An Electronic Newsletter
Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.
Issue 22-- December 2001
This holiday season, we approach the two-year anniversary of Sexual Intelligence. Reader response has been fantastic, and the challenge of publishing still thrills me. You can continue to look forward to the same mix of outrage, humor, and thought-provoking analysis--all from a sexological perspective--that you've been enjoying every month.
This month's edition presents 10 of my favorite (and yours, judging by the mail) pieces from the last two years. They'll be familiar to some of you, new to others, and, hopefully, satisfying for all.
I hope they'll also inspire you to purchase one or more copies of Collected Sexual Intelligence, 2000-2001. In it, you'll find over 100 brief essays on everything from male nipples on TV to motel sex, internet censorship, suing the Mona Lisa, the myth of sex addiction, and National Masturbation Day (did you observe this year?). If you missed some earlier issues of Sexual Intelligence, you'll love this collection. If you've enjoyed every single one, here's your chance to love them again--nicely bound for reading anywhere.
And while we're on the subject of holiday gifts, take a look at the Sexuality Library. You'll find something for everyone (well, almost everyone, including yourself) among my five books, five audiotapes, and three videotapes. All reflect the special sensibility about sexuality you enjoy in Sexual Intelligence, combined with the experience I've gained as a sex therapist during the last 20 years.
With so much great sex (and gifts) at your fingertips, why go to the mall? Order by December 5, and I guarantee delivery for Chanukah; order by December 13, and you'll have it for Christmas. Order more than 1 item and get a $5 discount.
Don't wait--buy now, then read this month's issue. Happy holidays!
1. University Runs Scared, So Rios Can't Run
2. FDA Approves Clitoral Suction
3. Don't Come On Redbook
4. Protecting Kids From Child Protection
5. "American Beauty's" Eroticism
6. Drafting Child Porn Stoolies
7. Hiding in Penthouse
8. We All Live in Utah
9. Teen Mag Boob Job
10. Vibrators Terrorize Dixie
1. University Runs Scared, So Rios Can't Run (Issue 14, April 2001)
A California State University, Fullerton student was told she'd have to quit her job as a stripper if she wanted to stay on the school's track team. Leilani Rios is no ideologue--she's going to stick with stripping because "that's what's paying for my college education."
"Students competing in intercollegiate athletics are held to a higher standard than non-athletes," says the school's Athletic Director. "For the privilege of being on a team, student-athletes relinquish rights that other students retain." Exactly which rights do they relinquish? And how are those rights determined?
"Working as a stripper wasn't the best way to represent the university, the track team or me," her coach John Elders says. So he thinks a naked 21-year-old dancer was representing both him and the school, even though she did it off-campus, and was obviously not wearing her letter sweater.
But let's say Elders is right--then by which students would he prefer to be represented?
Beer-drinking, puking fraternity kids? Politically correct students who demand the removal of classic nude Greek statues because they feel sexually harassed by them? ROTC students who carry real guns with real bullets? David Duke campus groupies? These kinds of kids are allowed to represent colleges like Cal State Fullerton around the country. Perhaps Coach wants himself and the school represented by the baseball team?
In fact, that's how CSUF found out about Rios's stripping--the baseball team was at the club, watching her strip. According to Rios, they were wearing their Cal State baseball sweaters and caps, clearly representing the school. And yet the players didn't receive so much as a frown, despite the university's code of conduct dictating that CSUF athletes should behave respectably and "give everyone who sees them a positive image of Titan student-athletes."
Does this disparity reflect sexism? If the shortstop were working as a stripper and the women's track team watched, would he be busted? Then the sin here wouldn't be gender, but rather sex: acknowledging it, enjoying it, selling it. Ironically, if Rios were killing herself flipping burgers at midnight for six bucks an hour, she'd be considered a role model. But making thirty bucks an hour flipping her skirt makes her dirty. Anyone who thinks the second choice exploits her more than the first is blinded by ideology--and insulting Rios's intelligence.
Once again, American institutions are instructing its young in core American sexual values--fear, discrimination, and arbitrary use of power to limit private, personal expression. That's what Leilani Rios will remember from her alma mater.
2. FDA Approves Clitoral Suction (Issue 5, July 2000)
The Food & Drug Administration has approved a device to help women orgasm: a battery-operated vacuum attached to a suction cup that fits over the clitoris.
