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 #209 – July 2017


Independence Day and Sexual Freedom

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Today's our country's birthday. Happy Birthday America!

It's a good day to remind ourselves how free we are. And to consider the astounding fact that we have more sexual options than almost any other society in the history of the world. I don't know how your mother, priest, or neighbor feels, but as far as the American government is concerned:

* You're free to choose any sexual partner you wish. (1)
* You're free to associate with other adults at private sex clubs. (2)
* You're free to watch any film, hear any song, see any play, read any book involving sex. (3)
* You're free to use any form of contraception you wish. (4)
* You're free to have your child get sex education in public school. (5)
* You're free to get comprehensive sexual health care: pap smears, breast exams, contraception, STD testing, and counseling. (6)
* You're free to publicly acknowledge your alternative sexual lifestyle. (7, 7a)
* You're free to use the internet to find partners for sex, sexy chat, or advice about sexual lifestyles. (8)
* You're free to publish scientific research on sexual orientation, sexual identity, and sexual behavior. (9)
* You're free to publish scientific research on the incidence and causes of sexual violence, date rape, and sexual assault. (10)
* You're free to have medication prescribed for your depression or anxiety. (11)
* You're free to get expensive, intrusive fertility treatments. (12, 12a)
* You're free to watch as much internet porn as you like. (13)

There are, however, limits to these various freedoms. They're typically imposed on you by those who don't trust your sexuality—and perhaps not their own, either. These restrictions do NOT celebrate America's freedoms.

1. As long as you don't pay for sex, or accept money for sex.
2. As long as the local city council, zoning board, or district attorney hasn't prevented the club's existence.
3. As long as the religious right or "progressive" left hasn't decided you can't.
4. As long as your local pharmacist is willing to fill your prescription.
5. Unfortunately, it's about 50-50 whether the sex "education" course is oriented to reality or to fantasy-based "abstinence" curriculum that actually increase problematic sexual outcomes.
6. As long as you can pay for it, and can find a local provider to take your money.
7. As long as you don't get involved in a child custody suit, where your ex-spouse's lawyer will use it against you.
7a. As long as your current boss doesn't believe your former employment as a stripper, porn actress, or other sex work disqualifies you from current employment.
8. As long as you don't engage in age role-play with strangers in a chat room—who, if they're vigilantes or undercover cops, will pursue you and use the judicial system to ultimately register you as a sex offender.
9. As long as some group doesn't decide that your work is "dangerous," "biased," or "hate speech," in which case they will use social media and in-person threats to make your life miserable.
10. As long as you don't teach at an American university, where supposedly "feminist" students will try to get you disciplined or fired for creating "unsafe spaces" and facilitating conversations they find upsetting.
11. As long as you don't mind your physician being ignorant about the drug's sexual side effects.
12. As long as you don't mind your physician's inability or unwillingness to ask detailed questions about your sexual behavior that could make the treatment unnecessary.
12a. As long as you don't mind possibly destroying your sexual relationship in your quest to conceive ASAP.
13. As long as you're able to navigate the fraudulent field of "porn addiction;" and can resist the demonstrably false idea that watching porn leads to both rape and erectile dysfunction; and can negotiate with a mate who feels she has the right to a porn-free home (supported, of course, by your couples therapist, who has never taken as much as a 1-hour clinical course on pornography).


While we're thinking about sexual freedom, let's remember some of the many people who suffered to give us the sexual rights we do have:

* Bill Baird: Birth control pioneer who eventually prevailed in Baird v Eisenstat, legalizing contraception for single adults;
* Margaret Sanger: Opened the first American birth control clinic, prosecuted and exiled;
* Lenny Bruce: Entertainer arrested multiple times and ultimately destroyed for using "obscene" words onstage;
* Judy Blume: Author of teen novels that actually portray sex and sexual feelings accurately—one of the most censored authors in American history;
* Alfred Kinsey: Sex researcher hounded not only in life, but in death as well by conspiracy theorists such as Judith Reisman;
* Robert Mapplethorpe, Jock Sturges, & Sally Mann: photographers whose sexually-themed work outraged people who weren't content to simply not look;
* Phil Harvey: Philanthropist and businessman whose years of resistance to federal prosecution changed American law—and facilitated the sale of sex products through the U.S. mail.

