Attention, print media: Content has always been free

I ran across this sentence in a New York Times article today about the expected Apple tablet.

Almost all media companies have run aground in the Internet Age as they gave away their print and video content on the Web and watched paying customers drift away as a result.

This makes that vein in my eyelid throb. Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that these writers seem to think that readers only want content if it costs them money, but if it’s free they’re suddenly not interested. This sentence is emblematic of the intensely stupid way reporters write about the collapse of print media. They think that their content generates revenue—that readers pay their salaries, basically. In fact, content has always been free. What subscribers and newsstand buyers pay for issues doesn’t even cover the costs of printing and delivery. Content attracts eyeballs; print media makes money by charging advertisers to put their messages in front of those eyeballs. Producing content costs publishers money; ads pay the bills. It’s the exact same model as television, which everyone understands, but suddenly when we’re talking about pieces of paper instead of moving images, everyone gets confused. Or rather, reporters, who tend to have grand and romantic ideas about who they are and what they do, sell their reporter-centric version of the universe to readers, who are apparently tricked into believing that it’s true because it’s so often repeated.

But lisa over at Sociological Images put it so succinctly that I’m going to let her have the last word, with a few keywords swapped to make it about print media:

The real purpose of print media isn’t to inform you, but to collect a predictable audience that publishers can then sell to companies. Ads. Ads are the reason that journalism exists.


Sex: It’s all about ejaculate

spermSo a recent study found that daily ejaculation improves the quality of men’s sperm. This isn’t really surprising, since emptying out the built-up stores causes the body to make a fresh batch, and fresher means it’s had less opportunity to become damaged. That part’s all well and good, and may be helpful to couples trying to conceive.

But look how it’s being reported:

Daily sex makes for healthier sperm

Having sex every day improves the quality of men’s sperm and is recommended for couples trying to conceive, according to new research. […]

Frequent sex does decrease semen volume but for most men this is not a problem.

“It seems safe to conclude that couples with relatively normal semen parameters should have sex daily for up to a week before the ovulation date,” [head researcher Dr. David Greening of Sydney IVF] said in a statement.

That’s weird, right? I mean, the study specifically states that daily ejaculation produces better sperm, not daily sex. I have it on reliable authority that in most men, ejaculation can be achieved without sex, even if you have a pretty broad definition of “sex.” Unless you take a completely dude-centric view of sex, in which case I guess it makes total sense. Every erection is entitled to a woman-hole to stick it in, so if a dude ejaculates, there must have been sex. What the holes think doesn’t count, so it’s not sex unless a dude ejaculates.

But I find this advice disturbing not just because it exposes a rather narrowminded chauvinistic leering and misogynistic unenlightened take on ejaculation and its relationship to sex, but also because it’s directed at infertile couples.

I have no personal experience with infertility. I am not trying and never have tried to conceive; my close friends either have not had or have chosen not to tell me about any problems with infertility; and I have not, unlike Dr. Dude here, worked with any infertile couples. And yet I am somehow aware that sex might not always be superawesome happyfuntimes for infertile couples who are stressed out, undergoing treatments that mess with their reproductive systems, and feel required to have sex on a schedule whether they feel like it or not.

Says one infertile woman, who is writing an article trying to convince readers that infertile couples can have hott sexxx while trying to conceive:

[Y]our libido hits as far as the queasy notch on the love-O-meter, and every time you think of sex, you think of the once fun, carefree thing you and your husband used to do, but now is a reminder of the life you cannot create, and the rigidness, calendars, Dr. appointments and finances that goes a long with trying to.

Julie of A Little Pregnant describes one of her and her husband’s infertility-occasioned rolls in the hay as the “Worst sex ever“:

Sad and freaked out to begin with, I felt no desire whatsoever. […]

But to accomplish the goal, the well-placed deposit of a copious spermy payload, I willingly played along. What else could I do but pretend to enjoy it? The goal was indeed accomplished, with heroic effort and no small relief.

I lay awake for a long time afterward. Not only did my body feel misused, not only did I feel angry and sad about the likely failure of this cycle, but I also felt small and dishonest to boot.

I don’t know about you, but that description hit me like a punch to the gut when I first read it because it sounds so much like how some people talk about sexual assaults they’ve survived, particularly rapes in the context of abusive relationships. And that is clearly not the case here. Julie makes it clear that both she and her husband were consenting, if not enthusiastic, and that he enjoyed it as little as she did. But the playing along to get it over with, the pain, the used feeling, the self-hatred, they’re all part of a familiar refrain for those of who’ve read victims’ accounts of sexual assaults.

