Neil DeGrasse Tyson and the Sexual Witch Hunt

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson is one of the latest public figures facing allegations of sexual misconduct – has it truly become a witch hunt?

First, I would like to point out that suggesting we are getting into witch hunt territory is not a statement about women making allegations in the first place. It is entirely about how the entertainment industry and society as a whole is reacting to those allegations.

In the case of DeGrasse Tyson, based on what information is currently available, it appears that we really are looking at a “he said, she said” situation. Legally, that can mean that no one will ever know the complete truth, or there will never be any tangible or witness evidence to prove the allegations.

While it is important to listen to women when they make allegations of sexual misconduct, we also need to spend some time thinking about what that actually means. Right now, it’s becoming a highly subjective scale of behaviors that are solely defined by the feelings of the women involved. Basically, if someone says or does something to or around a woman, it makes her feel uncomfortable in any way, and it can be construed to have even the slightest sexual connotation, it can be called “sexual misconduct.”

That means really bad pick-up lines at cocktail parties could fall under this category. Or, in the case of DeGrasse Tyson, exceedingly clumsy flirting could be included. (I am not addressing the allegation of sexual assault during his college years in this description.)

It is good that we’re starting to have conversations about appropriate behavior and interpersonal relationships, but immediately leaping to punishing people for past alleged wrong-doings before there are any investigations definitely isn’t acceptable. What is making it worse is the fact that we are littering our media outlets with headlines about these situations without providing real context for the next generations. Bluntly, I am tired of hearing my teenage son tell me that he is avoiding dating in high school not only because he doesn’t want the drama, but also because he doesn’t want to end up like one of those guys in the headlines because he tried to grope a girl in a movie theater.

Now, if we’ve reached the point where we think that the teenage rites of passage that include “testing the sexual waters” are wrong, then this “guilty as soon as there’s an allegation” attitude is fine. But, no matter what, if we don’t start shifting the conversation toward teaching our children what is appropriate behavior in schools, then all of this is for naught.

We won’t change how women and men treat each other unless we stop thinking that we can rely on parents to teach their kids about sex. The men who are being accused of misdeeds now come from generations that didn’t have sex-ed that included anything beyond the basic anatomy and avoidance of disease and hopefully pregnancy. They didn’t learn how not to be a creep. They didn’t learn how to talk to women in a positive way. There weren’t any lessons on how to ask for permission to engage in sexual activities. There definitely weren’t any classes on reading body language and other non-verbal cues. It’s also worth noting that they were raised in households during the era when this nation generally didn’t have laws against spousal rape, so it’s entirely possible that they literally learned bad behavior in the home.

That said, we also have to remember that many of these women making allegations were not raised to know there is such a thing as personal boundaries in the workplace. They worked in an industry that has a long standing reputation for encouraging women to “sleep their way to the top”. Yes, we are trying to put an end to that, but it’s not going to happen overnight.

Now, if it becomes clear that DeGrasse Tyson truly did do what has been alleged, then it’s time to talk about punishing him. The same should apply to everyone else. But, we really need to avoid going this route:

via GIPHY

Yes, that means some people who really did bad things may end up walking away unscathed. But, that’s the deal we made with our justice system and society in general. There are reasons why we say “innocent, until proven guilty”. Operating under the presumption of guilt is how they do things in authoritarian regimes, not here. Also, ask yourselves, how do you prove that you didn’t do something when there were no witnesses other than your accuser? We’re all appalled by laws overseas that insist a woman must have a few men bear witness for them when they accuse someone of rape. But, we’re fine with the idea of saying men must come up with witnesses to prove they didn’t rape someone?

Rape is wrong. Sexual harassment is wrong. Punishing people without due process is wrong. Failing to teach our young how to stop the cycle of sexual violence is the greatest wrong we can do right now. You want it to stop? Work on that.

As for DeGrasse Tyson? Maybe the networks worrying about whether or not they should air his programs should just put them out there. Let the viewers decide. Go back to the negotiating table with him, and have him sign a contract stating that he won’t benefit financially from his work to date anymore if the allegations are proven to be true. After all, that’s really what this is about, isn’t it? It’s all about the money. If he did wrong, let him pay for it with cash. If the networks really want to look good, give money that would have gone to proven perpetrators to their victims. Leave the programming out there. If the people know the guilty stars aren’t getting the paycheck if they watch, they might still turn it on. If they know the victims are getting the profits, maybe that will show what the public really thinks about supporting them.

