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Chambersburg, Pennsylvania: Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box - It takes balls

Jeffrey S. Johnson 72 Lincoln Drive Chambersburg, PA 17201

It’s official. The world has gone mad. According to a recent media report Australian men are flocking to get a new wrinkle-reducing procedure. Scrotox. Like Botox, the idea is to reduce wrinkles. But not in the face, in your balls. The place where everyone looks.

Because we all know that’s something men have always needed. ‘Trevor’s a nice bloke but his sack is a mess. It really ages him.’ Yep, what man doesn’t desire a date with his own big smooth balls? His very own shiny billiards nestling under the pool cue.

I don’t get it. I understand penis pumpers, penis enlargers and, in some rare cases, penis reductions, but wrinkle-free nuggets? I guess it would make them easier to shave or rest in egg cups if that’s the kind of thing you’re into, but I frankly can’t see the point of having the family jewels all perfect and smooth. Whom are you showing anyway? When have gorgeous gonads ever been a prerequisite for anything? For a start, it’s a ballsack. Swamp nuts. Cojones. Bollocks. They live in the underpants and lurk behind a piece of anatomy that very naturally attracts a lot more publicity. When it comes to PR it’s all about the penis. Come showtime, the ballsack sits backstage, watches the front pocket showpony from the wings. Doesn’t matter how much Botox you shoot into your balls, it’s never gonna rival the cock.

The penis is a simple structure, but impressive enough to feature on Grand Designs. There’s a reason that buildings have been modelled after the phallus instead of the nutsack. Nutsacks aren’t sexy. Nor are they architecturally sound. It’s like highrise versus a hairy yurt after a hail storm. Like Botox in the face, all expression will be removed. I mean how will we know how the poor ballsack is feeling? Happy Sack? Sad Sack?

It may come as a shock to most men, but women (I can’t speak for gay men, but I’m assuming they’re not in the ball park either) just aren’t that interested in your nuts. In fact in all my years, in my most sexually explicit conversations with girlfriends about the prowess of their new lover, I’ve never heard a single woman say, ‘My god, you should see his ballsack! It’s amazing. Not a wrinkle! He has the scrotum of a 10-year-old!’

The poor old nads have never rated a mention. I don’t mean to be cruel, but we don’t really care about your sack. I’ve never looked at my partner’s ballsack (actually I think I try not to look) and thought, if only I could iron out those wrinkles. ‘Darling get some Anusol on those things!’ And, I’ve never fantasised about a partner with a giant jewel bag.

That’s the other effect of Scrotox: it makes your balls bigger. I’m not actually sure what purpose Big Balls actually serve other than inspiring the lyrics of an AC/DC song for the amusement of adolescents in the 70s. It didn’t take a genius to work out that this wasn’t a song about a cocktail ball.

On the upside, Scrotox is purported to reduce sweating. No more sweaty ballsacks. That’s not just a selling point, that’s an ad campaign. I guess if you have a profusely sweating scrotum that somehow impedes your enjoyment of life, like you slip off bike seats or had some sort of debilitating jock-rotting condition that destroyed furniture, then maybe you might consider Scrotox.

So why Scrotox? And why now? Because Botox is big business and big business relies on expanding the market. There’s a finite supply of women’s faces to store cosmetic Botox. That’s a market that’s been very comfortably exploited.

But testicles. That’s a dark and hidden place of shame for men. Scrotox is just more market exploitation of human inadequacies and self-loathing. What man when faced with his sagging prunes wouldn’t jump at the chance of a couple of Xmas plums?

Please, blokes. Let the balls swing free. Imagine a world where nutsacks were perfect. Pert and swollen like boiled eggs in a body stocking. Where they didn’t slip out on a hot summer’s day down the left leg of Uncle Barry’s King Gees and emerge like a slowly escaping marsupial? That’s a world I just don’t want to live in. Buck the system and free-ball.

