VICE feed for https://www.vice.comenFri, 16 Nov 2018 22:11:44 +0000<![CDATA[There Are No Good Guys in ‘Narcos: Mexico’]]>, 16 Nov 2018 22:11:44 +0000Narcos show runner and executive producer Eric Newman first had the idea for the series in the mid-90s. He heard a story about Columbia's deadly Cali Cartel and it blew his mind. He started researching the group, thought it would make a great movie, and kept it in his back pocket while searching for the right partner to bring his vision to the screen. Enter Netflix.

In a meeting with the streaming giant years after the Cartel caught his eye and kept his interest, they asked Newman if he had something that could work in Latin America. He did, something he’d been holding onto forever. His Narcos movie idea turned into a TV show—something the producer for the silver screen never thought he'd make. That show was a smash now in its fourth season, this time moving on from the Cali Cartel in Columbia to Mexico's Guadalajara Cartel for Narcos: Mexico, which premieres on November 16. This season follows the intertwining stories of DEA Agent Kiki Camarena (Michael Peña) and Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo aka El Padrino (Diego Luna), the godfather of the Mexican drug cartels.

VICE talked to Newman by phone to find out how the drug war didn’t really start until Camarena was murdered, why El Padrino was a man caught between a rock and a hard place, and how the Guadalajara Cartel spawned drug lord legends like Rafael Caro Quintero, the Arellano Félix brothers, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo aka Don Neto, and Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Here’s what he had to say.

VICE: Why did you decide to focus Narcos Mexico on Kiki Camarena, the DEA agent who was killed in Mexico in 1985?
Eric Newman: This season is very much about the collision of these two guys, Felix Gallardo who's the leader and founder of Guadalajara cartel and Kiki Camarena, the DEA agent based in Guadalajara who's kinda on to him. It was very much the kind of inciting incident where everybody woke up and realized they were in a drug war. It’s impossible to tell the story of Mexican drug trafficking without telling that story. I don't think either of them realized what they were getting into and how big this was gonna get. It's a sort of a fascinating place to start and I think it worked out really well.

The new series shows how at first the U.S. government wasn't even that interested in what was going on in Mexico until Kiki was killed. Would you say Kiki’s murder was the start of the war on drugs as we know it today?
It was definitely the moment where we realized we were in a war. It was a huge wake-up call. What happens when a cop gets killed in America is different than what happens down there. Cops get killed all the time in Mexico and Columbia by the scores. But for Americans, who thought they were invulnerable, like they couldn't be touched it was like “No, no, no.” It’s much bigger and much more out of control then we thought. And so, that moment for both sides is the beginning of what we have now, where half a million people have died.

El Padrino is seen as the Godfather of the Mexican drug cartels, but in the series, watching the portrayal, it seems like a lot of times he's a man between a rock and hard place. Can you explain that characterization?
Look, I don't believe that the world is full of good guys and bad guys. I tend to believe that it's full of bad guys and very bad guys. And I think that you can humanize almost anyone. I like to think that everybody is either the hero or the victim in their own story. They're never the villain. Nobody says “Fuck, I'm the bad guy” and I think that the same is true of narco traffickers. They have a justification for what they do. It might not be a sufficient excuse, but if you're listening, it's enough of an explanation as to how they found themselves in this position. One thing you cannot discount in this story is the role that America plays as the largest market for cocaine in the world.

The role that the Mexican government and law enforcement play in letting this go as far they did [is also important.] This is not a guy who introduced political and police corruption to Mexico. He didn't invent that. He just saw an opportunity and exploited it. He’s a man who’s done a lot of evil, but he's not a monster. He’s a guy in a bad spot. These guys are one step ahead of the ax. I think you can find humanity in anyone and I think it's very important to us, on our show, that we continue to bring it out of these people because otherwise you're just watching a cartoon character.

At the end of season three it kinda looked like the next season would feature the Lord of the Skies. So what happened? Is that storyline still gonna be explored? Because you went back in history further with El Padrino.
When I looked at it I was thinking 'OK, we can definitely just pick it up with Amado Carrillo Fuentes because he's one of the most significant traffickers in history.' Maybe the most significant in some ways, but I kinda thought, if you really wanna understand this you gotta go back and start over and start at the beginning where all these guys were. Becasue they were all under the same umbrella, El Señor de Los Cielos, Chapo Guzman, Ismael Zambada, and Hector Palma. These guys were household names down [in Mexico.] Some of them were even household names in the [US] like Chapo. But, they all started working for this guy.

The Guadalajara cartel had many drug lord legends besides El Padrino like you said. What role did Rafael Caro Quintero and Don Neto play in the organization and in the story?
In the organization and the story Rafa Quintero is believed to have invented sinsemilla. He was a genius. A different kind of genius than Gallardo. He was a grower and he was younger and maybe more impulsive. He was sort of brilliant, at least the cultivation genius. Fonseca Carrillo was an old-school trafficker [with] deep roots. Felix Gallardo was not born into trafficking. He’d been a policeman who became a trafficker. Fonseca Carillo had been a trafficker. He was an O.G. He’d been in from the beginning and had a certain level of credibility that Gallardo didn't have on his own. At the time, before they got into cocaine, Rafa Quintero had the product. He actually figured out how to grow it and that was a game-changer. By the way, this was all before cocaine. Cocaine hadn’t happened yet. And Rafa Quintero is now back in the game in a big way. He's one of the leaders of the Sinaloa cartel. He is full on.

El Chapo got his start in the Guadalajara Cartel too. How important was it for the show to portray him as an up-and-comer in the series and is it all a set-up for his story going into the next season?
It certainly gives us some options. The first goal was very much to tell the story of how interconnected all these guys are and what the significance of this organization was, in that, if it weren't for them none of these other guys would exist. Chapo wouldn't exist. El Señor de Los Cielos wouldn't exist. None of them would exist without these guys, without the Guadalajara Cartel. It's a fun beat when you meet Chapo. It's pretty cool. It's like 'Oh shit, that's Chapo.' You don't know who he is until he says his name and so that's kinda fun. I think there is definitely a lot of different ways we can go if we were to continue the series.

Narcos: Mexico really pulls back the veil on the corruption in Mexico and how high it goes. Why do you think the drug cartels and political corruption go hand in hand in Mexico?
I think that there are very complicated situations that America has to take a lot of responsibility for. It depends on how generous you're being when you look at the American role in Latin America, but it's been pretty horrible, objectively. In terms of the people we've chosen to support. We've done some really brutal economic things that have hurt these countries financially. We don't cast judgment on anyone really. Everybody's responsible for this disaster. There are no good guys and bad guys. It's bad guys and really bad guys. I think that our obligation, though we're not a documentary film, is to achieve as much objectivity as we can.

Corruption has always existed in Mexico, in terms of the police. They look the other way and protect their partners. Years of political corruption and a rich smuggling tradition [found the] perfect product, which was cocaine. It was pound for pound, maybe the most lucrative substance that's ever existed. It's worth its weight in gold many times over. I think all of those things conspired to create this kinda unholy alliance and if America was your neighbor and they had an insatiable demand for cocaine, why wouldn't you do everything you could to sell it to them?

