Friday, August 31, 2007

YouTube favorites -- get up and skank special

Back around 1980, I was really into ska, more specifically what's called "second-wave" or "2 Tone."

I can't believe that was 27 years ago, long enough for somebody to be born and become a grown-assed man. I don't feel much older than I did then.

The first 2 Tone band I heard was Madness. In America, they're best remembered for "Our House," an enjoyable nostalgic pop song they put out after they pretty much quit doing new ska songs. But their two songs that grabbed me and got me into ska were "One Step Beyond" and "Night boat To Cairo." Most other bands were so serious -- either serious and crappy rock dinosaurs or serious and good punk bands -- and Madness's "nutty sound" was completely different. I wore out their cassette listening to it, and wore a hole in my carpet dancing to it.

Which isn't to say that ska was never serious. Just by being racially mixed, bands like the Specials were making a political statement. But the music was the thing. And bands that let the kids up on the stage to dance are teh kewl. Here's "Skinhead Moonstomp."

In 1981, the documentary Dance Craze came out. I never did see the movie, but I got the cassette and wore that one out too. Then I wore out my copy. Among the bands the film documented, the Bodysnatchers probably accomplished the least. They were only together for about two years and never even released a full-length album. But I love all-girl bands, and you don't have to be a great musician to make great music. Here's their cover of Desmond Dekker's "Shanty Town."

The Beat, or the English Beat as they were known in America, were another of my favorites. They were a tight band with more of a Jamaican sound. This is "Ranking Full Stop."

The Selecter featured the lovely Pauline Black. Here's "On the Radio."

Finally, here's Bad Manners, led by the inimitable Buster Bloodvessel. Somebody once called them a "musical carnival," and I think that described their live shows pretty well. This is "Lip Up Fatty."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Why's everyone picking on poor Miss Teen South Carolina?

She's just a 17-year-old kid. Maybe a really dumb 17-year-old kid, but still just a kid. It's not like she's the President of the United States or something.

The more things change...

Over 2,000 years ago, Chinese poets wrote words in the Shi Jing that aptly describe the Bush Administration:

The angry terrors of Compassionate Heaven,
Extend through this lower world ;
[The king's] counsels and plans are crooked and bad ; –
When will he stop [in the course] ?
Counsels which are good he will not follow,
And those which are not good he employs,
When I look at his counsels and plans,
I am greatly pained.

In fact, they describe Republicans and Democrats in general.

Now they agree, and now they defame one another ; –
The case is greatly to be deplored.
If a counsel be good,
They all are found opposing it.
If a counsel be bad,
They all are found according with it.
When I look at such counsels and plans,
What will they come to ?

Our tortoises are wearied out,
And will not tell us anything about the plans.
The counsellors are very many,
But on that account nothing is accomplished.
The speakers fill the court,
But who dares to take any responsibility on himself ?
We are as if we consulted [about a journey] without taking a step in advance,
And therefore did not get on on the road.

Alas ! our formers of plans,
Do not take the ancients for their pattern,
And do not regulate them by great principles.
They only hearken to shallow words,
And quarrel about shallow words,
They are like one taking counsel with wayfarers about building a house.
Which will consequently never come to completion.

Although the kingdom be unsettled,
There are some who are wise, and others who are not.
Although the people may not be numerous,
Some have perspicacity, some have counsel,
Some have gravity, and some have orderliness.
But we are going on like the stream flowing from a spring,
And will sink together in a common ruin.

They dare not without weapons attack a tiger ;
They dare not without a boat cross the He.
They know one thing,
But they only know that one.
We should be apprehensive and careful,
As if we were on the brink of a deep gulf,
As if we were treading on thin ice.

(Translation by James Legge)

That's very rude

I guess Simon Cowell's UK version of American Idol has started up again. Here's the worst contestant they've ever had. Rachel Lester shows up in denim capris, high heels, and a sports bra, answers the question "What do you do for a living?" with "Nuffing, I'm lazy at the moment," brags all about how good she is ("I can sing be'er than Madonna"), chews gum, bugs out her crazy-looking eyes at the judges (Cowell, Ozzie Osbourne's Wife, Kylie Minogue's Little Sister, and Some Guy Named Louis), tries to take the overhead mic off the boom, sings poorly, says "That was very good, wasn't it?", and then curses out the judges after Simon tells her how bad she is.

