Newsweek recently called out Oprah for being a quack. In a cover story titled "Crazy Talk: Oprah, Wacky Cures & You," they cited shows she's enthusiastically done on cancer, autism, and other subjects featuring non-experts offering ineffective or dangerous medical tips. She also endorses mystical new age "thinking" as a health strategy.
One thing Newsweek didn't mention was Oprah's ignorant, destructive positions on sex.
Take sexual orientation, for example--a subject that's been in the news once or twice lately. As recently as 10 weeks ago, Oprah was asking psychologist Lisa Diamond if women turn to other women sexually "because of a shortage of men." Oprah also wondered why, when women turn away from men, so many seem to choose women who don't, um, look so feminine.
Oprah's sexual ignorance, of course, isn't limited to women. She talks about men as if she's never met an actual adult man:
- When she read mail from viewers complaining about their husbands' lack of interest, she was stunned--"Hard to believe," she said. "We thought, you know, men always wanted it."
- She opened one show by asking the audience: "True or false: once a cheater, always a cheater. What do you think?" In unison, the congregation chanted back the solemn testimony of the Church of Oprah: "True!" Women are, she says, "a big ol' cheated-on club out there."
Oprah is so focused on female victimization, in fact, that she even tells the astounding untruth that doctors pay more attention to the sexual aspects of prostate surgery than to hysterectomy. She also forgets to mention that more men die from prostate cancer than from breast or uterine cancer.
But to fully capture the flavor of Oprah's discomfort with sex, go back a few months to the show that carried this warning:
"This program contains graphic content that is suitable for mature audiences only."
And what was this "graphic content" that should only be watched by a select few? A chart from a high school biology textbook that celebrity sex therapist Laura Berman used to show where the vagina is.
Well, you may call it the vagina, but poor Oprah just can't stand that ugly word. "Don't you think vi-jay-jay sounds better than vagina?" she asked with a pained expression. And the urethral opening? That's "where you pee-pee," said the 55-year-old Oprah on national TV. Remember, this woman is the most influential sex educator in the history of the world.
A recent episode with Berman showing Oprah various vibrators did have promise. In a sign that the End Times may be coming, the show actually led to Amazon.com selling out of Berman's brand of toys. But it ended predictably. As Berman was showing a little number that wrapped around the penis to provide clitoral stimulation during intercourse, Oprah reached her limit. "I'm not ready for this," she said wanly. "I thought I was, but I'm not."
Some naive souls say Oprah educates and empowers. Her show does make women who suffer feel normal, even hopeful. But it neither educates nor empowers. The show celebrates victimhood, consistently trashes men, and offers conservative, moralistic pop psychology regarding sex and relationships. Staining a show featuring a high school anatomy drawing with a "graphic"/"mature audiences" warning speaks louder than anything in the show itself. It's simply code for "bad."
And if all that hasn't hurt viewers enough, there's also her mortal sin of unleashing the porn-hating, premarital sex-hating, kinky sex-hating Dr. Phil on the world. She says he's the one who taught her what "normal sex" is.
- Fact: A part-time porn actress taking her industry-mandated HIV test came up positive last week.
- Fact: She and the four actors who recently worked with her have been quarantined by the industry.
- Fact: She is the 1st female performer to test HIV positive since 2004. Five others were detected in an outbreak five years ago. (Sixteen men, mostly actors who have sex with other men, have tested positive during that time.)
- Fact: During that same time, non-porn actresses in America acquired HIV at the rate of 35 women per day
So-called morality groups will of course use this single new HIV infection to call for the end of porn in America. But there's a more insidious movement afoot--from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has called a rally for June 15 in West Hollywood. They are demanding legislation that would require the use of condoms by actors performing in porn videos made in California.
They tried this five years ago and failed. "We are going to find a legislator to author and carry a bill," said AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein. He likened such a requirement to worker safety provisions of California's Labor Code, "which requires the use of hard hats and other garments and barriers as safety precautions on certain California work sites and locations."
What nonsense. If only construction workers were as safe at work as porn actresses. No actresses have died as a result of workplace activity--a safety record that industries like construction, firefighting, and even the postal service cannot match.
By a strange coincidence, Cal/OSHA says it is mounting a probe in connection with the recent HIV exposure case. It, too, last tried this in 2004.
The unholy alliance between HIV activists and the state aims to shut down the porn industry, whose "immorality" is hated by both. Cal/OSHA knows that actresses are contractors, not employees, so most of its faux "caring" is completely irrelevant. And AIDS activists know that if legislation goes through, it will create a massive bureaucracy with inspections and other regulations that will bring the industry to a crawl (and not in a good way).
