What the Shuttering of Icelandic Strip Clubs says about “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”

Fear Wall

It’s the social conservative’s wet dream: Last week we learned that legislation had passed in Iceland banning all strip clubs.  Not only can you no longer run a strip club, but no business can profit from employee nudity in any way. So topless waitresses are out too.  There are signs that this momentum will result in a banning of the sex industry entirely. The legislation that passed on Wednesday last week is not the work of enterprising evangelicals or straight-laced rightists. Quite the contrary.  It is one of the most unique legislative milestones for the administration of Johanna Sigurdardottir, the first openly lesbian Prime Minister in the world.

This legislation that doubtless would win the approval of American “values” voters, was not inspired by religionists or indeed by any traditionalist undercurrent.  Though the Focus on the Family James Dobsons of the world would be delighted with this kind of an outcome,  this is the achievement of a small, hugely secular, socially progressive, Nordic state that England’s Guardian newspaper, calls “the world’s most feminist country”.

“It is pleasing how fresh the breeze of equality is at Althingi [the Icelandic parliament] these days,” said Siv Fridleifsdótttir of the Progressive Party, the bill’s first presenter (Icelandic newspaper Fréttabladid via Iceland Review Online).

Cut to the United States.  It’s been an interesting few weeks for gay rights.  On March 18, openly gay US infantry officer, Dan Choi, along with an outed officer, Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, chained themselves to the White House fence.  They did so in protest of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT), the US military policy that restricts the military from efforts to out service members or applicants that are gay, lesbian or bisexual, while still barring those that do come out from further service.  After coming out as gay on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show about a year ago, Dan Choi was issued a discharge letter from the military.  Choi has appealed the decision, and a final call has not yet been made.

On March 19, retired senior US military officer and NATO commander John Sheehan shocked the world with his logic in support of DADT.  Sheehan said that part of the reason for the 1995 massacre of 5,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica was the fact that there were gay soldiers among the Dutch UN peacekeeping troops that were protecting the Bosnian Muslim enclave. Sheehan made his statement before a Senate hearing on DADT.  The comments sparked Dutch outrage of biblical proportions, as well as worldwide criticism and disbelief.

What such statements reveal about the moth-eaten mindset of those that back the discrimination and deception inherent in DADT, is telling. Sheehan and like-minded antediluvians are so steeped in their anti-gay dogma that they are willing to make the issue one of life and death.  This is the antiquated language of DADT:  “The prohibition against homosexual conduct is a longstanding element of military law that continues to be necessary in the unique circumstances of military service. … The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.”

So basically, according to the military, gay people are bad for morale and order.  And according to religious conservatives, gays are a threat to the institution of marriage, the physical and psychological health of children and the moral condition of society as a whole.  What is wrong with these dinosaurs? It would behoove them to take a protracted soak in an Icelandic hot spring.  Has society fallen apart in Iceland with an openly gay person wielding the highest powers afforded to a citizen?  Has morale plummeted and chaos reigned?  Are children permanently scarred and is society taking a moral plunge? No, no and NO. Instead we have witnessed the kind of successful attack on the sex industry that most anti-gay, pro-DADT American leaders salivate just thinking about.

It is time for real equality in America.  We may differ in our views on homosexuality but surely, it is time to judge each person on their individual merits and potential, not their sexual orientation.  We are close to the finish line.  President Obama ran on a campaign promise to repeal DADT.  In his first State of the Union he again promised to do it.  May the tides of change hasten and may the insult to basic human equality that is DADT, become a thing of the past.

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Bjorn Karlman

38 thoughts on “What the Shuttering of Icelandic Strip Clubs says about “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell””

  1. I doubt most conservatives in the US are in favor of banning strip clubs. What always bewildered me about the left is that they talk about the exploitation of workers but seem to support the sex industry so religiously.

    What I am getting at is this…what makes more sense? To be outraged by strips clubs and pornography or Wal-Mart.

    This move by Iceland makes sense to me from their perspective. I am surprised more lefties in the US don’t talk about it.

