Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #23 -- January 2002


1. "Censor You? Not Us!"
2. Breasts and Other Toys
3. Doing It For The Kids?
4. Do-It-Yourself Video Voyeurism
5. Kid Lives Down to Expectations
6. Afghan Women On Parade
7. Making the "Morning After" Easier
8. Book Review: "Castration"
9. Reminders: Awards, Books, & Subs

* * * * * * * * * * * *

1. "Censor You? Not Us!"

Last year, the state of Arizona passed a law making it illegal to send minors material over the Internet considered "harmful to minors." That's code, of course, for sexual material--anything from accurate information about contraception to personal stories about virginity or abuse to raunchy, explicit material.

The ACLU asked me to be a plaintiff in their suit against this law, which would criminalize Sexual Intelligence (since I don't know subscribers' age or location) as well as my website. According to the law, I would risk prosecution every time I published an issue. And that's exactly what Arizona legislators intended--to minimize the amount of sexual information their teens and children could get.

I was thrilled to be asked, and immediately agreed to appear in federal court. The ACLU attorneys helped me prepare my testimony.

Laws like this have been overturned in four other states (issue #1), they reminded me, and so Arizona had crafted their law carefully. Material is exempt from this law if it has "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific merit." Sexual Intelligence and my website qualify on all counts, of course. But so do "Catcher in the Rye," "Show Me," and the Harry Potter series, and all are among the most censored titles in American history.

I went to Tucson and gave my testimony. The ACLU attorney asked, "Dr. Klein, why not simply ask the age of would-be subscribers and those emailing you questions?" That way I could deny information to minors. But in doing so, I would be contradicting my cherished beliefs--saying I need to keep stuff from minors, while writing about how critical such information is to them and to adults who want to be good sex educators. "I just won't do that," I said. "I shouldn't be asked to."

The People of Arizona were respectful: Did I think my work was harmful to minors? Of course not--I thought it was beneficial. Then why did I fear the government of Arizona might declare it "harmful to minors"? I had plenty of reasons:

People were trying to persuade me that my work is so obviously legitimate that no reasonable person could challenge it. I was in the bizarre position of disagreeing. Because the value of my work is challenged all the time, all over the place. Including Arizona.

Arizona's current District Attorney may feel fine about my work, but I don't want to have to depend on his personal good will in order to continue educating people. The whole genius of American justice is that we can supposedly depend on laws regardless of who's enforcing them. Of course, that's always a disastrous aspect of obscenity law and censorship: what gets considered legitimate and whose life gets ruined is completely up to who's defining what's valuable and what's dangerous.

I wanted to be cross-examined for hours, looking to express twenty years of frustration from battling the government's sexual ignorance, fear, and bullying. But it was over in just a few minutes.

A judge will rule on the case in a few months. Until then, Arizona is enjoined from enforcing the law. Whatever the outcome, I'll never forget when the government tried to convince me that my work was too serious and important to censor. If only that were true. Once again, the government has lied about sex.

2. Breasts and Other Toys

The idea was great: give poor families toys to give to their kids for Christmas, freeing up crucial dollars for buying food and paying rent.

Officials at the Without Walls International Church in Tampa were delighted when a local DJ promised a truckload of toys for their annual charity drive. Their smiles turned to frowns when they discovered the toys had been collected by strippers at a boob-a-thon, who flashed their breasts for five hours in return for over 1,000 toy donations.

The church had to decide which was more important: disapproving of stripping or serving the poor. It was apparently a very close call. Church spokeswoman Jennifer Mallon said "we certainly wouldn't condone anything that has to do with something offensive...something that degrades women." Oh, certainly, it's about protecting women, not objecting to sex. If only someone had offered them toys donated by male strippers so we could confirm this.

How many of those poor families do you suppose would have turned down the toys because they were donated by strippers, male or female?

