Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #12 -- February 2001


1. Movie review: Quills
2. Book review: Defending Pornography
3. Victoria's State Secret
4. Exporting American Dictatorship
5. Protecting Kids From Child Protection
6. Hiding in Penthouse
7. Teens Give Oral Sex Lip Service
8. Calendar

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1. Movie review: Quills

I went to see Philip Kaufman's new movie Quills with trepidation, fearing a somewhat unpleasant experience. But I was wrong--it's a wonderful, satisfying film.

If you're staying away because you don't want to see lovers whip each other, go see the movie; they don't, so you're safe. But don't go expecting tons of sex, because you'll be disappointed. The eroticism comes from the energy of the characters, not from the coupling of bodies. And the film is delightfully witty, as when the Marquis de Sade, speaking with a Priest, refers to looking at a vagina as facing the eye of God.

Quills is about power and control, and the different ways people use them. The erotic aspects of submission come off as positively wholesome in comparison to the brutal uses of political authority. We see lives manipulated and destroyed by arranged marriages, intellectual dishonesty, bumbling sincerity, and bureaucratic corruption. We're forced to re-examine our ideas about the true nature of sadism.

The film beautifully portrays a man's profound need to express himself, the deep need of people for psychological adventure--their own or others'--and the workings of institutional repression and the minds behind it. The film shows how both fear and cynicism drive censorship: "Is your God so weak," charges de Sade, "that He must be protected from other points of view?"

The film forcefully depicts how the Marquis de Sade could not be silenced: not by eliminating his ink, his parchment, or even his ability to speak. The film shows the Marquis expressing himself until the moment of his death and, through others, beyond. That the thoughts he wanted to communicate centered on sexuality was the ostensible reason he was censored. But the Marquis joins Galileo, Socrates, Lenny Bruce, and Aung San Suu Kyi as someone considered dangerous simply because of his ideas. Repressive institutions always find good reasons to censor "dangerous" individuals. In responding to charges that his work must be banned so it won't incite people to violence, the Marquis demands, "If someone tried to walk on water and drowned, would you blame the Bible?"

The ongoing trials and censorship of the Marquis gave his tormentors an additional bonus--an excuse to see forbidden words and pictures. One wonders how the course of history--including America's--would be different if those who would destroy smut had the opportunity to get as much of it as they wanted without having to hunt down and destroy its creators as a pretext.

Would the world be better if it had more of de Sade's writing? Not particularly. Would the world be better if it had the courage and faith in humanity to tolerate the writings of all such renegades? Without question.

Note: Philip Kaufman won a Sexual Intelligence Sexual Sanity Award for his body of work culminating in this film.

2. Book review: Defending Pornography

A new edition of Defending Pornography is out, and we are all richer for it. Written by ACLU President Nadine Strossen and first published in 1995, the book successfully shows how censorship liberates no one, especially women; in fact, Strossen shows that censoring pornography is especially hurtful to relatively disempowered or controversial groups such as feminists, gays, and advocates of reproductive freedom.

The new edition has a forward by Wendy Kaminer, who reminds us "you don't need to know anything about art in order to defend speech deemed hateful, sick, or pornographic. All you need is a commitment to liberty. It is just such a commitment that invigorates this book."

One of the most valuable things about the book is that its author is a woman, which neutralizes the first layer of readers' skepticism or attack. Although grateful to both Strossen and NYU Press, I am sad for myself and other men who must sit back and let people who happen to be women take the lead on sexually-charged issues like this. A passionate commitment to what's best for the free speech cause--and a certain amount of self-preservation in these days of divisive gender politics--encourages progressive men to sit quietly in the background at certain times.

All of that said, this is simply the best book written on the subject. Give yourself a Valentine's Day present by sending one to your state legislator.

3. Victoria's State Secret

Panties typically need someone in them in order to create trouble, but they are so loaded with meaning that they even threaten some people when empty.

