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 #213 – November 2017


Another WRAP Week of Porn Disinformation

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Every year at this time, National White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) Week mobilizes tens of thousands of civic leaders, religious figures, and policy-makers. The goal is to spread lies about the dangers of adult pornography, and its alleged connections with sex trafficking, domestic violence, and child exploitation. I have written about this cynical, shameful project many times (;;

Even assuming that many of those involved are well-meaning, this program is a cash cow exploiting people who don't have a clue about how pornography is actually made, how it is consumed, and how such consumption affects people. WRAP is a disinformation campaign that gathers steam each year, damaging increasing numbers of marriages and everyone's ordinary legal rights.

This year, I'm writing a different response. For those who mistakenly insist that I am "pro-porn," here are legitimate problems with porn consumption that I see in my therapy office every week:

Porn as sex ed
Kids and teens starved for information about sex or bodies naturally turn to the primary place that they're on display: porn. Without parental or school guidance, they have no way to understand that porn does not represent sex as it actually is. Some kids see pretend coercion and believe that it's real; most young people see sex without preparation, conversation, relaxation, or affection, and think that's standard.

Porn as aspirational
Adults should know better, but don't discuss their sexual vision with their partner. What kind of sexual experiences does someone want to have—romantic? Lusty? Rough? Role-playing? Athletic? Without discussion, without the mutual investigation that can yield knowledge about oneself along with one's partner, too many adults fall back on the imagery that's so familiar from pornography. Or romance novels. Of course, the sex they're enacting may not provide the emotional experiences they desire.

Porn as distraction from relationship or personal issues
Life, of course, offers us more problems than we'd like: marital, child-rearing, occupational, health, and the neighbor who refuses to train his "just friendly" dog. Everyone deals with problems in their own way. For some, escaping into the world of porn is an easy way out. It's a world of abundance—there's always enough erections, enough time, enough access, enough enthusiasm. Problems and drudgery just don't exist in porn-world—no issues with birth control, back pain, crying children, long-simmering conflict about money, or too much alcohol. If everyone had a supportive partner, the resolution to almost every problem would start with "talk with your mate." Unfortunately, not everyone is in such a position. And many people who are don't realize it, or don't have the skills to take advantage of such a life-affirming resource.

Porn as medication for emotional issues that need attention
Tens of millions of adults struggle with depression, anxiety, Asperger's, social inhibition, PTSD, or other emotional issues. While some get excellent help from mental health or medical professionals, many others don't. Instead, they medicate their problem, variously, with alcohol, shopping, television, gambling, overwork—or watching porn, often hours every week.
One of the major shortcomings of "porn addiction" programs is how little they screen for these psychological problems. And too many psychologists respond to such patients by focussing on the porn (and the partner's distress) instead of doing a proper different diagnosis that might reveal a deeper, more serious mental health issue.

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All of that said, it's important to understand that none of this is the fault of porn. The makers and distributors of adult pornography don't make it for kids, don't claim that it's educational, don't offer it as aspirational, and certainly don't force anyone to watch it.

Every single way in which porn is misused is the fault of those misusing it. That particularly applies to parents, who recoil in dismay at their kids looking at it, yet refuse to discuss it with them beyond "it's crap, don't watch it."

If kids are left on their own with smartphones that many grownups can barely manage, if adults can't talk to the adults they're having sex with, if people with problems can't direct themselves to the help they need—porn is not responsible.

And for people who can't remember life before the internet, here's a reminder: before internet porn, people were damaging themselves, their marriages, and their finances. People were enforcing sexual ignorance and anxiety on their kids, themselves, and each other. Historically, porn didn't cause the evils of divorce, rape, or child molestation (or war, Communism, or the Plague. It's the height of cynicism to suddenly blame those things on modern pornography.

If civic activists would focus on the real problems associated with pornography, instead of dragging in unrelated but emotional issues like trafficking, addiction, and child abuse, perhaps we could all work together to increase society's Porn Literacy—and reduce the actual problems exacerbated by the near-ubiquitous consumption of adult pornography.

