Archive for Personal issues

QUILTBAGS the Web Series

quiltbags cast

Here’s something worth supporting.  Check out the new web series, QUILTBAGS and help spread it around.

The acronym is not original to this series.  It stands for  Questioning/Queer, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans, Bi, Asexual, Gay.  It’s gaining currency because it’s easier to remember and more inclusive than LGBTQ.   The series has added  the S, for Straight, so it includes everybody.

The series mission is to promote sex positive attitudes, tolerance and acceptance through dramatized comedy scenes.  The first two episodes are now on line.

Here’s QUILTBAGS episode 1  (You’ll  find episode 2 if you scroll down on that linked page)

Don’t forget to subscribe, so you get a notification of each new episode, then leave a comment on the site.  Give these people some guidance and encouragement.

(Full disclosure:  Yes, I’m involved.  I wrote the theme song and play one of the characters.)

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Nobody got the joke.

This was my April Fools Day gag for this year.  I think the impact of the line of staples was overwhelming, because nobody got the joke.

knee replacement with added grease nipple

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You’ve Got a Good Family, My Trans Nephew.

Over the holidays I learned that one of my many nieces is no longer a niece, but is now a nephew.  This came on the heels of the horribly sad story of (Leelah) Josh Alcorn, the young trans woman who killed herself after years of psychological torture by her Christian parents.

Naturally my first thought was for the mental and physical health of my nephew.  He’s a female to male transgender, which I understand is far more difficult surgically than the other way around.  I learned about this from my sister, a Christian,  the boy’s grandmother.  After she told me the news,  I told her about the tragedy of Leelah Alcorn and sent her this message.

Dear S___:

Here’s a link to the article I told you about.

This is such a sad story, S____.  We’d better all make sure L___  gets the support he needs.


Darwin Harmless  (Not the name I use in actual correspondence)

Her reply really warmed my heart:

You’re right that this is a terribly tragic story.  But saying all Christians believe this crap is a bit like saying all Muslims are terrorists.  As far as I know L___  has not met with this kind of cruelty from any member of our family and as far as I know you are the only non believer but this is off the topic.

I do not know how anyone can harbour that kind of ignorance in this day and age but sadly I know they do.  L___ had the courage to come with his Mom to tell me how he felt, we had gone through the I am gay stage and I think that is because he did not know what the real issue was. I can not imagine the confusion these kids must feel.  We humans are very visual in our perception.  What we see in the wrapping is what it is to us.

When L____ told me his greatest fear was that the family would push him aside we all assured him that even if we did not understand all the issues he would face no one in the family would withdraw our support or love.  Your cousin, K____,  is probably the most educated and understanding.   The rest of us will try to relate and support him anyway we can.  I have asked L____ to also understand that the older the family member or friend is the harder it will be to understand how difficult the transition will be for him. I have asked him to take shock or ignorant questions as a lack of knowledge not rejection of him,  that whether people understand or not he will always be loved and can come to us if he needs to hear that.

So far everyone has supported L____ –  a few raised eyebrows but no one is inclined to be cruel.  I think L_____ is very lucky.  My heart bleeds for the ones whose family think punishment is going to cure someone of who they are. Aside from that, K____ and I have had many discussions about this issue.  I really want to be sure that this is who L____ is because from an early age his parents, both wanting to make sure he was raised without gender identification, made it seem that identifying as a girl was a negative thing.  I have seen his father ridicule anything girly. K____ feels that even with that kind of programing it would not be possible to change your natural instinct.  Hope she is right.

L____  has gone through about three years of counselling and seems to be very happy with what he is doing.  I guess the proof is in the pudding. As a girl he was a most annoying child, nasty in fact.  Since he told everyone what he is doing he seems to be much happier and has become quite pleasant to be around.  My only wish is that he finds his place in life and can cope with the issues that will arise.  Whether we like it or not the human race is the nastiest beast on earth.  We are capable of extreme cruelty and I doubt that will ever change.You can be sure that L____  has the support he needs.  We do not need to completely understand what he is going through to stand behind him and up for him.  Anyone being mean to L____  will deal with a whole wall of angry people.   I am not surprised but very glad that you and R____ will stand with us.

