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 #103 -- September 2008



Dear Governor Palin: A Thank-You and Some Questions

Dear Governor Palin:

Thank you for announcing that things have changed.

Your Republican supporters cheer your ability to work full-time despite having five children at home. And your Republican supporters celebrate your pregnant, unmarried child, and praise your support of her.

It was only weeks ago that families like yours were being described as lewd, immoral, and bad for America by millions of these same supporters.

Apparently, it's now OK to have sex outside marriage.
And apparently, it's now OK to get pregnant outside of marriage.
And apparently, it's now OK for mothers of infants to work outside the home.

As you know, this represents substantial change. For years, America has suffered under the brutal Evangelical-Bush regime that condemned all sex outside of marriage, that demonized and marginalized pregnant teens, and that labeled working mothers as selfish and narcissistic.

Hearing you talk about your "wonderful," "intelligent" daughter and her teen lover in this social-political context raises some important questions.

Since you know that many wonderful young people have sex outside marriage, why did you vote against sex education courses that would prepare them to make mature decisions about this important experience?

And since you know that many intelligent young people can get pregnant, and you say that having babies makes them "grow up faster than their parents had ever planned," why did you vote against teaching teens about contraception, and making reproductive services available to poor people?

And since you obviously believe that mothers with babies have the right to work outside the home, why did you vote against health-care and day-care services for poor mothers?

John McCain's representative Steve Schmidt dismisses any criticism about your circumstances as "life happens." Conservative pundits are saying your family situation will "humanize" you and that America's parents will "relate" to your complicated life.

Can we assume, then, that as Vice-President you will end the government's unrelenting punishment of teen sexuality? That you will stop using federal agencies like the FDA and HHS to withhold safe medications and reproductive services from the American public? Will you discontinue support to faith-based organizations that lie to teens about the phony connections between abortion and infertility?

And since you say you support "Bristol's decision to have her baby," will you support the right of every other pregnant American to make her own decision about her pregnancy?

As Vice-President, will you explicitly support the needs of all American youth and their parents as they struggle with the realities of teen sexuality--or is your family's unplanned, non-marital pregnancy the only kind of "life happens" family you can recognize?



Ernest Borgnine: 91 and Still Jackin'

Let's start with the punchline: watch this fabulous 46-second clip of Ernest Borgnine's interview on Fox TV. The ancient actor looks fantastic, and reveals why. Then come back here and we'll talk.

Obscene? Bad for kids? Another sign of the impending Rapture?

I'd say the moment is great for kids--it tells them that life doesn't end at old age, so they don't have to do everything right now. It's especially good for kids to know that sex isn't just for young people.

And it's great for us adults, too. See above: sex isn't just for young people.

Is the phrase "I masturbate a lot" as dangerous as a half-second of Janet Jackson's breast? As bad as soldiers saying "fuck" as they approach death in Saving Private Ryan?

I hope Fox gets two or three complaints from high-profile erotophobes like Morality in Media. Then everyone will see the clip and discuss it for weeks, as happened with Jackson's nipple. In fact, we should celebrate the anniversary of her Super Bowl exposure each year by running the clip on every news show all over again.

Over a half-century again, Borgnine won an Oscar for his poignant portrayal of a lonely Bronx butcher. Now, we finally have the answer to the film's recurring question, "I dunno, Marty. Whadda you wanna do tonight?"



My Topless Italian Friend--America's Enemy?

Last week, after teaching in Croatia, I took a couple of days to relax in northeastern Italy before teaching in Germany and New York.

Two Italian friends took me to Grado, the seaside town that started as a maritime possession of Imperial Rome, and three centuries later gave Christianity to Venice. I was looking forward to a long walk on one of the Adriatic's rare sandy beaches.

We drove to the shore, parked the car, and walked two minutes. Once on the sand, Marina took off her shirt. She had nothing under it. Our colleague Roberto hardly seemed to notice--but I, um, well, ah, "what are you doing?" I asked dumbly. "It's the beach," she replied, "if this bothers you ..." Fortunately, I was able to cope.

Fortunately, because there were other topless women on the beach. Young, old, older. Tall, short, wide, very wide. Neither they nor the people with them seemed to notice, much less care. Even better, the kids around them ignored the various breasts around them, caring about much more important things like ice cream and hitting their younger brothers.

I looked at a few dozen breasts lounging, walking, and swimming around. Some were more entertaining than others, for sure. And after roughly three minutes, none were as entertaining as the conversation with Marina and Roberto about the 16th-century competition between the Hapsburg and Venetian Empires.

So without the challenge of looking down anyone's blouse, through the armholes of tank tops, or attempting to use x-ray vision to see through sweaters, the various Italian breasts on display lost most of their sexual aura. They were as pleasant-looking as the sea and the palm trees. Nice, that's all.

As normal as it was here in Grado, how deeply different the scene was from U.S. beaches. America's problem starts with the belief that all female breasts are sexual (except Mother Mary's, of course), and continues with the superstition that sexuality is dangerous for children.

At a time when American women are being prevented from breast-feeding in public, and photos of mothers and their children nude together are considered child abuse or child porn, the normal toplessness of European beaches is an affront to everything American "morality" groups believe. A field trip to Italy would open their American eyes.

I'll tell what did keep catching my eye at the beach long after the breasts lost their novelty. The exotic sight of women's unshaved underarms-mile after mile of them!



I Don't Care Who He Slept With; Why Does Anyone?

