Public Safety

Last January I went to the CAPS meeting for the neighborhood immediately south of me. I live in Chicago, which is all about neighborhoods, but in this liminal space that’s on the border to several different official boundaries and claimed by or inserting itself into several unofficial ones. If somebody local asks me where I live and I answer with anything other than the nearest train stop, I’m giving away something about what I think of them and my relationship to the situation.

CAPS is the program the Chicago police have for community engagement. The city is divided into police districts, each district has a beat, and each beat, in theory, has its own CAPS staff and regular meeting. I went to one when I lived in Rogers Park, at the very north edge of the city, fully intending to be a good citizen who regularly attended. My memory of the meeting is that the Italian Beef I’d ordered from a to go joint while rushing over to the meeting was actually a French Dip, that the CAPS officer in charge of the meeting seemed very interested in being useful but also was at a bit of a loss about why he was there or what he should do, and that for being a very small crowd of senior citizens, I was learning entirely too much about other people’s vexations regarding noisy dogs. When the time for the next CAPS meeting rolled around, I had other plans.


My little sister and I are very close. When people comment on it as being notable or unusual, I tell them a story about something that happened shortly after my mother came home from the hospital with her. My grandparents had come to visit and help out and had stayed in my parents house with me while my parents were at the hospital. I was three and a half years old, and my grandfather handed me the infant that was my brand new sibling saying, “This is your baby sister. That makes you a big sister, which means you have to look out for her.”

What I heard was that she was mine. And that something being mine meant I was responsible for it. There are standards. Expectations. Years later, when circumstances called for it, I informed some of my baby sister’s peers about these facts. I understand you had and altercation with my sister, I said. You will henceforward understand that upsetting her means crossing me. Make better choices. There were no more altercations.

This is what it means when I say I love you. It means you’re mine. It means I’m responsible for you. I take my responsibilities seriously.

I love Chicago like it’s the salt in my blood.


The CAPS meeting in January, in Lake VIew, was very different from the one in Rogers Park I went to over a year before. For one, it was at a police station rather than a park. For another, it was packed. A long table ran along the front of the room and it had authority figures from all over. Lots of them CPD. Some of them CTA. My alderman was there, even though this wasn’t in his ward. Representatives of the alderman who was in charge of that ward were there. I showed up just a few minutes before the meeting was supposed to start (without a disappointing sandwich) and could barely get a seat because it was packed with people who’d turned out for the meeting. The back row had reporters with video cameras squeezed in. I took one look at the room, reflected on the differences between Rogers Park and Lake View, and shook my head. Even with the shift in location and demographics, the difference was too big. Too much a certain kind of difference. This was not a typical CAPS meeting.

Which is not to say it wasn’t normal.


There are some stats about CPD I come back to over and over and over again. Police misconduct cost $113 million in lawsuit settlements in 2018 alone. That was a banner year for expensive misconduct, but not all that unusual. To put those numbers in perspective, the city had a projected budgetary shortfall of $838 million that had to be closed in order to pass the 2020 budget. (Page 33) Misconduct settlements over the last ten years could very nearly, by themselves, have plugged that gap. That’s without accounting for ancillary expenses like lawyers, servicing overhead, and loss of economic growth resulting from having a police force that mistreats its citizens, having a reputation for same, and the mistreated citizens experiencing consequences of that misconduct. Also, since we don’t actually have cash on hand to make those payments and they exceed what’s budgeted for them, we’re borrowing money to do it. Which costs even more.

That’s not the whole picture, though. The police do more than frame, torture, and shoot people. If you’re white and get murdered, odds are almost 50:50 that the CPD will clear the case. If you’re black it’s closer to 1:5. (These numbers are an improvement from what they were before 2019.) All that for a measly $2.7 billion spent on public safety. (Same PDF as above, page 61 this time).

Public. Safety.


The CAPS meeting in Lake View that I just happened to wander into because I didn’t have other plans that evening and I do things like go to public meetings for fun was unusual because there was an uptick in crime at nearby train stations in December. Community members were angry and frightened. Public officials wanted to alleviate fears and make a show of doing something. People at the table of authority figures at the front talked a lot. People in the overflowing seating area got mics and got to talk a lot. One of the officials said something I really appreciated by pointing out that even with a few highly publicized incidents, public transit is safe. One of the community members very comfortably and frankly shared their feeling that, “I don’t care what you say about whether it’s safe. I don’t feel safe and it’s your job to make me feel safe.”