    I, being the capitalist I am, think that basically everything should be legal if the people involved are consenting. Even *gasp* working at Wal-Mart for $8 an hour.

  2. As for the gay thing. DADT is complicated. You can’t have a soap opera playing out on the front lines and expect there to be no effect on the effectiveness of the military. By soap opera, I am referring to people on the front lines engaging in sexual acts with each other. The military is NOT just strict about gay sex. It is pretty strict about many other traditionally frowned upon sex acts…and for practical reasons.

    Repealing DADT will no doubt eventually happen, but it will take time.

    Speaking of equality, when will women get subjugated to the draft just like men? Equal rights is a one way street. The whiter, straighter, and more male you are, the more likely you are to be screwed over by equal rights. There are so many ways that men are not equal with women that no one ever talks about. It literally sickens me.

  3. not sure that the soap opera of gay sex is any different from that of hetero sex which is not banned… and if there were a draft I am for both genders being eligible.

    “The more male you are”????

  4. Children are different. They are not allowed to consent for almost anything. A kid can sign any contract he or she wants, but it isn’t going to hold up in court if the parent doesn’t sign off on it. However, I know of kids who have to work illegally and under the table because laws forbid them to work. That is dumb.

    Sweat shops are in the eyes of the beholder. People in the West think that working for $1 an hour in a crime, but unless the people complaining are willing to give them more money for another job then I don’t really take them seriously. What should people in China do, go back to starving in their rural village? lol. It is absurd to watch these docu’s on sweat shops in my opinion.

  5. “The more male you are”

    Meaning males are disadvantaged in many ways to women. Not a statement against transgender people. lol

    Gay sex won’t be any more of a soap opera that straight sex. But straight sex is a problem. There are all sorts of restrictions on straight sex in the military including the general banning of females from combat situations. I am sure it will work itself out, but it isn’t going to happen overnight, and Obama shouldn’t have made it sound like he would be able to do it overnight. I mean, it doesn’t bother me, but the gays seem to be getting impatient.

  6. My personal view is that it would be good if all Christians were viewed by the military more like gay soldiers. Why hasn’t the military concluded that followers of someone who modeled nonviolent enemy love to his own death on a cross are probably “an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability”? Hmm. Puzzling.

  7. So by that logic we should have just stayed with the hours, reimbursement and cartoonishly inhumane working conditions of the early Industrial Revolution just because people were hungry enough to be abused?

  8. And they have reason to be impatient. This is a policy that forces them to lie about their orientation; encourages closeted behavior and blatantly discriminates against a significant part of the population.

  9. Well, as long as we are open to being flexible with DADT, maybe we could just expand its scope to include subscribers to “nonviolent enemy love”… those that also believe in the just war can still enlist as long as they keep quiet about any other more pacifist leanings… wouldn’t want to start a storm of Spectrum proportions with just a comment or two, would we?

  10. Ultimately I don’t see this so much as a human rights issue as a practical one. The question we should be asking is what is best for the troops. If people openly serving gay in the military will be a divisive issue in the ranks than maybe we aren’t ready for it yet. This decision should be left up to experts in the military rather than politicians with an agenda.

    Anyway, as far as the premise of this post goes, that homosexuality is not necessarily opposed to Christian morality, that is missing the key point that the Bible condemns homosexuality. This does not mean that Christianity should single out homosexuality as some kind of pinnacle of sin (as it sometimes has), but it does mean that we cannot say practicing homosexuality is “okay” anymore than we can say other forms of sexual immorality are “okay”.

    So much for Christians, but should the government base it’s policies on Christian morality? Every nation is going to base it’s laws off of what the majority considers to be right, and if the majority of a nation is Christian that will have an affect. However, the majority should not be able to force it’s beliefs on the minority. The Right shouldn’t force people to follow it’s social mores anymore than the Left should be able to force people into giving charity in the form of “spreading the wealth”.

    Government policies should ultimately be based on what is best for the people; even though decisions of policy makers will certainly be affected by their ideological and moral beliefs.

