Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #21 -- November 2001


1. Voyeur Dorm Reopened
2. Domestic Sexual Terrorism: Not Just a Metaphor
3. Adulthood Now Legal in Virginia
4. War Being Hell, Gays Can Serve
5. Patriotic Condoms Hard For Some to Swallow
6. Child's Play Now Outlawed, Too
7. Freedom From Federal Dollars: Priceless


1. Voyeur Dorm Reopened

It is now legal to sit at your computer and look at pictures of young women cavorting in a house on West Farrell Drive in Tampa. If that seems like a pretty trivial thing, consider how much taxpayer money, bureaucratic energy, and moral outrage the city of Tampa invested in outlawing it.

Law enforcement officials started investigating 3 years ago. Zoning authorities decided that the suburban house with its dozens of indoor webcams was an adult business and therefore out of compliance, even though it generated no traffic, noise, visual pollution, or other negative effects. The bust was a classic case of local government using the law in a discriminatory way to enact its own agenda. A federal court overturned the bust, and so is back in business, showcasing such erotic activities as Jennifer brushing her teeth in her jammies.

Voyeurism involves sexual gratification from looking, whether at body parts or activities. The traditional definition specifies "sexual body parts" and "sexual activities," although for every mundane thing there's someone, somewhere who gets off on looking at it: women squeezing turnips, men fixing cars, the elderly washing their support stockings.

In America, voyeurism is legal under two conditions: 1) if it's sanctioned by the mainstream mass media (fashion ads, Baywatch, Miss America pageant, college football), or 2) viewers can feasibly deny their interest is sexual (fashion ads, Baywatch, Miss America pageant, college football). Without the frames provided by either mainstream entertainment or allegedly non-sexual interest, voyeurism is considered uncontrolled and dangerous--even if totally consensual. As a sexual act, American governments try to prevent it if money changes hands, ignoring both parties' satisfaction.

For now, the residents of voyeurdorm can pursue their livelihood, which is pretending to act normal in a house full of cameras. According to court documents, the operation takes in 1.5 million dollars a year from subscriptions and sales. The only crime here is how many of us didn't think of it first.

2. Domestic Sexual Terrorism: Not Just a Metaphor

Last issue (Issue #20) discussed domestic sexual terrorism in several different ways. Many readers wrote to say they found this a useful metaphor, which is gratifying--except . . .

"As if...", as the current expression goes.

As if there were no actual academics, pregnant teens, educators, S/M practitioners, gay parents, researchers, swingers, or sex workers (and their customers) who are being terrorized by America's oppressive anti-sexual legal and cultural machinery.

Now there's a new "as if:" As if dozens of Planned Parenthood clinics all over America weren't being sent anthrax scares. Yes, family planning clinics have been targeted by the Army of God, which the Washington Post describes as "a group that advocates violence against abortion providers." According to Washington Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Virginia Martin, each powder-filled envelope contained a letter, saying: "You have been exposed to anthrax. We are going to kill all of you. From the Army of God, Virginia Dare Chapter."

Federal authorities say they are focusing their investigation of the anthrax outbreak/scare primarily on followers of Osama bin Laden. This assures that they'll miss the real culprit in the Planned Parenthood cases. It will also continue the government's tradition of ignoring the well-planned, well-coordinated, and clearly articulated campaign of violence against America's family planning providers.

Real physicians have been murdered, real patients have been attacked, and real buildings have been bombed. If this isn't domestic terrorism, what is? For years, those responsible have announced their success proudly. Why hasn't the government ended this by now? What is your Congressmember doing about this?

3. Adulthood Now Legal in Virginia

According to the Book of Genesis, Noah's descendents got together some years after the Flood to build a tower to reach the wonders of heaven--the Tower of Babel.

If this had happened in the state of Virginia, the leaders would have said, 'Wait--what if our children climb the tower, and see things up in the clouds that confuse or scare them? Therefore, let us not build the tower at all. In fact, let us build a wall around ourselves straight up to the sky, lest pictures and words that confuse or scare children come into our land--through, say, the internet. And let our adults accept the ignorance that comes from restricting ourselves to the level of children.'