A mom who works as a nurse shared that she’s too worried about safety to let her children ride transit, so she’s ordering them rideshares all the time, which is expensive and she can’t really afford. When a man from a youth intervention program got up to say hey, we all know it’s kids coming over here because it’s where the money is and causing trouble, I could use some funding to do more of my work and prevent that from happening, this mom sneered at him and said something along the lines of, “Why should we diaper your kids?”

I started doing the math on the cost of diapers versus car share then kept the answer to myself because she wasn’t actually concerned about the best way to spend money. Also, the diapers were figurative.


Summer before last I was leaving from work in the Loop to meet friends for dinner along the blue line. That was not my normal commute, so I didn’t cotton on fast enough about train delays. I wound up trapped between stations in a sweltering train car. Then inching forward to a packed and stuffy platform with trainloads of people making their way up to the street. Service was suspended for an unknown amount of time due to an incident further along the tracks. The blue line runs diagonal across a rigidly gridded map. There is no equivalent alternative. All of the buses were overloaded with an influx of erstwhile train passengers and also it was rush hour so you didn’t want to be commuting on the streets anyway.

I walked something like two and a half miles in a crowd of similarly stranded train passengers, evening summer sun absolutely baking us, and periodically texting my friends with updates on how very late I was going to be. A trip I’d expected to take half an hour wound up closer to two hours. I don’t deal with heat well and I once got a sun burn in under eight minutes.

It was a mini natural disaster. A horde of people overwhelming sidewalks, the crowd pockmarked with people calling home with status updates or calling friends for a morale boost. Every once in a while an overladen bus would go by, not bothering to stop unless somebody wanted to get off because there was absolutely no chance of anybody else squeezing on.

When I got to dinner I collapsed at the table, chugged a glass of ice water, and cowered under an awning so the dregs of sunset couldn’t burn me any further. “Fun evening?” a friend asked.

I sighed, resigned to the truth. “Actually, kinda? I mean, it was terrible, but also, everybody was enduring it together and just plunking along. I feel like I bonded with five hundred strangers I’ll never have to see again.”

My friends exchanged knowing looks. “So, you’ll forgive Chicago for absolutely anything.”

“I think so. Yes.”

Getting home after dinner was a breeze.


Scared white people ask for cops. The Lake View CAPS meeting was packed to the brim with scared white people. They wanted cops. Cops on platforms. Cops on train cars. Cops lingering near turnstiles. These particular white people pay some of the highest property taxes in the city. CPD needs to make them feel safe.

I was somewhat annoyed when I got home.

I lived in Seattle for three years. Their one train line is absolutely lousy with police hanging around to make people feel safe, mostly by keeping homeless people off the platforms. They never made me feel safe. Instead they reminded me that the fare system is an enforced honor system, which means a city that prides itself for anarchist tendencies accepts raids by fare enforcement officers demanding proof of payment as a matter of course. That the city isn’t even pretending its transit system isn’t premised on antagonism with people who use it. “Why are there cops everywhere? This is Seattle. I don’t think I’ve seen cops around like this in New York or Boston, and you definitely don’t get it in Chicago.”

A week ago Friday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled a plan to bring safety to the Red Line. She was at the Roosevelt station when she did it, which is the southern end of downtown Chicago. Lightfoot is unusual for a Chicago Mayor in that she will ever say anything unkind about CPD. Last year she fired the police superintendent ahead of details going public about what would, ideally, be a fairly bizarre scandal but is, in context, tame. I’m personally fond of the incident where she, not realizing she was within range of an active mic, called a representative from the FOP a clown when he showed up to defend officers who helped cover up for the cop who murdered Laquan McDonald. “I’m sorry that I said it out loud,” is a feeling I, personally, can get behind pretty fervently here.

It wasn’t surprising, but it did sour fondness, when the safety plan was more cops.


Shortly after the distressing CAPS meeting for the beat south of me, the meeting for my beat came around. I went. It was in a meeting room at the library that was about a quarter the size of the one for the other meeting. My alderman was there, but he sat in the audience. The official CAPS liaison was there and she sat up front. Two beat officers were there, too, but they stood to the side, answering questions as needed but otherwise just hanging out.

Counting me and excluding the alderman, there were three people from the community. The meeting lasted fifteen minutes.

