Monday, November 14, 2005


(This column will appear in THE ALBANY (GA.) JOURNAL on 11-17-05)

Most important thing in life: Live every moment to the fullest and love like you'll never be hurt.
From bio of ex-Carolina Panthers Cheerleader Renee Thomas.

We are a schizophrenic society. We sell everything- everything!- with sex. Women with silicone breasts spilling out of tight gowns pose next to everything from pickup trucks to chewing gum. One of the most disgusting products ever marketed- cigarettes- is pushed on suggestible youngsters by “cool” sexy Hollywood stars and provocative ads like the infamous Joe Camel campaign. Men being men, we can’t help but react when serious cleavage is thrown our way. So when the Internet lit up on the first Sunday in November with the story of two drunken Carolina Panther cheerleaders being arrested in Tampa, Florida, after being caught having sex in a bathroom stall at Banana Joe’s- now there’s a nightclub that will be packing them in for the next few months- then assaulting patrons who complained that they were tying up the bathroom- gosh, I’ve got to take a timeout here, this one’s just too good. I took an informal poll of the class I teach at Albany State University, and two out of three college males were highly aware of the story. The two females in the class had no idea what I was referring to. By the end of the week, they all had heard the story.

I would bet fifty bucks right now that you could walk into any bar in America and ask the next three guys you see if they heard about the Carolina Panther Cheerleaders, and two out of three (and most likely three) would not only say yes, but they’d tell you they preferred the blonde over the brunette. Penthouse made the pair an offer to pose within days of their arrests and dismissal from the Panthers’ cheerleading squad. The Panthers official team website had so many hits it had to shut down for a day, displaying only an official team logo. Their mug shots were on the internet within hours, next to their official team photos- which were removed from the team’s website when it resumed operations.

So what’s wrong with us? Why are Americans so schizophrenic about sex? Last year the Republican Party mobilized millions to the polls in places as disparate as Ohio and Georgia by promising an opportunity to cast a vote to keep two guys in Massachusetts or California from tying the knot. Yet the vast majority of the males who cast those ballots wouldn’t hesitate a moment if given the opportunity to see photos of Angela Ellen Keathley and Renee Thomas, the blonde and brunette, respectively, who were busted in Tampa for reacting violently when women pounded on the door to the restroom stall where they were carrying on. Apparently the only gay marriage that offends us is when two males- or unattractive females- want to enter into a legally binding commitment. Put two hot looking female cheerleaders into the mix, and male hormones, at least, override the bigotry genes.

If you think about it logically, women should be the ones up in arms over gay men marrying, while men should look on the practice as an opportunity to improve the odds of landing a female companion as potential competition removes itself from the dating marketplace. Yet women, who lose a prospect every time a guy prefers another guy, are pretty much accepting of gay males. At least that’s true in my informal poll, which includes the admittedly intelligent and educated subset of the female populace. Meanwhile, men have a visceral negative reaction to two gay males getting it on. Ewww is their natural reaction- and the votes at the polls, typically above the 75 percent level opposing gay marriage- pretty much proved it in 2004.

In fact, if you look at issues which are considered “hot button” in American politics, many of them have a connection to sex: abortion, gay marriage, sex education in the schools, condom distribution, censorship of television and movies. Europe, by contrast, can’t understand the infantile reaction of Americans to sex. They’ve had nudity on their over the air television for decades, and their civilizations haven’t imploded as a result. (France doesn’t count.)

But there is one thing that trumps sex in America- and that’s violence. If you’ve ever been to a Hollywood slasher Halloween Freddy Texas Chainsaw Massacre type movie, you’ll note that the victims are frequently young, good looking, and female. (This observation being based solely on the previews, since I’ve never paid a penny to attend one of those simple minded gore-fests.) I’ve never forgotten the advertising campaign for the 1971 Dustin Hoffman movie, Straw Dogs, which opened in London when I was in school there, and was still showing in America when I came home for Christmas. In England, the movie posters were all about the sexy actress who played Hoffman’s young British wife; in America, posters focused solely on the violence at the end of the movie when Hoffman had to fight a whole town to protect a murder suspect. Unfortunately for our cultural maturity, thirty-four years later, things haven’t changed a bit.