As usual, Hentoff makes the grade and above in "Afraid of Freedom?" [Nat Hentoff, January 31–February 6].
From all indications, the public appears oblivious to what extent our freedom is in peril and the consequences thereof. Can Americans trust their government to keep the nation secure while it has free rein to do its own bidding under the auspices of national security? Freedom to start wars, torture prisoners, wiretap without warrants, imprison people without time constraints, limit access to the Internet, etc., without our knowledge, much less restraint, does not qualify as safeguarding the nation. Churchill stated that "one of the first strengths of democracy is holding leaders to account for their decisions. . . . " When government obstructs information, the result speaks for itself. Had the intelligence community's intel been honored, neither Iraqis nor U.S. troops would be needlessly losing their lives. In the absence of an informed representative body and an educated public, only the echoes of a deafening silence are heard. If the power of the people is castrated, it will be by their own design, because they were too afraid . . . of freedom. Shameful, isn't it?
Mindy Huie
Dallas, Texas

To be honest, I had hoped that the Voice hit rock bottom with the hard-hitting article on candy addiction, or perhaps with the inexplicable ongoing inclusion of those ridiculously dull Married, Not Dead pieces, and that it might soon return to being the must-read publication that I remember. No such luck. Unfortunately, with Mara Altman's "Something in the Way He Moves" [February 14–20], I've got to admit that I'm tired of waiting for the paper to come around. As a guy in my late thirties with cerebral palsy, I'm wondering what the point of the article was. Altman claims that Larry wants love—then goes on (for what seems like hours) as the various supposed shortcomings of his many conquests are documented? Give me a break. You'll convince me that George W. Bush is a genius long before you'll convince me that the whole article wasn't intended to be one long pity party. So long—I'll get my Tristan Taormino and Dan Savage fixes elsewhere from now on.
Robert (via e-mail)
Quincy, Illinois

Altman's article is disgusting and pitiful. She has no shame in portraying her subject as nothing more than some crippled freak getting his freak on. The non-disabled community can pity poor Larry while simultaneously indulging its morbid curiosity about how people like him find love when they are obviously unlovable. At least we can all have a giggle about how "they" do it. Articles like these reflect the everyday prejudices and attitudes of those of you who are glad that you are not a member of the disabled community. Larry may be a creep who is clueless about what real love is, but the last time I looked around, his problem is not exclusive. As a woman with cerebral palsy who at one time dated more non-disabled men than disabled ones, I found that low self-esteem is non-discriminatory, even for you non-disabled folks. The everyday grind of having to fight people's negative perceptions of you is what really screws with you. It's a good thing that I, along with other advocates from the disabled community, have the energy to continue to fight and to work with those of you who just don't get it.
Laura Vann-LaRusso

What were Altman and the editors at the Voice thinking by publishing this peculiarly written personal ad for Larry Seiler? Did they think that announcing in the headline that Larry doesn't want your pity would cancel out every attempt by the writer to evoke it? There's a real person there, but I couldn't find him in this piece. Appalling.
Simi Linton
President, Disability/Arts, Manhattan

This article made me sick to my stomach. Not only is it poorly written and lacking direction, but it belittles an innocent and defenseless man. Exploiting someone's physical disability, learning disability, and inability to judge others' intentions on issues of sex and relationships is nothing short of mean. Not only did Altman go into seemingly pointless aspects of Larry's obsession with sex, including his personal performance (do we need to know that, on top of every other obstacle he faces, Larry has a small penis?), but she also glorifies his habit of degrading women by referring to them in terms of food. Altman's portrayal of Larry is one of a slutty, sex-obsessed womanizer who has now come to the conclusion that putting a woman's life in danger is worth having children to carry on his legacy. I fail to see the point of the article. Was it to shock, to horrify, or to amuse? Whatever the intention, the result is the feeling that the author is a bully who took advantage of Larry and got rewarded with a feature story. And Larry would be well advised to spend his Social Security checks on a therapist rather than strip clubs.
Via e-mail

Tristan Taormino's "Dangerous Dildo Part 1" [Hot Spot, February 7–13] finally answered a question that has bugged me for nearly seven years: It was the phthalates that caused the burning sensation. This same thing happened to me. I used a toy that I hadn't used for a while, and on insertion I felt a hot burn, so I immediately removed the toy and threw it away. I wondered what caused the sensation—now I know. What should be done about the nasty side effects of this necessary chemical? Perhaps there are formulations of phthalates that are more stable and safer for our environment. Should we put expiration dates on our toys?
Mark Holdgrafer
San Diego, California

It's a shame that Tristan Taormino never told me about the curious case of the double dong and her anal inferno during our long conversation about phthalates—not because I know how she felt (I can only offer sympathy drawn from the fiery reaches of my imagination), but because whatever it was that ignited her ass like a firecracker, it wasn't a member of the phthalate family of chemicals. Contrary to Taormino's report, phthalates are odorless, not skin irritants, and they do not congregate on the surface of vinyl as a greasy film. This is why they are indispensable in a range of complex, life-saving medical devices designed for use inside the human body. Besides, when have you ever seen a greased-up rubber duck? On second thought, perhaps that's a question best left unanswered.
Trevor Butterworth
Editor, stats.org, Washington, D.C.

Tristan Taormino replies: My column never claimed that phthalates themselves have an odor or are irritants, but rather that when they are added to PVC to make sex toys, the end product smells and can irritate sensitive genital tissue. Mine is not an isolated incident.

Your annual Pazz and Jop feature [February 7–13] suffered from the change of editorship. As a devoted reader of the Voice, I can only ask: Why was Robert Christgau fired?
Keith Rodgers
Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

I've got to hand it to this week's Married, Not Dead column ["Are We Not Men? We Are TiVo," February 14–20]: It only took a few sentences to convince me never to waste my time again reading this Shelley. I thought for sure that this was an earlier column, because it was the same narcissistic whining I'd read before. But no—"February 13" was at the top, and I still don't care any more about the problems of the two writers than I did last month. Throwing in a few fucks or shits doesn't make the column any edgier or more informative; it just wastes ink, like the rest of Married, Not Dead. Writers like Dan Savage and Michael Musto actually get me to search out their columns each week; Married, Not Dead makes me want to toss my computer out the window so there's no chance of my reading it again.
Brian Rusch
Waupaca, Wisconsin

The Village Voice has an immediate opening for a managing editor. This position requires writing, editing, and management skills. The managing editor must be able to guide both experienced and beginning staff writers in producing superior magazine-style stories as well as help supervise the day-to-day operations of the editorial department. The ideal candidate will have a solid background in news. The most promising applicants will be asked to take an extensive editing test. The Voice offers competitive salaries and benefits. Qualified candidates should send a cover letter, a résumé, and clips to the address below.

The Village Voice has openings for staff writers with experience in political reporting. We're looking for passionate, energetic journalists with well-developed narrative-writing skills and lots of story ideas. Please send cover letter, résumé, and clips to:

David Blum
Editor in Chief, The Village Voice
36 Cooper Square
New York, NY 10003

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