Howls! The Incurious Inquirer and PW’s Lack of Sexual Exploration.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is the first and most proficient association dedicated to garden cultivation in the country.  Since 1827 this non-profit organization has reached beyond its famous flower show, to house Philadelphia Green, a forward-thinking program geared toward urban greening.  The society is in the process of assuming a new president, Drew Becher, and this week, Philadelphia Inquirer’s Virginia A. Smith wrote a profile piece on him.

Now, horticulture isn’t mind you the most tantalizing of subjects.  The very gist of the thing usually conjures placidness and a geriatric allure.  However urban ‘greenification’ is the very stuff of the future, an imminent, fashionable and very sought-after subject.

The article seemed incurious to the organizations’ past achievements, it spoke neither of its formal history, nor did it illustrate new president Becher’s unconventionality for this job, or his prospects for modernizing and furthering the P.H.S’s urban interventions and customary events.

As an openly gay Midwesterner at the head of such a traditional east coast institution, it would seem that narrating Becher’s achievements and background in an engaging way would be easy picking.  Instead, I felt like I was reading a drawn-out version of his C.V.  The only mentioned quotes besides Becher’s own (very bland one’s at that,) and the Chicago Sun-Times calling him a “creative 33-year-old whiz kid.” were by the board members who hired him.  I would have liked to hear from a co-worker, a subordinate or maybe a professional in his field, something to humanize him beyond a cliche.  Furthermore mentioning somewhat catty things like his undisclosed salary, or the fact that he spied on and stole from the Philadelphia Flower Show and other pennsylvanian gardens in the past do not flatter his business savvy or creative talent, which we’re sure he possesses considering the thorough screening for this job mentioned early in the article.

Although she attests to a lengthy interview at her subject’s home, the author, in my opinion, depicts this professional as rather banal; sure he cannot yet discuss his future projects heading the organization, but certainly he managed to reveal more than his smart phone preference, his need for a new car, or his discerning plans to affiliate himself with the city’s mayor and council.

– Natalia Chiarelli

My mom is hooked on chocolate, my sister can’t resist bagels and I always seem to light up a cigarette after a couple of drinks.

For Patricia (not her real name), the subject of a recent Philadelphia Weekly piece, sex was her obsession. Brian Hickey’s piece centers on Patricia’s story, detailing how the need for sexual encounters cost her a job and distanced her from her son.

While the piece is well-written and offers a comprehensive portrait of Patricia’s sexual desires, one particular section caught my attention. Hickey writes that “… the American Psychiatric Association has yet to officially deem ‘sexual addiction’ a distinct classification–critics lean toward a ‘compulsive disorder’ classification in which people can’t stop seeking random sex and what they perceive as love.” He follows with the following assertion.

What they need is a Magic Johnson/HIV moment. They need Tiger to take  the issue of sex and love addiction mainstream. It might tamp down the   shame that addicts can’t control their sexual impulses. It might prevent   stories like the BBC’s “Does sex addiction exist?” which posits that people  may be “just making excuses for being unfaithful.” It might answer the   questions of whether a dopamine release in the brain can be construed as  an illness or disease.

My issue with this is that I felt the BBC asked an important question when they asked “Does sex addiction exist?” My issue is that after reading the aforementioned BBC article, I found that the article carefully explored that question and did more then simply posit that people might be “making excuses for being unfaithful.” If this is an article about sexual addiction and not simply a profile on a sex addict, shouldn’t the article ask why the American Psychiatric Association does not yet consider it an addiction? What does it mean if it is a recognized classification? What does it mean if it is not? Would that affect the actual treatment of the condition/compulsion, or simply its perception? How is an addiction currently defined? What exactly is happening to people who suffer from “sexual addiction?”

Hickey does a great job telling the story of a sexual addict. To further construct an article about sex addiction, more then a few sentences brushing over the types of questions raised in the BBC article were in order. Without them, Hickey’s piece implicitly suggests that a further understanding of sex addiction – scientifically and medically speaking – is irrelevant.

And that might be true. But it isn’t Hickey’s job to make that judgment.

– Timothy Rapp

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