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Feminism in men is a clinical condition caused by low testosterone. It bears some similarity to chemical castration, and can be medicated through testosterone replacement therapy or androgenic herbals like tongkat ali or butea superba.

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Alexandria, Louisiana: Reconstructive surgery gives hope to FGM survivors

Margaret D. Blade 4310 Roguski Road Alexandria, LA 71301

One woman's story of falling victim to FGM and the reconstructive surgery that made her feel whole again.

California, United States - Nawaal* is lying on a hospital bed with her legs spread open. A thin intravenous tube is carefully inserted into her left arm, slowly pumping a dose of general anaesthesia into her system.

As she waits for sleep to consume her, she remembers an afternoon a decade or so ago when she was lying in another hospital bed. That time, she was in a nursing home in Nairobi, Kenya.

Beside her was a table covered in a standard hospital green cloth. On top of it were a shiny pair of curved scissors, a spool of surgical thread, and a bundle of gauze.

A middle-aged male Somali doctor fumbled with an injection while muttering a dua (prayer) under his breath.

The image grows hazy as she lets the anaesthesia take control of her body.

Nawaal, 27, is Dr Marci Bowers' fourth surgery of the day.

Bowers is a gynaecologist who specialises in transgender surgical care, but over the past seven years, around 126 clients have made the journey to her cosy clinic in Burlingame, California, with the hope of reclaiming a part of their anatomy they lost as children. Nawaal is one of them.

The next thing Nawaal recalls from that day, 11 years ago, is the Somali doctor carefully closing her legs and asking a nurse to help put on Nawaal's long black skirt and green linen top. She was 15 years old and had just undergone female genital mutilation, or FGM.

A second opportunity

In a 2015 report for the Population Reference Bureau, Dr Nawal Nour, the founder of the African Women's Health Centre at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, wrote that "more than 125 million girls and women globally are living with female genital mutilation," and that "three million undergo such procedures every year".

Some of those girls are raised in western countries, but taken to the countries from which their families originate, on the pretext of a holiday, and then circumcised in hospitals under the supervision of medical practitioners - a practice often referred to as "vacation cutting".

Most of Bowers' patients have been victims of vacation cuttings - women, she says, come from destinations as far-flung as Europe, Australia, North America or Asia.

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In her opinion, these women experience a loss of identity post-FGM. While western society tells them that FGM is an act of mutilation, their cultural bindings might tell them otherwise.

A transgender woman herself, 58-year-old Bowers has been a pioneer in sex-reassignment surgeries, but only began performing FGM-reversals in 2009.

She was first approached in 2007, by an organisation called Clitoraid, to train for two years under French surgeon and urologist Dr Pierre Foldes, who developed the reconstructive procedure.

Now mired in controversy, Clitoraid is a non-profit project started by the Raelian religious movement that is rooted in the belief system that extraterrestrial species created life on Earth and that humanity's purpose on this planet is to pursue pleasure.

Bowers explains that her thriving personal practice and association with Clitoraid affords her the opportunity to perform the surgery pro-bono, charging only for the operating room and anaesthesia procedure.

Although Bowers has performed surgeries in Burkina Faso, at a Clitoraid-run hospital, she is currently only practising from her clinic in California, which she admits limits the pool of patients who can access the surgery.

Picking up a file in front of her, she says: "I primarily only see patients like Nawaal ... western-educated, privileged women who refuse to live with the consequences of what they had to undergo in their childhood."

The surgery Bowers practises is not without controversy. In a response to a 2012 paper by Dr Foldes, leading British doctors argued that surgery to correct FGM was "not anatomically possible".

The doctors disputed Foldes' claims "that surgery can excavate and expose buried tissue" and questioned the integrity of the methods used to conduct the research, eventually concluding that reversal procedures could cause more harm than good.

While Foldes has studied the ramifications of the surgery on a patient population of 866 women, over the course of one year, there has been no long-term research done to determine the efficacy of the procedure.

