Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Anal Sex Is Increasingly Popular in the Hetero World

Every couple of years, another once-scandalous sex taboo starts making its way toward the commonplace. A decade ago, blow jobs were what people whispered about; then three-ways became the naughty bedroom act. Now, it’s anal sex—but according to the Centers for Disease Control’s National Survey of Family Growth, it’s rapidly becoming a regular feature of hetero couples’ horizontal activities.

The survey, released last year, showed that 38.2 percent of men between 20 and 39 and 32.6 percent of women ages 18 to 44 engage in heterosexual anal sex. Compare that with the CDC’s 1992 National Health and Social Life survey, which found that only 25.6 percent of men 18 to 59 and 20.4 percent of women 18 to 59 indulged in it.

Anecdotal research also demonstrates curiosity is on the rise. Babeland’s anal-sex workshops are now held three or four times a year, instead of once, and they’re filled with straight couples. “More and more, people are devoting themselves to learning about anal pleasure,” says Carolyn Riccardi, education coordinator for Babeland’s New York retail stores. “Male-to-female anal sex has been happening since the dawn of time,” she says. “What’s different now is that women are actively learning how to enjoy it and have fun with it.”

“I first did it with my husband,” says Lisa, a recently divorced thirtysomething from across the Hudson. “It was a regular part of our married sex life, and I enjoyed it. I think it can feel good for anyone—except if you’re too uptight about it, meaning, you’re literally tight-assed.”

Ah, yes, the anal-sex dilemma: If you think it’s going to hurt, it will. Relaxation isn’t the only requirement for a good experience: Too much aggression (and no lube) can put a woman off anal sex permanently.

And not all guys are anal enthusiasts, either. Jim, a 27-year-old consultant, has been given the opportunity by willing partners but hasn’t taken the plunge. He agrees that it seems to be on the rise among his friends but wonders whether it’s “really a cultural shift or just something we ease into semi-contemporaneously as we age, like marriage or buying real estate or listening to jazz rap.”

The idea that anal is something couples eventually turn to for sexual variety seems to be supported by the CDC survey, which shows the lowest numbers among those who’ve never been married and are not cohabiting, compared with those who are cohabiting, married, or divorced.

“For me, anal sex is very intimate, much more so than regular sex. If I care about someone, I’m willing to experiment,” says Irene, a 33-year-old East Village environmentalist who has been doing it with Lex, a 30-year-old Wall Streeter. But when we press Lex on whether he likes to receive anal attention from his girlfriends, he responds, “Call me old-fashioned, but the guy should be the penetrator, not the penetratee, no?”

It’s an attitude still widely held by many straight men today, and one that’s reflected in the CDC survey: Though the report is chock-full of all kinds of straight, gay, and lesbian sex in fairly graphic detail, there’s absolutely no research on female-to-male anal play. It turns out that the straight-male fear of reciprocal anal play is a potent mix of sexism and homophobia; a straight man can do it to someone else, but having it done to him isn’t okay.

But the newly discovered anti-cancer benefits of prostate stimulation are giving straight guys—especially the progressive New York breed—a legitimate excuse to be more, shall we say, open to exploration. And men’s magazines, which until recently discussed anal sex only in terms of how to trick a girlfriend into giving it up, now publish articles on the Aneros—the doctor-created, FDA-approved prostate stimulator—and the male G-spot, a.k.a. the P-spot, a.k.a. the He-spot.

“Straight guys come in looking for the Aneros,” says Riccardi, “but once they get all their questions answered, they’ll walk out with something more fun and less medical for themselves. Or their girlfriends will come in looking for ways they can be the penetrator, too.” When Riccardi first started working at Babeland three years ago, she would gently ask straight female customers if they’d ever tried sticking a finger up their boyfriend’s or husband’s bum, and they’d shoot her looks of horror. “Now when I ask them that question, they almost all say, ‘Oh, sure.’ ” The store’s strap-on sales have never been higher.

“My wife is totally turned on by the idea of ‘having’ me, as that’s just not something women really get to do most of the time, and it’s not something that guys have usually had done to them. It really is a reversal in the most primal of ways,” explains newlywed Brooklynite Anthony. “I think anyone who doesn’t enjoy it or thinks they wouldn’t is hindered by their own hang-ups. It feels good, period. And breaking taboos is sexy. Variety is sexy. Being vulnerable is sexy.”

English Professors Are Detached From Reality

It’s official: you spend tens of thousands of dollars to send your kids to college. In return, the colleges turn out graduates who are more ignorant than when they enrolled.

According to a recent report from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, seniors at Yale, Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, and several other top schools actually know less about American history and government than entering freshmen.

But students don’t just learn (or unlearn, as the case may be) facts in college. They also learn attitudes and principles. In other words, they form their characters—which, Aristotle pointed out more than 2,000 years ago, means learning to love and delight in certain things and spurn others. For example, American students used to learn more from the Gettysburg address than just the facts of Civil War military history. They also learned to love self-government—and its necessary condition, the courage and sacrifice of the patriotic soldier.