And this doctor is saying to infertile couples desperate to conceive, desperate enough to snatch at long shots and eke a glimmer of hope out of as-yet-unverified studies, “Hey, if you really want a kid, just inflict this sickening pain on each other every single day.” And media outlets around the world are repeating this assvice with prurient, winking, lascivious glee. Way to go, guys.

Maxim: We are prevented from acting professionally by our proximity to BOOOOOOBS

My housemate Alexx, whose unexpected receipt of Maxim first alerted me to the whole all-gamers-must-love-tits crapfest, tried to opt out of Maxim and get his refund online so that things might process sometime this century. But when he submitted his form, all he got was this lousy ultra-charming error message:


You know, we could try and say this was part of the plan…

But guess what? We’re too busy trying to act like we’re working and not just looking at hot chicks to care.

❤ the Maxim Dev Team

Ha! Check out this hilarious and edgy error message, you guys! No one could be mad that we are preventing them from getting their money back when we are such lovably cheeky little scamps!

Because guys are incapable of not staring at tits. It’s in their DNA! Because “I was too busy sexually harassing that model” is an awesome excuse for not doing your job. Because only straight dudes would be doing anything at all on the Maxim website, and all straight dudes would be totally sympathetic to this “problem” that Maxim employees have of being unable to tear their eyes away from some hot chick’s cleavage. And because Maxim employees are all straight dudes, so this serious and totally real medical condition afflicts everyone in the office.

It might not seem worth spending any time or energy on breaking down the logic of such a minor and poorly executed joke, but you know what? Encouraging the objectification of women in order to excuse your shitty customer service is doubly offensive, and I’m not going to let it pass without comment.

Roundup: Reasons my mood matches the weather

For those not in Boston, the description that suits both is “foul.”

  • This tidbit on the front page of the Boston Globe‘s website:
  • Cuts reached, Times does not foresee closing Globe
    With the 23 percent pay cut imposed on members of the Boston Newspaper Guild, the paper’s owner, the New York Times Co., said today it has achieved the savings it needs and doesn’t foresee shutting down the paper.

    Now, of course I’m happy that the Globe won’t be closing. But I was never really afraid that it would be closing, because this same little melodrama plays out every year or two. Each time, the Times Co. tell the unions that if they don’t make big sacrifices, the paper will shut down and everyone will lose their jobs. And yet even though the company almost never gets the full amount of concessions it was asking for, the paper miraculously continues to publish! Why, it’s almost as if the parent company were exaggerating the paper’s financial distress in order to cheat employees and weaken the unions! But that can’t be, because corporations are fundamentally ethical and have come to recognize the important role unions play in today’s business world.

  • Dr. Tiller’s clinic is closing permanently. It’s hardly surprising, as there are few people trained to do the procedures Dr. Tiller performed, and, thanks to terrorists like Scott Roeder, fewer still willing to perform them, but part of me was hoping that something amazing would happen to allow the clinic to carry on its vital mission. But in real life, terrorists often win.
  • This dude’s “My Brief Life as a Woman” article. He was prescribed Lupron, which suppresses sex hormones, as part of his treatment for prostate cancer and discovered that the drug induced in him a state similar to menopause. From this he “confirm[ed] my lifelong sense that the world of women is hormonal and mysterious,” including such difficulties as uncontrollable food cravings and weeping jags brought on by nothing in particular. It’s not worth going into any depth about this, but let me briefly enumerate the assumptions required to make this article possible:
    1. His problems were all caused by hormone fluctuations, none from the side effects of Lupron itself, even though I hear it’s a pretty powerful drug.
    2. The symptoms produced by testosterone withdrawal in men in no way vary from those produced by estrogen withdrawal (menopause) in women.
    3. Menopause, far from being a relatively brief transitional phase between two much longer, more stable phases in a woman’s life, is pretty much the state of all women, all the time.
    4. Despite being in a constant state of hormonal change (…is that even possible?) for decades on end, women have developed no strategies for coping with the effects of these fluctuations and are completely at their mercy.
    5. Men experience no hormone fluctuations similar to those of the menstrual cycle or menopause in women that would alter their moods or produce physical changes.
  • I saw this cartoon on the front page of Slate the other day:
    For those who can’t see the image, Osama bin Laden is in a cave reading a newspaper with the headline “Obama Reaches Out to Muslims” and declaring “And we’ll be reaching out to Christians.”
    Ha ha ha! Get it? It’s funny! It’s totally funny! Don’t you get it? It’s funny because A) America is a Christian nation, and attacks on America—even those directed at international symbols of secular concepts and institutions like finance/capitalism and the U.S. government/democracy—are properly understood as attacks on Christianity and Christians, for it is our official national religion with which Muslim extremists take issue, B) the primary purpose of Obama’s Cairo speech was to combat terrorism, C) giving speeches is all the Obama administration is doing to combat terrorism, and D) making a public gesture of basic respect for the 1.5 billion members of the world’s second-largest religion would do nothing at all to prevent terrorism and might even encourage it! Now you get, it right? I shouldn’t even bother typing anymore, because surely you are now laughing too hard to read this through your tears of mirth!

