It's Thanksgiving, so let's give thanks for sex.
Not just the huffing and puffing, the in-ing and out-ing, the sloshing around and drying off. Let's give thanks for all the sexual rights we enjoy here in the U.S.--which billions of people in Russia, the Arab world, and many parts of Asia and Africa will never enjoy in their lifetimes.
Most of these rights have to do with privacy and autonomy. These always look dangerous to repressive or religiously-driven regimes. Science and technology look pretty frightening to such regimes when they can be applied for sexual purposes--which they inevitably are, throughout history.
So let's give thanks for the many ways we are allowed to use privacy and autonomy to express our sexuality, and to use science and technology to make sex safer and more life-affirming.
Still, we should remember that these rights are stained by the many limitations, mostly unconstitutional, that our local, state, and federal governments place on our sexual expression. In an era when tens of millions of Americans are calling for "smaller government," it's especially bitter that many of these same people are calling for more government intrusion into private sexual expression.
So let's give thanks that here in America . . .
- You can buy birth control in almost every community.
. . . Although an increasing number of pharmacists claim they are exempt from state laws requiring licensed pharmacists to fill all legal prescriptions. Does it matter what reason they give?
- The Supreme Court ruled, in Lawrence v Texas,
that morality alone cannot be the basis of American laws
criminalizing sexual acts, such as sodomy.
. . . Although powerful and well-financed Christian groups continue to demand--and get--laws to curb "indecency," "smut," "secularism," and "the homosexual agenda."
- Sex toys have become so acceptable that you can even buy
them via Amazon.com.
. . . Although most marriage counselors, clergy, and physicians are licensed without ever learning a single thing about them.
- You can get tested for many common STDs without a lot
of explanation. You can get tested for AIDS anonymously
. . . Although anti-pornography groups continue to lie that the adult film industry is a hotbed of STDs, and have targeted the industry for scrutiny by state safety inspectors.
- Emergency Contraception is now available over-the-counter
across the U.S..
. . . Although some desperate anti-choice activists lie and call it an abortion pill.
- In most big cities, you can still go to swingers clubs,
strip clubs, and dungeons.
. . . Although more and more cities are using emergency ordinances and discriminatory "sexually-oriented business" statutes to close these adult businesses--without having to prove they're dangerous.
- Many states have developed "Romeo & Juliet"
laws to reduce or eliminate penalties for consensual teen-teen
sex if the kids are close in age.
. . . Although most states still treat teen sexting--kids sending nude pictures of themselves and each other via mobile phone--as the felony of child porn distribution.
- You can check into a hotel with any adult you like without
having to explain why.
. . . Although Citizens for Community Values continues to pressure hotels to stop renting X-rated films in hotel rooms--and has succeeded with the Omni chain and a dozen Ohio hotels.
- Women can dress any way they like without fear of religious
or state-supported violence.
. . . Although men and women still get arrested every year for being topless or nude in parks and beaches--unlike our cousins in Europe, where toplessness and nudity are considered "normal" at public beaches and parks.
- You can watch most available adult pornography on your
own computer in your own home.
. . . Although millions of computers in workplaces, universities, and libraries are filtered, typically with algorithms that are secret.
- Almost every American has sex before they marry, which
should undermine the credibility of religious and political
leaders who pour billions of dollars into the failed "abstinence"
. . . Although millions of young people still pledge abstinence, proven to be one of the least effective methods of preventing pregnancy or STDs.
- Grandparents like Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, and
the Rolling Stones are still performing, showing exactly
what sex in old age can be like.
. . . If, of course, you're rich, famous, and very, very fortunate.
I also give thanks for my many readers, and your encouraging messages of support throughout the year. You can contact me at Klein AT SexEd DOT org.
I just saw the stupidest--and funniest--sex film of the decade.
John Waters made A Dirty Shame in 2004. Perhaps you've seen one of his 11 other films--Hairspray (made into a Tony-winning Broadway musical in 2003), the brilliant Cecil B. Demented, Pink Flamingos (one of 6 that he made with the cross-dressing, 300-pound actor Divine), or his first, Mondo Trasho (best movie title of the century, no?).
A Dirty Shame stars Tracy Ullman, our era's classic comedienne (think Claudette Colbert, Myrna Loy, Lucille Ball, Rosalind Russell) and pop singer Chris Isaak (our era's um, Chris Isaak) as Sylvia & Vaughn Stickles, a married couple living in very-vanilla Baltimore. Sylvia gets a head injury, becomes a sex maniac, and hilarity ensues.
In fact, she discovers that many people in Baltimore are not-entirely-closeted sex maniacs of various persuasions, which presents her with some colorful learning opportunities. She suddenly understands the gay "bears" living down the street, supports the elderly french-kissing on the sidewalk, meets a diaper fetishist, and sees how sexy the crotches of trees are.
