In my 11 years of publishing Sexual Intelligence monthly, this is the latest it's ever gone out. The reason is simple: I was finishing my new book. It's now safely at HarperCollins, who will publish it in January 2012. I promise to let you know about it so you can be the first on your block to own one.
I'll resume the normal first-of-the-month schedule on March 1.
Calling it "the most dangerous show on television," the Parents Television Council has asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether MTV's "Skins" violates federal child pornography statutes.
The show's sins are that they (1) show teens having and enjoying sexual activity, and (2) employ teen actors to portray these teens.
For years, the Parents Television Council has staked its claim to Ozzie & Harriet paranoid nostalgia territory. They say that shows including Hawaii Five-O and the NFL Playoffs are unsuitable for family viewing. Maybe they mean families that don't have TVs--or cell phones, the internet, or friends. Their vision of "family" is some weird amalgam of Amish purity and North Korean isolationism.
"Child porn," of course, is to American culture what garlic and a cross are to vampires. So almost a dozen national advertisers have already dropped out, including Wrigley, Taco Bell, Subway, and GM. GM? Maybe they'd planned ads saying "teens, since you're going to have degenerate sex that puts your life in jeopardy, do it in a spacious GM car."
Referring to TV showing a naked 17-year-old's butt (running down the street away from the camera) as "child porn" is cynical posturing. It proves that the PTC has no real interest in children. I said this when they went to the FCC, predicting that Janet Jackson's Superbowl nipple would topple civilization (the Egyptian revolt notwithstanding), and I say it again: the PTC's agenda is about accumulating power and manipulating the public, not about protecting children or families.
America's child porn laws--among the strictest in the world--are meant to protect children from being exploited by selfish or damaged adults. Claiming that such laws criminalize an honest look at the lives of teenagers just perpetuates the teen isolation, adult ignorance, and family fragmentation the PTC and child safety advocates claim to oppose.
Describing bare teen butt or a storyline about teens using erection drugs as child porn trivializes how the creation of real child porn damages actual, living children. And the PTC is entirely disingenuous when it says it wants to protect the poor teen actors in the show. Every minor in front of the camera has to have a parent's (not to mention an agent's) approval. Child labor laws and other industry standards are protecting these young professionals. The PTC knows that better than most people.
It would be interesting to speculate what the PTC would say if these teen characters were played by adults. Wouldn't they find that terribly salacious? One can just imagine them thrashing around--"adults modeling inappropriate adult behavior for teens--on a show supposedly about teens. Disgusting, immoral, and dangerous."
And, by the way, eligible for legal interpretation as child porn. Yes, American law prohibits producers from claiming that "lascivious" material features underage performers when it doesn't.
Finally, let's address the PTC's question of "Skins" leading innocent teens to hell via the demon of sexuality. Parents, if you haven't done anything to teach your kids about sexuality, values, and decision-making, and "Skins" is their sex education--you've already made a few mistakes. Now's the time to address this. Compared to this deficit in their life education, the question of whether they watch "Skins" is trivial.
You may have read my most recent book, America's War On Sex. It's won a couple of awards, and I've lectured on the subject in dozens of cities. I'm pretty proud of it.
The publisher (Praeger) has asked me about doing a second edition--updating it and perhaps adding other material. In some ways, it would be more complicated than just writing a whole new book. So I've been thinking about how to do it.
How's the War on Sex been going since the book was published? My initial answer is: "mixed." Here's the initial scorecard for the four years since the book was published.
* Good news The Obama federal budget cut much of the $100 million annual funding for abstinence-only programs. It allocated $100 million for "teenage pregnancy prevention" --limited to programs showing evidence of success. That eliminates, of course, virtually all "abstinence-only" curricula.
* Bad news: Church groups and national groups like Focus on the Family have picked up the slack, with events like Purity Balls, Chastity Balls, and Silver Ring Thing.
* Bad news: State governments are still funding "abstinence-only" programs that have already failed hundreds of thousands of kids.
* Good news: Contraception is still legal for every American.
* Bad news: It's pathetic that a modern country actually has to celebrate that.
* Good news: Emergency contraception is available without a prescription if you're over 18.
* Bad news: Some pharmacists still refuse to dispense emergency contraception. Their lobby has gotten larger, stronger, and richer.
* Bad news: Abortions are getting harder to find in the U.S.; 87% of U.S. counties have no abortion provider.
* Bad news: Congressmembers like Michelle Bachman propose to defund Planned Parenthood.
* Good news: A federal court overturns the FCC's half-million-dollar fine for CBS broadcasting a half-second of Janet Jackson's nipple during the 2004 Superbowl.
* Good news: Cable TV features programs like The Daily Show and movies like Body Heat whose language and images are not censored like broadcast TV.
* Good news: Nighttime network TV shows feature characters in hospitals and police cars who actually use expressions like "pissed off" and "D bag."
* Bad news: Groups like Morality in Media and Parents Television Council have a voice at the corporate and federal public policy table, armed with little more than money and a demand for "responsible" programming.
* Good news: Craigslist and other internet sites allow middle-class consumers to find commercial sex more easily than ever.
* Bad news: An increasing number of cities and counties are successfully banning strip clubs, swing clubs, and adult bookstores without having to prove any actual negative effects of these establishments.
Good news: U.S. courts continue to overturn state attempts to censor the internet. (I'm proud to have been a defendant in a few of these cases.)
* Bad news: The number of universities, public agencies, companies, and other institutions that censor the internet (including this blog) is increasing.
* Good news: Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society issues report, endorsed by 49 state attorneys general, that "bullying and harassment, most often by peers, are the most frequent threats that minors face online"--not sexual predators.
* Bad news: The media, Congress, religious groups, and others perpetuate the lie that the internet is terribly dangerous for young people.
