Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #8 -- October 2000


1. Filters Vs. Real Life
2. Herpes, AIDS, & the Next Thing
3. Is "Outing" Ethical?
4. Beating The Drum of Violence (& Sex)
5. Whose Bathrooms Are They, Anyway?
6. Banned Books Week 2000
7. Move Over, Oscar & Tony
8. Calendar

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

1. Filters Vs. Real Life

Continuing our discussion of what's wrong with Internet filtering software, we give you the Digital Freedom Network's winners in its Foil the Filters Contest. The awards emphasize the poor quality and danger of these increasingly popular computer programs, which are being required in many public and private locations. Winning entries include:

The Digital Freedom Network promotes human rights around the world by providing an online voice to those under attack for expressing themselves. See their extraordinary work at

2. Herpes, AIDS, & the Next Thing

American scientists presented exciting data about the first genital herpes vaccine at an international conference last week. Interestingly, the vaccine protects only women.

Over 1,000 couples were studied. In each, a single partner had genital herpes, and all used condoms only infrequently. While the vaccine had "absolutely no effect" in the men, its effect in the women was dramatic, immediately protecting three-quarters of them.

Remember when herpes was just about the end of the world? Time and Newsweek called it a "plague," the end of casual sex. Is that shortsighted, or what?

Herpes was a perfect rehearsal for HIV, however. Not in terms of disease, but regarding our reaction: A socially acceptable vehicle for Americans' fear, anger, and mistrust about sexuality. Our approach to AIDS today shows that as a culture, we didn't learn much from herpes. Schools are prevented from discussing condoms, the media focusses on the potential for death (to which young people simply can't relate) rather than pleasure, health care providers learn nothing about the psychology of sex, and monogamy is considered the only sane option.

After AIDS is conquered, our reaction to the next sexual earthquake will show if we learned anything from AIDS. (RU486 is about to become a strong tremor.) Don't bet the rent money -- although one can reasonably ask, if AIDS doesn't awaken people to the destructiveness of unexamined sexual fear, anger, and repression, what possibly could?

3. Is "Outing" Ethical?

Sexually, most of us are in the closet in some way -- few people publicly reveal their sexual practices involving, say, S/M, prostitutes, non-monogamy, or cybersex, not to mention illicit affairs. When considering the question of "outing" people living hidden lives, one yearns for black-and-white truth and moral clarity. Of course, it isn't that simple. Many people believe that others have the right to live as they choose, closeted or not. Plenty of progressive men and women argue, in fact, that their willingness to live in the closet -- again, of whatever sexual variety -- is precisely what gives them the clout to accomplish important things as legislators, administrators, clinicians, and so on.

But what about the opposite: People who are able to accomplish bad things in the public sphere precisely because they hide their socially unacceptable sexuality? Recent examples include Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Rev. Jimmy Swaggart, and Rep. Robert Barr.

Consider John Paulk, chair of the ex-gay group Exodus International. On the cover of Newsweek, on shows like Oprah, and in dozens of full-page ads in major newspapers, Paulk trumpets his "conversion" to heterosexuality through prayer. Most damnable, he is also on staff with the high-profile Focus on the Family, establishing ministries that "convert" gays.

Paulk was recently spotted and photographed in a gay bar in Washington, D.C. Paulk claims his only intention was to use the bathroom -- but Paulk was in the bar at least 40 minutes, socializing, offering to buy drinks, and calling himself gay. The bar, Mr. P's, is Washington's oldest gay bar, and is located in a block with many public restrooms, including those in two hotels. Who cares? Everybody, one argument goes, whose life has been undermined by this man.

A culture war has been forced upon men and women who demand the right to live as erotic beings, as adults who may make unpopular lifestyle choices. Such Americans face battle after battle with their local government, their neighbors, their kids' school, and the media. Exposing hypocrisy in those who suffocate others' eroticism is fair--indeed, appropriate. The right of public figures to live their private lives ends when they use their privacy to destroy others' ability to live their private lives.

Another version of the "outing" dilemma is candidate George Bush's history of recreational drug use. I hate to see anyone having to defend their consensual, victimless private life. But Governor Bush's personal responsibility for persecuting and cruelly imprisoning casual drug users in Texas makes his own drug use an expression of personal hypocrisy and heartless political expediency.

For a man who says his most important inspiration is the Bible, he seems to have missed the point of the Golden Rule: Do not treat others as you would not have others treat you.

4. Beating the Drum of Violence (& Sex)

Flush with the powerful feeling one can only get from attempting to control sex on the Internet, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) now wishes to control the content and marketing of American films. Sen. McCain is leading his colleagues on America's biennial crusade to protect children--this time from entertainment that is supposedly driving their violent and sexual behavior. Both conservative and well-meaning liberal political action groups are citing a recent Federal Trade Commission report that children who consume violent video games and sexy movies seem to behave in more violent and sexual ways.

But the report merely notices a correlation, carefully disavowing any direct cause-and-effect relationship--because none exists. It's simply an intuitively popular idea about which politicians--and concerned but uninformed parents--can grandstand.

The FBI says school violence is down, and the Department of Health says teen pregnancy is down. In an era of expanding sex-and-violence media, how does the Senator explain this?

Sure, the entertainment industry should be ashamed of itself: for boring intelligent people, insulting everyone else, and exploiting public property (our airwaves) without contributing anything of value to civilization. But the media don't cause people to act inappropriately. The media are part of the peculiarly sterile environment that modern corporate life has created. The media world is a mirror, and when we actually look, it frightens and shames us. Blaming the media is the periodic incantation we recite to make the mirror go away.