"Porn actress gets HIV" makes great headlines, and the bravado of "we're gonna get legislation requiring condoms" will attract donations, but both are a desperate attempt to attack a legal industry that has a lower rate of disease than the rest of the country.
Which city has the highest rate of HIV infection in the U.S.? A city obsessed with screwing everyone, but which has no porn production--Washington, DC.
Actor David Carradine was found hung several days ago, nude, with his genitals tied up and some porn at his feet.
As with so many of these cases, it was investigated as a homicide, then initially considered a suicide. It is, however, clearly something else--auto-erotic asphyxiation. That's the King's English for masturbating while seriously restricting one's breathing.
This high-stakes ecstasy is more common than most people realize. Usually done in secret, it's discovered when it goes wrong and proves fatal. Police and families typically cover it up, either from ignorance or shame. When Uncle Harvey is found suffocated or strangled wearing a dress with his semen on it, somehow "suicide" is the explanation most favored by his relatives. Under "cause" on a death certificate, there's no box for "jacking off one second longer than safe."
As with the occasional train wreck or exotic epidemic, TV immediately enlisted experts and "interested persons" to discuss the causes and details of this allegedly intriguing incident. Informed that some people ritually enhance their solitary orgasms with a rope around their neck or plastic bag over their head, we were also told not to try this at home. It's dangerous! Now there's a news flash--restricting the flow of oxygen until you're almost dead is actually dangerous. Film at 11.
Fake news shows like Larry King and Anderson Cooper, along with authentic gossip shows like Entertainment Tonight, used the event to smuggle kinky sex onto TV.
Faced with the ideal subject--a combination of sex and death (all that was missing was weight loss), King actually said "we're not here to smirk or get entertainment value" before asking his trashy questions. Of course not, Larry. We're discussing a 72-year-old dead man's masturbation for serious reasons.
What almost no TV show, website, or magazine article will mention is that millions of Americans routinely use milder forms of breath play during sex. Alone or with a partner, male or female, consciously or not, various people hold their breath while they climax, or use their breathing to delay orgasm. Some people learn to breathe so they can tolerate/enjoy the sexy pain of spanking or biting. And of course, many men and women play with gently (or not so gently) choking each other during oral sex, something often depicted in current pornography.
No, the media have little use for the actual, non-hysterical truth about sexuality. This week, they were too busy telling us two things we've been hearing all our lives:
Two more "family values" politicians recently bit the dust, as Nevada Senator John Ensign and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford both admitted to extramarital affairs. Prior to that, both men were known as vociferous critics of "immoral," commercial, and non-traditional sexual expression. Each one had, for example, used the power of the government to punish President Clinton for cheating on his wife.
Of course, the media jackals immediately descended on the two, as did their self-righteous former allies. America loves a sex scandal, and it delights in seeing the mighty fall. Add hypocrisy and you have a made-for-TV jackpot. The Letterman-Conan-Fallon crowd are already making the standard cheap jokes. It takes no skill whatsoever to make fun of somebody caught with his pants down while he's standing on the Bible.
As a credentialed sex expert I was asked for a juicy quote by TV, radio, and the press. Their angles were predictable. C'mon, we've covered this turf for years: Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, David Vitter, Elliot Spitzer, Larry Craig, Oral Roberts' wife. Bill Clinton, for that matter.
I didn't bother with "power as an aphrodisiac" or "repression hides kinky impulses." It's all been said.
But when the San Jose Mercury-News asked "why politicians are so prone to this stuff," my answer surprised them. "It isn't clear to me that politicians act out sexually any more than the rest of the population," I said.
With the enormous demand for pornography and prostitutes, "sex addiction" treatment and faith-based fidelity classes, skyrocketing sales of sex toys (in stores, home parties, and on the internet), new policies trying to stop people from sleeping with their co-workers, and millions of sexual ads on Craigslist, Ashley Madison, and elsewhere, it seems clear that Americans are as randy as ever.
We just won't admit it.
Instead, we become captivated with politicians getting laid, getting spanked, getting queer, or paying for it.
It's the perfect opportunity to talk about "them." You know, "them" (sexually dirty) as opposed to "us" (sexually clean). It's a distinction that some people desperately need to assert over and over. Because, psychodynamically, they aren't really sure.
Politicians are merely doing what everyone else is. Driven by sexual needs, feelings, or impulses, regular people across America gamble with their marriages, their jobs, and their health every day. It's just that no one outside their small circle cares. Of course, ordinary people don't have the power to regulate others' sex lives. And they don't have a big platform from which to talk about the bad people and bad behavior they're trying to regulate.
