Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #27 -- May 2002


1. A Victory Bigger Than Kiddie Porn
2. Guidance for Gondolier Gigolos
3. Old World Values Are Net-Savvy
4. Washington: Abstinence From Thinking
5. Catholic Compassion--Only for Priests?
6. Our Bodies, Our Selves, Around the World


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1. A Victory Bigger Than Kiddie Porn

By now you've probably read that the Supreme Court has declared that "virtual child pornography"-erotic material either generated by computer or featuring adults made up as minors--cannot be criminalized.
Predictably, those in the panic business are declaring this a sort of July 4th for "kiddie pornographers," and are predicting the demise of Western civilization as we know it.

It's important to understand what the Court ruled, and why it did so. The original logic behind making it illegal to own a picture of children being sexual is the assumption that children are necessarily harmed in the creation of those pictures. This assumption is questionable, but modern technology now offers society the chance to bypass this alleged danger. With computers (and videos featuring adult actresses using creative makeup), one can now see images of under-18s being sexual without the necessity of actual children being involved in creating those images.

On what grounds, then, can our government make such images illegal? Federal lawyers and right-wing activists trotted out the usual justifications: it makes the world more comfy for pedophiles, it confuses people, the stuff is used to entice children. The Court ruled that even if these assumptions are true (which is not at all clear), they do not present a clear enough reason to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens to look at pictures on a private monitor or screen. In effect, the Court upheld the most basic principle of our glorious American experiment: restricting the fundamental rights of thought and private behavior is very, very dangerous, always more dangerous than whatever the government is attempting to prevent.

The real issue here is not about pornography or even sex. It's imagination. Who owns the rights to your imagination? Who gets to decide if what you're thinking is so dangerous that you must be prevented from thinking it? Each year, people read the Bible and drown attempting to walk on water. Shall the rest of us be prevented from reading the Bible?

The overwhelming majority of Americans will never want to look at computer simulations of childhood eroticism. Every single one of those Americans should be grateful that the Supreme Court has reaffirmed their right to do so.

2. Guidance for Gondolier Gigolos

Some 30 of Venice's famous gondoliers and guides have drawn up a code of conduct for courting foreign women. Their rulebook prohibits splitting up couples, and offers insights on the alleged character of various nationalities' women. Venetian guides say the custom of charming visiting women is part of the tourist industry.

Successful America corporations know they're not really in the food or appliance or whatever business, but are actually in the people business. Gondoliers apparently now realize their primary business isn't
transportation, but romance.

Alcohol executives realize this, as do the lingerie and chocolate-covered-strawberry people. Many more industries could benefit from this perspective: hotels, linens, beds, bathrobes, earplugs
("honeymooning neighbors keeping you awake?"), depilatories ("give him a smile--not a mouthful of hair") even public transportation ("relax and ride us now, so you can ride her later").

Why don't hotels put lube alongside the shampoo and mouthwash in every room? Discount coupons for local porn theatres would surely be appreciated by many visitors. They could be paid for by local churches, who could advertise on the reverse.

3. Old World Values Are Net-Savvy

The European Parliament has voted 460-0 to oppose the use of software filters as a way of regulating content on the Internet. As a result, ISPs will not be forced to restrict access to Web sites that member nations dislike.

Contrast this with American policy. The U.S. government not only pressures ISPs to restrict the content they carry, but bludgeons public libraries, universities, and thousands of other institutions to carry out its policies of internet censorship.

How could the Europeans be so far ahead of us on this? Do they love their children less than we do? Are they less intelligent than we are? Do they understand less about the Internet? Are they less moral, less responsible?

No, they are simply less afraid of sex. And in today's world, that frequently correlates with more intelligent public policy and personal decision-making. Fear is never a good teacher, never a good policy guide, and it never leads to good government--or good parenting. Those who preach fear--the religious right, pro-censorship pseudo-feminists, misinformed pop psychologists--are the ones we should be suspicious of.

Imagine: a Parliament that trusts people more than government-imposed regulation. If only we had a few Republicans in this country.

4. Washington: Abstinence From Thinking

Our federal government appears practically brain-damaged in its approach to human sexuality.

President Bush, of course, advocates delaying sex until marriage, despite the fact that neither he, his wife, nor his college age children practiced this. He's like the guy who wants stricter zoning regulations after he's built his luxury ranch. Except that Bush is also proposing to spend $138 million to persuade people to adopt those self-limiting regulations.

It's bizarre that the House debate on funding sex "education" (now abstinence training) is taking place in the Energy & Commerce Committee. Even more surreal is the fact that last week, the committee overwhelmingly agreed to spend $50,000,000 of your money to tell kids not to screw--on the same day that the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reported it could find "no reliable evidence" that these abstinence programs work. Actually, there's plenty of proof that these programs don't work. Over a year ago (issue #18) we reported that the non-partisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy evaluated abstinence programs and found them ineffective, evaluations that the government and others have since replicated.

