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I’m not a real regular reader of Jezebel; I check in weekly to see if there’s a new Fine Lines book review, and then I scram. Most of the site just isn’t my style. It’s very glib, kind of snotty, and often “dishes” about celebrities and microcelebrities of the New York party scene. It can be clever, but its “signal-to-noise-ratio” is not as good as one might wish.

Two of their main editors/writers Mo and “Slut Machine” are best known for drunkenness and promiscuity, respectively. Their purpose, as best I can see it, is to toss textual stinkbombs into their crowd of readers and watch the chaos ensue. I expect they’re kept on staff to stir up controversy, blogwars, and page-hits.

Anyway, these two characters, Mo and Tracey (for Tracey is what “Slut Machine’s” actual name is) got interviewed by Lizz Winstead (one of the original creators of the Daily Show) on a talk show she hosts called “Thinking and Drinking,” where she and guests knock back a glass of wine, a cocktail, or a beer or two and discuss the issues of the day. The interview turned into a red-hot clusterfuck; Mo and Tracie got tighter than a pair of boiled owls and shot off their mouths something fierce, both saying a number of incredibly immature, irresponsible, and self-centered things about safe sex and rape, especially. (Here’s another version of the story & clips with text quotes for those of you who can’t watch streaming video). There’s also an eyewitness account written by a young woman who was in the studio audience whose eloquent play-by-play could be (and probably should be) read as an honest response fromt their target demographic.

Since then, there’s been a bit of kerfuffle about Mo & Tracey’s actions, their impact on the feminist blogosphere, their morals and manners. I think the case can be amply made that they present themselves as being total fools, but that’s not what I’m looking to write on today. I’m rather thinking that this complete fiasco can and maybe should be used as a springboard for a more useful discussion of sexual freedom, responsibility, and safety. Mo and Tracey are like the poster girls for What Not To Do.

I recognise that my opinions and attitudes toward sex have been run through filters set by when and where I came of age, namely in rural Nebraska in the 1990s. It was what one might consider “interesting times,” as the hinterlands began to catch up to the mainstream. We discussed current events during our Social Studies units in school, covering such topics as Tailhook, the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, and Bill Clinton’s sexual scandals. We participated in quite frank discussions about sexual harrassment, sexual predation, and what rights women were still fighting for. We discussed abortion. Granted, most of my classmates were 100% against abortion, or at least most of the ones who spoke up in class. Many thought that Anita Hill was just a troublemaker, and that women who “dressed provocatively” were “asking for” sexual advances. The discussion was open and out there, but the attitudes were not especially progressive. We did, however, discuss the whole gamut of sexual health in our Health/Sex-Ed classes including how to use condoms, when to use them, and what the consequences of not using them could be. We discussed the efficacy of various means of birth control. We discussed abstinence and we discussed sexual liberation. At the same time, the sexual double-standard was firmly in place at my school; guys who slept around were “studs” girls who did the same were “sluts.” The new openness only extended to abstract discussion.

My point here is that discussion of sex was out there, in the mainstream. While the corner of the world in which I was living was pretty old-fashioned in its ideas about sexuality, a bit of the taboo had broken down. At least we were talking about it in a frank and fairly open manner. Out in a broader world Arsenio Hall and Magic Johnson were producing a video and doing public speaking about AIDS prevention. 2LiveCrew were getting banned from the radio and record store for their exuberantly filthy lyrics. Motley Crue wrote and performed a song about a chick who “goes down.” Salt & Pepa decided it was time to Talk About Sex.

I think it’s still time to talk about sex, possibly even moreso now than it was back then. It seems like a certain frankness and a certain level of information has disappeared from public discourse about sex. The whole “abstinence only” craze ain’t helping anybody. When I was a Senior in highschool, I spearheaded a (failed) campaign to get condom-vending machines put into the school bathrooms in response to the rampant and enthusiastic sexual activity amongst my peers. I liked that slogan that if you can’t behave, you can at least be safe. Now, in some school systems, they can’t even talk about condoms and birth control at all. We used to get to practice putting a rubber on a banana and if you were real ballsy, you could ask for a packet of rubbers for your own use from the school nurse, though most students weren’t that bold, preferring instead the privacy of buying them out of the vending machine in the gas-station bathroom.

I was one of those real wise-cracky kids and got loads of mileage out of the open sexual discussions in Health and Social Studies. You wouldn’t believe the comedy gold you can mine out of masturbation and condoms. Or maybe you would believe it. In any event, Mo and Tracey, if they had any goddamn sense could have made hay on how much fun safe sex and the accouterments thereof can be. Since they failed to, perhaps it’s time others amongst us should.

Sex can be awesome, if you do it right. Part of doing it right is taking responsibility for your sexual health. Getting tested, using protection, and (if applicable) finding a birth control method that suits you are three crucial steps a responsible, sexually active person should take. Beyond that, you should know what you want, what you’re comfortable with, and how to convey your tastes and limitations to your partner. Sexual freedom and satisfaction aren’t something that happens overnight for most of us; there are generally periods of awkwardness and experimentation which can be awesome, hilarious, embarrassing, and enlightening. That’s what we need to be talking about.

3 Responses to “Jezebel editors' drunken live interview fiasco and the silver lining”

  1. alicat says:

    Well said.

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