Does your right to puke make me sick?

Speaking of climates, my regular emailer Matt Barber is upset about San Francisco's (S&M oriented) Folsom Street fair, and he absolutely insists that I know about it.

Too late.

I already know about it. I lived in the Bay Area for nearly 30 years, and in San Francisco for 3 years. Not that the Folsom stuff is my thing, but it's there for people who are into it. Most people who aren't into things like S&M stay away from the Folsom Street Fair, but if you go there, you know what to expect. I had a little fun (always a bad thing, I guess...) photoshopping Che and Osama together at the event:


CHE: "72 virgins my ass!"

Shocking? I don't know. I'm not shocked. But by the way the Matt Barber CWFA people talk, I am immoral in not being shocked. All moral people should be shocked. Outraged, even.

But most importantly, they must do as Matt Barber advises, and go here to look at dirty pictures!

There's nothing new in the complaints about gay sex, but I'm fascinated by the argument that things like nudity and heterosexual S&M are somehow biblically condemned. I'm also intrigued by the claim that evoking da Vinci's Last Supper constitutes "blasphemy":

. In addition to the nudity and public sex acts, there were public whippings and spankings. Some were held at booths: the AIDS Emergency Fund was hawking charity spankings for $5 each -- and others apparently occurring spontaneously, if you can say that about an act of consensual, "erotic" violence. We witnessed one man whipping his "partner" on a sidewalk, the "whippee's" back becoming a brighter red with each round of punishment -- done out of love, we are told by the sadists.

The annual Folsom Street Fair takes place in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) San Francisco district. Speaking to a local "gay" newspaper through her spokesman, Pelosi refused to condemn the blasphemous Folsom 2007 promotional logo -- which mocked Da Vinci's "Last Supper" painting by substituting "leather" men and women for Christ and His disciples. Click HERE to view the blasphemous ad, which was reproduced on Folsom's stickers for paid attendees.

Let's start with the allegedly blasphemous image:


Clearly, it's evocative of the Last Supper, which is one of the most famous paintings of all time. To a Muslim, the Last Supper would be blasphemous in itself, and it might be to certain Christians who might believe it constitutes a graven image.

But is a take-off on a Renaissance painting blasphemy? Should Nancy Pelosi condemn it? I don't know. Did she condemn the Mohammad cartoons?

Perhaps that's not a fair comparison, because the Folsom supper does not represent anyone to be Jesus or his disciples. The black man in the center does not look at all like Jesus, there's no food on the table, the vaulted interior is completely different architecturally from the da Vinci interior, and there also appear to be three women. It's an S&M-oriented scene, with potential players sitting around in poses suggestive of a Renaissance painting.

I checked into the blasphemy statutes, and I don't think any prosecutor would have much of a case. Take Massachusetts, with the toughest blasphemy law in the country:

Section 36. Whoever willfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, His creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one
You have to expose to ridicule the holy word in the holy scriptures. If we assume that the Folsom image exposes the painting to ridicule (and does it do that?), is the ridicule of the painting the ridicule of the holy word? I don't see how, and my appreciation of da Vinci's Last Supper is not diminished in the least by that ad. I don't see how it would be. If the above constitutes blasphemy, then so does Monty Python's Life of Brian, and so do a lot of other things. (What's especially interesting about the blasphemy statute is that it would apparently criminalize creation denial.... Not that it's constitutional, but things don't have to be constitutional to be fascinating.)

Blasphemy subject touches on something else which has long fascinated and puzzles me. Crucifixion involved stripping the prisoner naked, which was part of the punishment. Yet depicting a naked Jesus on the cross would most likely be considered an act of blasphemy. Why? Because it's blasphemy? Or because people wouldn't like it?

I don't honestly know why. I do try to write about things that are not clear in the hope of making sense out of them, but it does not always work, and sometimes I stare at these posts and I'm more puzzled than I was before I started writing them.

But what fascinates and puzzles me me even more than the blasphemy charge is the recurrent complaint -- by the anti-homosexual web site -- about the presence of heterosexuals at the Folsom Street Fair:

And we witnessed many "master-slave" "couples," one leading the other around with a dog collar, of both the homosexual and heterosexual variety. The Folsom Street Fair began as an event mainly for homosexual sadomasochists, but it now attracts many straights, as evidenced by the thousands of women visible at this year's event.
There's also this:
Man leads bare-breasted female slave "partner" around by a dog collar. It appears that in recent years, heterosexual perverts have joined their "gay" brethren at the "fair" in increasing numbers. Talk about a setback for women's rights ... On the flip side, women were also seen leading around their male "slaves" at the twisted "fair" (see photo below).
Actually, I've heard complaints from gays that the thing has been so taken over by straights that it really shouldn't be called a gay event. But this is hardly the sort of complaint I ever expected to see coming from anti-gay activists.

