An Electronic Newsletter
Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.
Issue #1 -- March 2000
1. Televised prostitution
2. Banned in Arkansas
3. Kosher in Michigan
4. The myth of sex addiction
a. new weekly column
b. new audiotape
* * * * * * * * * * * *
1. TELEVISED PROSTITUTION
Who wants to marry a multimillionaire?
That was the question on Fox TV last week. Not "who wants to marry a great guy?" or "who wants to marry Rick?", but "who wants to marry money?" Which means, of course, "who wants to have sex for money?"
We already have words for such a transaction--ugly words, with both legal and moral implications. Women who trade sex for money are prostitutes. Men who trade money for sex are johns. And the people who arrange these transactions are pimps. So she's a whore, he's a john, and Fox is a pimp.
I have no trouble with this whatsoever. Except for two things:
1. If you offer a woman $50 on the streets of any American city, you can get thrown in jail and designated a sex offender. Ditto if you take the $50. It's as true in grown-up San Francisco as it is in redneck Kentucky or uptight New England. So $50 makes you a criminal; $1 million makes you a TV star. Putting expensive whores and johns on TV is just boring. Putting poor whores and johns in jail is sick.
2. Where are California's Proposition 22 supporters now? How hypocritical that they are busy defending their precious institution of marriage from loving couples who want to participate, but they watch Rick Rockwell, Darva Conger, and Fox TV debase the institution in front of 20 million Americans. The New York Times quoted NOW President Patricia Ireland as saying "It took something like this to make the Miss America pageant look good to me."
I'm no fan of Miss America pageants, but at least they don't prevent lesbians from competing.
2. BANNED IN ARKANSAS
An educational researcher recently wrote asking for the specific website location of my article "Why There's No Such Thing as Sex Addiction--and Why It Really Matters." Why couldn't he simply search for it? Because the Arkansas State Department has, in his words, "recently implemented a filtering device which covers all "inappropriate" websites, including some things on your website (and every other sexology website I've been able to locate)." It's one thing to be thrown out of the fanciest hotel in town, but being thrown out of Arkansas, well, that's another story. It reminds me of Dennis Miller's joke about someone being busted for trying to smuggle a book into West Virginia.
Arkansas, apparently, has not learned the lesson of the Cold War--that governments might be able to slow down the flow of information, but they cannot prevent it. The government of Arkansas also apparently believes That information is dangerous, that it gives people bad ideas and encouragement to act out those bad ideas. This belief has been tested repeatedly since the invention of movable type, and the overwhelming evidence is that it is simply not true. What is true is that people who are not trusted by their own government come to mistrust that government--and with good reason. By definition, we need to be protected from any government that wants to protect us from ourselves.
3. BUT KOSHER IN MICHIGAN
On the other hand, I'm now legal in Michigan--and how many people have that in writing? Several months ago I was part of a lawsuit brought by the ACLU against the governor of Michigan. The state had tried to pass a law forbidding anyone to send sexually explicit material via the Internet into Michigan, thus criminalizing my website. Apparently, Michigan legislators have as little understanding of the Internet as they do of the Bill of Rights. Although the forces of literacy won the day, the state of Michigan has appealed. In the meantime, someone in the statehouse has undoubtedly recommended building a wall around the state from the ground up to the sky to keep out those dangerous electrons.
4. THE MYTH OF SEX ADDICTION
The diagnosis of "sex addiction" has become popular with both lay people and professionals in recent years. But it is a destructive and irresponsible one that should be discontinued. In 21 years as a marriage counselor & sex therapist, I've never seen a single case in which the label "sex addiction" was clinically useful. That's because there is no such thing. What we clinicians do frequently see includes:
* Poor decision-making: Even the healthiest people occasionally behave sexually in ways which later they regret.
* Poor impulse control: This, too, we all experience to one degree or another with money, food, TV, gossip, etc. Most of the time it is simply inconvenient; sometimes it gets out of hand.
* Obsessive-compulsive behavior: A small number of people think, feel, and do things that they don't want to do. Whether it's exhibitionism or hand washing, they are driven: the more they try to stop, the worse they feel, and the more they have to do it.