Americans love when politicians get in sexual difficulty because it allows us to salute the norms we claim to live by--and don't. It allows us to solemnly talk about how people should live, even though we don't. It allows us to piously talk about what people shouldn't feel, even though we do. We get to have our psychic cake and eat it too: we get to validate the sexual norms we want to pretend we follow, while continuing to defy them. As a bonus, we vicariously enjoy others violating those norms.
So Ensign and Sanford will be lynched by an ecstatic public mob. In a satisfyingly familiar ritual, a religious sacrifice will be made to appease the gods, as careers are ended and dreams are dashed. Still-trusted politicians will intone that since the public won't trust people who lie about sex, those caught must go. And the public will eagerly agree, saying that such people shouldn't be representing us in government.
Really. Are you also going to fire your eye doctor, supermarket checker, airline pilot, and the guy who cleans your street on Tuesdays? Because they're doing it, too. Whatever you're doing, they're doing, just like Ensign and Sanford.
Ensign and Sanford are hypocrites, for sure. They spent years punishing and even jailing people for victimless sexual expression very much like what they were doing. But society is hypocritical, too. We set impossible, rigid standards for politicians, claiming we want to be represented by people with no sexual feelings or past. When they turn out to be like us--struggling to reconcile their sexuality and their values--we say they're unlike us and beneath us.
We're lying to ourselves.
And so we're doing to Ensign and Sanford (as we've done to others, and will do again) what they've done to the public. We continue to demand politicians who say sex is bad. We get them. And when they accidentally reveal that they're part of that bad sexuality, we disown them.
We're now punishing Ensign and Sanford for not being who we pretend we are.
No one has clean hands in this affair.
In the hours following Dr. George Tiller's assassination, the anti-choice movement sounded unusually reasonable, gathering in front of the Supreme Court this morning to denounce the murder.
But I don't believe they mean it.
Because given their behavior, exactly what else did they expect?
For four years, Kansas Attorney General Phil Kline harassed Tiller, accusing him of protecting child rapists. Bill O'Reilly called Tiller a "baby killer," "guilty of Nazi stuff" over two dozen times on national TV.
Mix this kind of rhetoric with the apocalyptic, millennial visions that are increasingly dominating American Christianity (more Americans believe in the Rapture than in Evolution), and exactly what should God-fearing people do?
Murder the satanic, death-loving abortionist sons of bitches.
The anti-choice movement is actively disclaiming blame for the "lone gunman" who assassinated Tiller. "We hold absolutely no responsibility for his death,” Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry said. But in the same breath, Randall also called Tiller "a mass murderer," and referred to "child-killers."
Does Peter Roff in U.S. News & World Report sound like he wants to prevent further assassinations? "[Tiller's] killing is one more tragedy layered on top of the tragic deaths of untold numbers of unborn Americans," he said.
The Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition was honest about the real problem with the murder: “Politically, this could not have happened at a worse time.”
If the anti-choice movement really wants to discourage more murders, arson and domestic terrorism, they can. Not by calmly saying "please don't murder the baby-killers we all hate," but by changing their rhetoric and philosophy. By conceptualizing and talking about two legitimate worldviews, rather than one moral and one immoral--which must be destroyed.
But they won't do that, because their righteous fight is not about abortion. People have always been free to not get abortions.
No, their movement is, and has always been, about imposing their view of morality on the rest of the country. They want to take away your right to do something that they don't think you should be allowed to do. And that's a bigger issue than whatever thing they want to criminalize.
The anti-choice movement cannot simultaneously continue to destroy secular, pluralist democracy while claiming it deserves a seat at the public policy table. They don't simply want to change a few of America's rules--they want to destroy the fundamental principles of our country.
Murder is, after all, what they want.
New Audio Seminar
I'm pleased to announce the latest audio seminar in my clinical training series. The new addition is called Intakes & First Sessions: Doing a First Hour So There's a Second Hour. In four one-hour disks, it covers subjects such as:
- Establishing a "therapeutic alliance"--without scaring new patients away
- Key information to collect and how to evaluate it
- What is the patient's "narrative"? Why must we assess it?
- Why we shouldn't let clients tell us their "problems"--and what we should do instead
Like all my seminars, it's practical, challenging, and funny. And this month, Sexual Intelligence readers can get a $5 discount by using discount code Pre5. For more information or to order, see www.sexed.org/audio.html
PayPal Now An Option
You asked, we responded. You can now use PayPal for all purchases of books and audios. Just make your selection, go to the bottom of the order form, and click the button. Of course, you'll have the same money-back guarantee we offer on everything you buy.