    I might be against Strip Clubs because they promote promiscuity, which I believe is wrong, whereas Sigurdardottir opposes them (I presume) because she believes they demean women. Our beliefs about morality lead us to conclude that strip clubs are bad for society and therefore should be outlawed not because we want to force our views on someone else, but because the laws of the land should reflect the best interests of the people. However before we go ahead and pass the law we should look into the facts involved: is anyone actually harmed by strip clubs? If yes then the government may be justified in getting involved, if not we can continue to discourage them in private capacity, but it is not an issue for the government.

  11. No, with time, as wealth increases, people can demand their own benefits and hours. It is part of the natural progression. Just like the ‘sweat shops’ were an improvement on what people had before, eventually people will have better work conditions than what is offered at the average sweat shop. If the sweat shops weren’t an improvement, the people would go back to starving on their farms. Not to mention, the more restrictions you put on so called sweat shops, the less jobs they will be able to create. If you force a sweat shop to raise wages, the chances are that they will have to cut jobs or that it would be cheaper for them to open up shop somewhere else. There are plenty of countries with tough labor restrictions that are pretty poor countries where the laws no doubt end up hurting the every day person. There are also plenty of rich countries where the government does not dictate wages and people are just fine.

    Also I have to say that as soon as the US congress passed the most recent minimum wage increases, unemployment also increased.

  12. The only problem with that is that they would lose 80% of their soldiers. Without Christians in the US military, the US would have lost every single war it ever fought…it wouldn’t have ever been able to field an army.

  13. Yes, it’s definitely stated in the Bible that homosexuality is condemned, so let’s make sure they can’t serve their country like our “normal” hetero soldiers. But let’s make sure that our armed forces are in FULL compliance with the Bible, since apparently we’re striving for a Bible-driven Christian militia:

    Quoted passages are straight from Leviticus, chapters 18, 19, and 20 (NIV):

    “Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.”

    So, no more cotton/poly blends – just cotton or pure polyester!

    “Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it.”

    No more medium-rare steaks, just charred hunks of meat!

    “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.”

    No more clean-shaven grunts here. They’re ALL going to look like Osama bin Laden after a while, get used to it.

    “Do not … put tattoo marks on yourselves.”

    Oops – so much for those Marine Corp emblem tattoos. Better get those removed, quick!

    “Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight.”

    So much for the bi-weekly paycheck… going to have to switch over to the daily direct deposit, or suffer the wrath of God.

    “There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord.”

    Looks like only the Seventh-day Adventists and Jews will be allowed to serve from now on, since the Sunday-worshipers are abominations. Wait – can Jews serve in the Christian-driven armed forces?

    Yes, my above points are ridiculous. But I find it equally ridiculous when someone points out that condemning of homosexuality is mandated by the Bible, while ignoring the following verses that I’ve outlined above. If you’re going to interpret the Bible literally, then you have to interpret it ALL literally; you can’t just pick and choose.

    (Being raised as a Seventh-day Adventist, I always am amused by the hypocrisy of the Sunday-worshiping majority, who thump their Bibles about something that they don’t like, while completely ignoring the Fourth Commandment of “Keep the Sabbath Day holy”.)

  14. “No, with time, as wealth increases, people can demand their own benefits and hours.”
    Glad you see the wisdom in having unions there David. Very progressive!
    The lack of regulation that you are talking about leads to abuse. You know it and I know it. All we need to do is open the history books. The market can’t be the sole decision maker here. That leads to chaos of 2008 banking proportions.
    And minimum wage increases are no long-term cause of unemployment

  15. Björn, I think the bigger point that a lot of people miss is that discrimination against gays is just the latest in a long string of groups that the “majority” have gone after.

    A couple hundred years ago, black people were bought and sold as slaves, and it was perfectly acceptable. And despite the progress made since the 1960’s, racial inequality and discrimination continues to this day. Women didn’t have the right to vote in U.S. until the 19th amendment was passed in 1920. Native Americans, Filipinos, Chinese and blacks didn’t gain the right to be citizens until the mid- to late- 1900’s. These groups continue to be discriminated against even today, through hiring practices, disproportionate wages, promotions, etc.