The bad words are all beeped out, so you don't get the full effect, but trust me, I've seen a transcript and she's even fouler than you'd imagine. A security guard (I'm pretty sure I've seen his twin brother in a movie, BTW) finally has to escort her out. Along the way, she brags some more about how she's "done her own cassette," and Ozzie's Wife pwns her with "Nobody does cassettes anymore, it's called a CD." To which Rachel replies with stunning narcissism and a complete lack of irony, "That's very rude." Poor Kylie's Little Sister looks terrified. (Wish I'd been there to comfort her. She's a cutie.)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"Mommy, I'm the little boy who was kidnapped"

When I was about four years old, a little boy went missing in the city where I lived. Everyone thought he'd been kidnapped, and it was a very big deal in the local newspapers and on TV. If I recall correctly, he was missing for several days before it turned out that he hadn't been kidnapped at all but, equally tragically, had drowned in a murky neighborhood swimming pool, where his body was only found after a few days.

While the boy was still missing, my dad and I went in our car to pick up my mother at work. I had some of my favorite toy cars with me -- in my semi-autistic fashion, I could play contentedly with them for hours at a stretch even when I was four -- and played with them on the floor of the backseat of our ancient Ford. I vaguely recall really liking it there; maybe because the transmission hump running down the center of the car's interior made a nice hill for them to drive over.

We weren't there long before a cop came over and talked to my dad. I don't remember what they said -- I guess I just thought it was grownup talk, so I ignored them -- but after a couple of minutes the policeman left and my dad told me to stop playing on the floor and stay on the seat. He said I couldn't play on the floor anymore because he'd get in trouble. I wasn't very happy about that. I didn't see why all of a sudden I couldn't play in my favorite place in the car.

After we got home, my mom explained it to me. If somebody kidnapped a little boy, they might put him on the floor in the backseat of their car so he'd be harder to see. Some lady had seen me on the floor of our car and thought that I was a little boy who'd been kidnapped and called the police. That's why the policeman had come and talked to my dad. So I couldn't play on the car floor anymore.

That made enough sense to satisfy me, so I agreed to stop playing on the floor. There was one part I'd misunderstood though: I thought my mom meant that I'd been mistaken for a boy who'd been kidnapped, not the boy who'd been kidnapped. In fact, I noticed all the fuss in the newspapers and on TV about a kidnapped boy, and I thought it was actually about me. There wasn't really a missing boy; it was just a mistake because some lady saw me playing on the floor of our car.

So finally one night a special news bulletin came on the TV while I was trying to talk to my mom about something -- I guess it must have been when they found the poor kid's body -- and she shushed me. "Be quiet now, I want to hear about the little boy who was kidnapped."

In my most exasperated four-year-old, why-don't-the-grownups-get-it tone of voice I started to explain it to her. "No Mommy, I'm the little boy who was kidnapped." But she shushed me again before I could explain that it was all just a misunderstanding. It was only when she expressed her shock that the boy's body had been in the pool all along that I finally got that they'd actually been talking about some other boy.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Real men raise their kids

David Neiwert writes about being a stay-at-home dad. I've done it too -- sort of, and sort of still am -- and I heartily endorse it.
(Found at Hullabaloo.)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sympathy for a devil?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket I've never been much of a Michael Vick fan. That's actually a bit of an aberration for me, because normally I really enjoy players in most any sport who are immensely talented and spectacular in the way they play, and that certainly describes Vick. But in this case, team loyalty comes first, and in a roundabout way that led me to be his non-fan.

See, back in 2001, "my" San Diego Chargers had the first pick in the NFL draft. Vick was the consensus best available player, but this was only three years after the Chargers had wasted the second overall pick in the Ryan Leaf debacle, so they were leery of taking another quarterback with such a high draft choice. That led them to trade the number one pick to the Atlanta Falcons, who used it to select Vick, while the Chargers selected LaDainian Tomlinson with the pick they got from Atlanta. So, while I never exactly wished that Vick would fail, I always hoped that Tomlinson would be the more successful of the two (and he has been), and that kept me from ever really becoming a Michael Vick fan.

