Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #5 -- July 2000


1. FDA Approves Clitoral Suction
2. Court Affirms Sexual Purity Law
3. FDA Aborts, Distorts Approval Process
4. "FSD"--New Urban Legend?
6. Labiaplasty--What's The Big Flap?
7. Calendar

* * * * * * * * * * * *

1. FDA Approves Clitoral Suction

The Food & Drug Administration has approved a device to help women orgasm: a battery-operated vacuum attached to a suction cup that fits over the clitoris.

The gadget is a logical response to the latest medical Big Lie about sexuality. Physicians colonized masturbation 100 years ago, treating it as an urgent psychiatric and hormonal problem. Three years ago they decided that over 30 million men have "impotence"; now they say that 40 million American women suffer "sexual dysfunction."

But when it comes to sex, doctors and drug companies are not very sophisticated bean-counters. They count every limp penis or unclimaxed vulva the same: the guy who can't get it up while under pressure to create a baby, and the woman who can't come with a half-drunk guy who hasn't bathed in a week, are both considered "dysfunctional" by most medical professionals.

Today's sexual imperialists tell us that erection and orgasm difficulties are essentially hydraulic problems, ignoring the connection between the genitals and emotions. MDs and drug companies aren't in the business of addressing relationship and personal problems--which are, of course, at the heart of most sexual difficulties.

Available by prescription only, the clitoral pump costs $359. It now makes economic sense to ask your partner for cunnilingus. Geez, if only women were willing to go to prostitutes. You know how much clitoral suction you can get for $359?

2. Court Affirms Sexual Purity Law

You Florida fellatrixes, South Carolina sodomites, and Massachusetts muff-divers--you're still illegal.

Yes, the Puerto Rico Court of Appeals upheld its anti-sodomy law this month. Oral and anal sex between consenting adults in private is still illegal in the tropical Commonwealth.

And it's still illegal in 18 states, including Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Virginia. Quaint, archaic, and irrelevant statutes? Hardly. These laws are used, for example, to deny custody in divorce cases. One appellate court recently said that laws against domestic violence do not apply to lesbians and gay men, since the sodomy statute "makes homosexual conduct a crime."

Sodomy laws apply to heterosexual couples as much as same-gender couples. So why isn't there an outcry from the millions of straight people whose intimate lives are in jeopardy?

Few know that their seemingly-"normal" sexuality puts them at risk. Many don't care, figuring it'll never haunt them. Most, I think, assume these laws are only used to persecute gays--and this is mostly, although not entirely, true. But even if the laws affect only gays, straights should care deeply.

Because when the government has the right to control any private adult sexual act, all sexual people are vulnerable. As you read this, both government and private groups are working hard to limit your access to contraception, sexual information on the Net, sex-oriented chat rooms, and taking lewd photos of your lover. All of these are simply points on the same continuum as sodomy.

It may be an odd political rallying cry: "What do we want? Head! When do we want it? Now!" But if your gay neighbor isn't free to bend over in his own home, how free are you to indulge your nasty little fantasy?

3. FDA Aborts, Distorts Approval Process

The FDA has proposed approving the drug mifepristone (RU-486) for use in the United States--but only with severe restrictions that would significantly limit its use.

Incredibly, the FDA proposes requiring that doctors who prescribe the drug:

The drug has been used safely by more than a half-million European women since 1988. It's no surprise that anti-choice forces are attempting to block the drug's use in America. The only surprise left will be the excuse that the FDA ultimately chooses to justify these historically unprecedented restrictions.

It can't be issues of safety, long-term data, cost, or ease of use--in these regards, RU-486 equals or exceeds other accepted complex treatments such as tamoxifin (for cancer), AZT (for AIDS), and even physical therapy (for middle age decline). Perhaps Congressmembers want a list of discreet doctors whom they can contact in case of national emergency--that is, their politically-sensitive sexual indiscretions.

4. 'FSD'--New Urban Legend?

The recent Newsweek cover stories on female sexuality are more parody than science. The big "news" is that doctors at Boston University (and assorted bandwagon-jumpers around the country) have "discovered" "FSD"--female sexual dysfunction--for which they are now developing medical treatments.

Symptoms of this new "disease" include low or missing desire, difficulty becoming aroused, and inability to orgasm--in other words, just about every definition of "sex doesn't work."

The enterprise involves a fundamental lack of interest in the psychological aspects of sexuality. Sure, satisfying sexual function requires hormones, a nervous system, sweet-smelling breath, and other physiological basics. But "sex" isn't a single, undifferentiated phenomenon, which either works or doesn't. The obvious corollary--that all sexual problems can be fixed in the same way--deserves no respect.