I also went to one of several community outreach sessions CPD was having around the city in February in order to get input about desired policy changes. They made a very big deal about this being about engaging with the community but it is, in fact, because CPD was placed under a consent decree as a consequence of not only murdering a teenager in the street, but covering it up and trying to protect the murderer. The session was actually pretty well run, even if little of it inspired confidence that it was more than show in response to reporting that despite the consent decree coming down from the Feds, CPD is mostly ignoring it.

There were topic specific breakout sessions where people could make suggestions for policy. I stalked the ones related to use of force and deadly force. There weren’t any about misconduct discipline. I had questions. What, exactly, are the current policies? When were they last overhauled? What have the demonstrable effects of those overhauls been in terms of incident rate? Did they trigger organizational cultural changes? Does policy even drive the organizational culture inside CPD? I mean, policy is great and all, but it’s just so much paper if it isn’t where behavior and norms originate.

This is a session for suggestions, not questions, the breakout facilitators urged. What do you want? Tell us that.

But I can’t know what policy to ask for without understanding the relationship between policy and conduct. What I want is different conduct. What I want is police who don’t walk into tense situations and escalate them, antagonize people, draw batons on children, shoot teenagers. And cost us a fortune for the privilege. What I want is that if I see the cops arrest somebody, to feel confident this was a reasonable response to the situation and the person in the back of the car, my fellow resident, isn’t going to disappear down a back channel. I want to feel like the police are who stands behind me when I tap somebody on the shoulder and say, “Excuse me, but I understand there was an altercation between you and my city. You will henceforward understand that harming it means crossing me. Make better choices.”

That is, instead of feeling like they’re the ones with a shoulder I need to tap.


When I was looking for a job ahead of moving back, I had a phone interview with a promising prospective employer. I explained that no, I couldn’t drop in for an in-person interview later that week, I was relocating from Seattle and wasn’t going to move until I had work lined up. How long have I been gone? Ten years, but I’ve had it with being away and, come hell or high water, I’m going back. “Why? Everybody here wants to leave.” I didn’t pursue that job any further.

Chicago is the third largest city in the country behind New York and LA. Frankly, LA cheats and shouldn’t count. It is the only major city where the population is shrinking instead of growing. It’s in a state that spent most of the ten years I was away failing to pass a budget of any sort, which meant loss of basic, expected funding on a slew of fronts. Most of the population loss is from the Black and Latinx populations because those are the ones who’ve had their schools shut down. Those are the ones getting harassed and shot by the police. When I hear a white person sneer and talk about how they want to leave Chicago, I like them less. When I hear somebody else say it, I find myself staring down an existential threat poised to choke my city to death.

The Red Line runs north to south down the eastern corridor of the city. It starts at the northern border. The lake eats away at the coastline of the city as it moves north, meaning the train is fairly near the shore at the northern end, and miles away by the southern end. It runs through the loop but doesn’t participate: it and the blue line are both underground while they’re downtown. If you ride all the way down, north to south, you can see the whole picture of the city. You’ll pass four major college campuses. Two baseball stadiums. Glance signs for the underground pedways that people working downtown use to avoid winter and weather as they move from municipal buildings to food courts and malls mostly for tourists and spit you out at parking garages and Millennium Park or City Hall or or or.

Further south you pass Chinatown. Later, the tracks nestle down between two sides of the Dan Ryan Expressway and the train blows past traffic backups with smug abandon. By then the cars have fewer passengers. The atmosphere changes. People seem to know each other more, at least recognize fellow commuters. Chat. Pass through doors from one car to another to avoid somebody sleeping along a row of seats, or get away from somebody blaring music or just to stretch their legs. The Red Line has the most frequent service of any of the trains, especially during rush hour. Trains don’t hang around at stations for people to get off and change cars. No need. Just go through the doors between cars. In winter you get a blast of cold air. In summer, humidity pours in thick and sticky. This is normal enough that I’m more likely to settle down with my bike near the passenger doors than block the end of the car.

When I was commuting down from Rogers Park to the Loop every day for work, if I missed the best train for getting in on time and wound up with second best, I’d get the Red Line train with the conductor who loved his job more than anyone I’ve ever met. “Good morning Chicago, and are you ready for your day?” He was a relentless pep talk from Morse to Lawrence, urging students to focus on their studies, encouraging workers to focus on their day, and assuring everyone that it was going to be a good day. I hate mornings and that much cheerfulness that early is torture. I loved him anyway. Because he was right, fundamentally. I was in Chicago, crammed in with a bunch of other Chicagoans, riding a train to go do things that make Chicago work, keep it here, give it life. Totally worth getting out of bed for.

