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Christian Morals and Values Shaping the Future of the Russian World

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This article originally appeared at The Carnegie Council

Nicolai N. Petro is professor of politics at the University of Rhode Island. This paper was presented at the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR) seminar on Russia in Koenigswinter, Germany, February 15-18, 2015. CIOR is one of the “independent” advisory bodies to the Military Committee of NATO.


Abstract

For many analysts the term Russky mir, or Russian World, epitomizes an expansionist and messianic Russian foreign policy, the perverse intersection of the interests of the Russian state and the Russian Orthodox Church.

Little noted is that the term actually means something quite different for each party. For the state it is a tool for expanding Russia’s cultural and political influence, while for the Russian Orthodox Church it is a spiritual concept, a reminder that through the baptism of Rus, God consecrated these people to the task of building a Holy Rus.

The close symphonic relationship between the Orthodox Church and state in Russia thus provides Russian foreign policy with a definable moral framework, one that, given its popularity, is likely to continue to shape the country’s policies well into the future.


“For us the rebirth of Russia is inextricably tied, first of all, with spiritual rebirth . . .and if Russia is the largest Orthodox power [pravoslavnaya dershava], then Greece and Athos are its source.”Vladimir Putin during a state visit to Mount Athos, September 2005.

Foreign policy is about interests and values. But while Russia’s interests are widely debated, her values are often overlooked, or treated simplistically as the antithesis of Western values.

But, as Professor Andrei Tsygankov points out in his book Russia and the West from Alexander to Putin, Russia’s relations with the West go through cycles that reflect its notion of honor. By honor he means the basic moral principles that are popularly cited within a culture as the reason for its existence, and that inform its purpose when interacting with other nations.

Over the past two centuries, in pursuit of its honor, Russia has cooperated with its European neighbors, when they have acknowledged it as part of the West; responded defensively, when they have excluded Russia; and assertively, when they have been overtly hostile to Russia’s sense of honor.

Sometimes a nation’s sense of its honor overlaps with present-day interests; but it cannot be reduced to the national interest alone, because political leaders must respond to existential ideals and aspirations that are culturally embedded. A nation’s sense of honor, therefore, serves as a baseline for what might be called the long-term national interest.

According to Tsygankov, in Russia’s case the long-term national interest revolves around three constants: First, sovereignty or “spiritual freedom;” second, a strong and socially protective state that is capable of defending that sovereignty; and third, cultural loyalty to those who share Russia’s sense of honor, wherever they may be. All three of these involve, to a greater or lesser extent, the defense of Orthodox Christianity, of the Russian Orthodox Church, and of Orthodox Christians around the world.

Russian President Vladimir Putin succinctly encapsulated Russia’s sense of honor during his state visit to Mount Athos in 2005, when he referred to Russia as a pravoslavnaya derzhava, or simply, an Orthodox power.

Putin on the Moral Crisis of the West

Little noted at the time, in retrospect, the phrase seems to presage the turn toward Russian foreign policy assertiveness that Western analysts first noticed in his February 2007 remarks at the Munich Security Conference.

Since then, Putin has often returned to the dangers posed by American unilateralism, and even challenged the cherished notion of American exceptionalism. But, until his speech at the 2013 Valdai Club meeting, he did not explicitly say what values Russia stood for, what its sense of honor demanded. It was at this meeting that Putin first laid out his vision of Russia’s mission as an Orthodox power in the 21st century.

Putin began his speech by noting that the world has become a place where decency is in increasingly short supply. Countries must therefore do everything in their power to preserve their own identities and values, for “without spiritual, cultural and national self-definition . . . . one cannot succeed globally.”

Without a doubt, he said, the most important component of a country’s success is the intellectual, spiritual, and moral quality of its people. Economic growth and geopolitical influence depend increasingly on whether a country’s citizens feel they are one people sharing a common history, common values, and common traditions. All of these, said Putin, contribute to a nation’s self-image, to its national ideal. Russia needs to cultivate the best examples from the past and filter them through its rich diversity of cultural, spiritual, and political perspectives. Diversity of perspectives is crucial for Russia because it was born a multinational and multiconfessional state, and remains so today.