Thanks to individuals like these, and to our Founders, for establishing and maintaining our extraordinary level of sexual freedom.

Happy Birthday America!

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Tantra, Squirting, BDSM—Not For My Patients, Thanks

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Squirting, BDSM, teledildonics, riding glass elevators without panties—for people who enjoy such things, that's fine. For them. Really.

But when people with inadequate, frustrating, or painful sex lives come into my office, those kinds of exotica are not what I think of first. Or second.

In fact, one way that therapists undermine therapy is by suggesting alternative kinds of sexual expression to people or couples who are just not ready for them. That's like a physical therapist suggesting a patient run a marathon when he or she still has shin splints or hip pain.

It's great that the public now has access to such a wide variety of sexual variations, including swing clubs, polyamory, sex toys, anal play, pornography, various Eastern techniques, and BDSM. For people who are eager and ready to experiment, have at it.

But too many patients approach such things with a sense of desperation, and many are angry with their partners or ashamed of themselves. That's not a very good foundation for sexual experimentation. And yet therapists call me all the time asking for suggestions, and patients come to me in the wake of sexual experiments that didn't quite work out the way they hoped.

If activities like Tantra, BDSM, and squirting are perfectly fine for millions of people, how then can they be problematic for so many other people?

* Rules: Most sexual variations have rules, guidelines, or predictable routines. Tantra shapes male orgasm. BDSM involves breathing, high levels of trust, and monitoring your partner's (or your own) reaction. Vaginal squirting is of course goal-oriented.

Prescribed rules and routines can be so distracting that people have trouble enjoying the sex. And they contradict the single best approach to sexuality—no rules, no routines, no hierarchies, and other than (if necessary) birth control, no have-tos.

* Communication: Effective communication is central for people to be satisfied with alternative sexualities. Whether before (establishing a safe word), during ("I don't care for this as much as I thought I would"), or after sex ("Next time, please spend even more time with my nipples"), this is fine—unless you really don't like communicating about sex.

When patients ask me about consensual non-monogamy, I often say, "Mary, you know all those conversations George wants to have about sex that you find so boring? Non-monogamy will require way more of those conversations than you've ever had."

* Expectations: Acolytes fond of alternative sexualities, and therapists working with people who don't enjoy sex, both tend to raise the expectations of the uninitiated way too high.

Those who enjoy alternative sexualities sometimes forget the complex path they took to get there. And sexually uninformed therapists sometimes underestimate the emotional sophistication it can take to enjoy non-traditional forms of sexual expression.

And so for many hurting or inhibited people, the payoffs of learning how to combine sex with theater, or becoming experts in gynecological function, or of challenging cultural norms about privacy, gender, and the body, may simply not be worth the effort.

* Lifestyle: For some people, an activity like using handcuffs is a twice-yearly spice in their usual life's soup. For others, things like exhibitionism or squirting are part of a normal week, part of the ongoing fabric of their sexual expression.

While we could argue that more men and women should take sex more seriously and make more time for it, the fact is that people who struggle with sexual boredom, frustration, anger, or shame are already taking sex quite seriously—just not in a way that provides healing, pleasure, or intimacy. Thus, encouraging these men and women to make sex a bigger parts of their lives is counterintuitive and possibly even counterproductive. At the very least, it may easily seem pointless.

* *

Giving yourself permission to, say, enjoy a finger in your butt or get aroused going braless in public can certainly enhance your sense of empowerment and self-acceptance (especially if the experience turns out OK).

But how does someone get there? People who feel self-conscious about their bodies aren't going to enjoy showing off in public. People who are afraid to ejaculate too quickly, too slowly, or not at all aren't going to enjoy following rules about how to orgasm properly.

So for many people, there have to be steps before experimenting or practicing new sexual activities or techniques. What might such people need?

* Self-acceptance
My imperfect body is OK; my lack of sexual experience or expertise is OK.

