Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.
Issue #4 -- June 2000
1. Rudolph's red face
2. Liberating the Wall
3. Taking out the trash
4. Newsweek ridicules sexuality
5. Victims of Pornography Month
6. When the Fox sets the trap
* * * * * * * * * * * *
1. RUDOLPH'S RED FACE
New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's new, antiseptic Times Square (motto: "Just like Disneyland, only more mercenary") is now a permanent monument to his hypocrisy.
Apparently, while Giuliani was busy ridding Times Square of prostitutes, pornography, strip clubs, adult bookstores, and other commercial sexual activity, he was having extramarital sex--with not one woman, but two--without his wife's agreement. He now joins Newt Gingrich, Jimmy Swaggert, and other right-wing phonies who work hard to limit others' private sexual activity while pursuing their own.
After years of Giuliani building his career by interfering in other people's private lives, it's wonderful to see his public life undone by his private, consenting activity. It's also a reminder that citizens should be wary of public figures who zealously want to control others' sexuality.
2. LIBERATING THE WALL
A courageous and persistent group of women have liberated a historic part of Jerusalem.
You may know about the Western Wall (or "Wailing Wall"), the only standing remnant of the Jewish Temple destroyed by the Romans in the year 70.
After Israel recovered Jerusalem in the 1967 war, the government promised access to all holy sites for people of all faiths. Unfortunately, Orthodox Jewish elements in the government then divided the Wall into male-only and female-only sections. Jewish families couldn't visit together or pray together; husbands and wives who approached the sacred site together were shoved apart by religious fanatics. In addition, Orthodox women began to patrol the kinds of activities women could do on their side of the Wall. Women who read from the Torah or wore a tallis (prayer shawl) there were harassed and even attacked with sacks of manure--while armed police just watched. The government soon criminalized the act of women touching a Torah or wearing a tallis at the Wall.
Well, lift a joyful voice to whatever universal energy or cosmic muffin you believe in. After years of government stalling (including a "Women's Commission" with no women on it!), the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that women may read aloud from the Torah and wear prayer shawls at the Western Wall.
It is important to note that Orthodox women have been just as rigidly repressive on this as Orthodox men. It's inaccurate to oversimplify the world into dominating men running a patriarch, and victimized, powerless women.
The problem in Israel and elsewhere is not that men are in charge--it is that fear of differences is in charge.
3. TAKING OUT THE TRASH
Radio talk-show host (and admitted non-psychologist) Laura Schlessinger has suffered two professional losses this past month.
First, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council condemned Schlessinger's show, syndicated to 450 U.S. stations. They declared that the cumulative effect of her views on homosexuality, delivered "from her powerfully influential platform... may well fertilize the ground for other less well-balanced elements to take aggressive steps" against gays and lesbians. Her show is thus "abusively discriminatory and in breach of" Canada's broadcasting code, and is therefore banned from Canadian stations.
The following week, corporate giant Procter & Gamble announced that it had decided against sponsoring Schlessinger's upcoming TV show. "There has been controversy surrounding Dr. Laura on a number of topics," Cincinnati-based P & G said in a statement. "We've chosen not to be involved with a show that will require time and resources to deal with this kind of controversy." They will apparently not buy new advertising on her radio show, either.
People of goodwill may well take a moment to celebrate... and yet, I'm not entirely comfortable with this outcome.
Sure, I want her off the air. But this scenario is not exactly what I had in mind: Government censorship of inflammatory words, and corporations retreating from "controversy." And so although I'm thrilled that Schlessinger's voice will be slightly curtailed, it still leaves us with two critical problems that we had before she came along. First, government keeps the right to censor material that makes people uncomfortable. That has always been, and will continue to primarily be, stuff relating to sex (for example, the Canadian government prevents lesbian-themed books from entering the country). Second, we're left with corporate sponsors frightened to support anything "controversial"--meaning anything vaguely sexual that isn't simple exploitation like Jerry Springer.
The good guys may have won a small battle over Laura Schlessinger. We certainly have not won the larger battle--and in fact, we may have reinforced our own weakness in the larger war against sexual words, pictures, and ideas.
4. NEWSWEEK RIDICULES SEXUALITY
In its latest example of shameless pandering, Newsweek devoted last week's cover to "the science of women's sexuality." The articles appear to be a brilliant parody of the public's ideas about sexuality and sex research, but we know that Newsweek has no sense of humor.
Its attempt to explain female sexuality merely stereotypes it, reducing female eroticism to a single homogeneous phenomenon entwined with wholesome emotions and romantic love. This is contrasted with male sexuality, which the sophisticated magazine reduces to the desire to get hard and get laid.
And ironically, while criticizing men for simply wanting a sex-enhancing pill like Viagra, the main article is primarily about the kinds of drugs and devices being sold or investigated to enhance female sexual satisfaction.
