Logos of the Luxury Brands. From Status Symbol to Class War Target.

logo handbag luis vuitton

I’ve never been a fan of branding logos. Says to me, besides the obvious, you have no taste, no understanding of quality or composition, and you have a problem defining yourself through discretionary consumption. So you buy this fucking logo-centric whatever it is so your peers won’t piss on your Jimmy Choo Shoes. That is, until that particular brand falls out of favor and gets summarily dumped on the Costco table or some off brand store where Clarence of Fruit of the Loom buys it for a fraction of the price so he can flaunt it while clubbing in Azuza. Oh where are you now Von Dutch or Ed Hardy, to name but a few?

But, hey, in a world where subtlety is anything but subtle, the logo found its place among the luxury consumer goods. Clothing, linens, towels, even furniture, there was the logo saying to the world, yes, I am this obvious.

But now logos are out of favor among the affluent. No logos accepted here to tart up those $15 thousand handbags and $3 thousand dollar scarves. Many claim just say no to logos because they want to go it lower key. The years of logo love has yielded to the siren call of the understatement. Bad taste is so this morning.

Or… is it really the sudden recognition that if you are dumb enough to go flaunting the fact that you have money to burn, those with barely any money to eat may decide to barbecue your ass over your Kalamazoo Hybrid Fire Grill. So now comes that sudden recognition, much of it in the guise of changing tastes, and with that many of the luxury brands who once promoted the precious logo are falling out of favor, losing market share. Wondering what the hell to do when the rich don’t want to look wealthy anymore. Can K-Mart be far behind?



Minstrel’s Alley Promoting Beautiful Bad Girl Book for Summer Readers

Beautiful Bad Girl

Los Angeles media concern, Minstrel’s Alley, is promoting its bestselling book, Beautiful Bad Girl, The Vicki Morgan Story, for summer reading. The book, written by author, Gordon Basichis, tells the torrid love affair between department store scion, Alfred Bloomingdale, and his mistress, Vicki Morgan. The book has been described as a real life Fifty Shades of Gray.

“We are seeing a lot of activity on this book right now, “said M. J. Hammond, Minstrel’s Alley Publisher. Gordon Basichis was recently interviewed by Optimen Productions for its new television series, Scorned: Love Kills. Beautiful Bad Girl, the Vicki Morgan Story, has been optioned for a film. A script is being written. We’ll have more on that in the coming months.”

Hammond noted that Beautiful Bad Girl, the Vicki Morgan Story, is a biographical novel that chronicles the tempestuous love affair that made international headlines while defining exotic sexual mores among the rich and famous, during the eighties. “It is wild ride depicting the sexual demons of the rich and powerful,” said Hammond. “It has been a bestseller for Minstrel’s Alley. It’s been more than two decades since the book was first published, and it just keeps on selling.

“People’s tastes have changed since the book was first published,” said Hammond. “The popularity of Fifty Shades of Gray and Beautiful Bad Girl serve as testimony to public’s changing taste and the openness to different sexual proclivities, including bondage, discipline, and sado-masochism Few women lived their lives like Vicki Morgan, and with Beautiful Bad Girl our readers gain insight into a world that fascinates them on different levels. On one hand, it is a tragic story about obsessive romance and murder. On another, it helps define female empowerment and the ability to live out one’s personal adventures.”

For the complete press release click here


Will They Serve Frozen Yogurt At The Next Revolution?

All rhetoric aside, revolutions are not started by the poor.   The poor may contribute later on, or pile in and take the revolution to certain extremes, but they are not the ones who start it.  I realize it is romantic to think of the poor rising up to break the yoke of poverty, but it is simply not the case.    It could be argued that if the poor were that well organized, then they would get it together enough not to be poor.

It’s the disaffected bourgeoisie, the merchant class, the middle class, that always  always gets the ball rolling.    If at first it is not the middle class directly then it is their progeny, their erstwhile sons and daughters who grow restive in the coffee houses or on the job, in the schools, where discussion leads to protests, and protests leads to violence, or the series of incidents that set it all off.   Robespierre, one of the leaders of the French Revolution, was from a family of lawyers.  Castro, in Cuba, was from a wealthy middle class family and also a lawyer.