But today’s politically correct college professors aren’t interested in persuading young Americans to adopt any such traditional attitudes as patriotism, civic responsibility, or traditional morality. In fact, American colleges seem to be teaching students to spurn the very things that students used to learn to love and delight in.

Today’s trendy English professor doesn’t read Shakespeare for the beauty of the poetry or its peerless insights into human nature. The point is to uncover the oppression that’s supposed to define Western culture: the racism, “patriarchy,” and imperialism that must lurk beneath the surface of everything written by those “dead white males.” (The latest book from University of Pennsylvania professor emerita Phyllis Rackin, for example, investigates how “Macbeth” contributed to the “domestication of women.”) With their low opinion of Western civilization, it’s no wonder that so many English professors teach material that isn’t English literature at all: Marx and Derrida—and even comic books, politically correct bestsellers from the eighties, foreign films, and pornography—rather than Shakespeare and Jane Austen.

To a lot of professors, Western culture is something students need to be liberated from. It is not something to pass on and preserve.

What a pity. Especially now, when we’re under attack from enemies who want to replace our civilization with a very different kind of culture.

Western culture isn’t in our genes. It’s learned. And despite what the typical 21st-century college professor may believe, Western civilization has conferred enormous benefits on the human race: extraordinary freedom and respect for women, workable self-government, freedom of speech and the press.

If students actually studied the classics of English and American literature under the guidance of sympathetic teachers, they’d learn many other politically incorrect truths as well. From “Beowulf,” students could learn that military virtue is both necessary and noble. In Chaucer, they might come to understand chivalry, and see how it changed the position of women. In Shakespeare, students could glimpse the existence of universal underlying patterns that shape and define human characters (as well as all our institutions, from marriage to government). From Milton, they could learn about the origins—in Christian theology, not in anti-religious Enlightenment thought—of our intellectual freedoms. From Jane Austen, they might pick up insights into the real perennial problems between men and women, which have very little to do with an excess of “patriarchy.” From Dickens, they could learn about the risks of unintended consequences and the costs of revolutionary expedience.

Some of these lessons are characteristically Western. Others—respect for military virtue, for example—are typical of almost any healthy culture. But English professors are detached not just from the heritage of the West but in a sense from culture at all, or even from objective reality. “Essentialist” is the term of abuse that feminists and “queer theorists” apply to anyone who suggests that the stubborn facts of nature—the differences between men and women, for example—limit or define human beings in any way.

These are the folks we’ve entrusted with the formation of young people’s minds and the preservation of our culture. Isn’t it time we reconsidered whether we can trust them with the job?

Gadgets To Get You Organized In 2007

Another year, another chance to get organized.

Whether you are gearing up to do your taxes, have resolved that you'll keep better records this year, or just want to avoid a potential data disaster, the good news is there are tech products that can help you.

Online Banking

Let’s start with financial recordkeeping. If you’re not already using online banking, give it a try. I know — you worry about security and you’re right to be concerned, but millions of people are banking online and the vast majority of people don’t get into trouble.

Check to see if your bank offers free online banking and bill pay. If not, consider changing banks. Most banks not only let you see your balance and transfer funds between accounts but also pay bills either manually or automatically.

Auto payment works great for bills that don’t change, such as fixed mortgages, car payments or rent. Be sure to read all the fine print regarding how long it takes for the payment to arrive and whether the bank takes the money out of your account right away, the day the payment is processed or after the payment reaches its destination.

Most banks will let you issue online payments to anyone by drafting paper checks to individuals and small companies and electronic funds transfers to larger businesses like utilities and credit card companies.

If you really want to automate, consider signing up for Paytrust (www.paytrust.com). The service, which costs either $2.95 a month plus 50 cents per transaction or $12.95 a month with up to 30 free transactions, not only pays your bills, but lets you receive bills online and sets rules as to what is paid and how much.

You could, for example, tell it to pay your minimum balance on a credit card or the entire balance if less than $500, but to alert you if it’s higher.

I’ve been using this service for years and love it. Not only does it help me avoid ever being late with a payment, but it also gives me detailed reports at the end of the year, which is great at tax time. Plus you can search for transactions going back to the day you signed up for the service.

Tracking Credit & Cash Transactions

In addition to tracking your checking account, it’s a good idea to keep track of credit cards and cash transactions, especially if you can deduct any of those funds from your taxes.

Both Quicken and Microsoft Money do an excellent job with all aspects of finance including budgeting, managing your debts as well as your assets. If you’re going to use one of these programs, it’s best to start early in the year so that you have a full year’s worth of data to analyze.

Intuit, which publishes Quicken, also offers the Quicken Home Inventory Management program ($29.95) which helps you keep track of your belongings and household items, which can certainly help if you ever have to make an insurance claim.

Cut Down On Those Piles Of Paper

One advantage to online banking and financial management is that — in some cases — you can ask your financial institutions to stop sending paper statements. Such statements can sometimes be used by identity thieves to gather information and the fewer you have coming in the mail, the less likely they are to get into the wrong hands.

