A 67-year-old guy is arrested by the FBI for illegally using marijuana, cocaine, and prescription painkillers with a stripper over many months. In addition to purchasing lap dances and sex with her at a strip club, he had a sexual relationship with her outside lasting many months.
Nothing unusual about this. A lot of victimless crimes, but crimes nevertheless.
It turns out that the guy is a longtime federal judge, appointed by Ronald Reagan.
That's certainly uncommon--most people aren't federal judges--but judges are human, subject to the same impulses and narcissistic sense of invulnerability as the rest of us.
So here's where it gets interesting:
Before his arrest, the judge (Jack Camp) recently ruled on a case involving a Georgia county's regulating--get this--strip clubs and alcohol. Whitfield County had adopted an ordinance prohibiting clubs from selling alcohol if they featured nudity; prohibiting strippers from touching customers (i.e., no lap dances); and other arbitrary limitations designed to restrict what adults could do in the private space.
Some local people challenged the ordinance, and when the county offered no justification for its discriminatory laws, the judge simply accepted the county's assertion--strip clubs cause crime--and dismissed the lawsuit.
I guess of all people, this guy should know, eh?
Wait, there's a little kicker: while coverage of the case breathlessly detailed the drugs (Roxicodone), the sex (fueled by drug buys), and even the pistol Judge Camp protectively took to the drug buys (a .380-caliber Sig Sauer with a full magazine), no one--from Fox News to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to anyone else--mentioned the recent strip club case.
And so they kept it a trivial, titillating story.
Instead of reporting the real story: the county government took away every adult's right to purchase private entertainment. The government offered no justification, claiming that the Constitution doesn't apply to adult entertainment.
A corrupt judge supported the government's power grab, depriving people of their rights. Then it turns out the judge was a customer of the very industry, illegally exercising the rights he had helped steal from local people.
And people continue to be so incoherent about sexuality that they still don't understand: when you let the government bully people about something you don't care about, it's only a matter of time before it bullies people about something you do care about.
Whitfield county government succeeds in treating local adults like children, trampling the Constitution;
The FBI gets their man--and protects America from one more 67-year-old guy cheating on his wife;
Judge-for-life Jack Camp turns out to be more interested in wild times than anyone thought--and more hypocritical than anyone dreamed;
The news media leer at an old man paying a drugged-up young whore to sleep with him, rather than exposing another unconstitutional victory in the War On Sex;
America scores one more pathetic little trophy in its continued obsession to criminalize lust. And its sexual schizophrenia deepens, as public policy becomes increasingly conservative and shame-based at the same time that private bedroom behavior becomes increasingly experimental and non-traditional.
Robert Edwards has won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his development of in vitro fertilization. The procedure takes one or more eggs from a woman, mates them with sperm in a petri dish outside the body, and then inserts the fertilized egg(s) back into a woman--either the donor or a surrogate--for gestation.
The procedure has been a boon for couples who wish to conceive together but can't. Its
techniques have also led to scientific advances such as cloning and the creation of human embryonic stem cells.
As human achievements go, IVF is pretty impressive, up there with the discovery of fire, landing on the moon, and right turns on a red light. It represents the extraordinary creativity, imagination, and tenacity that make our species unique. But on a more local, human level, IVF is decidedly a mixed blessing.
IVF typically starts with a drug like Clomiphene (clomid), which stimulates the ovaries to produce eggs. This can lead to multiple ovulation, dramatically increasing the chance of twins and triplets. I beg my patients going through IVF to discuss what they might want to do if they find themselves with 2, 3, or even more potentially viable embryos; physicians can easily do the simple embryo reduction that assures patients will have only one pregnancy at a time.
I typically think this reduction makes sense given the emotional, logistical, and financial turmoil the IVF patient or couple is typically in, but in my experience they rarely want to even discuss it. It's easy to understand the typical attitude: "We didn't journey all this way through (in)fertility hell to abort anything, even if it means damaging the future of our relationship or other children with an unwanted multiple birth." Short-sighted, although understandable.
Like all drugs, clomid has side effects such as nausea and flushing. But one well-known side effect is unpredictable mood swings—and I've never known an IVF patient who was adequately prepared for this. In such an emotionally volatile situation, this can push an already fragile relationship or family down a slippery slope from which they may not recover, regardless of the fertility outcome.
IVF costs roughly the annual salary of a 2nd-grade teacher. The price, together with the desperation and irrationality of the customers, creates a consumer purchase that generally requires mortgaging a family's future--sometimes the very house they live in. When baby Leroy comes into the world, he MAY be entering a home filled with joy, but it may also be filled with anxiety, resentment, and alienation. Welcome to adult life a wee bit early, kid.
The ethics involved in humans seizing control of the creation of life make for interesting debate, apparently reducing half the population to modern-day Amish--drawing the line at "some" technologies simply because they could be dangerous, could undermine precious human values, etc.. It's good, of course, to be wary of the unintended consequences of any technology, but suspicion and defensiveness about THIS technology strikes me as curious and revealing. There's rarely a similar level of hesitation or rancor about technologies that prolong life, bring back people from the clinically dead (no Larry King jokes here, please), or transplant crucial parts of animals inside humans. One could easily argue that vaccination, the airplane, eyeglasses, and reading itself fundamentally change our relationship to ourselves and the planet as much as IVF does. None of the above is in any way "natural."
With dad wanking on schedule to crank out a fresh supply of sperm on demand, and with mom being poked, analyzed, and seen primarily as an egg-laying machine, how sexy does either of them eventually feel? It's a truism that fertility problems can ruin sex, but if there's a fertility physician who demands that couples consider this before committing to the process, I haven't met him or her. Instead, I get couples in the latter stages of fertility treatments when they've already damaged their sex lives beyond recognition. Indeed, IVF is one of the few things that can even ruin masturbation.