* Psychotic or sociopathic personalities: This small group of people has impaired reality-testing, and typically behaves with complete disregard for even the most basic social conventions.
Addictionologists now call all of these behaviors, when sexuality is the vehicle, symptoms of the same poorly-defined disease--"sex addiction." Supposedly, "sex addicts" can't control themselves; they cannot be cured, they can only "recover."
But I say that, except for a handful of truly disturbed people, all of us have the ability to control our sexual energy. For the vast majority of people, "being out of control" sexually is a metaphor, a metaphor we clinicians see every day in countless non-sexual forms. It's more accurate to say, instead, that for many people, controlling sexual urges is difficult or emotionally painful. Relinquishing our power--FEELING out of control--is a classic defense to reduce this pain. By encouraging people to admit that they ARE powerless, they are prevented from examining how they've come to FEEL powerless--and what they can do about that feeling.
Saying that people are powerless over sex, the fundamental definition of "sex addiction," undermines them. It robs people of the tools they need to understand or (if they wish) change their lives. And it relieves people of the responsibility for developing an adult sexuality, one that involves subtleties, choices, and strong feelings such as fear, anxiety, anger, joy, and passion.
The concept of "sex addiction" is a set of moral beliefs disguised as science, as reflected in these fundamental concepts of "sex addiction" training programs and Sexaholics Anonymous:
- Sex is most healthy in committed, monogamous, heterosexual relationships
- There are "obvious" limits to healthy sexual expression (for example, masturbation more than once a day)
- Choosing to use sex to feel better about yourself or to escape from problems is unhealthy.
The concept of "sex addiction" really rests upon the assumption that sex is dangerous. There's the sense that we frail humans are vulnerable to the Devil's temptations of pornography, masturbation, "promiscuity," and extramarital affairs, and that if we yield, we become "addicted."
The "sex addiction" movement is also dangerous in the way it supports the anti-sexuality forces in this country. "Sex addiction" is the Right's newest justification for eliminating sex education, birth control clinics, gay/lesbian rights, and books like "The Color Purple" from school libraries. We should not be colluding with this destructive, life-denying force.
If mass murderer Ted Bundy had announced that watching Bill Cosby reruns had motivated his awful crimes, he would have been dismissed as a deranged sociopath. Instead, Bundy proclaimed that his "pornography addiction" made him do it, and many Right-wing feminists and conservatives treated this as the conclusion of a thoughtful social scientist. Why?
Virtually no one in the field of sexology believes in the concept of "sex addiction." All clinicians and thoughtful people should reject any model suggesting that men and women must spend their lives 1) fearing sexuality's destructive power; 2) being powerless about sexuality; 3) lacking the tools to relax and let sex take over when appropriate. In these terrible anti-sex times, one of our most important tasks is to reaffirm that sex, though complex, is precious, not dangerous.
I now have a weekly column called "Sex, Love, & Intimacy" on the commercial website MyPrimetime.Com. You can find it published every Monday afternoon at http://www.myprimetime.com/health/sex_love/index.html.
My newest audiotape training program for therapists is out! "Power, Anger, Trust, & Communication" is a full-day workshop edited down to 3 audiotapes totaling 4 hours. It's applicable to both psychotherapy and couples counseling. And California MFTs & LCSWs can get 4 CEUs toward relicensure. For details on the content and price, see http://www.SexEd.org/products.htm#audiotapes.
6. CALENDAR: Workshops & lectures for professionals
March 11, 2000
Working With Couples: Myths That Undermine Treatment
Phillips Graduate Institute
March 16-17, 2000
National Association of Social Workers
April 7, 2000
Unsolved Challenges in Sex Therapy & Psychotherapy
Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
San Diego, CA
April 14-15, 2000
April 29, 2000
What Do Students REALLY Want To Know About Sex?
National Sexuality Conference
Santa Ana, CA
May 4, 2000
Diagnosis & Treatment of Sexual Issues
California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists
May 5, 2000
Power, Anger, & Trust Dynamics in Couples Counseling
California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists
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"Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence, copyright © Marty Klein, Ph.D. (www.SexEd.org)."