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 #111 -- May, 2009



Florida Now Safe For Goats & Jesus

Honestly, I’m not making this up.

On the one hand, the Florida Senate has voted 38-0 to criminalize sex with animals. At the very same time, it’s about to issue license plates depicting the crucified head of Jesus.

Each of these is a nutty idea--supported by large numbers of voters. I’m not sure which would be more offensive: seeing my neighbor making love with his goat, or seeing my neighbor’s car sporting a government-issued “I believe” license plate.

Wait, of course I know: it’s the license plate.

Florida lawmakers have their priorities upside down. Floridians don’t need to be protected from the occasional ultra-lonely guy trying to get a goat’s penis down his throat. They need protection from religious zealots trying to jam Jesus down everyone’s throat. The lonely guy’s penis may be unwashed and unwanted, but it’s no threat to our way of life. Government endorsement of religion is. If, that is, your way of life honors the Constitution.

The anti-bestiality law is a pet project of State Senator Nan Rich. She cited exactly 2 Florida cases of human-animal sex in the last 4 years. State Senator Bill Heller sponsored the bill last year, calling bestiality “torture,” “animal cruelty,” and animal “abuse.” He’s obviously thinking of animal rape, not animal sex.

Indeed, State Senator Rich justified the law saying that those who abuse animals are likely to--what else?--do the same to kids. It’s an intuitively attractive idea dripping with opportunism and hypocrisy. The actual link is between people who deliberately hurt animals and those who deliberately hurt children. The tiny number of people who have sex with animals don’t fit into either group.

But what politician in their right mind is going to vote against either bill: criminalizing bestiality or legally endorsing Jesus? This tyranny of the (obsessed) majority is not what democracy is about.

Jesus hasn’t commented on how he feels about car owners blaspheming with his picture on their rear bumper. But do you think animals prefer to be killed and eaten, or “abused” through sex with a human lover?



Male Sexuality: Selfishness or Insecurity?

Last week I had the pleasure of sharing some time with psychologist Michael Bader. We were on TV together discussing various sexual issues, including male sexuality, the subject (and title) of his new book.

Michael challenges the common idea that men are selfish in bed, that they don’t much care about their partner and don’t really want to be close. He says, in fact, that the opposite is true: that most men face such a crushing sense of responsibility in bed that they are, understandably, insecure. This leads them to focus so much on their performance that a human connection is difficult.

Bravo. As a therapist, I’ve noticed this, too. Performance anxiety accounts for a lot of the erection problems I hear about in the office, as well as a lot of the low desire. In fact, there are guys who say “porn is easier than sex with my wife, because I never feel like I satisfy her.” That’s a far cry from “men are addicted to porn” or “men are afraid of intimacy.”

It’s ironic: when people are too concerned about their partner’s experience, they have trouble relaxing and enjoying sex. And while they think of this over-attention as caring, their partner more often describes it as distance or lack of caring.

And so I tell men AND women that rather than try to figure out what their partner wants in bed, looking obsessively for signs of reaction (positive or negative), they should instead do what they enjoy. When both people do that, AND communicate to each other what they like and don’t like, a couple will find the overlap in their interests, and live happily ever after. Or at least have decent sex periodically.

Northern Californians can see the show Saturday, April 25 at 11:30am on KNTV (NBC). If you prefer, you can see Michael’s segment here. I’ll post about mine tomorrow.



Seven Minutes on TV, Discussing Sex In a Different Way

Yesterday I appeared on NBC’s Bay Area TV. Before speaking on a panel about male sexuality (with Dr. Michael Bader and Pastor Kevin Barnes), I discussed various personal and political aspects of sexuality. See the clip here.

I spoke about the so-called “tragedy of sexting”—not the sending of photos, not the suicide of one girl harassed by classmates who saw her nude photo, but rather the actual tragedy—teens sitting in jail, convicted as sex offenders for youthful, if mean-spirited, pranks.

I reminded host Janice Edwards that America is actually safer for kids then headlines and the Sexual Disaster Industry warn. Edwards unintentionally did some of my work for me before we even started, opening the show intoning, “This discussion is about sexual concerns, and therefore not appropriate for children.”

“Why not?” I soon questioned. When she replied that kids might hear words like ‘masturbation’ (which I did utter twice, as one key to healthy sexual attitudes) and ask their parents about it, I said that would be great, not problematic. When she said parents might not be prepared to discuss such ‘difficult’ topics, I simply replied that most parents are never comfortable discussing sex with their kids, and must learn to discuss it when they’re not comfortable.

