Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #13 -- March 2001


1. Masters' Legacy Humbles Us All
2. N.Y. Mayor Indecent Again
3. Porn Czarina Makes Ultimate Sacrifice
4. Sex In Public Semi-Legal
5. Your Computer's Spying On You
6. Calendar

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1. Masters' Legacy Humbles Us All

Dr. William Masters, biologist, sex researcher, and senior half of "Masters & Johnson" died two weeks ago at age 85.

American science knew virtually nothing about the way people behaved during sex before Masters began his work in the late fifties. He and partner Virginia Johnson eventually outfitted a laboratory and recruited volunteers to masturbate and have couple sex while instruments measured their bodily reactions. That was a remarkable contribution: studying sex by looking at sexually healthy, rather than dysfunctional, people. Unfortunately, this lesson is lost to today's professionals. Psychologists, physicians, marriage counselors, and social workers learn virtually nothing about healthy sexual functioning. Instead, they learn about molestation, rape, AIDS, and high-risk teens. A shrink may not know anything about sexual pleasure or passion that his or her patient doesn't.

With Johnson, Masters wrote a series of books about their discoveries. They were boring--intentionally, to minimize unwanted sensationalism and avoid being labeled pornography. It didn't help, though, as Human Sexual Response (1966) became a best-seller, and its authors were damned in pulpits and radio broadcasts as perverts, Communists, and a danger to communities. FBI investigations followed. America has learned little since then: lobbying on behalf of sexual sanity for adults and children still invites investigation, legal problems, loss of professional standing, and scathing attack in Right-wing publications and fundraisers.

Masters wasn't afraid of trouble, and wasn't trying to win any friends. He never accepted government money, rejecting the compromises it came with. He and Johnson invented surrogate partner therapy, which the psychology profession is shamefully ignorant of, and which the sexology profession, shamefully, generally ignores. As a result, tens of thousands of miserable unpartnered people remain miserable for lack of an effective treatment strategy.

The New York Times obit called Masters a "sex researcher." Given what often passes for "sex research" today--asking an undergraduate class their attitudes about dating, or tabulating how often they use condoms--contemporary sexologists could well use Masters as a benchmark with which to assess their work. Masters' work wasn't perfect--his thoughtful critics are many, including Bernie Zilbergeld, Ed Brecher, and Leonore Tiefer. Virtually all critics, however, agree that his work must be grappled with. In this way, it will always be valuable, regardless of what comes afterwards. And it will always represent a standard of personal courage that challenges all mental health professionals.

2. N.Y. Mayor Indecent Again

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is again offended by a picture he hears is in the Brooklyn Museum (he says he hasn't seen it), depicting The Last Supper with a nude black woman replacing Jesus. He wants to establish a city commission to "set decency standards for those institutions that are using taxpayers' money," apparently forgetting that our system of government is not allowed to shut people up based on what they say.

As previously discussed (issue #4), Mayor Giuliani has both a girlfriend and a wife. This would be OK, except that his wife is apparently pretty angry about the affair. Both women are getting taxpayer-funded police protection. Has some city commission ruled that this arrangement passes their decency standards? Obviously, sincere people can disagree about what's decent. Or, perhaps more to the point, about the desirability and relevance of "decency."

Mayor Giuliani appears to be obsessed with preventing criticism of the Catholic Church. He's clearly suffering a crisis of faith, in that he doesn't trust that the Church is strong enough to survive on its own merits.

3. Porn Czarina Makes Ultimate Sacrifice

Ms. Paula Houston has accepted the job of Utah's Obscenity and Pornography Complaints Ombudsman. In announcing her appointment, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said that "There's absolutely no redeeming value to pornography." Although presented as a fact, this is, of course, just an opinion. And although private citizen Shurtleff has a right to such an opinion, in the Attorney General's hands it has serious legal implications, since "redeeming social value" is one test that distinguishes (legal) pornography from (illegal) obscenity.

"I, for one," he continued, will not allow pornographers to hide behind the First Amendment." That's like criticizing physicians for "hiding behind" medical ethics. We don't "hide behind" the First Amendment; we celebrate, nurture, and use it. Of course, people only use it when they're saying unpopular things, so some people really dislike that darn First Amendment.

An interesting twist in this case is that Ms. Houston is a self-described virgin. That's right, the woman who will investigate complaints against books, films, drawings and websites that make some Utahans squirm says she's never been sexual with anyone. She didn't comment on masturbation, and unfortunately no one has asked.