Now here's the craziest part of it. Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) offered an amendment to the funding bill that would have required abstinence programs receiving federal money to be scientifically sound--and it failed. Why are legislators afraid to require this most basic scrutiny? Simple: some 90% of U.S. high school grads are sexually active--and the government is trying desperately to teach them not to be. Of course it's failing. They're telling kids not to start doing something they're already doing.

Abstinence training programs sound exactly like the silliest parts of communism. I remember a trip to Moscow in 1990, during which I saw salespeople standing around completely empty department store counters. They went to work and got paid--because they had jobs. Every time the government threatened to lay them off, they went on strike, and the government relented. It wanted them on the job to keep unemployment figures low--even though there was no actual work for employees to do.

So we have adults who had sex before marriage teaching kids to abstain from sex before marriage. Twenty years from now, these kids--who are already having sex before marriage--will be teaching the next generation of kids to abstain before marriage. And they'll get the same results.

And we laugh at the Soviets trying to keep their unemployment figures down by hiring salespeople when there's nothing to sell.

5. Catholic Compassion--Only for Priests?

The men who run the Catholic Church spent last week discussing what to do about priests who sexually violate minors. The Church is still far from deciding upon a one-strike-and-you're-out policy. They're considering questions like How old was the child? What exactly was done? Did it happen more than once? Is the priest regretful?

These are actually relevant questions when trying to understand and evaluate inappropriate sexual behavior. But we then must ask: has the Church been this compassionate and insightful in addressing the same sexual improprieties in laypeople?

The answer is a mean-spirited no. Across the country, Cardinals and local priests alike have turned their back on those simply accused of molestation. They have demanded dramatic punishment and ostracism for those convicted of a single sexual incident of any kind. The Church leadership cannot tolerate--at least in non-priests--even a single incident of looking at pictures of children being sexual, which is clearly far less heinous than actually being sexual with children. The Church continues to mete out the ultimate punishment to those guilty of a single episode of abortion or even birth control.

Expecting that priests who offend should be treated differently from non-priests who offend is arrogant and hypocritical. It further highlights the reality that Church pronouncements on moral issues are simply one voice among many. Long ago, the Church seized for itself the franchise of telling people which of their favorite sexual acts are "immoral," displeasing to God, and a sure ticket to hell. It's about time that adults realize that this is simply an opinion. This being a free country, people are free to follow these ideas. But let's call them what they are: ideas in a marketplace of ideas, not some "truth."

In its own clumsy way, the Church has actually refocused us on the still-unanswered question of what to do with pedophiles in general. Americans deserve a better understanding of adults who sexualize children, better diagnostic tools and treatment strategies. But the best minds in social science, psychology, and sexology are prevented from fully studying this phenomenona. The government refuses to allow world-class American researchers even the most regulated use of its tools; for example, it has criminalized the ownership, even by registered university laboratories, of pedophilic erotica. And researchers cannot promise confidentiality to anyone who is interviewed about erotic experiences or even fantasies with children.

As a result, fear, hatred, and mythology rule our public policies and personal consciousness about adult-child sexual contact. Those making our laws, along with those running our churches, magazines, and schools, are left with urban legends: that most molesters have been molested; all molesters watch kiddie porn; pedophiles typically use kiddie porn to entice kids into sex; watching kiddie porn turns healthy people into molesters; normal people don't fantasize about children or find them sexually attractive. All of these are false.

The biggest contribution the Church could make to society in response to its decades-long mishandling of its own sexual energy (not to mention its centuries-long tradition of inducing guilt into normal people), would be to use its political clout and enormous treasury to demand and fund meaningful research into the whole phenomenon of adult-child sexual interaction. A commitment to meaningful sex education in its schools would show sincere contrition and a desire to protect its kids.

6. Our Bodies, Our Selves, Around the World

Over 500 Brazilians woke up at dawn last week to undress in the biggest public park in South America's largest city, Sao Paulo. They were posing for a collective nude photo by American photographer Spencer Tunick.

Tunick has spent the last four years traveling the world, shooting public nudity--often in groups. He has done this in every U.S. state. Brazil is the thirty-first country in his Nude Adrift project.

Tunick's photos are not intended to have erotic attraction. He asks people to avoid smiling or looking directly at the camera. The result can be unsettling. It certainly invites a re-examination of one's attitudes toward the human body, and it critiques common ideas about the meaning of "public" and "private."

Some critics insist the nudity renders the work pornographic, while the group and public dimensions make it unacceptably perverse. Others say the pictures recall those taken in WWII concentration camps. Tunick rejects the comparison. "You could also think of massacres" or "of disasters such as earthquakes, that rip the clothes off 30,000 people," he told the BBC. "There are many ways to think of a mass of bodies as death, but my work is a celebration of life."

Ansel Adams didn't have to apologize for documenting the beauty of trees. Neither did Thoreau or Whitman, who used words to convey the beauty of the natural and human worlds. We've all seen photos of the Khmer Rouge, Bosnian, and Rwandan killing fields. Can we actually find it easier to look at brutally slaughtered corpses than at comfortable, living bodies?

If this isn't perversion, what is?

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