The gadget is a logical response to the latest medical Big Lie about sexuality. Physicians colonized masturbation 100 years ago, treating it as an urgent psychiatric and hormonal problem. Three years ago they decided that over 30 million men have "impotence"; now they say that 40 million American women suffer "sexual dysfunction."
But when it comes to sex, doctors and drug companies are not very sophisticated bean-counters. They count every limp penis or unclimaxed vulva the same: the guy who can't get it up while under pressure to create a baby, and the woman who can't come with a half-drunk guy who hasn't bathed in a week, are both considered "dysfunctional" by most medical professionals.
Today's sexual imperialists tell us that erection and orgasm difficulties are essentially hydraulic problems, ignoring the connection between the genitals and emotions. MDs and drug companies aren't in the business of addressing relationship and personal problems--which are, of course, at the heart of most sexual difficulties.
Available by prescription only, the clitoral pump costs $359. It now makes economic sense to ask your partner for cunnilingus. Geez, if only women were willing to go to prostitutes. You know how much clitoral suction you can get for $359?
3. Don't Come On Redbook (Issue 3, May 2000)
Like every "women's magazine," Redbook presents readers with a monthly stew of sexual myth, unrealistic expectations, and simplistic advice. But they hit a new low several weeks ago in answering a reader's question. She doesn't mind fellatio, she said, but her husband wants to come in her mouth, which she dislikes. What should she do?
Even the neanderthal Reader's Digest knows the importance of sexual "communication," but did Redbook suggest this? No. Instead, they suggested the woman wet her hand and use it as an extension of her mouth, and fool her husband into thinking he was ejaculating into her mouth when he was actually coming in her hand. Manipulative? Disempowering? Guilt-inducing? This is how Redbook supports today's modern woman.
4. Protecting Kids From Child Protection (Issue 12, February 2001)
The American Library Association voted last week to challenge one of President Clinton's last deeds--the Child Internet Protection Act. This law REQUIRES every library receiving federal funds to install filtering software on its Internet-access computers.
Conservative and progressive groups have united in opposition to this law. Groups like the PTA, Christian Coalition, and ACLU, which typically attack each other in their fund-raising letters, have the same concerns--that filtering systems are being used to eliminate information that is safe, legitimate, and vital to thoughtful democracy.
And how are citizens--which this law coerces into being software consumers--supposed to examine various filtering systems? We can't. Filtering software companies will NOT tell you which sites are blocked. Sites just disappear from computer access, like books stolen from a library. Companies won't tell you exactly what criteria are used to block sites, or why they've blocked a specific site they won't let you see. As private corporations, their policies are none of your business. They cannot be viewed, much less challenged, by the public, even though the government has hired them to control what you and your kids can read in the public library.
It is extraordinarily difficult to access porn in public libraries, and librarians say that practically no one does it. Even assuming that software can absolutely prevent your kid from doing it--which it can't do reliably--eliminating the work of Martin Luther King and George Will is too dangerous a price for kids to pay. Censorship warps young minds far more than pictures of sex, no matter how extreme.
Twenty-first century public policy about children is driven by fear--of violence, drugs, the media, and sexuality. Correctly reading the public's attitudes, politicians--some sincere, some cynical--develop increasingly extreme "solutions" for problems that are moral, spiritual, and existential. In the name of protecting its children, the American public has rolled back dozens of its traditional rights--which has failed to deliver the safety we long for.
As we look at dark regimes around the globe, Americans criticize policies that reduce information or freedom. Our children deserve the same respect that we give kids in dictatorial nations we're attempting to enlighten. The problem is not what our children are exposed to--the problem is our fear. Censoring the Internet may feel like we're doing something, but it won't make our children safer. It will simply make all of us less free.
To support the ALA's injunction against this horrifying law, go to www.ala.org and donate a few bucks.
5. "American Beauty's" Eroticism (Issue 2, April 2000)
You have to love a movie that opens with a shot of frosted bathroom glass and the line, "here I am, jerking off in the shower again." Not surprisingly, though, "American Beauty" seems misunderstood by a lot of people. I've read reviews saying it's about voyeurism, pedophilia, and drugs. Others refer to the "affair" that Kevin Spacey's character has with a teen, although he refuses her invitation for sex. As usual, the mainstream media are having difficulty understanding a film that treats sexuality as a normal part of life--that is, something that people are grappling with, and not necessarily resolving in a neat and tidy way.