    The difference now is that it’s considered to be “unpopular” to openly discriminate against someone of color, or based on their gender or religion. Open discrimination based on sexual orientation, however… perfectly okay.

    My point is that our white male-dominated culture takes delight in bullying people who are “different”, be it females, non-whites, people who worship differently (or who don’t worship at all) or people who engage in anything more than lights-off, man-on-top, man/woman sexual intercourse (and then, only for the purpose of procreation!).

    Until this mind-set of “attack those who are different from us” is changed, we will always have groups that are being attacked, abused, tortured, and humiliated at the expense of the so-called “majority”.

    Unfortunately, gays and lesbians are only the “group du jour” with regards to who’s on the receiving end of the hatred.

  16. DADT has been in place since Clinton made it policy 15 years ago and gays weren’t allowed to openly serve before than anyway. So what they are asking for is a change to a policy that has never existed before. That takes time. We are in the middle of two wars. That is just the way it is. Change doesn’t happen over night, it never has and never will. It will probably take years to do. Boo hoo. There are a lot of things the government does that I wish it didn’t that effect my every day life.

  17. Just a quick clarification here: the post was not intended as a commentary on homosexuality and Christian morality. I did make the point that Iceland as a whole does not seem to have taken a moral plunge as a result of having a lesbian PM. Christian arguments for and against homosexuality abound but that is a subject for another blog.
    And the problem with DADT isn’t merely a practical one. Gay service people are literally forced to lie to keep their jobs, this encouragement of deception and closeted living along with blatant discrimination against anyone that is gay and openly honest about it, is unacceptable.

  18. ““Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.””
    PHEW no mullets then:)
    And I agree, DADT should not be discussed in the context of OT camping guidelines.

  19. I am very anti-union. What I mean is that with more jobs and more choices, people can decide what type of pay they want and what type of benefits they want. The more restrictions you put on business, the less choices people will have.

    I really don’t think a lack of regulation leads to abuse. It some cases it might, in other cases it obviously does not. Singapore and Hong Kong have some of the least restrictions on business in the world and to quote your blog…’are children permanently scarred and is society taking a moral plunge?’

  20. Agreed, it takes time. And DADT was an improvement on the past. Obama keeps vowing to get repeal DADT so I predict it will happen before 2012.

  21. Agreed that we have a history of bullying the minority. Of course, it probably has nothing to do with the fact that we are currently “white male-dominated” and more to do with basic human nature. The “other” never really does get fair treatment. The good thing about this country is that, despite the crazies and those hellbent on the status quo, we can make great strides of progress. Hopefully a repeal of DADT is our next step.

  22. Don’t agree with your terminology or the ranking but point taken: human nature, greed for power and fear of the “other” – they all lead to aggression.

  23. “No, no. I have been practicing…I bowled a 129. It’s like — it was like Special Olympics, or something.”

    :) The reality is that many of us have prejudices that inadvertently surface from time to time. Yet, somehow in this age of political correctness now it becomes unpopular to think otherwise.

    Ironically, I see a lot of people my age buying the worldview that states that we should not question the moral bases of homosexuality.

    You don’t have to be an expert in human physiology to know that homosexuality is deviation from the norm, and that likewise having a core family of two dads, or two moms, and a child is likewise a deviation.

    But, for some odd reason, the battleground for this issue turns out to be where IMO people should not desire to go in the first place —- US military :). Do you really expect US military to be the standard of morality? I certainly don’t find anything moral about counting “casualties” for the sake of “freedom”… especially when it’s an ever-illusive freedom from the “nukular weapons” that only US and Israel should have.

    There are some things that we decide to be wrong wrong in a society. For example… very few people on this site would think that http://www.nambla.org/ is anything other than utterly ridiculous. Yet, when it comes to deviant (called that for the reasons that it’s deviation from natural) sexual relationship between two males, or two females…. it’s now popular to let it slide.

    There are a lot of people who want to have sex with no-one but boys. There’s nothing wrong with calling it deviant. Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with calling the homosexuality deviant. You don’t have to hate the person, but you don’t have to accept his/her lifestyle as “normal”… when it’s not. I don’t have to give lectures on human physiology to prove that.