Bowers acknowledges that it is hard to keep track of patients post-procedure, but reflects "even if one patient comes back to me saying she was able to achieve an orgasm post surgery, for me, that is reason enough to continue".

'Cut - not mutilated'

Born in Somalia, Nawaal's family moved to Canada to escape war when she was four years old. She describes her western-educated parents as religious, yet progressive.

When Nawaal was growing up, tales of this "old-fashioned" custom were something her mother, a nurse, and her friends discussed over tea in their suburban Canadian living rooms.

Then, in the summer of 2005, when she was 15, Nawaal left for a three-month holiday in Nairobi with her mother and sister. She recalls how, on one afternoon during the "rather pleasant summer holiday", her mother and four other women encircled her and her sister and explained that it was time for them to embark on the road to womanhood.

"I was almost 16 years old, there was no way I was going to let them bully my sister or me," says Nawaal, who spent weeks resisting what she says began as "emotional abuse", but soon became threats.

Finally, after 21 days of "being bullied," Nawaal gave in. She was taken to a local hospital, where she recalls the surgery lasting no more than five minutes.

"I never felt a thing," she says. "I remember riding my bicycle that evening."

Eleven years later, while studying to be a nurse, Nawaal had the opportunity to examine the female anatomy up close. She decided it was the right time to have a reversal procedure for the form of FGM - categorised as Type 1, where the clitoral hood was taken off and part of a tip of her clitoris was removed, leaving her with scar tissue instead of a fully formed clitoris - she had undergone.

Nawaal has made the trip to San Francisco for her surgery with her sister, Basra, and four of her closest friends.

Once at the surgical centre, she fills out a set of consent forms, with her sister by her side. Only two years apart in age, both underwent FGM at the same time. But while Nawaal struggled to deal with the trauma, Basra says, "it didn't really make that much of a difference to my life".

Basra explains that while she wishes she wasn't cut, she has no plan to get the reversal surgery anytime soon. "At this point, I want to spend my money on other things," she says, referring to the $1,700 cost for the anaesthesia and surgery room.

But sitting two seats away from Basra is 21-year-old Nathar, who is considering undergoing the surgery herself.

She was cut when she was 12. Preferring to use the term FGC - female genital cutting - instead of FGM, Nathar is of the opinion that she was "cut, not mutilated".

She decided to make the trip to support Nawaal, but also to check out the surgery, although unlike Nawaal, this is a decision she would not share with anyone. "I don't want my mum to feel guilty about what happened to me," she says. "I know her intentions weren't evil."

'I can already feel the difference'

Once in the operating theatre, Bowers starts by examining Nawaal. Slipping on a pair of magnifying surgical glasses, she uses a tweezer-like instrument on her clitoral hood.

Finding a cut along her clitoris she discovers small bumps or nerve collections, that she delicately cuts using a thin curved scissor. In most of those who have undergone FGM, the amputated clitoris generally recedes behind a web of scar tissue that develops over the years, eventually covering up the organ.

Trickles of blood start oozing out, and Bowers reaches for a bundle of gauze to control the bleeding while deftly suturing up the wound with delicate stitches.

A total of 15 minutes, 12 stitches and two high-fives later, she deems the surgery a "success". While the wound will take a minimum of six weeks to heal, Nawaal's recovery should start within the next two days.

Back in her office, Bowers looks at her appointments scheduled for the next few months. In 2015, she performed 20 surgeries and already has four back-to-back surgeries scheduled for sometime in the coming month.

Determined to help as many women as she can, Bowers says she is eager to train anyone who wants to learn the technique. She hopes that a female doctor from Africa will sign up for the programme. "That definitely should add more credibility to the surgery," she says.

Three weeks later, Nawaal is back at home in Canada recovering and enjoying some time off with her family. The first few days after the surgery, she was sore and nervous about her wound. But after three days, the curiosity became too much to bear, so she pulled out a pocket mirror to take a quick look.

