Connect with us

Porn, Equality, And Journalism Just Don’t Mix



Last Friday I resigned from The Bilerico Project, as regular readers of this blog know, in response to its publishing, “Hot Mormon missionary boys masturbating.”

To be clear, my resignation was not a protest, not an indictment, just a simple goodbye. A hopefully graceful, albeit specific exit.

As I explained in, “Why I’m Hanging Up My Bilerico Hat For Good,”

“My writing and my activism is my work. My work is to help the LGBTQ community achieve full equality, both under the law and in the hearts and minds of our neighbors, family-members, friends, co-workers, and society in general. And so I view Bilerico and my own blog as my place of work. And, after twenty-five years of working in corporate America, I don’t believe pornography has a place in the workplace.

“I’ve had this conversation, and others, with Bil. I understand his point. And most importantly, Bilerico is his home, and his business. Bilerico is an amazing institution, one that has taught me more than I expected, and one that has contributed a great deal to the LGBTQ community. I know Bil and all the Bilerico contributors will continue to do that fine work, to help open doors for our community, and help move the national conversation forward.”

“I do not see my work and pornography as compatible or even being able to share the same home. And I do not think that that type of content here helps us in our battle to win the hearts and minds of those who might choose to help us.”

And that, as they say, was supposed to be that.

I had asked Bilerico founder Bil Browning to publish my piece on why I was resigning. I wanted to resign and have it be clear that it was a personal choice I was making, not a choice I was asking Bil or his readers to make. All I was saying was that I didn’t want my work published amid pornography, or among content that was there merely to titillate or arouse.

Had “Hot Mormon missionary boys masturbating,” been framed as an examination, why that aspect of queer culture was interesting to some, had a bearing on LGBTQ culture, or served any other intellectual purpose, rather than just, as Bil wrote, “I bring you pictures of hot Mormon missionary boys masturbating. They’re from the porn site, but I’ve deliberately used ones where you can only see their cocks through their magical Mormon underwear…” I would have probably been fine with it. Not thrilled, but fine.

For the first time ever, Bil refused to publish my piece. In his response to my resignation letter, he wrote, “I’m all in favor of making decisions that benefit ourselves and allows us to stand up for our ideals. You did that,” and promised he would pen his own response to the subject to “get the discussion started.”

Last night, Bil published, “Porn vs Prude: Bilerico is sex positive,” in which he wrote, “if there’s one thing I’ll never apologize for, it’s that Bilerico Project is sex positive.”

Making It Personal

I am honestly saddened that Bil chose to make this issue personal, thinly veiling attacks on me under the guise of Bilerico being “sex positive,” (the insinuation being, I am not,) not having “internalized homophobia,” (the insinuation being, I do,) nor being a prude (the insinuation being, I am,) rather than offering a debate on the issue of pornography as content.

He easily could have said, “Contributor David Badash resigned after we published this piece. What do you think? Is this content appropriate for what we want the site to be?” And that, as they say, could have been that.

(If Bilerico were so “sex positive,” it would have equal amounts of “sex positive” content for all different tastes. I do not believe it does.)

Bil chose to take the discussion in an unfortunate and entirely unnecessary direction. Rather than ask his readers what they thought about porn as content, as I did mine, he wrote, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

(In 2008, Bil was a bit more open to conversation. But not any more.)

What Do You Think?

I did take the time to ask my readers, on this blog via a poll, and on Twitter. The overwhelming response I received was that pornography on news and opinion sites is just not what you want.

As of this writing, here’s what you had to say:

67% were solidly against it, only 27% were comfortable with it.

But rather than look at the big picture, Bil chose to try to “analyze” a few points of my piece, leaving his readers out of the full discussion.  What Bil is doing is unfortunate, and his readers, as well as the larger LGBTQ community, deserve a better, more honest and open dialogue, especially from a site that claims to be all about honest and open dialogue.

In these pages and his, in my resignation letter, and in communications with others, I have supported Bil and his work. It’s disappointing that he chose to take such a narrow track, but, as I wrote, it’s Bil’s home and place of work, and he can run Bilerico any way he chooses.

Had Bil published my piece, a real discussion on the pros and cons of publishing pornography as content might have been held. Instead, Bil chose to be disingenuous, claiming, “No Internalized Homophobia: Bilerico Is Sex Positive,” writing, “it’s our genitals and what we do with them that sets us apart in most straight/cis people’s minds,” but neglecting to remind his readers that in “Hot Mormon missionary boys masturbating.” he had written, “you can’t be a proper Bilerico unless you’re both political and perverted.”

So, which one is it? “Sex positive” or “perverted?”

I think calling your writers and readers “perverted” speaks far greater to issues of internalized homophobia rather than, “I do not see my work and pornography as compatible or even being able to share the same home” with pornography.

