Sexual Intelligence
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Each month, Sexual IntelligenceTM examines the sexual implications of current events, politics, technology, popular culture, and the media.

Dr. Marty Klein is a Certified Sex Therapist and sociologist with a special interest in public policy and sexuality. He has written 6 books and 100 articles. Each year he trains thousands of professionals in North America and abroad in clinical skills, human sexuality, and policy issues.

Issue #102 -- August 2008



Beyond Orgasm

July 31 was National Orgasm Day throughout Great Britain.

We don't have such a day here in the U.S. (although good Americans do observe National Masturbation Day on May 7). In a country that criminalizes vibrators and classifies contraception as abortion, celebrating orgasm is a little advanced.

But let me speak against National Orgasm Day for a moment.

Because as a sex therapist, I observe people making way too much fuss about orgasm.

Don't get me wrong, I think orgasms are fine--hey, some of my best friends have them.

But orgasm lasts, what-six, eight seconds? As good as those 8 seconds can be, they're not worth a whole lot of aggravation. Or boredom, or guilt. Or doing a bunch of stuff that you don't really want to do.

If you're with a partner, that's what those eight seconds frequently cost. That's part of masturbation's appeal-most people get an orgasm without a lot of hassle. You don't have to take anyone out to dinner, kiss someone who needs to brush their teeth, or give anyone else head. You touch yourself, think about something pleasant, and in a few minutes a little magic door opens. Momentarily.

Depending on how you and your partner do things, it's anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour from the time you undress until you climax. Ideally, people would enjoy every single one of those 10 to 60 minutes. But frequently they don't. They're thinking about their saggy butt, their unreliable erection, how their vulva smells. While many people love every part of sex, too many others are just trying to get through it, hoping to be competent, wanting for the Big Payoff that give the whole thing meaning.

That's so sad. It's people like that who give orgasm a bad name.

Orgasm is not the point of sex. It's a little bonus, a fine bit of punctuation. If it's the best part of sex for you, you're missing a whole lot. If it's the only part of sex you enjoy, it can't possibly be worth it.

National Orgasm Day? How about National Relax & Enjoy Sex Moment-By-Moment Day?

That would be something to celebrate. And not just one day per year.



Who Can Discuss Sex Without Discussing Damage?

Is there any point in talking about cars without mentioning car accidents? Certainly. Is there any value in discussing the Golden Gate Bridge or Niagara Falls without bringing up drowning or suicide? Of course there is.

So why do so many people find it impossible to tolerate a serious conversation about sex that doesn't include human trafficking, rape, kiddie porn, and child molestation? Why do such conversations have to be "corrected" with grim recitations of these problems--and why aren't comments about these supposed "omissions" seen as off-topic?

American marriage counselors and psychologists get notoriously brief training about human sexuality, typically emphasizing child abuse, basic plumbing, and the half-century-old Masters & Johnson model of sexual function. Most therapy consumers would be dismayed to discover that their therapist is not required to know anything about vibrators, Viagra, or voyeurism (or contraception, faked orgasms, porn, or "technical virginity") before counseling people on their sexual problems.

As a result, when discussing sexuality, most therapists rely on their personal experience or the distorted crap spewing out of the media and internet-the same personal experience and media/internet crap that creates most sexual problems and brings people into therapy.

As part of my ongoing work of educating professionals about sexuality, I recently wrote an article for The Therapist, published as "Sexual Diversity: It's More than Just GLBT."

In it, I referenced practices and preferences some therapists find uncomfortable, such as consensual non-monogamy, S/M, and pornography. I challenged therapists to learn about these alternatives and to treat them with the same objectivity and compassion with which they're committed to treating everything else they encounter.

Most readers, presumably, either skipped the article or yawned (or, I suppose, clipped it and are waiting to read it, or loved it and sent it around the globe). Such is the life of a writer.

The only letters the publication received decried the "omission" of sex trafficking and the ways pornography supposedly destroys families. The fact that I had not written an article about sexual crime or sexual problems, or an invitation to sow panic among an uninformed population, seems to have escaped these critics.

These letter-writers might as well criticize baseball announcers for not mentioning jock itch--or the harm suffered by thousands of kids every year trying to throw a curveball when they're too young.

Just as some anti-sexuals can't see a female breast, hear the word "penis," or see two men holding hands without thinking SEX, some people can't hear about sex without thinking DANGER. A coalition of well-meaning professionals, cynical politicians, end-of-days religious leaders, and frightened lay people has turned ordinary sexuality into a public health crisis. Their anti-secular, anti-democratic, anti-teen, anti-woman solutions are damaging our nation, our relationships, and our children far more than mere sexuality possibly could.



Family Research Council Caught Lying About Sexual Doomsday On Camera

On July 18, ABC's 20/20 explored whether or not there's "too much" sex in American culture.

Yes, I was featured on the show (playing the part of "expert-representing-truth-&-sanity"), but let's skip over that for now.

The Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg gave his usual fact-free pitch about how "all that sex" is destroying America and its children. He spoke with sincere pain about noticing his son watching an episode of Desperate Housewives, which implied that characters were having sex off-camera.

20/20 invited us to wonder about the constant claim that sex in the media is bad for kids. As I've written before, this is a claim that got louder on the opening day of the quill pen, the printing press, the radio, the TV, and oh yes, the internet. Every generation is concerned about "the children," and every generation lays part of its concern on the latest communications technology. Parchment--now that's gonna destroy those 9th century kids for sure. A written alphabet!--don't even ask.

The best part of the show was when host John Stossel confronted Sprigg with the simple, exciting facts of life: over the last ten years, while America has sizzled with Internet porn and TV eroticism, the rates of rape, divorce, teen births, and premarital sex have gone DOWN. So how has "too much sex in America" destroyed America?

Sprigg fumbled like a rookie quarterback, stammered like a surprised birthday boy, looked like a deer caught in headlights--if the deer had been lying for years, predicting that what makes him uncomfortable is dangerous for everyone.

But give Sprigg credit: he recovered like a pro, intoning that we should be concerned until those numbers are zero. He even had the nerve to prevaricate, "People need to do some real studies about the correlations of these events."

Right, Peter--people like you (and James Dobson and Laura Bush and the Abstinence Clearinghouse) should stop spreading lies about the social impacts of sexual expression and sexual repression until they have some "real studies." Until then, stop "coarsening our culture" with your fear tactics, your fund-raising pitches predicting the end of civilization, and your phony support of women and children accompanied by the repression of sex education, contraception, and sexual health care.

Sprigg was right about one thing: he said that "Sex on TV gives a distorted image of sexuality." Yes, that's true--whenever people on TV talk about how sexual expression is dangerous, and sexual repression is risk-free.

Now that's a distorted image of sexuality.



"Bo Diddley Put the Rock in Rock & Roll"

I spent July 4 doing what many patriots did--listening to rock 'n' roll.

I had the enormous pleasure of watching a DVD of Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry jamming with an amazing group of all-star musicians: John Mayall, Mick Fleetwood, Ron Wood, Carl Wilson, Bobby Keys, and members of Chicago, Three Dog Night, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

In their late 50s at the time of the 1985 concert, Bo and Chuck appeared ageless once the music started. Bo strutted and preened, reminding us that "Bob Diddley put the rock in rock and roll." Chuck, with a mischievous (or satanic, depending on your outlook) little smile, said "I wrote this for the little children, but the adults got terribly upset about it" when introducing "I want to play with my ding-a-ling".

All around them, guitars wailed non-stop, drums beat mercilessly, and backup singers swayed, pleaded, seduced, and celebrated. These weren't tender love songs: "I'm a Man," Bo swaggered. "Who Do You Love?" he growled.

You may remember all those terrible predictions in the 50s and 60s, that rock 'n' roll--and its cousins, "race music" and nasty blues--were sexually stimulating, libidinally liberating, erotically encouraging.

They were right.

Of course, this is the prediction about every new innovation in art or technology--whether about comic books, the car, VCRs, jazz, even electrically-lit downtowns (which allowed unchaperoned courting at night at the turn of the 20th century).

Let's admit it--for the most part, they're right. Yes, the moralists and the devout are good at spotting what will have sexual applications. They were right about the printing press and, almost six centuries later, the internet.

Is the sexual application of virtually all new technologies a problem? Is art that stimulates sexual feelings and behavior a problem? It depends on your perspective.

Looking at that stage full of mostly middle-aged men with broad smiles and artistic commitment, it's hard to demonize the eroticism of rock 'n' roll. And it's hard not to notice how sexually attractive these geezers obviously felt--and seemed.

As a sex therapist, I deal with people's issues about sex and aging every week. Those men and women would love to ask how Bo, Chuck, John, and the others do it. Of course, one simple answer is that rock 'n' roll keeps you young. And rockin'. And rollin'. So does being unafraid of your sexuality.

The film shows the huge barbecue Bo cooked for his all-star band and their families. We saw piles of food. Soul food. Sex food: not self-conscious aphrodisiacs like oysters, but simple food that appeals to the lusty appetite. You can't be embarrassed and enjoy barbecue. No one says "Oh no, my diet won't allow another spicy, saucy, rib."

The DVD is available from Netflix (one of history's great inventions, alongside the wheel, the polio vaccine, and pantyhose).

When Bob Seger demanded "that old time rock and roll" on his 1978 album--this is it. And it does go better with ribs and a little sex.



McCain: 'Birth Control? Viagra? Uh, I Was Absent That Day'

In response to a statement by one of his top campaign advisors, John McCain was recently asked, "Is it fair that insurance companies cover Viagra but not birth control?"

As this video shows, he said, with a nervous laugh, "I certainly do not want to discuss that issue."

It's an answer begging for a punch line:
* He's too old to need birth control, and too hard to need Viagra.
* His campaign pays for the Viagra.
* Politics gets him hard, and no one on the left OR right will sleep with him anyway.