A week ago Friday, hours after Mayor Lightfoot announced more police would be put on the Red Line to keep it safe, a man passed from one car to the next through the doors at the end. It was afternoon rush hour. The train was downtown. With the workers. And the tourists. Packed with people who want to feel safe.

Since the Red Line is underground downtown, that’s where you’ll get musicians setting up and busking. Sometimes it’s a guy with a sax and a speaker filling out smooth jazz covers. Sometimes it’s a guy with a guitar. Or a guy with a guitar and a partner doing vocals. Sometimes it’s a group of teenagers rapping over a prerecorded beat. I don’t care who it is or what they’re doing because it’s awesome absolutely every time. Those platforms are alive when they have people and performers. They’re thriving.

During rush hour a man passed from one car to another in violation of a safety ordinance that is never, ever followed. There were cops on the train.

Before it was over, he and the police were on the train platform at Grand (tourist central). They shot him. Twice.

Public safety.


What kind of standard is that? Where is the responsibility? Is CPD really too devoted to itself to love the city it’s supposed to guard? Am I really supposed to find that acceptable? To want more of it? To think it solves anything?


On my way home from a play Friday night, I got to the platform just as a northbound train was leaving. I didn’t mind. The play was intense and left me a lot to chew over. The trains come pretty often and there was still a decent crowd of people on the platform, enjoying their Friday night. At the center, taking up most of the space, was a ring of six cops. They were turned in, talking with each other, large and conspicuously unusual. The guy with the shaggy hair and harmonica plunked down on one of the benches was only making a half-hearted attempt to play anything.

A southbound train pulled in. The cops piled onto a mostly empty car. The train left. I thought about watching for fare enforcement on the train platforms in Seattle. Waiting for them to board the car and descend on the people inside, demanding proof you had a right to be there. How nice it’s been not to deal with that.

A few minutes later another northbound train came. I got onto a car where most of the seats were filled. In a few minutes we’d be stopping at Grand. There were no cops in sight.

I still didn’t feel safe.

Black Ariel

Silhouette of an armed mer-creature

Let’s talk about black Ariel. First, my credentials:

Disney’s 1989 The Little Mermaid was the first legitimate VHS tape I ever owned. It was gifted to me as a Christmas present because I had been so abjectly in love with the film when my grandparents took me to the theater, and I proceeded to watch it at least once a day, every day, for nigh unto all time. The tape developed a noticeable squeak by the end of year one. My parents probably still twitch if any portion of the sound track comes on within ear shot. I knew that film forwards and backwards, and to this day can still quote the whole thing at you, as I heard it and learned it when I was five. (That is to say, there are places where the script turns into nonsense syllables.) I did not have all the Little Mermaid merchandise, but everything I owned was Little Mermaid. It was my monochromatic color choice before I found black. My entire social life centered around the fact that I was the chief authority on the film and its source texts. That made me god-king of the playground, and I was a fierce and benevolent leader.

My first aesthetic, philosophical crisis as a child was when, at the age of eight, I realized that Beauty and the Beast was an objectively better film, and had to decide whether that made me a traitor. I concluded that I could acknowledge the ways Beauty and the Beast outstripped its predecessor while still faithfully loving the other one, and thereby achieved, at the age of eight, levels of maturity the internet would still lack a quarter of a century later. Good job, humans.

Gustav Wertheimer's  "The Kiss of the Siren" wherein that sailor is totally getting drowned in a moment.

And, frankly, humans behaving like a stupid sack of salted rocks is why you’re getting this rant. Because, excuse me, Ariel can absolutely be played by a black woman. White skin is not an intrinsic element of the character. Red hair, and the color of her tail (invented specifically for her by the Disney animators, a fact I learned while despairing of ever finding its match in a crayon box while coloring in pictures of her) are the only pigments that are in any fashion intrinsic to Ariel. She’s just white because Hans Christian Anderson was and Disney, in 1989, didn’t have the guts to handle fragile white-folk pearl clutching in 1989. (To be fair, it’s not that they have those guts now. They’ve just figured out a a different marketing model from the one they were operating under then. Like you do, over the course of thirty years.) In fact, the creators were pushing boundaries by making her a red head instead of a blonde. Everybody at the time thought mermaids had to be blond, and the creators rebelled. Ariel’s been a pigment-boundary-pusher from the start. (My source: The DVD extras on the special anniversary DVD edition my sister gave me for my birthday to replace the poor, squeaky tape. I promptly watched everything.)