And she suddenly understands her 18-year-old daughter Caprice, living under house arrest for indecent exposure. The young lovely has built an ersatz career with watermelon-size breast implants, dancing under the nom-de-boner Ursula Udders.
Meanwhile, Sylvia's mother, Big Ethel, unaware that her daughter is now a sex maniac, leads the locals in a stop-perversion movement. At one point they chant, "Down With Tolerance!" Now we're talking serious satire. Along the way there are several visits to Sexaholics Anonymous meetings. Did I mention hilarious satire?
The DVD extras are charming. Cast members discuss learning about fetishes, and the wholesome-yet-erotic energy on the set (different from your average film, all agree).
In particular, they recall Selma Blair (Caprice/Ursula) walking around between takes wearing gigantic prosthetic naked breasts. They apparently looked quite real (except for the obviously unreal size), which presented a charming dilemma: Blair's own breasts were completely covered by the prosthesis--but she looked topless. OK for others to look? Weird for others to get turned on looking? Weird that she didn't feel the need to cover them?
It's reminiscent of the battles public school authorities have had with students wanting to wear t-shirts painted with nude breasts or skirts featuring nude butts. What's "covered," what's "nude," and what's "sexy?"
Waters' films always feature people who feel like outsiders, and always feature personal sexuality as insurrectionary (a key plot device of the good-natured Hairspray was Riki Lake and other young white girls wanting to dirty dance with black kids in 1962).
This is a very funny film that happens to be about sex. It's also a sex movie that happens to be very funny. Unfortunately it's rated NC-17 for "pervasive sexual language and content"--even though we don't see a single sex act on camera. Perhaps the American film raters/censors were distressed by euphemisms like "yodeling in the canyon" for cunnilingus.
Or maybe they objected to the suggestion that the difference between being a sex addict and being a prude is just one unexpected knock on the noggin.
Iceland, the world's oldest democracy, is now heading in exactly the opposite direction. And they're doing it in a familiar way--by eliminating choices regarding sex.
Iceland has now criminalized all strip clubs. And forget even something as quaint as a topless bar; the repression of the 1950s is looking positively progressive, as the law even makes it illegal for a business to profit from the nudity of employees.
What makes this law particularly repulsive is the crowing of self-proclaimed "feminists" and "women's advocates," who seem unable to grasp the simple idea of adult choice. Member of Parliament Kolbrun Halldorsdottir says, "It is not acceptable that women or people in general are a product to be sold."
By that, I assume she also plans to shut down all theaters and soccer matches too, well-known sites where "women or people" are a product to be sold. You say that that's where the public purchases performances by women and men? Explain that to the strippers who are now out of jobs because Parliament disapproves of their performances.
The legislation, of course, comes bundled with claims about forced prostitution, rape, and trafficking, legitimate issues that are trotted out on cue whenever someone wants to justify restrictions on any consensual sexual expression. They are the sexual equivalent of flag-waving and mom-&-apple-pie.
Iceland's prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottirs is not only a woman, but an open lesbian. As Americans already know, female politicians are no more willing to guarantee sexual rights to women than the most misogynist male. Apparently, lesbian politicians are just as willing to curtail others' rights as straight politicians. No surprise there, either—as we’ve been saying for decades, gay people are just people who happen to be gay. Some of them are against sexual expression and sexual rights.
Plenty of dictatorships and women-hating countries in our world officially ban stripping--either for "moral" or "religious" reasons. Iceland has the distinction of being the first country in the world to ban stripping and lap-dancing for allegedly feminist reasons. They think this is a good thing. To an adult woman prevented from doing what she wants by a government who doesn't trust her to make her own decisions, it's a pathetic distinction.
Guorun Jonsdottir of Stigamot, an Icelandic organization fighting sexual violence, supports the ban because sex "is not a commodity." That's the same sophomoric nonsense that Pope Benedict XVI uses to deprive women of their right to contraception and abortion. Is he a closet feminist, too?
If you're giving gifts this season, give sex. At a discount!
Give one of my books: Ask Me Anything (600 questions and answers about sex), Beyond Orgasm (about sexual communication and self-acceptance) and America's War On Sex (about how the Religious Right is using the issue of sexual regulation to undermine American democracy).
Or for the psychologist or physician on your gift list, give one of my CD sets. These multi-disc sets feature my thought-provoking, practical, entertaining trainings on various subjects: sexuality, power, couples, etc.
Our user-friendly terms:
- Take a 15% discount by using code SI15 before December 31.
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For questions, write Klein AT SexEd DOT org, or call 800/584-5111 between 10am-midnite PACIFIC time.