Even if this was not a law, which it is, I'm afraid I would have a lot of difficulty endorsing an enterprise which is as fraught with genuine peril as I believe this one to be. Besides the liquor and the drugs which always seem to accompany such an event the thing that distresses me even more, Ren, is the spiritual corruption that can be involved. These dances and this kind of music can be destructive, and, Ren, I'm afraid you're going to find most of the people in our community are gonna agree with me on this.
- Reverend Moore, 1984
You can't say that word in Michigan.
Well, not in Lansing anyway.
And certainly not in the statehouse.
By now, of course, you all know to which word and to what incident I’m referring.
During a recent debate on abortion rights in Michigan’s House of Representatives (can you still call it a debate if one side isn’t allowed to talk?), Democrat Lisa Brown was barred from speaking on the House floor for the remainder of the current legislative session, because she said:
“Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my [offensive word that shall not be spoken aloud because it makes Jesus soggy and hard to light], but no means no!”
The word, an immoral and vulgar term for a certain portion of the (excuse me) disgusting female anatomy (shudder), is offensive to conservatives as was Representative Brown’s implication that the law in question is considered by many women to be the equivalent of forcible violation (If you’re keeping score, this is yet another point certain Christians and certain Muslims have in common. One wonders when they’ll start taking long warm showers together, but I digress). The word is so offensive, in point of fact, that it shall not be spoken aloud in front of, not children or His Holiness or those prone to the vapors I do declare, but rather politicians (Which, tangentially, reminds me of a conversation I had with my son the other day regarding which dog treats to buy. The question being “How can an animal that licks its own butt and eats cat turds with such gusto be so picky when it comes to dog treats?” But I digress. Twice in one paragraph). Yes, the word is that offensive. Use of the appalling label on the Michigan House floor by a woman embarrassed actual lawmakers (you know, men) and violated Michigan’s rules regarding decorum of the legislature.
One conservative lawmaker was so overcome and offended he could barely speak about the incident, "I don't even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company!"
Wouldn’t even want to say it in front of women.
Couldn’t bring himself to say it in mixed company.
My God! Somebody tell that uppity harlot to shut her filthy mouth!
I understand that Michigan’s Legislature will be requiring females wear burkas during the next session. The good news is that women will still be allowed to serve in the state government – so long as they’re accompanied by a male relative at all times. No word yet on whether or not they’ll be allowed to drive themselves to the capitol building.
The offensive word?
That word is vagina.
Yes, I said it.
Well of course I can say it without blushing - even in mixed company. Heck, I probably know at least a dozen or two (or three) creative synonyms for that particular word. And given the proper tools, I’m pretty sure I could make an anatomically accurate sketch and tell a couple of crude yet funny stories on the subject too. But hey that’s me. I was in the Navy, I’ve had professional training.
In Michigan, you can safely say uterus and fetus and embryo on the House floor. You might be allowed to say “breasts” – if you’re ordering chicken. You can utter the words heck and horse puckey and gosh darn it. You can, of course, call a gay man a fag, you can call the Muslims in Dearborn towel-heads, you can say the folks in Detroit are all welfare dependent [insert the quaint Michigan racial slur of your choice here].You can refer to Michiganders who don’t vote the conservative ticket as traitors and communists and baby killers and you can say the leader of the free world is a Nazi and Kenyan and a socialist.
And it goes without saying that you can always call somebody a dick – like, for instance, the Speaker of the Michigan State House, Republican Floor Leader Jim Stamas.
You can even get away with occasionally referring to the former democratic governor as a liberal cunt, as long as you do it under your breath and don’t smile – so they know you’re a patriot.
But don’t say the v-word (Which is really odd if you think about it, because where else is it more appropriate to use the word vagina but in a room full of douche-bags? But yet again, I digress).
This incident happened a week ago and I let it go by here on Stonekettle Station without so much as a snarky remark. Others seemed to have it covered.
So, why bring it up now?
Well, because it’s spreading (Don’t. Don’t go there).
Lawmakers across the nation continue to make laws regulating human body parts and activities that they are too embarrassed and offended by to speak out loud.
For example, Utah legislators just tried to pass a law that would have prohibited any discussion of contraception or homosexuality in high school sex education classes – because Utah Republicans are apparently under the impression that if a teacher mentions rubbers and gay people, students will suddenly chose teh gaysecks (It’s like 1984, if you don’t have the language for double plus ungoodness, you can’t be gay. Pass the Victory Gin, Winston). Not only would instructors have been prevented from discussing safe-sex practices, but they would have been prevented from even answering questions from students – because really, that’s what you want, right? Teachers shouldn’t be allowed to answer questions. Students shouldn’t get their education from a source of information trained in such things and not embarrassed to discuss it frankly if necessary. No they should get it from parents and politicians who can’t even say the words out loud. Better yet, they can get it from old wives tales and euphemisms and Bristol Palin.
In other words, they’ll end up getting their sex education from other kids – and the internet, of course.
Oh yeah, let’s do that. Good idea.
Because really, how bad could that be, right?
Utah’s law was vetoed by the governor, but meanwhile in Tennessee the banjo playing state government recently enacted a pro-abstinence sex education law billed as “the strictest in the nation.”
The Tennessee law forbids educators from “promoting gateway sexual activity.”
Gateway sexual activity.
What the hell is gateway sexual activity?
Beats me (Don’t. Don’t go there), but surely since Tennessee felt strongly enough about it to put it into law, they must have defined the concept in the bill. Right?