But I feel sorry for him now because of the mess he's made of his life, and as I read this contrarian column by Gregg Easterbrook about Vick's legal problems, as well as the comments that follow it (685 as of Saturday evening my time), I was struck by several thoughts.

The first thought is how unsympathetic so many Americans are. A large segment of our population apparently feels deep disgust at the idea of ever feeling sorry for anyone who has brought troubles on himself. Once upon a time, Shakespeare could write something like "...let us sit upon the ground / And tell sad stories of the death of kings," but that would never fly in America today. A lot of Americans would say, "Sad?! There's nothing sad about it! It's Richard II's own fault he got killed!" And then they would solemnly intone the words "personal responsibility" as purported proof that there is nothing sorrowful in the travails of a person who has done wrong.

The second thought is that there are an awful lot of sadists in America. Whenever someone is publicly accused of a heinous crime in America (although I'm not entirely sure that "heinous" fits in this case), these people -- apparently quite ordinary in most ways -- show up in internet comments and so on proposing the most vicious, vengeful punishments they can imagine. Since Vick is allegedly involved in dogfighting, most of these proposed punishments in his case seem to involve various ways of having him mauled by pitbulls. That and, of course, "burning in hell." Oh, and he should never be allowed to play football again, even if it's after he has completed a prison sentence. Apparently there's a significant percentage of the American population that thinks that anyone convicted of a felony should never be able to work again.

The third thought is that there are an awful lot of hypocrites in America too. With the exception of the PETA folks, who in my experience are often fanatics but rarely hypocrites, most of the people objecting so strenuously to Vick eat meat. And anyone who buys meat in an American supermarket is indisputably participating indirectly in terrible acts of cruelty to animals on an enormous scale. Not to mention that some of the same people who object to Vick's dogfighting themselves participate in bloodsports like hunting. And, of course, many more of them are fans of sports like football and boxing that are built around violence, that use up the bodies and often the minds of young men and then discard them when finished.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

237 reasons to have sex: reasons 151 - 200

Reasons 151 through 200
Read more about the project here.
Have you ever had sex because:

151. I wanted to achieve an orgasm. YES(duh!)
152. I wanted to brag to friends about my conquests. NO
153. I wanted to improve my sexual skills. YES
154. I wanted to get a job. NO
155. I wanted to get a raise. NO
156. I wanted to get a promotion. NO
157. I wanted to satisfy a compulsion. NO
158. I wanted to make money. NO
159. I wanted to keep my partner satisfied. YES
160. I wanted to change the topic of conversation. YES
161. I wanted to get out of doing something. YES
162. I wanted to test my compatibility with a new partner. NO
163. I wanted to get a partner to express love. YES
164. I wanted to put passion back into my relationship. YES
165. I wanted to prevent a breakup. YES
166. I wanted to become one with another person. YES
167. I wanted to get a favor from someone. NO
168. I wanted to breakup my relationship. NO
169. I wanted to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease (e.g., herpes, AIDS). NO (holy crap!)
170. I wanted to breakup another’s relationship. NO
171. I wanted to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. YES
172. I wanted to make myself feel better about myself. YES
173. I wanted to get rid of a headache. YES
174. I was afraid to say "no" due to the possibility of physical harm. NO
175. I wanted to keep my partner from straying. NO
176. I wanted to burn calories. NO
177. I wanted to even the score with a cheating partner. NO
178. I wanted to hurt an enemy. NO
179. I wanted to feel older. NO
180. It is my genetic imperative. YES
181. It was an initiation rite to a club or organization. NO (WTF?)
182. I wanted to become more focused on work - sexual thoughts are distracting. NO
183. I wanted to say "I’ve missed you." YES
184. I wanted to celebrate a birthday or anniversary or special occasion. YES
185. I wanted to say "I’m sorry." YES
186. I wanted to return a favor. YES
187. I wanted to say "Thank You." YES
188. I wanted to welcome someone home. YES
189. I wanted to say "goodbye." YES
190. I wanted to defy my parents. NO
191. I wanted to relieve menstrual cramps. NO
192. I wanted to relieve "blue balls." NO
193. I wanted to get the most out of life. YES
194. I wanted to feel feminine. NO (lolz)
195. I wanted to feel masculine. NO
196. I am a sex addict. NO
197. I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. NO
198. I thought it would boost my social status. NO
199. The person had a lot of money. NO
200. The person’s physical appearance turned me on. YES