    It’s not an issue of “conservatism” vs “liberalism”. It’s an issue of perversion of nature. Sure, I upset the homosexuals because I don’t “approve of their love choices”, but likewise I put nambla in the same boat. It’s utterly silly that it’s wrong for a 17 year old to have male sex, which becomes ok when he turns 18… all while thinking that prostitution is a bad thing. If there’s not some kind of a standard base, then it all becomes relative of what you think is the “norm”.

    I’m not saying that we should somehow outlaw homosexuality. It’s obvious that the issue of freedom of human decision should not be limited (unless the idea of injured party comes into play). We should learn to separate human sexuality (i.e. addiction to porn, or homosexuality, or bestiality) from the idea of a person. Yet, these days, homosexuality portrayed with sense of pride and the sense of “there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it” mindset that I can’t help but disagree with… Neil Patrick Harris or not :)

  24. Bjorn,

    I don’t think that this is a good way to look at DADT. Simply because it “forces” gays to lie, does not invalidate DADT any less than a criminal changing his/her identity to wipe the record clean, or a thief using a lock pick.

    Generally, the people who oppose DADT are people like McCain who think that they understand the “will of majority”, and hence the problem with democracy is exactly such… it gives the ideology of majority the gun. In this case, it’s the “dehomosexualizer P5″ in the arms of the republican party, which also bought the idea that we can solve problems by way of legislation.

    As you correctly pointed out, legislation does not really solve the core of the problem, be it drug use, prostitution, theft, or homosexuality… it only outlaws it and makes it “underground”.

    There are certainly better ways of dealing with problems than throwing people in jail for having a couple plants in their pocket. But, if that was not the case… we would not need government… and that’s what government fears the most IMO.

  25. I think the main point of my comment was lost in Kirk’s little tirade of how obsolete the Torah is. On that subject I would say that yes, some of the Law is intricately tied to the time and circumstances in which it was given. In such cases we would do well to learn from the spirit of them, if it is impractical to follow them to the letter. On the other hand, much of the Law addresses basic human nature, morality and ethics, which do not change, and so the Law will always be in affect.

    However, my point was not to argue the morality of homosexuality, as Bjorn pointed out, that would be a topic for a different post. My point was that policy-makers, whether liberal or conservative, follow their view of morality when legislating, but they should refrain from doing so in a way that forces their morality on others. The question that our leaders should be asking is not whether they believe something is the right thing to do, but how do the facts indicate it will affect the people they are representing.

    That is why I say DADT should be handled in a practical way, not an ideological way. What would be the affect on our troops if we had openly gay service men and women? Would it be good for morale and cohesion or bad for it? If this is something that could be a distraction for those who are in harm’s way then the issue should be shelved until our troops are ready for it. The military should not be a place for gay activists to make a point.

  26. Yes minorities have always suffered at the hands of majorities; this is not unique to the United States, it is as Bjorn points out, human nature to distrust or demean that which is different. I believe that we as a society has evolved and is moving past many of these race-based inequities; although residual discrimination does exist, in our society it is seldom institutionalized.

    I do think there is a difference between discrimination that is based on race and discrimination based on behavior. The military has the right to reject people based on behavior which may affect their ability to serve or endanger those who serve with them. People in the military therefor have to conform to certain standards of fitness and intelligence.

    If homosexual behavior could cause problems in the ranks it makes sense to disallow it. From what I’ve heard of the recent hearings on the issue it sounds like according to some military experts this may be the case. However, if more investigation shows that it would not have any major affect on our troops’ performance I’m for repealing DADT (my beliefs about the morality have homosexuality have no bearings).

  27. “I really don’t think a lack of regulation leads to abuse.” So what happened in 2008? Why was America on the brink of the second Great Depression? Why are there banks that are too big to fail? Why the bail outs? There is a huge, gaping hole in that kind of logic.
    I grew up in Hong Kong and I have a lot of respect for Singapore and yes, they are very pro-business. However, they also have very punishing legal systems that serve as an incentive to prevent abuses and they are not democracies or “free”. Let me know if you’d like to sign up for this… immigration is pretty easy too.