Your film career started on Wayne's World way back in 1992. What do you think is the most important thing you've learned about the industry?
There’ve been so many changes in the business since I got into it. I thought that I was going to be a movie producer my whole life and I did fine. I made some cool movies and I did alright, but the best thing that's ever happened to me, is my move into television with Narcos. That never would've happened if the business hadn't changed around me. What I think I've learned and what I’d recommend to anyone is make shit that you wanna see. You're not gonna be good at making shit that other people wanna see. You're certainly not gonna enjoy it. The best thing we can do is make the stuff that we’d want to see. I’m one of the biggest fans of our show, because it's made for me. It's exactly what I'm into. The fact that I still get to do that [makes me] go to work every day feeling pretty lucky.

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<![CDATA[When Does BDSM Become Abuse?]]>, 16 Nov 2018 22:03:08 +0000In Instagram photos, Dylan Hafertepen, a master to five adult slaves, appears cartoonishly large, like a Tom of Finland sketch come to life. In one of his most iconic shots (since deleted from the gram) Dylan gives a military salute to the camera as his pups Chuck, Angus, Daniel, Biff and Tank pose around him. Some are wearing skin-tight jockstraps that barely contain their inflated ball sacks. Tank, whose given name was Jack Chapman, sits on Dylan’s right side, wearing a red bandana, with a padlocked chain around his neck. He’s beaming.

To casual followers of Dylan’s account, known as “Noodles and Beef,” his relationship with his pups seemed to be kinky and playful. It wasn’t uncommon for fans (the account had over 60 thousand followers) to write Dylan, begging him to adopt them as their master, too.

Dylan announced new additions to the family with theatrical flair. First, pups would earn training collars, then they’d be emblazoned with a tattoo above their butt cheeks, known as “Master’s brand.” He heralded the addition of Angus by writing in his newsletter: “He is mine. The news brought him to tears.” Angus responded floridly in the same newsletter, “I had been lost and confused before, unaware I was always yours, oblivious to my reason to exist.”

Dylan’s pups had social media lives of their own, as well—which their master couldn’t always control. On Tumblr, Jack wrote long, anguished apologies to Dylan for not being the perfect pup. “Let’s get a few things established,” he wrote. “I am shit. I am a shit person. I do horrible and inexcusable things. I am dishonest. I am deceitful. I am a coward. I am stupid. I hurt my master.” His offense? Jumping into a hot tub with a friend.

Jack’s social media posts came to the attention of a broad audience on Tumblr when he died on October 15th “due to a previously undiagnosed lung ailment.” That “ailment” was later revealed to have been caused by bits of silicone from a scrotal injection that had traveled to his lungs. (Dylan’s entire pup family were known to inject silicone in order to increase the size of their packages.)

After his death, a contract that described Jack’s relationship with Dylan, originally posted on Jack’s Tumblr, was circulated online, describing a relationship in which Jack’s psyche, bank account, body and social life were under the complete control of his master. The contract even stipulated how big Jack’s body should be, saying that ”a pup will submit all orders for body modifications, including piercings, tattoos and scrotal saline inflation…in accordance to the wishes of master.”

Dylan recently told BuzzFeed News that this contract was a piece of “a piece of erotic fiction written by Tank, featuring some of his submissive fantasies.” Still, it raised questions about what a loving, healthy BDSM relationship looks like and how observers could distinguish actual abuse from the simulated kind.

Relationships between full-time, 24/7 masters and slaves haven’t been extensively studied in academia, with one exception. Back in 2006, researchers at the University of Ottawa and the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality surveyed 146 masters and slaves to understand how they negotiated power, role-playing, household chores and even money. The researchers wondered: how could slaves consent when they had given up all rights to participate in decision-making in the relationship? And were people happy as slaves, long term?

Some of the results were intriguing, if a bit mundane: the researchers found that male slaves were more likely to take out the garbage than female slaves, for example. Other findings were more illuminating: around three-quarters of slaves had engaged in behavior that seemed “inconceivable” at the start of their relationship, suggesting that “limit-pushing” was common.

They also noted that many slaves felt satisfied in their current relationships and were free to leave. Financial independence was the norm, not the exception: only three respondents had no access to a bank account in their own names.

Nonetheless, the researchers noted that abuse could easily masquerade as BDSM. “Some spousal abusers could use such arrangements to legitimize or otherwise find support for their abusive inclinations or intentions,” the article read. Slaves on the prowl for new masters, they noted, were “keenly aware” of this danger.

Ellen Lee, an instructor of psychology at Ripon College, spent the last seven years studying the master slave community as part of “The Science of BDSM” research team based at Northern Illinois University. While she says contracts are common, they’re usually meant as a safeguard for all parties involved—and not as a carte-blanche method for masters to take full control over every facet of their slaves’ lives.

“The goal is to iron out what people want and what they don’t want,” she says. “They’re used for people to think very carefully and thoroughly about the boundaries of their relationships.”

Worryingly, in Jack’s supposed contract with Dylan, his salary was meant to be “relinquished to his Master,” who was supposed to ensure it would be securely saved. “I can tell you that with abusive relationships, one of the hallmarks is limiting access to financial resources,” says Lee. “Without money, they can’t leave. That’s not consent, that’s coercion.”

Another part of Dylan’s contract allegedly stipulated that a pup’s social life must revolve around his master and that he should find contact with other people “pointless, unfruitful and unfulfilling.” This also seemed extreme to Lee. “Social and emotional isolation is another hallmark of abuse,” she said.

In a healthy BDSM relationship, the submissive partner must have their needs met. The needs of the bottom come first, followed by the needs and wants of the person in authority, and, finally, the wants of the submissive partner. “If the person who’s submissive isn’t having their needs met, the relationship can’t get off the ground,” she says.

Of course, two consenting adults can engage in any kind of dynamic they’d like—and master slave contracts are legally-dubious, having never been tried in U.S. court. Lee isn’t comfortable speculating about what kind of relationship Tank and Dylan had, but she says that the BDSM community could be a place for people to hide abuse. “And that’s why, largely, people in the community try to talk about safeguards, best practices and making sure others are aware that it’s inherently risky playing with these power extremes.”

“We know assault and abuse happen in the kink community,” she says. “But I’d like to think they’re doing it better.”

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<![CDATA[The Final '2 Dope Queens' Podcast Was a Perfect Interview with Michelle Obama]]>, 16 Nov 2018 21:56:03 +0000Dope queens Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams surprised fans on Wednesday with two announcements: that their popular WNYC podcast 2 Dope Queens is ending, and that their final episode is an interview with Michelle Obama. There couldn’t have been a more epic final guest, as the two have been vocal with their love for the former First Lady throughout the show’s three-year run. And it turns out she’s been admiring them back! Obama reached out to them ahead of the release of her book, Becoming, and Robinson was surprised to find her own book, Everything Is Trash, on the shelf in Obama’s Washington, DC, office.