Love S____

To which I replied:

I have never been prouder of you than I am at this moment.

You are just a fine human being and I’m so happy that you are my sister.

If you have an email address or facebook contact for L_____, I wouldn’t mind lending my note of support.

Much love

Darwin Harmless  (and R____)

P.S. I am sorry for the anti-Christian bias of the article I sent you.  The fact is, the intolerance that drove this girl to suicide seems to be more associated with devout religious belief than otherwise, and in this case religious belief was a direct cause of the girl’s suffering.  But I’m aware that most Christians would find that behaviour misguided and wrong.  Some of my best friends and most, if not all, family members identify as Christians.  I love them all.  I just can’t connect with the belief system.  It just doesn’t make any sense to me, as if they are talking another language when the dogma is explained.  That may well be my failing.  It’s been described to me like somebody who has absolutely no appreciation for music.  Trying to explain music to such a person would be a waste of time.

And a final note from my sister:

Hi Darwin Harmless:
I do not have a media contact for L____.  He decided sites that Grandparents and old people use are just to tacky for him, but I will certainly pass on your support the next time we speak.
I am so glad that he has such support from family I can not imagine the pain of rejection that so many people suffer.  I still have great fear of suicide in this case because even with all the support the world is a cruel place and I fear he will not have an easy life. Family support may not be enough.  I hope that love and support at home will give him the strength, courage and self confidence to thumb his nose at discrimination.  I hope that in the future he will find someone with the dedication and love to withstand the discrimination they will suffer as a couple.  There are so many issues ahead of him that have not yet been breached.  I try not to look too far forward.  The world is changing so fast and there are far more people coming forward with transgender issues.  Maybe at this time and in the future he will find more acceptance than in the past.  Can you imagine what he would have suffered when we where teens.  I did not even hear of transgender until I was a much older adult.  Being a teenager is such a difficult time.

Love you both


And as always, I’m giving myself the last word:

Hi S____:

There is hope.  We have a friend, actually an old friend of R____’s, who is a male to female transgendered.  The funny thing is she’s still attracted to women, so she’s a lesbian.  Go figure, eh.  Anyway, she has a beautiful girlfriend and the two are just crazy about each other.  She’s also surrounded by very supportive friends, mostly slightly older people who are all misfits to some extent themselves.

Like you said, the world is changing.  Happiness is possible, even for those who have the hardest path to walk.

Much love

Darwin Harmless

And there you have it.  It feels so good that my family stands in such stark contrast to the loving Christian family that couldn’t accept Leelah Alcorn.  And perhaps my family is more the norm, even among Christians.  We can hope.

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It’s all About Communication

spinach caught in teeth

Shelley Berman did a comedy routine back in the sixties in which he described being on a date and every time you go to kiss the girl she turns her head.  Then when you get home you look in the mirror and find a big piece of spinach RIGHT  HERE.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if such a scenario were impossible.  In my perfect world it would be, because people would talk to each other.  Like this: “You know, I’d really like to kiss you but you have a big chunk of spinach in your teeth and it’s grossing me out.  How about we get rid of that and try again?”

Is that really so hard?  Why don’t I live in that world, instead of a world in which people identify with and laugh at Shelley Berman’s story?

And given that my perfect world doesn’t exist, can we do anything about this?


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Too Much Information

I’ve always hated that phrase, too much information.  It’s usually said by somebody who is squeamish about body functions or your personal and disgusting habits.  But we all have body functions and personal disgusting habits.  I have no problem with people telling me about theirs.

But I’ve found that too much information is really hurting me now.   I thought I knew all about the effects of infant male circumcision.  I didn’t.  I recently found this video, and it explained why my ejaculation is, as she describes it, an “on off switch” rather than a smooth ride to orgasm.

Interesting.  Upsetting. The more I learn about the results of circumcision, the more I personally feel a deep and painful sense of loss.  I wish I could simply ignore her description of the sexual act for an intact man as opposed to a circumcised me, but her description of what sex feels like to me is too spot on.  That’s what it feels like to me.  No smooth ride to climax, but hard humping waiting for something to happen and then, okay, here I come.  An on off switch.