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson and the Sexual Witch Hunt

Netflix, Censorship and Saudi Arabia

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Netflix pulled an episode of “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj” from distribution in Saudi Arabia.

Viewers can still see it in America (and probably just about everywhere else in the world with Netflix), and don’t feel terrible if you weren’t aware of the fact that Saudi Arabia has Netflix.

The good folks at Netflix have been quick to point out that they were just avoiding legal difficulties in the Kingdom, and perhaps no one should blame them for wanting to avoid fines and imprisonment. We won’t get into the weeds of jurisdiction and enforcement, right?

Now, Minhaj definitely didn’t pull any punches in the episode on Saudi Arabia, and offered quite a lot of information that should make many Americans pause.

It’s all about the money.

Remember that phrase. American presidents, including the current one, have maintained good relations with Saudi Arabia because of oil and guns. That means America is just fine with killing journalists, subjugating women, and censorship. We’re also accepting of leaders who kill, imprison, torture, and maim to gain power.

It’s all about the money.

Of course, because of the nature of these things, the offending episode that Netflix graciously pulled from their rotation in Saudi Arabia is enjoying a great deal of popularity on the web. Minhaj said it would, and it truly was predictable. Remember “The Last Temptation of Christ”? If it wasn’t for the Pope saying not to see it, you probably wouldn’t.

But, I digress.

It’s all about the money.

Why in the world would Netflix decide it was a good idea to bow to Saudi Arabia on content? Why didn’t they just stick to their guns, and tell the Kingdom, “Sure, we’ll kill that episode, and our service in total!”?

If you didn’t previously know that Netflix was serving entertainment to Saudi Arabians, right about now is when you’re going to wonder why you hadn’t. It turns out that Netflix did around a million dollars worth of business in Saudi Arabia in 2017, and at least one forecast indicates that they can expect to make nearly $10 million there by the end of 2020.

Maybe at that point Netflix will consider fines for offensive content just part of their operating budget, right? Then they just have to figure out how to avoid seeing any of their executives imprisoned. But, maybe it would be worth it…

Image: YouTube/Patriot Act

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Netflix, Censorship and Saudi Arabia

Debauchery and Debate – Episode 4 – Halloween Edition

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Halloween is a week away, so we’re in holiday mode. Yes, we were away for a couple weeks, thanks to traveling and illness, but now we’re back, talking about favorite Halloween movies, crazy wildlife, costume faux pas, and sex! Take a listen!

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Debauchery and Debate – Episode 4 – Halloween Edition

Learning Literacy from Drag Queens?

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A middle school in Colorado decided to invite Jessica L’Whor, a drag queen, to speak with kids about life, careers, and literacy. And then people’s heads caught on fire.

No, there wasn’t talk about sex. The name “Jessica L’Whor” wasn’t used, because it was admittedly inappropriate for the situation, so she was simply “Ms. Jessica.” And, the administration didn’t bother to warn parents about this scheduled appearance. After the fact, the school principal said that if the school ever decided to have such a controversial guest again, she would warn parents ahead of time so they could request that their precious little angels be excluded.

Now, this event has been mentioned in the press as a “career day,” which it wasn’t. It was a literary day, which presumably means that the guests were talking with students about the importance of literacy. One might question the point, and more importantly, exactly what a drag queen could contribute to these discussions, but c’est la vie. The reality of the situation is that we have yet another school getting into trouble over “sex” for reasons.

Sure, they probably won’t do this again. However, if they did and those warnings went out to the parents, yes the kids who would be excluded will either figure out a way to “forget” turning in that note from home or they will resent their parents. Why? The simple answer is the last thing any middle school wants to viewed as is “uncool” (or whatever term they’re using for the same.)