In classic dope queen style, the two open the interview telling Obama that Phoebe is wearing her finest wig (her “Chaka Khan”) and Jessica has brushed her edges for the momentous occasion. Obama is in her best form as well, using humor to inspire and bond with the queens. Managing her hair in the White House was actually a topic in her book, and she jokes, “People don't understand, it's like, getting your hair done every day will mess with your hair. […] My whole goal was [...] I want to leave here with the hair I came with.” She points out that she tried “a little bit of everything: braids, weaves, wigs extensions,” but adds on a more serious note, “This wasn't just a First Lady journey. This is a black professional women's journey.”

Much like Obama, 2 Dope Queens has had the same mission to help women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community find their voice. This is something Obama acknowledges, paying respect to Robinson and Williams. “To be funny means you have to be smart. There's something that was in you from the time you were four or three. If you talk to your parents they could see that in you,” she says.

When explaining the root of her desire to create the non-profit organization Global Girls Alliance, Obama admits she and her siblings were never raised to think they were special. “My mother was like, ‘No, there are a lot of other kids who were as smart as you.’ But the difference between success and failure when you're a woman, when you're a minority, is really slim,” she says. “And, if you get the wrong message it sits with you the wrong way.”

This is something Obama dealt with as a major black figure in America who had to navigate the respectability that comes with being First Lady, the politics and racism that came with being a black woman in that space, and being her regular self. Robinson and Williams understand this as black women who paved a way for themselves by talking openly, with humor, and sharing details of their lives that are not always deemed respectable. All three have found the space to honor themselves and women like them while sharing their wisdom and having fun.

This contrast made for a really striking moment when Williams asked if Obama feels like she can express more of her anger now that she’s out of office. “You know in all truthfulness, no,” Obama says. “I think that labels and stereotypes stick if you've grown up sort of thinking ‘watch your mouth, be careful.’”

“If you're a woman and you're too angry, people stop hearing the point,” she says, adding “And I'd love to be able to get in and emotionally, psychologically change that. But the truth is that people will hear things differently from me.”

Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams with former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams with former First Lady Michelle Obama. Photo by Chuck Kennedy

It makes sense considering this is the woman who coined the slogan “When they go low we go high.” To that point, Obama explained, “I had to learn how to separate my anger from the point, from the goal. And that is what I try to mentor young people to do. It's like have the feeling, don't deny the feeling exists ... But if I'm trying to move an issue, if my anger doesn't work to move the issue, then it's not helpful. And that's what ‘going high’ means. ... It's just like, what's your goal? And usually your goal isn't to just be angry.”

The queens also put Obama through their rapid fire questions round, where she joked she didn’t have to choose between a Beyonce concert and lunch with Oprah because she could actually do both. That’s the exact definition of goals.

Obama treated the queens and listeners to a passage from Becoming, sharing this bit of sage advice:

For me, becoming isn't about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving. A way to reach continuously toward a better self...Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor. Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there is more growing to be done.

From the offset of her entry into our cultural lexicon, Obama has exemplified her own definition of becoming. And so have Williams and Robinson. This interview became a space to celebrate all of their achievements, and to look back at what they themselves have become.

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<![CDATA[How to Treat a Bartender, According to Bartenders]]>, 16 Nov 2018 21:33:40 +0000There are lots of easy ways to piss off a bartender, from hollering out your order to leaving a bad tip. So to help you avoid ending up on somebody's bad side next time you go out drinking, we had a handful of bartenders tell us how they like to be treated—along with what makes them want to 86 somebody for life.

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<![CDATA[The Midterms Weren't Actually That Broken, Observers Say]]>, 16 Nov 2018 20:45:30 +0000Anyone following the news during the recent midterms likely got a dim view of the quality of the nation’s elections. Media outlets catalogued story after story of people confused about where to vote because of misinformation campaigns, but because some poll locations changed late in the game. In some places, officials offered misleading or confusing info about what people needed in order to vote, or how to vote via mail-in ballot. In other places, confrontations broke out between poll workers and voters. A number of polling sites opened late or suffered backlogs and lines so long that some people just went home. These logjams were either caused by issues with the facilities, the number of voting machines or ballots available, machine glitches and failures, a lack of resources for non-English speakers, or, in some locales, gun and chemical weapons scares. A few reports even trickled in of machines changing votes or failing to tally them, and of active voter intimidation near polls. Even now, with some races yet to be called, stories continue to come in about how bad ballot design, voting machine flaws, or the mishandling of ballots could have influenced those elections.

The integrity of American elections has come under heavy scrutiny in the last few years. Accusations of fraud (mostly on the Republican side) and voter suppression (on the Democratic side) have been leveled throughout the electoral process. Many states have laws on the books seemingly meant to limit voter turnout, especially among minority and marginalized groups. US elections also remain under threat of foreign meddling. Election Day stories of chaos at polling stations can give the impression that, in addition to pre-election suppression problems, the US is incapable of holding fair and functional elections on a purely logistical level.

But though voter disenfranchisement and the need for better cybersecurity are real problems, election observers and experts largely seem to agree that, despite a few snafus, these elections were competently and fairly run. Granted, observers are not yet done picking through reports to make their final verdicts. But American elections are so complex that issues like these always occur, can often be corrected, and likely rarely (if ever) bias election outcomes. The difference this year, experts said, was that in the currently charged American political climate, some people may have fixated on stories of fuckups and flaws.

It is almost pointless to talk about America’s ability to run elections as a nation, as the country as a whole has very little to do with the way people vote. Sure, we have a few federal standards. But as Nat Parry, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, one of the international bodies that monitors American elections, pointed out in an interview, “One of the most striking characteristics of the US electoral system is its highly decentralized nature.” Each state decides how it will administer its elections, and delegates many responsibilities to around 10,500 local jurisdictions. This means each state or jurisdiction has its own standards for buying and operating voting machines or other materials and running polling sites. Conditions at each of the nation’s more than 170,000 polling stations can vary wildly as well. As R. Michael Alvarez, co-director of the Voting Technology Project, a joint initiative of the California and Massachusetts institutes of technology, pointed out, given this degree of complexity and the scale of our elections, “there are going to be problems.”

But Alvarez also noted that one thing that holds constant across many of America’s electoral systems is that they are underfunded. This means that some polling officials might be underpaid and lack adequate supervision or training. It also helps explain why the vast majority of states use voting machines that are over a decade old, which leads to bugs like vote-flipping or crashes.

Because of this, said Alvarez, “things like long lines or bad ballot design or taking a long time for votes to be tallied are all very common aspects of American election administration.” This is nothing new, he added—the country has been dealing with these problems, or similar ones, since its birth.

Charles Stewart III, another member of the Voting Technology Project who conducts surveys after most elections on the issues people encountered when they voted, said in an interview that usually only 1 or 2 percent of voters report issues at their voting sites. And most of the time, these issues are eventually resolved. Jurisdictions bring in extra ballots or voting machines, redirect people to other polling stations if one has to close, and extend voting hours in the face of long delays. Authorities respond to reports of misinformation or intimidation. But some problems aren’t resolved, and occasionally flaws do cost people their votes. The trick in any election, said Stewart, is determining how much more prevalent or unresolved standard issues were, and at what point they reached levels where they may have biased the results of an election.