There's plenty of eroticism to go around here--the beautiful teenage tease, Annette Bening's affair with "The King of Real Estate," her daughter and her boyfriend undressed together. And while the film leaves too many questions unanswered, it does depict these various sexualities as erotic in a rather down-to-earth way.
For that alone, we should be grateful for this film. Cinematically, it's hard to portray sexuality as it really is--important to its characters without exaggerating, simplifying, or glamorizing it. Most of us feel that questions about our sexuality are meaningful--within the context of the rest of our lives. It's a rare film which can portray this, and an amazing film that can do it with mass appeal. American audiences have not been trained to appreciate a realistic, existential approach to sexuality--we've been trained to appreciate tits and violence instead.
6. Drafting Child Porn Stoolies (Issue 19, September 2001)
South Carolina has become the latest state to demand that untrained service workers become snitches about alleged child pornography. Along with the state's photo developers, computer service techs are now required to report any images of people who appear to be under 18 having sex or in "sexually explicit postures." Neither photo developers nor computer technicians will receive any training with which to implement this mandate.
To see how this is going to work, we turn to Portsmouth, NH, where reports of child pornography came from not one but two computer repair shops last week.
First police responded to a call from Better Technology Here, reporting child pornography supposedly found on a client's computer. After talking with technicians, police said they had insufficient information to warrant a seizure--but the computer's owner was asked for, and consented to, a search of its files. Police discovered nothing illegal.
When an employee at Botnay Bay Computers reported possible child pornography during a routine repair task, police seized the computer. Again, no illegal material was found.
Laws like these guarantee more and more calls to police, as citizens with what used to be ordinary jobs work defensively--i.e., erring on the side of caution (snitching) so they can't be busted later for failing to report something judged illegal.
In turn, police will have to make spot decisions about demanding "consent," seizing pictures and equipment, and getting warrants for further searches. Since the age and eroticism of those photographed and digitized aren't always clear, police judgment is crucial to citizen security. But there's only one way we can reasonably expect police to respond to these subjective statutes: When they're called to look at images that could be illegal, they'll try to find ways to see them as illegal. It's a new war on citizens, as the burden of proof of innocence/guilt is shifting from government to citizen.
Medical, legal, and mental health professionals already struggle with their roles as mandated reporters. Children are being removed from their homes in record number as many professionals report anything ambiguous simply to protect themselves.
Interestingly, the age of consent in both South Carolina and New Hampshire is 16. And yet pictures of 17-year-olds' consensual activity are illegal. In the upside down world created by child porn paranoia, the map (picture) is considered more real than the thing (sexual behavior).
7. Hiding in Penthouse (Issue 12, February 2001)
Say that something unpleasant happened to you in private. Say that you then arranged for everyone in the known world to find out about it--and then you complain about your name having been damaged by all the attention. Say you claim to be distressed about your new-found celebrity, and you wish you could be anonymous again. Then say that you pose for Penthouse. Paula Jones, come on down!
Yes, Paula Jones, who took the Right's money to sue the President for damaging her reputation, and took ex-President Clinton's $900,000 to soothe her aching psyche, has now taken Penthouse's money to pose naked and, um, rehabilitate her reputation.
It's great when women past age 22 pose naked in magazines--it gives us a more optimistic vision of the aging process, and a wider range of fantasy material. Nude bodies are wonderful, and the chance to look at (and get excited by) them is a God-given right. So pose nude someplace, folks--do it for the money, or to advance your show biz career. If you're really unusual, like Annie Sprinkle, you can actually do it as a spiritual exercise, or as a contribution to the universe.
But Paula, your Penthouse pictures are dirty. Not because you're nude and sexy--that's the wholesome part--but because you publicly punished someone for showing you his penis, then claimed to want privacy, and took money from three different sources in the process. Posing nude for Penthouse didn't make you a whore. You already were one.
And it's people like you who give whores a bad name.
8. We All Live in Utah (Issue 14, April 2001)
Officials in Provo, Utah boast that it's one of the country's most conservative cities. Not surprisingly, 4,000 residents recently petitioned to prosecute the owner of a local store for peddling obscene material--for renting X-rated videos. The U.S. Supreme Court defines obscenity as sexual material that offends "the average person, applying contemporary community standards," so the D.A. figured it would be an easy win.