Lenin was also an attorney; his father a director/inspector of the public school system.    Trotsky was raised in a family of wealthy farmers.  Che Guevera was from an upper middle class family and was himself a doctor.   Mao Zedong’s father may have started life as a peasant, but by the time Mao was still a young boy the old man was doing just fine as a  farmer and grain merchant.

The American forefathers were largely merchants or gentrified farmers.   Those frocked coats and powdered wigs cost a few bucks, and none of them have been cited as showing up in a peasant rags. In the case of most revolutions, the leading intellectuals and rabble rousers took their cues from  principles and doctrines in the literature of choice.    The French and the Americans cited passages from the Age of Reason, while the Russians and Chinese took their cue from Karl Marx.   Most peasants weren’t reading Marx at the time, and the literature found in  Age of Reason or the Enlightenment was mainly accessible to those that had money, and certainly those who could read.

Another misnomer is that revolutions occur out of principle.   That they are driven by the abstracts of ideology and their anticipated application.   Revolutions, at least successful ones, are based in economics and not the more higher minded principles as some would believe.   Most successful revolutions emanate from self-interest and economic necessity before being disseminated to a greater mass through rhetorical ideology.   Even in today’s world where even the most complex strategic considerations are boiled down to simple jargon and sound bites, embedded at the root core there is short and long range self-interest and its related economics.  The higher minded rhetoric, all that stuff about liberty, equality…whatever…comes after when you need more bodies to sacrifice themselves for the greater cause.

I think about revolution not because I am encouraging it.  I do ponder at what point the middle class once again decides it has had enough of the chicanery and double dealing that leaves it holding the bag.   I think about the Tea Party and realize that some laud them while some mock or hate them, fearing the worst from the dregs in their lot.  But the Tea Party thing didn’t come out of nowhere.  People are pissed off.   The middle class is pissed off.  These are the people who have lost their houses, their jobs, their dignity, and their chance to make life better for their children.   While with the Tea  Party all that anger is being channeled almost entirely to the wrong places, the frustration is real.

Their jobs are going offshore.  Their trades skills if not obsolete are being transferred to other countries, leaving crafts people to work in humiliating call center positions where they try to accommodate those as pissed off as they are.   Small businesses have watched the stimulus money get kicked back to the larger banking and financial interests.  They have watched the money go offshore so domestic interests can make nice with foreign interests, so everyone is happy for the next financial shell game.  Many small and medium size business owners realize they are in a game of musical chairs, and when the music stops they may lack a place to plant themselves.    The less evolved make irritating claims about wanting their country back.  Few realize that while there were always virtues there were also the ugly elements of sexism, racism, and the economic leverage of the Robber Barons that is not at all unlike the way things work today.

But the smarter souls realize the middle class is dissolving.   It is a species facing extinction, or if not extinction then certainly a serious depletion among their ranks.   It is becoming increasingly evident, at least to me, that both the right and left are creating a permanent underclass.  The Conservatives may be more calloused and venal, willing to exploit cheap labor, and under the guise of free enterprise ship people’s livelihoods to other places, in order to serve their bottom line.    But then the Liberals or Progressives, or whatever they are this year, in offering meager entitlement without any real job training or actual support of industry have policies that may keep people alive but eliminate their chances of obtaining the skills that will empower them toward gainful employment.   At the end of the day, it is really two sides of the same coin with both sides pandering to their bases.  One caters to the rich, and the other tries to garner votes from the poor.  The middle class pays the tab and then finds itself ignored.

Common sense would be that rather than just hand people money, it would be wiser to re-purpose factories, even in the supposed archaic industries.   Develop a modern version of Roosevelt’s WPA where younger folks can form in teams to  employ modern technology with seasoned business sense to make stuff.   No country survives by merely shuffling paper around.  You need to make stuff.  Even in a global economy you cannot constantly suffer trade deficits for goods you can be making here.  Or, more to the point, you can not do it and survive.  Re purposing  factories would allow the government to supplement production.    The factories might even operate at a loss to stay competitive, but that loss would not be nearly as costly as just laying out billions for stand alone entitlement programs where nothing comes back to the coffers.

