Sexual Intelligence
Marty Klein pic

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 #107 -- January 2009



Girl Arrested For Assault With Deadly Breasts

Yet another teenager has been arrested on felony charges of assaulting other teens' eyes with a deadly weapon--nude pictures of herself.

This Ohio case is particularly smirky because the crime occurred immediately after a County prosecutor visited the kid's high school, warning students about the prison sentences awaiting them if they receive or send sexual images of classmates on their cell phones. In classic teen fashion, the girl apparently took the warning as a dare. Or perhaps she was just really aroused by the law enforcement presentation.

The fifteen-year-old girl faced felony criminal charges for illegally using a minor (herself) in nudity-oriented material and for possession of criminal tools (to exploit herself). She could have been jailed for creating and distributing child pornography, and forced to register as a sex offender.

As part of a plea-bargain, Juvenile Judge Robert Hoover placed her on a curfew, banned any cell phone usage, eliminated unsupervised Internet usage, and imposed other conditions. In other words, she can do anything her 7-year-old brother can do.

There's no word on what happened to the pathetic snitch who turned her in, but s/he reportedly has received internship offers from a number of groups such as Morality In Media and the Taliban.

Across the U.S., laws are sprouting in response to alleged concerns about teens' safety and poor judgment. As a result, more teens are getting arrested; recent cases were reported in Castle Rock, CO; Westport, CT; Santa Fe, TX; La Crosse, WI; Syracuse, NY; and Ann Arbor, MI.

The laws that are creating a new class of criminal were originally designed to protect children from exploitation by adults. But predictably, they are now being used to punish teens for activity that grownups want to discourage: flaunting their sexuality.

And so in a Florida case, for example, Judge James Wolf speculated that "Amber" and "Jeremy" (a 16- and 17-year-old) could have sold their photos to child pornographers (no one claimed that they wanted to). He said the teens had neither the "foresight or maturity" to judge the risks of taking such photos (as opposed to, say, judging the risks of playing high school football or driving a car). Besides, fantasized the judge, "Mere production of these videos or pictures may also result in psychological trauma to the teenagers involved."

Only if they're busted, yer honor, only if they're busted.


Cop Show Cites Sexual Science--Accurately!

TV shows like CSI and Law & Order portray more sexual violence and perversion in an hour than I see in my sex therapy practice in a month.

Such programs are among the worst of TV's portrayals of sexuality: they show eroticism as the focus of problems and impulsive decisions, as a dangerous form of energy that's always on the verge of exploding and damaging people, families, and communities.

These shows lie about sex every week, stereotyping people who enjoy sex as voracious, depicting S/M as primarily about violence and humiliation, exaggerating any non-standard sex as terribly kinky.

But I gladly admit--a recent episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent really got it right. A guy was on trial for some sadistic rapes. When the defense claimed that "pornography made him do it," the prosecutor responded "Haven't you read Diamond's work about Japan, and Kutchinsky's work about Denmark--that high exposure to pornography is related to lower rates of sexual assault?"

That's portraying sexual science at its finest--used accurately by the criminal justice system (in this case, to nail a guy). And it didn't hurt the show's flow at all.

Now that a network has proven it can entertain people while telling the truth about sex, here's some other dialog we deserve to hear:

* "Sarge, you know that there's no data connecting child porn and child molesting. No one knows how many people look at the stuff and never molest anybody, or how many people molest and never look at the stuff. But you figure it's gotta be a significant number."

* "Well, inspector, all those requirements that we publicize sex offenders' addresses, and prevent them from living or working near churches and schools--you know they haven't made anyone safer. All that money and effort--no one's documented any benefit from it at all."

* "Yeah, it's a common idea that S/M is violence, that people are forced into it and it's all about pain. And that only really nutty people do it. But that's not true. Shrinks tell us all the time that millions of regular people do the spanking thing or the let's-pretend-I-don't-wanna-kiss-you thing."

* "Sure there are some crazies out there on the internet. But almost all of the sexual invitations that young people get are from other kids, not from adults or predators."

The stories on these shows are frightening enough as it is--violent, heart-pounding, aggressive. People then bring this fear into the real world--viewers, for example, believe there's more sexual violence in the U.S. than non-viewers do. Let's not fuel that fear about the real world by giving audiences false messages about sexual desires and decisions.

Again, hats off to the writers of this episode of Law & Order. Ditto to my dear friend Mickey Diamond, and our colleague Beryl Kutchinsky--who together have created almost a century of sex research.


Pope: Homosexuality As Environmental Disaster

Pope Benedict XVI took another step in articulating his fantasies about human beings this week. In criticizing relationships he doesn't accept, he fretted:

That which has come to be expressed and understood with the term 'gender' effectively results in man's self-emancipation from nature and from the Creator.