Assuming you do still get some financial information on paper, make sure you dispose of it properly. The best way to do that is with a shredder. You can get personal shredders such as the Techko Identity Guard 6-Sheet Strip Cut Paper Shredder for under $30. This model is designed for light duty – up to 6 sheets at a time. For about $70, you can buy the Staples Mailmate Junk Mail Shredder which handles 10 folded sheets as well as CDs/DVDs, credit cards, staples & small paper clips.

Before you shred those documents, consider scanning them so you can keep a computer record. Visioneer makes a series of simple document scanners starting at $59 for the OneTouch 7300 USB but your best-bet is often a multi-function device that scans, copies, prints and, perhaps, faxes. Hewlett Packard’s HP Deskjet F380 All-in-One does costs $79.99 and does an adequate job as printing, scanning and copying. Having a copier around can also be extremely handy.

Labels For Gadgets & More

Putting labels on things can help you keep track of them. For example, some power bricks or rechargers that come with cell phones, MP3 players and other electronic products aren’t marked and it’s easy to get them mixed up so it’s a good idea to label them. I also put labels on portable devices that I’m likely to lose as well as books that I lend out, spice jars and anything else that needs to be identified.

You can get an inexpensive hand held label printer like the Casio KL-780 EZ Label Printer for as little as $27, or you can get one for your PC from Casio, Dymo, or Brother.

My favorite is the Brother P-touch QL-500, which can be purchased online for under $60. It hooks up to a PC or Mac and can use continuous feed label stock, which saves money because it uses only as much stock as you need.

It also accepts stock up to 2 3/7 inches wide for really big labels or even bumper stickers. Brother makes special label stock for CDs and DVDs, but I just use the 1 1/7 inch continuous label stock for CDs. 100 feet of that stock costs $14.99, which translates to 1.2 cents an inch.

Back Up Your Data

Finally, no start-of-the-year getting organized technology story would be complete if I didn’t nag you about backing up. You know you should, but if you’re like most people, you probably don’t. I’m a big fan of external USB hard drives such as the Seagate 250GB Hard Drive (about $130) or the 500 gigabyte My Book Essential Edition ($279) from Western Digital.

These and other external drives typically come with easy to use backup software and they plug into a PC or a Mac via the USB (2.0) port.

Even if you don’t buy an external drive, be sure to backup your absolutely essential information by emailing it to yourself or burning copies to CDs or DVDs that you store off-premise just in case the unthinkable happens to your home or office.

India's forgotten tribes gain forest rights

By Rupam Jain Nair

Gir Sanctuary - Daya Rakha, 36, was born in the jungles of the Gir wildlife sanctuary in western India and knows little else except how to live off the forest's resources.

Just as his ancestors did generations ago, Daya ekes out a meagre living mainly by tending to his cattle which relentlessly graze in Gir's lush forests.

But Daya - like millions of India's forest dwellers - has never been able to call the forest his home. Instead he has been treated as a criminal by authorities as he has no legal right to stay in the forests where his forefathers lived and died.

"It is the eviction notices from the government and rules made to uproot us by the forest officials that give us sleepless nights," said Daya, who belongs to the 8 400-strong Maldhari tribe of Gir.

Over 40 million of India's most impoverished and marginalised people live in the country's forests - including tiger reserves, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks - but for years have been neglected by the government and left to fend for themselves.

The Maldharis have long lived with eviction threats, alleged harassment and extortion by officials who say they are guilty of environmental destruction and endangering wildlife in the sanctuary - one of the last bastions of the rare Asiatic lion.

But a new law will for the first time enshrine their right to live in the forests and national parks. Conservationists are worried this could hamper efforts to save India's endangered wildlife such as lions and tigers.

In Gir, the pastoral Maldhari community live a simple life in small mud houses hidden deep in the forests, with no electricity, running water, schools or access to healthcare.

They earn a living by producing milk from their cattle, growing vegetables, collecting honey and trading their produce in the local market for items like food grains. Most are illiterate and unable to count or use money.

Activists say these forgotten forest people lead a primitive life and face many hardships.

"The pastoral communities do not figure in the electoral rolls," said Shekla Rakha from Setu - a charity promoting the rights of forest dwellers. "They have become non-entities, left to fend for themselves for generations."

As a result, activsts say these communities are vulnerable to exploitation allegedly by forest officials who forcefully evict them or compel them to pay bribes to enter and exit sanctuaries.

"Two months ago when my mother died, the forest officials did not allow my relatives from nearby villages to enter the forest for the last rites," Amra Suba, a shepherd said as he tended to his flock of sheep.

"I had to pay to get permission for their entry to my own house."

But the Recognition of Forest Rights Bill 2006, passed by parliament in December, could help end the suffering of many of India's forest people by giving them rights over forest land.

The law, which will apply to those who have lived in the forests for at least three generations, will allow dwellers to use non-timber forest produce such as bamboo, stumps, cane and to collect honey. But it prohibits them from hunting animals.