Masturbation has now become at times painful.  I feel like I have to beat the little prick to death to get him to spit it out.  Again, it’s an on off switch, not a smooth ride to the top of the roller coaster.

I’ve never before wanted to be ignorant about anything, but sometimes I wish I had remained ignorant on this subject.  I’ve always loved sex.  It’s been good enough. No, not just good enough, it’s been great. But now as I get older, I find problems that obviously come from having been circumcised and if I were ignorant they wouldn’t have the same sting.  If I were ignorant, as I assume are most circumcised men, I’d just accept it as the way it is with being human.  I wouldn’t feel so cheated and fucked over.

If you are a circumcised man, and I’m now making you feel cheated and fucked over, sorry about that.  But join the campaign.  This kind of thing has to stop.  It was done to us, but it doesn’t need to be done to any more helpless babies.

Fucking doctors with their anti-sexual Abrahamic religion backgrounds, their smug assumption that they can fix things with surgery when no fixing is needed.  Fucking parents with the smug attitude that they can do whatever they want with their baby, even cut off part of his genitals just to make him look more like daddy, though apparently that wasn’t the situation with my father.  My father never allowed me to see his penis.  He had a huge lump of body shame and I never even saw him in a bathing suit.  I found out recently that he wasn’t circumcised.  I’d love to know who sold him on the idea and how a smart man like him could accept it.

Ah, baggage.  Let it go, Darwin.  Let it go.

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I Guess I’m Just a Crank

A crank is a person who is angry and offended by something that everybody else accepts or even desires.

It seems nobody agrees with me on some issues.  That makes me a crank.  There’s no getting away from it.

It has recently been brought to my attention, or more correctly my awareness, through conversations within my family, that I am the only one who is offended by the concept of laws against public nudity.  This isn’t because I wish to, as my sister would put it, prance around in the nude.  It’s simply because being told that I will go to jail if I try it says that there is something wrong with my body, something unacceptable, probably located in the genital area.

“Indecent exposure” is itself an indecent concept.

Stephen Gough, the naked rambler.  Turn him loose.But okay, I’m not completely alone here, though I lack the commitment of Stephen Gough, the naked rambler.

Mr. Gough walked naked from Land’s End to John o’ Groats in 2003-2004 and again in 2005-2006.



Stephen Gough arrested for offending the public. I am not offended by him.  I am offended by the public.

He’s been repeatedly arrested, and is currently serving 6 years in jail for appearing in public naked.  That is so very fucked up.

I wish I had the guts to walk across my country to show solidarity with Stephen Gough.


But back to my original point – Stephen Gough is a crank and so am I.  This is apparent because there’s been no widespread campaign to have him released, no embarrassment in the culture for treating him so shamelessly.  The vast majority of people seem to think that public nudity, which really harms nobody, is quite rightfully illegal.  People who offend us with their naked bodies deserve to be in jail.

Stephen Gough does have his fans and his defenders.  The Hebden Bridge Eccentrics turned out naked, or mostly naked, in solidarity.

Art least some people have a sense of shame.But it’s far from a general outcry.  I am truly offended.  I am furious.   Stephen Gough decided to fight one of the stupidest of our taboos.  He’s harmed nobody, but society feels justified in putting him in jail for what could be life.  By what right?  This is abuse of the law, using it to enforce the preferences of the majority.

New York recently declared that women have the right to appear topless in public.  I want the right to appear bottomless in public.  There is nothing obscene about my body, or yours.

This is a freedom of expression issue that should be important to everybody.  But only cranks like me and Stephen Gough care.

Maybe someday I’ll write up a sign to carry, strip off my clothes, and show my true colours.  It’s tempting, but I really don’t want the attention right now.