Let’s also be at least a little realistic here. Out of the parents who complained about this, one can wonder how many bothered to specifically block RuPaul’s Drag Race from their televisions. Well, maybe it wasn’t necessary, because maybe some of those parents are the ones who don’t allow television watching at all in the first place. The point is that no matter how much any parent wants to shelter their kids from the world, the fact remains that the world is still out there. It’s filled with good and bad things, hazards and helpful situations, and yes, it has drag queens. Now, if you’re thinking that your kids will suddenly decide to become a transvestite just because they saw one in school, you have some serious issues. First, you’re assuming that whatever you are attempting to teach your kids is being absolutely ignored. Second, you’re not giving your kids credit for being capable of thinking things through before they decide to do something. Finally, you’re assuming that every single interest your kids will ever have in their lives will last forever.

Now, if all of that were true, we really would be a great deal of trouble as a society. Otherwise, just remember, kids tend to want to do whatever their parents say they shouldn’t, and kids are naturally curious about everything. Freud and Jung figured that out a long time ago. Perhaps that should be a required lesson for all adults before they become parents.

Image: Facebook/Jessica L’Whor

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Learning Literacy from Drag Queens?

Debauchery and Debate – Ep. 3 Taylor Gets Gritty!

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If you’re not scared, Taylor’s co-host really is – okay, maybe not. But, you have to admit, he’s definitely Gritty! In this week’s Debauchery and Debate, there’s a little more talk about the television premieres, and The House with a Clock in Its Walls. More importantly, find out what movie Taylor is promising to view! Throw in a sex robot brothel that’s doomed, and a special anniversary, and you’ve got it.

A little hint about that last one here:

In case you didn’t notice, yes we are on iTunes! Stay tuned for more options to listen!

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Debauchery and Debate – Ep. 3 Taylor Gets Gritty!

Molly Ringwald and Rethinking Her Films

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Of course, with the #MeToo movement, it was inevitable that many parts of our pop culture would be re-examined through the lens of today. Molly Ringwald decided to do that with her own films, while talking with NPR this past weekend.

One thing that was mentioned, not by Ringwald, but by the writer of the article, was a specific line from Sixteen Candles.

“I’ve got Caroline in the bedroom right now passed out cold. I could violate her 10 different ways if I wanted to.”

That was from Jake Ryan, the guy Ringwald’s character wanted throughout the film, and who was played by Michael Schoeffling.

Seeing those words absent context definitely is a little disturbing, however it’s important to note one word in that line – “could.” By that point in the movie, it was abundantly obvious that Schoeffling’s character wasn’t at all interested in the girl in question. Just that simple fact makes that troubling line far less menacing. Now, you can start having your issues about that same girl apparently taking the virginity of the “nerd” who drove her away from the party that night if you like.

The point is, even looking at this film through the hyper-sensitive lens we’ve created today, it is still really not that bad. Sure, Ringwald has her reservations, but she’s looking at it as a mother of teens now. Honestly, I’d be wondering if there was something very wrong with her if she wasn’t cringing at least a little, not over her own performance in the film, but over some of the drunken flamboyance in it.

John Hughes made films about the things teens actually did, after their parents and teachers told them not to do “all the things.” He depicted the choices among the taboos, knowing that whenever you told a teen not to do something, you were often begging them to disobey. That is what real teenagers did then, do now, and will undoubtedly continue to do until the end of the human race.

But, even when Hughes would hint at potentially terrible behavior, there was that recognition of limits. In this case, Hughes had Jake Ryan point out that he could do terrible things with his girlfriend, but that was all. Stating you understand the fact that you could do something terrible is not the same thing as actually doing it. If we’ve gone so far off the rails that even discussing potential bad ideas is verboten, we really are lost.

Image: 20th Century Fox

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Molly Ringwald and Rethinking Her Films

Debauchery and Debate Podcast – Episode 2 Unsolicited D!ck Pic Edition

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You aren’t seeing things, and are probably really happy that this is just audio – not video! Liz and Taylor are back discussing entertainment, particularly premiere week on broadcast television, as well as creepy mascots, and you guessed it – an unsolicited d!ck pic Taylor just had to send Liz! Before you start cringing too much, make sure you listen. It really will surprise you, not scar you! We promise!

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Debauchery and Debate Podcast – Episode 2 Unsolicited D!ck Pic Edition

Dad ‘Breastfeeds’ Baby – Internet Burns Down

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New dad Maxamillian Neubauer became an internet meme of sorts when he posted photos of himself “breastfeeding” his baby on Facebook. Yes, it did involve fake nipples and a milk delivery system, so we’re not talking about medicine going crazy. But, the level of hate Neubauer has seen on social media is quite simply disturbing.