Well, good news: it is now legal for Virginia residents to look at and other grownup material.

In 1999, the state passed a law preventing website operators from knowingly allowing minors access to "harmful" sexually explicit material on their sites. The state reserved the right to define "harmful," and didn't burden itself with having to justify its decisions (no science has ever determined that such material is actually harmful). Of course, there's no way to know who will access any given website. So if Virginia decided that Sexual Intelligence was harmful to 16-year-olds, it would be illegal to make it available to any Virginian via the Web. Thus, the law required that in Virginia, the entire content of the World Wide Web be restricted to what's suitable for children. "Suitable" according to unnamed, arbitrary standards.

U.S. District Judge James H. Michael Jr. wisely declared the law unconstitutional.

Virginia is now the fourth state (joining New York, New Mexico, and Michigan) to be told by federal judges that there are things more important than preventing kids from seeing dirty pictures or words on the Internet.

The case's plaintiffs were a coalition ranging from Internet giant PSINet to Penthouse Magazine to the Charlottesville Sexual Health and Wellness Clinic. This, and the judge's reasoning about limiting the Web to what isn't "harmful to minors," shows that the issue of Web content is not simply about pornography or even sex per se. And that's why it's so important to stand up for the availability of sexual materials, whether one uses them or not. Once we allow any Web content to be demonized, once we agree that the existence of certain pictures or words can hurt us, the door is open to adding more and more to the list of what we shouldn't be able to see.

We should not stand by and let a distorted concern for children to undermine our entire democratic system. Children living in a free society who are confused or even frightened by exposure to sexual images are much better off than children whose protection from such exposure is purchased by blinding the adults around them.

4. War Being Hell, Gays Can Serve

In the aftermath of the September terrorist attacks, the Pentagon has issued an order suspending discharges--including "those of service members who disclose their homosexuality."

Gays and lesbians will be allowed to serve during any current military campaign, "as long as they remain in compliance with the homosexual conduct policy," spokesperson Maj. James P. Cassella said. He was referring to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy enacted in 1993 under President Clinton, by which gay men and women may serve as long as they keep their sexual orientation private. Those who choose to disclose they are gay, however, may face discharge after the current conflict is ended. This happened to gay troops after the Gulf War.

The military's explicit acknowledgment that gays and lesbians can serve their country is positive. Its message that after risking their lives for their country they can be fired from their job is pathetic.

Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are apparently no homophobes during war. Peace, unfortunately, restores the luxury of fear and hatred.

5. Patriotic Condoms Hard For Some to Swallow

In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, red-white-&-blue condoms have become popular. For example, Planned Parenthood is giving them away in various cities in return for a donation to the September Eleventh Fund. Retail chain Condomania reports sharply increased sales of them.

It's a perfect idea: channeling post-attack emotion and the urge to experience solidarity into an activity that's safe and logical, with a touch of whimsy. It's also symbolic, as citizens can do something about the desire to protect themselves while feeling so terribly vulnerable. And if terror is in fact leading some to more nesting, cuddling, and sex, contraception is a must.

So far, so good--until the non-marital-sex-should-lead-to-disaster crowd chimes in. American Life League president Judie Brown, for example, is disgusted: "So-called 'patriotic condoms' makes light of a terrible event and are a desecration of our national colors," she says. She apparently feels that people shouldn't be thinking about sex right now, and that if they are, they shouldn't be thinking about it responsibly. Or that their patriotic and erotic feelings should be separated, lest the one demean the other.

Eight weeks post-catastrophe is a good time to remind ourselves that there are many ways to be patriotic: that there are many different things about America to celebrate, and many different ways to celebrate them.

As usual, there are people who want to appropriate "America" and instruct everyone else on what it stands for. These bullies tell us it's OK to wear flag hats, flag ties, flag anything, but not flag condoms. And what are their American values? Among other things, to criminalize flag-burning. These people don't understand what America stands for.

