Sexual Intelligence, written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.
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Each month, Sexual Intelligence® examines the sexual implications of current events, politics, technology, popular culture, and the media.

Dr. Marty Klein is a Certified Sex Therapist and sociologist with a special interest in public policy and sexuality. He has written 6 books and 100 articles. Each year he trains thousands of professionals in North America and abroad in clinical skills, human sexuality, and policy issues.

Issue #159 – May, 2013


NBA Player Jason Collins Comes Out As Gay

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* I guess that means he can't be a Boy Scout leader no matter how good a man he is.

* How long until some kid in a gym tells another kid "You play good…for a straight guy"?

* So the NBA has caught up with the military. Now gays can openly shoot in both places.

* * *

In his interview with Sports Illustrated, Collins described why he came out: so he could be true to himself, stop lying to everyone, and live more authentically. That's what practically every gay person says when she/he comes out.

And that's what almost every straight person says when she/he comes out—as someone who's into S/M, or watches porn, or has been faking orgasms, or goes to strip clubs, or would like a finger in their butt during sex, or whatever. Bisexual people say it when they come out, too.

Gays and lesbians aren't the only people who come out. In a society so ambivalent about sex as ours, virtually everyone needs to come out. In America, just knowing what you want in bed is radical. Every year, a huge number of people ask my advice about "how do I tell my partner what I want sexually?" No one ever asks, "how do I tell my partner how I like my eggs cooked?"or "How do I tell my partner what kind of music I like?"

* So Jason Collins is the first pro to come out in a major sport. We'll probably hear about the first in baseball, football, and hockey. Will we hear about the second? The third? How many gay athletes will have to come out before it's no longer newsworthy?

* Yo, Religious Right: at least gays aren't having abortions.

* Some people now have several reasons they can hate the guy—because he's Black or because he's gay. It's great to be pro-choice, isn't it?

* Of course, there's no affirmative action on the athletic field, court, or diamond. If the guy doesn't rebound or defend, he'll get benched. Which, of course, is as it should be.

* Let's see, gay characters on TV, gays getting married, gay politicians, gay ballplayers…it's getting so that an American has to stay in their house just to avoid contact with the real world. Ah, that helps explain people home-schooling their kids.

* Almost every guy in the NBA has or has had a gay teammate. Soon everyone will know exactly who those teammates are. The real progress will be when people forget who those teammates are.

* * *

The day the Religious Right fears is coming ever closer: When sexual choices are considered private, not public. And when people are no longer judged on those private choices, but rather on their public behavior. Soon enough, religious fundamentalists will be the only ones who obsess about sexual categories. The rest of us won't be gay, or straight, or kinky, or asexual. We'll just be people.



George Bush: The Man Who Tried to Ruin Sex

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Southern Methodist University today unveiled the $250 million George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum. President Obama and former Presidents Bush, Carter, and Clinton were there, along with dignitaries from across America and the world.

The celebration tactfully omitted any mention of the three catastrophes of Bush's presidency—the counterproductive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the financial meltdown that handed the economy to Bush's friends in the energy industry and Wall Street.

Ironically, today's celebration focused on two of Bush's supposed policy triumphs—the No Child Left Behind Act, and his fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa. These two supposed triumphs (educators and public health officials more often call them ineffective) mirror and mock two destructive outcomes of Bush's domestic policies. His policies on sex education harmed tens of millions of children, and his policies on sexual health encouraged the spread of STDs (including HIV/AIDS) in the U.S.

As detailed in my book America's War On Sex, here's how President George W. Bush tried to ruin sex:

* Sex Education: Over a billion dollars was spent to promote abstinence-only sex ed. This program taught—literally— that condoms don't work, sex is dangerous if you're not married, and that teens who have sex are morally, emotionally, and psychologically deficient. The result was predictable: young people disdaining condoms, and a rush toward oral sex ("not real sex") at younger ages.

* The War on Porn: Bush's various Attorneys General were obsessed with prosecuting those who created and distributed movies showing adults having sex. The Justice Department used the Patriot Act to circumvent normal constitutional limits in these investigations, and RICO statutes to destroy anyone found guilty. The government even succeeded in busting the producers of pornographic texts—no photos, just words—something that hadn't been done in four decades.

* Sponsoring Religion & Religious Values: In addition to championing religiously-based sex ed programs, the Bush Administration created and funded the Department of Faith-based Programs. This neatly funneled tens of millions of dollars to Bush's supporters in the Christian Right, who were allowed to discriminate in hiring, firing, and program eligibility while using taxpayer funds.