Venezuela's generals are outraged by the 140 pairs of panties mailed to top military officers last month. In the local press, law professor Pablo Aure's recently said the generals received the underwear because they were "excessively servile" to President Hugo Chavez. Military police detained Aure, who was accused of sending the panties and inciting disobedience.

Men who threaten to kill men may be imprisoned or killed themselves, but they aren't accused of fighting dirty. Professor Aure obviously understands his countrymen quite well; if he hadn't touched a special nerve, he wouldn't have been jailed. Generals and legislators are used to being called stupid, dishonest, and lazy. But professor Aure did something much worse--he challenged their masculinity. Since Venezuela lacked the foresight to have laws against questioning officials' manhood, Aure was busted for "inciting disobedience." Would that disobedience be cross-dressing? Receptive anal sex? Cooking paella? And would Aure have gotten in so much trouble if he had sent tampons or lipstick?

The lesson here is, when insulting men in power, stick to manly epithets like stupid, dishonest, and lazy.

We know what happens to illegal drugs and pornography that are seized by the authorities. What happened to the panties?

4. Exporting American Dictatorship

Our new president wasted no time in revealing the hollowness of "compassionate conservatism." He signed an order which bans aid to foreign organizations which fund abortion on their own. That's right: foreign organizations which spend their own money providing certain medical services to their own citizens are disqualified from receiving American foreign aid. Poor countries could be forced to discontinue abortion services in order to receive vital American funds. The logic of how unwanted births are undermining the healthcare systems in countries we claim to want to help is apparently less important than imposing anti-choice ideology on these heathens. In fact, this law shows the depth to which the Right is against choice--others' choices.

President Bush is exporting American dictatorship in a classic case of displacement: doing to person B what you'd like to do to person A. So far, he hasn't succeeded in doing it to person A--the American people. He has said he wants to. And he still has almost four years in which to try.

The Bush health dictatorship means that developing countries that need our help are paying for our voting sins. When the President goes courting these countries wanting tax breaks for American companies, they should tell him that they can't give tax breaks to companies located in countries that restrict access to abortion.

5. Protecting Kids From Child Protection

The American Library Association voted last week to challenge one of President Clinton's last deeds--the Child Internet Protection Act. This law REQUIRES every library receiving federal funds to install filtering software on its Internet-access computers.

Conservative and progressive groups have united in opposition to this law. Groups like the ALA, PTA, Christian Coalition, and ACLU, many of whom normally attack each other in their fund-raising letters, have the same concerns--that filtering systems are being used to eliminate information that is safe, legitimate, and vital to thoughtful democracy.

And how are citizens--which this law coerces into being software consumers--supposed to examine various filtering systems? We can't. Filtering software companies will NOT tell you which sites are blocked. Sites just disappear from computer access, like stolen books. Companies won't tell you exactly what criteria are used to block sites, or why they've blocked a specific site they won't let you access. As private corporations, their policies are none of your business They cannot be viewed, much less challenged, by the public--even though the government has hired them to control what you and your kids can read in the public library.

It is extraordinarily difficult to access porn in public libraries, and librarians say that practically no one does it. Even assuming that software can absolutely prevent your kid from doing it--which it can't do reliably--eliminating the work of Martin Luther King and George Will is too dangerous a price for kids to pay. Censorship warps young minds far more than pictures of sex, no matter how extreme.

Twenty-first century public policy about children is driven by fear--of violence, drugs, the media, and sexuality. Correctly reading the public's attitudes, politicians--some sincere, some cynical--develop increasingly extreme "solutions" for problems that are moral, spiritual, and existential. In the name of protecting its children, the American public has rolled back dozens of its traditional rights--which has failed to deliver the safety we long for.

As we look at dark regimes around the globe, Americans criticize policies that reduce information or freedom. Our children deserve the same respect that we give kids in dictatorial nations we're attempting to enlighten. The problem is not what our children are exposed to--the problem is our fear. Censoring the Internet may feel like we're doing something, but it won't make our children safer. It will simply make all of us less free.