* Bad news: Young people are being prosecuted as sex offenders and child pornographers for "sexting"--sending nude or sexual pictures of themselves to each other.
* Good news: Free adult porn is still easily available.
* Good news: The rate of violent crime, sexual assault, divorce, and suicide continue to decline--despite predictions that porn would increase each one.
* Bad news: Lies about the social effects of pornography consumption are still popular, repeated in the media, and form the basis for continued Congressional and judicial concern.
* Bad news: A new "porn addiction" industry has emerged, backed by plenty of fear, anger, & shame, no science, and no outcome data.
Sexual Privacy & Minorities
* Good news: Same-gender marriage is legal in 6 states.
* Good news: The military is in the process of allowing gay men and women to serve alongside straight soldiers.
* Good news: There are over 800 Gay-Straight Alliances in California high schools alone. With a substantial minority of straight students, there's even a national organization providing technical and other support to new clubs across the country.
* Bad news: 44 states still bar same-gender marriage--twice as many as the number of states that ban marriage between first cousins.
* Bad news: Involvement in an "alternative sexual lifestyle" (non-monogamy, S/M, etc.) can still be used as evidence to deny someone custody in a divorce settlement.
. . .Meanwhile, Americans continue to be more experimental in their bedrooms each year. Almost all Americans have had sexual experience before they marry. And Americans continue to go to church at a higher rate than any other modern country.
In our continuing commitment to being timely, today we honor Black History Month--by discussing the question of racism in pornography.
The criticism that pornography is racist comes from the Left--from publications like Ms., university departments of Women's Studies, and groups who believe that all sex work is male violence against women.
Their current champion is author Gail Dines, whose recent book 'Pornland' blames every one of America's evils (except the Social Security mess) on pornography. In the chapter titled "Racy Sex, Sexy Racism!" she makes the nonsensical assertion that porn "racializes the bodies and sexual behavior of the performer" by noting dialogue like "Saxxx tried to clean herself up [but] she was still a low-down dirty ghetto ho! So I rammed her." And she triumphantly cites video titles such as "Oh No! There's a Negro in My Mom."
Dines sounds like the kind of person who would say that the title "Animal House" denigrates college students, "The Sunshine Boys" denigrates old people, "Miss Saigon" denigrates Asians, and "Lawrence of Arabia" insults non-arabic Lawrences. For someone who claims to study culture, she is completely tone-deaf to the musical language of both film and sex.
Some have responded to these neo-Marxist, post-modernist critiques of pornography by noting the many empowered non-white directors and web mistresses. But that dignifies the "racism" argument and misses the point. Let's get right down to the action.
In pornography today, men of color portray a variety of roles: aggressive, loving, playful, awestruck, horny. Mostly horny, just like white actors. And women of color do the same: they are, variously, submissive, dominant, demanding, and squealing with pleasure, just like white actresses.
Of course, if you want to see racial stereotypes in porn, you'll find them with absolutely no effort: white women rammed with huge black erections. White men rammed with huge black erections. Black women thrilled to blow white musclemen. Black men mumbling like Snoop Dogg, black women with weaves and ridiculously long nails, Asian women with small breasts, Brazilian women with those round Brazilian butts, Latino men with more tattoos than their Jewish friends.
Considering that all these portrayals are simply vehicles for sexual fantasy, anyone who calls those racial stereotypes needs to look at their own racism, not the viewers'.
Because what these complaints are really about is that people of color are portrayed as sexual. If it's bad to show a big Black penis sending a white woman into ecstasy, is it better to show a small Black penis doing the same? What about a Black penis--small or large--disappointing a woman, white or Hispanic? And if it's racist to show a small Asian woman meekly submitting to a dominant white man, what about showing her demanding sex, shoving his face between her legs and barking, "I'll let you know when it's time to stop!" Is that less racist?
There are plenty of people who think that pornography--any pornography--is so bad that adults should be denied access to it. While this thinking is dangerous, simple-minded, and bad for America, there's a purity to it that one can almost respect. But criticizing pornography--the representation of sexual fantasy--for its portrayal of race is intellectually dishonest. It's emotion disguised as thought. It's the willful misinterpretation of tropes and metaphors that porn viewers understand.
It's the same old criticism--we shouldn't gratify our sexual impulses outside authorized real-life relationships--dressed up in post-modernist rhetoric that disguises its prudery and rejection of sexuality.
Every porn actor and actress appears to be some race. Porn doesn't do that, the human body does that. What sexual configuration of bodies that exhibit race can't be construed as racist?
Show me pornography that includes actual sex, where the actors and actresses sweat and swear, all the orifices and organs get used, the average consumer gets off, and that can't be attacked as racist. I say it doesn't exist. Show it to me, and I'll listen to an argument that today's pornography is racist.
Until you can show me nasty, taboo, hot-monkey-love porn that can't be called racist, I say the problem for the Gail Dines crowd is that it's porn, not racist porn.
'Fess up, honkies.
Each year, Sexual Intelligence Awards honor individuals and organizations which challenge the sexual fear, unrealistic expectations, and government hypocrisy that undermine love, sex, and relationships--and political freedom--today. Previous winners include Dr. Paul Joannides, Psychoanalyst & Author; Dr. Bill Taverner, Sex Educator; Candye Kane, Blues Mama; the National Center for Reason & Justice; Vermont Law School; and two ground-breaking books about Vietnamese culture: Sexuality in Contemporary Vietnam: Easy to Joke About But Hard to Talk About, and For Better or For Worse: Vietnamese International Marriages in the New Global Economy.
Your nomination is invited. You may submit more than one nomination, and you may nominate yourself. Send one or two paragraphs about your nominee(s) to Klein (at) SexEd (dot) org. Deadline for nominations is February 27; winners will be announced March 1.