Indeed, pluriculturalism is potentially one of Russia’s main contributions to global development. “We have amassed a unique experience of interacting with, mutually enriching, and mutually respecting diverse cultures,” he told his audience. “Polyculturalism and polyethnicity are in our consciousness, our spirit, our historical DNA.”

Polyculturalism is also one of the driving factors behind the Eurasian Union, a project initiated by the president of Kazakstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, that Putin has wholeheartedly embraced.

Designed to move Eurasia from the periphery of global development to its center, it can only be successful, Putin says, if each nation retains its historical identity and develops it alongside the identity of the Eurasian region as a whole. Creating a culture of unity in diversity within this region, says Putin, would contribute greatly to both pluralism and stability in world affairs.

But, in a jab at the West, Putin notes that some aspects of pluriculturalism are no longer well received in the West. The values of traditional Christianity that once formed the very basis of Western civilization have come under fire there, and in their place Western leaders are promoting a unipolar and monolithic worldview. This, he says, is “a rejection . . . of the natural diversity of the world granted by God. . . . Without the values of Christianity and other world religions, without the norms of morality and ethics formed over the course of thousands of years, people inevitably lose their human dignity.”

The abandonment of traditional Christian values has led to a moral crisis in the West. Russia, Putin says, intends to counter this trend by defending Christian moral principles both at home and abroad.


Putin’s call for greater respect for traditional cultural and religious identities was either missed or ignored in the West. One reason, I suspect, is that it was couched in a language that Western elites no longer use.

For most of the 20th century, Western social science has insisted that modernization would render traditional cultural and religious values irrelevant. The modern alternative, which pioneer political scientists Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba labelled “civic culture,” gravitates toward cultural homogeneity and secularism. These qualities lead to political stability and economic progress. The pattern is exemplified by Anglo-American societies which, they conclude, form the optimal model for a modern society.

Half a century later, with the rise of China and the collapse of the Soviet Union, it no longer seems so obvious that secularism and homogeneity are the only paths to national success. Scholars increasingly speak of multiple paths to modernity, and even a resurgence of religion.

Another reason why Putin’s message was overlooked is that he is calling upon the West to re-connect with its Byzantine heritage, a heritage that it has often dismissed as non-Western. In Putin’s mind, reincorporating Eastern Christianity into Western civilization reveals Russia as a vital part of Western civilization, and requires that Russia be part of any discussion of Western values.

Putin’s speech in 2013 was an assertive and optimistic statement of Russian values, and the cultural and spiritual reasons why he felt that Russian influence in the world was bound to grow. By 2014, however, the world had changed. A major reason is the conflict within Ukraine, which many in the West define as a conflict over world order stemming from a profound values gap between Russia and the West.

Russia, by contrast, sees itself as defending not only vital strategic interests in Ukraine, but also its core values of honor, such as spiritual freedom, cultural loyalty, and pluralism. It may seem strange to many in the West, but Russia’s attitude on the Ukrainian crisis is inflexible precisely because it sees itself as occupying the moral high ground in this dispute.

A key reason why Western moral criticisms of Russian actions have so little traction among Russians is that the Russia Orthodox Church has regained its traditional pre-eminence as the institution that defines the nation’s moral vision and sense of honor. Looking beyond Russia’s borders, that vision has come to be known as the Russky mir or Russian World.

Russian World or the Communities of Historical Rus?

It is important to distinguish how this term is used by the Russian state from how it is used by the Russian Orthodox Church.

The use of this term as a “community of Orthodox Christians living in unity of faith, traditions and customs,” goes back to at least the beginning of the 19th century, but it was re-purposed as a political concept in the early 1990s by Pyotr Shedrovitsky, an influential political consultant interested in the role that cultural symbols could play in politics. He believed that creating a network of mutually reinforcing social structures in the former Soviet states among people who continue to think and speak in Russian—the “Russky mir”—could be politically advantageous to Russia. Its practical foreign policy appeal stemmed from the fact that, by claiming to speak on behalf of nearly 300 million Russian speakers, a weakened Russia would instantly become a key regional player, as well as an influential political force within the countries of the former Soviet Union.