In general, all the erotic innuendo, energy, and depictions on TV—both programs and advertising—provide parents an unending supply of teachable moments. The primary reason most parents and all decency groups want to ‘protect’ kids from the stuff isn’t kids’ welfare, but adults’ anxiety.

It’s adults acting out that anxiety that is the biggest sexual danger most kids face.



New Airport X-Ray Too Friendly For The Friendly Skies?

I fly way more than the average person: in 2008 I flew 130,000 miles, to 10 states and 5 countries (six if you count Nebraska). That means I have piles of resentment about inept airport security personnel and their pointless procedures. I’m also pretty concerned that airplanes be safe places.

Now it just so happens that I support the ACLU with my heart and soul (they’re in my will, too). So it grieves me to disagree with them about one of their current crusades, against the latest airport screening technology.

“The naked machine” is how they dramatically describe the new full-body scanner that’s going to supplement metal detectors this summer. You’ll walk into a little booth, harmless “millimeter waves” will bounce off you, and a TSA screener in a nearby room will view your black-and-white image on a screen, looking for suspicious shapes or shadows.

No matter what you’re wearing, the TSA screener will be able to see the shape of your belly, butt, penis, breasts, tampon string, colostomy bag, and everything else you have. And so the ACLU (soon to be joined by others, no doubt) is yelling because the images are too revealing—“virtual strip-searches.”

I agree that the TSA is completely out of control, and I despise how they’ve turned airports into slagheaps of anxiety—while adding almost nothing to our actual safety.

But once again, Americans’ shame about our bodies obscures the much bigger civil liberties problems to which we’ve acquiesced at the airport. Who cares that some screener can tell that you’ve had a boob job, or that you’re even flabbier than you seem? It’s just a body. We all have one, and the only person who really cares about yours is you.

The Republic is at stake here. So forget your vanity about your insignificant body, and worry about these serious breeches of our rights:

* Worry about airports filtering which websites you can access using their broadband on your own computer.

* Worry about airlines’ announced plans to filter which websites you’ll be allowed to access once broadband is rolled out on some flights.

* Worry about the books and magazines you’re unable to purchase at airport gift shops because one small-minded company doesn’t want to “offend” anyone.

* Worry about being prevented from flying because some airline employee thinks your outfit is too skimpy.

* Worry about government entrapment stings in airport bathrooms.

These all involve real constitutional issues.

And if that isn’t enough, worry that soon people will be allowed to talk on their cell phones during flights. This will surely make us reevaluate the idea that being hijacked is the worst thing that can happen up there.



Forget the Constitution-Young People Are Thinking About Sex!

The grownups are really after young people lately, trying to contain all that darn interest in sex.

We’ve seen a dozen cases around the country of prosecutors trying to jail teens for sexting (“To prove that sexting can ruin your life, we’re going to ruin your life for sexting”).

And we’ve seen newspapers at various colleges (such as Georgetown, Montana, and Kansas) challenged for running columns that discuss sex “too frankly” (that’s code for “honestly”). Montana law professor Kristin Juras, in fact, has called for censorship of the student paper, saying its sex column is harming the reputation of the school and therefore her career. Which leads one to wonder exactly what law she’s professor of.

Keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of college students are legally adults.

The latest attempt to demonize young people’s sexuality involves a state legislator’s attempt to prevent a bunch of students from showing a porn film at the local university. Screw the Constitution, he says, we’re talking threesomes, girl-girl, and anal. This is serious.

When the University of Maryland responded to this bully by cancelling the show, enterprising young students found another venue (college as a training ground for entrepreneurship—excellent!). State Senator Andrew Harris then threatened to withhold the university’s entire $424 million dollar budget.

Now that is a man who knows how to take a trivial situation and give it the attention it deserves. Because now everyone in the state knows about this stupid film, and roughly 5 billion people plan to see it. I’ve just sent him my last book, hoping he’ll ban it. I could use the press.

So what is lawmaker Harris teaching his young constituents?

That there is no legal principle so important that it can’t be sacrificed when sex is involved. Or to put it another way: that sex is so bad, any action to contain it is justified, no matter how socially destructive.

This doctrine says that sex is by its nature so dangerous, we must compromise our liberty day after day after day to control it. Accordingly, as long as people are interested in sex, democracy is in trouble.

And that’s exactly what we have today. For yet another example, read last week’s post, about Massachusetts revoking the rights of older people to consent to nude photography. Their legislature’s heart beats with Maryland’s Harris’s: to protect middle-aged people from making (allegedly) dumb choices about their sexuality, the state is willing to trash their constitutional rights and treat them like children—who aren’t allowed to consent to sexual activity.

Senator Harris, listen to Yeats describe your true responsibility: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Only mature, secure adults are unafraid of which fires will be lit. You clearly don’t trust education.