Right. Here’s the funny part, conservative lawmakers and their vocal supporters, including those “experts” called in to give information in support of the bill, were so squeamish and embarrassed during floor debates that they were unable to discuss what exactly “gateway sexual activity” was.
So it was left undefined.
That’s right, lawmakers made a law about something that they were too embarrassed to talk about.
Ah that thing? You know. That some people do? Where they, uh, do that thing, that sometimes makes, uh, uh, well, you know, uh well, like uh when a man puts his, uh, into the, ah, well, when mommies and daddies love each other very much and uh, the birds and the bees and the stork and some cabbage leaves? We need a law about that. Because otherwise teachers might be putting the wrong ideas into our children’s, uh can I say “into” and “child” in the same sentence or do you have to be Catholic? And that’s where babies come from! Also important safety tip: sex is really horrible and only a total whore who hates Jesus and is going to hell would enjoy it. Any questions? OK, write that down and we’ll have the Governor sign it.
Gateway sexual activity?
What exactly are we talking about here? (or not talking about, as the case may be).
No seriously, what are we talking about? Gateway sexual activity? What the hell is that? Dancing? Dating? Kissing? Passing notes? Wearing makeup? And why am I hearing that goddamned theme song from Footloose? What’s next? The 2012 sex-ed equivalent of Reefer Madness? That’s right, kids, sex is dangerous! One smooch outside of marriage, that’s how it always starts, it seems harmless but that’s how those filthy sex peddlers get you hooked! Then they cut you off, boy! Cut you off and then comes the insanity! Yes, insanity. Mark my words, fellows, one day you’ll find yourself fencing your grandmother’s bible for Mexican Viagra and a box of glow in the dark rubbers. Next thing you know you’ll be condemned to giving Satan blowjobs in Hell for all eternity! (can I say Satanic blowjobs, or do you have to be Catholic? What? I’m just asking is all, I don’t want to offend anybody). One kiss, boys, one kiss and blam! You’re hooked, it’s like crack… ok, that’s a bad example but I think I’ve made my point here.
The basic idea being that Tennessean kids are so damned dumb and easily corrupted that if you show them a picture of a gay guy, they’ll turn gay. If you show them a condom and explain how it works, well, they’ll start screwing like bunnies and next thing you know, satanic blowjobs.
No really and you don’t have to go far to find Tennesseans who think so:
Touching a girl at that age IS SEXUAL ACT-SEE YA STILL DON'T GET IT YA CAN'T EVEN TELL WHEN SOMETHING IS ---SEXUAL-TEEN MENTALITY!.
Yes. Even touching a girl is a sexual act. What was it that Oscar Wilde said? Oh yes, “Why don't Baptists have sex standing up? Because that might lead to dancing.” Wilde was likely paraphrasing the old Scots Highlander joke, Why don’t Protestants believe in shaggin’? ‘Cause it might lead to dancin’ but he might have been on to something. I love how in the quote above, the commenter had to insert a pause before saying “SEXUAL” and I swear I’m never going to get that goddamned Kenny Loggins song out of my head.
What if a nice gay couple wants to walk down the street holding each other's ding dongs?
Well, yeah, that’s exactly what happens if you let allow sex-ed to teach about contraception, next thing you know gay couples are roaming the streets holding onto each other’s woo woos. That’s a totally true fact, you can look it up on the Michigan State House website, because, really, who knows more about dick clutching than those guys? (That’s also what happens when you don’t let people say vagina, supposedly normal adults end up using words like “ding dong” in actual conversation).
Tell them what they need to know about hormones, body changes, stds. Make sure they understand how pregnancy happens so boys don't get tricked into shot-gun weddings and so they don't think using saranwrap works
Really? People use Saran Wrap? Come to think of it, that might explain why I see so many high school kids in the cooking aisle at the grocery store on prom night – and why the chick with all the body piercings was picking out a roll of heavy duty Reynold’s Wrap. Boy, you think tinfoil gives you a shock when you bite down on it with fillings. Honestly through, how about a sex-ed class that is primarily orientated towards keeping boys from having to go through a shotgun wedding? I bet you’d learn a few new words for vagina in that curriculum. But I digress.
The Tennessee law is so vague when it comes to the definition of “gateway sexual activity” that critics dubbed it the “No holding hands act” because under the law you could conceivably say that any school that allows handholding between the sexes is enabling teenage sexual activity.
It’ll be a bit while educators and law enforcement figure out the ramifications, but I think certain implications are obvious:
Cops will have to start checking MP3 players for illegal copies of The Beatles I wanna hold your hand.
Anybody caught teaching their dog to “shake” will need to be investigated for bestiality.
Crossing your arms could lead to arrest for public masturbation.
Shaking hands during a business deal where money is involved could be considered a form of prostitution.
And I don’t even want to think about an adult holding a child’s hand…
Well of course it’s silly.
Almost as silly as barring a lawmaker from speaking because she used the inoffensive and medically correct term for the female sex organ, or almost as silly as passing a bill you’re too embarrassed to debate or passing into law a term you just can’t bring yourself to define.
But it’s not nearly as fucking silly as what the Republican party has allowed itself to become.
Funny thing, Republican politicians, judges, and educators weren’t always so adverse to saying the naughty words out loud.
There was a time when they were absolutely enthusiastic about it.
“The President inserted a cigar into Ms Lewinsky's vagina, then put the cigar in his mouth and said: "It tastes good”
– Official report to Congress
impeachment trial of President William Jefferson Clinton
Kenneth Starr, Republican independent counsel, 1998