Hey, it's the final day of MERRY JANE's Sex Week! This week has arrived just as the national conversation around sex and the greater culture around it has moved to the forefront of the national conversation. It genuinely seems like we've reached a moment where we're asking ourselves which elements of sexual interaction are worth keeping around, and which we should leave behind.
As a man, it's not particularly my place to comment too much on this stuff, so if you're looking for some great writing about this particular moment, you should check out the first essay featured in today's selection of longreads, which is an essay from Laurie Penny containing some real talk for dudes. There's also a profile of Chicago's raunchy sex-positive rapper CupcakKe, some absolutely stupefying reportage from Ronan Farrow about the lengths Harvey Weinstein took to suppress allegations of his sexual misconduct, and some science writing about how species who don't have sex at all get by.
"The Unforgiving Minute"
By Laurie Penny for Longreads
It's a weird time to be a dude right now. With the wash of women coming forward sharing their stories of sexual assault, men everywhere are questioning their own actions, wondering if they've been complicit in the downright despicable actions of others, and generally facing a moment of reckoning about how they interact with women. As Laurie Penny writes, this is a good thing. The current wave of call-outs are a response to a larger structural problem of misogyny perpetuated by a rape culture, and if it takes a few months of men being all freaked out, then it's a small price to pay to have that culture be eliminated.
"CupcakKe Is the Coolest Rapper in Chicago"
By Meaghan Garvey for VICE/Noisey
Ever since Eminem mined the depths of moral depravity for fun and profit, it's rare that a rapper is actually shocking on purpose — most of the time when they try, they just end up sounding like Eminem. And yet upon her arrival on Chicago's rap scene, the young rapper CupcakKe managed to shatter that particular overton window with a pair of catchy, idiosyncratic, and insanely sexual songs called "Vagina" and "Deepthroat" (whose accompanying music video features a very sexualized banana and must be seen to be believed). But, as Meaghan Garvey writes in VICE's new music issue, there is more to CupcakKe than her more viral songs might suggest.
"Harvey Weinstein's Army of Spies"
By Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker
When Ronan Farrow tweeted out his second dispatch from the sordid world of Harvey Weinstein's sexual misconduct, he commented, "Reads like a spy novel, but true." Which, holy fucking shit, he was not kidding. Once he feared being exposed as a sexual predator by actress Rose McGowan and a cadre of journalists including Farrow himself, Weinstein hired a team of Israeli ex-spies to silence his accusers and undermine the coverage of those who wished to report on it. This story involves fake companies, fake journalists, subterfuge of all stripes, and the National Enquirer. And as scary as it is to think about the lengths that Weinstein went to in his attempts to cover up his own bad behavior, it becomes even scarier when you think about the possibility that where Weinstein and his team of literal spies failed, there may be numerous similar campaigns which succeeded.
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"Nick Kroll, Age 39, Is Still Going Through Puberty"
By Josh Duboff for Vanity Fair
Sometimes logging into Netflix delivers pleasant surprises. Like when, a few weeks ago, I fired up the 'flix and discovered that there was a new animated show starring Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, aka the dudes who made the amazing Broadway homage/send-up Oh, Hello. The show seemed to be about kids, so I was like "Oh great, they made an Oh, Hello with kids in it instead of old men!"
Turns out that the show is less Oh, Hello, and more, as Kroll put it to Vanity Fair, "perverted Wonder Years." As in, Kroll and Mulaney play fictionalized versions of childhood Kroll and his childhood best friend Andrew Goldberg, who went on to become a writer for Family Guy. The kids in the show have all started succumbing to hormone-addled impulses, as represented by monsters who urge them to follow their pubescent ids — except for Kroll's character, who's getting anxious that he hasn't hit puberty and for some reason has to hang out with the ghost of Duke Ellington (played by Jordan Peele). As the show goes on, it becomes smarter and more insightful, and before you know it you're learning raunchier, more nuanced versions of the childhood lessons that made you who you are today.
"When Pseudosex Is Better Than the Real Thing"
By Kat McGowan for Nautilus
As a counterpoint to all this sex talk, did you know that there are whole species out there who don't do it? And by "do it," I mean "fuck," and by "fuck," I mean "sexually reproduce," and by "sexually reproduce," I mean, oh, you get the point. Turns out that sexual reproduction has its benefits — genetic diversity being chief among them — and its setbacks — namely, that it's inefficient that half of your species can't have offspring. It's fascinating to read Kat McGowan's piece on how species that reproduce asexually get around the genetic diversity issue, and really makes you wonder if sex is all it's cracked up to be.
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