Older kids are smart enough to realize that TV and film are not real life. They're so smart, in fact, that they realize that the grown-ups have created a world of sexual secrets and lies -- which the grown-ups won't admit. Adult hypocrisy is the lesson kids learn about sex with which we ought to be concerned.

5. Whose Bathrooms Are They, Anyway?

Last week, I gave an all-day workshop to 130 therapists in Santa Cruz, CA. As is typically the case with these things, over three-quarters of the participants were female. Because the hotel was remodeling, there were only two bathrooms available during our 15-minute breaks--one labeled male, one female. About halfway through the morning break, when the line outside the women's room started looking like Woodstock "without the mud", a group of women "liberated" the men's room. They didn't throw us out, they simply insisted we share. We studied our urinals intently while they giggled in the stalls.

When the seminar reconvened, I wanted to say something about this impressive event, something like, "hey, good for all of you: if we're going to help our patients break out of their individual prisons, it sure helps not to be trapped in our own." But a thought stopped me: What if a few of the guys objected to this invasion of their privacy? We've all been taught that we have the basic right to single-gender public bathrooms. I may not agree with someone's need for this, but I felt I had to respect the reasonableness of the expectation. So I was stuck: Stroke the courageous? Sympathize with the invaded? I said nothing publicly, although I privately patted a few backs during lunch.

It's what so much of our culture war about sexuality is about: On one side, people insist on the rights society has led them to expect (not having to see tongue-kissing in Safeway, nudity on the beach, or condom advertising during Wheel of Fortune); on the other side, people demand what they consider their fundamental human rights: Tongue kissing in Safeway, nudity on the beach, and the right to a pay channel or two with R- or X-rated movies.

The two sides don't speak the same language: One side says, "your rights end where my field of vision begins, and I have the right to an eroticism-free experience in all public places." The other side says, "if you want to hide your eroticism in public, go ahead, just don't force me to." Each side feels the other wins far too often.

It seems to me that both law and custom back people who want to eliminate eroticism and body parts from the public sphere. Why should the sensibilities of those who don't want to see a nipple be privileged above those who are pained by having to hide their bodies? This erotic apartheid is neither simple nor "normal"--and it damages everyone because it perpetuates the notion that bodies and eroticism are shameful.

The Santa Cruz incident reminded me of the difference between tact and diplomacy. Tact is when a man walks into a bathroom at a party, sees a woman sitting there, and leaves immediately, saying "excuse me, ma'am." Diplomacy is when a man walks into a bathroom at a party, sees a woman sitting there, and leaves immediately, saying "excuse me, sir."

6. Banned Books Week 2000

Harry Potter, the young hero of the fastest-selling children's books in history, has awakened imaginations and excited today's children about reading. Far scarier than his wizardry, however, is the number of people who have attempted to ban his stories. According to the American Library Association, Harry's books were the most frequently challenged books of 1999. Among the thousands of attempts by groups or individuals to have books removed from libraries or classrooms, the most frequently challenged and banned books of the last decade include:

There are places where book banning and book burning work: Ask the constituents of Stalin, of Hitler, of the Inquisition. But banning books--whether they are full of sex or full of hate--has no place in 21st century America. Do you know what has been challenged, or removed from, your local library? Finding out would be a great way to celebrate Banned Books Week, which was September 23-30 this year.

The Harry Potter and Goosebumps books are often challenged because of alleged Satanism. If I were Satan and wanted to destroy America, I wouldn't plant books--I would plant the desire to undermine the freedom to read and think.

7. Move Over, Oscar & Tony

Sexual Intelligence will celebrate New Year's Eve (only 13 weeks away!) by giving two sets of awards: the Golden Eros for those contributing to the public's sexual intelligence (Margaret Sanger would have won one), and the Tarnished Eros for those undermining it (we've already ordered plaques for the Jerrys Falwell and Springer). We'll recognize local heroes (and villains) as well as national ones.

Nominations are open, so please submit a few. In fact, even the names of the awards are up for grabs. Golden Orgasm Award (the Gaspies)? Broken Condom Award (the Uh-ohs)? Winning suggestions get a lifetime subscription to Sexual Intelligence.

8. CALENDAR: Marty Klein's speaking schedule

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

  The Behavioral Medicine Research & Training Foundation
  Tacoma, WA

November 2-3, 2000
Human Sexuality

  National Association of Social Workers
  San Francisco, CA

November 4, 2000
Sexual Fantasies on Both Sides of the Couch

  Lifespan Learning Institute
  Los Angeles, CA

November 9, 2000
Diagnosis and Treatment of Sexual Issues

  Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
  Orlando, FL

November 10, 2000
Unresolved Challenges in Sex Therapy & Sex Counseling

  Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
  Orlando, FL

December 1, 2000
Diagnosis and Treatment of Sexual Issues

  Family Service Agency
  Aptos, CA

December 9, 2000
Diagnosis and Treatment of Sexual Issues

  Bakersfield, CA

January 20, 2001
Diagnosis and Treatment of Sexual Issues

  Angeles Community Counseling Center
  Los Angeles, CA

March 3, 2001
Diagnosis & Treatment of Sexual Issues

  Long Beach/South Bay CAMFT
  Redondo Beach, CA

March 31, 2001
Diagnosis and Treatment of Sexual Issues in Couples: Counter-Intuitive Approaches

  Phillips Graduate Institute
  Encino, CA

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