This notion resonated within the Yeltsin administration which, in the mid-1990s was already searching for a “Russian Idea” around which to consolidate the nation and promote a new democratic consensus. Members of the Institute of Philosophy at the Russian Academy of Sciences were tasked to research this concept, but although it influenced sections of Russia’s first foreign policy doctrine in 1996, it ultimately ran out of steam. As those involved in this project later explained to me, there were simply too many disparate “Russian Ideas” to choose from, and no consensus within the presidential administration or the Institute of Philosophy on which version to support.

More than a decade would pass before the term was used by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. This occurred in 2009 at the Third Assembly of the Russian World, when Patriarch Kirill spoke of how the Russky mir, or Holy Rus as he also called it, should respond to the challenges of globalization.

The Church, he said, emphasizes the importance of spiritual bonds over the divisions of national borders. It therefore uses the term russky not as a geographical, or ethnic concept, but as a spiritual identity that refers to the cradle civilization of the Eastern Slavs—Kievan Rus.

This common identity was forged when Kievan Rus adopted Christianity from Constantinople in 988. At that moment the Eastern Slavs were consecrated into a single civilization and given the task of constructing Holy Rus. That mission persisted through the Muscovite and Imperial eras. It survived the persecutions of the Soviet era, and continues today in democratic Russia. The core of this community today resides in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus (at other times, Kirill has added Moldova and Kazakhstan), but can refer to anyone who shares the Orthodox faith, a reliance on Russian language, a common historical memory, and a common view of social development.

In June 2007, President Putin established the Russky mir Fund, tasked with support of the Russian language and cultural inheritance throughout the world. Much of this effort was clearly aimed at preserving the use of the Russian language in the former Soviet Union, and with it the popularization of Russia’s image. But while there is clearly a great deal of overlap between the religious and political uses of this term, let me highlight several important differences.

As used by the state, Russky mir is typically a political or a cultural concept. In both senses it is used by groups working for the Russian government to strengthen the country’s domestic stability, restore Russia’s status as a world power, and increase her influence in neighboring states. From the state’s perspective, the Russian Orthodox Church can be a useful tool for these purposes.

As used by the Church, Russky mir is a religious concept. It is essential for reversing the secularization of society throughout the former Soviet Union, a task Patriarch Kirill has termed the “second Christianization” of Rus. The Russian Orthodox Church sees the Russian government, or for that matter, any government within its canonical territory, as tools for this purpose.

Reaction to the patriarch’s use of the phrase Russky mir, which was familiar mainly in its Yeltsin-era political context, was mixed, both inside and outside of Russia. It aroused considerable controversy in Ukraine, where the Greek-Catholic church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kievan Patriarchate dismissed it outright. On the other hand, the autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which serves approximately half of all Christians in Ukraine, has been cautiously receptive.

In light of this controversy, Kirill returned to the topic in 2010, to clarify his views of what the Russky mir meant specifically for Ukraine. He reiterated that the baptism of Kievan Rus was an instance of Divine Providence. The Russian Orthodox Church has defended the religious and cultural bonds established by this miraculous event for more than a thousand years, and will always continue to do so.

Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine are all equal successors to the inheritance of Kievan Rus, therefore all three should be coordinating centers in the development of the Russian World. To this end, Patriarch Kirill introduced the idea of “synodal capitals”—historical centers of Russian Orthodoxy which would regularly host meetings of the Holy Synod, the Church’s chief decision-making body. One of these capitals is Kiev. It is interesting to note that archpriest Evgeny (Maksimenko), a cleric of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, has called upon the patriarch to take the next logical step and move the seat of the Patriarchate of Rus from Moscow back to Kiev.

Christianity, says the patriarch, does not seeks to destroy that which is unique in each nation, but rather to motivate local cultures toward greater appreciation of Christianity’s transcendent meaning. Long ago, the ideal Orthodox society was the Byzantine Empire. Today, in the context of national sovereignty, however, Orthodoxy proposes itself as a spiritual complement to national sovereignty, and a harmonizing resource in a globalizing world. Kirill has said that this same principle can be found in the European Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States. But while the Church respects state sovereignty, it takes no position on its merits. Nation-states are neither good nor bad, but merely the current framework within which God intends the Church to accomplish the restoration of Holy Rus. It is therefore the Church’s duty to make each nation, at least in part, “a carrier of Orthodox civilization.”