In the end, Church leaders met and decided to accept the donation. "We'll bless it and distribute it," said Mallon. Yes, say some magic words to cleanse the gift given by dirty people--who donated the fruits of their labor to the poor. If only the Church understood strippers as well as Jesus did.

3. Doing It For The Kids?

The American divorce rate went up in the '60s and '70s for a variety of reasons. These include women acquiring more economic power, non-marital sex becoming more common, domestic violence becoming less acceptable, and the nuclear family becoming less central in people's lives.

The psychology professions generally kept up with this change, becoming more supportive of people getting divorced--especially women in loveless marriages. And although no one thought one-parent homes were good for children, the assumption was that bad marriages were bad environments for kids.

This assumption was challenged by Judith Wallerstein's 1994 book, "The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce." She reported on 100 families and their adult kids, and found many problems in people whose parents had divorced during their childhood. She concluded that divorce was bad for kids, so bad that people in terrible marriages should stay together for the kids. The popular press and American psychology gobbled this up, partly because it created a whole new category of victims--children of divorce--and victimology was a popular psychology paradigm of the '80s and '90s.

A new study in the Journal of Marriage and Family now refutes Wallerstein's conclusions. Penn State University sociologists Paul Amato and Alan Booth followed 297 married couples and their children for 17 years. They found that the more marital discord parents reported, the more unhappily married their grown kids were. "If people in these marriages are staying together for the sake of the kids, they're not doing their kids any favor," says Amato. Indeed, this validates Amato's 1991 meta-study of 13,000 children: children of divorce are much more like children of non-divorce than they are different.

This also validates my experience as a marriage counselor since 1980. Of course it's bad when kids experience abandonment, especially if they feel responsible, or if their parents use them as pawns in an ugly game of revenge. But most kids can handle it if they have at least one adult in their lives whom they can trust and depend on, and by whom they feel valued. What's really destructive for kids is learning about relationships by watching mom and dad ignore or hate each other day after day. Our society underestimates the impact of living with parents who share neither respect nor affection. Growing up with parents who never hug, don't solve problems cooperatively, and obviously don't care about each others' well-being trains kids for relationship failure. That's when they end up in my office.

I get plenty of clients who grew up with divorced parents--with America's high divorce rate, it's inevitable. But I see even more clients who grew up with hostile, uncooperative, cold parents--who stayed married. I can't call those parents selfish, but most would have done their kids a favor by divorcing.

4. Do-It-Yourself Video Voyeurism

The Voyeur-of-the-Month award goes to S.H. of Milwaukee, accused of secretly filming visiting relatives while they showered and undressed in his guestroom. Mr. H (police haven't revealed his full name) is the first person charged under Wisconsin's new video voyeurism law, which is designed to protect people from being depicted in the nude when they have "a reasonable expectation of privacy."

Mr. H owns an audiovisual equipment installation business. When busted, he claimed he didn't plant the cameras for sexual gratification, but only to see if "it could be done." Since the law was designed to protect people in public places, he didn't think he was breaking the law by taping people in his own home.

Pretty lame, Mr. H. And yet, what happens if we believe him? If you secretly photograph someone to prove to yourself "it can be done," or to throw darts at the pictures, the law treats you differently than if you masturbate to the pictures. Very few people question this important legal distinction--that erotic intent puts criminal or quasi-criminal behavior into a special, more serious category.

Don't look now, but voyeurism is an up-and-coming crime (issues #18, 21). One reason is that new technologies are making it easier to practice, as Mr. H's family has discovered. But the deeper reasons involve the government's increasing regulation of the erotic imagination. As the Internet exposes Americans to a fuller range of each others' erotic activities, people are also expecting more government control of those activities. But nowadays, what are "activities?" Every day, computers and the Internet erase a little more of the line between "behavior" and "just fantasy." As the two become harder to distinguish, calls for controlling others' sexual thoughts are getting stronger.