Gonna shoot me a heathen deer

A company called Christian Outdoorsman has an on-line catalog. Apparently, their best-selling product is a camouflage Bible.
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This is because deer are heathens, and regular Bibles scare them away.

Christian Outdoorsman also sells a pink camouflage Bible.
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I guess it's for outdoorsmen who are a little bit different. It would make a charming addition to this outdoorsman's ensemble, for example (link may be NSFW/F):
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(Found at News of the Weird Daily.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

The official PostSecret video

Everybody knows about PostSecret by now, right? PostSecret creator Frank Warren made a video. The music is "Breathe Me" by Sia.

One Sentence Movie Reviews: "Curse of the Golden Flower," "Lady Vengeance," "Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic"

Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic (2005)
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Although I think Sarah Silverman is hot and I love how perverse and subversive her humor is, in the end she's funny but just not all that funny.

Lady Vengeance (2005)
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While it doesn't have the wild inventiveness of Oldboy or the energy of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, this final entry in director Park Chan-wook's marvelous "vengeance trilogy" is the most grounded and realistic of the three films, the most darkly humorous, and the deepest emotionally.

Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)
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Although it's absolutely gorgeous to look at, this melodramatic tale of court intrigue is otherwise unsatisfying.

237 reasons to have sex: reasons 101 - 150

Here are reasons 101 through 150
Read more about the project here.
Have you ever had sex because:

101. It's considered "taboo" by society. NO
102. I wanted to increase the number of sex partners I had experienced. NO
103. The person was too "hot" (sexy) to resist. YES
104. I thought it would relax me. YES
105. I thought it would make me feel healthy. YES
106. I wanted to experiment with new experiences. YES
107. I wanted to see what it would be like to have sex with another person. YES (wait -- by "another person," do they mean "another person than my regular partner" or "another person besides myself"?)
108. I thought it would help me to fall asleep. YES (it works!)
109. I could brag to other people about my sexual experience. NO
110. It would allow me to "get sex out of my system" so that I could focus on other things. NO
111. I wanted to decrease my partner’s desire to have sex with someone else. NO
112. It would damage my reputation if I said "no." NO
113. The other person was too physically attractive to resist. YES
114. I wanted to celebrate something. YES
115. I was seduced. YES
116. I wanted to make the person feel better about herself/himself. YES
117. I wanted to increase the emotional bond by having sex. YES
118. I wanted to see whether sex with a different partner would feel different or better. NO
119. I was mad at my partner, so I had sex with someone else. NO
120. I wanted to fulfill a previous promise to my partner. NO
121. It was expected of me. YES
122. I wanted to keep my partner from straying. NO
123. I wanted the pure pleasure. YES
124. I wanted to dominate the other person. YES
125. I wanted to make a conquest. NO
126. I’m addicted to sex. NO
127. It was a favor to someone. NO
128. I wanted to be used or degraded. NO (holy crap!)
129. Someone offered me money to do it. NO
130. I was drunk. NO
131. It seemed like good exercise. NO (that's a myth, unfortunately)
132. I was pressured into doing it. NO
133. The person offered to give me drugs for doing it. NO
134. I was frustrated and needed relief. YES
135. It was a romantic setting. YES
136. I felt insecure. YES
137. My regular partner is boring, so I had sex with someone else. NO
138. I was on the "rebound" from another relationship. NO
139. I wanted to boost my self-esteem. YES
140. I wanted to get my partner to stay with me. YES
141. Because of a bet. NO
142. It was a special occasion. YES
143. It was the next step in the relationship. YES
144. I wanted to get a special favor from someone. NO
145. I wanted to get back at my partner for having cheated on me. NO
146. I wanted to enhance my reputation. NO
147. I wanted to keep warm. NO
148. I wanted to punish myself. NO (holy crap again!)
149. I wanted to break up a rival’s relationship by having sex with his/her partner. NO
150. I wanted to stop my partners’ nagging. YES

Friday, August 10, 2007

God's cosmic oven

A Japanese friend once explained to me how God created different races.

