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Sex, Iraq, and pop culture

The war for our attention
By ELLEE DEAN  |  January 11, 2007


How many times a day do you think about sex? How many times a day do you think about the war in Iraq?

I asked a friend what she thought about the war in Iraq.

“It’s a mess,” she said.

When I asked how so, she said, “Well, Bush is stupid.”

Bush is stupid! That’s it?

So then we talked about sex.

What do I think about the war in Iraq? Well, between I’m From Rolling Stone, Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii (I’m still trying to beat Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on my Sega Game Gear), where did the time go? Think.

How many times a day do you think about sex? Every 52 seconds. Do 20- to 30-year-olds have more sex than 30- to 40-year-olds? Yes. Do drinkers have more sex than non-drinkers? Yes. Do extreme liberals have more sex than extreme conservatives? Probably.

In the 2006 Phoenix first-annual sex survey, when asked, “How often do you think about sex?” nearly 1000 readers responded “many times” throughout the day. And nearly 200 of you added bondage to your sexual repertoires last year. Asked, “What would be your fantasy place to have sex?” one reader responded, “In a public restroom. But the fact that it was a dirty public restroom would probably stop me.” Okay.

In his book My War, Killing Time in Iraq, soldier-blogger Colby Buzzell describes a 5 am wake “the fuck up” call — a female soldier was raped outside a “port-a-shitter.” How’s that for “in a public restroom?”

In Abu Ghraib prison, Lynndie Rana England, a US Army Reserve private, was photographed holding a leash attached to the neck of an Iraqi prisoner who had collapsed on the floor. How’s that for “adding bondage?” Around the time of the Abu Ghraib scandal, WorldNetDaily (WND) told us that at least 112 women in the military had reported being sexually assaulted by US service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. WND also broke the news that the Boston Globe had published fake photos — from a pornographic Web site called Sex and War — of US troops gang raping Iraqi women.

How many times a day do you think about sex?

On holidays, some troops eat rations; some drink alcohol-free Champagne or beer. Iraq is a dry zone. Colby Buzzell describes alcohol-free beer as being like “shitty, cheap beer.” And hangouts such as the Green Zone Café and the Green Zone Bazaar — where, Newsweek tells us, Iraqi kids once hawked pornographic DVDs to soldiers — have been lost to bombs in backpacks.

How many times a day do you think about the war?

Last week, Angelina Jolie topped the Yahoo popular-search list. Britney came in second — 179 days on the chart and counting.

The war in Iraq was not ranked.

The Phoenix’s article “The 100 Unsexiest Men in the World: Who Would Scarlett Least Like To Be With?” topped our “Top 20 of 2006” list,’s scorecard of the year’s most popular stories. The results of our sex survey came in third. “Code Yellow: Peeps Star in Porn, Snuff Films,” which is about online videos starring marshmallow Easter peeps, came in ninth. Aside from a Phoenix editorial about the Muslim-bashing Danish cartoons, in 19th place, articles on the Iraq War weren’t viewed enough to be ranked.

When asked by paparazzi to comment on the Britney Spears/Kevin Federline divorce, Justin Timberlake said, “Yeah, there’s a war going on in Iraq.”

Yeah, Justin. And what are you doing about it? (He’s probably doing something about it — I heart you, JT! — I just can’t think of what it is.)

The Web site estimates there have been more than 3000 US deaths in that “war going on in Iraq.” In 2005, President Bush, questioned during an address to the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, estimated “30,000, more or less” Iraqi casualties. In 2006, a study by the British medical journal the Lancet estimated there have been 654,965 Iraqi casualties. But the exact number, like the civilian body count during the Vietnam War, remains uncertain.

In a December 29 Portland Phoenix article on the state of the anti-war movement called “Does Peace Have a Chance?” staff writer Sara Donnelly notes the disparities between the Vietnam and Iraq War protests: “We don’t see people clogging the streets . . . as happened during the anti-Vietnam protests in the late 1960s,” she writes.

No, we do not.

Four weeks after the Democrats gained control of the US House, Donnelly counted “only four protesters at the weekly Bridges for Peace demonstration on the Casco Bay Bridge.”

Opposition to the Vietnam War, in part, took the form of “free love” — which I note first because it has to do with sex. (It’s been at least 52 seconds.) The Chicago Seven went to trial after police riots turned street protests ugly during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. In the 1960s, the peace symbol was a commonplace icon. Political radical Carl Oglesby, president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1965 and ’66, said, “It isn’t the rebels who cause the troubles of the world, it’s the troubles that cause the rebels.”