Over the course of the past decade, the purely pragmatic, secular version of the Russky mir has slowly yielded to the growing influence of the Church in Russia’s political life. Among the many examples, let me highlight just one—President Putin’s address in Kiev on the occasion of the 1025th baptism of Rus in 2013. This was also Putin’s most recent visit to Ukraine.

His remarks at the time reflected every one of the motifs of the Russky mir in its religious context, including: the decisive spiritual and cultural significance of the baptism of Rus; the uniqueness of Orthodox values in the modern world; deference to Kiev’s historical significance (before the revolution, he says, it was known as “the second cultural and intellectual capital after St. Petersburg,” even ahead of Moscow[!]); and public recognition of Ukraine’s right to make any political choice it wishes which, however, “in no way erases our common historical past.”

Conclusions and Prognosis

Having drawn a distinction between the objectives of the Russian state and the Russian Orthodox Church in promoting the Russky mir, it is important to stress that these two institutions are not in conflict, at least not in the near future. The classical formulation for Church-State relations in Eastern Orthodox Christianity was and remains symphonia, or harmony between Church and State, not the Protestant Western ideal of separation. The establishment of broadly harmonious and mutually supportive relations between Church and State in Russia, for the first time in more than a century, therefore has significant implications for Russian politics.

The first is that Vladimir Putin’s high popularity ratings are neither transient nor personal. They reflect the popularity of his social and political agenda, which are popular precisely because they have the blessing of the Russian Orthodox Church. A few years ago, then president Medvedev referred to the Church as “the largest and most authoritative social institution in contemporary Russia,” an assessment reinforced by more recent surveys showing that Patriarch Kirill is more often identified as the “spiritual leader [and] moral mentor” of the entire Russian nation, than he is as the head of a single religious confession.

The success of the Putin Plan, the Putin Model, or Putinism, is thus simple to explain. This Russian government understands that it derives enormous social capital from its public embrace of the Russian Orthodox Church. So long as Russia remains a broadly representative (not to be confused with liberal) democracy, there is little reason to expect this to change.

Some analysts, however, suggest that this embrace may lead to conflict between the state and other confessions. The potential for such conflict is widely recognized, especially by religious leaders, and led to the creation in 1998 of the Interreligious Council of Russia. Its purpose is two-fold: First, to defuse conflicts among the various religious communities. Second, to present a united religious agenda to politicians. It has been quite successful on both fronts, and its activities now cover not just Russia, but the entire CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States). If my assessment of the importance of the religious underpinnings for the current regime’s popularity is correct, then it follows that attempts to undermine the unity of the Russky mir will be widely viewed as an attack on core values, not just in Russia but throughout the Russian World. Economic, political, cultural, and other sanctions will intensify this effect and sharply undermine intellectual and emotional sympathies for the West within this community. While this may not be permanent, I suspect that few in the current generation of Russian leaders retain much hope for the possibility of building a lasting partnership with the West.

Moreover, the Russian Orthodox Church will continue to shape Russia’s foreign policy agenda in several ways.

First, it will use the influence of the state to advocate for the concerns of Orthodox Christians throughout the world, even if they are not Russian citizens. This is in keeping with the transnational character of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Second, it will promote Christian moral and social values in international fora, either by itself or in conjunction with other religions. Indeed, close ties on these issues have been forged with the Roman Catholic Church, and with Islamic clerics in Egypt and Iran. Where it does not have direct access to these, it will turn to the Russian media, and to popular international outlets like RT and Sputnik to promote this agenda.

Third, wherever Russian state and civic organizations promote Russian culture and language abroad, the Church will also seek to tack on its religious agenda. While the state promotes the national interests of the Russian Federation, the Russian Orthodox Church will promote the larger cultural identity it sees itself as having inherited from Kievan Rus.

For example, the Church sees the conflict in Ukraine as a civil war within the Russian World. From this perspective, it cannot be resolved by splitting up this community, thereby isolating Ukraine from Russia and destroying the unity of the Russky mir, or by permitting the forcible Ukrainianization of the predominantly Orthodox and Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, which would result in the destruction of the Russky mir within Ukraine. The only permanent solution is for the Ukrainian government to admit the pluricultural nature of Ukrainian society and, in effect, recognize Ukraine as part of the Russky mir. From the Church’s perspective, this is the only way to achieve reconciliation among the Ukrainian people and harmony within the Russky mir.