Applying the video voyeurism law to a private home is an inappropriate government intrusion into people's lives, providing guarantees that citizens should not demand or accept. Do people have the right to be treated well in a family member's home? If so, most of us are due for some jail time. If this trend keeps up, it will become illegal to feed your houseguests lousy food.

And what about guests' responsibilities? Does a host have the legal right to expect that guests won't walk around in their underwear, or that they will close the bathroom door while showering, or that they won't keep him up all night by having loud sex in the guestroom? Allowing the government into our homes is a tricky business: while they may come when we don't mind them, they may arrive when we don't want them. Remember, for example, that people still get arrested for consensual oral sex in private.

Before Wisconsin's new law, Mr. H would have been charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. He now faces felony charges and a five-year prison sentence. One yearns for the days when we could call our relatives jerks instead of potential felons.

5. Kid Lives Down to Expectations

The most cynical staple of TV talk shows is blatant sexual titillation, which they justify by mournfully condemning it. So on shows like Ricki, Jenny, and Sally Jessy, we see a rotating cast of stock characters that features women who wear see-through dresses to the supermarket, bisexual cheaters, and promiscuous lesbian mothers.

One recurring show is "my teen girl is out of control," in which a half-dozen children are brought on stage carefully dressed like little sluts (assisted by the producers who profess to care for them), where they strut and curse while the audience gets aroused and yells nasty things. It's obviously terrible parenting to display a kid like this, but the oh-so-caring people at the networks withhold this bit of advice, which would undermine the shows' heat (along with their jobs).

So a few weeks ago, a Texas mom brings her 14-year-old to the Maury Povich Show. Povich is a smirking millionaire who trades in human flesh--renting America's trailer-park freak shows in exchange for an air-o-plane ride, a room in a fancy hotel with indoor plumbing, and a ride in a big white limo. Little Miss Out-of-Control goes to New York so her mom can show off how out of control she is, and what does the kid do? She calls a car service and has sex with the driver--several times. Yup, she's out of control.

The kid has broken the basic rule of TV--she's acted out her script off camera. So mom freaks, and threatens to sue Maury. He, of course, pleads innocence: he did set the trap for this hapless prey, but he didn't push these people in. They ran in.

How can we expect this kid to act responsibly when her mother hasn't learned to? First she drags the kid onto national TV so everyone can tell the kid she's a little whore--a selfish and hostile act. Then when things go wrong, the mom refuses to take any responsibility, blaming Maury for I don't know what, and the kid who she already said can't be trusted--whom mom has brought into the world's biggest candy store.

The kid's a victim, of course. The mom needs to grow up, but doesn't have the inner resources to do so. Given the hypocrisy that forms the core of his career, I wish to God Maury wasn't escaping clean on this one. If there were any justice, he'd be an eternal guest on an uber-talk show, "ordinary people who become media stars and exploit vulnerable people."

6. Afghan Women On Parade

It appears as if CNN has become the Burqa Channel. When they're not running heartbreaking footage of women still afraid to remove their veils, they're running melodramatic footage of women without them--displaying their faces, excitedly or cautiously, for the first time in five years.

We also get lots of footage of girls starting school, women shopping without chaperones, and official talk about women resuming their rightful place in society. It's the Bush administration's carefully orchestrated campaign to give a liberal veneer to our operation over there, showing that this whole bombing thing is not really about politics, but about people.

This is so cynical. Our government pretending to be supportive of women's rights is like a lion pretending to be vegetarian. Let's review our government's recent accomplishments regarding women's rights:

Besides, our American vision of "Afghan women" needs to be radically adjusted. For starters, they aren't a homogenous group. Like Afghan men, Afghan women are more attached to their ethnic, linguistic, and religious differences than to each other. As Rina Amiri of Harvard's Women Waging Peace says, "it's the veiled versus the semi-veiled versus the unveiled." Urban and rural women follow radically different traditions.