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Popular Sex Tools You Probably Don't Need

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The world is overflowing with sex advice.

A small part of it is actually helpful. It focuses primarily on helping people relax, accept themselves, and communicate.

The rest of the sex advice out there frequently addresses the wrong problems. Typically, attempting to reduce people's sexual symptoms without addressing their actual problems is foolish—lucrative, but still foolish.

In many cases, today's sex advice takes distressing experiences—say, lack of erection while drinking, or lack of orgasm while feeling frightened or angry—and agrees that these are problems to be solved, rather than expressions of reasonable functioning under anti-sexual conditions.

Most people seem to prefer sex advice that doesn't challenge their world view—say, the idea that male and female sexuality are dramatically different; the idea that everyone should feel desire for someone they love; that desire should feel the same whether a person is 25, 50, or 75; and that if you don't like how your body behaves during sex, that must be a mechanical intervention which can tame it.

In over 30 years as a sex therapist, I've learned that most sexually dissatisfied people would rather focus on almost ANY solution rather than an approach involving relaxing, accepting themselves, and communicating. It's like I've told my own physician: "Doc, I'll do anything to lose weight, other than change the way I eat and the amount I exercise."

A lot of my clinical work involves helping people discover which problems they really have, which are expressing themselves in sexual symptoms. Then we fix those problems. But if we don't agree on what the real problems are, we can't agree on how to fix them.

So here are some solutions to sex problems that you probably DON'T need:

Erection drugs like Viagra can be helpful for people with medical problems like diabetes. And a small daily dose of Cialis is now often prescribed after prostatectomy to help support the reintegration of nerves.

But Viagra is not an aphrodisiac, and it won't help you get or stay hard if you're drunk or with someone you dislike. Your body isn't designed to get an erection under such conditions.

I especially discourage young adults from using the drug unless they have a medical issue, like certain medication side effects. Instead, most young men will benefit from figuring out how to create the circumstances under which they get erect easily. Understandably, once guys start using Viagra it's hard to get them to stop if they haven't had a history of "natural" erections.

Tantra is a centuries-old tradition that purports to harness sexual energy rather than allowing the spontaneous expression so common among the undisciplined masses.

Tantra's program has rules for exactly how to manage various sexual interactions. This is absolutely the last thing most people need—as they struggle with their anxieties that they're not doing sex right, leading to sexual misery.

Tantra can be a nice addition to a sexual repertoire that's already based on a relaxed celebration of bodies and eroticism. But people like that aren't looking to fix sexual problems. Tantra is something people can enjoy, but it isn't a solution for people who are struggling.

Vaginal squirting
As a desired recreational experience, this was unheard of just 10 years ago. Women who wet the bed during sex were ashamed, and even tried to prevent the orgasms that were so messy. Unfortunately, most women still feel that way.

A small number of women have now proclaimed squirting—propelling fluid out of the vagina during orgasm—one of life's great pleasures. And indeed, some women who learn how to relax deeply while getting sexually excited, and who can explore and enjoy stimulation in various places deep in their vagina (more often by fingers or toys than a penis), do report entirely different orgasmic sensations, often accompanied by some literal flooding.

Do you or your partner need to do this? No. If you have trouble climaxing, or sex is painful, or lovemaking is boring, should you do this? No. There are much easier aspects of orgasm women can learn. More importantly, difficulties around orgasm often involve self-consciousness, actual criticism, unrealistic expectations, and having sex in unwanted ways (pace, emotions, etc.). Consciously trying to squirt won't solve any of those.

Shaving/waxing pubic hair
If you want to do this, go ahead. If you think you SHOULD do it, don't. If you think you should do it because someone else thinks you should do it, consider whether or not you're in a healthy relationship.

If both partners think a shaved/waxed pubic area is sexy or more convenient, and is worth the hassle, go right ahead. But if your partner is unenthusiastic about going down on you and blames the hair, talk it over. For more access to your genitalia, either of you can easily use your fingers to move the hair aside.