He was lucky, in the sense that his wife just had some complications that prevented her from breastfeeding. Of course, it’s fair to guess that the people who were calling him out for being unnatural at best, profane terms at worst, didn’t bother to think of alternative situations.

Would there be so much venom spent on this if the picture was of a father doing the same thing after losing his child’s mother in childbirth? It is a valid question, because this milk delivery system probably has been used in that kind of situation.

The point is to do something that most professionals agree is good for newborns – establish skin on skin contact with parents as soon as possible to aid in emotional bonding between parents and children.

So, babies born in situations where their mothers are unable to breastfeed shortly after birth should be denied this even if the father is willing to step in with the help of a milk delivery system? Further, those fathers are somehow “creepy,” “disgusting,” or any other negative term because they want to make sure their children sense from early on that they are loved? That is what we are talking about – parental bonding is love.

I’d like to think that all of that negativity is just the result of people not thinking through what they were saying before posting. That’s quite common. Maybe they just went with their gut reactions to just the photo, didn’t bother to read the story behind it, and may not have been so hateful if they realized Neubauer wasn’t doing a stunt to shock people. Perhaps there would have been fewer hateful comments if people would have read about the fact that his wife wasn’t physically capable of breastfeeding. Or maybe it’s just another sign of the rampant lack of empathy out there. If you’ve read this far and had initially been upset with the photo, where do you stand now?

Image: Facebook/Maxamillian Neubauer

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Dad ‘Breastfeeds’ Baby – Internet Burns Down

Debauchery and Debate with Liz and Taylor – Podcast Episode 1

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Did you miss us? We heard that some people have.

Liz and Taylor are back “on the air” – well, at least on a brand new podcast. If you’re hoping that they’ll be discussing politics, sorry to disappoint you. Life’s too short, so they’re spending time talking about fun things.

For their first episode, there’s talk about the Emmy’s, Captain Marvel, Sean Penn, and an upcoming show on HBO. Take a break from being way too serious, and listen!

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Debauchery and Debate with Liz and Taylor – Podcast Episode 1

Anna Kendrick and the Celebrity Love Affair with Obama

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Anna Kendrick was recently talking with Stephen Colbert, and explained her less-than-respectful interaction with Barack Obama.

While it’s true that Kendrick really was in awe of Obama when she was with him, she definitely had an Eliza Doolittle at the races style response for him when he talked with her.

Yes, that was Kendrick admitting on national television that she called Obama an asshole to his face, and then proceeded to point out his lack of knowledge about the citizens of her home state of Maine. If that wasn’t enough, Kendrick also placed meeting Beyoncé and her daughter, Blue Ivy, higher on her scale of noteworthy celebrity run-ins.

Of course, there was a comedic feel through all of the exchange, but it probably did not wander too far from the truth of the matter. Politicians have turned Washington into Hollywood-East with their determination to be in the spotlight, but the denizens of Tinseltown still are more concerned with approval among their own. Kendrick, as an actress, cares far more about the goodwill of Beyoncé than Obama because the former is more likely to help her build her career.

Yes, celebrities dabble in politics, even to the point of running for (and taking) public offices, but like anyone else who has a career outside of the political sphere, if they aren’t vying for a permanent political career, they must care more about people in their own field. The ones who lose that perspective lose out, which is what we see from many entertainers who have chosen to be vocal about their political views when they don’t match the typical Hollywood stand on the issues. Is it unfair? Yes, but life isn’t fair. The entertainment industry also isn’t the only career area where people can face issues if they are vocal about their personal politics. While the right tends to suffer more, there are also situations where expressing any political views – right or left – can be detrimental to one’s career.

As for Kendrick and her moment of calling Obama an asshole, that could be just a tall tale, or it could be absolutely true. Either way, the fact that she told the story the way she did indicates something that too many people keep forgetting these days. While politicians can be very entertaining, they are not truly entertainers. Those who really are entertainers may say they adore some politicians, but that adoration ends where their concern for their next paycheck begins, assuming that they don’t want to see an end date on their list of jobs on IMDB.

Image: YouTube Capture

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Anna Kendrick and the Celebrity Love Affair with Obama