Dear President Obama:
For months, I've been predicting that when you win, nothing will change regarding sex. I've said you won't stop the government's War On Sex; you won't demand respect for sexual rights as human rights; you won't prevent religious fanatics from controlling non-believers' sex lives.
You now have your big chance: prove me wrong. Here's what you need to do:
* End funding for abstinence-only training in public schools.
* End the Department of Justice's war on adult entertainment. Keep the war on child porn. Make it clear they're two different things.
* Decriminalize all consensual sex that teens have with other teens. Decriminalize teens sharing photos of themselves having sex.
* Increase financial support for Planned Parenthood, an investment proven to reduce poverty and domestic violence.
* Take the moral leadership to decrease abortion--by funding contraception services and comprehensive sex education, not by criminalizing abortion.
* Require all sex education programs to be scientifically accurate. Isn't that required by the policies of car manufacturers, meat-packing plants, and toothpaste makers?
* Require all municipalities that want to restrict commercial sexual expression (strip clubs, adult bookstores, swing clubs, etc.) to actually demonstrate a need to do so, rather than simply claim "effects like crime, disease, and blight are well-established." Because they're not.
* Require all federal judges to take a Continuing Education course about sexuality. Healthy sexuality, not "sex addiction" or child molestation. Make this education mandatory for anyone aspiring to be a judge.
* Get the FCC out of the censorship business. Let Americans use the "off" and "change channel" buttons on their TV remotes whenever they want; it's good practice for voting.
* Remove the blocking software from every federally-funded computer in America--libraries, universities, airports. Start with the computers in the White House and Congress.
I've said in dozens of lectures this year that you won't make a difference in America's War On Sex.
Please, prove me wrong.
Exploiting Sex Offenders to Ruin Childhood, Part 26: Halloween
Before this year's Halloween is a distant memory, consider this:
Missouri Governor Matt Blunt recently signed a law requiring registered sex offenders to "refrain from all Halloween-related contact with children from 5:00-10:30 pm on October 31." It requires them to remain inside their homes with the outside lights off, and to post a sign saying they have no candy. A federal judge held that forcing offenders to remain in their home and refrain from being around children was overly broad, while finding that keeping a sign on their door and the lights off was constitutional.
We need to be clear about our actions toward convicted offenders: are we attempting to 1) punish them, or 2) make ourselves feel better, or 3) actually make ourselves safer? We can't do all three simultaneously.
So most communities and elected bodies settle for numbers 1 and 2. But they're dishonest about it. They say they want #3. But what if that means letting go of the lust for ever-greater punishment? And what if that means letting go of the gratuitous limitations, insults, and pointless exercises in proving How Much We Care About The Children?
The neighborhood notification law regarding offenders don't make us safer. The Amber Alerts and other edicts named after dead kids don't make us safer. And this pathetic Halloween grandstanding doesn't make us safer.
Instead, such actions allow us to feel like we Really Care, and that we're Really Serious about Doing Something about the safety of our kids.
But ironically, these measures make people feel less safe, not more. The continuing obsession with preventing our kids from being molested steals their childhood, robs us of sleep, and inflates the danger in parents' minds. While in some ways the world has become more dangerous, in most ways, it only feels more dangerous.
If Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth, Missouri must now be the Scariest Place on Earth.
If you want to cripple kids, just convince them they live in a dangerous place, surrounded by invisible threats, and that the world is getting more menacing by the day.
This tragic program works for parents as well. Too many have stopped asking "how do I help my kid grow strong and capable of taking appropriate risks," and now mostly ask "how do I keep my kid from being destroyed by irrational violence?"
That's not an ambitious enough goal. It's not possible. It ruins parenting. And it's awful for kids. A convicted sex offender offering candy on Halloween isn't even close to being that dangerous.
The War On Sex: Damaging Nebraska Day By Day
I spoke in Lincoln and Omaha last week. Nice places, with nice people.
Their government is ignorant, vicious, and dangerous.
Nebraska governor Dave Heineman is apparently so frightened of sex, he wants to keep it as far away from his state as possible. His appointee to run Nebraska's Department of Health & Human Services is also obsessed with sex. The University's new administrator is right in line with their dangerous program to undermine the health of every Nebraskan.
Responding to only a few gentle questions, my Nebraska hosts
gave me an earful about their government's War On Sex. Here's
what they told me:
* The University has ended its funding of the peer sex education program. Almost 20 years old, it was attended by 17% of last year's seniors.
* The University has eliminated funding for free, confidential, anonymous HIV testing.
* The University still has no comment on whether it will deliver sex education or sexual health services on campus.
* Omaha's Douglas County now has the 5th highest per capita rate of gonorrhea in America. Its response: doubling its abstinence-only funding, which is proven ineffective in reducing STDs.
* The state publishes consumer information about diabetes. It has now removed 'erection problems' as a symptom of this dangerous and misunderstood disease.
* The state has changed its annual "sexual health update" conference to an "HIV/STD health update" conference.
* The state has changed its Medicaid (health services for low-income people) intake form. It used to ask a single question: "would you like information about family planning services?" Now it has deleted this question as "unnecessary."
If you think the "War On Sex" is just a snazzy metaphor I use to discuss an abstract social issue, think again. Real people in Nebraska are suffering because of decisions made by other real people in Nebraska.
"Porn on planes"--Another urban legend fans hysteria
If you've been terrified by the thought of flying to grandma's and being stuck in a middle seat next to someone enjoyed Buttbusters 3 on his laptop, you can relax. Delta, JetBlue and now American Airlines are busy censoring the internet they're offering you up in the sky.
Like so much legislation opposing sexual rights, this is one more solution searching desperately for a problem.
The 19,000-member Association of Professional Flight Attendants recently asked American Airlines to add filters to its in-flight Wi-Fi access to prevent passengers from viewing porn and other inappropriate websites. Although a union representative says that attendants and passengers have raised "a lot of complaints" over the issue, the Association couldn't produce examples of actual problems.
Actually, in-flight censorship now starts on the ground.
Earlier this year, the Denver International Airport started
blocking access on its free Wi-Fi network to Web sites that
officials deemed offensive.
The Denver Post points out that some of those questionable sites include Vanity Fair and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue--both of which you can buy at airport newsstands.
So what airports and airlines judge "inappropriate"--my blog? Your blog? Sites relating to breast cancer, gay rights, the Daily Show? And what about the rest of what people do on their laptops? I'll be working on a talk I'm giving to social workers in Albuquerque next time I fly; what if the person looking over my shoulder is offended by my "Diagnosis & Treatment of Sexual Issues?"
Considering the billions of miles flown by U.S. passengers every year, we'd all know if there were an actual problem about in-flight porn. We all talk about the actual problems we experience up there--the pathetic food, dirty seats, lack of leg-room, hairy arms pushing us off the armrest. Anyone ever see--or know someone who saw--Chester the child molester up there?
Every flier knows that "Federal regulations prohibit smoking or disabling smoke detectors in the lavatories." Undoubtedly, censors would like to add "and no masturbating in those private little places, either." Might as well prohibit thinking about sex there as well.