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In light of all the recent Planned Parenthood controversy, it seems fitting to highlight another top rebel bastard from the Shortwave hall of fame: Margaret Sanger. Witnessing her mother die after 18 childbirths was enough to turn young Margaret into a nurse and woman’s health advocate for the rest of her life. She had 3 children herself then began her activist work in Greenwich Village circa 1910 where she started launching pamphlets with intriguing titles such as “Family Limitation” and “What every girl should know”.

Margaret Sanger’s personal style has recently come back into fashion

After founding the flagrantly feminist paper “Woman Rebel” she subsequently went back and forth between the US and Europe dodging obscenity laws. After controversy had died down, she decided to reignite it by opening the first birth control clinic in the United States. She continued to open clinics and lecture widely for the rest of her life.

Reading her biographical information, it’s clear that Sanger’s views have been widely twisted and misconstrued in the past few decades since Roe v. Wade’s contentious aftermath.  Sanger’s core belief was that every woman regardless of race or class has the right and the responsibility of complete control over the circumstances of conception. She condemned abortion and euthanasia outright, and while she did advocate for the improvement of the human race through better breeding, she opposed the brand of eugenics that promotes ethnic cleansing. A woman’s individual choice, she believed, was the only solution.

However there are many examples of her falling short of modernity. She believed, for example, that only “[the] feeble-minded, idiots and morons” should be forcibly prevented from reproducing or immigrating to the US. This was actually not so controversial for the times. Mostly people were just concerned she was talking to women about “hoo-has and caterpillars” . Because once the word got out, thousands of women were clamoring for Sanger to provide information on how to prevent unwanted pregnancy; posing a clear threat to the male control over medical information access. We all know that women talking in secret about their hoo-has has more than once been the harbinger of a revolution. But in reality this threat was minimal. The Victorian cultural hangover didn’t stop with Margaret Sanger, she was still doing her part to keep it alive and well.

“In my experience as a trained nurse while attending persons afflicted with various and often revolting diseases, no matter what their ailments, I have never found any one so repulsive as the chronic masturbator…In the boy or girl past puberty, we find one of the most dangerous forms of masturbation, i.e., mental masturbation, which consists of forming mental pictures, or thinking obscene or voluptuous pictures.This form is considered especially harmful to the brain, for the habit becomes so fixed that it is almost impossible to free the thoughts from lustful pictures”

Pearl Jam revitalized important myths about the real causes of hairy palms and teen acne

Truly, there are few things more horrifying than the never-ending picture show of exciting lustful images that infect the brain and paralyze the nervous system. The author of this post herself had, at one time, such a terrible affliction which left her deaf and dumb after perpetually picturing people engaged in fornication. Her system was in such a state of shock she was unable to even blink or swallow her own saliva. However after a thorough exorcism by a local papal official – and being educated by Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy album -I’m proud to say I was back to normal, thinking only of ponies, rainbows, and how to make the best four-layer cake in the girlscout troop.

But while I was busy dreaming of ponies and rainbows, the boys were busy trying to impregnate me, and that’s where Sanger came in again. Planned Parenthood continues to be a source of education and medical access to  women and families all over the country from a wide variety of backgrounds. Nobody has done more than Planned Parenthood to educate and serve the public on these matters.

It was only the turn of the century when Sanger was daring to talk openly about rubbing one out, why having 10+ babies is irrational and stupid, and why the pull-out method is for suckers. That makes her unequivocally “Top Rebel Bastard of the Year”. The fact that her legacy continues to allow millions of people to take control of their reproductive future is a testament to the strength of her core message. As Planned Parenthood is currently battling access to federal funding for their services, please take the opportunity to support Planned Parenthood in any way that you can, even if it’s just giving props to Mag-Sang on your next status update.

Aleister Crowley

Influential member of the late 19th century occult group Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and founder of the religion of Thelema. Other hobbies included mountaineering, playing chess and seeing prostitutes. He began experimenting with magic after a break with Christianity while studying in Cambridge and left school to pursue his occult leanings.

Aleister doing his "magician look"

But Aleister was a bit of a spitfire and it wasn’t long before he was picking fights and starting rivalries in the Golden Dawn order. He had an ongoing rivalry with Arthur Waite, father of the modern day Rider-Waite Tarot Deck and also had it out for poet W.B. Yeats who briefly experimented with the occult. Crowley claimed Yeats did a black magic spell on him. This, among other contentions, led him to establish his own order: Ordo Templi Orientis, which was associated with Freemasonry.