Oddly enough, many moderate Ukrainian nationalists also ascribe to the notion that some sort of symbiotic cultural connection exists between Russia and Ukraine. The typical pro-Maidan Ukrainian intellectual believes that Putin is out to undermine Ukrainian democracy first and foremost because he fears it spreading to Russia. But they predict the inevitable resumption of fraternal ties with Russia, after the freedom-loving, pro-European values of the Maidan succeed in overturning Putin’s authoritarian regime in Russia. It is hard not to see the similarity between their aspirations for close ties with Russia and those of Patriarch Kirill, only under a completely different set of cultural assumptions.

In conclusion, what impact will the rise of the Russky mir have on Russia’s relations with other nations? I anticipate three responses.

In countries where the concept of Holy Rus has no historical context, there will be a tendency to fall back on the Cold War context they are most familiar with, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did when she warned of efforts to “re-Sovietize the region.” “It’s going to be called customs union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that,” she said, “but let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it.”

Among Russia’s immediate neighbors, the response will be mixed. While there are still many who view the Soviet era with nostalgia, and regard the breakup of the USSR as more harmful than beneficial (by 2:1 margins in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Russia), it is not at all clear that the Orthodox Church’s conservative social vision has a similarly broad appeal. In Ukraine the term Russky mir has become a rallying cry for both sides during this civil war, and is now so hopelessly politicized that its religious and spiritual content have all but disappeared. The unhappy result, as Nicholas E. Denysenko puts it, is “a religious narrative becoming altered against the will of its authors.”

Even further from Russia, the popularity of the Russky mir will likely depend on whether Russia emerges as a global defender of traditional Christian and conservative values. The values gap that some in the West cite as justification for punishing and containing Russia does exist, but it is not the whole picture. The same values gap exists within the West itself. Only recently Russia has realized that, while its conservative agenda distances itself from some Europeans, it brings it closer to others. The list of Putinversteher probably now contains more politicians and opinion leaders on the right end of the European political spectrum, than it does on the left.

In the United States, Evangelical Christian social activists, and even a few noted political commentators, have begun to take note of these shared values. Two years ago, former Nixon aide and Republican presidential candidate, Patrick Buchanan, told fellow political conservatives that there is much in Putin’s rhetoric that makes him “one of us.”

“While much of American and Western media dismiss him as an authoritarian and reactionary, a throwback, Putin may be seeing the future with more clarity than Americans still caught up in a Cold War paradigm. As the decisive struggle in the second half of the 20th century was vertical, East vs. West, the 21st century struggle may be horizontal, with conservatives and traditionalists in every country arrayed against the militant secularism of a multicultural and transnational elite.”

The role of the Russian Orthodox Church in this struggle is crucial, because it calls for the creation of a common framework of Christian European values, in effect a new, pan-European civil religion. The Russian state, meanwhile, is only too happy to support these calls because it is only within the context of a common cultural and religious identity (“shared values”) that Russia can become a full-fledged political part of the West. Intentionally or not, therefore, the Russian Orthodox Church and its Russky mir have emerged as the missing spiritual and intellectual component of Russia’s soft power.

Someday it may even become like U.S. human rights policy, an awkward, but nevertheless defining aspect of national identity, that the government will apply selectively, but never be able to get rid of entirely.

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Sex education: The creator of CLIMAX: ‘Good sex is like cooking, but there aren’t recipes for female pleasure on the internet’ | Society

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Our ways of watching television have changed. No longer do we sit down to see what’s on TV, instead subscribing to platforms where we can watch our favorite content. But can that formula translate to content beside series, documentaries and movies? Can it be used to change the way we experience sex education? CLIMAX, a platform of sex education videos, is trying it out.

The platform started as an explicit educational series dedicated to female pleasure. Far from pornography, it was particularly directed towards women and sought to give advice and ideas for greater self-knowledge and sexual enjoyment. But that was just the beginning. As Camille Mariau, CLIMAX’s director of projects, explains, they are currently working on “a monthly membership platform dedicated to sexual wellbeing. The users will ahve access to periodic new content, ordered by topic (pleasrue for people with vulvas, for those with penises, tantric sex, oral sex, post-partum sex, etc.). We really want to create the perfect guide to help our users deconstruct their ideas about sexuality.” Currently, the platform has partnerships with educational and healthcare institutions, in order to bring education about female sexuality to all parts of society.

