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 #104 -- October 2008



Sara Palin Is Not A "Woman"

I am stunned by the number of seemingly-rational people who want to vote for Sarah Palin "because she's a woman." It's about time, they say. It'll be exciting, they say.

These people need a course in how democracy is supposed to work.

Take Iraq. Elections there are meaningless because tribal and ethnic loyalty outranks any other consideration. Given the chance to vote, Sunnis "vote" for the Sunni candidate, Shias "vote" for the Shia candidate, and so on. It's the same in the regressive parts of the Balkans: Ethnic Albanians voting for ethnic Albanians, ethnic Serbs voting for ethnic Serbs, etc.. No consideration of candidates' strengths or what they stand for. In such societies you don't need an election, just a census.

The second Sarah Palin takes office, she won't be a "woman"--she'll be an ideology, whether it's pro-war, anti-choice, anti-glacier, or anti-moose. She'll be a philosophy. She'll be beholden to her major donors. It won't matter if she's a woman, a man, or some other gender.

People who imagine she'll be loyal to some concept of gender are completely misguided. There is no consensus among American women about what they want from a President, anyway. Whether it's about abortion, education, or the right to nurse in public, American women are divided. There is no "women's issue" on which a "woman" president can confidently depend.

The only good reason to vote for Palin is agreement with her ideas about running the country--you know, start a few holy wars, drill for more oil, and wait for the Rapture to announce who won. Voting for her because "it's about time" a woman had a chance is like driving your car off a cliff because "it's about time" you had some excitement. That appears to be Los Angeles N.O.W. President Shelly Mandell's reasoning. She isn't a traitor to women--she's a traitor to thinking.

Of course, there were plenty of people who wanted Hillary Clinton for president because she's a woman. This was equally foolish. Clinton is no more a "woman" than Palin--her presidency would also be driven by ideology rather than ovaries, albeit a different ideology. And just as Palin's nomination should get no cheers from people interested in peace, justice, or civil rights, Clinton's almost-nomination shouldn't have pleased conservatives who happen to be women.

America is in bad enough shape without using the tribal allegiances of a Kosovo, a Rwanda, Macedonia, or South Ossetia to choose our leaders. I don't care if the finger on the nuclear button sports nail polish or calluses; I want the finger attached to someone who will defend the Constitution rather than shred it.

People who vote for a candidate's gender, race, or ethnicity don't understand democracy. Maybe the reason America hasn't been able to export democracy lately is because we don't have nearly enough of our own.



Sex + Sheep = Prison--Lots of Prison

Just how dangerous is a guy who had sex with a sheep?

Michigan county prosecutor John Hallacy says it's in the same category as sexually exploiting a child or sexually assaulting an adult.

Jeffrey Haynes is already in prison (for 2½-20 years) for what state judges describe as his "abominable and detestable crime against nature." But that isn't enough for Hallacy, who is dismayed that Haynes doesn't have to register as a sex offender--because his victim isn't a human.

Haynes' activity "exemplifies a dangerous and deviant behavior that ought to fall under the registry requirements," says the prosecutor, who has clearly thought a great deal about sex and sheep. Or sex and this particular sheep; it isn't clear which.

Haynes is no Boy Scout (well, perhaps he is), having previously been convicted of burglary and forgery. But he has no prior sex-related arrests. Nevertheless, a county prosecutor has decided that Haynes is so dangerous that after leaving prison he should report his whereabouts and keep away from children, parks, and churches.

Perhaps Hallacy is afraid Haynes' "deviant behavior" will prove so intriguing to others that there will be an epidemic of sheep-sodomy. Or perhaps Hallacy doesn't realize that his amateur psychoanalysis linking sheep sodomy with child sodomy is pathetically amateurish, verging on Entertainment Tonight gossip. And simply wrong.

Freud first mapped the defense mechanism he called "projection" in 1895-in which a person, anxious to distance himself from feelings too troubling to acknowledge, attributes those feelings to someone else. We can't really say why Hallacy finds the (admittedly peculiar) Haynes-lambchop sex so frightening. But his determination to see Haynes as a rapist and to subject him to lifelong punishment is rather interesting.

If Hallacy wants to visit Haynes to discuss their respective sex lives, there's no need to involve the criminal justice system. A simple invitation to coffee would probably do.



Gay High School: Bad for Gays AND Straights

Chicago school officials held a hearing last week to help determine whether or not the city will open a high school catering to gay, lesbian and transgender kids.

Those in favor argue it will reduce violence against gay teens, lowering their risk of injury, absenteeism, and substance abuse. Opponents call it a municipal endorsement of homosexuality, which they say is wrong.

Some gay advocates argue against it from a totally different direction, saying it marginalizes gay kids, making them invisible. This is really closer to the point.