It is possible that, thanks to historic voter turnout for a midterm election, which some poll sites failed to adequately predict, voting infrastructure may have been particularly overtaxed, and so we may have seen more glitches than usual. It is also possible that misinformation or intimidation could have been especially bad. Stewart noted that it’s actually hard to get a read on these issues, as no one really even keeps data on things like machine failures. It could take weeks for researchers to figure out even more easily traceable issues, like if poor ballot design in Florida’s Broward County could have led some people to skip over the Senate section, a particularly costly snafu given how close that race remains. However, the Department of Homeland Security believes, based on current reports, that polling site machine errors at least were at about normal levels this year. Stewart likewise said he hasn’t seen anything to date that would lead him to believe that polling site problems were uniquely prevalent or severe this year. Alvarez stressed that even with all the negative stories in the press, these elections were still much better run than the 2000 presidential contest, which turned many people on to monitoring polling site and ballot issues in the first place.

We may just be focusing in on stories of voting snags because, as Stewart put it, “the electorate seemed to be on a hair trigger this year with respect to problems… and had a tendency to call some of these problems ‘vote suppression.’” This seems to speak to how concerned people are with the idea that partisan politicians might warp the very process of voting. But, as Stewart noted, people do seem to be using the term “vote suppression” rather wantonly now. Social media, added Alvarez, allows stories about election issues and people’s anxious takes on them to disseminate more rapidly than ever, which may feed and magnify concerns.

When it comes to issues with how election officials handle and count ballots once voting is done, America’s system invites glitches. Not only do we have outdated machines and perhaps overworked and underpaid staffers to deal with them, but, Stewart pointed out, we do more than most nations to make sure everyone can vote. “Many countries don’t allow absentee voting” or provisional voting for people whose eligibility is uncertain on Election Day, he said. “We do a lot to make sure that special cases that are not considered in other countries are taken into account,” he added. Which is good from the standpoint of representative democracy, but does add administrative complexity to our elections that takes time to work through and, in isolated incidents, can lead to minor muck ups in the vote tabulation and certification process.

Again, none of the experts I spoke to for this piece believe there is any indication as of yet that vote handling or counting issues were more pronounced this year than any other year. Sure, Florida’s Broward County is in the news for sloppiness. But as Stewart noted, that area “has a history of little screw-ups and inattention to detail—and that is a problem.” Broward County is just in the spotlight this year because of razor-thin margins in races of national import in Florida, for which even minor glitches matter.

But as with polling site problems, most US electoral systems have methods to remedy issues with vote tabulation, like audits or recounts. (The OSCE’s Parry does note that 15 states use voting machines that do not leave a paper trail to facilitate these checks, with five states relying exclusively on such machines.) In Florida’s case, Alvarez said, there are robust recount procedures in place to catch and rectify issues like this—procedures that were not in place during the contentious 2000 presidential recount. The fact that people are anxious about the quality of vote handling in Florida, in other words, is paradoxical proof that this segment of the American electoral system is healthy enough to spot and rectify its own errors.

To be clear, the American electoral system is far from perfect. It could be better funded; certain jurisdictions could do with new leadership or tactics. International observers like the OSCE also regularly chide the US for state and local policies that functionally disenfranchise millions, especially marginalized groups. They increasingly criticize the vitriol of our political rhetoric, the politicization of our voting district drawing process, and the lack of transparency in our political ads and finance systems. This year, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who came under fire for presiding over purges of voter rolls that critics say targeted Democratic voters, among other individuals, put a spotlight on our lack of laws against political candidates running their own elections. Our democracy is hardly a beacon for the world. But when it comes to the process of operating an election, at the nuts-and-bolts level, most experts give us decent marks, noting that every electoral system has its own unique snags and shortcomings.

It should also be stressed that it is still too early to say definitively that this election was not more flawed than others. The OSCE is still weeks out from preparing its final report—which, Parry cautioned, will not, as a matter of standard practice, compare this election to past US elections, or to other nations, nor declare them good or bad, but will offer a stark assessment of practices. And any report on the midterms will be incomplete, as the data and monitoring just doesn’t exist to grab a full snapshot of an American election. The OSCE could only send teams to about 350 polling sites, and local laws actually prevent it from observing elections in a number of states, some of them hotly contested. So while they did not, as Parry said, find any instances of voter intimidation, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen—or even that it didn’t happen at historic levels.

But given what we know at this point, it seems like this election was likely just as good (or rather, as flawed) as the average American election. There is nothing wrong, the experts I spoke to stressed, with people being critical of the way electoral systems operate, or wanting to scrutinize them and push for improvements. That is actually vital for a healthy democratic system. Alvarez urges anyone concerned about elections to go and watch them, as many states allow citizens to do, documenting flaws and helping find possible solutions. We can’t let ourselves despair that everything is already broken.

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<![CDATA[Amazon Is Creating Cities for the Rich]]>, 16 Nov 2018 20:42:08 +0000Amazon played a yearlong bidding game with cities across the US, gathering massive amounts of data and hearing proposals from locales vying for the possible influx of economic prosperity Jeff Bezos promised. Still, many were surprised when the Seattle-based company, valued at $1 trillion, decided on the crowded, pricey, quickly gentrifying neighborhoods of Arlington, Virginia, and Long Island City in Queens, New York.

Since the announcement, locals have spoken out against the willingness of politicians like Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to give Amazon millions in tax cuts, as well as the stress the company's new operations will put on neighborhoods already struggling with high rents, spotty public transport, and a scarcity of healthcare and schools. Residents are also worried that the same thing that happened in Seattle might happen to them (which is likely).

VICE's news editor Matt Taylor joined editor Ankita Rao to discuss what could happen in Long Island City and Arlington now that Amazon is coming to town.

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<![CDATA[California's Wildfires Are Exposing the Rotten Core of Capitalism ]]>, 16 Nov 2018 20:14:11 +0000Around 2 AM last Friday, a neighbor knocked on Megan and Matthew Saxton’s door. It was time to go.

The previous day, the Woolsey fire had begun charting a path of destruction along the Pacific coast of southern California. In Malibu and nearby affluent enclaves, the fire has so far devoured more than 98,000 acres and over 600 structures, killing at least three. Some residents, most infamously Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, were able to call in a private army of firefighters to save their properties. Many others were lucky to escape the state's latest bout of flames with their lives—the Camp fire, simultaneously raging in northern California’s Butte County, is the deadliest in state history with over 60 fatalities to date and well over 10,000 structures eviscerated.

The Saxtons, both 31, lived with their three sons at the Seminole Springs mobile home park in an unincorporated piece of LA county land off Mulholland Highway. They recalled buying their mobile home and a lot in the park for a combined $420,000 in 2016—not the cheapest spot in town, but a far cry from the neighboring Malibu mansions that go for millions.

There were no official evacuation orders when they were woken in the middle of the night, but the air was getting smoky and they decided better safe than sorry. After grabbing some photo albums and the kids, the Saxtons drove north to stay with Megan’s brother in Thousand Oaks, figuring they’d be home soon to inspect the damage.

They soon found out through the NextDoor app that more than half of the mobile home park had burned. A few days later, Matthew went to the park to see the damage for himself and their worst fears were confirmed: Their home was gone.

