courts are intimately involved with and the primary responders to domestic violence. The budget also gave significant funding to social service remedies, most notably battered women’s shelters. However, even this funding helped bring the CLS into women’s lives and communities. Much of the VAWA funding required women’s anti-violence organizations to work collaboratively with CLS agencies (such as many of the projects I have worked on).

Another problematic aspect of feminist support for VAWA—which has received even less attention than the problems with the de facto support of a far reaching crime bill—is the removal of the Racial Justice Act from the final version of VAWA. The proposed legislation would have given inmates of color additional avenues to appeal death sentences. Feminist acquiescence to the removal of the Racial Justice Act led to the all-too-familiar feminist prioritization of gender over race. As Brooks comments, by supporting the final version of VAWA embedded in the crime bill “…feminists implicitly endorsed both the removal of the Racial Justice Act…” as well as the racism in the CLS (Brooks 1997: 80).

Where does this leave us now, nearly 16 years after the initial passage of VAWA? While I am acutely aware of the limits of advocacy within the criminal legal system, I do think it makes a difference that the key players in the criminal legal system receive training and tools to intervene in cases of intimate partner violence. As a result I do not regret my support for VAWA.  I doubt that so much attention, and so many resources, could have been dedicated to address violence against women in the 1990s outside of a law and order frame. 

However, as we approach the 16th year anniversary of VAWA, I believe that activists should continue to rethink violence against women outside of a law and order frame, and make connections between interpersonal violence and other forms of violence (the 2001 Incite!-Critical Resistance statement is a powerful expression of the connections between interpersonal violence and state-sponsored violence). I am inspired by the work of local activist groups exploring community-based responses to violence against women that deemphasize the role of the CLS. This work has included, for example, organizing groups of friends who share information about what’s going on in their intimate relationships to counteract the isolation that often accompanies abuse and creating community dialogue about the impact of specific acts of abuse. Here in Seattle, two groups at the forefront of this work are Communities Against Rape and Abuse and the Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse.

VAWA was born of compromise and the tensions that were present at its inception—the focus on gender at the expense of race, the over-reliance on the CLS—are still very much with us. At the same time, the sustained attention and resources directed toward the problem of violence against women has been genuinely helpful in many ways. The critiques of VAWA that activists and academics have developed over the life of VAWA move us powerfully ahead – pointing us toward the importance of community involvement and the dangers of relying too heavily on cops and courts to change a culture that fosters violence against women.


Karen Rosenberg directs the Writing Center at the University of Washington Bothell and has been involved in anti-violence against women organizing for over 15 years. She earned her doctorate in Women Studies from the University of Washington and her research explores the contradictions inherent in using the criminal legal system to regulate intimate relationships.

Referenced and recommended sources:

  • Brooks, R. (1997).  “Feminists negotiate the legislative branch: the Violence Against Women Act.”  In C.R. Daniels & R. Brooks, (Eds). Feminists negotiate the state: The politics of domestic violence (65-82). Lanham: University Press of America.
  • Incite! Women of Color Against Violence. (2006). Color of violence: The Incite! anthology. Cambridge, Mass: South End Press.
Chapel of St. Ignatius, Seattle University. The design of this chapel is based on the metaphor of "A Gathering of Different Lights," which "describes Seattle University's mission" as well as "St. Ignatius' vision of the spiritual life as comprising many interior lights and darknesses, which he called consolations and desolations." (SU chapel website).

It has been a Wild-kind of month for faculty, staff, and students at Marquette University and Seattle University. After President Wild of Marquette University tore up a signed job contract with a woman who would be their first “out” Lesbian administrator (Jodi O’Brien, of Seattle University) many faculty, staff, and students on both MU and SU campuses have been left in turmoil.

Although Marquette has managed to “resolve” this conflict with a negotiated settlement, President Wild’s actions call into question a number of basic academic assumptions including: 1) the honesty of Marquette University’s statements on commitments to diversity and anti-discrimination, 2) the assumption that GLBTQ people are welcome community members within Jesuit institutions (unlike conservative Catholic and Evangelical Protestant institutions, Jesuits are known for their tolerance, encouragement of fearless intellectual curiosity, and commitment to social justice), and 3) the assumption that University faculty have the rights and responsibilities of sharing the governance of their institution.