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Related: Iraq + surge = ???, Getting out, Candidates' stances on the war in Iraq, More more >
  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Britney Spears, Entertainment, The Museum of Modern Art,  More more >
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Sex, Iraq, and pop culture
i think about sex alot. i almost never think about the war. and i never think about sex when i do think about the war. does this mean the war is not sexy? anyways, good points. we should have a war against brittney spears. it seems like people understand the difference between wearing underwear and not wearing underwear. that's alot easier to understand than shiites and kurds and all that. what's the price of oil again???
By jJohnson on 01/10/2007 at 8:33:28
Sex, Iraq, and pop culture
I'm not convinced people were googling pictures of Britney's cootch because they thought, "damn, that's sexy." It was more peverse curiosity, like, just to see how bad it was- what exactly was showing. I looked it up because I didn't understand what kind of pose you'd have to be in, in relation to the camera to "accidentally" flash your privates at the world. I don't think "sex" when I think about Britney Spears. I think "train wreck I can't look away from." Also, AJ, I think we should have a war against people who don't spell "Britney" properly ;) And understanding the difference between Sunnis and Shiites is just as easy/difficult to understand as Protestants and Catholics. And don't tell me you didn't look at those pictures.
By Liz on 01/10/2007 at 9:09:19
Sex, Iraq, and pop culture
oh, and congrats, Ellee, on your first big piece! Well done!
By Liz on 01/10/2007 at 9:11:24
Sex, Iraq, and pop culture
In the 70's the draft engaged a generation. A volunteer force has left this generation with the option to "Ignore the War". Maybe that will be your mantra.
By muggsy on 01/11/2007 at 11:00:47
Sex, Iraq, and pop culture
PEACE is my mantra...found during the Halloween season (for those guised as hippies)I proudly wear a peace sign around my neck.
By reneeb on 01/12/2007 at 9:01:21
Sex, Iraq, and pop culture
Ms. Dean does a good job illustrating how pop culture, with its insipid focus on celebrity, is more important to most Americans than acting on their citizen responsibility to question our Presidents (Kennedy and Johnson also lied to us) about their motives for going to war. Americans need to quit rationalizing their Iraq ignorance and post 9-11 hate on "bad intelligence": Bush and his cronies lied to us and we bought it. It is again time for Americans to once again understand that ever since WW2, going to war and invading foreign countries is more about war profiteering, pleasing the weapons and aerospace industry, controlling natural resources in "hot spot" countries, and pure power politics. All one needs to look at is how the trial of Saddam Hussein never once addressed the fact that during the time of his atrocities, he was America's our # 1 ally in the Middle East and it was the British who gave him the gas he used on the Kurds. Where was the hanging noose for the Americans and Brits who were complicate in those same war crimes? Iraq is the same lie with a different bad guy (remember Noriega in Panama?). Americans have a choice: continue to be mindlessly obsessed with the marriage of Brad and Angelina or take responsibility for being responsible American citizens. Somehow, I doubt that they will choose the latter.
By RockyB on 01/14/2007 at 1:13:25
Sex, Iraq, and pop culture
Yes, Ms. Dean adroitly shows that we think more about sex than war, but doesn't that go without saying? Isn't that human nature? You can't simply state that young people think more about sex than war, condemn us, toss some reading material in our direction, and walk away satisfied. I have questions, but I'll start with just one. The first is why. Why do we think about sex more than war? I believe I am (relatively, yet inadequately) well-informed about the war. I believe Iraq has become an international disaster, but truth be told, I am much more concerned about my own sex life and whether or not Jim will stay with Karen or make another bid for Pam. And here's the thing - i don't think I should feel bad about that. I don't think it's inherently wrong to think more about sex than war. I think it's fine, actually. Sex, for the most part, is pleasant. War is not. So I devote 90% of my thoughts to sex, 9.9% to miscellany, and the other .1% to war. But when I'm in that .1%, I try to be concerned, thoughtful, and informed. That's the best I, or most of my peers, can do.
By AdamW on 01/16/2007 at 5:18:10
Sex, Iraq, and pop culture
This is a very good article-- though not sure of the importance between the connection between war and sex-- except the obvious. Still, I think the larger points are smart and on the money. History will obviously prove unkind to Bush for his presiding role in this debacle-- but it may prove even less kind to the American people, who through sheer apathy have allowed this to happen. We no longer seem to live in a democracy-- most Americans oppose the war. Still, look where we are. It's mostly our fault
By WPG on 01/18/2007 at 11:24:24
Sex, Iraq, and pop culture
The comparisons that Ms. Dean makes between sex, war, and pop culture, are interesting. I think that the order in which they are listed also makes sense. Sex should be the highest on the list. Make love not war right? If more people concentrated on their sex life maybe they wouldn't have to live vicariously through hollywood stars. They also might develop a focus other then the greed, power lust, and fear that creates the wars that may have a different name, but the same results. Of course if Americans started developing their own creativity and critical thought rather then relying on the laziness of being stimulated by trash journalism and mindless reality shows, we might see some changes as well.
By BT76 on 01/22/2007 at 10:45:18

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