So, while I'm puzzled by their concerns, I have to ask, why shouldn't "straight" people attend? (Hey, I put the word in quotes because like "gay" it's not clinical.) Seriously, there's nothing about S&M which is particularly homosexual in nature; if you're the kind of person who's turned on by spanking or whipping, that would seem to complement -- not dictate -- your partner preference.

I'm no theologian, but it seems to me that from a biblical perspective, it does not follow that a condemnation of "lying with a man as a woman" is a condemnation of spanking or whipping. There may be passages elsewhere in the Bible that could be interpreted as condemning spanking or whipping, but then again, there may not. If there were, then why would so many religious conservatives be in favor of spanking? Because it's not for pleasure? What's the rule, then? Is it "good" when it hurts, but "bad" when it feels good?

Anyone who can point to an explanation in the Bible, I'm all ears. I think what's going on is that the web site that links the pictures and the video is using them to boost traffic, while condemning what they're using. Have your spanking and condemn it too. Can I say "spare the rod and spoil it too" or would that be disrespectful?

Well, suppose we assume the whole thing is disrespectful in the extreme. Nauseating, even. I'm not turned on by it at all, and if someone wanted to whip me and put those dreadful nipple clamps on me, my feelings would be the antithesis of sexual. Not quite as bad as asking me to eat a turd, but headed in that general direction.

I suppose that some people have the extreme "yuck" reaction to S&M, whether gay or straight. But so what? Such reactions are a little like my reaction to the Zombietime photos taken at another San Francisco event.

I titled the post "I will defend to the death your right to make me vomit!"


And while I'll defend that right -- a right held by vomitees and vomitors alike -- till my last puke, not everything that makes other people want to vomit makes me want to vomit, and the Folsom Street Fair is one of those things. I guess if people want to go there and get sick, then they have every right to get sick, although I think it's silly to be annoyed at people who don't.

So to those like Matt Barber and company, I'd say, go ahead and puke! Why, there's even a First Amendment right to demand that I share the reflex.

But it's unreasonable to expect reciprocal feelings of reverse peristalsis from me.

Don't spank me for not puking, OK?

(I'm saving my barf bag for the election.)

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all!

Nothing further on Pelosi and the Last Supper, but I think it might make an interesting PhotoShop. (No disrespect to God or Leonardo intended.)

Comments always appreciated.

MORE: Regarding the comments, below, how might the Biblical passage appearing to forbid all violence in the home be applied to the spanking issue? And, while spanking typically isn't consensual in nature, why wouldn't consensual spanking be less of an offense?

What about consensual religious chastisement (i.e. the flagellants, which included many saints)?

Is there a Biblical reason why this behavior is saintly, while the same activities are unwholesome on Folsom?


posted by Eric on 12.06.07 at 11:45 AM


OK, here's a quick stab at it for what it's worth. See Malachi 2:16:

"I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

You could argue that this does not assume masochism. I don't know that that matters, because what it does show is that God hates violence in marriage as much as he hates divorce. Perhaps S&M is not "violent," but that argument would probably stretch the definitions to the breaking point.

I suspect that there are deeper psychological issues at play in S&M. It is a problem, it is not just yuk. At least in my opinion.

Amphipolis   ·  December 6, 2007 4:50 PM

I really like that poster. If they strip away all the ads and market it, I'll buy one. It's Dogs Playing Poker for the alternative crowd.

I can't help with the rest. I find the objections to the fair so boring and irrelevant that I can't even bring myself to read them. You have my condolences for having to sift through them for this essay.

tim maguire   ·  December 6, 2007 5:08 PM

Certain elements of the gay community in urban areas like the Bay Area have long mocked religious symbols, simply for the sake of malice. I think that is a fair intepretation of the poster, and it is fair for the Catholic League or other groups like the Concerned woMEN for America to complain, (in fact, I'm strongly sympathetic to such a complaint) though I'm not in favor of banning the poster.

"Shocking? I don't know. I'm not shocked. But by the way the Matt Barber CWFA people talk, I am immoral in not being shocked. All moral people should be shocked. Outraged, even.