The Saxtons were lucky enough to have an insurance policy—it was required as part of their mortgage, they explained. But the policy won’t cover the full cost of rebuilding, they noted, and the soonest they expected to rebuild was a year from now. "We were a middle-class neighborhood in the middle of the canyon, an affordable gem in the middle of all these really expensive homes," Matthew said.

Natural disasters typically have the most devastating effects on those with the fewest resources. A 2016 UN report on the nexus of wealth inequality and climate change found that the two were locked in a vicious and increasingly terrifying cycle: "...the disadvantaged groups suffer disproportionate loss of income and assets (physical, financial, human and social) when these hazards actually hit them. Consequently, inequality worsens, and the cycle perpetuates with greater force."

“No matter what the kind of natural disaster, whether it’s flooding or wind damage or fire, the biggest burden of the longest duration falls on the already-poor,” David Lodge, director of Cornell University’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, told me.

In addition to the immediate threats to life and limb that come with any severe natural disaster, there may be a temporary period of homelessness or unemployment that can send someone on the brink of poverty over the edge. Without adequate insurance, savings to rebuild, or a reliable social safety net in place, what Lodge has called “the human face of policy-induced suffering” is revealed.

And with the current trajectory of increasing weather disasters, that suffering is likely to grow. In addition to the spectacular events of the last few years—the current spate of fires in California, January’s wildfire-related mudslides in Montecito, the 2017 hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria—at least 99.7 percent of all US counties have incurred significant property damage from natural hazards since 2000. Between the 1960s and the 2000s, the yearly average of financial loss attributable to disasters (per capita) in the US soared from about $25 to about $80, adjusting for inflation.

Junia Howell and James R. Elliott, sociologists who study social inequality, try to look away from the spectacle and find out what happens after the reporters leave Malibu, or Houston, or New Orleans. Their longitudinal study of how natural hazards impact wealth inequality in the US was motivated by the reality that “these events keep happening,” as Elliott explained to me. “This is not a California problem, this is not a Texas problem, this is not a Florida problem. It's an American problem.”

It’s obviously also a global problem. Still, understanding the specifics even within American states can help show the bigger picture. So how might this worsening of economic inequality play out in the Los Angeles and Ventura county regions where the Woolsey fire continued to rage Friday?

Lodge suggested thinking of the archetypal Malibu mansion as a small business that employed a staff of service workers.

“While their homes are perhaps not harmed by the fire, their place of employment is destroyed,” he pointed out. “The consequences for them may be almost as severe as if their own homes were destroyed if they’re living on the edge, as many service workers are already, even without a disaster.”

Elliott offered a broader view, pointing to the ways disaster damage to property can affect inequality over time. “If you're a low-income resident in Los Angeles, even if your property wasn't directly affected, there can be these indirect knock-on effects for lower-income and middle-income people either because of supply potential going down in housing, or disruptions in work just giving you general precarity," he said. For California residents, one of these indirect effects might prove to be astronomical utility bills, as Pacific Gas and Electric Company has struggled to stay afloat in the wake of unprecedented wildfire damage.

Of course, like the Saxtons, not everyone directly affected or displaced by the Woolsey fire is a Malibu millionaire. For those in the humbler neighborhoods affected, or for those who bought decades ago before the local real estate market became too hot for most to handle, rebuilding may not be an option. One measure of the fallout will be gauged by following how many of these residents end up having to put more geographical and social distance between themselves and their elite former neighbors.

Elliott predicted that number would be high. “The more costly the event, the more inequality in wealth is going to emerge over time,” he told me. “Given the amount of property damage there, that would be our expectation for Southern California.”

To some extent, good policies can mitigate effects of the disaster-inequality crises. Local government can carefully consider where people are allowed to build or rebuild, for example, keeping in mind whether it’s fair for taxpayers to subsidize homes and businesses in areas that are frequently flooded or burned, as Lodge suggested. Or they could earmark funds for affordable housing or rental assistance for those whose homes weren’t directly impacted by a disaster, but who have suffered economically from the fallout, as Elliott offered.

Or we could yield to the increasingly popular oligarch model of billionaire-owned newsrooms and individuals with more wealth than the bottom half of the US, and directly ask some of the better-off Malibu residents to spread some wealth to less-visible casualties of the Woolsey fire.

For the Saxtons, the future seemed shaky. Their property now “looks like the landscape of the moon,” Matthew said, and they expected its value to plummet. They figured they’d need to rebuild and stay there for four or five years just to break even on their original investment, and that they'd have to find a way to cover the difference between the cost of their new mobile home and what their insurance would pay them. Matthew worked at an office in Malibu, and when we spoke earlier this week, he was waiting to find out once the evacuation orders were lifted whether the building* remained.

Against a broader backdrop of accelerating political chaos and routine mass shootings—including one that left 13 dead in Thousand Oaks, where the Saxtons took refuge, just hours before the Woolsey fire forced residents to evacuate—an increasingly dystopian reality loomed. Though the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said there has been no looting in Malibu, singer Pink's husband Carey Hart posted a photo to Instagram on Tuesday of a group of gun-toting, masked men bearing a sign that read “LOOTERS WILL BE SHOT ON SITE!” Another Instagram feed with the handle @prayformalibu posted a photo of a similar sign: “Welcome 2 Point Dume Looters get bullets Fireman get hugs.”

At a moment when asking what really stands between Americans and civil war is not entirely unreasonable, addressing “wealth inequality is an issue not only of fairness,” as Lodge noted, but also critical to maintaining social stability.

*Correction 11/16/2018: A previous version of this story suggested Matthew Saxton was concerned about his job, when in fact he was worried solely about the office building in which he worked. We regret the error.

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<![CDATA['Getting a Tan in Central Park,' Today's Comic by Brian Blomerth]]>, 16 Nov 2018 19:05:48 +00001542394186155-TAN3

For more of Brian Blomerth's work, visit his website, Twitter, and Tumblr.

9k4beeBrian BlomerthNick GazindogsANIMALSNYCbirdsComics!Central ParkTanbrian blomerthGetting a Tan in Central Park
<![CDATA[I Binged All 11 ‘Harry Potter’ Movies and Yes, They Are Gay as Hell]]>, 16 Nov 2018 19:04:26 +0000I’ve been told that I’m a Slytherin, but not because I’m an evil twink. I didn’t grow up reading Harry Potter, for no other reason than I was probably too busy watching Melrose Place and wasting my youth at the mall. I saw no point in catching the Harry Potter movies on the big screen, either.

But with the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald on November 16—and increasingly gag-worthy red carpet appearances by Ezra Miller—I heard rumors that this movie was maybe going to be gay as hell. But also, maybe not gay enough. So I figured why not watch every single one of the Harry Potter movies in one homosexual go? What did I have to lose aside from my grasp on reality and a full week of my life?

Here’s what happened when I hopped on the Hogwarts Express, grabbed a heap of Chocolate Frogs, and watched 17 years worth of this wizarding madness.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

A cat just turned into Maggie Smith! (Are all cats secretly Maggie Smith?) We meet baby Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter living in a closet, and I feel very seen. Fiona Shaw appears as his aunt looking like Julianne Moore in The Hours, followed by Alan Rickman’s Professor Snape in a wig that looks like Winona Ryder’s hair from Reality Bites, and I am literally screaming. The gang meets on the train on the way to Hogwarts, where I realize how desperately I want my own fat white owl and immediately miss college. I know Emma Watson’s Hermione is meant to be a know-it-all, but really all these legacy white boys are just not ready.