None of what I have already said, or am about to say, actually needs to be said, because the people having a panic attack over this, while entitled to whatever emotional hyperbole they care to indulge in, ought to be keeping it to themselves and sparing the rest of us their idiotic tantrum. But you don’t spend the formative years of your childhood obsessively trying to figure out the land version of a sea-witch who can get you access to another world where you fit in, then let this nonsense go unchallenged. So, let’s instead flay the stupid, point by point.

Photo of the famous Little Mermaid Statue

Ariel is white in the source material.

Did you really just make an argument that Disney should be faithful to the source material? Are you out of your head? Have you missed the last century of film production by that company? Do you know the ending in the source material? (It’s better, right up until it’s worse.) Take that stellar rhetorical point scoring of yours and eat matches.

It doesn’t make sense for there to be black mermaids in Denmark at that time.

First of all, stop learning your history from faux-medieval fantasy novels, and your idea of population migratory patterns from antebellum anti-abolitionist hacks. Second of all, what actually doesn’t make sense is a white mermaid in the first place.

Let’s set aside the whole truckload of problems with the notion that you can handle the existence of mer-civilization and talking fish, but not black ones, and look at this from a reasoned, biological point of view: It makes absolutely no sense for Ariel to be white. Assuming her pigmentation on her human parts are driven by human evolutionary processes, she’s black, and I don’t mean “Acceptable for Hollywood light-skinned black.” Mutations that have created the variety of pigmentation present in human phenotypes are driven by a variety of environmental factors, most notably, interaction with the sun. This is not a pressure present in people who live at the bottom of the ocean. I don’t know how mer-folk are getting their vitamin D, but it’s not through direct manufacture via sunlight. Maybe, maybe some random mutation got preserved for another reason and Halle Bailey can swan in as a perfect pigmentation match. There’s no chance you’re winding up at a “Plausible to hysterical white people for the north sea” complexion.

The prettiest little great white shark you ever did see

And if their pigmentation doesn’t follow human evolutionary patterns, but aquatic ones? You’re stretching to either the beluga whale, or the great white shark, as your paths to a white mermaid. Whales actually do routinely interact with the surface, so you have some legs on a north sea-based argument there, though siren stories tend to trace mermaids south, not north. As for great whites? They’re mostly kind of a dull gray, with white bellies. That sure is one attractive mer-fish you’re designing there.

This is all just a campaign to make liberals happy.

And, so what if it is? That’s not an argument so much as a pile of scrap tin with one leg. Liberals have money. They buy things, and boycott things and like to see the world as they understand it reflected to them. You see, they’re human. Unlike mermaids. It is totally within the rights of an old, global megacorporation to decide that seeking out the dollars of “liberals” is worthwhile, even if if means making you, tiny numskull cretin that you are, uncomfortable. Go back to sucking those rocks from earlier for comfort if you need it.

This is more proof that political correctness has gone too far and people are being forced to comply with new groupthink standards and pass virtue tests.

Yeah, Disney looking at the massive success of Moana and deciding to make sure they don’t shut themselves out of that global audience when they once again prostitute a beloved element of my childhood for untold lucre is totally a return of Hollywood Blacklists and McCarythism. Because we’re having congressional hearings where we publicly lambaste people just for being friends with white supremacists and then rendering them unemployable for the rest of their lives, right? No? What are you whining about?

White castle gates

The idea that you can defy the supreme legal authority of your realm, treacherously make a pact with a known national enemy, then seek to form a binding alliance with a foreign, hostile power, and all your dreams come true as a result, is an intrinsically white narrative and should be portrayed as such.

Nobody made that point. But you could, and I’d still respect you after. My response to it is, simply: Sometimes art has to be the vanguard and drag reluctant reality behind it. Let’s open the doors of privilege and consequenceless-recklessness aristocrats of all races.

Civic Temple: Alpha Release

After several drafts wherein I try to explain my reasons for doing this and then decide that typing variations of “Fuck everything,” over and over again isn’t an introduction, I’m going to keep this short and sweet.

Has your inclination to call or write your various government representatives taken an uptick of late?  As in, a major uptick?  Do you want it to, but find yourself intimidated by not knowing what to say or how to say it?  Here’s a thing that might help.