But then some argue, why bother with outmoded industries?   Well, for one thing not all of our citizens are technological geniuses.   Some of the work may be mind numbing, but it is a living, and a better living than either the call service job that has filled in in many blighted cities, or the government check that covers close to nothing.     It is better to have people working at something,  especially products that would reduce our imports and overall deficits, than not working at all.

We talk about what great innovators we are.  We love to revel in our inventions and our technological brilliance.    We boast of our start ups and how great technological achievements have originated from that humble garage workshop.   It may be true.   But as Co-Founder of Intel, Andy Groves, points out in his terrific article on Bloomberg Business Week, entitled How America Can Create Jobs, even when we innovate through the start ups we no longer scale these companies but instead the big outfits buy them out and ship most of the work offshore.  There is little chance for a new Microsoft or anything else when either that fledgling company is left to fend for itself, having no access to the kind of capital that would enable scaling to competitive levels.    There is little chance when that nascent company is bought up by the big kid and its resources moved offshore.

And both sides of the aisle are equally culpable.  The conservatives bark about free enterprise and the lack of government intercession.  These were the same people who couldn’t wait for government handouts from the bailout, where many suffered little or no consequences for their duplicity and lack of sensible business practice.   On the other hand, we have the current majority in government boasting of its reforms.    They boast of a  financial reform and a bill that has no teeth.  Companies too big to fail are still too big to fail.   As for much of the legislation, five minutes after  its passing any corporate interest with a team of lawyers and common sense has figured out a way to beat most of it.   There is little pressure for this current or any future administration to reduce or eliminate tax credits for shipping its jobs offshore.   There is little incentive via added tax credits to encourage even foreign companies to set up shop over here and hire American laborers.

So, in all, minus the rhetoric from both sides and all the concomitant window dressing, you have people either out of work or working jobs so meager they can’t support their families.   Credit extension to the regional banks who would in turn provide funding for local businesses is little more than a passing topic of conversation.    The economy is once again stalling.   Consumers are reluctant to make purchases.  There is talk of a double dip recession.   There is talk the housing market could slip even lower with increased foreclosures.

And the middle class?   I have to wonder at what point does the toxic mismanagement reach critical mass?    It is one thing to wear a ridiculous hat with tea bags draped from its brim.   It is another to consider the twenty-first century version of tarring and feathering, vandalizing, and otherwise making life miserable for those who have reduced this country to a shadow of itself.   I think about this recent little fiasco in the California City of Bell where it was recently discovered that four of the five council members were getting paid about $100,000 for their part-time jobs in the blue collar city of 40,000 people.   The Bell city manager, who made nearly $800,000, which is roughly three times the salary of the President of the United States.  For the City of Bell.

Why did it take so long to figure out that these conniving individuals were getting paid so much for so little?  The salaries were only made public after a Los Angeles Times investigation, based on California Public Records Act requests, uncovered the ugly fact that the city payroll was bloated with six-figure salaries.  Since the discovery, some of the grand city officials have resigned.  Others are defiant.  Attorney General, Jerry Brown,  is contemplating criminal charges.   There is much rancor about their very generous pensions.

But supposed they hadn’t resigned.  Suppose they all remained defiant and the state government ignored this outrageous transgression on the public trust.  One has to wonder at what point do the riots start where some of the city officials are dragged into the street?  Maybe never.  Maybe the citizens of Bell all toss back a beer and a Zoloft and go back to American Idol.    But suppose this incident or an incident much like it does get out of hand.   And then suppose in other parts of the country the citizens there think a little tar and feathering of sorts is not at all a bad idea.   You know, little local and regional things that suddenly erupt beyond the point of control.

I know it is a lot of supposing here, but if history tells us anything,   major changes gestate for years before breaking out to a greater order.   History demonstrates it takes just a series of minor incidents that evolve from miniature rebellion to considerable revolution.    America had its Boston Massacre, it’s Tea Party, and Lexington and Concord. Russia had its riots in St. Petersburg.   France had the storming of its much hated Bastille.  And so it goes.

