It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to one of the best sex education websites in the history of the world: http://www.MyBeautifulSexLife.com.
Designed for high school and college students—and terrific for grownups of all ages—it's accurate, relevant, and funny.
The producer is psychologist and college lecturer (the NCAA even asked him to speak to college athletes) Dr. Paul Joannides. The author and publisher of the famous Guide to Getting It On, Paul has been experimenting with various ways of educating young adults about sex for a very long time.
Believe it or not, the material on this website changes daily. Paul's idea is to use catchy phrases, accurate line drawings, and brief, often-funny paragraphs to convey a single message at a time. Topics include what young people care about most: orgasms, "performance," consent, anatomy, and communication. Here's a sample of today's items:
- Enough with the anal obsession! (Contradicting porn's depiction that everyone's doing, and loving, anal sex.)
- Guys describe how their up waking-up vs. hot-for-you erections feel
- A reminder about the effectiveness and convenience of IUDs
- The relationship of the vagina, bladder, and uterus—via a TSA image
- Most women's breasts are 2 different sizes
The site is steadfastly oriented toward enhancing pleasure and closeness rather than preventing disease and disaster. Which do you think people pay more attention to?
I love that this site talks about sex as it really is, discussing topics that people really want to know about. That's a big contrast to the watered-down abstractions that so many sex ed and self-help programs use—which reflect society's discomfort with using proper adult words for body parts and common activities.
There isn't a euphemism to be seen here. The site's incredibly simple design encourages people to forward the helpful drawings and wry slogans to friends and lovers. For real expertise on real subjects (as a bonus, you'll smile, too), check it out.
You may not know it, but Banned Books Week just ended.
Sponsored each year by the American Library Association, National Coalition Against Censorship, and other groups, Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read. It highlights the value of free and open access to information—access that is currently limited in some way in every single state.
Each year, hundreds of books and plays are banned in American schools, libraries, and theaters. Some of the most frequently-banned are classics of Western civilization, such as 1984, Catch-22, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest—all, coincidentally, about the dangers of following authority blindly. "Dangerous" books like these are surely banned in Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia as well.
But U.S. censors don't simply want to keep adult books out of people's hands; each year, the most-often banned books are wildly popular books written for children. These include Robie Harris's It's Perfectly Normal, the Harry Potter series, Judy Blume's books, and this year's "winner," The Adventures of Captain Underpants.
It's easy to deride the impulse to censor as the product of paranoid or repressed Right-wing minds. But the Left has a strong impulse to censor as well. Let's look at some of the institutions of censorship championed by the Left on college campuses these days:
- Trigger warnings
Professors are being increasingly pressured to warn students of any words they may hear in lectures or read in books that "trigger" strong feelings in students, including incest, virgin, Holocaust, and yes, tornado. Predictably, some professors are whitewashing their lectures and reading lists to accommodate, rather than challenge, students' lack of abilities to handle life. Rather than demanding personal growth, this policy will assure that such students remain victims.
- Speech codes
Most universities now have speech codes prohibiting students or anyone else on campus from saying things that hurt others' feelings. While often described as creating a "safe campus environment," this restricts spirited debate, makes sure students won't be challenged, discourages anyone from learning rhetorical skills, prevents students from learning how to deal with hurt feelings, and gives the Administration the power to expel almost any student they wish.
- Challenging controversial campus lecturers or graduation speakers
The heckler's veto is a key tool on campus these days. It is now dressed up as political speech. Condoleeza Rice withdrew from speaking at Rutgers after a student sit-in involved police and a shattered glass door. The Consul General of Israel was prevented from speaking at a San Francisco area college by a small group of pro-Palestinian students. Warren Farrell was prevented from speaking at the University of Toronto by a group of so-called feminists who misunderstood his truly feminist message—before he spoke. Apparently none of these groups who so passionately oppose "oppression" and "privilege" see the irony in their oppressive bullying of their fellow students.
- Ignoring female students' binge drinking
While RAPE IS NEVER THE VICTIM'S FAULT (is that clear enough?), it is baffling that tens of thousands of college women drink to the point of incapacity weekend after weekend when this behavior is a proven risk factor for rape. It is even more baffling that anyone who mentions this is attacked as a rape apologist. We helpfully tell each other to stay out of certain neighborhoods at night because they are dangerous (especially to women traveling alone). So why is it wrong to say "don't deliberately get roaring drunk in certain neighborhoods at night because that's dangerous"? Yes, of course, men need to be sternly addressed and they need to change. But at the very same time we can ask women to think about how and why they deliberately risk putting themselves in harm's way.
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For short videos of John Waters, Whoopi Goldberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and others participating in Banned Books Week, including a wonderful clip from Dav Pilkey about what to do if you hate a certain book, click here.
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For more on campus censorship (including their devastating critique of how the U.C. Berkeley Chancellor has dishonored the Free Speech Movement), see http://www.TheFire.org.
How many people do you think are sex trafficked in the U.S. every year: 200,000? 300,000?