  28. I think the catholic church is a pretty good indicator of what happens when one’s sexuality get forced into a closet.

  29. So who is the injured party when two gay men have consensual sex?

    (I don’t think ‘normality’ or ‘nature’ count, they do not have feelings)

  30. I do understand your point, and I do agree that the 99% majority of our current laws are not based on any kind of Biblical base, but rather on a practical one. Especially considering that there are “moral exceptions” that we take for the sake of “security”. Thus thing that CIA does on our behalf becomes a “necessary evil”… so it’s hard to argue any kind of hard Christian ethics, when there were non really to begin with… what you find is pure chauvinism instead. Do what’s right for the idea of a country.

    It’s hard to argue anything when the morality becomes what is practical. I know that I would be taking a wild swing here, but abortion is VERY practical in alleviating poverty. Likewise it would be practical to sterilize certain groups of people, and believe it or not… such was the case in our “great moral nation” in the past, which was the base for Hitler’s “Arian race” ideology … along with the salute to the American Flag during pledge of allegiance recitation:

    http://newsblogging.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/american-school-children-bellamy-salute.jpg

    I would certainly stay away from the ideology of pragmatism. History shows that it’s not a the best way of deciding what’s right for the majority. Yet I certainly would believe that people like Bush who flaunt their version of faith as a standard for everyone to follow is certainly can be worse.

    With the above in mind, I’m a firm believer in individual choice that is unconstrained by governing bodies that we have in place today. Government should be a facilitator, and not a dictator that it is in its current state.

  31. Andrey, not sure sure that I completely follow the comparison between gay people being forced into concealment with DADT and criminal activity…

    And I don’t agree that homosexuality is the “problem” that you make it out to be, putting it in the same bucket as drug use, prostitution and theft is seriously off IMO

  32. Well, I certainly think that you did not understand what I was trying to say.

    For example, Andrews University will not employ non-Adventists… quite openly.

    http://www.andrews.edu/HR/emp_hb_employment.html

    They will not hire non-church members. Would you believe it to be discriminating based on religious preference?

    I could give your other examples, but the point is that people in-charge of making the hiring policies will set certain standards. Whether you think that homosexuality is moral or immoral, or will affect the performance is irrelevant. People are entitled to their believes, and will find ways to not hire by giving other reasons for not hiring.

    Enforcing human rights is quite a paradoxical concept.

  33. I’ll make my point as concise as possible. I think the 2008 financial crisis was hyped. I don’t think it was ever as bad as people said it was and I don’t think we needed bailouts.

    I think much of the bad loan issues were a result of stupid decisions made by individuals, banks, and the government. The loans that were given to people were legal. So no amount of extra oversight would have done anything to prevent the situation. Banks didn’t care about the quality of some of the loans because they were backed by the government. This was all done in the name of getting poor people easier access to credit. Banks used to be much more strict about who they gave credit to, and were accused of racism which led to many laws/regulations to free up cash. In my interpretation, the government caused the problem…to the extent that there was one.

    Obama and other Democrats have been making the claim that the Bush economy was the worst since the Great Depression for about 7 years now.

    Obama made that claim while simultaneously stating that if we passed his stimulus bill, that the unemployment rate wouldn’t go past 8% (something like that).

    If Obama believed that the unemployment rate wouldn’t go above 8%, then he was lying about how bad things were and that he thought it was the worst economy since the Great Depression.

    If someone is lied to or swindled, I always think there is room for prosecution or whatever. However, what should we have done to prevent this past ‘crisis’. The only way we could have prevented it would have been by altering already faulty regulation that was put there in the first place because people said there wasn’t even enough regulation. I think this constant need for regulation and control by people is like chasing the end of the rainbow. You will always have ups and downs in an economy. Always. There is no way around it.

    My wife and I have discussed moving to Singapore. I don’t think Hong Kong is on the table, but I would have to do more research before I gave a definitive answer.

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