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki, a key player in convincing Marquette President Wild to tear up his job contract with Jodi O'Brien

The recommendation to hire Dr. O’Brien as Dean of Arts & Sciences at Marquette came after two years of committee searches, interviews, and deliberations. The President and Provost of Marquette also met with committee members and all job candidates, and signed on with the decision to offer the job to O’Brien. This extensive vetting process was obliterated after two local conservative Catholic leaders (neither of them faculty or staff members at Marquette) caught wind of O’Brien’s hire. Somehow, unbelievably, these two men (Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki and Father Paul Hartmann, the archdiocese’s judicial vicar) were able to trump the entire academic administrative vetting process at MU. The search committee and was abruptly informed that their input — as well as O’Brien’s administrative leadership skills — was neither needed nor welcome.

Despite the strong suspicion among many that this is a clear case of discrimination based on sexual orientation, President Wild has maintained throughout the aftermath of his rescinded offer that this is simply about a mismatch between O’Brien’s scholarship and Marquette’s mission. Wild has yet to adequately specify how and where O’Brien’s scholarship is anti-Marquette, anti-Jesuit, or anti-Catholic, but Father Paul Hartmann (one of the two local church officials who complained) explains that O’Brien investigates a particular “subject matter” that may create “dichotomies,” “tensions,” and “contradictions.” According to the Milwaukee Sentinel (May 12, 2010):

“Hartmann sent a March 3 letter  to the chair of the search committee that said the gender studies professor “pursues subject matter that seems destined to actually create dichotomies and cause tensions (if not contradictions) with Marquette’s Catholic mission and identity.”

As long-time colleague, mentee, and friend of Jodi O’Brien, and as a former lecturer at Seattle University (a place I still hold near and dear to my heart) I am very familiar with O’Brien’s work, as well as her commitment to Jesuit education. Ironically, what the conservative church leaders fear is actually what makes O’Brien a successful Jesuit scholar and administrator. Namely, O’Brien’s ability to embrace (rather than denounce or deny) contradictions and tensions— may in fact be a pinnacle Jesuit model of intellectual and spiritually complexity.

In her 2009 Presidential address to the Pacific Sociological Association, Professor Jodi O’Brien describes the personal growth that comes with wrestling religious and spiritual contradictions:

My research with queer Christians led me to understand and define the social self as a process of wrestling contradiction. We are in a constant state of becoming. This “becoming” is shaped through processes of interaction and revealed through the internal dialogues in which we observe, feel, comment on, and try to make sense of our own complexity. The process of self-understanding is a dialectical process of definition, a continual interplay between personal experiences and attempts to fit experience into existing conceptual categories and representations. All of us struggle to make sense of ourselves, to find ways of self-expression, and to be heard and understood. Our sense of self undergoes constant revision as it encounters friction, contradiction, and conflict along the various boundaries that constitute meaning (O’Brien 2009, Pp. 15–16).

She continues to describe how the intellectual process of finding connections in the face of conflict provides an opportunity for personal as well as professional transformation:

Isn’t this what we’re doing as sociologists when we strive to practice scholarship that matters: finding connections, revealing patterns, striving to bridge seemingly contradictory perspectives by offering deeper, richer frameworks of understanding? My suggestion is that when we experience fully the contradiction, conflict, and pain of engaging with our own teaching and research, we can’t help but be transformed  …. This produces an epistemology of contradiction that, together with the principles of the “sociological imagination,” enables us to navigate through complex personal and professional terrain in ways that both resonate and inspire (O’Brien 2009, P. 20 )

Rather than embracing the powerful teaching moments of such everday contradictions, Marquette University officials have chosen to rescind them, putting themselves closer to the edges of rigidity, fear, and fundamentalism, rather than intellectual curiosity, creativity and, I would argue, spiritual vitality.