An escaped troll wreaks havoc, Quidditch is played (the CGI is so 90s!) and we meet my favorite character so far, Hagrid’s enormous Mastiff named Fang. A three-headed pooch is also guarding the plot of this movie: a stone that grants immortality and Voldemort’s plan to use it to return from the dead. Harry, Hermione, and Ron (Rupert Grint) play the most violent game of chess ever, after which we learn that...Snape isn’t the baddie? Guess it was stuttering Professor Quirrell (Ian Hart) all along. Voldemort pops out the back of Quirrell’s head to tell Harry, “There is no good and evil, only power!” He’s not wrong! A Voldemort-shaped smear flies away and Harry’s out of this joint for summer break.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Look whose voice changed! Harry’s growing up so fast. I never imagined a snake caught in the pipes could cause so much fuss (2 hours and 41 minutes, if we’re counting). Some fool let it out of its room and now kids are walking around getting “petrified” in the halls. Their only hope is a potion derived from shrieking mandrakes, who remind me of every nightmare I’ve had about killing a houseplant. Turns out only the heir of Slytherin could’ve sprung the monster, so of course it was Voldemort. This time he’s assumed the form of Tom Riddle (Christian Coulson), a memory of Voldy’s teenage self magically preserved in his diary. (Rowling loves an anagram; TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE = I AM LORD VOLDEMORT, remember?) Oh also, the diary possessed Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright) and had her doing the Dark Lord’s dirty work. Harry slays the serpent, rescues her, and stabs Tom’s diary till it bleeds (no returning that one to the library!). I know from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (the Broadway play) that Harry and Ginny wind up together (spoiler alert), so I’m already seeing the heart-eye emoji.

In other news, Kenneth Branagh may think he’s the heartthrob of this movie as celebrity author Gilderoy Lockhart, but I’m here to tell you that Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) is a ZADDY. I’m having flashbacks to The OA and am strangely jealous of Dobby, his house elf servant (lock me up, Lucius!). Something had to make up for the shit-ton of spiders in this movie, especially the massive ones who conveniently showed up at the same time as my take out. Also this movie looks like a theme park, and I’m ready to be done with director Chris Columbus.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

So much happens in this one! But by far the most important plot point is Harry getting his Daenerys moment, riding a hippogriff (a horse-eagle hybrid?) through the sky like a regular mother of dragons. Also, Hermione punching Draco in the face is such a 2018 mood.

Let’s see if I’ve got this: Oscar winner Gary Oldman (aka Sirius Black) has broken out of prison, (supposedly) to kill Harry and he (supposedly) led the Potter parents to slaughter at the hands of (you guessed it!) Voldemort. Only, the culprit was really… Ron’s pet rat Scabbers? Who is actually Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall), only in rat form. Peter, Sirius, and Professor Lupin (David Thewlis) were all school chums with Harry’s dad—oh, and Lupin is also a werewolf. Somehow it all gets sorted deep underground beneath a tree.

Harry and Hermione also have a little Back to the Future adventure in which they save my fave hippogriff from execution (thank god) and Harry and Sirius from the Dementors, who are feeding on their souls like a hoard of ex-boyfriends who won’t die. I love that this movie was Alfonso Cuarón’s follow up to Y Tu Mamá También. This man can do it all! (Seriously, go see Roma.)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

Wow, I was not ready for this Hunger Games-Twilight crossover!!! I’ll carry the shame of not knowing Robert Pattinson was in this movie for the rest of my days. But the real standout to me is “Bulgarian bonbon” Viktor Krum (Stanislav Ianevski), who need not utter a word to have my full support in the Battle of the Hogwarts Baes (aka the Triwizard Tournament) that dominates most of this movie. But first, the Yule Ball serves up a John Hughes-worthy interlude of teen angst over who’s going with whom and how mortifying dancing with the opposite sex will be. Hermione gets a Belle-style glow up, but Ron is beastly enough not to ask her to the ball. Ugh, boys. (Also, why doesn’t Harry take Ginny?)

Meanwhile, the mop on Harry’s head grows exponentially as he slays a dragon, dives into a magical lake with mermaids and has his Ariel moment, and navigates a hedge maze where Voldemort presides over a Night of the Living Dead-style MeetUp™ and finally transforms from Baby Gollum into a full-fledged evil diva. (Those black silk robes! Diana Ross is shaking!) This whole scene is insane. Harry’s parents pull some Star Wars shit and show up as holograms, while their son goes head to head with his nemesis and barely escapes. I knew Pattinson’s Cedric was toast. How else could he come back as Twilight’s twunk vampire? (#TeamEdward) Oh, and one-eyed Professor Moody (Brendan Gleeson) was maybe evil for a second, but really it was Dr. Who (aka David Tennant playing Barty Crouch Jr.) who’s to blame for advancing the plot, I guess?

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Everyone got a haircut! Thank god. I can finally see Harry’s mom’s eyes from beneath his sensible bangs. In a Sandlot-meets-Twister opening scene, Harry saves his sniveling cousin Dudley (Harry Melling) from a couple renegade Dementors and gets himself expelled from school. The Ministry of Magic is going all GOP and denying Voldemort’s existence, inadvertently fostering his rise. Harry is allowed back to school, where he heads up an Occupy Hogwarts student resistance (aka Dumbledore’s Army). Meanwhile, I’ve forgotten all about Ginny and am hardcore shipping Harry and Cho Chang (Katie Leung). #Chorry4Life.

Where has Helena Bonham Carter been this whole franchise? I’m so glad her character, Bellatrix Lestrange, gets broken out of prison, even though she winds up killing Sirius XM (RIP). Is it weird that I’m also shipping Bellatrix and Lucius Malfoy? I know he’s totally evil now, but what can I say? I love terrible men. Speaking of, Voldemort and Dumbledore finally face off in a wizard duel. Harry learns that the key to resisting Voldy’s mind control is to focus on how much he’s loved (aww). We’re also treated to the Most Obvious Prophesy Ever, that either Harry or Mr. V is gonna have to die at the end of all this. No shit, you guys!

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Voldemort is back on his bullshit, terrorizing London and making mincemeat of the Millennial Bridge. (I’ve always been terrified of that thing!) On the bright side, we get a shot of Dumbledore on the Tube platform. (Wizards, they’re nothing like us.) Harry gets his hands on an advanced spellbook that belonged to the “Half-Blood Prince,” who turns out to be Snape (gasp!). Only in magic school would reading an advanced course book be the basis for an entire movie.

But really, this one should be called How to Be a Player: The Ron Weasley Story, because boy is getting around! After drinking performance-enhancing “luck potion,” Ron becomes a quidditch star, attracting a crazed groupie named Lavender (Jessie Cave), who promptly becomes his partner in PDA. Hermione is heartbroken (sob!) until Ron, recovering from a love potion slipped to him by another groupie, wakes up saying her name in the hospital. Brutal! Lavender seems like she might go full Fatal Attraction. Not to be outdone, Harry and Ginny finally lock lips and I’m shipping them all over again.