Over the years Crowley wrote a lot of strange books, took a lot of heroin, and found himself embroiled in many public scandals. One of his disciples, for example, died after drinking the blood of a cat. Aleister himself carried around a talisman called “Segelah”, stained with male and female bodily fluids. With these kinds of biographical facts surviving, one can only imagine what his private life really entailed.

One experience crucial to Crowley’s magic experiences, was a pilgrimage he made to Egypt in 1904 in which he was exposed to the jarring combination of hallucigenic drugs and Egyptian mythology. Out of that experience he came up with an interesting theory:

Crowley claimed that mankind has lived through two great aeons: that of Isis, the prehistoric age of the dominance of Woman, and that of Osiris, the age of the dominance of the male principle and of the great religions. The present aeon was the commencement of that of Horus and self-will. The third age would be a New Age of Youth, based on union of female and male energies. Thus sex was central to Crowley’s magical practice, both in heterosexual and homosexual forms.”        – Pegasos

While Crowley might have been a hot mess of drugs, sex and magic he was a very liberated free thinker in a morally stifling and conformist time. His motto was “Do What Thou Wilt” which somehow justified the hedonistic rituals that ruled his tumultuous life and explains his subsequent infamy. Truly, his extremism was a reflection of the superstitious and severe society he was living in at the time.

So maybe he didn’t do much, but at least his tarot deck is cool. As Crowley put it “I may be a black magician, but I’m a bloody great one”.

Dick Dale

Dick Dale: Babe Magnet Extrordinaire

You may not know Dick Dale by sight, but you would recognize his “surf guitar” rock n’ roll sound anywhere. He invented the genre of music characterized by non-western scales traversing a landscape of heavy reverb and “choppy wave” rhythms. His opus “Miserlou” emerged as a classic with a new generation when it was featured prominently in the movie “Pulp Fiction”. But he was already making waves in the early 60’s by showcasing his west-coast surfer style on the Ed Sullivan show and blowing up so many amps that Leo Fender had to specially design a series of high-watt amps just for Dale.

Dick Dale is not a man whose infamy has eluded him. He talks in the third person and makes grand sweeping statements about his genius. He comes off as the kind of guy who would throw words like “babes” and “bitchin” around even if Grandma was in the room.  But to his credit he has had a fabulous career. He never signed with a label and instead opted to start his own – thus retaining the rights to his music in perpetuity. This has enabled him to be independently wealthy long after his prime and do stupid things like let his pet tiger play with his infant son. Despite this shocking act of impaired judgment, Dick Dale has never used drugs or alcohol in his life.

You can watch him play Miserlou and tell the story of meeting Quentin Tarantino on YouTube.

Natalie Barney

Natalie Barney and Renee Vivien

American aristocrat who bucked her bourgeois status in favor of leading an openly polyamorous and lesbian life. Comrades included Ezra Pound, Mina Loy, Rodin and Radcliffe Hall. She ran a literary salon in Paris at the turn of the century, where all the artsy perverts of the day would hang out, read poetry, and act out sapphic tales in her infamous garden side apartment. “My queerness,” she had said, “is not a vice, is not deliberate, and harms no one.” Clearly a lady who was ahead of her time.

Her sexual prowess was legendary, and she had a ravenous appetite for women – Effectively seducing actresses, courtesans, painters, pianists and women sitting on park benches. Her most significant relationships were a 50-year partnership with painter Romaine Brooks and a tragic but passionate affair with Dolly Wilde – Oscar’s equally talented and flaming gay niece who died of a heroin overdose. Ahh modern problems in antiquated times, for the Parisian demi-monde. Natalie Barney’s literary works did not survive the times – they suck by modern standards. Nonetheless, I have always been captivated by her charisma which lives on in books such as Truly Wilde by Joan Schenkar. If you are into the whole Gay Paris Salon history (and why wouldn’t you be?) I also recommend Portrait of a Marriage by Nigel Nicolson. It’s a dissection of the private lives of the author’s parents – Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolsen – based on his mother’s journals and letters of correspondence that span over 20 years. The book is a fascinating window into the lives of listless bohemians in a time of soul-stifling conformity. Vita doggedly pursued her sexual and intellectual freedom to the great detriment of her family’s good name – as a married woman with children she openly seduced women in society and eventually took off to temporarily live in Europe as a man with one of her many lovers.

Great Natalie quote: “Most virtue is a demand for greater seduction”

All good biographical reads celebrating the rebel bastards who were modern pioneers of sexual and artistic freedom!