I am not saying we are about to see a full scale revolution, replete with Civil War and all the other accouterments that give new meaning to dangerous living.   No extreme sports are necessary when you have massive rioting and killing in the streets.   But we  are not a country that angers easily.   On the top side of our national persona, we have an embedded sense of law and fair play that if it doesn’t hold us back from theft and duplicity at least burdens us with guilt.

On the down said, we are spoiled, fat, lazy, and have far too many distractions.   A revolution is hard work and takes focus and a great deal of concentration.   Between channel surfing, texting and gossiping, focus and concentration is not particularly our strong suits.    It  may be difficult to sustain anger when you take mood elevators and believe your critical assignment is attacking the nearest buffet.  We are out of shape and eat a lot of frozen yogurt.   It could be argued that unless Fro Yo wins the concession for the next American Revolution, turnout will be minimal at best.   And if there is a turnout, then is everyone proclaimed a hero?  Does everyone get a trophy?  Hard to say.

But then that anger is growing out there.  It is diffuse and misdirected, concerned with petty concepts like racism and people’s sexual preferences.   It is concerned with lifestyle choices and religious beliefs or lack of them.   But then we aren’t there yet.  We aren’t at the place where that slow to anger big dog finally gets off the porch where sensibilities start to galvanize and find articulation.  Where the middle class declares, “enough of this,” and decides that voting for the same thing regardless of party cannot turn it around.   When it becomes clear that it is not an issue of wanting one’s country back but moving it forward.   Against the deliberate intransigence.  And in the face of those who wish to keep you right where you are.

The Planet of the Wanton Geriatrics

Life can be cruel at times.  Life can be filled with contradictions.  Contradictions that become paradoxes in our day-to-day lives and as the years progress  leave us wondering,  what the hell happened?   The cruelty part is that there is no going back, no modifying the order of things or adjusting priorities.    Despite all good wishes and inspiring messages to the contrary, in pure existential terms we are left at the end of a cycle in possession of our triumphs and losses, our insights and misgivings.    Life in hindsight becomes a mathematical puzzle of sorts, but with escalating complexity as our perception of events and their outcome is constantly mutating, leaving us to readjust the pieces as time goes on.

There are different versions of assessment and readjustment, each filled with mixtures of satisfaction and regret.   I am not talking about the macro stuff here, the atrocities and eco-disasters, the flagrant disorders of the world.  Catastrophe is relatively easy to assess and reconcile on the macro level than the universal eventualities that sooner or later enter our lives.   Aging is one such area where the large, universal picture eventually makes a very lasting acquaintance.  With aging comes its usual accessories, health issues, frailty,  culminating in an intimate howdy do with our own mortality.    Such concerns are all out there, until that one day when you look in the mirror and start to think, “do I know you?”

But like it or not, we have all been programmed to deal with aging and mortality.  For the most part we think happy thoughts.  You turn on the TV and there is some saccharine commercial to remind you of all the tender moments you experience with friends and family in your approaching dotage.   We get the Lion King Circle of Life Routine , and we are encouraged that our brief blip on the radar screen may be filled with meaning and purpose.    We take heart in the acts of familial succession  and the belief we will reincarnate as we have before.    We project in the back of our thickening skulls that upon our return we will access the lush life, refusing to believe that in past lives and the ones beyond it we were meager peasants whose greatest triumph was now getting trampled by the noble’s horses.

Without all this concern for mortality and the afterlife there would not be much of a market for religion and corny movies.  All those Hallmark Cards and Kodak Moments may be selling at a discount on the dusty back bin of the  Dollar Store.   Mortality is perplexing.   It gives us food for thought and a sense of spirit and a glimmer of eternity.   It keeps us in line.  Or it doesn’t.    But few ever scoff at the notion that somehow, in some way, I am paying the price for my deeds and misdeeds.

But honestly, this is all the easy stuff.   Life and death; there’s nothing to it.  Whether you are stuffed in a hole or return again to repeat the same mistakes or make different ones, this concern is really a piece of cake.   Because at the end of the day your beliefs may give you comfort, offer solace at that heavy trafficked intersection of doubt and faith.   But the morning after, whatever you believe becomes moot.  Unless you hit the jackpot by guessing correctly on the Eternity Betting Pool  and then your journey to the other side rests comfortably on auto-pilot.

