As I write this, the sun has just set and young kids have started cruising up and down my street. Costumed, faces painted, they have one thing on their minds—sugar.
Whether patient or impatient, their parents have varied thoughts—dealing with the sugar highs they'll encounter at tonight's bedtime; gratitude for another mild California evening; the pleasure of watching their kids have fun; the self-criticism when they compare their own neglected front yard to their neighbor's new landscaping.
According to the media, politicians, law enforcement, and anti-sex activists, however, what parents are supposed to be thinking about is predators. Scarier than vampires, more determined than zombies, more destructive than Godzilla, Halloween is supposedly predators' night to manipulate, seduce, capture, and poison our innocent darlings.
And so vigilante—sorry, neighborhood safety—groups are publishing the addresses of local registered sex offenders. They're demanding these offenders put "no candy" signs on their doors. They want clown costumes taken off store shelves (in Florida police are urging people not to wear clown costumes and invite trouble). In some communities, offenders are being "invited" to mandatory meetings at community shelters for the evening. And anti-molesting groups (often using federal CDC propaganda), are warning American parents that on Halloween:
* Know where your local registered sex offenders live;
* Don't let your kid go to any house alone;
* Don't let your kid eat any candy not in its original wrapper;
* Don't let your kid eat fruit or homemade cookies from a stranger;
* Don't let your kid drink anything offered by a stranger.
Forget skeletons, gremlins, and Frankenstein—the scariest thing about Halloween is the fear-mongering designed to persuade parents that their kids live in a neighborhood full of dangerous predators. And yet, the facts say otherwise:
* Over 90% of sex offenses are committed by a child's relatives or acquaintances, not strangers.
* Registered sex offenders are less likely to re-offend sexually than murderers, drunk drivers, arsonists, or violent burglars are to re-commit their crimes.
* There is no data showing that more sexual offenses are committed on Halloween than on any other autumn evening.
* There are virtually zero instances of adults poisoning or harming kids via trick or treat goodies.
So wherefore the fear, the anger, the defensiveness, the demand for increased protection from a danger that doesn't exist?
The Registered Sex Offender (RSO) industry is worth billions of dollars. It depends on manipulating the public into thinking there are more dangerous people than there are; that they are all highly prone to reoffend; and that keeping track of them via a registry and restricted movements keeps us all safer.
But the data from across the country is clear: sex offender registries do not make us safer. They just burn up a lot of money that could be used to treat offenders and identify the untreatable ones. They do, of course, make the general population more fearful. If you're part of the RSO industry, that fear is a good thing.
So what's actually the most dangerous part of trick-or-treating? Cars. Pedestrians under 15 are way more likely to get struck and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year, according to federal statistics. Of course, we can't eliminate cars; it's much easier to target a group of people with no rights and no support, and project our anxiety onto them.
If only protecting our kids were that easy.
And still, the most dangerous thing in the average kid's life is not being molested—it's texting while riding a bike.
Recently, I wrote about the problems the male gaze can give women. Writing about it helped me realize that even a totally super-cool guy like me still has a few things to learn.
Of course, you don't need to be a totally super-cool guy, or a sexuality professional, or anything other than a functioning adult to know that sexual assault is wrong, and that no one is entitled to sex with others, even if they're a "star."
Anyone who doesn't understand that is developmentally incomplete. Or, to use even more technical language, a clueless, hostile, insecure, narcissistic jerk. Donald Trump, if the shoe fits, slide it up your butt.
But that's not my point here.
Today's point is the disgusting spectacle of people across the country—from career Republican politicians to ordinary voters—recoiling in horror from Trump-the-sex-maniac. Not Trump-the-political-maniac—Trump the sex manic.
The list is growing by the hour—from Paul Ryan, John McCain, and Arnold Schwarzenegger to ladies who lunch, students decrying "rape culture," and white men talking about parenting their daughters. All these self-righteous Republicans are finally giving up on Trump because eleven years ago he bragged about groping women, called their genitalia "pussies," talked about seducing married women, and gossiped about how sexually irresistible he is because he's a "star."
That's what has made some adults withdraw their political support from him: Trump, in an unguarded private moment, bragging about sexual aggression and his mouth-watering sexual magnetism.
Of course this makes him repulsive. But after all he has said and done, this is what it took for thoughtful people to decide he isn't fit to be President? Or that supporting him was politically inexpedient?
This says way more about how these people feel about sex—and believe the rest of us feel about sex—than it does about Trump. And what it says is that people are way more irrational, judgmental, terrified, and enraged about sexuality than about virtually anything else.
Republicans are passing off their own erotophobia as righteous condemnation of Trump's disgusting nature. Apparently they've just discovered his "nature" this week.
For anyone who supported Trump until "pussygate," here is what they found acceptable in a president (none of which Trump denies):
* Trump invited the Russian government to sneak into the records of the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton.
* Trump says America should require religious testing for immigrants.
* Trump spent years questioning Barack Obama's birth status.
* Trump says a federal judge can't be trusted because he's Mexican (actually, he was born in Indiana).
* Trump says we should leave NATO.
* Trump says we should be less hesitant to use nuclear weapons.
* Trump refuses to release his tax returns, claiming it's because he's being audited. (The IRS denies Trump is being audited, and billionaire Warren Buffett just released his tax return although he's currently being audited.)
But the very worst thing that Donald Trump has done is urging Americans to distrust their own government. For over a year he has continued to lie about the daily operation of our federal institutions: he says the unemployment figures are a hoax; that there is no tracking of incoming immigrants; that we're one of the world's highest taxed nations; and that illegal immigrants are treated better than veterans.