Finally, we should acknowledge the incredible pressure IVF places on the kid who may be created thereby. True, my parents called me their million-dollar baby--but it was either because I was sooo cute, or because I was so much trouble that they felt entitled to a big bonus when I reached 18.
The IVF-generated kid, however, is expensive in a variety of ways. Various would-be parents will not only have spent their live savings or half their retirement funds. They will have sacrificed vacations, a more comfortable home, a newer and safer car. Beyond money, they will have invested their dreams, will have shown each other their dark sides, will have questioned their own (and their partners') sanity, and will have experienced a level of desperation, hope, and foxhole bargaining they never thought possible.
And after a year or two or three of treatments, and several months of actual pregnancy, they may be shocked and ashamed of the ambivalence they feel now that they're on the brink of achieving their heart's desire.
I've never had a patient (male or female) willing to have sex during an IVF-induced pregnancy--it's always considered too dangerous for the precious cargo. By the time the kid pops out and everyone's slept two nights in a row, sex is often a distant memory.
At that point, with all due respect to the pain of infertility, generating a satisfying sex life may turn out to be a far more difficult problem to solve than infertility.
Last week I keynoted the annual conference of CARAS (Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities). I presented "Clinical, cultural, and personal narratives about alternative sexualities."
My goal was to examine the common ways people think about "alternative" (or "kinky") sexuality--and how that affects everyone, no matter what kind of sex they're into.
The general attitude about kinky sex and its practitioners among the media, civic organizations, and medical-psychological professions is pretty negative. They accept or even promote horrible misinformation ("Perverts want to recruit teens into their lifestyle"). They use glamorous but bizarre cases to condemn ordinary choices ("S/M scene leads to murder!"). Too many shrinks assume that people are into kinky sex because they were abused as children--a popular idea with no basis in fact.
The stereotype is that people into kinky sex:
While each of these is certainly true of one or another individual who's into kinky sex (as it is in any large group of people), it in no way characterizes the entire population. But this stereotype does accomplish something: it creates an other. Just like Islamic terrorists are a foreign "other" (appearing just in time to replace Communists as America's favorite demon), people into kinky sex have been constructed as a domestic "other."
The general impression of kinky people is that they are a special, identifiable group, different from the schoolteachers, dentists, grocery clerks, and bus drivers we encounter every day. Different from "us." And unlike "us," dangerous.
This idea hurts everyone. It obviously hurts self-identified kinky people. It undermines their health care, their legal rights (it's used against people in custody battles and zoning hearings), and their self-esteem.
Negative stereotypes of kink also hurt people who don't identify as kinky. "Kinky sex" is a vague, flexible category--and sexuality is by its very nature ambiguous. If you tingle when you're playfully spanked, are you "kinky?" What about a couple who like to pretend that one of them is forcing the other to do something? What about calling your partner "daddy" during sex? Aye, papi, aye, aye, papito!
But if practicing kinky sex makes you "other," not one of "us," if it has non-sexual implications, if it means you're defective or dangerous--who wants that? And so as "kinky sex" and its practitioners are demonized, everyone is concerned--am I one of "those people?" It makes people fear their fantasies or curiosity, which then acquire too much power. It leads to secrecy between partners, as people withhold information about their preferences or experiences.
In contrast to negative and inaccurate ideas about kinky sex, practitioners themselves and specially-trained, sympathetic professionals tend to have more positive attitudes about kinky sex, describing it as:
In truth, this characterizes some kinky sex some of the time. Otherwise, it's often just, well, sex. A little hair-pulling, a playful dare, a toy here and there, maybe a finger in the butt and some nasty whispering (all consensual, of course--if it isn't consensual, it's violence. That's Kink 101).
It's really important to get more accurate information about kink into the hands of doctors, journalists, politicians, and TV producers. And it's equally important to educate everyone about how common these kinds of alternative sexual behaviors are (there are tens of thousands of sex clubs, leather retailers, and kinky sex classes out there, all trying to make a buck; you do the math).
In addition, here's a more radical approach: I'd like to destroy the idea of binary contrast--that kinky and non-kinky sex are clearly different.
Instead, I suggest that kinky and vanilla sex are parts of a continuum, the wide range of human eroticism. We all slide side to side along that continuum during our lives, sometimes in a single week. We don't need to fear our fantasies, curiosity, or (consensual) sexual preferences. They don't make us bad or different, just human.
Some people like being emotional outlaws. They'll always find a way to get the frisson of otherness. But most people don't want to live that way.
So ending kink's status as dangerous and wrong, and its practitioners as "other," is the most liberating thing we can do--for everyone.
Six months ago, a VERY young person (OK, she's 23) challenged me: "Don't you have a responsibility to reach young people, too? If you're really serious about your mission (truly the chutzpah of the young!), go where we are--Facebook, Twitter, Xanga." She mentioned a few other sites, but my head was starting to spin.
I decided to accept her challenge, with the goal of Tweeting once a day for a month. After several dozen people spontaneously started "following" me my head stopped spinning, and I realized she was right. No Facebook, thank you, but I've been Tweeting three or four times a week ever since. I set 3 rules for myself: It has to be about sex, it has to be about something current, and it has to be more than simply my quickie opinion--typically with a link to something I or someone else has just published.
I wanted to see how far this would go without a word of announcement, and now I know. I'm way over 200 followers without mentioning it to anyone. So now I'm mentioning it--check out my Sexual Intelligence Tweets at http://twitter.com/DrMartyKlein.
I've thought it over, and I honestly believe this new invention--the internet--is probably here to stay. Don't you?