Oh, right—the plot! Harry finally gets Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) to hand over his memory of Tom Riddle (Frank Dillane) asking WTF a Horcrux is. Turns out the faceless wonder left pieces of his soul in seven objects, and Harry’s gotta catch ‘em all to kill him. He and Dumbledore go after one of the Horcruxes, only it’s already been taken. They return to Hogwarts where… Snape kills Dumbledore!!! I was just starting to stan Snape. Sigh.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–Part 1 (2010)

The bad news is V-Diddy is growing stronger than ever. The good news is the Ministry of Magic is so compromised by the GOP, er... I mean Death Eaters, that the kids get out of going to school. Yay? When Voldemort turns to Zaddy Malfoy at the Board Meeting of Evil and says, “I require your wand." Yeah, I felt that. Also everyone turned into Harry for a moment, leading to the shocking revelation that Harry’s got a hairy chest! Kids really do grow up, don’t they? Can I also just say the Weasley twins (Oliver and James Phelps) are looking more and more like the Winklevosses?

Okay, let’s get these Horcruxes, bitches! First the trio track down and steal a locket. But it can only be destroyed by the Sword of Gryffindor, which Dumbledore left Harry in his will, but is somehow at the bottom of a frozen lake? Fortunately, Harry somehow knows when he sees a light-up deer that its leading him to the sword, so he takes off his clothes and dives into the frozen lake? We also get a lengthy tangent about the Deathly Hallows, and I guess all you need to be the Master of Death are a wand, a stone, and an invisibility cloak. Evil Helena Bonham Carter captures all the kiddos, but Dobby helps them escape, getting himself killed in the process. Wait. Dobby nooooooo!!! Ugh. This is too much.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–Part 2 (2011)

V-Yeazy is a grave robber now, jacking the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s cold dead hands! You nasty, V. The Horcrux hunt continues with a visit to Evil Helena Bonham Carter’s vault, whose contents multiply to the touch until the kids are swimming in gold cups, Scrooge McDuck-style. They escape on a dragon (natch) who breaks through the bank’s glass ceiling like a female CEO finally getting her due. Speaking of HBICs, Maggie Smith throws down in front of the whole school to protect Harry from Snape, expelling him in a blaze of fire and sending all the Slytherins to the dungeon!

Ron and Hermione get hot and heavy after destroying another Horcrux while V for Vendetta and his evil army surround Hogwarts. Shit is getting so real, kids are dying! We find out Harry and V’s snake are the last two Horcruxes, so they’re both going to have to die, too. Viggie Smalls sics his snake on Snape, who we find out was good all along, kind of. Harry surrenders, gets killed (omg!), comes back to life, and finally (finally!) vanquishes the Big Bad V for good (maybe??). No spoilers, but read or go see Harry Potter and The Cursed Child on Broadway to flash forward, because now I gather we’re going back in time.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

If being a Niffler means Eddie Redmayne will carry me around the world in a suitcase and tickle me upside down when I’ve been naughty until money and jewels rain down from my marsupial pockets—THEN SIGN ME UP! Newt Scamander (Redmayne) has brought me and my beastly pals to 1920s NYC and we’re running amok. So, half of this movie is about Newt’s quest to reclaim us, with a baker (Dan Fogler) and their love interests Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Queenie (Alison Sudol) in tow.

For some reason there’s a very tangential plot involving Jon Voight and his mayoral candidate son who gets killed by a mysterious black cloud. If you couldn’t tell from that Uniqlo-inspired puffy gown he wore to the Paris premiere of the next film, Ezra Miller is that black cloud. His character, Credence, is an Obscurus, which is an evil parasite that attacks kids who suppress their magic. (Moral of the story: unleash your magic, kids!)

Anyone who tells me that Credence and Colin Farrell’s Percival Graves are not fully getting it on is lying. There is no other explanation for their back alley whispers and intimate touching. Do not toy with me, Rowling! Also I was HORRIFIED when my bae Farrell morphed into MOTHERFUCKING JOHNNY DEPP!!! Ugh. Why? The Obscurus is (mostly) destroyed, though I know Ezra is back for the sequel. Also, can we get an obliviate storm to wipe our memories of 2018?

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

I’ll be honest, I had to Google WTF these movies have to do with the OG Harry Potter-verse or whether I wasted some 30 hours of my life just for the LOLs. This one is much more clearly connected to the main franchise with the appearance of Jude Law as Dumbledore (swoon) and yes, a return to Hogwarts! I admit, even this Slytherin felt lukewarm and fuzzy. In other news, Newt’s forward-facing mullet has only grown and he’s got a hot vanilla sundae of a brother (Callum Turner, hi!) who works in magical law enforcement and is therefore kind of boring.

The whole gang is back, most notably the top third of Ezra Miller’s forehead, and the plot is cockamamie! We’re talking half brothers and sisters who’ve never met, intergenerational revenge plots, trips back and forth between London and Paris, and one MAJOR final reveal.

Now, before diving headlong into this hokum, I could have given two shits whether Dumbledore is really gay and Grindelwald his first love. J.K. Rowling will do anything for a RT, queerbaiting her fans certainly included. But, you guys—THESE DUDES ARE GAY AS HELL!!! I mean, if their “blood pact” as teenagers weren’t enough, in the end Grindelwald beckons his followers with reams of flowing black taffeta to a Parisian graveyard! If that’s not the queeniest evil summons ever, IDK what dick looks like. And he is so obviously hot for Ezra—maybe the one thing he cannot be blamed for.

With all said and done, if being a Slytherin buys me congress with Zaddy Lucius and (maybe, possibly) Ezra Miller’s forehead as my future partner in crime, I’m all in. I’ll make the Potterverse gay enough for everyone. I’ll even frost my hair! After all, winter is coming.

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<![CDATA[We Asked Millennials Why Young People Are Having Less Sex]]>, 16 Nov 2018 19:00:00 +0000This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

There are a lot of reasons I waited until I was 23 to have sex. Actually, “waited” is a misleading term. Because waiting implies some kind of withholding or restraint—a starvation of sorts. I just thought I had better things to do than mattress dance with guys I only half-liked. I’m not trying to get on a feminist high horse here but growing up I was told that, as a young woman, I had more opportunity than any generation of ladies before me. I put a lot of pressure on myself to make use of that opportunity, to prioritize school and extracurriculars over boys so that I could appease the amorphous feminist visionary who followed me through daily life, much like the ghost of a dead relative.

Of course, my celibacy was also encouraged by health class presentations in which the nurse thrust her meter stick toward the projector screen to show us what gonorrhea looked like under 300X magnification, and how genital warts the size of brussels sprouts would take over our bodies. They weren’t teaching STI awareness; they were instilling stigma. Like many young women, I was (and still am) plagued by the idea of accidental pregnancy—something Drew Barrymore in Riding in Cars with Boys told us would ruin prom, crush our career dreams, and emotionally destroy our fathers.