The defense attorney, however, discovered that the Provo Marriott offers in-room pay-per-view sex films--and sells 3,000 a year. He then discovered that Provo's local cable TV and satellite TV companies distribute 20,000 X-rated movies a year. With this data on Provo's "community standards," the jury acquitted the video store owner in minutes.
In 1999, Americans rented over 700,000,000 X-rated videos. Showtime grossed $367 million on erotic films. And over 20 million Americans visit at least one of the Web's 60,000 sex-oriented sites each month.
So it's particularly intolerable that the central issue around pornography in this country is danger--does it harm viewers? Actresses? Communities? And, of course, children, the vulnerable little children mentioned by everyone whose arguments criminalizing private adult behavior can't stand on their own merit.
What about questions like, Who enjoys porn? How do they integrate it into their lives? What do they like about it? How does it validate their vision of erotic wholeness and contribute to self-acceptance? How does it remind everyday people that their lust is wholesome?
We can snicker about those 4,000 people in Provo who want to take away their neighbor's rights, or complain about the people in your community who want to take away your rights. But almost no one who uses erotic materials is willing to stand up and say, "here's the face of the actual 'community standard' around here." No, we have internalized the oppression of a sex-negative culture, and acceded to the McCarthyesque fear that "they" will take away our jobs, ruin our reputations, and humiliate us profoundly if we come out as sexual beings. As a result, the "community standard" is handed to those who are frightened or angered by eroticism. We, and our children growing up in a sex-phobic culture, suffer as a result.
Those who desire to censor everyone else are only half the problem. We're the other half. And we can't do anything about them.
9. Teen Mag Boob Job (Issue 19, September 2001)
Teen Vogue and Seventeen magazines have caused some buzz by accepting ads for Bloussant breast-enhancement pills, breaking an industry taboo. Competitors are self-righteously sniffing about "responsibility to the teen audience" (Teen Magazine) and "celebrating [the teen's] independence and individual style" (Elle Girl).
These publishers are jiggling out of both sides of their bras. Magazines aimed at teen females are all about insecurity, image, and dependence. Covers feature perfect faces and bodies, articles focus on how to become more likeable, and pages are a seductive sea of colorful makeup ads--often accompanied by articles describing makeup as part of a personal hygiene regimen.
The only reason CosmoGirl and other teen books turn away ads for breast enhancement is because there aren't enough of them. Offer these girly mags dozens of boobifying ad pages per year, and they'll not only run them, they'll also run articles about women who went on to better careers and husbands because of the self-esteem their bigger breasts gave them.
These magazines are in the business of telling girls what's wrong with them, and selling solutions in their formulaic articles and state-of-the-art ads. It's a shame for 15-year-olds to want bigger breasts, but let's not just blame Bloussant--let's give some responsibility to magazines that say "your personality is your most important asset," but show perfect bodies and faces as the route to success and happiness.
10. Vibrators Terrorize Dixie (Issue 9, November 2000)
A federal appeals court has ruled that the Alabama Legislature may indeed make it illegal for anyone to sell "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs"--that is, sex toys.
The 1998 law was struck down last year by U.S. District Judge Smith, ruling that it was "overly broad" and would deny some people "therapy for sexual dysfunction." The judge wrote that "at least a significant minority of the proscribed devices...are not obscene under any established definition...." However, the court also ruled that Americans do not have a "fundamental right" to use sexual devices, a legal category that would have made challenging the law easier.
The Court of Appeals was unanimous in upholding Alabama's law while subtly chiding it, saying that "However misguided the legislature of Alabama may have been in enacting the statute, [it] is not constitutionally irrational because it is rationally related to the State's legitimate power to protect its view of public morality."
I've heard that this is a state in which watching high school football is often considered an intellectual pursuit. We do know that Martin Luther King was commonly dismissed here as a Communist.
But although every Alabaman has a fundamental right to own a gun, they don't have the same right to own a dildo.
So they've decided that vibrators are a threat to public morality. What exactly could that possibly mean? Maybe they're afraid that women would drive while using them instead of driving while drinking. Or maybe they're afraid that women would start holding their partners to a higher standard of lovemaking expertise. Or maybe they're afraid that women would get so wrapped up with their vibrators that they would forget to make dinner or drive the kids to Sunday school.
All of which, of course, would make Alabama a better place in which to live.