And if your partner tells you that you're ugly down there, consider getting a new partner.

Testosterone shots or gel
Testosterone treatment does not improve erections (or much else) in men with normal testosterone levels. In fact, it typically doesn't help men with low testosterone to have better erections or more desire either.

Men (and their physicians) tend to like testosterone as an intervention because it's tangible, and doesn't require any changes in lifestyle (such as increasing non-sexual intimacy). But extra testosterone doesn't cure anything, it doesn't boost the body's organic manufacture of it, and withdrawing from testosterone can be quite unpleasant

The pseudo-testosterone boosters advertised on late-night TV are pretty worthless.

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So if these common interventions mostly aren't helpful for sexual problems, what is?


For more on how to create any of these, see my 2012 book, Sexual Intelligence.

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Sex and Death-–What Do They Mean?

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I want to tell you a story about some friends of mine.

Ted and Maria were a warm, intelligent couple in their 60s. Despite various family problems, financial disappointments, and the ups and downs of raising kids in a blended family, they were happy together.

One day Maria goes for a routine physical. There's something in her blood work that the doctor doesn't like, so he sends her for more tests. A month later she collapses, and spends weeks in a local hospital in serious condition. As she gets worse, the doctor suggests Ted and Maria prepare for the possibility that she will die.

The couple has always been pretty straightforward with each other, so they discuss her professional legacy, practicalities like money, and the details of when and how she wants to die.

All that done, Ted says to her "since we want to make sure that we have everything covered, we should also discuss what you want if you get a lot better." Maria looks him in the eye and says "Sex!"

She never recovered. Her loved ones miss her, and of course life goes on for the rest of us.

But the story is intriguing. There she is in bed dying. She hasn't enjoyed food in a month, everything hurts, she's practically forgotten how the sun used to feel on her face, and she can't concentrate enough to read (much less write) two sentences in a row.

And she says that if she gets better, she wants sex.


Here's what I think: not for the orgasm. Probably not even for the 20 minutes of pleasure (although that would be fine, of course).

Rather, Maria says "sex!" because this is how she visualizes feeling alive. And perhaps feeling healthy, or graceful, or celebrating (rather than enduring) her body. Maybe feeling close to Ted.

For Maria, like most of us in less dreadful circumstances, sex wasn't just about sex.

And this deeply human truth is missed by many professionals who talk about sex– using models like "sex addiction" or attachment theory, or those who value premarital "chastity" and virginity.

Models like these propose that there's a right way to want sex, a right way to experience sex, and right goals to have for sex. But for emotionally healthy people (as well as everybody else), sex isn't just about sex. That's not a bad thing, that's a human thing.

Sex is completely malleable—it's about whatever we load into it. Sex is a living metaphor for how we want to feel, what we want to think about ourselves, what life means, and ultimately what's important to us.

The trick is to be honest with ourselves about what we want from sex. When we aren't, we may use sex mindlessly, creating trouble for ourselves or others. Using sex to feel youthful, for example, is fine if we admit to ourselves that that's what we're doing. Maybe we'll wear a costume or role-play during sex, or choose activities and position that help us feel carefree. Otherwise, we might try seducing 22-year-olds—which rarely goes well for the middle-aged.

Similarly, a college-age woman might want to use sex to feel adult or independent. That's fine, if she's willing to do the internal work to admit this to herself, and therefore choose partners and situations that are physically and emotionally safe. Otherwise, she may be one of those women who gets roaring drunk en route to the frat house, conflicted about her own behavior and feelings, far less able to make good adult decisions around sex.

A way to express our unique vision of the meaning of life—yes, that's a lot of weight for sex to support. On the other hand, assuming that sex has to have the same off-the-rack meaning for everyone insults both us and our sexuality. Sex is about way more than what the bodies do; it's about how the people living in those bodies feel.

That is so human.

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"Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence , copyright © Marty Klein, Ph.D. ("
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