Whichever way you look at it, relationships—and our relationship with relationships—look a lot different than they did 30, 20, or even ten years ago. We meet on apps. We date people overseas. We’re embracing non-monogamy. And while a liberal shift in our culture, the seeming limitlessness of online hookups, and increased acceptance of non-heteronormative sex may make it seem like we are embracing our inner bunnies and going at it more than ever, recent research shows exactly the opposite.

As reported in the Atlantic, the percentage of high school students who’ve had sex has dropped from 54 percent (in 1991) to 40 percent (in 2017). The article also states that, according to Jean M. Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, folks in their early 20s are two and a half times more likely to be abstinent than Gen Xers were in their 20s, and that young adults are on track to having fewer sexual partners than both Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

The article sites solo sex, helicopter parents, and lack of social skills among contributing factors to our dwindling desire to knock boots. But what about libido-dimming medication, depression, over-tiredness, and straight-up safety? VICE thought it worthwhile to ask young people upfront: Why aren’t you having sex?

*Name has been changed

In the generation of cheating, lying, and ghosting, I'm not about to have sex with someone who I'll never hear from again. I tend to be very cautious of people and their intentions. I'm not OK with being a quick fuck. —Bella, 21

When I was younger, I was having plenty. But as I entered my 30s and my economic situation didn’t change I just refocused my time. There is a bit of shame in not being stable in your 30s so I avoid relationships. I don’t want to date while still trying to get back on my feet. —John*, 33

I take a few different medications—antidepressant, a mood stabilizer, and antipsychotic. A huge side effect of most of these kinds of medications is lowered libido. I often go through long phases of being completely disinterested in sex to the point that the thought of it makes me ill. Even if I do happen to have sex, it is impossible to achieve orgasm with a partner. If I'm persistent I can sometimes get off on my own. Before starting these meds three years ago I had a healthy, active sex life and had regular orgasms. Another common side effect that I have is not being able to get wet, or stay wet, and that makes sex physically uncomfortable. It also makes me embarrassed and has made past sexual partners feel as though they're doing something wrong. It's super frustrating. My lack of sex drive has been a huge factor in my last two relationships falling apart. My life was a mess before I got treatment, and I'm in a much better place now. The side effects of my meds can be frustrating at times, but ultimately worth it. I’d rather mental stability over sex drive. —Emma, 28

I wasn't very sexually active as a teen or young adult because of an intense fear of pregnancy and STIs. Now, my wife is asexual, we have an open marriage, but I'm picky about my sexual partners. I think about sex often and have a high libido when I find a suitable partner, but between my pickiness and social anxiety I don't go out. Add in a 40-hour work week, I'm too tired and would rather just hang out with my wife. —Diana, 27

So as for myself, it’s always a risk in putting myself out there, as either I am met with aggression and transphobic tropes. For example: Straight cis men asking if they are gay if they have sex with me. Or I get men who grossly fetishize my body for their own pleasure, often times without asking my consent. I openly state that I’m a trans woman—and I use they/them on my accounts now because I would rather have the transphobic ones block and delete me, and then I weed out the fetishizers. It’s a risk for me to open myself up in such a intimate and physically vulnerable position. I have essentially stopped any relationships due to experiences this year. Queer sex is harder because the community is so fatphobic, and lack any acknowledge that we are bodies that are capable of sex, let alone like it. So why try when I know nine out of ten, it’ll be unsatisfactory and there’s a huge risk my partner—if they’re cis men—could kill me. —Jaye, 24

For me, the priority right now is figuring out my own life. I usually don’t have the patience for small talk, and I don’t really have any time for hookups let alone a committed relationship. So it just doesn’t happen. I’m less interested than ever in finding someone else. Building my career is a lot more of a priority, and the relationships I do put energy into are amazing friendships—that’s worth so much more than a one night stand. Maybe millennials are just more caught up trying not to be broke. —Keiver, 25

With third-wave feminism, there was this idea that having lots of sex was almost like wearing a suit at work, as in, in order to become equals we women should also have as much non-committal sex as we perceived men to be having. This was an important step in bringing female sexuality to the general consciousness, but I think now we’re at the point that we realize our feminine sensitivity is also a strength and that it’s okay—preferable in some cases, even—to not have sex without attachment and to take it more seriously and be more selective. Also, I think a lot of hetero woman are waking up to the fact that sex, not all but a lot, with a man is often less fulfilling, orgasm-wise, than going solo. We used to be like, “look at all the sex we can have too!” and now I’m like, “well I can, but I also don’t have to in order to prove I’m a bad-ass bitch.” I don’t want to have to have so-called sex like a man—as in, often and without much emotional attachment—in order to be taken seriously. —Rachel, 26

I am in a long-term relationship and have since gotten a vasectomy, but about two years back, I was not very sexually active. A large part of it was that I was absolutely terrified of getting someone pregnant. Like, terrified. Now, I have a five-year-old daughter. She was conceived while I was using a condom and my ex said she was on birth control. Coincidentally, my current girlfriend has a son that was conceived the first time she ever had sex—from a broken condom. The fear of accidentally having a child was absolutely paralyzing to me, even before my daughter was born, but her conception was like validation of all my fears! Of course, I love my daughter more than anything. I just wish I had been in a more stable situation before bringing her in to to the world. —Joshua, 26

I just turned 30 and got out of an 11-year relationship. I could be having crazy amounts of sex right now but 1) my standards get higher with every hook up and 2) I'm petrified of STIs. The dissolution of my marriage has been so amicable that people have a really hard time understanding why we're doing it. But my husband and I have higher standards than my parents and their generation. Our marriage was good but we knew we could be more fulfilled—probably. Young people know that they don't have to settle for sub-par sex, and I think dating apps have something to do with that. There's always another option in your pocket, and so you’re actually less likely to have sex with someone because you know there’s probably a better hookup waiting for you somewhere. — Emily, 30

I’m in a relationship and pregnancy is a huge fear of mine. Add to that the fact that my body cannot tolerate hormonal birth control and the major irritation I get from condoms, sex really isn't an option until I can get sterilized. And most doctors aren't open to that option until I'm over 30 with a kid. —Christina, 25

I didn’t lose my virginity until I was in my mid-20s and a big part of that was my focus on academia and music as opposed to socializing or dating. I felt a lot of pressure to be something. I also spent a lot of my teenage and young adult years anxious and underweight, which meant I had no libido or romantic interest to speak of at all. I guess I never developed dating habits. I’m in a relationship now but in my single days I never really found the no-sex thing a problem. Romantic love is great but it isn’t everything. If your friendships fulfill you emotionally, and your hand or a toy fulfills you sexually, what’s wrong with that? — Niki*, 26

I'm on a medication that can cause a dysfunctional sex drive but I am also at the mercy of my hormones. Estrogen and whatnot kill my sex drive but I'm not certain that I want to get on testosterone even though I'm non-binary. I don't want to be a dude, I just want to want to have sex. —Freddie, 31

People are having less sex because we're working longer hours, for less money, and in more fragile jobs. We don't have time for sex, nor the mental capacity to seek it out, nor enjoy it when it comes, so that it can potentially be sustained in, like, a relationship. Neoliberalism is bad for our libidos. —Tim*, 24

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