I will leave it to Jodi O’Brien to describe the nuances and evolution of her thinking throughout her illustrious scholarly career. However, for those interested in reading more about how stereotyping and prejudice works, O’Brien’s own social psychology textbook, The Production of Reality is a great resource.  In this text as well as in the dozens of lectures she’s given to churches and universities around the country, including other Jesuit Catholic universities, O’Brien teaches us about  the subject matter of  “permissible prejudice” – in other words, prejudice that is deemed ok if those in positions of authority justify it as such through their actions or non-actions.

And it is this critical perspective on prejudice and power that is the deeper “subject matter” at hand. This is the kind of subject matter that creates critical reflection on all forms of power relations, including but certainly not limited to that pertaining to religious institutions. This is precisely why those invested in maintaining an uncritical stance on particular power relations within the larger Marquette community needed her to leave; this is also precisely why Gay Catholics and religious academics need leaders like O’Brien now more than ever.


Referenced and recommended sources:

O’Brien, J. (2009) “Sociology as an epistemology of contradiction.” Sociological Perspectives 52, 1, 5-22.

O’Brien, J. (2007).”Queer Tensions: The Cultural Politics of Belonging and exclusion in same gender marriage debates.”” Pp. 125-149 in Interdisciplinary Readings on Sex and Sexuality. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

O’Brien, J. (2005).  The Production of Reality: Essays and Readings in Social Interaction, 4th Edition. Newbury Park, CA: Pine Forge Press (Sage).

O’Brien, J.  (2002).  “Heterosexism and Homophobia.” Article length entry for the International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences.  Oxford: Elsevier Publishing.

Jaschick, S. “Stained Glass Ceiling.” Inside Higher Education. May 11, 2010.

While this case underscores timeless clashes between religion and sexuality—particularly in the form of gay and lesbian “permissible prejudice” within religious institutions — some argue that this discrimination is rising in a backlash movement against the fight for equal rights by gays and lesbians. For example, On March 6, 2010, the Washington Post reported that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a conservative Republican, advised Virginia’s public colleges and universities to revoke policies protecting employees on the basis of sexual orientation.

See also the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force statement on ending job discrimination.

Related posts on Sexuality & Society:

We welcome this guest post from Jayne Swift, who is currently a graduate student in Cultural Studies at the University of Washington, Bothell and an employee of the Seattle Lusty Lady Theatre.


In the 1970s, U.S. manufacturing jobs were decimated, with thousands of workers losing what had once been well paid and valued jobs. It was a deindustrialization crisis that would come to be remembered as a national loss.  Many saw it as a sign that Americans were losing their birthright to work that is fairly compensated and unionized; work that produces a sense of pride, identity, and community. 

If you have spent any time within the Seattle Lusty Lady Theatre lately, you would hear similar, albeit scaled down, testimonials from Lusty Lady workers. But unlike the massive public outcry around automotive plant closings, few outside the workers of the Lusty Lady seem to care about the historical and economic impact of Lusty Lady labor.

To be sure, as Carly Chillmon mentioned in her recent post on Sexuality & Society, many DO care about the loss of the Lusty marquee. The marquee should be missed as a beacon of Seattle’s bawdy past. Yet, the public focus on the marquee also masks the reality of actual people labouring and loving inside. For almost three decades, the Lusty Lady was more than a job to countless employees—it was our GM plant, our place.

Book cover for "The Lusty Lady," by photojournalist and Lusty Lady worker, Erika Langley (1997).


I have known I wanted a place in the Lusty Lady world for a very long time. When I was 17 and first saw the Lusty Lady while on vacation in Seattle, I was enthralled by the robed women standing outside, smoking, talking to each other, seemingly unmoved by the (potentially hostile) stares of passers-by.  I wanted to know more about this place and these women.

Shortly thereafter I realized I had already knew something about this place and these women. I grew up in a feminist-intellectual home and was an avid consumer of texts that explored questions of feminism, gender, and sexuality. In particular, I sought to understand the feminist sex wars and the fierce battles over pornography and prostitution they engendered.