So let's instruct them.

America is a place where people can believe anything they want, even if they disagree with those in power. And although we currently live with plenty of inhumane restrictions against various sexual activities (same-gender sex, buying and selling intercourse, teaching about contraception in many school districts, etc.), this is a country where most people can have sex with anyone they want. Further, all American adults can, if they wish, have access to the knowledge, equipment, and social support needed to prevent pregnancy during intercourse.

There are dozens of countries in which this isn't true. We should celebrate that it's true here.

Having sex is a great way to celebrate the blessings of America, and if you do, using a condom expresses that spirit even more. If people can't celebrate sex in their own lives, of course, they can't use it to celebrate their country. How sad. Well, let's not compound such people's pain by calling them unpatriotic.

6. Child's Play Now Outlawed, Too

Three recent stories show how dangerously far America's obsession with "protecting"--i.e., hiding and denying--childhood sexuality has gone.

     A 15-year-old boy was arrested and convicted of "lewdness" for grabbing his crotch--while fully clothed--in a Utah parking lot, upsetting a woman in a parked car.
     A 16-year-old Michigan boy has been ordered to publicly register as a sex offender for 25 years for accepting a school football game dare and touching a girl's breast.
     Two Ohio sisters aged 12 and 15 are facing charges after they emailed nude photos of the older girl to three people.

These are situations in which kids were damaged as a way of saving them.

Protecting kids from exploitation by adults is one thing. Now kids are being brusquely protected from their own sexuality. This is a new and violent form of exploitation: kids' sexuality is being colonized by legislatures and communities, seized from them because they can't be trusted to survive it.

Some adults apparently want kids to go from age 4 to 24 without sexual feelings, experiences, or experiments. The Catholic Church and other American groups have already tried this. It has proven to be an excellent way to cripple people, as any psychologist or marriage counselor can attest.

Just as America's macho drug policy has created tens of thousands of non-violent criminals, we are now creating a generation of sex offenders whose crimes are, variously, horseplay, adolescent lust, romantic idealism, social ineptness, and old-fashioned teen thoughtlessness.

Enlightened parents know that kids who do such things should be grounded or have their privileges yanked. They are taught about right and wrong, impulse and consideration, and soon enough they grow into reasonable adults.

But 8-year-old "child molesters," and 10-year-old "sexual harrassers?" Whatever happened to bullies, teases, jerks, and heartbreakers? People who turn our children into sex offenders are shameful. America's authorities are having tantrums about their kids' sexuality, and they obviously need a time-out.

It's bad enough that many contemporary laws criminalize poor judgment in adults. Doing this with kids is well, criminal.

7. Freedom From Federal Dollars: Priceless

One of President Clinton's last official acts was signing the Child Internet Protection Act, requiring any library receiving federal funds to install filtering software on its internet-access computers. Ostensibly to make computers "safe" for young children, the law is a neutron bomb veering wildly off-course, destroying access to ideas while leaving members of Congress standing tall.

Last month, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors banned internet filters on most public-access computers at the city's libraries, jeopardizing its annual federal stipend of some $20,000.

While the Board isn't especially eager to promote access to pornography on taxpayer-financed computers, they looked at the fact that filters block people from finding valuable information on AIDS, sexuality, breast cancer and a huge range of politically sensitive topics. Filters even block subjects such as Super Bowl XXX because "xxx" often means "x-rated." The American Library Association and the ACLU have sued to overturn the law, saying it violates Americans' First Amendment rights.

The Board is to be commended for courageously acting on behalf of the public's best interests. It joins an increasing number of churches and other religious groups, who are now turning down the Bush administration's faith-based funding.

By maximizing the independence and comprehensiveness of public-access computers, the Board is sending San Franciscans several valuable messages. One is that the Board trusts the citizens who have empowered it. The other is that there's no such thing as a free lunch. Both messages are critical to a healthy democracy.

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