But most importantly, they must do as Matt Barber advises, and go here to look at dirty pictures!"

Bingo. They really are clowns, aren't they?

Patrick Rothwell   ·  December 6, 2007 6:36 PM

I'm sick to death of both the outraged Christians and "outrageous" gays, whose iconography hasn't changed in almost forty years. There's no imagination or originality on either side. They'll all zombies going through the motions for the 9 trillionth time.

I'd much rather talk about pie.

Tom W.   ·  December 7, 2007 12:30 AM

"They're" all zombies, not "they'll."

Stupid stroke-paralyzed fingers...

Anonymous   ·  December 7, 2007 12:33 AM

@ Amphipolis - Really? Isn't that verse typically interpreted as referring to spousal abuse?

The scriptures are on the vague to silent side when it comes to sexual do's and don'ts within the context of marriage. If done in mutual love and respect, BDSM wouldn't seem to be a problem. The clincher here is usually something along the lines of Hebrews 13:4, "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." If you're not pimping or cheating, where's the harm?

Jon   ·  December 7, 2007 12:45 AM

Your confusion is due to the fact that you fundamentally misunderstand the source of Christian opposition to homosexuality. It is not due to blind adherence to authority, nor visceral distaste but due to the fact that homosexuality is considered a perversion, that is, against nature.
Everything created has a purpose, and if it is misused, that is an evil. This includes human beings and human sexuality.
So, Christians condemn everyone who goes to the fair, because it encourages perversion and ultimately harms the individuals and society.
Now, there is of course not enough room in a blog comment to defend this view, but I at least wanted to make you aware of the reasoning, supported by a philosophically rich tradition of Natural Law thinking.
If you want a biblical verse try Romans 1. The passage condemns homosexuality as unnatural but in more general terms. It is wrong because the natural use of men and women is inverted. In short, it is a perversion.
The rule is according to perfected nature (or directed toward reason) = good. Funny that Christianity is the final defender of objective truth and reason, while being reviled for being unreasonable.

Zach   ·  December 7, 2007 12:48 AM

I guess the lesson here is that many Libertarians and neocons enjoy and defend the mocking of Christians and their faith.

Mike   ·  December 7, 2007 3:38 AM

You have BLASPHEMY laws in the US? Seriously? Are you kidding me? Surely that's unconstitutional?

michael from New Zealand   ·  December 7, 2007 3:51 AM


Enjoyment is irrelevant.

Defense is vital.

blake   ·  December 7, 2007 5:25 AM

"But most importantly, they must do as Matt Barber advises, and go here to look at dirty pictures!"

Oh, drop the predictable "Tee-hee, they're secretly gay" bullshit. If an animal rights group had a link to seals being skinned alive, you wouldn't assume they got off on that. It's called being informed as opposed to just saying, "well, I heard that blah blah..."

Anonymous   ·  December 7, 2007 7:39 AM

There is a difference between harmless sex play and violent abuse. Sometimes people die doing S&M.

The connection with spousal abuse is interesting - why doesn't the abused spouse leave? How is that different from extreme S&M? My comment stands.

I hope we can all agree that if something feels good that does not necessarily make it right. And I think there is a serious problem with those who are so narcissistic that they would risk their lives for a stronger orgasm.

Amphipolis   ·  December 7, 2007 8:28 AM

Here's a question. Do you think that the Last Supper image was chosen because it is a great peice of Renaissance art or because it is a famous depiction of an event that certain people regard as holy and the promoters of the fair wanted to show how little they regard that group of people?

They certainly have a right to do this, and Christians and others have a right to be offended by it, and complain about it. As long as violence isn't involved, free speech has to be held supreme, but pretending that this is some sort of art criticism, when it is clearly designed to cause offense seems a pretty trivial analysis to me.

Dave Justus   ·  December 7, 2007 8:52 AM

michael from New Zealand— we have federal laws against interference in religious affairs, but some of the states had and still have religious laws on the books. The 10th Amendment to our Constitution allows for this— all powers not given to the federal government are explicitly given to the states, though there's a lot of pressure when the Feds want things a particular way. (See how highway funds are tied to the legal drinking age of 21.)

Given that the Massachusetts law involves the word "contumeliously" I would not expect it to be of recent origin, and I wouldn't know the last time it was enforced.

B. Durbin   ·  December 7, 2007 8:55 AM

If they were really going for a "dogs playing poker" version of daVinci's The Last Supper, then they would have had the models pose in the same way as the people in the painting; at the very least there would be only one person (ie Judas) with his back completely turned to the person in the center.