It is necessary to have something like an ecology of man. It is not outdated metaphysics when the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this natural order be respected.

The Church should defend not just the earth, water and air as gifts of Creation that belong to everyone. She should also protect man from destroying himself. The tropical rain forests deserve our protection, yes, but man does not deserve it less.

The Pope is saying that there's a natural way for the genders to relate, and a natural way to have sex. Any distortion of (allegedly) Divinely-designed heterosexual marriage naturally invites destruction, just as burning the rain forests invites destructive environmental consequences.

The Pope urges us to be aware of the ecology of disastrous sexual behavior, just as we should be aware of disastrous environmental behavior.

OK, let's talk about this "ecology of man" that he imagines for our sexuality. Exactly what ecology has his church's rules about sexuality created for people?

Humans like to have sex. They have it in a variety of non-marital ways. In America, for example, almost everyone has sex before they get married. This includes practically every young man and young woman who take a virginity pledge in high school or college.

The church instructs them to feel guilty about this choice, and to steadfastly remain unprepared for it. And so the church is responsible for sexual pain, shame, ignorance, and disease.

People around the world use birth control. In developing countries, the introduction of cheap, legal contraception almost immediately reduces infant mortality, poverty, and illiteracy. The church actively discourages contraception in every country that desperately needs it. And so the church is responsible for unwanted pregnancy, domestic violence, and keeping women unschooled and dependent.

Finally, you masturbate. Almost everyone does. It's the most life-affirming sexual behavior. It's the safest way for young people to learn about sex. It teaches people that they can use sex to comfort themselves and to explore the universe.

There's nothing in the Bible that forbids masturbation. Nevertheless, the church teaches it's dangerous and that God hates those who do it. Pope Benedict went out of his way to reinforce this anti-life lesson. The resulting guilt has crippled men and women around the globe, damaging the holy marriages the Pope so favors. I wish I had a buck for every human on this earth who feels guilty about masturbating today.

It's the church--and this Pope--who are cutting down the rain forest of the human psyche. And yes, that's terribly destructive for the human climate.



The Real Christmas--Bill of Rights Day

Two hundred seventeen years ago, Americans were given a gift almost unheard of in human history. We live in a country whose government is prohibited from restricting what we say and what we publish.

This amazing idea has even been extended to "expressive behavior"--to anything considered "art," and to activities that can be construed as "political." Good, that covers just about everything.

Two exceptions to this freedom have evolved:
* You can't hurt anyone else while you're expressing yourself.
This makes sense.
* You can't discuss or portray sexuality in ways that offend a lot of people.
This makes no sense.

This second exception is being used today to silence and jail people, to steal people's businesses and homes. Just last week, as the most recent example, 45-year-old Loren Jay Adams of Indianapolis was sentenced to 33 months in prison and a hefty fine for shipping "obscene" materials through the mail.

On the anniversary of our Bill of Rights, we need to ask: exactly why does the category of "obscene materials" exist? And why does the government give itself this exemption? And why, oh why, oh why do Americans support this?

How can an object be "obscene?" The whole idea sounds medieval. Ancient. Neanderthal. It recalls a time of tree gods, of voodoo amulets, of leeches and bleeding, of idols believed to have real power, of special words, numbers, and even chords that could summon the Devil. That's what obscenity laws are about: a puny attempt to protect oneself from the Devil.

When confronted by sights or sounds they wish to reject, many adults refuse to turn their eyes or close their ears to what they reject. They can't seem to locate the "off" switch on their TVs or computers. Instead, they claim they have a "right" to not see certain images, to not hear certain words.

Local, state, and federal government mobilize over and over to grant this pathetic "right"--when it's about sex. In fact, many people even demand the "right" to prevent YOU from seeing or hearing what you want to if it's about sex. They successfully use the wheels of government to accomplish this "right."

Oh wretched people--given the gift of freedom, but too frightened to hold its fire. Given the treasures of a diverse community, but desperate to cleanse it of diversity. Given choices, and demanding to have these choices taken away.
Sexual rights are not trivial. The right to say words or share pictures of adults that other adults don't like shouldn't be merely tolerated--it should be celebrated.

Mindful of monarchy and tyranny, the Founders created many ingenuous barriers to future rulers stealing our rights. They needn't have worried. Americans have spent the last 217 years pleading to have their rights limited. Sexual rights are, apparently, just too burdensome. We'd rather have the illusion of safety and conformity instead.

Our neighbors' sexuality, of course, provides neither.

Good News Out of New Hampshire

And now the good news out of New Hampshire: adults can pay other adults to have sex on camera.