What isn’t easy is sex.   Sex is fraught with cruel paradox as if the great creator did some custom body work on Adam and Eve as if for the purpose of a practical joke.   Doesn’t really matter if it is Adam and Eve, Adam and Adam, or Eve and Eve, or any combination therein, the fact that each group is victimized by biology and its staggered time frame for sexual desire.    It is no secret that men are more interested in sex at an early age, their late teens and twenties.  Men have sexual thoughts about once every twelve seconds, barring distractions like earthquakes and fires.   And even then….  Women on the other hand may have sex at an early age but according to one study in the British Medical Journal that was also reported in Time Magazine, that for women that full blown libidinous activity doesn’t kick in until their late twenties.   The article reported that women are not having more passionate sexual fantasies between 27 and 45 but they are actually having more sex than women 18 to 26.   Sounds hard to believe, but, hey, its Time Magazine and the British Medical Journal, after all.  Who would know these things if they didn’t?

The theory is associated with evolution.  In a nut shell, in her younger years, a woman didn’t have to work so hard at sex to become pregnant.  It was only a matter of time.  Fewer times.   But over time and with aging having children was a greater challenge and as women had children at an older age, the sex fantasies and desire kicked in to accommodate the advancing years.

Here is the passage from Time Magazine

Here’s how their theory works:

“Our female ancestors grew accustomed to watching many of their children — perhaps as many as half — die of various diseases, starvation, warfare and so on before being able to have kids of their own. This trauma left a psychological imprint to bear as many children as possible. Becoming pregnant is much easier for women and girls in their teens and early 20s — so much easier that they need not spend much time having sex.”

I believe there is more involved that physical evolution.   Reportedly, in women, the libido takes a breather, while for men it keeps right on going.    Boomer women especially, having been programmed to behave themselves in order to appear decent and marry the right sort of fellow, became sexually active a little later than the younger women of today.    Boomer women had to keep their legs crossed if they were going to be the good girl.  For extra money, the only call girling they did was to call their parents and beg for a larger allowance.   Or they worked in the college cafeteria or took a job as a waitress.  Alright, so come college they met a boy and the boy was nice…and they started to fool around.

It is only later in life that Boomer women start to smarten up and ease off the guilt that was fire forged and ice hardened by concerned but fearful parents.   Time is passing, and opportunity is dwindling.  Before you end up having heart-to-hearts with a pet iguana there is time for a virtual fling.   Some women, to avoid labeling and scrutiny even move to different and distant places.   Santa Fe in the years I lived there was fraught with single Boomer women on the prowl.  The difficulty was there were so few men, and the men who were single or available made the Peter Pan Syndrome appear the lexicon for ancient and sage-like wisdom.  Like I say, life can be cruel and full of paradox.   Even the married women aged 27 to 47 have more sex than younger or older women.  Sexual peak and all that.  As for the fantasies, let’s say more than a few do not involve their present partner.

But then, as the report contends,  after that hot and heavy decade or three of sexual desire, replete with fantasies and late night longing, the warranty on the libido begins to lapse.   The Cougar business notwithstanding, the  hunger is  more for the lascivious display at Yogurt Land than the sexual encounter.   The report, or the study, as with any other study, has its flaws.  Older women may be divorced or widowed, or are less inclined to gab it up at gray haired mixers.  I don’t know.

And there are the men.  Their trajectory is dramatically different.  They start off strong and then start to flag as they approach or enter middle age.   It is a mixed bag of reasons.   This is not to say men of this age have allowed women to corner the market on sexual fantasy and romantic pursuit.   But it just ain’t the same.   Suffice it to say they are far more interested in 3-D than a D-Cup.  Unless the D-Cup is actually on the 3-D Television, and then the may go off on his lonesome to remember old times.