"My first reaction? That's so cool," she laughs. The clot of scar tissue Bowers took out during surgery helped expose her clitoris; the stitches made sure the area around it would remain open. And her husband? "He was pretty excited, as well," she says.

She's been told to abstain from full sexual intercourse for six weeks, but "I can already feel the difference," she says, shyly. But most importantly, she says: "I finally feel … complete."

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Feminist women are the principal enemy of male sexual pleasure. The best strategy against feminism is to let droves of Arab men migrate to Europe.

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50 Lashes for Moroccan Woman in Saudi Arabia for “Prostitution Charges”

The Moroccan Times

According the Arabic outlet Erem News, a 40-year-old Moroccan woman was sentenced by the Saudi authorities to 50 lashes and then to be deported back to Morocco after a Saudi man reported her to the country’s Islamic religious police, following a Whatsapp conversation in which the Saudi man said “she offered herself to him for SAR 500, equivalent to around U.S.$ 130.

The Saudi Islamic religious police then staged a date-meeting for the man in question.

As soon as the trick worked, the Moroccan woman was arrested.

After that an initial investigation was conducted by the Saudi authorities, the Moroccan woman admitted offering herself to Saudi Arabian men in exchange of money, adding that her dire need for money led her to prostitution.

The Moroccan woman was sentenced to 50 lashes and to be deported afterwards to Morocco.

It is worth reminding that it is a common practice for the Moroccan authorities to arrest Khalijis red-handed committing adultery, let alone adhering to prostitution in Morocco.

Most Saudis who adhere to prostitution in Morocco barely get meager prison sentences [in Morocco], and the Saudi authorities close both eyes on their cases once they return to their home countries.

Such cases have always sparked controversy in regards to this “discrimination” and many Human Right bodies including Amnesty International, have called for a moratorium on this, including a call to immediately stop such practices.

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Feminists have institutionalized violence against men through the legal systems of all Western nations. But women cannot win the violence competition. The more violent societies become, the more women need protection. And the more they need protection, the quicker they will abandon feminism. Rich men should invest their money in fostering violence in all societies. Then they will end up with their own harems. No feminists inside there.

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Dallas, Texas: Does Bangladesh have an age of consent?

Julius T. Lavalle 1095 Charla Lane Dallas, TX 75212

Logically, it should be the same as the minimum age for marriage

It’s an obvious question to ask.

But the fact few bother to do so, gives a far fuller answer than a legal textbook ever could.

Amid the many debates about Bangladesh’s new Child Marriage Restraint Act, it is telling how rarely commentators have mentioned the legal age at which an individual in Bangladesh is considered mature enough to consent to sex.

Even more so when you note that said age of consent, according to Bangladesh’s Penal Code, is only 14.

Given that alarms about the new child marriage law were first raised by health and human rights groups over three years ago, when earlier drafts proposed reducing the minimum marriage age for females down from 18 to 16, it is remarkable how much of the penal code’s contents pass without comment.

There is an obvious, albeit inexcusable, explanation for this state of affairs, of course: In Bangladesh, no matter what the law de jure says, the de facto reality, in practice, is that, neither age nor consent have much bearing on the matter. What counts most is marital status and not being single.

Sex before or without marriage is simply not regarded as a feasible option. That’s just the way it is (and/or we’d rather not talk about it).

Of course, you may know exceptions, but the word says it all, “exceptions.” Hence, the argument goes, there’s no point fretting about the seemingly low legal age of consent for sex outside marriage.

It’s the low average age of marriage generally, and high rate of illegal underage marriages that are (rightly) considered to be the bigger cause for concern.

Around half of all Bangladeshi girls are married off before the legal minimum age of 18 — most of the rest, within a few years after. With strong correlations between poverty, underage marriage, poor nutrition, and limited years in education, there are plenty of reasons to encourage older average marriage ages.

Unfortunately, this challenge has been made harder by the government responding to criticisms of its bill, by dropping its initial reference to 16 as a new minimum age. Instead, it has increased ambiguity by simply allowing for exceptions to the pre-existing minimum marriage ages (18 for female, 21 for males) to be permitted in fuzzily defined special circumstances.