God decided to make people, so he used his cosmic oven to bake some.
The first batch came out dark brown. "Oops," said God, "overcooked 'em." Those were the first black people.
So God made a second batch. They came out hardly browned at all. "Oops," said God, "undercooked 'em." Those were the first white people.
So God made a third batch. They came out light brown. "Ah," said God, "just right." Those were the first Asian people.

Marriage to a Second Lifer in 20 words or less

"You try to talk to someone or bring them a drink, and they'll be having sex with a cartoon."

(WSJ article here; found at murketing)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

237 reasons to have sex: reasons 51 - 100

Here are reasons 51 through 100
Read more about the project here.
Have you ever had sex because:

51. I wanted the adventure/excitement. YES
52. I wanted the experience. YES
53. I felt obligated to. YES
54. It’s fun. YES (duh)
55. I wanted to get even with someone (i.e., revenge). NO
56. I wanted to be popular. NO
57. It would get me gifts. NO
58. I wanted to act out a fantasy. YES
59. I hadn’t had sex for a while. YES
60. The person was "available." YES
61. I didn’t want to "lose" the person. YES
62. I thought it would help "trap" a new partner. NO
63. I wanted to capture someone else’s mate. NO
64. I felt sorry for the person. YES
65. I wanted to feel powerful. NO
66. I wanted to "possess" the person. YES
67. I wanted to release tension. YES
68. I wanted to feel good about myself. YES
69. I was slumming. NO
70. I felt rebellious. NO
71. I wanted to intensify my relationship. YES
72. It seemed like the natural next step in my relationship. YES
73. I wanted to be nice. YES
74. I wanted to feel connected to the person. YES
75. I wanted to feel young. NO
76. I wanted to manipulate him/her into doing something for me. NO
77. I wanted him/her to stop bugging me about sex. YES
78. I wanted to hurt/humiliate the person. NO
79. I wanted the person to feel good about himself/herself. YES
80. I didn’t want to disappoint the person. YES
81. I was trying to "get over" an earlier person/relationship. NO
82. I wanted to reaffirm my sexual orientation. NO
83. I wanted to try out new sexual techniques or positions. YES
84. I felt guilty. YES
85. My hormones were out of control. YES
86. It was the only way my partner would spend time with me. NO
87. It became a habit. NO (I wish I knew how to quit you... lol)
88. I wanted to keep my partner happy. YES
89. I had no self-control. NO
90. I wanted to communicate at a "deeper" level. YES
91. I was afraid my partner would have an affair if I didn't have sex with him/her. NO
92. I was curious about my sexual abilities. YES
93. I wanted a "spiritual" experience. NO
94. It was just part of the relationship "routine." YES
95. I wanted to lose my inhibitions. YES
96. I got "carried away." YES
97. I needed another "notch on my belt." NO
98. The person demanded that I have sex with him/her. YES
99. The opportunity presented itself. YES
100. I wanted to see what it would be like to have sex while stoned (e.g., on marijuana or some other drug). NO

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Like a good neighbor...

Malls today are laid out very scientifically. These stores are right next to each other at the local mall:

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I bet this works well for the Christian Supply store. Religious people will walk by the Victoria's Secret store and think dirty thoughts (and maybe buy some lascivious underwear), but then they'll feel guilty and go right into the Christian Supply store to make themselves feel better. Marketing genius.

Random Cool Site: Analysis of the Star Trek "Red Shirt Phenomenon"

Matt Bailey of SiteLogic analyzes why red-shirted crew members always died on the original Star Trek.
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What? You don't know about the Red Shirt Phenomenon? Well, as any die-hard Trekkie knows, if you are wearing a red shirt and beam to the planet with Captain Kirk, you're gonna die. That's the common thinking, but I decided to put this to the test. After all, I hadn't seen any definitive proof; it's just what people said. (Remind you of your current web analytics strategy?) So, let's set our phasers on 'stun' and see what we find...