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Do Yourself and Do It Yourself

What Nicolaus Hartsoeker imagined he could see in a sperm cell back in 1694, in the days when women only provided the vessel.My partner and I are both too old to have another child, a decision we reached when we found out the odds of having a downs syndrome baby once a woman is over forty.  So we’ve been using the notoriously ineffective coitus interruptus method for birth control.   A condom simply doesn’t work for me.  Put latex on my dick and it might as well be made of wood for all the sensation that makes it through the rubber, one more gift of circumcision.  It takes me long enough to achieve a climax as it is.

I never seem to dribble before I shoot, so coitus interruptus works well for us.  But it has the obvious disadvantage that I have to closely monitor my ejaculation, which pulls me out of the moment.  We both look forward to those times of the month when her period has reduced from a gusher to a trickle, and I can just stay where I want to be and explode into her without fear of contributing genetic material to a rug rat.  That means the really great sex happens once a month, provided I manage to slip through that window of opportunity.

Before we decided that pregnancy was too dangerous, we were trying to have a child.  I still would like one.  She’s never had one.  But two years or so of unprotected sex did not result in a pregnancy.  A while back she wondered out loud whether she is even fertile.  It’s a question.

There’s also a question about my fertility.  For all I knew, I could be shooting blanks.  I’m getting old.  Sex is still great, when it happens, but I do notice a marked reduction in my sex drive.  I’m just not the three times a night stud that I used to be.  Now it’s more like three times a month, if I can get it up.  And that can be a problem too.

Pretty much what my son's microscope looks like, only older.I happen to be visiting my son these days.  He’s a sciency type of guy and owns a microscope.  You can see where this is going, right?  Yesterday I took a…ahem…. sperm sample.  This is not as easy as it once was, but still possible with patience and vigorous stimulation.  I put a drop of my ejaculate on a slide and positioned it on the stage of the microscope.  Focus.  Focus.  My son’s microscope is a bit of an antique, though I’m sure it would have given Charles Darwin a pulge if he could have got his hands on one like it.  I couldn’t get the highest level of magnification to show me anything, and don’t know why.  But the middle objective lens gave me an image. Lo and behold there were dots in my cum.   Very active dots with tails.  Millions of active dots with thrashing tails.

I spent quite a while staring at those wiggling dots with tails.  It’s rather awesome to think that each one of those dots with a tail contains half my genetic material, and that the son I am visiting started out as a similar dot that managed to luck out and find a fertile egg in appropriate place in my first wife.  It was a feeling akin to looking at a newborn baby, except not as cute of course.  Missing those adorable fingers with tiny fingernails.  So strange to see something that came out of my body, yet remains so obviously alive, one might almost say purposeful.  That didn’t last.  After twenty minutes there was nothing to see, as if the cells had dissolved into the background goo.

I’ve read that one ejaculation from a healthy human contains enough sperm to impregnate every woman on the planet.  I don’t know if this is true, but there sure were a fuck of a lot of sperm in that drop of cum, and that drop was just a tiny fraction of my total ejaculation.

This is a bit bigger magnification than I had, but I could tell that those dots were active.That answers the questions about whether I still need to withdraw before I inject sperm into my wife’s vagina.  Now I realize that I could have done a more complete and definitive sperm count if I’d just spent the time for a bit of research.  I should have read this first.

Oh well.  It’s another couple of weeks before my wife joins me at my current location, deep in the back woods of a former British colony.  I have time, and possibly something else, on my hands.  Perhaps I’ll feel motivated to refine my technique and get more definitive.

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We Reveal Ourselves in our Humour

A relative sent me this “joke” today, and it brought out some thoughts.

The Haircut

A teenage boy had just passed his driving test and inquired of his father as to when they could discuss his use of the car.

His father said he’d make a deal with his son: ‘You bring your grades up from a C to a B average, study your Bible (Say what? DH), and get your hair cut. Then we’ll talk about the car.’ (Notice, no commitment from the father here. He’ll just be open to more begging and pleading. DH)

The boy thought about that for a moment, decided he’d settle for the offer, and they agreed on it.

After about six weeks his father said, ‘Son, you’ve brought your grades up and I’ve observed that you have been studying your Bible, but I’m disappointed you haven’t had your hair cut.

The boy said, ‘You know, Dad, I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve noticed in my studies of the Bible that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair ~ and there’s even strong evidence that Jesus had long hair.