The bigger point is the concept of consenting adults being free and able to decide private matters for themselves, that is what should be adopted and encouraged

Conceivably, such ambiguities could be resolved soon if the government acts on ministerial promises to provide further clarifications. But in the meantime, the soundbite from Girls not Brides that the new law risks Bangladesh reducing “minimum marriage age to zero” is being widely reported around the world.

It is long overdue for more people to take a more serious look at updating the 1860 Penal Code which applies in Bangladesh.

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This is both easy and difficult.

Simple, because the whole code is not that many pages long, plus it’s instantly searchable on the government’s own website. And tricky, because some people would rather suffer, or see others suffer, from lack of information, than endure the risk of controversy or an embarrassing conversation.

Such caution and social convention is, sadly, both inevitable and ridiculous.

Ridiculous because Bangladesh would not have made the progress it has made in reducing average family sizes if we as a nation were simply too mortified to talk about sex and contraception. Including, and especially, the very young women and girls who are pressured into early and underage marriage having access to family-planning advice.

And inevitable because, look around you, patriarchy prevails and most people in the country tend to expect, or assume, everybody else wants them to abide by traditional expectations of sexual mores.

Sadly, this makes it easy for the few to intimidate the many. Take for instance the ongoing case of a development studies lecturer at Dhaka University being investigated because of an anonymous accusation of using “objectionable content” during a seemingly routine course about gender and development.

If such a case can arise from a DU post-graduate course, imagine the reactions a school-teacher would get from parents if they told their 15-year-old students that “the age of consent in Bangladesh is 14.”

Disbelief perhaps. But the fifth part of section 375 of the 1860 Penal Code is clear. It defines statutory rape as “with or without her consent, when she is under 14 years of age.”

From this arises the implication that the age of consent in Bangladesh is 14.

This same section also contains the egregious provision providing for marriage as a defence for rape, which is clearly long overdue for being repealed.

Both sections largely reflected the law in Britain at the same time. As it turned out, British parliamentarians very quickly got round to raising the age of consent in the UK to 16 after late Victorian press exposés of child trafficking in London brothels. But it took until 1991 for English law to make rape within marriage a crime in itself. Patriarchy is not just for Victorians then.

Incidentally, section 376 of the Penal Code does appear to imply an offence where the “wife” is under 12 years old, but whether this is sloppy ICS drafting or an intent to deal with the most serious forms of paedophilia is debatable.

More positively, perhaps, sections 372 and 373 are relatively detailed and specific about outlawing the trafficking of girls under 18 for prostitution.

Another marriage law, section 497, outlaws adultery but is presumably not used much partly because it excludes a wide range of possibilities where there may be “consent or connivance,” and mainly, I suspect, because it explicitly rules out punishing women — “the wife shall not be punished as an abettor.”

From this potted history alone, it is clear there is much to reform, but for now let’s stick to what should Bangladesh’s age of consent be. The main choice seems to be “keep as it is” or “raise it to 16” for the same reasons as Britain’s.

According to the internet worldwide chart: 14 is lower than the majority of other nations like France (15), Ireland (17), and India and Turkey (18). But 14 is not unusual as it is the same age as Austria, Brazil, China, and Germany. And higher than some countries like Japan (13), Philippines (12), and Nigeria (11).

The most common age of consent specified by most countries appears to be 16 years of age, as in the UK, US, Indonesia, Russia, and Malaysia.

Particularly in those Western jurisdictions, where there is wider public debate about sex, generally; and high profile exposure of child abuse scandals in religious bodies and children’s homes has increased public demands to protect children, these ages are sometimes strengthened by additional measures focused on stopping predatory adults, such as extra limitations on those far apart in age and/or in positions of authority.