Currently, it’s a spreadsheet with a bit of setup you need to do initially, and a tiny bit you need to do for each specific issue.  However, once you’ve got that going, you’ll have phone, letter, and email scripts for your various officials – no need to look up scripts a hundred different places online.  Better, they’ll be scripts that are personalized to you out of the box, so you don’t have to put too much thought into rewriting the generic scripts circulating.

This is just the slimmest fraction of what I want to do with this project (thus the Alpha designation) but it’s a start.  Long term, I’m hoping have the beautiful, unholy hybrid of something like the Submissions Grinder or Duotrope and Habitica.  Want to help?  Let me know.  I can do this all by myself, but it’ll be a looooooong time before it’s actually done.

Strange Horizons Resistance Special Issue

All week this week, Strange Horizons has been releasing a ton of content for the Resistance special issue.  This includes six fiction stories which, I think, is the highest density of published fiction the magazine has ever undertaken.  The issue is gorgeous and important and we podcast every word of that fiction.  Today is a double-header picked out with today very much in mind.  Need to feel better?  Just knowing we were going to put these stories up has been a warm cuddly blanket of angry glee for me.  I hope it does the same for you, too.

Here’s the whole issue.  I hope it helps.

Dear Wisconsin

It’s probably pretty obvious what I’m going to say, writing to you today, but I need to say it, and you need to hear it.

I’m leaving you.

It would be fair to say that I was always going to leave you, but that’s not true, is it?  There was a while there where you were acting like somewhere I’d be willing to make my home permanently, and I accepted that from you.  Ours was an arranged marriage from the start – I left Chicago to come here not because I wanted you, but because I was broke and in debt and needed the job only you were willing to offer me – but it could have grown into a love match.  We could have been partners and allies and lovers into my gray years.  I’m hugely allergic to you, and you’re just about the only place I seem to have allergies, but I was willing to overlook that to have what you were offering.

You know what I’m talking about.  You did it on purpose, a lure designed to soften me to your charms and offerings.  You got me invested.  You got me interested and involved.  You made promises.  And then you were too ham-fisted, fumblingly incompetent to deliver on them.  You were weak.  Your were pathetic.  You were embarrassing.  That is a seven point spread I will hold against you forever.

Make no mistake – I am angry with you.  I have been angry with you for two years.  I am going to be angry with you for a long, long time.  I worked hard for you and you betrayed me.    You have some serious, deep, self-loathing issues and I am beyond caring about what that does to you because first, I’ve got to deal with the fallout of what it did to me.  I am finished with you.  I’m out of here.

Two years is a long time to wait.  You could call me petty, or unforgiving for holding onto it this long without doing something before.  That’d be fair.  I shouldn’t have trusted you, shouldn’t have stopped clearing my exits just because it looked like we might have a permanent thing going.  I shouldn’t have gotten so invested that even now, two years later, I can barely have a civil conversation about what went on between us.  That’s on me.  I’ll accept that.  But the right solution is the same.

I don’t care what you do in your next election.  Go hang yourself.  I’ll be making my way out to Seattle.  Washington has its own set of problems and issues, but we’ll be starting on better terms, and at the very least I won’t be compromising on my basic infrastructure preferences and my ability to breathe for three quarters of the year.

I’d wish you the best going forward, but I really don’t care as long as you’re not my problem any more.

Madison Cuddle House

I’ve been casually following the saga of the Madison Cuddle House with interest over the last several months.  For those of you not in the know, cuddle houses are things that have been cropping up here and there around the country where people can go and essentially rent time with a stranger for hugging, cuddling, and other non-sexual physical contact.  This is something I strongly feel there should be more of in the world, but I’m also prone to rant about how under-served the female androsexual demographic is by the sex industry in general, and cuddle houses seem like a gateway to exploiting that demographic, so I’m probably heavily biased.

As far as I can tell, and I’d caution you to note my use of “casually” in the first sentence when evaluating how much credit to give what I say, the Madison project is/was being run by a hippy with more heart than sense, who’s entire approach came down to, “Hugs good, therefore it’ll all work out, man.”  The city took one look at this, went, “Well, the only way that’s possibly going to work out is if this guy is the dullard front for an organized prostitution something something, so we must thwart it!” Which is exactly what your response should be if you credit humanity with sense and intelligence.  I’ve spent enough time interacting with the Madison activist hippy scene that my gut suspicion is that the guy really is just that bright-eyed and naive.  Apparently the city of Madison has more faith in the quality of humanity than I do.  That’s okay – so does a broken pencil.