Like many of my “third wave feminist” ilk, I discovered a burgeoning field of literature that articulated what might be called a “sex-positive” vision of sex work; anthologies that featured the voices of sex workers discussing their work on their terms. The Lusty Lady was a recurring feature in many of these texts—used as a site for sex workers to think through the value of their work, articulate experiences of sex work not often validated in the larger world, and sometimes organize to serve their own best interests as workers and people. Indeed, a cursory look at U.S. sex worker literature[i] reveals the Lusty’s significance to the growth of the contemporary sex worker rights movement. The battles to unionize the San Francisco branch of the Lusty (dramatized in the 2000 film Live Nude Girls Unite!). the memoirs published by Lusty workers, and the uniquely female management made the Lusty Lady a rich site for theorizing commercial sex cultures and producing a sex worker feminism.

Image from the documentary film, "Live Nude Girls, Unite!" (Dir. Juilia Query, 2000).


Throughout my undergraduate years I studied the Lusty from afar as something akin to a feminist destination, something I might do with my education and training in Gender/Sexuality Studies. After finishing my M.A. in Women’s Studies at the University of Iowa I moved to Seattle and got up the courage to pursue what, quite simply, had become my dream of working at the Lusty Lady.

For the last several years that dream has structured and animated my life. Like all jobs the Lusty involves its share of drudgery, and more than many jobs a host of emotional and physical challenges. Yet, unlike a lot of other jobs I’ve held (in and out of the sex industry) the Lusty has consistently demanded that I grow on an embodied ethical and intellectual level. The Lusty is the space in which I was able to claim the term sex worker and feel prepared to defend my worth. Every day at the Lusty presented an opportunity to reflect upon some of my central intellectual preoccupations, including: the performativity of gender, theories of objectification, feminist agency and resistance, the production of desire and power, queer theory, the intersections of labor, feminist, and local history and struggle.

It might seem odd to some, but the Lusty made me a better thinker and scholar. Perhaps just as important, the Lusty also forced me to examine and change myself on a more grounded, personal level.

At the Lusty, I learned that there were all kinds of beautiful bodies and personas. I learned that being desired and being able to desire are not contingent upon achieving a pernicious beauty standard. The Lusty taught me—in a way that no therapy or degree could—that my body was mine and I had better find a way to feel good and strong in it in order to survive. In doing so, the Lusty also taught me to look customers, men, in the eye and find a way to show up to their desires and needs when they asked for them respectfully—and stand up to them when I was disrespected. The Lusty reaffirmed my commitment to honoring other people’s erotic selves and gave me a tangible venue in which to perform that commitment. The Lusty taught me that one’s work could be good for others as well as me, that I had a right to be treated fairly and respected, and that I need to pursue the respect I want. Perhaps most importantly, the Lusty challenged me to reconceive of and enact the thing that feminists once called “sisterhood.” 

My Lusty sisterhood grew not out of consciousness raising groups but out of my grounded working conditions: the Lusty required employees to find ways to work alongside each other, often across multiple lines of social difference. The physical and social structure of the business, instead of breeding the competition found in many other legal sex businesses, inculcated workers with a sense of collectivity and common purpose. As my co-worker Wildflower puts it,

“much like a contrived women’s support group…we share the most tender and raunchy parts of ourselves. Something about being naked, playing a role and entertaining the gents keeps things light enough to share some heavy challenges.”

Indeed, the workers of the Lusty often express a bond with each other simply due to our shared love for this place and what is has given us. My experience of the world tells me that it is rare for people to describe their workplaces in terms that another co-worker, Lux, does as the place where she “grew up”:

“It was a safe place for me to be unconditionally loved, a place where it was alright for me to be me, a place no matter what I did I would be accepted.”

Gypsy, another co-worker, reiterates this theme of kinship. For her the Lusty was the site of a unique and “incomparable connection with female co workers/”family.”

I probably could have espoused it, but until I actually became a Lusty Lady I don’t think I really understood what people—feminists often—meant when they talked about the need for sisters, allies, family. 