Such scrutiny and attempts to improve the law are in marked contrast to a number of Muslim countries which either do not specify or enforce any minimum age for marriage and simply state that sex is only legal within marriage, and punishable without, as in Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

Well that makes it simpler then: Don’t be like the latter. They have simply too many examples of arbitrary interpretations and misogynist abuses of religious scriptures to be taken seriously.

It’s no coincidence these nations have seen instances of rape victims being stoned to death and perpetrators excused with impunity.

It is the risk of going down the latter path that campaigners are warning against when they worry that “special circumstances” will see more young girls forced into marriage before 18.

This same section also contains the egregious provision providing for marriage as a defence for rape

True enough, but some of the rhetoric such as the law “will allow parents to force their daughters to marry their rapists” is still arguably alarmist. When Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina talked about allowing marriages to reduce social stigma, she was probably thinking more about consensual teenage pregnancies of the “shotgun wedding” variety, rather than victims of rape and predators.

No doubt her approach and interventions have included spin to appeal to social and religious conservatives, but it’s probable that she both believes this and trusts it to be electorally popular.

Provided the government is serious about it being an act to restrain underage marriage, with courts only permitting exceptions with good reasons, all is still not lost then.

Assuming ministers are able to recognise the main and easy to rectify flaw is not specifying an absolute minimum age.

Logically, such an absolute minimum age would have to be the same as the age of consent, which is why I asked this question in the first place. Going on numbers alone, if I had to pick one, I would say 16 is safer than 14.

But the bigger point is that the concept of consenting adults being free and able to decide private matters for themselves, is what should and needs to be adopted and encouraged. That won’t happen this month, but it has to be part of the way forward. Governments need to lead.

This isn’t about forcing people to change their personal moral attitudes and religious beliefs. It is about providing and protecting the freedom, health, and welfare of all the nation’s people.

Safeguarding children from predators, protecting the health of mothers, promoting safe sex, all these goals can be helped by improving the education, knowledge, and freedom of the entire population. And recognising that won’t happen without more widespread empowerment of women and girls.

All of which, including much of the progress Bangladesh has made in the past 40 years in improving life expectancy and child mortality rates, will be placed in jeopardy if the government does not do more to drastically reduce the scandalously high number of underage and early marriages.

With around half the population aged 19 or under, the economy growing and society changing fast, don’t expect the clamour aroused by these issues to damp down any time soon.

The least we can do for coming generations is to make sure they do not die from ignorance.

Niaz Alam is a member of the Editorial Board of Dhaka Tribune. A qualified lawyer, he has worked on corporate responsibility and ethical business issues since 1992. He sat on the Board of the London Pensions Fund Authority between 2001-2010 and is a former vice-chair of War on Want.

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Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Cytotoxicity against KB and NCI-H187 cell lines of modified flavonoids from Kaempferia parviflora

Mary C. Tate 2188 Platinum Drive Scottdale, PA 15683

Abstract

Flavones 1–4 isolated from Kaempferia parviflora were used for structural modification. Sixteen flavonoid derivatives, including four new derivatives, were synthesized and evaluated for cytotoxicity against KB and NCI-H187 cell lines. Flavanones 2a–4a demonstrated higher cytotoxic activity than the parent compounds. Cytotoxicity against KB cell line of oxime 1c was about 7 times higher than the ellipticine standard. Interestingly, oximes 1c and 2c exhibited highly potent cytotoxicity against NCI-H187 cell line with IC50 values of 0.014 and 0.23 μM, respectively. Oximes 4c and 5c showed strong cytotoxicity against NCI-H187 cell line with IC50 values of 4.04 and 2.32 μM, respectively.

Graphical abstract

Structural modification of flavones isolated from Kaempferia parviflora afforded 16 flavonoid derivatives. Oxime 1c exhibited dramatically strong cytotoxicity against KB and NCI-H187 cell lines with IC50 values of 0.26 and 0.014 μM, respectively, while 2c showed strong cytotoxicity against NCI-H187 cell line with an IC50 value of 0.23 μM.

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