Ed Minchau   ·  December 7, 2007 9:36 AM

Anyone who can point to an explanation in the Bible, I'm all ears.

I hope I have done that, at lest somewhat. Violence within marriage is condemned on equal terms with divorce. And this has nothing to do with consent, as with prostitution and adultery. According to the Bible it is just plain wrong. Note – I am assuming a definition of violence as physical force exerted for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing. Hebrew scholars are free to correct me. I doubt rough sex play would qualify.

The link with spanking children is spurious. There is a significant difference between sex and childrearing. Besides, I would contend that systematic and prearranged corporal punishment would not fit the definition of violence either, at least not any more than other forms of discipline that inflict emotional pain. But that's another subject.

There are a lot of things people like to do that are nonetheless wrong, or perhaps disturbed. I think trying to derive pleasure from causing pain or from being abused would be among them.

Amphipolis   ·  December 7, 2007 10:25 AM

I think Christians have a right to object to an image of a sacred event being used to promote a deviant sex act. The image was likely created to bring about this very response. We could turn the tables and claim the image was made to memorialize the great homoeroticist Jeffrey Dahmer whose pioneering work made S&M into a gay sacrament, but that would return offence for offence. Oops, I just did it.

You will see no rioting Christians demanding that heads literally roll. But we do reserve the right to take an offence at face value.

Amphipolis   ·  December 7, 2007 10:59 AM

Well, I realize it's not really addresses in this post or in the comments, but I at least was somewhat troubled by the reports (and photos posted by ?) showing actual explicit sex acts occuring in public. Unless this area was roped off, you had to be 18 to enter, and there was no way for local residents or passerby to 'inadvertently' see such acts (which I do not believe was the case), then I think that would be a bit of a problem. That's my $.02 anyway.

T.Paine   ·  December 7, 2007 12:34 PM

Well, it think it all has to do with the Bay Area's mild climate. Here on the East Coast (with the temperature now at 23 degrees) we don't have a lot of nude and scantily-clothed people walking around.

ShoreTower   ·  December 7, 2007 12:47 PM

OK, I just saw your update. The passage is within the specific context of marriage. My comments above should suffice on the subject of spanking. Even so I have no problem with saying that violence as I have described it should not take place in the home, since I believe that corporal punishment correctly given is not violent. I could elaborate, but honestly I think the connection is just a silly red herring.

Speaking of red herrings - your reference to the flagellants is akin to my reference to Dahmer. No, it is not saintly, and I would challenge you to provide Biblical justification for that behavior. Meanwhile I could keep looking for S&M related crimes and we could go around and around.

The silent assumption is that any and all sexual activity is good. I dispute that assumption.

Amphipolis   ·  December 7, 2007 1:55 PM

Well, rather any and all CONSENTUAL sexual activity.

Amphipolis   ·  December 7, 2007 1:58 PM

What I'm amused by is how folks "boldly" go out of their way to be "offensive" to Christianity.

Mocking the last supper? Yawn.

I'll consider granting them boldness when they do a S&M parody of the Prophet & his harem, or something...

anonthu   ·  December 7, 2007 1:58 PM

"I think Christians have a right to object to an image of a sacred event being used to promote a deviant sex act. "

And Eric knows that. He relishes it. The purpose of his post and Glenn's linking to it is to express their utter disdain for Christians and their feelings.

You don't think Eric reduced the issue to "a take-off on a Renaissance painting" because he is stupid, do you? Do you think he would consider a photo-shopped Dachau image showing naked Jewish women running in circles, but holding dildoes, to be a "take off on black and white WW II era photos"??

No, of course not. What human being could consider something so deliberately offensive to be anything but nauseating. And that is the point.

Mike   ·  December 7, 2007 3:48 PM

I love it when people ask a question without expecting an answer.

This is not hypothetical. The distinction I am making is between sex play and consensual abuse. It is a deadly serious issue, at least to those who have not allowed their need for more excitement to trump all other considerations.

Amphipolis   ·  December 7, 2007 4:25 PM

Thanks Dave - I just couldn't see how it would stack up against your First Amendment free speech rights - I assume these apply to the states too so would trump any attempts to use such laws today? And, as you note, the language given in the quote suggests something from the 1800s or whenever, so probably nobody's tried to use it lately even if it's still on the books.

PS - nice blog! Got here via Instapundit.

michael from NZ   ·  December 7, 2007 9:02 PM

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