The way to make gay kids safer is not by hiding them in a protected environment-it's integrating them into the social system of their schools. When straight people have gay friends, gay kids won't get harassed any more than their straight peers. When gay kids are known as Kevin and Maria rather than the homo dude or the lesbo chick, they'll be tormented only as much as anyone else in their high school.

All teens need to learn empathy. That means resonating with the humanity of people who seem different from us. The rich kid might hate his face; a young woman with large breasts might feel as embarrassed as her flat-chested classmate; a kid in a wheelchair can feel horny and ignored; and a gay kid can feel overwhelmed by teasing.

Straight kids need to know more about the lives of gay kids. And gay kids need to build relationships with straight kids--since they will live in a world with mostly straight people.

Gay people don't have a "gay problem" any more than German Jews had a "Jewish problem" or Alabama blacks had a "black problem." Gay kids don't need a ghetto or a plantation--they just need normal life. For better or worse, high school is the closest any 15-year-old is going to get.



Yet Another Sneaky Law Designed to Discourage Abortion

Politics, as they say, makes strange bedfellows. No odd couple could be odder than Senator Sam Brownback ('premarital sex leads to depression and suicide', 'porn warps the brain') and Senator Ted Kennedy (insert your own tasteless joke about the condition of his brain).

And yet they're cosponsors of the Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act, which now awaits President Bush's signature.

The bill requires parents whose fetus is diagnosed with a profound impairment to receive information on the condition and on available support services. It also establishes a registry of families willing to adopt special needs children.

Why is this law necessary? Doesn't good medical practice provide information patients need? Doesn't good patient education provide information about local services?

The hypocrisy of this law is stunning.

Some 80-90% of fetuses diagnosed with Down's syndrome, spina bifida, and cystic fibrosis are aborted. Brownback sees this as a tragedy, cynically decrying how "America is poorer because of this . . . without [these childrens'] amazing gifts and their wonderful, unconditional love."

Of course, bearing such a child is certainly a viable option for parents who choose it. But Brownback doesn't mention the marriages torn apart, the families damaged, the opportunities for education, healthcare, and intimacy lost by parents (and their living children) who choose the option of bearing a severely disabled child. Isn't America "poorer because of this?"

Eighty to ninety percent--that's an amazing level of consensus about anything, which no politician or consumer advertiser could possibly create if they tried. Clearly, couples and families of all kinds, in every kind of circumstance, make the (often difficult) decision to abort these pregnancies.

Brownback, Kennedy, and their Congressional colleagues have intervened in the complex realities of these families. The law requires "patient education" that is not required for people seeking plastic surgery or hip replacements--both of which are far, far more dangerous and intrusive than abortion.

If Brownback is so concerned about undermining "the diversity of American life," he can start by reforming his punitive stance on immigration, his ignorant stance on maternity and paternity leave, and his discriminatory stance on funding health care for the poor.

No, his position is that the health of those not yet born is far more important than the welfare of those already born. Unable (as yet) to criminalize abortion, he is using the sneaky ploy of demonizing specific reasons for abortion, discouraging those who seek it through guilt and intimidation. Attempting to simply criminalize abortion is far more honest and honorable.

Kennedy should put his personal issues aside and support families as they currently exist, rather than attempt to legislate how families should look. He should be ashamed of ending up in bed with Brownback, a consistent enemy of what Kennedy has always stood for--science, justice, privacy, and women's rights.

The idea that America needs more profoundly disabled children is bizarre and dystopian. The idea that the government should be deciding whose fetus should be given special consideration is not humane--and certainly not "conservative."

And if you don't believe in abortion--I support you 100% in not having one. Preserving choices like yours is what makes America great.



Is Porn to Blame for the Economic Collapse?

The Wall Street Journal called me for an interview this week.

In South Africa, everything that goes wrong is blamed on a half-century of apartheid. In the Arab world, everything is blamed on Israel and the Jews. And in America, everything is blamed on internet pornography.

Since 2000, "morality" groups, cynical politicians, misinformed feminists, and lazy journalists have claimed that internet porn was causing America's ills: destroying marriages, tearing apart families, causing violence. These folks were--and continue to be--blissfully, willfully ignorant of the facts: that while America was being flooded with internet pornography, the rates of divorce, suicide, rape, and child sexual exploitation remained stable. None of these is worse now than it was eight years ago.

But the demonization of sexuality and pornography continues.

When the Wall Street Journal asked for an interview, I assumed it was about the psychological or sexual impact of America's financial crisis. Wrong--it was about "sex addiction." Yes, the largest economy in human history is melting (along with the planet), and the Wall Street Journal sends a reporter to cover so-called "sex addiction" and "porn addiction."

So in addition to freeway traffic, the awful lines in airports, the decline in kids' reading scores, and the poor performance of the New York Yankees, apparently you can also blame our economic disaster on sex--out of control, selfish, destructive sex.

That's America's real sexual addiction--blaming everything on sex.

To see the (rather lame) article, click here.



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