Bil also writes, “I think that David’s premise depends on what your definition of “porn” is.”

Well, porn is porn. If it’s NSFW, it’s porn, or close enough. Like Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” what you call it isn’t what’s important. it is what it is. Why not be honest about it?

Matt Algren, an LGBTQ blogger who writes Asterisk, weighed in in the comments section of Bil’s piece.

I’m glad that you at least acknowledge that you do posts like that to up your hit count and therefore probably your ad revenue. “Sex sells”, though, has never been the sounding call of a respectable news/opinion organization. Using that motto as a defense signals to me that you put your income over your journalistic integrity, and I think that’s unfortunate.

I suppose the most frustrating part of your post here is its dishonesty. When you talk about being “sex positive” and proclaim that you won’t “shun” a segment of the community, you’re implying that someone has suggested you should be “sex negative” and that you should shun some LGBT people.

The problem is that no one has said those things. No one. You’re just being dishonest so you can cover yourself in glory. Why not just say “Yep, sometimes we publish naughty pics from skeezy amateur porn sites of guys in y-fronts, so don’t come here from work” and let that be the end of it? Why did you have to try to insert some false moral battle of which you can be the self-styled champion?

And to make matters worse, when you declare that you don’t have “internalized homophobia” and set this up as “porn vs prude”, you’re implying that the person you’re responding to (in this case, David Badash) does suffer from internalized homophobia and is a prude. That, mon frere, is what they call unprofessional, or in less polite society, “fucked up”.

Of the piece that initiated my resignation, Bil writes,

“Even the post about masturbating Mormon missionaries didn’t show any exposed genitalia – although you could see the shadow of one guy’s cock through his undies and if you blow up one of the other pictures you can see the outline of that guy’s balls through his knickers. The post is marked NSFW with the disclaimer: “I’ve deliberately used ones where you can only see their cocks through their magical Mormon underwear. They’re still NSFW, but if you need more there are tons more graphic preview pictures at the site.

So what do these posts all have in common if the moniker of “porn” isn’t sticking? They’re about sex – and gay sex specifically.”

That’s not a disclaimer, it’s an invitation. Again, why not be honest about it?

(And perhaps someone can tell me what Prince William’s Penis, at one point the #1 post on Bilerico, and one I mentioned as an example of what I felt was inappropriate, has to do with “gay sex specifically?”)

Another LGBTQ blogger wrote me, asking for anonymity, but stating,

“The idea that this is about sex-negativity is simply a strawman.

“The question, to me, is does Bilerico want to be Queerty, or do they want to be a serious forum for LGBT news and analysis?  It’s difficult to be both.

“When I look for real analysis in the Netroots, where do I go?  Digby, Steve Benen, Ezra Klein, and others.  I think we can agree that it would be weird if all of a sudden Ezra decided to post NSFW shit below the fold.  It doesn’t mean Ezra is “sex-negative.”  That’s just not what Ezra does.

“In the LGBT world, Pam Spaulding doesn’t post stuff like that either.  Towleroad links to fun, naughty stuff sometimes, but Andy doesn’t present himself as an analyst, but more as a collector of things lots of LGBT people (and straight people too!) might find interesting.  So because he casts such a wide net it’s appropriate.  The problem is that Bilerico seems to want to have it both ways, to be a place where “serious commentary” can co-exist with Mormon porn, and it’s not “sex-negative” to say that that format doesn’t work.  If Bilerico were large enough to be an LGBT equivalent of FireDogLake, that would work, but they’re not.”

Bilerico is a unique enterprise. It’s not for everyone, as it wasn’t for me. That’s fine. I chose to try to leave honorably and respectfully. It’s unfortunate, as I wrote to Bil after he published, “Porn vs Prude: Bilerico is sex positive,” that he “chose not to display the same level of respect for me, or my work, or, for that matter, [his] readers” that I had offered him.

I was honored that Michael R. Triplett, a board member of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, wrote in, “Porn, Skin, and Profits: The LGBT Media Dilemma,”

“Badash has taken a principled stand about where he wants his paid and unpaid work to appear. I’d also agree that “porn,” skin-ads and “boys in underwear” posts undermine the overall credibility in terms of news and analysis. OTOH, can bloggers and LGBT media survive without them?”

And that’s the point. The point is that pornography, fighting for equality, and serious, intellectual news and analysis journalism just don’t mix.

Be Who You Are. Just Be Honest About It.

As the anonymous blogger above wrote, Pam Spaulding’s Pam’s House Blend doesn’t post porn. (Nor does The Advocate, both of which I admire greatly.)