* Communication skills
How to say yes; how to say no; how to ask for something a little different; how to say "I'm not sure what I want, but this isn't it;" how to say "Please tell me you care about me."

* Sense of entitlement & empowerment
It's OK to enjoy sex; it's OK to shape sex the way you want it; it's OK to not know exactly what you want; it's OK to want something yesterday but not today.

When the subject is sex, these three are an important part of effective therapy for individuals and couples. Referring people to sexual enhancement seminars, BDSM clubs, pornography, or books about "stripping for your husband" almost always miss the point. Unless, of course, people are already high functioning in bed—in which case that's presumably not why they're in therapy.

* *

Some people have physical considerations regarding sex—for example, because of pregnancy, back pain, menopause or surgical recovery. In such cases, different positions for sex may be appropriate and enlightening.

But for most people who ask about "different positions for sex," the one position worth encouraging is a position of self-acceptance and communication. And a sense of humor, of course. That will take people much further than trying the reverse cowgirl or the pirate game.

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Kinsey: Still Telling the Truth After All These Years

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This week was the anniversary of Dr. Alfred Kinsey's birth. To celebrate it, to remind us of our history, and to notice how relevant that history is today, I offer this review of the film and the man, written for Sexual Intelligence back in 2004.

Kinsey the Film, Kinsey the Man: Just Another Target of Juicy Media Conflict

The Bible contains no injunctions against cannibalism. That's not because Hebrews and early Christians thought it was morally acceptable–it's because no one was doing it.

On the other hand, the Bible contains serious warnings against adultery, incest, and same-gender sex. That's because there were people doing these things.

A half-century ago, Alfred Kinsey asked 18,000 Americans what they did sexually. He didn't get any cannibalism, but he did get plenty of adultery, incest, and same-gender sex, along with oral sex, prostitution, and masturbation. Like any good scientist, he categorized the behavior according to fundamental demographic variables: by age, gender, race, religion, and so on. Simple.

Simple except for two things: Millions of frightened people relaxed, and millions of frightened people got more frightened. The first group flocked to his classes and made his books bestsellers, while the second group tried to destroy his livelihood and freedom, and banish his work.

The two groups' descendants are still battling. His professional offspring struggle against government, Church, and even academia to educate and heal Americans. Much of the public cherishes scientific knowledge about their own bodies, and the freedom to use sexuality as a form of self-expression.

The descendants of the second group are still trying to destroy Kinsey fifty years after his death, with bizarre stories of sadomasochistic, incestuous orgies of child abuse and bestiality. They warn that Kinsey's work is responsible for America's pornography, sex crimes, and abortions (as if there were none before 1948). They even claim that Kinsey's disciples have infiltrated the Catholic Church, and should be sued for giving bad advice about how to handle pedophile priests. Yes, really.

It's in a country that spends $10 billion per year on porn but which is not allowed to see Janet Jackson's nipple on TV that the biographical film Kinsey arrived last week. Good news: it's a wonderful film, intelligently written, beautifully photographed, gracefully acted. The era from 1900-1950 is lovingly recreated. There's a little bit of sex (quite gentle except for the Kinseys' wedding night, which was awkward and painful for both) and some nice humor (also quite gentle). The film isn't preachy about the storm of fear, hate, and ignorance that desperately attempted to return America to the closet whose door Kinsey opened with his naive faith in science and human beings.

So for entertainment, go see the film. Or see it to support the producer and distributors, who are being threatened with boycotts from thousands of evangelical websites and pulpits around the country. Or see it because it will put your own struggles for sexual identity and self-validation into a comforting context. That, of course, is Kinsey's ultimate legacy.

But enough about Kinsey the man, or Kinsey the film. Let's talk about the people who hate both man and film, how the media covers this hatred, and why we should care. Because that's what today's electronic media are primarily about: sex and hate. Besides, we're all post-modernists: we've learned that no thing is as real as its broadcast image.

Frightened, angry people are using Kinsey to make points–to their constituents, to the media, to their own repressed eroticism. There's a whole industry keeping the national fear machine going; not even control of the Presidency, Congress, and Supreme Court soothes these folks.