The basic stats:
The Enterprise has a crew of 430 ( in its five-year mission. (Now, I know that the show was only on the air for 3 years, but bear with me. 80 episodes were produced, which gives us the data to build from.) 59 crewmembers were killed during the mission, which comes out to 13.7% of the crew. So, that will be our overall conversion rate, 13.7%.

Data Segmentation:
However, we need to segment the overall mortality (conversion) rate in order to gain the specific information that we need:

* Yellow-shirt crewperson deaths: 6 (10%)
* Blue-Shirt crewperson deaths: 5 (8 %)
* Engineering smock crewperson deaths: 4
* Red-Shirt crewperson deaths: 43 (73%)

So, the basic segmentation of factors allows us to confirm that red-shirted crewmembers died more than any other crewmembers on the original Star Trek series.

However, that's only just simple stats reporting - ready for some analysis?

Read the rest here
(Found at Freakonomics Blog.)

One Sentence Movie Reviews: "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" "In the Heat of the Night," "Volver"

Volver (2006)
Penelope Cruz is wonderful in a movie that loves women.

In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Forty years later, this mix of detective story and "issue" movie is still riveting.

And what an awesome poster:
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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
The first movie in Park Chan-wook's brilliant "vengeance trilogy," Sympathy violently demonstrates the futility and selfishness of revenge.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

237 reasons to have sex: reasons 1 - 50

Two psychologists at the University of Texas have published a paper on "Why Humans Have Sex." They asked 2,000 people why they have sex and how important the various reasons were to them. The psychologists came up with 237 reasons. I thought it would be fun to go through them and, rather than ranking them on a 1 to 5 scale like the people in the study did, give them a straight-up yes or no on whether I've ever had sex for that reason. I'll be doing this over the next few days. Here's numbers 1 through 50.
(Found at News of the Weird Daily)

1. I was "in the heat of the moment." YES
2. It just happened. YES
3. I was bored. YES
4. It just seemed like "the thing to do." YES
5. Someone dared me. NO
6. I desired emotional closeness (i.e., intimacy). YES
7. I wanted to feel closer to God. YES
8. I wanted to gain acceptance from friends. NO
9. It’s exciting, adventurous. YES
10. I wanted to make up after a fight. YES
11. I wanted to get rid of aggression. NO
12. I was under the influence of drugs. NO
13. I wanted to try to get a better mate than my current mate. NO
14. I wanted to express my love for the person. YES
15. I wanted to experience the physical pleasure. YES
16. I wanted to show my affection to the person. YES
17. I felt like I owed it to the person. YES
18. I was attracted to the person. YES
19. I was sexually aroused and wanted the release. YES
20. My friends were having sex and I wanted to fit in. NO
21. It feels good. YES
22. My partner kept insisting. YES (I'm just a boy who can't say "No"...)
23. The person was famous and I wanted to be able to say I had sex with him/her. NO (I hate starf*ckers. I wish I was a star just so I could reject them.)
24. I was physically forced to. NO
25. I was verbally coerced into it. NO
26. I wanted the person to love me. YES
27. I wanted to have a child. YES (It worked.)
28. I wanted to make someone else jealous. NO
29. I wanted to have more sex than my friends. NO
30. I was married and you’re supposed to. NO
31. I was tired of being a virgin. YES
32. I was "horny." YES
33. I wanted to feel loved. YES
34. I was feeling lonely. YES
35. Everyone else was having sex. NO
36. I wanted the attention. NO
37. It was easier to "go all the way" than to stop. NO
38. I wanted to ensure the relationship was "committed." NO
39. I was competing with someone else to "get the person." NO
40. I wanted to "gain control" of the person. NO
41. I was curious about what the person was like in bed. YES
42. I was curious about sex. YES
43. I wanted to feel attractive. YES
44. I wanted to please my partner. YES
45. I wanted to display submission. NO
46. I wanted to release anxiety/stress. YES
47. I didn’t know how to say "no." YES
48. I felt like it was my duty. YES
49. I wanted to end the relationship. NO (All right, this one confuses me...)
50. My friends pressured me into it. NO