Towleroad isn’t an activist site, it’s not an analysis site, it’s a news/entertainment site, just like 365Gay is, and just like Joe.My.God is. I don’t think these three are trying to be the home of serious queer intellectual discussion and debate. That’s fine. They are a few of my favorite sites, which I read daily and respect for the excellent work they do. But Bilerico is trying to be the home of serious queer intellectual discussion and debate. Or claims to be.

If there’s a way to mix porn, journalism, and serious intellectual debate, while fighting intelligently for equality, and maintaining credibility to the rest of the world, I have yet to see it. Nor, quite frankly, do I want to.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. The New Civil Rights Movement depends on readers like you to meet our ongoing expenses and continue producing quality progressive journalism. Three Silicon Valley giants consume 70 percent of all online advertising dollars, so we need your help to continue doing what we do.

NCRM is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. From unflinching coverage of religious extremism, to spotlighting efforts to roll back our rights, NCRM continues to speak truth to power. America needs independent voices like NCRM to be sure no one is forgotten.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure NCRM remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to NCRM, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.


‘Scared to Death’: Trump’s Prison Panic Admission Means He Knows He’s Doomed Says Legal Expert



Reacting to a report that Donald Trump has been quizzing his attorneys about what type of prison he likely will be sent to, former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner stated that is not only an indication that he knows he’s going to be convicted but also an admission of guilt.

Speaking with MSNBC host Jonathan Capehart, the attorney was asked about a recent Rolling Stone report about Trump’s prison panic.

As Rolling Stone reported, Trump asked if he’s “be sent to a ‘club fed’ style prison — a place that’s relatively comfortable, as far these things go — or a ‘bad’ prison? Would he serve out a sentence in a plush home confinement? Would government officials try to strip him of his lifetime Secret Service protections? What would they make him wear, if his enemies actually did ever get him in a cell — an unprecedented set of consequences for a former leader of the free world.”

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to run for office?

According to the attorney, Trump is revealing himself by asking for so many details.

“What does this tell you about Trump’s mindset?” host Capehart asked.

“It tells me he is scared to death” Kirschner quickly answered. “It tells me he has overwhelming consciousness of guilt because he knows what he did wrong and he knows he is about to be held accountable for his crimes. So it is not surprising that he is obsessing.”

“If he was confident that he would be completely exonerated, would he have to obsess about what his future time in prison might look like?” he suggested. “I think the last refuge for Donald Trump can be seen in a recent post where he urged the Republicans to defund essentially the prosecutions against him. which, to this prosecutor, Jonathan, smells a lot like an attempt to obstruct justice.”

Watch below or at the link.


Image via Shutterstock

Continue Reading


‘Vulgar and Lewd’: Trump Judge Cites Extremist Group to Allow Drag Show Ban



A federal judge in Texas known for a ruling that attempted to ban a widely-used abortion drug is citing an extremist anti-LGBTQ group in his ruling allowing a ban on drag shows to stay in place.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a former attorney for an anti-LGBTQ conservative Christian legal organization, and a member of the Federalist Society, in his 26-page ruling dated Thursday cited the “About” page of Gays Against Groomers to claim, “it’s unclear how drag shows unmistakably communicate advocacy for LGBT rights.”

Judge Kacsmaryk, appointed by Donald Trump twice before finally assuming office in 2019, suggests the First Amendment does not provide for freedom of expression for drag shows, calls drag “sexualized conduct,” and says it is “more regulable” because “children are in the audience.”

READ MORE: ‘The Public Deserves to Know’: Abortion Pill Banning Judge Redacted Details About Millions of Dollars in His Stock Portfolio

Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern adds, “Kacsmaryk’s conclusion that drag is probably NOT protected by the First Amendment conflicts with decisions from Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and Montana which held that drag is constitutionally protected expression. It also bristles with undisguised hostility toward LGBTQ people.”

Calling the judge “a proud Christian nationalist who flatly refuses to apply binding Supreme Court precedent when it conflicts with his extremist far-right beliefs,” Stern at Slate writes that Kacsmaryk ruled drag “may be outlawed to protect ‘the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.’ In short, he concluded that drag fails to convey a message, while explaining all the reasons why he’s offended by the message it conveys.”

Stern does not let Kacsmaryk off the hook there.

“From almost any other judge, the ruling in Spectrum WT v. Wendler would be a shocking rejection of basic free speech principles; from Kacsmaryk, it’s par for the course. This is, after all, the judge who sought to ban medication abortion nationwide, restricted minors’ access to birth control, seize control over border policy to exclude asylum-seekers, and flouted recent precedent protecting LGBTQ+ equality,” Stern says.