They tell us that Satan literally walks among us, that he will literally be seducing us until Judgment Day. With that siege mentality, it's sensible to constantly scan the horizon for evil. And if sexual impulses are inherently evil, well, we will never run out of evil stuff to fear. Like the Aztecs who were waiting for God when Cortez arrived, Alfred Kinsey is the latest devil for which the Christian Right has been waiting.

The media's in bed with these Satan-worshippers, thrilled to broadcast the latest chapter in America's medieval science-versus-fear marathon. And so Fox, CNN, and the rest have set up a bunch of verbal wrestling matches.

They aren't educational, because there's no attempt to get at the facts. They aren't news because they involve the same old organizations (Focus on the Family, Traditional Values Coalition, American Family Association, Bob Jones University) spewing the same old hate. They aren't fair or balanced, because non-scientists are critiquing science. Actually, critiquing isn't the right word, as that implies reasoned examination. It's non-scientists screeching about not liking the results of science.

Kinsey described sexual reality in America, results that are consistent with later surveys by everyone from the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center to Modern Maturity Magazine. Some people hate and fear that reality. And so they're attempting to kill the messenger. The media is complicit in this manslaughter: they're pretending there are two sides to this, and they're giving each "side" time. (They're actually giving the anti-Kinsey people way more time because their bile is more mediagenic than most scientists' straightforward explanations.)

The two "sides" being presented are 1) scientists and educators and 2) moralists and "concerned citizens." What exactly are the latter's credentials to critique science? To draw conclusions about the effects of science? To predict how things would be different with different science? How many moralists know the difference between a cluster sample, snowball sample, and a random sample–the key methodological question about the Kinsey data they so confidently disparage?

Led by anti-intellectual, "gays are responsible for Hitler" (yes, really) author Judith Reisman, the anti-Kinsey obsessives say:

Kinsey used pedophiles to abuse kids to get data.
This is FALSE.
Kinsey himself had sex with kids.
This is FALSE.
Kinsey said that all sex is OK.
This is FALSE.
By neutrally collecting information, Kinsey endorsed everything he heard.
This is FALSE.
By neutrally describing various sexual behaviors, Kinsey endorsed them.
This is FALSE.
Because his sample wasn't random, Kinsey's data is skewed toward perversion.
This is FALSE.

These facts are not matters of opinion–they are matters of public record. There aren't two sides to these questions; there's only one side–the truth. But in giving viewers the meta-message that there are two sides to this "controversy," the media not only obscures the truth, it undermines the idea that there IS truth about this. Thus, nothing is required from the audience–no thought, no evaluation, no growth. In fact, people can watch the conflict without actually listening to what's said, because they know which protagonist they believe based on which "side" they're on.

With all the talk shows purporting to "explore" the Kinsey "controversy," there hasn't been one that has challenged the assumptions of those who damn him:

* Information is dangerous
* People weren't already doing "those things" before Kinsey reported them
* Sexual ignorance has no personal or social costs
* Sexual problems didn't exist before Kinsey did his work
* Science should not challenge society's status quo

Kinsey accurately noted that Americans enjoyed oral sex, masturbation, and premarital sex. Today, virtually everyone accepts this as factual, and organizations from the American Medical Association to the Unitarian Church accept these behaviors as healthy when done honestly and respectfully. But many people are uncomfortable with, and disown, their own behavior. Our President, for example, who had plenty of premarital sex, insists we spend hundreds of millions of dollars teaching kids not to.

Kinsey and his interviewers asked about both attitudes and behavior, but he felt that behavior spoke more eloquently. "Often," he said, "the expressed attitudes are in striking contradiction to the actual behavior, and then they are significant because they indicate the existence of psychic conflict."

Kinsey: still telling the truth after all these years.

* * *

For only a few bucks, you can help build a statue of Kinsey at the Kinsey Institute on the Indiana University campus. To join me, click here.

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You may quote anything herein, with the following attribution:
"Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence , copyright © Marty Klein, Ph.D. ("
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