Home, family, erotic temple, feminist teaching ground, support system, or as Lux put it, “place of belonging”—these are the organizing narratives and metaphors we (the workers) often use to describe and explain our experience of the Lusty Lady.  No one is arguing that it was a perfect place; a utopia. However, many of us, myself included, are currently charged with trying to make sense of this time, place and labor we have shared with each other. We want the world to understand the Lusty’s powerful and at times beautiful resonance in our lives and our grief about its ending. The loss of this place—a local institution which employed countless people over three decades, inspired its workers, and at times brought women together in a world that often profits by driving us apart—matters, whether or not you’ve ever dared to set foot inside it.

I can only hope that when we close our doors in June we are greeted by other mourners, all those who care about sex workers, standing respectfully on the other side of the marquee.


Jayne Swift was lucky enough to take her first baby steps in six inch heels at the Lusty Lady theatre and is currently completing an M.A. in Cultural Studies at the University of Washington-Bothell.

Referenced and recommended works:

[i] See:Brooks, Siobhan “Dancing Towards Freedom” Whores and Other Feminists, Ed. Jill Nagle  Routledge: 1997.

Dudash, Tawnya. “Peepshow Feminism,” Whores and Other Feminists, Ed. Jill Nagle  Routledge: 1997.

Eaves, Elisabeth. 2002Bare: On Women, Dancing, Sex, and Power. Knopf.

Funari, Vicky “Naked, Naughty, Nasty: Peep Show Reflections” Whores and Other Feminists, Ed. Jill Nagle  Routledge: 1997.

Langley, Erika. 1997. The Lusty Lady. Scalo Zurich-Berlin-New York.

Queen, Carol. 1997. Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of a Sex-Positive Culture. Cleis.

Administrators at Marquette University have found themselves in an awful mess this week after revoking a job offer to Jodi O’Brien, their top candidate  for the position of Dean of Arts & Sciences. (See our earlier post for details on the case).

The official reason for this radical breach of academic, professional, and legal decorum is still murky, coded in terms like “marriage,” “family,” and “the Catholic mission.” President Wild and Marquette spokesperson Mary Pat Pfeil claim that the reversal had nothing to do with the fact the O’Brien is a lesbian. Indeed, since she was “out” during the entire process, this might be true. Indeed, Marquette’s website includes several specific references to the idea that discrimination based on sexual orientation is not acceptable. Below is one example:

As a Catholic, Jesuit university, Marquette recognizes and cherishes the dignity of each individual regardless of age, culture, faith, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, language, disability or social class … Through our admissions and employment policies and practices, our curricular and co-curricular offerings, and our welcoming and caring campus environment, Marquette seeks to become a more diverse and inclusive academic community dedicated to the promotion of justice. (Marquette University’s statement on Human Dignity and Diversity.)

So if O’Brien wasn’t disqualified because she is gay, per se, what is “really” going on? Maybe it’s just the sort of gay she is, the sort who likes to talk openly about sexuality, and moreover to discuss it critically within the context of social institutions such as religion and family. An article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provides a few more clues in this direction:

Officials haven’t provided more detail about what writings might have raised red flags. But Wild told members of the dean search committee last week that there was an article in which “sex positions” and “sex toys” were mentioned, and that the passage could be interpreted as autobiographical, said psychology professor Stephen Franzoi, who served on the committee. O’Brien’s work includes a sociological study of vignettes on lesbian sex. Franzoi said members of the search committee reviewed the work again and did not believe the passages were autobiographical and that the article was a scholarly work.

So let’s get (or make) this story straight:

  1. Jodi O’Brien has worked and lead for 15 years in a Jesuit institution (Seattle University), and is an enthusiastic proponent of the Jesuit mission (e.g. see her cover letter to Marquette).
  2. Marquette’s interpretation of the Jesuit Mission is to NOT discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. 
  3. Marquette and O’Brien agreed that their union would be mutually beneficial.
  4. After Marquette proposed a job offer and O’Brien accepted, leaders in the Marquette extended family became concerned about O’Brien: In particular, her critique of the patriarchal family and her open discussion of non heteronormative sexuality. These previously unnamed members (today named as two Milwaukee archdiocese leaders, judicial vicar Paul Hartmann and Archbishop Jerome Listecki) became suspicious that O’Brien’s writings were not purely intellectual, but could be actual autobiographical and public representations of a sexual life led outside of heteronormative boundaries.