But since we're on the subject, Senator, here are some other questions about fairness and sex we'd like your opinion on:
* Is it fair that teens can be jailed for having consensual sex with other teens?
* Is it fair that teens having legal sex with each other can be jailed for taking and sending photos of themselves doing it?
* Is it fair that some people become licensed by the state to be pharmacists, and then insist they don't have to do their job if they hear voices telling them they shouldn't? (that's called "religious freedom" or "morality" if you agree, "discrimination" or "disqualified to do your job" if you're a consumer trying to get your medicine)
* Is it fair that hundreds of hospitals licensed by their states refuse to offer certain legal medical services--based on "moral grounds"? (what if those "moral grounds" precluded giving blacks blood transfusions from white blood?)

Here's a challenge to all presidential candidates: Commit to every American's right to effective contraception. Unless, of course, you can name a private event that shapes a person's life more than becoming a parent. Of course you can't.

Back in the good old days, the frontier of the war on sex was abortion. Now, like a retreating glacier or wilderness habitat, it's contraception. Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine describes this dramatic change: "Two decades ago, I don't think there was much of a divide on contraception and family planning. It was one area both sides could agree on as a way to reduce unwanted pregnancies. Now it becomes embroiled in philosophical disputes."

And so we have groups like Americans United for Life, the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, and the American Life League who are against routine birth control for adults, married or not. The New York Times lists five members of congress who are against various forms of birth control.

Dr. Joseph Stanford, appointed by President Bush in 2002 to the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee, had recently written: "When fertility (or potential fertility) is deliberately excluded from [sexual relations,] something valuable is lost. A husband will sometimes begin to see his wife as an object of sexual pleasure who should always be available for gratification."

Dr. Stanford, the 19th century is calling--they want their attitude back. No, wait, it's the 17th century. Our President actually appointed an anti-birth control guy to a federal committee overseeing birth control policy. For this we give Mr. Bush the Joseph Stalin integrity-in-government award.

But fairness is not the point, because we all know that life isn't fair. The question is how does an anti-contraceptive (and anti-sex) policy serve our democracy. The answer: very, very badly.

But it does explain federally-funded abstinence training. When Senators like Mr. McCain (and until we hear differently, Senator Obama) are too embarrassed, frightened, or ill-informed to discuss contraception, that's exactly the position they put our adolescents in.

Our kids are suffering as a result. The stammering, blushing, "no comment" McCain clearly is, too. The difference is, he can afford his own Viagra, his own birth control, and his own ignorance. Our young people--and many of their parents--can't.


I'm All Over The New Media

Suddenly, video of me and links to my work are all over the internet. My blog's been picked up by alternet and buzzflash, lots of people saw the Penn & Teller teaser, and now I'm on Reason.TV.

No false modesty or pretend shyness here--I love it!

The topic of all these pieces of course, is sex. More specifically, it's sexual expression--which of course includes pornography.

America is obsessed with porn. It seems like half of us are watching it, while the other half are trying to stop the first half. That's interesting, because the half that watches porn is not trying to force the non-watching audience to watch. There's a fundamental asymmetry about that.

In the four-minute ReasonTV clip (don't you love quoting yourself?), I talk about how the War On Sex involves "decency" groups pressuring government to take away rights that we already have: rights to watch, read, learn, and do what we want in private sexually.

As we cruise past July 4 and head into bikini and mojito season (and therefore steamy one-night-stand season), this is important to remember: the Constitution and Bill of Rights give each of us the rights of free expression and freedom from state-sponsored religious oppression. Two centuries later, we shouldn't be meekly requesting that our Constitutional rights apply to our sex lives. We should be angry that people are succeeding in taking away those rights--specifically because they're about our sex lives.

There's also a fundamental disconnect between the continuing claim that a small number of "pornographers" and "radicals" are trashing the culture--while we all devour American Idol, give our daughters belly t-shirts, eagerly gossip about celebrities showing off their giblets getting in and out of cars, and buy enough porn to energize several planets.

How could people make this stuff so popular, while supporting a government that's trying to limit and even outlaw it? And how can government claim sex-related material is so damaging, when daily life is completely interwoven with it?

The average person is not the one out of control. It's the censors, the bluenoses, the morality police, the Americans who are so afraid of their own sexuality that they want to shut down everyone else's.

If in Montana a true American is a guy with a rifle, and if in Tennessee a true American is a woman with 5 kids, I say a true American in all 50 states is someone whose life involves sexual images, feelings, products, entertainment, healthcare, and occasionally even behavior.

As we're told the we and our sexuality are America's problem, let's remember that.


Still Bloggin'

I'm still blogging away at 2 or 3 times per week. I'm pleased to say that this month about a dozen other blogs linked to us for the first time, including really big ones like,, and

For more sexual intelligence (about 2-3 times per week), do check out my blog. You can also sign up for an RSS Feed, so you know whenever I post something new.


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"Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence, copyright © Marty Klein, Ph.D. ("

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