This will actually be one of Bush's most permanently damaging policies, as no president will ever be able to dismantle a program that directly benefits religious institutions. President Obama, of course, expanded this disgusting giveaway, further eroding the integrity of the First Amendment.

* Censoring & Punishing Broadcasters: Remember Janet Jackson's nipple? Cher, Bono, and Nicole Richie using satanic syllables on live TV? Over $100 million was ultimately spent in the attempt to prevent Americans from seeing or hearing images or words so dangerous that the Constitution needed to be suspended. To pursue this pointless obsession, Bush empowered groups like the Parents Television Council and Morality in Media, giving these childish hysterics a seat at the policy table. To this day, they are attempting to control what words and pictures Americans are allowed to see and hear on their TVs.

* Destroying Reproductive Rights: Bush personally found contraception for unmarried people distasteful, and tried to eliminate legal abortion. On his watch, hundreds of state laws restricting abortion and contraception were crafted and passed. Bush spent years delaying the availability of Emergency Contraception—a modern medical miracle—as well as Gardasil, a drug that can save thousands of lives by preventing the spread of the type of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer.

* *

So what did Bush accomplish? More sexual confusion, ignorance, guilt, and shame; more unwanted pregnancies and dangerous illegal abortions; more fundamentalist religious values imposed on the rest of the population; and the largest explosion of access to pornography the world has ever known—with a network of federally-funded snitches entrapping more and more adults fantasizing in adult chatrooms.

Happy library and museum, Mr. Bush. Some of us won't let you rewrite history without a fight.

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How Does Your Body Know What Feels "Sexy"?

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Why does spanking (or holding hands, or oral sex, or masturbation, or gentle love-making) make one person feel alive, while it makes another person feel dreadful? Or to put it another way, when both Mary and Sally say "spanking makes me feel dirty," why does one smile approvingly and the other frown disapprovingly?

Sexuality is a complex biological, psychological, and social phenomenon. Since it involves our bodies, our experience is mediated in our brain—which tells us how something "feels." With the exception of extreme pain, most physical experiences are ambiguous—we can interpret them as pleasant or unpleasant, soothing or challenging. We generally interpret sensation rapidly and without conscious thought.

Thus, our biography—what we've done, where we've been, who we've been told we are, what we believe—has a tremendous influence on what our body actually experiences.

Depending on how we have grown up, loved, been loved, and struggled, our body interprets various kinds of sensory input (touch, smell, etc.) as, variously, sexy, scary, fun, confusing, gentle, pleasant, painful, teasing, overwhelming, exciting, or threatening. Or some combination of these.

To make things more complicated, culture has a voice in the way we interpret our body's experience. Society attaches (mostly arbitrary) meanings to various physical experiences—such as womanly, aggressive, insulting, spiritual, intimate, perverse, and "real sex."

So by the time we get into bed with a partner—whether a life partner, a one-night stand, or someone in-between—there are a lot of factors influencing our subjective experience of whatever happens. Sexually, friction is not just friction, just one body rubbing against another body. Every sensation is interpreted before we know how it "feels."

Understanding the way our biography (i.e., psychological and cultural influences) mediates our biological and sensory inputs during sex is the key to understanding our sexual experience—including our function and dysfunction, desire and frustration, anxiety and pleasure. Of course, it's impossible to do this literally.

What can be done—by trained clinicians working with motivated people—is examining and understanding the silhouette cast by this internal, continual, lightning-quick process. This can be seen as the set of erotic narratives that individuals tell themselves, both consciously and unconsciously. These are stories—in effect, instructions—that people use to understand and describe their sexual experience. Some of these narratives are conscious ("I'm the smart but unattractive sister"). Others are unconscious ("If I give people what they want they will abandon me").

By exploring these, client and therapist can see the processes by which the client takes their raw physical experience and transforms it into meaningful (positive, negative, or mixed) erotic interactions. If someone is dissatisfied with the kinds of sexual interactions they're having, working backwards to identify and see their narratives will help them understand how they create these unsatisfying situations in the first place. This can make deep change possible.

Conscious or unconscious, common erotic narratives include:

* "I'm not sexually desirable; I'm lucky to have any partner at all."
* "I'm only valuable for my sexuality."
* "Although I'm a man, my sexuality isn't very manly."
* "Sexually, I should do practically anything my partner wants."
* "Sex is really for making babies, not for mere pleasure."

Changing narratives like these isn't simple, but it can be done. When people do so, they interpret their sexual experiences differently. They then change their sexual decision-making. Increased desire and satisfaction, and more reliable, adult function is a typical result.

Truly, sex is more than an activity–it's an idea.

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