But then something kicks in and as men get older they get horny again.   Go figure.  Just when you thought it was safe to crawl back between the sheets.   Back a few years in history,  a man confronted the dreaded reality that the brain may still be filled with desire, but the penis has downshifted to a lower gear.     Lust over limpness, if you will.  So in was once upon a time the awkward but somewhat natural order of things, both spouses acclimate to the new conditions of age and erosion and spend more time showing their friends more pictures of their grandkids or that wing ding at Lake Havasu.

An equilibrium of sorts had been established.  But along comes Viagra.  Men become randy old fools and, according to the report, women tend to other matters.  Statistically,  67% of the men between sixty-five and seventy-four were sexually active.   Only forty percent of the women in same age group were sexually active.   A third of the men in the age range of 75 to 85 said they had sex within the last twelve months.  Only 17% of the women in the same age group can make the same claim.  Frankly I am impressed by the men, not so much that they had sex but at that age they can still remember they had it.   As for the women, as noted before, the report did not take into consideration some easily identifiable extenuating factors.

Alright, so what has this been doing to senior America?  And you believed their main concern was losing their Medicare.  Unh uh.   Aged boners are messing up the fire drill.   Older men are zipping up the Sansabelts and jumping the reservation.   At an age when their physical activity may be a a vigorous workout on the treadmill, they are sowing sin in Sun City.   Talk about an alliance among the willing.   They are jumping off their electro carts and cruising the streets for desperate hookers in a down economy.     According to an article in the Daily Beast, they are bringing back sexually transmitted diseases to hearth and home.    Imagine this doctor’s surprise when an eighty-year-old guy shows up with the clap.   They are leaving their wives,  and they are cheating on their wives.  Or, worse, they are forcing themselves on their wives.

The result is mixed.  According to the article, some women are enthused.  But most are not.   They thought this part of their lives were over and now the long retired  Jumping Jack Flash has nothing but time on his hands and a chubby.    Many women find such entreaties annoying.   But then, if they don’t for a few bucks or a couple hours distraction someone else will.  So leave it to good old American know how to produce a female version of Viagra.   The intent was to utilize  Boehringer Ingelheim’s  flibanserin, a drug for premenopausal women, as the new boost for women who report a lack of sexual desire.  Let’s follow the credo, even if there isn’t a market, create one.   Lots of high hopes.   But in two different studies the drug failed to show any increase in sex drive.  The elusive search continues.

Like I noted, there are exceptions to all of this and there are certainly extenuating factors.   But there is still no denying that life is cruel and full of paradox.   Not only as Elmore James once declared does he love her, but she loves him and so forth…but the sexual trajectories of men and women are so different their sexual encounters are torn asunder by bad timing and nature’s doctrine.   It’s hard enough to find love, and then when you do it’s sexual manifestation can become a total pain in the ass.  Perhaps in the end, our desire for satisfaction had disrupted the natural order of things.   At this time of life, Bill Maher joked, “maybe people shouldn’t be having sex.  It has to hurt,” he said. ” It hurts just to stand up.”

For me the bottom line is like all challenges, time will eventually sort this one out.  Or not.   And maybe those who resort to prayer, asking the Lord or the Goddess or the Universe, whatever, to sort out the rights and wrongs, to give them things, bring peace and prosperity, should beseech that same supreme being  that it would really be nice to rethink the math on the cycles of human sexuality.  Life is hard enough.

The Civil Rights Lesson from a Randy Chinese Swinger

When you think of China, you don’t think of it as a particularly sexy place.   Probably the Chinese don’t even think of China as a particularly sexy place as they tend to take their lead in sexual conduct from the West.   Nevertheless, with nearly 1.5 billion people, China is the most populated country in the world.   All those babies have to be coming from somewhere.

In truth, the citizens of China have practiced pre-marital sex for quite sometime now.   They may not have the long legacy of erotica  found in the West, initiated since time began and fortified by the art and literature,and ruminations of the Victorian Era, leading up through the pornographic “French Decks” of playing cards to the grand institution or erotica we extol today.   The Chinese may not even share the Japanese legacy, the artful and colorful paintings of lovers in bold colored silk robes contorted in every imaginable position, most of which having their visage in defiance of logical perspective.

