Friday, May 28, 2004

AIDS, SAFE SEX AND ZEMFIRA

In the West, heroin is bought in powder form, and the user melts it down himself and shoots it up with his own needle. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, however, it's usually the dealer who melts down the powder, and the heroin shot is sold directly from the needle - the same needle that all other customers use. In the moment when you badly need a fix, you probably don't really reflect on who else might have used this needle, and what kind of diseases they might carry.
This, in combination with complete lack of sexual education and information about AIDS and how to protect yourself against it, has led to the virtual AIDS epidemic that is sweeping over the East.

Among the quite many Russian rock bands whose songs concern themselves with AIDS is Zemfira. Thus, it was in a way slightly disturbing to watch the video to their song "Trafik".

It's pretty much yet another 'a propos nothing' music video. In my own personal opinion, any music video that in its script doesn't have anything to do with the story that the song itself tells, is just terrible, and destroys the song when you watch it. Another example of this from Zemfira is the excruciating video for "Macho", which basically shows a young man trying to hitch a ride, and a young girl at a concert. Nothing more than that ever happens - maybe because he 'is not macho', like the lyrics say?! It is a shame, because the song is quite good, despite maybe being a bit too poppish.
Then again, Zemfira has another 'a propos nothing' video that does work extremely well - the video for 'Znak bezkonechnost', that shows various poetic scenes of everyday life in provincial Russia.

But let us return to "Trafik". As in "Macho", the video has a *little* bit to do with the lyrics - the song is about a couple who have problems: "you" wants them to be together again, while "I" doesn't want to, but can't seem to give any concrete reasons for it, and just keeps blaming the traffic congestion.
The video concerns itself with relationship problems, as well, but in a much more general sense. There are several couples portrayed, and also a mother and her daughter and a grandfather and granddaughter. They are pictured being mean to each other and being friends, alternately, in impersonal and/or symbolic studio environments.
One of the couples is a young man and a young woman sitting in a car. At first they are fighting and sulking, but then they change their mind again and start making out. Soon, the viewers are served an exploitative 'tit shot' (as we professionals call it), when they take off their clothes and start having sex. (There is a half of a 'chest shot' of the guy, too, but it isn't anywhere near as impressive, as he completely lacks chest hair.) After a while, we can see spermatozoa swimming towards a certain goal.
But hang on - spermatozoa?
Well, apparently the couple wasn't practising safe sex.

Maybe I'm a dried-up moralist, but in light of the AIDS epidemic, this is still a little bit alarming. If music videos would smoothly promote condom use, some lives could be saved. Because of the 'tit shot' and the rather graphic sex scenes, I don't suppose this video would have been subject to any more censorship even if they had squeezed in a little scene where a condom was put on ... And who says putting on a condom can't be sexy?!

Then again, maybe it was exactly the point that the lovers were doing it unsafe. And maybe that's the reason why Zemfira herself looks so sad and reproachful in the scenes where she appears ...

See it all for yourself at http://www.zemfira.ru/

Monday, April 26, 2004

NIDDA LAWS

Today, at a magazine to which I occasionally contribute with illustrations and articles, I proofread an article about Judaism's halakha laws regarding sexuality.

The author was refreshingly positive in her views of the nidda laws that force a couple to stay physically apart during the woman's menstruation and seven days after it. Not that I don't think the nidda laws are despicable, but it's rare that you hear such eloquent praise for them.

Basically, she argued that "hardly anyone could deny the positive effects these repeated periods of separation have on their sexual life". She wrote that the two weeks of separation (which she toned down to twelve days, assuming that 'the average woman' would have a period for five days - those lucky bastards!) create pleasant sexual tension, that couples learn that sex isn't something they can take for granted, that it is more likely that their desires for sex come at the same time (i.e. right after the ritual bath which makes a woman 'clean' again after she's had her period), that they have a reason to learn how to show love and affection in other ways than physically, etc. Sure, that sounds great, and that might be one reason why the book "Kosher Sex" has become such a bestseller also outside the Jewish community.
But ... "hardly anyone"?
What would the women say who have problems with their menstruation, and who can't seem to get any 'clean' days to fit between the seven 'quarantine' days and the onset of their next period? What about women whose vaginal discharge is naturally slightly tainted (brownish or more to the orange - yes, it happens), so that it counts as 'menstruation' according to the laws? What about the couples who remain forever childless because the woman's ovulation comes very early? What about the Jewish women who started a bloody revolt against the nidda laws back when the people of Israel was in Egypt's slavery? (Yes, what about them? - Well, they were crushed, without mercy.)

The problem here is that it's not a question of 'guidelines' to help people have better relationships and sex, but it's about *laws*. They are imposed from above by certain old men who think they know what's best for *everyone*. It's the same problem as with statistics: there's always plenty of people who don't fit into the average.

A thing like sex is something very personal and intimate. I may be tainted by my own non-religious culture, but I, sure as hell, would never let anyone decide what's best for me in that respect, be it a partner, a mother, a rabbi or a god.