You’re going to love the Dad’s reply: (Don’t count on it. DH)

scroll down


(Sure, make me scoll down to get your predictable punch line. D.H.)


Did you also notice that they all walked everywhere?” (Because cars hadn’t been invented yet, shithead. DH)

generation gapGrrr.  I left home at seventeen because my dad got all bent out of shape about my hair.  That makes me sad.  Such a stupid reason to leave home, but at the time I felt I was forced into it. I wasn’t going to have anybody telling me that his values trumped my own, and allowing him to use money and power to enforce his neurotic authority just made me feel like a prostitute.

If I tried to think of a stupid reason to cause tension and conflict in a family, I’d have to think for a long time before I could come up with something stupider than trying to get your kid to fit your idea of what he or she should wear as a hair style. If that effort could be effective, we’d all be wearing high starched collars and women would still not be allowed to wear trousers.

We’ve come a long way since the fifties.

My father fired a sales rep back then because he wore a neatly trimmed goatee.  “Don’t send any bearded weirdo around to sell me life insurance.”

I have personally been refused service in a restaurant because my hair and beard didn’t fit the owners idea of proper style. Thank the FSM we seem to have left those repressive days behind us.

Peeling the onion down another layer, I can’t think of a better way to turn a kid into an atheist than to force him to read the bible, so full of genocide, rape, incest, adultery, and slavery, most of it either ordered by the Christian god or done in his name.   Should we approve of this father because he makes his son read the bible?  Why couldn’t he get his kid to read something of actual value, like Scientific American or Nature or maybe Mad Magazine?

We have “battle of the sexes” humour, reactionary versus counter culture humour, generation gap humour.  This is a great example of how we reveal ourselves in what we find funny.  What this reveals to me is a culture that has severely misplaced priorities, valuing appearance over substance, style over values.

I guess this “joke” comes from a culture that I rejected many years ago, and a mind set that I don’t have a lot of use for.  I’m sure I sound bitter and angry in this response to it.  I’m not, really.  I am bemused.  I feel like an anthropologist looking at a strange primitive tribe, and trying to understand how their thinking could be so fucked up.

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Goodbye to the CFI

If you’re not up to speed on this, here’s the back story:   Ron Lindsay, CEO of the CFI (Center For Inquiry),  inserted himself into the opening of the Women in Secularism Conference (which the CFI was sponsoring) where he used his position to lecture long time feminists on the error of our ways, in particular our supposed efforts to use “privilege” as a tool to silence poor abused white guys like me.  People howled in outrage.  Lindsay doubled down by attacking and comparing one of the speakers at the conference to North Korea.  Being a long time feminist, as well as a cranky old white guy myself, I wrote Tom Flynn and the board of directors a letter of protest.  Others commented extensively, and  the misogynist haters, stalkers and harassers cheered Lindsay on.  Then we all sat back and waited for something from the board of directors.  Some sign that they got our message.  But apparently not.

“The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

The Center for Inquiry, including its CEO, is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, and this was the motivation for its sponsorship of the two Women in Secularism conferences. The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.

CFI believes in respectful debate and dialogue. We appreciate the many insights and varied opinions communicated to us. Going forward, we will endeavor to work with all elements of the secular movement to enhance our common values and strengthen our solidarity as we struggle together for full equality and respect for women around the world.”

I was profoundly disappointed.  Really this is a non-response, a refusal to comment, a cowardly evasion that did nothing to address the situation.  There was no suggestion of censure, or reproach, or even disagreement with Ron Lindsay.  There was nothing that inspires me with any confidence that the CFI is an organization I can support.

Being “unhappy with the controversy” is not the same as being unhappy with the actions or statements made by your CEO.  It’s more like being unhappy that some people disagree with him and found his remarks objectionable.  Wouldn’t it be nice if everybody could just agree that Ron Lindsay didn’t do anything offensive?  Then we wouldn’t have this nasty controversy that makes us unhappy.