Laurène Dorléac is an expert in the technology market and co-creator of CLIMAX. “Not only is female pleasure little understood, but I also realized that taboos around the subject are still very present.” That’s why, despite her lack of experience in the area, she decided to venture into the topic. “Good sex is like cooking: it’s a creative process that requires practice, experimentation and care to have a good flavor. There are plenty of recipes and cooking classes, but we can’t find anything satisfactory about female pleasure on the Internet! That’s what led me to create the platform, so that we can all have access to better sexual education.”

The project brought together international studies, advice from psychologists and sexologists and over 100,000 testimonies. “Pleasure is a very serious thing, and it deserves a very rigorous approach,” she says.

CLIMAX comes to Spain

While the project was founded in France, currently, 40 percent of its subscribers are outside of the country, largely in the United States and United Kingdom. The team is optimistic about the Spanish market. “The market seems to be ready for a project like this. More than talking about pleasure, we really want people to have easy access to safe information about sexual education,” says Camille Mariau. Since the project launched in Spain just a few months ago, most of its users are between 28 and 45 years old, and, surprisingly, they are divided 50/50 between men and women.

To spread the news about the project, they have the help of Teresa Riott, known for her role as Nerea in the Netflix series Valeria, who narrates the videos. “It seems to me like a new idea in education, and it’s very necessary in order to better understand all the possibilities of our pleasure. CLIMAX has also had success in other countries. I’ve learned a lot about female sexuality in the process,” the actress explains.

She emphasizes that “they are videos that you can watch alone, in private, and you can experiment,” which “gives people confidence to explore their bodies without concerns.”

The platform’s content is explicit, but tasteful; obvious, but well-presented. It repeats explanations we have read in plenty of books, but which acquire a new dimension when we can see them on a screen: without drawings, diagrams or taboos, simply showing how to stimulate a vulva. The videos are meant to educate, not to excite, and they have no resemblance to porn. The images are accompanied by Riott’s voice, which explains each step in a clear and simple way, adding touches of scientific information. It explains not only how to stimulate the vulva, but also how and why the stimulation works.

We’ve learned that it’s much easier to exercise at home, or even to do home improvement projects, with the help of a Youtube tutorial video that shows us each step. So it makes all the sense in the world that we can use tutorials to learn how to excite our bodies, moving step-by-step over each part of our anatomy.

The platform is also notable for its diversity, not only in the appearances of the vulvas on screen, but also in the techniques proposed. It includes videos of 19 different masturbation techniques. In Spain, female masturbation has experienced a revolution in recent years. The brand Lelo, specialized in clitoral suction toys, increased its sales by 440% in 2019. The Satisfyer toy was even more popular: it registered an increase in sales of 1,300% in 2020, to the point that it had to resort to European countries to restock the toys during one of the busiest months of the year. Those toys finally normalized female masturbation. Vibrators themselves have also experienced their own revolution. Their technology and shapes have become more sophisticated, and they have become more effective and discreet. And Gwyneth Paltrow’s website Goop now features Viva la Vulva, an “extra-silent” vibrator model that can be used at any time without making any noise. Such devices are proof that manufacturers have taken pains to innovate their products for female pleasure, until recently a forgotten sector. Gone are the old dildos and penis replicas.

Beyond masturbation, with or without the help of toys, the content of CLIMAX “is like an encyclopedia of ideas that you can choose and use to enrich your sexual life. It can help you be more creative, learn moves that women with vulvas might like, etc. It can also be used as a basis to start a conversation with your partner about what you like, what you want to try or not. We want to give people the opportunity to get to know their own body or the body of their partner better,” explains Mariau.

To that end, the first two seasons are entirely scientifically based. To develop the content, 74 international scientific studies, widely referenced and accepted by the scientific community, were consulted. “There is one study that I find special: Shere Hite’s ‘The New Hite Report,’ a bestseller that has sold tens of millions of copies, which describes how women feel during different sexual activities and when they orgasm with greater frequency,” Mariau says.