Newsweek completely misrepresents the history and current practice of sex therapy in its statements that no one seriously studied female sexuality until Irwin Goldstein "discovered" "female sexual dysfunction" last year. Newsweek thus colludes in creating the rationale of why common female sexual difficulties should be medicalized.
The article claims that 40 percent of women experience some form of sexual dissatisfaction. This figure will undoubtedly be repeated in hundreds of popular articles and TV shows for the next 2 years. But the number is meaningless, since it apparently groups together chronic painful intercourse, reduced postpartum libido, and women who are sometimes frustrated about men who won't give them head.
Since the main article features the professional Berman sisters (one M.D., one Ph.D.), at least the medical colonization of female sexuality can't be completely blamed on awful male doctors.
5. VICTIMS OF PORNOGRAPHY MONTH
Readers of Issue #3 know that May was National Masturbation Month. In a strange-but-true juxtaposition, May is also Victims of Pornography Month. Tragically, people "celebrating" the latter far outnumber those celebrating the former.
Who are these so-called "victims?" According to one of many websites devoted to this thing, they include children who lose their innocence by viewing porn; women who are sexually abused by consumers of porn; and young women who choose to make a living by exhibiting their bodies. Of course, these sites present no data of any kind about actual harm done to these people by pornography.
One website claims that "one million children are sold into slavery and prostitution each year," without mentioning that this figure comes from Asia, not the United States, and that it has nothing to do with pornography. Similarly, the group quotes the 1986 Meese Commission's estimate that porn is a billion-dollar industry--somehow omitting the report's conclusion that it couldn't find an actual causal link between porn and sexually aggressive behavior (p. 951), and that "the contribution of pornography to sexual deviance remains an open question" (p. 975).
If groups like this would simply come out and call themselves "Citizens Against Eroticism" or "Americans United to Restrict Sexual Expression" it would be easier to gauge just how much support they have. But hiding behind the specter of sexual violence or the protection of children simply obscures their real agenda. And it cleverly prevents the formation of any effective constituency to oppose them. Who wants to be seen as favoring child molestation, slavery, or rape?
If the champions of so-called victims of pornography are really sincere, they should find ways to help adolescents feel good about their burgeoning lust, and help reduce Americans' guilt about masturbation and fantasy. Making people (especially men) feel bad about their sexuality as a strategy for reducing pornography is like making women feel bad about their bodies as a way of reducing anorexia. It's sadistic and abusive. And it's counterproductive.
6. WHEN THE FOX SETS THE TRAP
Last week, I received an email from FOXNews.com. They're doing a story comparing sex therapists that give advice on-line, and are asking a bunch to answer a "real" question. They'll then publish the answers on their website. Naturally, they were on an "urgent" deadline, so they requested my "prompt cooperation."
The "real" question: "My boyfriend is only into rough sex. Although I enjoy it on occasion, most of the time I feel used. How can I vary our sex life to include gentler sex?"
This situation neatly illustrates much of what's wrong with the modern media. Providing me virtually no context or assurances, and insufficient time for a thoughtful answer, they were asking me to perform down to their level of mindless reaction.
I didn't answer the request. It seemed like a good opportunity to be misquoted or misunderstood--while providing content for a profit-making corporation. In my younger days, I would have written them a long letter explaining the fundamental error of their paradigm, but I no longer waste my time. The mass media are motivated by an entirely different agenda than mine, and really don't care about understanding, educating, or helping people.
I currently receive about 100 questions per week, and answer a handful through my website; most are either so simple that they don't require me, or they're so complicated that I can't possibly answer them. Despite the wealth of information in libraries and on the Internet, and society's increasing tolerance for sexual conversation, the level of sexual ignorance among average people is breathtaking--and that's a public health crisis no one is talking about.
"Regarding Newsletter #3:
"I couldn't help but react in my nationalistic, Canadian way to items 3 and 4. In Canada, words no longer matter, as our war has been over for some years. Our Supreme Court ruled years ago that laws restricting abortion were unconstitutional, and so we have no laws prohibiting abortion in Canada. Similarly, our Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex or sexual orientation. Our Parliament recently went further by passing a law entitling same sex couples all the rights and protections as married couples.
"So what are you doing in a sexual backwater like California?"
8. CALENDAR: Marty Klein's speaking schedule
September 15, 2000
Power, Anger, & Trust Dynamics in Couples Work
Family Service Agency
September 22-23, 2000
National Association of Social Workers
San Francisco, CA
October 7-8, 2000
Diagnosis & Treatment of Sexual Issues
The Behavioral Medicine Research & Training Foundation
November 2-3, 2000
National Association of Social Workers
San Francisco, CA
November 4, 2000
Sexual Feelings on Both Sides of the Couch
Lifespan Learning Institute
Los Angeles, CA
November 11, 2000
Unresolved Challenges in Sex Therapy & Sex Counseling
Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
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"Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence, copyright © Marty Klein, Ph.D. (www.SexEd.org)."