From the statement:  “The Center for Inquiry, including its CEO, is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, and this was the motivation for its sponsorship of the two Women in Secularism conferences.”  I read this as: We stand by our CEO and can’t really see why there’s been any problem with anything he said or did.

I want the board of directors to recognize in some real way, whether by censure or call for apology or dismissal of Ron Lindsay, that there IS a problem and that Ron Lindsay is the source of that problem.  I want something more than corporate spin and bafflegab.

Much as I enjoyed my recent participation in the course given by Richard Carrier under CFI sponsorship, until I read a meaningful response from the CFI board of directors I shall have nothing to do with any CFI activity, including participation in any future CFI course.

I’m hoping to go to Skepticon this year.  For sure I’m going to send them a few sheckles.  Many groups are willing to protest, but not even Barack Obama turned down money from the bad guys.  If you can spare the folks at Skepticon a bit of cash, here’s the link.  I’m told every little bit helps.


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Oh fuck, Not My Dick Part 2 the Ultrasound

Many thoughts have been boiling through my brain since my last post, wherein I revealed my newly discovered Peyronie’s Disease which is making my dick look like I’m wearing an invisible cock ring when I get an erection, which hasn’t been all that frequent an event lately.  There’s good news and bad news.

The good news is that Viagra actually works, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t just the placebo effect.  Of course the flip side of that good news is that it seems I must pay Pfizer and assorted middlemen sixteen bucks every time I want a stiffy.  Maybe I can find the stuff cheaper someplace other than the first drug store I walked into.  But I have to say that the chemical solution to this problem does not make me deliriously happy, no matter what the cost.  I’d much rather solve it with diet and exercise, but maybe that isn’t enough.

Viagra, with the active ingredient actually called sildenafil citrate,  also comes in another form, marketed as Revatio, for the relief of pulmonary hypertension.  Revatil is sold as 20mg. round white tablets.  Purchasing Viagra in this form gets away from asking for the recognizable drug, which could embarrass some people, and avoids the distinctive blue diamond colour and shape.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the implications of ageing.  For one thing, there will be a last time for most of the things I enjoy.  I may already have had my last time exploring tropical reefs in scuba gear.  The last time I did that I found it so exhausting that I only had two of the three dives I had paid for.  I know a lot can be done to slow the decline, chiefly the aforementioned diet and exercise, and I used to laugh at the Viagra ad in which the chubby guy who didn’t look a day over forty came skipping out the door singing “It’s a Wonderful World”.  Of course you can’t get it up, idiot.  You’ve let your body fall apart.  I would never do that.  And for the most part, I haven’t.  I’m packing a few extra pounds right now, but most mornings I do get on the elliptical trainer for half an hour.  I have good energy.  I watch my diet.  I’m in good shape.

Warning: NSFW below the fold on this post.

Jack Lalanne claimed to be having a hot sex life into his nineties, but of course he owned and lived in a gymnasium.

“Sex at my age is like trying to play pool with a rope.” – George Burns at age 98.  Attaboy, George.  Yuk it up.  That’s what you were good at.

Nelson Mandela, one of the great statesmen of our age, just died (Oops. News of his death was exaggerated.) Surely he would have the best of medical care.  If it can happen to him, it’s most likely going to happen to me.   Charlton Heston died recently (this one has been confirmed), presumably with his gun clutched in his cold dead hand, another rich dude who seemed to keep himself in good shape and must have been able to afford the best of medical care.  All those upbeat TED talks telling me that if I can just live for another twenty years I’ll probably see four hundred… Nope.  Not bloody likely.

Mark Twain said that growing old is a privilege denied to many.  Indeed it is.  I’ve always promised myself that I will grow old gracefully, with a minimum of whining.  And then it hits me in the dick.

Okay, enough whining.  There’s more good news. I went in for the ultrasound today, which was plenty interesting.  According to the doctors there’s really very little wrong with my cock, and not enough to get all sobbing and bent out of shape over, if you’ll pardon the pun..  It’s not cancer.  It’s not, according to the doctors, even a big deal.

Ultrasound, the ultimate sex toy.  Not.

What the technology sees.

Of course that’s easy for them to say.  It’s not their dick.

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