Apparently John Edwards, who holds no public office, slept with someone other than his wife a few years ago. Like any rational person would, he apparently lied about it to the press earlier this year.

I'm trying to think of something I care less about than this. Brittney Spears' mental health? The price of yak butter in Outer Mongolia?

It's bad enough that the National Enquirer actually pursued this pointless story. But that's their disgusting, soul-destroying job: getting people excited about pointless crap.

But ABC News spent months investigating the rumor. ABC News, which claims it doesn't have enough money to cover the actual news anymore.

We're told that the extramarital affair of a would-be presidential candidate is news because it reflects on his "character."


George Bush has given America the ultimate lesson on "morality" and "character." Here's a born-again, church-going, non-drinking guy who believes in no-sex-until-marriage for everyone (except himself), and what did this outstandingly "moral" man do?

He knowingly lied to a nation, led us to war, authorized torture, and destroyed the Justice Department. If this is what a God-fearing, monogamous President does, how can anyone believe that someone having and lying about an affair predicts the "morality" of their governance?

America's mass media have already sunk as low as they can, as have its consumers. "Everyone" knows that "everyone" loves a good sex scandal. Well, this one isn't even a scandal--it's just a simple story about people doing what people do. It's the equivalent of someone stopped on the freeway shoulder fixing a flat tire--and everyone slowing down to look, ruining traffic for hours. "Look Mabel, a tow-truck!" "Look Al, a po-leece car!"

Americans' lives are filled with more stimulation than any other people in history, from ipods to blackberrys to DVD players to GPS navigators. There are almost no public spaces in America that aren't soiled with the sounds of muzak or a TV (seasoned with people yelling on cell phones). With all this stimulation, why do we still crave the details of others' sex lives?

It's additionally pathetic that the media and public alike dress up this lurid voyeurism as civic involvement: from "it tells us something about the candidate" to "the public has a right to know." What self-delusion.
That's America--no more noble than the people we look down upon, and completely unable to admit it.

As far as I'm concerned, John Edwards--Senator, Presidential candidate, or private citizen--can screw whomever he wants. I'm way more concerned about the screwing we're all getting from George Bush and his destruction of our fundamental rights. Three months from today, we'll have forgotten the first and still be suffering with the second.



Senator Ted Stevens Thinks Morality is About Sex, Not About Lying or Cheating

I come not to praise Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, but to help bury him.

Forget the $250,000 he's been indicted for acquiring illegally. The guy stole billions--billions--of dollars by siphoning taxpayer money into a state that has 8% as many people as Los Angeles County. Think he voted to send Angelenos 12 times the money he sent Alaska?

The rest of the Senate shares much of the blame for Stevens' 40-year theft, voting for this guy's unconscionably greedy appropriations year after year after year. When we hear how "powerful" a member of Congress is, it means that his/her colleagues have given him/her that power--in exchange for favors, past and future. As Mark Twain said, "Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself."

And yet Stevens alone deserves the blame--the revulsion, disdain, and spitting on his name--for his gross hypocrisy.

You may recall that in 2005 he convened hearings on "Indecency in the Media."

The "hearings" were rigged, designed to force the TV industry to "voluntarily" make their content more "family friendly." "Those who represent the families of America," said Stevens, believe the media does not provide "the kind of moral compass that our country should have for our young people."

"Moral compass"--as in "thou shalt not steal, nor break the incredibly-generous Senate rules you've exploited to become fabulously wealthy."

Only days later, Stevens was again using the FCC to attack American freedom. The FCC abruptly gave itself the right to decide that one-time uses of common cuss words on TV or radio were "indecent," subjecting a station broadcasting such a word to enormous fines. (Exactly what part of "shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" don't you FCC commissioners understand?)

When a federal Appeals Court ruled that the FCC couldn't give itself the right to criminalize everyday speech, Stevens co-sponsored a bill to overturn the court's decision, mandating that the FCC "maintain a policy that a single word or image may constitute indecent programming." Again, he said he was concerned that sexual words and images in the media were undermining America's "morality."

But the FBI had been investigating Alaska's state senators and corrupt contractors, and soon busted six state lawmakers, including the senator's son, Ben, who was then president of State Senate. Senator Stevens's home was also raided by the FBI as part of the major corruption case, as he had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of illegal gifts from contractors who were receiving enormous federal contracts (which they still have).

So while Stevens was bludgeoning our freedoms because of his supposed concern about American morals, he was stealing. He was taking bribes. Doesn't that count as part of "morality"?

I'm sick of "morality" being defined solely as limiting sexual expression. Lying, bribing, and cheating are all violations of "morality" that affect our kids. But as we've seen with anti-sex hypocrites such as the disgraced Trent Lott, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Ralph Reed, Lou Sheldon, and Pat Robertson, they don't know "morality" from a hole in the ground. They spew anti-sex hatred and ignorance in the name of "morality," then steal, cheat, bribe, gossip, lie, and keep library books overdue.

And I'm not even talking about anti-sex politicians who are secretly into sex, such as Larry Craig or Ted Haggard. That's hypocrisy of a different sort.

The Feds have been investigating Stevens for several years, and last week indicted him only on charges that are airtight--passing up dozens of other juicy violations of law and of public trust. This guy is guilty, and I plan to enjoy watching him roast.

Now he'll have time to travel his shameful $400,000,000 "bridge to nowhere." 'Cause that's exactly where he's going.


You may quote anything herein, with the following attribution:
"Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence, copyright © Marty Klein, Ph.D. ("

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