Simply stated, my conclusion is this: This is not a conflict between O’Brien’s lesbian identity and Marquette’s Catholic Jesuit Mission. This is about conservative, Milwaukee-based Church officials needing to divert the attention (of parishioners, as well as of media) away from critical sexuality scholarship and back toward its (silent) missionary position.

O’Brien’s critical sexuality scholarship is threatening to conservative Church leaders because it calls into question the utility of silence around discussing sexual matters. This is much more than just about an Archbishop’s distaste for sex toys: this is about a distaste for discussion of the great sexual variance found within the human species and analysis of how heterosexist family formations are not universal and “natural” but are created, regulated, and enforced by social institutions such as the Catholic Church.

Make no mistake, there are many people living and working within Catholic and Jesuit instituions who live their lives outside of heternormative married couples and families. The very core of Catholicism is based on elevating these non heteronormative models in the form of priests and nuns.

Unlike some religious traditions, Catholicism offers women and men a legitimate option to REFRAIN from marriage and to join vibrant homosocial communities. But the Marquette situation illustrates that this freedom from marriage and heterosexuality may be delicately balanced upon a strict code of silence. Even if a Marquette faculty or staff member has no personal interest in marriage or heterosexuality, the lesson learned here is that they must only discuss these views and practices in distinctly NON-SEXUAL ways. Although invisible on Marquette’s website, the consequence of violating the code of sexual silence is real. O’Brien got dis-invited to lead the Marquette family not because she crossed a line of heteronormativity, but because she discussed these matters publicly.


Related Sexuality & Society blog posts:

Dworkin, S. and Lerum, K. “Marquette rescinds job offer to sociologist and sexuality scholar Jodi O’Brien.” May 10, 2010. 

Lerum, K. “Catholic Priests, Sexual Abuse, and Learning how to talk about sex in church.” Sexuality & Society March 29, 2010.

Referenced news articles:

Farden, K. “SU Prof. O’Brien was eager to take Dean position at Marquette.” Seattle University Spectator. May 12, 2010 

Johnson, A, Sharif Durhams, S. and Ferral, K.”Listecki raised alarm over Marquette hiring: Comments are first indication Milwaukee archdiocese raised concerns about O’Brien.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. May 12, 2010.

Professor Jodi O'Brien

Last month Marquette University –a Jesuit University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — offered esteemed Sociologist Jodi O’Brien the position of Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. After carefully weighing the vast professional and personal transitions that such a move would entail, O’Brien accepted the offer. She signed the contract and mailed it back to Marquette. She and her partner were preparing to put an offer on a house in Milwaukee. But early last week, after pressure from unnamed sources, Marquette backtracked. The official reason? As Marquette President Father Wild told the New York Times,“We found some strongly negative statements about marriage and family.”

This abrupt turn away from O’Brien — a job candidate actively pursued by search committees at Marquette for the past TWO years — has left O’Brien’s extensive and loyal network of colleagues, friends, and students vacilliating between complete disbelief and rage. Hundreds of her would-be Marquette colleagues and students are also shocked by this news and have organized several protests. Two Facebook support groups have emerged, one originating from Marquette, one from Seattle University. Marquette Professor of Theology Daniel C. Maguire has written a scathing open letter to Marquette President Robert Wild and Provost John Pauly, calling for Wild’s resignation and for Wild’s successor to re-offer the job to O’Brien.

In this post we will simply list some of the facts of this case. We will provide an overview of O’Brien’s scholarship, as well as the legal and social implications of Marquette’s actions in a follow-up post.