For offering to pay an adult couple to have sex while he filmed them, Robert Theriault was busted by a creative prosecutor on the charge of enabling prostitution. It's yet another case in which the government tries to get around the First Amendment, which is intended to protect people's rights to paint, write, sculpt, sing, design, film, and otherwise non-coercively express themselves. The government admitted that a non-obscene sexually explicit film is a legal object. They were just claiming that making it is illegal.

Like most states, New Hampshire law prohibits people from offering money in exchange for activity that is sexually arousing or gratifying (funny how "conservatives" like to interfere with their sacred "market" when it tolerates behavior of which they disapprove). Theriault's lawyers noted that he wasn't getting off on the filming, he was simply creating a legal product.

Legally, commerce is far more honorable than sexual satisfaction. Lust: bad; greed: good. That's the American Way.

So the state Supreme Court ruled it would be illogical if "the sale, distribution, and viewing of a non-obscene movie is constitutionally protected, while production of the same movie is not." It's a too-rare victory for logic and civil rights.

This echoes the dilemma that a lot of teens are discovering. From coast to coast, adolescents are having legal sex, digitally photographing themselves while they do--and then getting arrested for sharing "child porn, while the recipients are being threatened for owning "child porn." Yes, the gap between the age of consent (say, 16 or 17) and the age at which something is no longer "child porn" (fixed nationally at 18) means that an act can be legal, while the record of it can be illegal. Creative prosecutors are exploiting this anomaly in a law that was originally designed to protect kids, and is now being used to destroy them.

The right to make videos of other people having sex may sound trivial, but it is actually quite important. It reinforces the fact that people's rights to be "let alone" are not contingent on the content of their behavior. Your right to sing doesn't hinge on whether or not you criticize the president; your right to sculpt doesn't turn on whether or not you make the Pope look foolish. Similarly, your right to make a movie shouldn't--and in New Hampshire, doesn't--depend on whether the content of your film pleases the community or its rulers.

That's democracy--when fundamental rights are put beyond the approval of either the community or the authorities.

Now, if the rest of the country can just catch up to wild-an'-crazy New Hampshire . . .


The "Moral Majority" Still Doesn't Exist

Paul Weyrich died last week at age 66.

Weyrich created the still-influential Heritage Foundation, the think tank that helped social conservatives take over the Republican party. At a 1979 meeting of religious leaders, Weyrich referred to a "moral majority" in the U.S.. The name stuck, and through the '80s, Jerry Falwell energized the conservative movement using this theme as a political focus.

Christianity in general and America in particular have traditionally equated "morality" with limiting one's sexual choices and experiences.

And so one of the things that made the Moral Majority movement possible was Americans' need to deny the breadth of their sexual experience. Through the '80s non-marital sex was common, the average age of first intercourse was dropping, and the number of sexual partners the average man and woman had in their lives was increasing. But the Christian Right invented a sex-fearing Moral Majority, a myth no one successfully challenged.

And millions of Americans made the weird leap that while their own sexual behavior wasn't "immoral," the same behavior done by others was. This made a movement that demonized sexuality attractive even to those who were sexually active. It's truer today than ever.

As we begin 2009, the paradox is even stronger. Americans are more sexually adventurous in private than ever--and more sexually repressive in public policy than they've been in almost half a century.

Some call this paradox hypocrisy. A more compassionate view is that Americans are struggling with a profound ambivalence about their own sexual interests, feelings, curiosity, and behavior. They do what they do, but they don't feel entirely comfortable with the implications of their eroticism. And they don't trust their neighbors to handle their own sexuality at all.

This makes the concept of "morality" too complex to legislate--although that is the stated goal of more than half the adults in America.

So when people refer to "traditional sexual behavior" or "Christian sexual values," they mean ideals that hardly any Americans follow. For better or worse, most American men and women have sex outside of marriage. Half of all adult men periodically consume adult entertainment. Most fertile heterosexuals use contraception.

These facts by themselves are absolutely neutral. The real tragedy is that people are too ashamed, frightened, or ambivalent to admit this reality to themselves or their political leaders.

The hypocritical Paul Weyrich is dead, so he personally can't do any more damage. But the destructive myth he helped create--that a majority of Americans want their own sexual choices limited by government--continues to damage our country today.


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

Subscribe to Newsletter

Contact Dr. Klein

Featured Book

  • America's War On Sex book cover

Recent Issues


  • 2007 issues #83 - #94
  • 2006 issues #71 - #82
  • 2005 issues #59 - #70
  • 2004 issues #47 - #58
  • 2003 issues #35 - #46
  • 2002 issues #23 - #34
  • 2001 issues #11 - #22
  • 2000 issues #1 - #10

Sexual Intelligence Awards

Sexual Intelligence Awards honor individuals and organizations who challenge the sexual fear, unrealistic expectations, and government hypocrisy that undermine love, sex, and relationships--and political freedom--today.

SI Award Nomination