READ MORE: Far-Right Judge Under Fire for Failing to Disclose Interviews on Civil Rights – but LGBTQ Community Had Warned Senators

“He is also poised to bankrupt Planned Parenthood by compelling them to pay a $1.8 billion penalty on truly ludicrous grounds. And he is not the only Trump-appointed judge substituting his reactionary beliefs for legal analysis. We have reached a point where these lawless decisions are not only predictable but inevitable, and they show no sign of stopping: Their authors are still just settling into a decadeslong service in the federal judiciary.”

West Texas A&M University President Walter V. Wendler penned the letter that sparked the lawsuit.

Titled, “A Harmless Drag Show? No Such Thing,” Wendler wrote: “I believe every human being is created in the image of God and, therefore, a person of dignity. Being created in God’s image is the basis of Natural Law. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, prisoners of the culture of their time as are we, declared the Creator’s origin as the foundational fiber in the fabric of our nation as they breathed life into it. Does a drag show preserve a single thread of human dignity? I think not.”

Journalist Chris Geidner concludes, “It’s an extremely biased ruling by a judge who has established that he does not care about being overturned — even by the most conservative appeals court in the nation.”

READ MORE: ‘Corruption of the Highest Order’: Experts ‘Sickened’ at ‘Definitely Bought’ Clarence Thomas and His ‘Pay to Play’ Lifestyle



Continue Reading


Gaetz Praises GOP Congressman Who Echoes His Call for Change ‘Through Force’



U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL). largely seen as pushing Speaker Kevin McCarthy‘s Republican-majority House of Representatives toward shutting down the federal government, is praising and promoting remarks made by a freshman GOP lawmaker that appear to suggest the use of violence. U.S. Rep. Eli Crane‘s comments, posted Friday (below), call for change “through force,” remarks echoing Congressman Gaetz’s recent comments which were denounced by an expert on authoritarianism as fascistic.

“The only way we’re going to see meaningful change in this town is through force,” wrote Congressman Crane, Republican of Arizona atop a three-minute video in which he frames what is now an almost guaranteed government shutdown as a “spending fight.” In his video he says, “the only way you’re gonna get any change in this town is through force.” Gaetz in August had said, “we know that only through force do we make any change in a corrupt town like Washington, D.C.”

Congressman Crane is a former Navy SEAL. He has promoted the false “Big Lie” conspiracy theory that there was massive fraud in the election President Joe Biden won, and called “on the state legislature to decertify the 2020 election.” He is one of six House Republicans who voted against McCarthy’s speakership all 15 times in January.

READ MORE: White House Mocks GOP With ‘Worst Person You Know’ Meme After Matt Gaetz Blames McCarthy for Shutdown

“Congressman Eli Crane is a fountainhead of political courage,” said Rep. Gaetz Friday afternoon. “He holds the line.”

Crane recently came under fire for calling Black people “colored,” during debate on his legislation that would force the U.S. Armed Forces to not use any diversity requirements in its hiring practices.

READ MORE: ‘Corruption of the Highest Order’: Experts ‘Sickened’ at ‘Definitely Bought’ Clarence Thomas and His ‘Pay to Play’ Lifestyle

Just days before he won his House seat last year, The Washington Post reported Crane had urged an “audience to look up an antisemitic sermon at a recent campaign stop.”

“Crane said that he was motivated to run because of ‘radical ideologies that are destroying this country’ and that he was most concerned about ‘Cultural Marxism,’ which the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as an antisemitic baseless claim gaining traction on the American right.”

“He encouraged the audience to watch a speech by a right-wing pastor who blamed cultural change on a group of German Jewish philosophers and condemned Barack Obama for having a ‘homosexual agenda.'”

“If we don’t wake up,” Crane said, according to the Post, “if we don’t study what they’re doing, and if we don’t put people in influential positions that understand what this war is all about, what they’re trying to do and have and have the courage to call it out, we’re going to lose this country.”

In August, while standing next to Donald Trump at a campaign rally, Congressman Gaetz said, “Mr. President, I cannot stand these people that are destroying our country. They are opening our borders. They are weaponizing our federal law enforcement against patriotic Americans who love this nation as we should.”

“But we know that only through force do we make any change in a corrupt town like Washington, D.C. And so to all my friends here in Iowa, when you see them come for this man, know that they are coming for our movement and they are coming for all of us.”

At the time, Raw Story reported, “historian and author Ruth Ben-Ghiat called Gaetz comments alarming.”

READ MORE: Pete Buttigieg Just Testified Before Congress. It Did Not Go Well for Republicans.

“What he is saying is that they are not going to have change through elections or through legislation or through reform. They are going to have change through violence,” she warned.

“And that’s how fascists talk,” Ben-Ghiat added. “So, even if Trump is out of the picture, these are people who have adopted methods very familiar to me as a historian of fascism, that violence and corruption and lying that’s what the party is today.”


Image via Shutterstock


Continue Reading


Copyright © 2020 AlterNet Media.