The Reverend and the Prostitute

It's Masturbation Day as I write this, and my husband is rock climbing under a sunny, clear Colorado sky. I'd rather be out playing with my sweetie and friends, but instead I must stay home and play with myself as to not disappoint my trusting sponsors. Between my sex and culture column and the Toys in Babeland Masturbate-A-Thon, today's a workday.

I know, not bad as far as work goes, but a job definitely not appreciated by all. Earlier, a producer for the Alan Colmes Show asked if I would appear on the talk radio program with someone opposed to what I'm doing. "Masturbation or the Masturbate-A-Thon?" I asked. "You mean there's someone against it?" I know after a three-year Church investigation into a pro-masturbation priest's arguments, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger just decreed that masturbation is still bad and Catholics shouldn't do it. But I was pretty certain no one had the Vatican Cardinal in mind to debate me.

Still, I was so nervous about my radio debut that I vomited the lobster and garlic dinner hubby made as I awaited the phone call from Colmes. After being introduced and asked to explain "Why I'll Masturbate On May 20," the title of my last column, I learned firsthand the definition of broadside. Reverend Tom Pedigo, founder of the National Alliance Against Christian Discrimination, launched with, "Just when I thought I've heard and seen it all ... this is the most licentious and sensationalistic ... " and he concluded, "You are nothing more than a prostitute."

Okay, we've already established that at least for today I'm a working woman. But dismissing me right out of the gate as a harlot is misogynistic and uncreative. But then that slam is tame compared to the pedophile smear slapped on sexologist Vern Bullough, who has authored dozens of books, including Sexual Attitudes: Myths and Realities. I should be so lucky to attain such notoriety. With sex as ground zero, America's culture war has drawn the line between god's creatures on one side and pervs on the other. During the radio show, Reverend Tom claimed the moral high ground, saying his work "upholds traditional values," while mine challenges them.

But I can think of a zillion things more licentious and sensationalistic than the Masturbate-A-Thon, including the Starr Report, and it seems so can the Reverend. I later learned he's also the founder of Winning Edge Ministries for fallen religious leaders, a program "dedicated to take back what sin and Satan has stolen from the church!" Turns out Pedigo had a lifelong "affair with pornography" as well as with a woman from his 700-member church in Michigan, which once exposed, cost him his ministry and almost his marriage.

Now I understand why he assailed sex unchecked. He talked in circles: masturbation is a gray area according to the Bible, but men need pornography to masturbate to and then they fantasize about Pamela Anderson when they have sex with their wives, and porn blah-blah homosexuals, blah-blah masturbate to children! I will never know the demons Rev. Pedigo and his family must wrestle. But his self-proclaimed "burden" to galvanize believers against "this dark and decaying world" seems more an internal affair than one to unload on the rest of us.

Still, as the Colorado state director for the American Family Association, the Rev. Pedigo makes pornography and obscenity his public nemesis. Apparently, one evil threat is the Colorado Springs Independent. For a year and a half, the alternative weekly has battled a Pedigo-led boycott against the paper's "ever-increasingly immoral and offensive" content.

Publisher John Weiss says, "People write letters anonymously, and it's always anonymous, saying that �If you advertise in or distribute the Independent, you're going to be boycotted by Christians.' But it's not all Christians, it's just a small group." One could easily shelve Pedigo and gang as what Weiss calls "a perpetual pain in the butt." Except, the "moral policeman" is an insidious role that the religious right assumes nationwide.

Coincidentally, May is Masturbation Month, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month and, thanks in part to the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America, Victims of Pornography Month. One FRC online article explains that porn is like "a gigantic sticky web that entangles many innocent people. Women who are treated like sex objects, children who are abused, wives who are abandoned: these are some of the victims of pornography."

Funny, conservatives trust corporate executives to voluntarily not pollute the environment or exploit workers. They trust taxpayers to voluntarily contribute to community needs. But they don't trust a man to indulge in self-pleasure without acting out his fantasies in addictive mania. Too much of any behavior at the expense of intimate relationships can be a problem. But most of us just like to feel good, and take the opportunity to do so without hurting anyone else or ourselves, no matter what warped images may play out in our heads.

As George Carlin said, "If God hadn't meant us to masturbate, he'd have made our arms shorter." Or as progressive Radio Volta's Reverend Bookburn says of the Masturbate-A-Thon, "Humor and sexuality are things freedom and justice can have that the theocrats and misogynists cannot."

What the "reverends" have today that we "prostitutes" do not, however, is political clout. Despite Family Research Council's gross generalizations regarding sexual issues, President Bush supplanted the American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association with the anti-abortion FRC in last week's U.S. Delegation to World Health Assembly in Geneva. Politics over health. Now that's immoral.

Lara Riscol is writing "Ten Sex Myths That Screw America," a book she began while completing a master's degree in contemporary issues and public policy at the University of Denver. Write to her at

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