After weeks of delays for permitting, getting insurance, developing minorly important things like staff training and a business plan (!), etc, the Cuddle House opened.  And as far as I can tell, shortly after, it closed, surprising precisely…well, I guess the people who were sure it was a front might be surprised.

At several points in the course of watching this story I thought about blogging it, just because it’s kinda funny, and captures Madison being Madison really well.  But I never got around to blogging while things were timely, and so didn’t.  And then this article came out, containing this quote:

“There’s no way that (sexual assault) will not happen,” assistant city attorney Jennifer Zilavy said. “No offense to men, but I don’t know any man who wants to just snuggle.”

As horrifically problematic and not okay as the first part of the quote is, I’m going to let it slide due to lack of context.  It’s entirely possible that she was saying that in direct response to the poor or absent training of the Cuddle House staff, and therefore not operating on the assumption that it’s not possible to have a safe environment for this kind of behavior.  (It is.  There’s a long history of sex and swingers clubs managing to do it just fine)  Let’s instead turn to the unambiguously unacceptable sexism contained in the second half the quote.

Uhm, excuse me Ms Zilavy, but how man men do you know?  Because I’ve heard the, “Dating is hard because I want cuddles but girls hear that and assume/require sex,” from more than one of my guy friends.  In one particular case I’d assumed the guy was using “cuddle” as a euphemism for sex for months, and didn’t figure it out until my punchline failed when I teased him for wanton catting around.  (Want to have a hilarious conversation with a friend?  That’s not how to do it)

Can we just all get something straight here?  It’s easy: Women are just as capable of wanting sex for its own sake as men, and do.  Men are just as capable of wanting the non-sexual elements of a relationship as women, and do.  This is not shocking.  It is not obscure, esoteric, or even subtle.

Want to know the most second most disappointing sexual encounter of my life to date?  Tough, I’m going to tell you anyway: I wanted a warm body in bed and some cuddles.  Send willing, eager, available man to bed for to get these things.  He also wanted a warm body in bed and some cuddles.  We both thought the other one expected sex.  Neither of us was interested at that particular moment, but hey, whatever.  This led to a great deal of awkward meh, and then the cuddles we were both after the whole time.  I tell you this because it’s stupid statements like Ms Zilavy’s and the cultural memes they reinforce that caused this misunderstanding.  We do not need more things in the world that lead to meh sex.

Also, we don’t need more reinforcement of the idea that men are supposed to be so stoic, macho, and emotionally disconnected that they can’t possible get behind touch-feely things like intimate relationships and cuddling.  Though, really, it’s the meh sex that has me het up.  I can’t help it, I have a pathological aversion to boredom.

I’m kinda hoping somebody with some business sense tries the cuddle house idea in Madison again, but I suspect this failed iteration has poisoned the well.  More likely, I’m hoping Ms Zilavy meets some more guys, or bothers to have an actual conversation with the ones she knows because the lady is seriously missing a few clues.

Update: Spamtastic Promotion Fail

You may recall when I posted this.  Well, they’re still going, still bugging people, and now I have the first report of them not following through on their promises.  To quote, in entirety, a comment just left on the older post:

People are still being offered different amounts. I was offered one amount, and a blogger friend a different one.

I told them that I would only participate if I followed FTC guidelines. I wrote that it was a sponsored post, even signed up for a free trial (and cancelled before my CC was charged).

Now, after putting them as no-follow links, which is what you MUST do when you are compensated, Nick @ Grammarly is refusing to compensate me. He did NOT ever specify in any previous email that the link must be do-follow or I would not have agreed.

Do NOT participate! Grammarly will not compensate you if you post ethically!!!! They are looking for bloggers who are willing to bend the rules. Don’t stoop to that level, be ethical.

I hadn’t realized that the free trial they offer you demanded credit card information up front (I never went that far with them).  That adds an extra special layer of sketch, since the reason marketers offer free trials that collect you credit card info up front is so that they get some payments in when you forget to cancel.

In summary, what they’re doing is offering you money to try their product, in the hopes of luring you into buying it by accident, and you can’t even rely on them to pay out the money they used as bait.  Good job, guys.  Way to model that scum look and do it proud!