When Prostitution is a Positive Sign

The New York Times reports that Baghdad is now “secure enough to sin.”

“Vice is making a comeback,” says the article, in a city “once famous for 1,001 varieties of it.” Of course, the three primary forms of “vice” are sex, drinking, and gambling. The article reports a noticeable increase in all three.

Any sociologist would say this is a sign that locals are feeling safer, that there’s more money in circulation, and that people are trusting each other more. Given the city’s recent agonies, those are all good, regardless of how you feel about “vice.”

Sex has become more acceptable in Baghdad in two ways. Abu Nawas Park has been reestablished as a lover’s lane. No longer afraid of being blown up by suicide bombers, young people are now willing to be seen making out in public.

And there’s apparently an increase in prostitution. Nightclubs have reopened, hotels are busy, the streets are less scary. And so women are back to selling sex, men are buying, and life goes on. Of course, there are abuses: some women enter the trade, or are forced to enter it, before they’re adults. The kidnapping, violence, and trafficking that are endemic to tribal cultures and post-war societies—Iraq is both—are sometimes entangled with prostitution.

Of course, not every woman who sells sex is pleased to do so. Not every man who buys is pleased, either. In a better world, both would have far more choices. At the very least, Baghdad police should prevent any violence against prostitutes, and teenagers should be given the chance to learn another skill.

That said, the return of prostitution is a good sign that Baghdad—and perhaps Iraq with it—is returning to a normal urban society. And before we get too uppity about how awful prostitution is, we should remember that anything can only be evaluated compared to other things.

The U.S.-backed Iraqi constitution states that Islam is the state religion, the foundation for the country’s laws, and that no law may contradict it. This is bad for sex, which is always bad for women.

And so a Baghdad that tolerates sex—even the imperfect and sometimes exploitative sex of prostitution—is, well, heading in the right direction.

Compare this to the situation in Afghanistan, where women are beaten for walking out of the house alone, and girls going to school get acid thrown in their faces. Tolerance of prostitution would be an extraordinarily civilized accomplishment there.



Belgium Declares Pope Public Enemy

You’ve probably heard about Pope Benedict’s announcement three weeks ago that AIDS “cannot be overcome by the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem.”

The comment was especially brutal and uncivilized given the timing—on a trip to Africa, which has 137 million Catholics and 60% of the world’s HIV population.

In response, the Belgian parliament passed a law ordering the government to “react strongly against any state or organization that in the future brings into doubt the benefit of using condoms to prevent transmission of the AIDS virus.” The government then lodged a formal, diplomatic protest with the Vatican over the Pope’s “unacceptable” comments.

Belgium is hardly alone in its condemnation; here are other comments on the Pope’s bizarre and self-serving belief:

* The New York Times: “The Pope deserves no credence when he distorts scientific findings about the value of condoms in slowing the spread of the AIDS virus.”

* The medical journal Lancet: This is “an outrageous and wildly inaccurate statement.”

* Former French Prime Minister Alain Juppe: Pope Benedict seems to be “living in a situation of total autism.” France’s Education Minister Xavier Darcos condemned the remarks as “criminal”.

* Portuguese bishop Ilidio Leandro: People with AIDS are “morally obliged” to use condoms if they have sex.

* The Philadelphia Inquirer: A cartoon showing the Pope praising a throng of sick and dying Africans: “Blessed are the sick, for they have not used condoms.”

It’s one thing for the Church to say “we don’t believe in using contraception.” That would be quirky, poignant, and pathetic. But when the Church lies and says condoms don’t work—when every scientific study in the world says they do—they go beyond religion to superstition. That puts them right alongside those in Africa and Asia who believe that sex with a virgin can cure AIDS.

Meanwhile, where are the moderate Catholics when their Pope says this dangerous stuff? We expect moderate Muslims to speak out and denounce virulent strains of Islam. I challenge moderate Catholics to do the same: It just isn’t enough to be reasonable, shaking your head in private. This is your Church. All Americans fund it via your tax exemptions, and our government gives it way too much attention when making healthcare, education, diplomatic, and communications policy. It’s time for you to step up and openly criticize your Church’s policy.

Belgium stood up—and they’re 75% Catholic.

Isn’t there a 9th Commandment against bearing false witness? At least when this same Church burned the (accurate) books of Copernicus and Galileo, the Pope could honestly say he didn’t know any better, that astronomy was a new science. Not now. When the Pope simply demands the suffering of people for no good reason—millions dying of AIDS in Africa, a raped 9-year-old in Brazil who needed an abortion to live—he just looks like a foolish old man with fancy clothes.



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

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