Beauty shops and massage parlors permeate most Chinese cities, with each being the code word for a brothel.   While technically against the law, Chinese authorities tend to look the other way when it comes to the long stand presence of “beauty parlors,” kind of like what California does with its medical marijuana shops.  And like the medical marijuana shops, unless there is political pressure from a self-righteous group of do gooders with too much time on their hands, or the owner of the “beauty parlor” manages to upset someone in the bureaucracy, business goes on with little fanfare.

There is a preponderance of “adult health stores”.   These health stores are not to be confused with American health food stores where you can buy your granola in bulk.  Chinese Adult Health store is the given name for purveyors of every imaginable type of adult sex toy.   To say these stores are easy to find, is to equate their proximity with the nail salons of American.  If there isn’t one on every corner, then the sex toy shops are ubiquitous enough to assure no one will be waiting in line.  As for pornography on the Chinese Internet system, that is also forbidden.   But needless to say, thanks to the wonders of modern technology and with necessity being the not only the mother of invention but a matter of getting off, the Chinese can acquire software that can circumvent the government blocks.

As with most countries on an economic upswing, social regulatory efforts, if not necessarily the actual letter of the law, tend to liberalize in practice as well as theory.   When people are starving and struggling to survive, they have little time for sexual diddling.  Or if they do have time, it is because it is there only diversion from a dreary life, and those impromptu episodes usually result in the begetting or more children, which puts even more pressure on the family and its struggles, and makes for far less time in the exotic pursuits. A win-lose situation, for sure.  But when the good times are rolling, leisure and vice become a heady pursuit.

So what’s the big deal over the Chinese college professor, Ma Yahohai, who was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for having the temerity to engage in sex orgies and practice sexual partner swapping.?   Ma and his girlfriend were members of a group  of 22 persons that had some 35 swinger sessions over a two year period.  Frisky devils.  Ma participated in about half of these sessions.    Most of these sessions took place in Ma’s two bedroom apartment.   Ma shared the apartment with his girlfriend and mother.   What the adventuresome couple did with Momma during these libidinous occasions is anyone’s guess.   Maybe she took video.   Or like a good caring mother, washed off the sex toys to eliminate disease.  One can only imagine.

But the fact is that out of the twenty two arrested and charged with Criminal Law 301, Sexual Law 301, Crowd Licentiousness, eighteen of these randy souls were sentenced to prison.   While the defiant Ma was sentenced to his three and a half years, others were sentenced up to two and a half years.   No slap on the wrist, and no mention whatsoever about community service or making an anti-sex film.  The Chinese prison system has never been known much for luxury living.    So a couple of years in jail can give you a lot of time to ponder wistfully the sex orgies you will be missing.   As for the three defendants who got off without a jail sentence, I have no idea how they got so lucky.  Maybe they were only there to watch or serve hor dourves.

It could be worse for Ma and his swinging associates I suppose.  Back in the good old days of Chairman Mao and his successors,  various types of sexual congress, including group sex, could be construed as “hooliganism.”     “Hooliganism” was catch all charge for crimes that made you realize you were in big trouble.   Big trouble meant a lengthy jail sentence at a slave labor facility not of your choice.   You were looking at possible execution.  So by those draconian standards, I suppose, a couple years in jail is a slap on the wrist.

According to reports, there are 100, 000 alleged swingers in China out of the  1.3 billion population.  In terms of Chinese population this is but a measly few.    The measly few engage in group sex and brag about it by posting on the Internet.   Many more beyond the 100,000 read it as it provides if nothing else some vicarious thrills in a country that has yet to develop the 900 sex number.   But still, we are talking a small group of enthusiasts.   Not particularly threatening.  I would consider the group grope of twenty odd people in a two bedroom apartment more of a threat to the integrity of the carpet than to the burgeoning Chinese economy.

Other groups are considered far more threatening.    There are all sorts of radicals and terrorists groups who actually blow up things and don’t just brag about some sexual exploits on the Internet.    There are people trafficking in illegal everything, from counterfeit prescription drugs to counterfeit invoices.   There are myriad labor strikes and worker unrest, including violent demonstrations.   The citizens of the more rural provinces are restless and prtoesting the state appropriation of their lands.   This has resulted in massive riots.  In one riot recently, hundreds were killed in Sichuan Province.