The comforting Western vision of liberal democracy is not common or desirable among even viciously oppressed Afghan women. Almost all intend to continue wearing traditional Muslim body-covering, and few are ready to refuse arranged marriages. At the recent Afghan Women's Summit in Brussels, the 50 delegates couldn't even endorse a proposal calling for Western-style secular democracy or the UN Declaration of Women's Rights. Americans' belief in majority rule would be sorely tested if our media honestly reported on the kind of clan-based, gender-unequal society most Afghan women actually want.

Making Laura Bush the spokesperson for our "humanitarian" concern about Afghan women is the ultimate in hypocrisy. Let's see her care enough about American women to condemn the organized violence directed at women's health clinics, to stop the jailing of prostitutes, and to increase funding for drug rehab programs and job training programs so more desperate women can keep their kids. When Laura Bush does a single day's work protecting American women she'll have earned the right to protect Afghan women.

7. Making the "Morning After" Easier

Here's a public policy story that's great news.

Californians will be able to obtain emergency contraception (the "morning-after pill") without a prescription starting January 1, 2002.

Most people don't know much about the existence of these drugs, a special combination of oral contraceptives. Taken within 72 hours of possible conception, they are extremely effective at preventing pregnancy, with minimal side effects.

Of course, opponents argue that allowing pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception without prescription could lead to misuse of the drugs, which are not intended to serve as routine birth control. Like most attempts to limit people's erotic options, this argument is disingenuous. If people are unable to reliably use more ordinary forms of birth control, I'd rather they use this than use nothing. What anti-family planning forces really mean is that people should have their sexuality totally under control or not express it at all. This is unrealistic, especially in a culture in which sexual information and validation are routinely withheld from the public.

Studies conducted in both Washington and Canada have shown that non-prescription availability of this drug will result in significant health care savings. What a funny reason to support legislation that enhances people's health and empowerment: it saves the state money. So the policy is supported for the wrong reason as well as opposed for the wrong reason. Well, that's America. At least people now have an important new option.

8. Book Review: "Castration"

Why do we say someone is a big dick, but has big balls? Why is the first an insult, while the second is respectful? And what exactly is the connection between the penis, testicles, and masculinity?

These are the kinds of questions that Dr. Gary Taylor tackles in "Castration: An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood" (Routledge, 2000). The book is a lively discussion of historical, psychosocial, and cultural considerations of eroticism. Along the way, Taylor discusses the Bible, Chaucer, Christina Aguilera, Hemingway, and Freud, as the conversation ranges across continents and centuries. Taylor examines historical models of masculinity, and the change in the perceived source of manhood from the testicles to the penis--an enormous cultural change related to human evolution from rural and pastoral to urban civilization.

Taylor reminds us that "castration" has always involved removing the testicles, leaving a man fully able to function as an adult (except for his sterility). The procedure was developed thousands of years ago, and has political, religious, artistic, and medical significance. Taylor--who reads both Greek and Latin--discusses the meaning of castration for people in various worlds, including Jesus'. He takes the Gospels seriously enough to reexamine their words regarding not only castration, but birth control, monogamy, and other aspects of sexuality. Traditional Christians may not enjoy being reminded of what Jesus and his early followers actually said about such subjects, but Taylor challenges us to understand and integrate the implications of these early Christian ideas.

Taylor's writing is "academic" in the best sense--well-researched and unapologetically informed (and opinionated) about both high and popular culture. This isn't USA Today-style speculation about "trends" and "people." Taylor's ideas are so well-reasoned that the reader is gladly seduced into following each argument as far as it goes.

Taylor's juxtaposition of history, culture, and psychology, along with his comfort about sexuality, breaks new ground here. The reader's relationship to genitalia--his/her own and others'--is forever changed after reading this excellent book. By examining sexuality in its historical context, crucial for understanding other civilizations, he makes the arbitrariness of our own erotic beliefs startlingly visible.

9. Reminders: Awards, Books, & Subs