CNN knows what’s important

ETA: Sadly, Mariana Bridi da Costa died just hours after this was originally posted.

A 20-year-old Brazilian woman is likely to die from a simple UTI. Mariana Bridi developed a urinary tract infection which went undiagnosed and has turned into septicemia. Doctors have removed her kidneys and part of her stomach, as well as her hands and feet. “They say her situation is very critical and that her chances (of survival) are not really significant, but she keeps on surprising everyone,” said a spokesman. “Two weeks ago the doctor gave her 24 hours to live and she’s been fighting and resisting—she’s quite amazing.”

What headline did CNN put on this story?
Mariana Bridi

Hotness in photographs undiminished

Silly me, I thought the story here was that something as simple as a UTI could turn into something highly deadly. I see this story and I wonder, What happened? Did her doctors ignore her symptoms? Did the traveling she does for her job keep her from seeing a doctor in time? The story mentions she was living with her boyfriend; was she reluctant to admit to sexual activity in a country where the Madonna/Whore complex reigns supreme? Clearly somewhere along the line, something went horribly wrong. But CNN only wants to tell me how hot she is, and how promising her modeling career was, as if the tragedy here is that if she somehow manages to survive she will no longer be asked to parade around in a swimsuit and have her picture taken. Even for Mariana, who we are repeatedly told always dreamt of being a model, the loss of her career will probably seem the smallest price she had to pay for life if she manages to hang onto it.

You keep it classy, CNN.

Quickie: Palin’s wardrobe*

This is gonna be fast because I have to leave, ironically enough, to go clothes shopping, but for the love of giant green Mutsu apples**, can we all stop talking about Sarah Palin’s wardrobe?

First of all, the $150,000 figure is really not that ridiculous. Clothes, particularly women’s clothes, are extremely expensive, and she has to look very good, for a number of reasons. She has to be the anti-Hillary, first of all, playing to a very narrow idea of femininity and taking care not to recall in any way that Scary Mommy figure who almost castrated every breathing male in the country by having power over them. She can’t afford to be seen as anything other than impeccably dressed because she certainly can’t overcome a poor first impression with her air of easy competence and her vast knowledge base. She owes her success in no small part to, yes, a cult of personality, and part of the attraction is that she looks good. (Same applies, obviously, to Obama and Bill Clinton.) And finally, let’s face it, part of the reason she energized the base, and was chosen to energize the base, is because she is Caribou Barbie to a certain brand of Republicans. She’s like the perfect plaything to them: Pretty and empty-headed, all accessories included. Just record some anti-woman talking points on her say-and-play voice box and you can get hours of entertainment dressing her up and creating fantasy lives for her to lead. Sarah Palin smacks down Joe Biden! Sarah Palin out-executives Barack Obama! Sarah Palin sells off the Senate’s chairs on Craigslist when it tries to override her veto! Sarah Palin shoots a moose, cooks it for your dinner, gives you a blowjob, and shuts the hell up!

And dressing her up is integral to this fantasy, fast as it is now fading. Dressing her up is part of why they can like her—because she doesn’t threaten them. She is a strong, ambitious woman just like Hillary Clinton, but she’s not scary because the dressing her up, along with all this “learning at McCain’s knee” grossness and her demonstrated willingness to bow to the almighty Penis Power by bearing a baby no woman could possibly want just to prove her husband’s continued virility***, makes them feel that they are still safely in charge, even if she’s the one in the Oval Office. They think that if her programming ever failed and she started voicing opinions different from theirs, that all it would take to get her back on track would be for a guy—any guy, even them—to sidle up to her and whisper, “Psst, honey, you don’t really want to do that, do you?” Dressing her up like that kind of dude’s fantasy of a working woman—woman first, worker second—is a huge part of creating that fantasy. Spike heels, tight skirts, jackets cut as much unlike a man’s as possible—it’s like her outfits are pulled straight out of their fantasy lives, giving them the illusion that they had a hand in dressing her. And a person you dress isn’t your superior, or even your equal. A person you dress is your child. Maintaining this illusion that Joe Asshole is the giant hand making Caribou Barbie act is worth any amount of money to the party, so getting it at $150,000 is a relative bargain.