A sex therapist, good physician, or intelligent layperson can name a half-dozen possible causes for the single problem of, say, low sexual desire. This new approach that conflates so many issues into "female sexual dysfunction" deserves no respect. It's a breathtakingly simplistic idea that blasphemes the majestic complexity of eroticism. It sounds suspiciously like a Vatican position paper on human passion.

And don't go blaming misogynist male doctors for transforming common human difficulties into medical problems. Dr. Laura Berman and Dr. Jennifer Berman are two of the leaders of this parade, which is marching straight to the bank.


Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) has encouraged the government to create new Internet top-level domains for sex sites, such as ".sex" or ".xxx."

This would "establish a virtual red-light district... to effectively shield children from pornography... without encroaching on the rights of adults to have access to protected speech," he said.

This makes perfect sense--as long as you believe that sex equals pornography. Because the new domain wouldn't be required for just "" and "," but for any site that involves sex: AIDS, breast cancer, contraception, Renaissance art, censorship, even my own website. In other words, the new domain would create a ghetto with which to marginalize any site that the government (or panel of "concerned citizens") found unacceptable.

A paranoid vision? No, we're already testing a similar system: Internet blocking (or "filtering") software. These private corporations manufacture software for use both in private homes and public arenas such as libraries. They will not release a list of sites blocked, nor a list of the individuals who decide which sites to block. This is bad enough for parents who purchase the product for their home. It is dangerous and unacceptable for public use, especially since filters are being required by an increasing number of government agencies. Many library districts, for example, are threatened with a loss of state funding if they refuse to install the blocking software.

And what has this accomplished? The sites of Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, breast cancer awareness, and, yes, my own, have been blocked in various public locations. Your tax dollars at work.

We don't need a device through which children can be "protected" from sex on the Web. We need a device through which all of us can be protected from people who think sex is so dangerous that they will sacrifice the rights of everyone to reduce their anxiety.

6. Labiaplasty -- What's The Big Flap?

Forget breast enlargements, tummy tucks, and butt lifts. The latest cosmetic surgery for women is labiaplasty--reducing the size and shape of the inner vaginal lips. According to articles in Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, and Jane (not to mention ads in the L.A. Weekly and elsewhere), several plastic surgeons in Los Angeles are now offering "female genital cosmetic surgery." And the ladies who get it, of course, love it.

The customers for this procedure suffer from the same malady as most customers for elective plastic surgery: they believe they will be happier if their body looks different.

Social critics continually urge men and women to appreciate their bodies just the way they are. People are told to reject the impossible standards of physical perfection that bombard us every day. Sex educators say the data are clear: that sexual functioning does not depend on a body's looks.

But the data are clear: many people do function better sexually when they like their body, and various enhancements or changes do enhance people's body image. Losing weight, of course, is the best example of this. And so the country is full of people who say that sex couldn't be better since they had their breasts enlarged or reduced, or their penis lengthened, or their nose fixed. Yes, many of these procedures don't work out--but many do, which presents an intellectual quandary. Is cosmetic surgery the action of self-deluded fools, or of modern, empowered people?

It's way too easy to roll our eyes and scorn, "Jeez, anyone who hates their labia that much is too neurotic to enjoy sex, possibly too neurotic to live." And for many of the individual women who get this surgery, this is undoubtedly true. At the same time, we ought to be consistent and support people who take their destiny into their own hands, creating a life that they want for themselves--no matter how neurotic the means seem.

Meanwhile, some commentators will shortly see labiaplasty as the latest male conspiracy to demean and destroy women. This is simply a distraction from more complicated philosophical questions about empowerment. Besides, how many men have actually said to their sex partners, "Gee Mabel, your labia--they're, um, they're, they're HUGE!" Until we see an episode of ER or Chicago Hope in which someone chokes on their partner's labia during oral sex, I'll have to pass on the Male Conspiracy theory on this one.

7. CALENDAR: Marty Klein's speaking schedule

September 15, 2000
Power, Anger, & Trust Dynamics in Couples Work

  Family Service Agency
  Aptos, CA

September 22-23, 2000
Human Sexuality

  National Association of Social Workers
  San Francisco, CA

October 7-8, 2000
Diagnosis & Treatment of Sexual Issues

  The Behavioral Medicine Research & Training Foundation
  Seattle, WA

November 2-3, 2000
Human Sexuality

  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
  Orlando, FL

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