While some people have jumped on this fact to ridicule the whole enterprise, we shouldn't. By criticizing the credentials of the person doing this horrifying job, we're validating the job. We're saying some people would be better suited than she. The truth is, nobody is suited for the job of deciding which words and pictures are dangerous for other people to see.

One question no one can answer is how the job will affect Ms. Houston. She'll still technically be a virgin, but only her hymen will remain untouched by her work. Pornography is meant to excite. If she gets excited--that is, does her job well--will she have committed a sin? Finally, will her dating life suffer, or will her porn collection make her the most popular girl in town?

You may remember Real Personal, a mid-1990s nightly interview/call-in TV show whose topic was sexuality. Host Bob Berkowitz says that Salt Lake City had the highest ratings of any city in the country.

4. Sex In Public Semi-Legal

As part of settling a harassment case, Massachusetts State Police have clarified their policy on sexual activity in public places. Troopers may roust people meeting in public places only if a crime is being committed. Sex in a public place, says the order, isn't necessarily a crime. It's a crime only if people having sex know there's a "substantial risk" that they'll be seen by casual passersby. In fact, if they're in a secluded spot, lovers aren't illegal even if someone sees them.

So if you get turned on by the chance of being caught having sex, Massachusetts still isn't the place for you. You're better off if your turn-on is the fear of being caught, and you make certain you're in a private rest area. Sounds like discrimination based on arousal pattern. And what if your fantasy is that you're invisible during sex? What if you sincerely believed you couldn't be seen, but others evaluate a locale differently? Trying to balance the needs of people who don't want to see with the needs of people who want to be seen is very tricky.

At least Massachusetts admits that its citizens have sex, some of them outdoors. If this were Utah, they'd hire another ombudsperson to handle the complaints. Talk about bureaucracy running wild.

5. Your Computer's Spying On You

Last week, I happened to re-read an article in which I reminded people that our computers keep a history of our Internet travels, whether we know how to access it or not. The next day, I followed a series of Web links to a most beautiful and comprehensive European gallery of critically-acclaimed nude photography. As I enjoyed row after row of tasteful and erotic male and female portraits, including some teenagers, I became uneasy. Even after I leave this site, I realized, my machine will know I've been there--and will cough up the information in a second if asked.

I called a friend and asked how to ask. It took even a techno-dummy like me only three seconds to find my recent Internet itinerary, which included the dangers of abstinence-only school sex education; data refuting the common myth that all children who have erotic contact with adults suffer trauma; a directory of American swing clubs, and excerpts from Terry Gould's best-seller The Lifestyle; a discussion of legal attacks on strip clubs; a list of books historically banned by Church or government; and news reports about smuggling RU486 into the U.S. And, of course, mundane stuff like the weather in L.A., my United mileage account, and the local movie schedule.

And porn. Lots of smiling people doing really nasty things. Perfectly legal. At the moment.

While to me, it's all in a day's work, it's easy to imagine someone else constructing a very different story from these elements. Not to be grandiose here, but this is exactly the kind of thing that many powerful government officials say is dangerous. Stuff like this is being called "character evidence" in cases about other things entirely.

So using my friend's instructions, I deleted the computer's web-surfing history, and changed it so it wouldn't keep any history beyond a day. In Netscape, click Edit, click Preferences, click Navigator, click Clear History, and then reset your history expiration date to 0 days. In Microsoft Explorer, click View, click Internet Options, on General click Clear History, and then reset your history expiration date to 0 days.

I've been in countries that regulate their citizens' computer and Internet usage. In fact, there are places where modems have to be registered with the government; in countries like Burma and North Korea, they're simply illegal for private citizens.

Of course, we're nowhere near such an insane situation. Nevertheless, you are now reading an article in which the American government is being discussed in the same breath as Burma and North Korea.

Change the history setting on your computer now. The rest of the newsletter will be waiting when you return.

6. CALENDAR: Marty Klein's speaking schedule

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

May 5, 2001
Existential Issues in Sex Therapy & Sex Counseling

  American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors & Therapists
  San Francisco

June 15, 2001
Cultural Issues in Sex Therapy

  Sexualities in Transition Conference
  Dubrovnik, Croatia

September 20-21, 2001
Human Sexuality

  (satisfies CA licensing requirements)
  National Association of Social Workers
  San Francisco

November 15-16, 2001
Human Sexuality

  (satisfies CA licensing requirements)
  National Association of Social Workers
  San Francisco

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