To support the ALA's injunction against this horrifying law, go to and donate a few bucks.

6. Hiding in Penthouse

Say that something unpleasant happened to you in private. Say that you then arranged for everyone in the known world to find out about it--and then you complain about your name having been damaged by all the attention. Say you claim to be distressed about your new-found celebrity, and you wish you could be anonymous again. Then say that you pose for Penthouse. Paula Jones, come on down!

Yes, Paula Jones, who took the Right's money to sue the President for damaging her reputation, and took ex-President Clinton's $900,000 to soothe her aching eyes, has now taken Penthouse's money to pose naked and, um, rehabilitate her reputation.

It's great when women past age 22 pose naked in magazines--it gives us a more optimistic vision of the aging process, and a wider range of fantasy material. Nude bodies are wonderful, and the chance to look at (and get excited by) them is a God-given right. So pose nude someplace, folks--do it for the money, or to advance your show biz career. If you're really unusual, like Annie Sprinkle, you can actually do it as a spiritual exercise, or as a contribution to the universe.

But Paula, your Penthouse pictures are dirty. Not because you're nude and sexy--that's the wholesome part--but because you publicly punished someone for showing you his penis, then claimed to want privacy, and took money from three different sources in the process. Posing nude for Penthouse didn't make you a whore. You already were one.

And it's people like you who give whores a bad name.

7. Teens Give Oral Sex Lip Service

An increasing number of adolescents think oral sex is a safe substitute for intercourse--and that it isn't really sex, reports the latest issue of Family Planning Perspectives.

Oral sex with many different partners, of course, increases the risk of catching STDs. But kids apparently don't understand this, and few physicians discuss it with them. The docs are just too uncomfortable--most get no training in talking to patients about sex. And traditionally, a patient's status as "sexually active" is based on whether or not they have penis-vagina intercourse.

Believe it or not, an outbreak of oral gonorrhea among middle-school students was recently discovered. Fortunately, throat swabs were being taken to screen for meningitis.

What a surprise: teenagers don't handle sex any better than adults do. For that crime, America's political culture wants to punish them: withholding information and medical services, attempting to brainwash them with "just say no" instead of actually teaching them about sexual decision-making. And lying about what sex is like: That it's dangerous, exploitive, dirty--unless you're "in love," when it becomes wholesome. Most teens aren't sure what to believe, so they're left on their own in an erotically-charged but punitive world.

So the question "what is sex?" has practical significance. If oral sex is sex, medical professionals must teach kids how to do it safely. And frightened, angry, moralistic people have to teach kids not to do it, while attempting to discourage healthcare workers from doing their job.

In reality, teenagers have a vested interest in NOT seeing oral sex as "sex." For one thing, that allows them to do it without having to "be in love" (without which, you're a slut). For another, it allows kids to do it and still be "virgins." That means they can go down on each other and still keep their abstinence pledge, still look God in the eye at Confession, still feel wholesome with subsequent boyfriends or girlfriends, and still qualify for college financial aid.

If oral sex isn't sex, we should take things a step further. Imagine the benefits of an ad campaign persuading teen couples that touching their own genitalia and giving themselves orgasms together isn't masturbation. That would make it easier for them to do it.

The Right is missing a big opportunity. Their new slogan should be "prevent abortion--give head."

8. CALENDAR: Marty Klein's speaking schedule

March 3, 2001
Diagnosis & Treatment of Sexual Issues

  Long Beach/South Bay CAMFT
  Redondo Beach, CA

March 31, 2001
Diagnosis and Treatment of Sexual Issues in Couples: Counter-Intuitive Approaches

  Phillips Graduate Institute
  Encino, CA

April 20, 2001
Why Sex Therapy Fails

  Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
  Newport Beach, CA

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