In addition to a surge in vibrator sales, women have been consuming more porn than ever in recent years. According to a study by Pornhub on porn consumption in the pandemic, women increased the amount of porn they consumed by 17.5%. Audio porn, one of the latest developments in the industry, is particularly popular among women. And websites for pornographic content aimed at women, taking into account the tastes and aesthetics that female arousal requires, have proliferated in recent years.

Mission: equality in pleasure

The work of Shere Hite is one of the great sources of inspiration for CLIMAX. The late writer and sexologist was especially interested in the female orgasm. She interviewed some 3,500 American women, from prostitutes to former nuns, to create ‘The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality’ in 1976. Among her conclusions stood out two ideas: first, that few women reached orgasm through intercourse (only 30%), although they did through masturbation. Secondly, the clitoris was the key to climax.

CLIMAX is organized into several themes, which are available in different subscription packs: external pleasure (10 episodes), internal pleasure (11 episodes) and tantra exercises (7 episodes).

“Our mission is to equalize pleasure in a world where women report being less satisfied than men in their sexual activities, feeling less pleasure and having fewer orgasms. Education will make it possible,” the expert concludes.



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Sonny Barger, founder of Hells Angels, dies at 83 | USA

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Hells Angels founding member Sonny Barger in 1979.
Hells Angels founding member Sonny Barger in 1979.Janet Fries (Getty Images)

Sonny Barger, the founding member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, died on Thursday in California at the age of 83. Barger was the face of the biker gang that became one of the main counterculture movements in the United States in the 1960s. Barger’s family confirmed his death in a message on Facebook. “Please know that I passed peacefully after a brief battle with cancer,” the message stated.

Sonny Barger – whose real name was Ralph Hubert Barger – was born in northern California, and taught himself to ride a motorcycle when he was 11 years old. It was an American-made Cushman scooter. From that moment on, he tried to only assemble motorbikes with parts made in the US, a task that became increasingly difficult as the world became more open to international trade.

In 1957, he founded the Hells Angels chapter in Oakland, California. This chapter was founded nine years after the first one opened in Fontana, in the same state. Barger was the national president of the Hells Angels, a group that became notorious for its links to violent and organized crime. Barger was arrested more than 20 times and spent 13 years of his life in prison for different crimes. In November 1992, for example, he was released from federal prison after spending four years behind bars for organizing to kill members of the rival Outlaws Motorcycle Club. When his parole came to an end in 1994, 700 bikers came out to celebrate the news.

Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969.
Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969.

But the darkest chapter of the Hells Angels took place on December 6, 1969. That night, the biker members were hired as security guards at the Altamont Free Concert in California, where the Rolling Stones performed. Representatives of the band reportedly offered the Hells Angels $500 worth of beer in exchange for providing security. Members of the biker gang had worked without incident as security at concerts for bands such as The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. But at the Altamont Free Concert, which brought together 300,000 people, the situation became violent. During the Rolling Stones’ performance, fights broke out in the audience. Meredith Hunter, an 18-year-old concertgoer, was stabbed to death by a member of the Hells Angels after approaching the stage. The incident was caught on camera and became a central scene in the Maysles Brothers documentary Gimme Shelter, in which Barger admitted the bikers did not have the training to do security work. A few days after the concert, in a call to a local radio station, he said: “I ain’t no cop. I ain’t never gonna police nothin.’”

The incident stained the image of the Hells Angels and Barger – who had the name Hell’s Angels Oakland tattooed on his right shoulder – struggled for several years to change the gang’s violent reputation. “Catholics probably commit more crimes than we ever thought of,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1994 after being released from prison on parole. “Probably politicians commit more crimes.”

Writer Hunter S. Thompson compared the biker gang to the student protesters of the 1960s, who paved the way for civil rights in America. “The difference between the student radicals and the Hells Angels is that the students are rebelling against the past, while the Angels are fighting the future. Their only common ground is their disdain for the present, or the status quo,” he wrote in his book Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.

The Hells Angels were one of America’s most striking subcultures, and their influence can be seen in many areas of society. In one of his books, Barger claims that Harley-Davidson – the motorcycle brand favored by the group – adopted the gang’s ideas into its models. Barger played himself in the 1967 film Hells Angels on Wheels, where he appeared alongside Jack Nicholson. He also had a small role in the TV show Sons of Anarchy.

