American Booty

A funny thing happened in the Atlanta suburbs last week.

Well, maybe “funny” isn’t the right word. A woman in the affluent Johns Creek area was arrested for running a prostitution ring. It gets worse. One of the girls she pimped out was her stepdaughter. Within an hour of the story breaking, local message boards were filling up with comments saying that the women involved weren’t hurting anybody and that the police were persecuting people for “victimless” crimes. I won’t get into the argument about whether prostitution should be legalized or not, but I was intrigued by how many people rushed to this woman’s defense. I also wondered how sympathetic some of these same people would be if this bust has taken place in Bankhead instead of Johns Creek.

For those of you outside the Atlanta area, Johns Creek is one of the wealthiest suburbs in Atlanta, with an average household income of over $135K. Bankhead is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Atlanta, which you already know if you’re a fan of ATL hip-hop. In the collective psyche of the Suburban Atlantan mind and local TV news, Bankhead conjures up images of dreadlocked, gold-front wearing corner dealers holding AK’s and shooting at each other like rival militias in Beirut.

It is fascinating to me how forgiving of crime suburbanites can be when the criminals look like them. A prostitution raid eerily similar to this one happened a few years ago and prompted some of the same calls for leniency. In fact, one of the residents said that this sort of behavioiur “doesn’t happen here,” implying that it’s expected to occur in other parts of the city.

There’s an interesting dynamic going on there. It overlaps with the double standard and perceptions of white and black crime that the Twitter hashtag #crimingwhilewhite and the recent release of the Ferguson Report make clear. There is a definite double standard to how laws are enforced. White people, especially wealthy white people, are given the benefit of the doubt by police and the general public.

Back in 1996, PBS filmed a documentary about an underworld of unprotected group sex, drug use, and binge drinking among teen and preteen kids in Rockdale County, another affluent Atlanta suburb. When the documentary aired, there was the same disbelief and cries of “not my little angel” that most parents everywhere say when their kids get caught up in mischief. The problem occurs when local media and residents in the neighborhoods agree with that mentality and turn a blind eye to the delinquents on their block to condemn delinquents across town that they never see.

Whenever something happens in poor communities, the entire communty falls under a cloud, not just the parties involved. The usual cultural and racial indictments begin, the kids affected don’t receive the same level of empathy, and definitely not the same calls for therapy and treatmen. The only “remedy” they receive is jail time.
People are going to do dumb shit. That is almost the human default. But some people get to have their mistakes, and their deliberate actions excused while other people’s mistakes follow them for life.

You can find decent people in the poorest communities. You can find low-lifes in the wealthiest ones. Being born well off isn’t a guarantee you will be well raised but it will afford you infinite chances to get away with not being so.

Check, please

Recently I went on a couple of dinner dates with ladies I was interested in. One I had met casually, the other was our first meeting. I got dressed, we met, and we ate and talked, or at least tried to. Getting to know someone can be nerve-wracking and even more so if you’re constantly wondering if you have something in your teeth, and trying to avoid talking with your mouth full. It’s hard to just relax. Both dates ended well, but both times I wished we had done something else.

At the risk of upsetting some chefs and servers I know, I have to say I have never been a fan of dinner dates for first meetings. I have food at home. Why go to some place to buy food you half eat, to barely hear yourself talk, surrounded by people you don’t know? I prefer meeting over coffee or a drink, having a conversation, and seeing if we click and want to move on to the next step, whatever that step is. The whole dinner ritual seems so cliché to me. My guess is that it started in old courtship rituals that said a man looking to marry had to display his ability to provide sustenance for a bride and a family.

I should mention that I think cooking at home is a very intimate thing to share with a lover. Some of my favorite memories are of sharing a kitchen with a woman I am into and then us feeding each other in our own space. But those moments happened after we had known each other, and we didn’t get to know each other in crowded restaurants.

I’m part of the generation that embraced technology but wasn’t born immersed in it. And while I’ve been critical of it’s effect on face-to-face communication it has made it easier for connecting to happen. The last couple of relationships I was involved in started online. We met somewhere neutral, and things progressed. Getting dressed up to have a nice night out in a nice restaurant is a great way to spend an evening with your signifigant other, but I wouldn’t start a potential relationship with it. I just feel that there are more effective ways to get to know somebody. When it’s warm, Atlanta is an ideal city to have a drink somewhere chill, check out art galleries, or just walk in the park having a relaxed conversation.

While there are no set rules as to how people meet, I do think that a lot of dating rituals are outdated. If you want to hang out, just say so. If you want to get a drink, that’s ok. And If you want to hook up, you should be able to say so too. If you’re very fortunate, you can have all three and eat too.

Fifty Shades of Facepalm

My first encounter with 50 Shades of Grey was about a year ago; I was in Target, passing by the book section and I saw a copy sitting in a rack. I picked it up and skimmed through it. As I read, various sensations came over me: the first was amusement at the writing, but I kept reading, hoping it would get better. Next came disbelief because I couldn’t believe that someone had actually written this, said to themselves that it was good, and found a publisher to put it out. Finally, anger, as I began to lose faith in the American book buying public as I thought of all the talented writers toiling in obscurity while this thing was flying out of stores like free meth in a trailer park. At no time during my ordeal was arousal one of the sensations I felt.

Obviously, I’m not a fan. I pride myself on being able to get through difficult books to find something enlightening but I have to be honest and say that this was literally the worst book I have ever read in my life. I couldn’t get through more than 3 consecutive pages without cringing. However, the 50 Shades series has sold about 100 million copies and the film of the book is currently the #1 movie in America. What that says about the American moviegoing public I will not speculate on, but obviously it’s working for E. L. James so I can’t knock her hustle.

Erotica has of course always been around, but in America it’s always been a shadowy associate of so-called legitimate literature, flimsy paperbacks with cheap covers stocked in bookstore romance sections purchased rapidly and discarded just as fast. But 50 Shades has changed that. People are reading it in the open, discussing it in book clubs. The covers are so well known that there is no mistaking what you are reading. I just hope it doesn’t stop there.

There are excellent writers of erotic lit who have found success like French art critic Catherine Millet, who wrote a memoir that described her sexual adventures as a young woman in Paris in graphic, but elegant detail. There’s Zane, who has been writing erotica for almost 15 years now with much more believable scenarios and better skill, and the majority of her characters are men and women of color. E.L. James’ popularity may help readers to seek out different authors working in the same genre.

I guess that’s the redeeming quality 50 Shades has for me. Not in the book itself, but for what it represents. It opens the door for writers inspired by the sexual to have a chance for their voices to be heard. I look forward to reading them. All the way through, without cringing.

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