There is airline corruption and all sorts of financial swindling.   Chinese law enforcement has been very busy as the nation pays the price of progress. Even the questionable menace of the Chinese Uighur population  would present more of a problem than a  couple bunches of swingers.   There are many millions of Chinese Uighurs, a Muslim group that is viewed by the Chinese Government as a radical faction and periodically subjects them to surveillance and harassment.   In Xinjiang Province alone, nearly half the population of 23 million are Chinese Uighurs.    I would venture very few Chinese Uighurs are swingers, but that is another story.  The fact is the swingers of China make up but a small but determined faction that you could probably fit into the Beijing Subway.  A chance at getting off at every station.

To be sure, I am not promoting swinging.  I am not promoting it in China or anywhere else.  In fact, mere photos of the swinging Internet set threatens to drive me to the monastery for contemplations of  semi-theistic metaphysics and far less carnal pursuits.  Watching the few happy partner swapping examples on the Jerry Springer Show made me seriously consider celibacy for the next millennium,.   Fortunately, reason took control of my senses.  I only took a shower, instead.   Here in America,  swingers can live large and lounge about in communal congress inside the often tacky but spacious environs of a split-level sub-tract with enough garage and driveway space for all those Toyota Camrys.     Meanwhile their kindred Chinese swingers must dangle their dongs in a measly two bedroom apartment.   Here you get to be on Jerry Springer or at least have your fat, naked ass plastered all over the Internet.   But in China you get a couple, few years in jail.

To loosely paraphrase Voltaire, I may not like swinging and partner swapping, but will defend to the death your right to engage in it, no matter how nauseating it may appear.   Alright, maybe I won’t defend it to the death, as I have better things to do than defend the randy rambling of a bunch of refugees from Wal-Mart looking for distraction in a down economy.    But at the very least,  I will give it lip service, even when I grimace and fumble with the shower faucets.  Why?

Because everybody should have the right to get laid.   It is a right, after all, and not a privilege.   Okay, so maybe sometimes it is less of a right and more of a privilege, a treat even,  a pathetically rare one, depending on the disposition and predilections of your spouse or lover.  I realize that sometimes your significant other does not find  either you or your entreaties as significant or otherwise as you might either hope for or come to expect.   So I guess like other debates over rights and privleges, there is at least a little wiggling room.  But once you do work it out with your lover or significant other you have the freedom to fire away, anytime, day or night.  Even if twenty two people are involved.

But as in China, there are some here and in parts of the world who don’t really see it that way.   They allude to some intelligent design and a divine plan where you must only do it with restrictions.   They ascribe the  damning words immoral and degenerate to a variety of sex practices that were apparently never detailed in the master plan.  Otherwise, I suppose, the master plan would have been just plain old porn and not some divine edict from the heavens explaining explicitly where Daddy and Mommy or Daddy and Daddy or Mommy and Mommy may put their thingies and Woo Woo’s.   In some cases they want to rearrange your thinking; they want to straighten you out.

Oppression always begins somewhere.   Usually in the stupid places, the places that make us wince.   But then they graduate to places where we are concerned where transgressions are made against our privacy and thought process.     We suddenly find our rights intruded upon and threatened by a group of ideologues who truly believe in this world of infinite choices they are so graced with absolute answers.   We find ourselves being subjected to embarrassment and thrown in jail for acting out on our natural impulses.  Oppression begins in the dumbest of places, and it ends somewhere else.   And we don’t know how we go there.

Chinese Professor Ma Yaohai has resigned from his teaching post.  He now lives off his savings and his mother’s pension.   He is appealing his sentence of three and a half years for “group licentiousness,” which translates into getting his rocks off with a couple dozen people.  As we have seen recently in this country, some of our own social issues that we thought were long put to rest, sexuality, racism, the right to live and breathe as you so choose, have resurfaced and been challenged by perhaps a well intentioned but vehement minority.  Given that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, we should never take the good professor’s condition all that lightly.  No matter who you are or where you sleep, something  may be lurking beneath the sheets.  Something besides your partner’s cold feet.