Barger was a difficult character to define. He got up at 4.30am to feed his dogs and horses, then worked out for three hours, doing weights and going jogging. By 8am, he was on his motorcycle and driving down an off-beaten track. Unlike the stereotypical biker, he wore a helmet that covered his entire face. This was due to the fact that he had his vocal cords removed in 1982 after suffering from throat cancer.

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Art fakes: Disputed ‘Basquiats’ seized by FBI shake the US art world | Culture

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While New York surrenders once again to the genius of Jean-Michel Basquiat with an exhibition of unpublished work curated by his family, in Orlando (Florida), there is considerably more controversy over the work of the artist who died at the age of 27. An exhibition at the Orlando Museum of Art dedicated to the former close friend of Andy Warhol, entitled Heroes & Monsters, has cost the head of that gallery his job, while the FBI investigates the authenticity of 25 of the works, not to mention the threats made by the director against an expert who had been commissioned to evaluate the authorship.

Although the scandal began to take shape in February, when the exhibition opened, the FBI raid took place last Friday with the seizure of the paintings with a contested attribution to Basquiat. Aaron De Groft, director and chief executive of the museum, has relentlessly defended that these are genuine works, while emphasizing that it is not a museum’s role to certify the authenticity of the works it exhibits. “[The paintings] came to us authenticated by the best Basquiat specialists,” he told the local NBC television station in February.

De Groft had for months championed the importance of the paintings, asserting that they are worth millions of dollars, until an expert showed up who’d been hired by the owners of the paintings and she began to question his version of events. The director was fired on Tuesday, just two business days after agents seized the 25 suspicious works. The museum’s board of trustees met for hours that day, but not before warning employees that anyone who dared to discuss the matter with journalists would suffer the same fate as De Groft. Hence, it is impossible to know the version not only of the former director, but of any worker at the center. Nor can any information be gleaned at the New York exhibition, a mixture of unpublished work and memorabilia, where organizers are fearful of the devaluation caused by the Orlando scandal.

FBI agents during the seizure of the dubious Basquiat paintings at the Orlando Museum of Art on June 24.
FBI agents during the seizure of the dubious Basquiat paintings at the Orlando Museum of Art on June 24.Willie J. Allen Jr. (AP)

“It is important to note that there is still nothing that makes us think that the museum has been or is the subject of an investigation,” Emilia Bourmas-Free told the local chain on behalf of the art gallery. Cynthia Brumback, chairwoman of the museum’s board of trustees, expressed itself in similar terms in a statement, saying that the board of trustees is “extremely concerned about several issues related to the exhibition Heroes & Monsters,” including “the recent revelation of an inappropriate e-mail correspondence sent to academia concerning the authentication of some of the artwork in the exhibition,” as reported by The New York Times.

The statement refers to a disparaging message sent by De Groft to the specialist hired for the expert opinion, cited in the FBI investigation as “Expert 2″ but who the New York Times has confirmed is Jordana Moore Saggese, an associate professor of art at the University of Maryland. This expert, who received $60,000 for a written report, asked the museum not to have her name associated with the exhibition, according to the FBI affidavit. Angry, De Groft threatened to reveal the amount of the payment and share the details with her employer, the university.

“You want us to put out there you got $60,000 to write this?” wrote De Groft, according to the affidavit. “Ok then. Shut up. You took the money. Stop being holier than thou. Do your academic thing and stay in your limited lane.” The board said it has launched an official process to address the matter. The scandal was precipitated a few hours after the closing of the exhibition, which had originally been meant to travel to Italy.

Facade of the Orlando Museum of Art, with the promotional poster of the exhibition dedicated to Basquiat, on June 2.
Facade of the Orlando Museum of Art, with the promotional poster of the exhibition dedicated to Basquiat, on June 2.John Raoux (AP)

The mystery of the cardboard box

But how did the paintings get to the Orlando Museum? The museum and its owners maintain that the paintings were found in a Los Angeles storage unit in 2012. The New York Times reported that questions arose over one of the paintings, made on the back of a cardboard shipping box with FedEx lettering in a typeface that was not used until 1994, six years after Basquiat’s death, according to a designer who worked for the company.

Both De Groft and the owners of the paintings maintain that they were made in 1982 and that Basquiat sold them for $5,000 to a famous television screenwriter, now deceased, who deposited them in a storage unit and forgot about them.

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