  • Jodi O’Brien has been a leader at her home institution of Seattle University (a Jesuit University) since she arrived as an Assistant Professor in 1995. She quickly became promoted to Associate Professor and has served as Chair of the department of Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work for seven years. O’Brien was promoted to Full Professor since 2005. In 2007 she received the honor and responsibility of being named the Lewis B. Gaffney Endowed Chair, a two year rotating position that carries with it the mandate of connecting academic and community life with the Jesuit mission.
  • Dr. O’Brien has a long history of leadership positions in national professional organizations including the American Sociological Association and the Pacific Sociological Association. From 2008-2009 O’Brien served as President of the Pacific Sociological Association.
  • O’Brien is the author of dozens of articles and the author and editor of several books, including Everyday Inequalities, and The Production of Reality (now in its 4th edition),  a leading textbook in the field of Social Psychology.

Marquette’s excuse for reversing their offer is not sitting well with many, including those deeply committed to the Catholic and Jesuit mission. In his letter to Marquette University President Father Wild, Professor Maquire is incredulous that although Father Wild and Provost Pauly based their “decision on an interpretation of what was or what was not compatible with Catholic teaching,” they did not consult Catholic theologians in their decision. Maguire scolds:

(Y)ou did not consult the faculty experts on Catholic moral teaching on this campus.  The Theology Department is one of the major theologates in North America, just a few yards away from your offices.

As well, Maguire reminds Father Wild and Provost Pauly that they also “ignored teachers of ethics in the Philosophy department and professors in Sociology, Dr. O’Brien’s field.”

As professors in Sociology and long term colleagues of Dr. O’Brien, we are most happy to offer our assessment of O’Brien’s scholarship on religion and sexuality. Stay tuned.


Referenced news articles:

Dillon, S. “Marquette rescinds offer to Sociologist.” New York Times. May 6, 2010.

Durhams, S. and K. Ferral. “Marquette on hot seat for rescinding job offer to Lesbian.” Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Wisconsin. May 6, 2010.

Finnegan, L. “Marquette Withdraws Job offer to Lesbian Dean Candidate Jodi O’Brien.” Huffington Post. May 7, 2010.

How to not hire a dean.” Editorial. Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Wisconsin. May 7, 2010.

When Tiger Woods was caught having not just one but multiple and simultaneous extramarital affairs, many news sources labeled him a “sex addict.” What else could explain cheating on a gorgeous blonde Swedish swim suit model (so the reasoning went). In response to the massive negative press, Woods effectively went underground, canceling all public appearances. A few weeks later, the media storm was still raging and Woods checked himself into Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services, a Mississippi clinic specializing in sexual addition treatment.

Months later, just as Woods was attempting to re-establish his chaste public image, Jesse James, the husband of Oscar winning Sandra Bullock, was exposed as having committed similar transgressions. After being slammed by the media James too checked himself into a sex addiction clinic, the Sierra Tuscan in Tuscon Arizona. While the use of medical/ “disease” models around sexual “deviance”  is not new, the recent high profile cases raise for me the following questions:

  • What role are sex addiction clinics playing in regulating discourses of sexuality?
  • How are discourses of sex addiction intersecting with and reinforcing individualized assumptions of sin and redemption, in other words, conservative religious discourses of sexuality?
  • Do sex addiction clinics serve as public (and for profit) confessional booths for “secular” society?
  • What role do public confession and redemption scripts play in larger belief structures about “good” and “bad” sexuality (now labeled “healthy” and “unhealthy” sexuality)?
  • In what ways do sex addiction discourses ignore practical (e.g. partners living separate lives) and systemic (imbalances of power and privilege) issues related to infidelity?
  • How do major institutions (e.g. those related to religion, medicine, criminal justice, and business) benefit from avoiding the practical and systemic, focusing instead on individualistic, moral understanding of sexuality?

The mission statements of both Woods’ and James’ clinics clearly state that sex addition/compulsion is in part a medical matter.  Pine Grove (where Woods was a resident) offers a special program called “Gentle Path” which refers to sexual addiction as a “disease:”

The Gentle Path Program offers gender specific treatment to aid men and women in regaining their freedom from the disease of sexual addiction.  Most patients are simultaneously treated for mood disturbance, anxiety or other addictions, such as chemical dependency.  The Gentle Path Program has a special focus on working through past trauma and family problems.  The program is designed to help men and women regain freedom from compulsive behaviors and develop a sense of healthy sexuality.