If your blood's boiling about what sounds these days like an epidemic, here's good news: According to the U.S. Justice Department, the actual number of people trafficked into the country for all reasons (mostly for labor rather than sex) is about 17,500 people year. In a rare show of bureaucratic consensus, the U.S. State Department's estimate is between 14,000-17,000.
"But," you say, "surely that's too low? What about the numbers I hear from all these anti-trafficking organizations?"
Good question. And here's the answer: if you define trafficking broadly enough, it does look like there are a million or more victims. The numbers also sound enormous if you're vague about whether the trafficking involves the U.S. or semi-functional countries like Moldova, Haiti, and Bangladesh.
Some non-profit organizations define sex trafficking to include all prostitutes. Others include all porn actresses. Still others include anyone giving hand jobs in a massage parlor. Forced marriage of teen girls and older men is ugly—and virtually unknown in the U.S.. But some anti-sex trafficking activists count these young people as well. No wonder these activists or "researchers" get such enormous, scary, numbers.
Most manipulative of all, activists keep warning of the number of people "at risk" for being sex trafficked—millions of women and children. "At risk" because they're poor, or unloved, or drug-addicted, or have trouble with English. Using that logic, 45 million Americans are "at risk" of dying in plane crashes every month, and twenty million Californians are "at risk" of dying in car crashes every week. No one's in a panic about that, of course, because such definitions of "at risk" are meaningless.
The results of this muddled thinking are great for fund-raising but bad for public policy. Our anxiety increases at a far greater rate than the supposed problem we're being told to fear.
Which brings us to the SAVE Act, passed overwhelmingly this year by a proud Congress and now being considered by the Senate. It supposedly criminalizes the advertising of trafficking. But because of the way that activists define "trafficking," it actually criminalizes the advertising of all erotic services, such as escorts (neatly undermining that pesky First Amendment at the same time).
This extends to websites like BackPage.com and MyRedbook.com (both recently seized by the federal government), which not only advertised erotic services and other businesses, but also served to create and focus a vibrant social networking and information-sharing community. Websites like these are places for escorts and other service providers to get emotional support and medical information, and to alert each other to dangerous clients and helpful public resources. Countless escorts have been spared misery by the safety tips and advice shared in these forums.
And so the SAVE Act attempts to protect us from a very small amount of sex trafficking by undermining the health and safety of a fairly large number of working women. It would be hard to design a worse system if you tried.
Let's review the differences between escort work and sex trafficking.
Sex Trafficking: Always involves coercion. Generally involves being removed from one's home. The person is always being controlled while not working, often hidden from the public. A person can't voluntarily leave this situation.
Escort Work & Erotic Services: Mostly done by choice (while many have only limited life choices, that still doesn't make it coercion). Typically stay in or near one's home, and usually still connected with loved ones such as children, parents, or spouse. The person generally has a near-normal private life when not working. Most such persons can voluntarily leave if they choose to do something else.
These are completely different phenomena—except in the minds of many anti-trafficking activists, who can't seem to imagine treating escorts as actual human beings making adult choices about their lives.
The SAVE Act takes resources earmarked for ending trafficking—a horrendous crime of coercion by truly evil people—and instead uses them to undermine escort and erotic services—dramatically different activities that primarily involve willing adults, most of whom are ordinary people. As are their customers.
It's simply immoral to take money and time that could be used to fight evil and spend it instead to fight a moral crusade that most people don't care much about—unless activists spread the myth that escorts are victims of sex trafficking who must be rescued.
The SAVE Act actually undermines the fight against trafficking in these other ways:
- By eliminating U.S.-based websites, it pushes escorts and other providers to use offshore-based websites (just as Americans moved to offshore gambling websites when domestic sites were criminalized in the U.S.). Historically, these offshore sites have been much less cooperative with American law-enforcement than domestic sites in pursuing and catching real traffickers. This is predictable, given the difficulty of the U.S. asserting legal jurisdiction over foreign website operators.
- It creates a heavy incentive for advertising networks and third-party hosts to obtain identifying information from every person using their internet service. Given escorts' and other providers' reasonable fears of police action, hacking, blackmail, and public exposure, compromised privacy is the last thing any of them wants.
- It undermines everyone's rights of free expression, creating a new class of speech that would lie outside the First Amendment's protection. This is almost never good, particularly for people whose lifestyle or political ideas attract criticism.
The people the SAVE Act is supposed to help—erotic service providers "at risk" for trafficking—oppose it almost unanimously. They know it will make them less safe, less able to vet customers, less able to control their own lives, and less able to maintain a community where they help and support each other. When a law designed to help a group is opposed by that group, you know it's a bad law—almost certainly passed by cynical (or ignorant) politicians trying to score points with a gullible public.
The SAVE Act will save no one and benefit no one—except those determined to inflate the number of individuals supposedly trafficked year by year until we have the (media-driven) "epidemic" they claim to be committed to preventing. As each online advertising forum is shut down, expect activists to proudly note the number of "at risk" people it has "saved."
So get ready for the alleged trafficking epidemic the SAVE Act is supposed to eliminate. In our perverse world, the larger the alleged epidemic gets, the more it will be used as "evidence" that activist efforts are somehow very necessary—and effective.