Trump's lasting legacy will be undermining the legitimacy of the government he says he wants to lead. He says that if he loses, the election is rigged. He says if he loses, his supporters might turn violent. He says if Clinton is elected and abolishes the Second Amendment (which she doesn't want to do, and couldn't do anyway), gun owners might consider assassination. And he says when he wins, he will work to get Clinton jailed.
This is the banana republic Trump sees us as. He is damaging the democratic system he will leave behind, planting seeds of evil that will sprout as weeds of paranoia, xenophobia, survivalism, mistrust, and yes, violence. This goes beyond anything we have seen in a presidential candidate in our lifetime.
Apparently, dozens of Republican senators and Congressmembers, hundreds of Trump convention delegates, and an unknown number of regular people did NOT think Trump's disdain for the America system disqualified him from being President—but that bragging about groping women's "pussies" does. And these people are saying they're shocked, shocked to discover who Trump is. Really? Trump is the most consistent presidential candidate of the last half-century. After all he has said about women, said about himself, said about the other Republican candidates, and said about Hillary Clinton, can there be anyone actually surprised by this latest episode?
To repeat—non-consensual sexual contact of any kind is wrong, bad, inappropriate, and corrupting of society. But anyone who thinks that sexual corruption is worse than political, military, diplomatic, or financial corruption—all of which Trump has advocated and lived out—has a misplaced terror and rage about sexuality. And a misplaced sense of serenity about the kind of country we are, apparently, becoming—regardless of who wins next month.
Last night I spoke to about 300 students at Ohlone College in Northern California. The topic was Pornography 2016: PornPanic, Public Health, & Porn Literacy.
It went just fine, and as always, I was eager to hear people's questions. Here are some that everyone seemed interested in, along with a short version of my answers.
"There's certain stuff my boyfriend sees in porn that he wants to try. I don't really want to do it, but he says everyone does. What should I do?"
To start with, the question isn't what should I do; it's what should we (you and him) do. And that difference is what this question is really about. It sounds like your boyfriend doesn't understand that porn is made up, with lots of editing and off-screen discussion and preparation. Even more importantly, it's made by professionals who are hired to do a job. Most can decide which things they want to do, and say so clearly.
Urging someone to do what they see in porn is like urging someone to do what they see in Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Deepwater Horizon. It's just not realistic.
I don't know why your boyfriend would want to contaminate your sexual relationship by urging you to do something that you don't want to do, even if 99% of people do that thing. You don't need my permission to say 'no, thanks,' but by all means, say that if you want to. Then discuss your more general concerns about the power structure of the relationship.
"I have a friend who watches too much porn. He wants to know why he can't stop."
Ah, the old "I have a friend with a question." Well, lots of people really do have a friend with a question. Especially that question.
The simple answer, of course, is I don't know. There are too many possibilities. But I will say this: there's a whole generation of young guys who have never masturbated without porn. Some of these young men have not fully developed their erotic imagination enough to masturbate with just a hand and a fantasy. And since they're not about to give up masturbation, it's easy for them to imagine that they can't stop looking at porn.
In my clinical experience, it might take someone a few weeks without porn to get their fantasies into a usable form. But people have been doing that for dozens of centuries, and they can do it any time they like.
My guess is that your friend has something else going on, like depression, anxiety, loneliness, or something he's trying to avoid. When people watch porn "too much," I ask what they're doing too little—work? Exercise? Deal with their family? Schoolwork? The trick isn't to watch porn less, but rather to get more focused on what you want to do, or on what you're avoiding. That requires a serious decision and commitment, which some people can do, and others are not quite ready for.
"My husband disapproves of porn, but I like watching it sometimes. Should I tell him?"
This is not a porn question. This is a question of honesty, intimacy, self-acceptance, and power dynamics.
While I wouldn't urge you to tell your husband you watch porn—because I don't know the details of your situation—I would suggest you think about the costs of continued deception. When we're honest in a relationship, we encourage growth in our partner, as they struggle to accept what's difficult to accept, and struggle to compromise about things they thought were beyond compromise.
By hiding part of who you are, you're allowing your husband to remain just as he is—not building the emotional strength he's going to need sooner or later to navigate the more difficult moments that are inevitable in every marriage.
As a prelude to your decision, or as part of implementing your possible decision to be honest, you might want to ask him what his objections to you watching porn. Not his objections to porn in general, but his objections to you watching it. For example, he may believe that watching porn encourages infidelity. If so, does he think that watching porn will encourage you to be unfaithful? Those are two very different ideas.
"I don't mind my boyfriend watching porn, except that when we have sex I always wonder if he's fantasizing about me or one of his latest porn websites. What should I do?"
I suppose you might start by asking him what he's focused on when you have sex together. In some relationships a person would answer that question honestly; in others, there's an unspoken agreement that people never tell each other anything that might make them uncomfortable.
If you do wonder about that, I'd ask you why. During sex, does he call you by the wrong name? Forget what you like in bed? Seem distracted or not really present? Frequently criticize your body, or compare it to others? If you don't have any specific complaints like these, and you enjoy the sex, I don't know why you're making yourself uncomfortable. If there are ways you'd like your sexual experiences together to be different, approach these directly and propose some changes. Don't try to solve a problem that you two may not have.
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For answers to more questions about pornography, see my new book, His Porn, Her Pain: Confronting America's PornPanic With Honest Talk About Sex .