While not specifically sponsored by any religious organization, Pine Grove emphasizes religious/spiritual aspects of healing. The “Gentle Path” program (an ironic name given its austere living requirements) requires members to sign a celibacy contract, including a promise not to masturbate during the course of their treatment.  Clients are also forbidden to leave during their treatment the except for group chaperoned fieldtrips. Like many prison environments, the clinic appears to serve in part a punitive function. News reports appeared to take glee in the fact that Woods was retreating to a place that would cause him physical as as well as moral hardship:

“The world’s No. 1 golfer will not have an easy time of it as he tries to conquer the demons that led him to repeatedly cheat on his stunning wife with multiple women.” (

In a recent article in, psychologist and psychoanalyst Michael Bader calls sex addiction a “B.S. excuse for not thinking.”  Bader asks,

“If a married man has a lot of extramarital sex, is he necessarily a sex addict? If a seemingly straight man frequents restrooms for casual sex, is he an addict? How much pornography does someone have to look at, how many hours spent in chat rooms, hookers hired, to go from “hound dog” to “sex addict”

Bader goes on to explain the difference between drug and alcohol addiction and “sex addiction”:

“Traditional addictions like those to alcohol or heroin always involve the presence of tolerance and withdrawal; that is, increasing amounts of the substance are required to achieve the same effect, and in its absence the addict suffers an increasingly painful psychophysiological state as the body and brain rebound. But when it comes to sex addiction, physiological tolerance and withdrawal are usually not present, and if they are, they don’t govern the addict’s life in the same way that, say, opiates do. Sex addicts get anxious when they can’t get their “fix” — they don’t go into DTs.”

In fact, Bader argues, the addiction model for sexual infidelity ironically perpetuates pathological sexuality:

“… by viewing someone’s sexual desires as addictions, 12-step approaches can subtly reinforce someone’s own pathological view of themselves. People struggling with sexual compulsions are already afraid of their sexuality, viewing it as an alien internal beast. To imply that the addict’s sexual fantasies and sources of satisfaction are, like alcohol to the alcoholic, a loaded gun, reinforces this belief, when in fact it’s simply another fantasy. The actual psychological reality is that the so-called addicts’ desires and fantasies are perfectly understandable attempts to deal with anxiety and depression given the context of their personal histories, their painful and irrational views about themselves and about men and women, and their inability to imagine a healthier way of living. Once they’re helped to become aware of these meanings, they actually increase their self-compassion and are freer to exercise self-control.”

Bader concludes with an analysis that extends to many public sexual stories:

“Everywhere that sex enters the public arena, whether it be in education, gay marriage, Internet sex, or the hypocrisy of self-righteous politicians getting busted for their indiscretions, we see a worrisome refusal or inability to think about psychological meaning, and to instead reduce the conversation to either a morality play or a voyeuristic parade of gossip and speculation. Replacing the psychologically complex and intensely human drama of sexual behavior with two-dimensional labels like addiction is but one example of this trend.”

Bader’s analysis is needed in a world saturated with simplistic psycho/moral/medical discourses. This is a small but important step toward serious systemic analysis. Even the quintessential playboy, Hugh Hefner, understands this. When asked if he thinks golfer Tiger Woods can overcome his playboy transgressions, Hefner replied curtly:

“He can if he wants to. But this whole idea that it’s a sex addiction is a copout. Some people become obsessed with sex, but it’s not like an alcohol or drug addiction. He did it because he could get away with it.”

While Elin Nordegren may indeed not want her estranged husband, Tiger Woods, to “get away with it,” Woods’ treatment for sex addiction and his public confessional performance has little to do with Elin, and more to do with replicating and selling individualistic morality tales around sexuality.


Referenced articles

Bader, M. Jan. 19, 2010. “Sex Addiction: A B.S. Excuse for not thinking.” Alternet.

Huffington Post, April 13, 2010. “Hugh Hefner slams Tiger Woods, Jesse James, and Sex Addiction.