Furthermore, I bet Hillary Clinton’s wardrobe is worth $150,000, or at least something on a similar scale. The only difference is that she, like the rest of us, built her wardrobe piece by piece over a number of years. But Sarah Palin got lifted from Outer Mooselick to the national stage overnight, and didn’t have time to build a wardrobe. The clothes she had weren’t suitable for the job she’s seeking, and neither she nor the campaign itself could afford to re-outfit her, so the RNC handed a few consultants an expense card and Palin’s measurements and sent them to Nieman and Saks with orders to make sure she would never be caught wearing repeats. Oh, what, you thought she went herself? Not a fucking chance, buck-o. Every minute of every day is booked for her from now until Nov. 5, and not with non-poll-affecting shit like checking out her own ass in a three-way mirror. No, if she’s not in front of a crowd, she’s traveling to the next crowd or sleeping. Possibly both of the latter two at once. So, yeah, a bunch of image consultants with someone else’s credit card and no budget constraints blew 150 grand on nice clothes. Wouldn’t you?

So, no, I don’t think the $150,000 number is unreasonable at all. But the real reason we should stop fucking talking about it is that it’s not really a slam against an out-of-touch GOP. Let’s quit lying to ourselves: When people say, “OMG, the RNC spent more than I make in five years on Sarah Palin’s outfits!” what they’re really saying is, “OMG, that Sarah Palin chick is so vain and frivolous!” Because that’s how it is for women. Women who appear not to care whether men find them appealing are threatening bitches who just need a good dicking, except no one would touch them with Bea Arthur’s dick, amirite!? Women who men find appealing but accidentally let slip that they don’t just roll out of bed looking like a dude’s pornified wet dream are high maintenance and shallow and, by extension, dumb. That’s all there is. Only ugly women can be smart, and they’re all bitches. Pretty women can only be stupid.

That’s why most of the columns on this topic start off “God, the GOP’s stepped in it this time,” and end with “What did Palin even spend it all on?” Because it’s really about Palin. It’s about Palin. It’s about Palin. It’s. about. Palin. Get it? It’s the party’s credit card, but the real story’s about Palin. About how she’s totally frivolous because, like every other candidate, she’s working with her party to build an image, and about how frivolous women are dumb. Can’t trust those bitches, spending all your hard-earned money on shoes! Don’t they know how hard you work? Don’t they know how much things cost these days? Why do they need another cardigan or pair of pumps anyway? They already have like a million! Dagnabbit, you have three pairs of shoes and that’s plenty! What does she even do with all that stuff?

You see it now, right? The reason this story is sooooo appealing, that no news outlet or blog or stranger on the bus can resist it, is that it feeds that narrative. That women really are too shallow to do serious shit like run the country or work outside the home. That women are bad with money. That women are stupid. That women can be safely shut out and dismissed. That men should really be in charge. In a campaign season where, for the first time, several women are unapologetically demanding a desk in the White House, these narratives about stereotypes confirmed and order restored are just too tempting to ignore.

*OK, it turned out kinda long, but it’s still quick for me because I just ranted and posted without bothering to edit for clarity or flow or anything. Sorry!

**Fucking delicious, BTW.

***In case it wasn’t completely, brain-numbingly obvious, that was sarcasm. Many parents choose to have children they know will have Down Syndrome, and many of them do so for reasons that have nothing to do with their stance on abortion. I wouldn’t pretend to know what factors led to Sarah and Todd Palin choosing to carry Trig to term, but I think it’s telling that the base jumped to the conclusion that it’s because the governor is pro-life. Regardless of what led to their decision, as a pro-choice liberal I support it and advocate for more and better assistance for caregivers of special-needs children.

Just a reminder

Rachel Maddow’s show premieres tonight at 9 on MSNBC.

Don’t expect coherent posting about it from me, though, because certain distressing news will necessitate heavy drinking for the rest of the evening.