Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #29 -- July 2002

Contents

1. Gay Pride Goes Corporate
2. "Male Sexuality" Author Dies
3. Sterilization Successful Years Later
4. Oprah Still Promoting Sexual Anxiety
5. Jim Morrison Still Dead

 

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

 

1. Gay Pride Goes Corporate

This year's Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco drew almost one million people. Many familiar names were there as sponsors, including Starbucks, Budweiser, United, Ramada, Borders, and Coca Cola. While some people see this as cynical exploitation of a high-income consumer market, others see it as validation that the gay civil rights movement has become a mainstream phenomenon.

Presumably, it's some of both. Be that as it may, corporate support for gay rights today is like a clandestine love affair: passionate words of commitment while embracing, but frosty distance in public. It's time for these supportive corporations to come out of the closet.

Companies, of course, had to provide compensation to be listed as sponsors. Next year, would-be sponsors should have to provide one other thing: banners posted in all their places of business announcing that they're a "proud sponsor of Gay Pride." Given a choice between renouncing homophobia or doing without decaf lattes and Bud Lights, the average American will embrace gay rights in a second.
 

2. "Male Sexuality" Author Dies

Psychologist and author Dr. Bernie Zilbergeld died on June 12 from complications of diabetes. He was 62.

Bernie was best known as the author of "Male Sexuality" (1978), updated as "The New Male Sexuality" in 1992. The two books sold over a million copies, and are still recommended by therapists and physicians across the country.

Bernie was the first popular psychologist to write that a major cause of men's sexual difficulties is their struggle with male sex roles and sexual expectations. Twenty-five years later, American men (and their partners) still suffer from these same gender expectations.

Bernie trained thousands of psychologists and sex therapists practicing today. Although he wasn't always easy to get along with, Bernie was willing to criticize popular ideas and institutions when other professionals hesitated to take similar risks. His criticism of Masters & Johnson's methodology in the late '80s, for example, was more direct than some colleagues could handle, and yet it was an important development in the field.

Along with his friend Dr. Lonnie Barbach, Bernie set the standard for straightforward, down-to-earth conceptualizing and counseling of sexual problems for decades starting in the mid '70s. We can honor Bernie by noting what American men still struggle with regarding their sexuality:

Is it harder to be a man than a woman? Of course not--itís just different. As singer Patti Smith says, itís a drag to be ANY gender. In an era when everyone was learning about the difficulties of being a modern woman, Bernie Zilbergeld taught us about the difficulties of being a modern man.
 

3. Sterilization Successful Years Later

There's good news for people considering sterilization: almost no one regrets getting it done, even long-term.

A recently-published study of over 4,000 women by the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention found that 94% feel no regret five years after getting their tubes tied or their husbands having vasectomies. This figure is far lower, of course, than the number of people who regret having unplanned pregnancies or births. The researchers also noted that some 2% wanted their procedures reversed, an astoundingly low figure for a life-changing decision.

Coincidentally, the June 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that vasectomy does NOT increase the likelihood of developing prostate cancer. A New Zealand study compared 923 men with prostate cancer and 1,224 cancer-free men. New Zealand has both the world's highest rate of vasectomy and a comprehensive cancer registry, making it the ideal place for such a study.

Americans tend to be squeamish about tubal ligation and vasectomy, often queasy about the very word "sterilization." Many men and women who have firmly decided they want no additional children (or none at all) refuse to even consider this permanent, safe, and hassle-free alternative. One response I hear regularly is, "What if my children die and I want new ones? What if my spouse dies and I want to remarry a person who wants to start another family?" When I question people who say this, what emerges is almost always quite different, however. Most really WOULDN'T have additional children.

Rather, sterilization involves an acceptance of the future, a formal recognition that one era of life has ended and another begun. THIS is what people resist. It's why garages are filled with 10-year-old tennis rackets and closets are filled with 10-year-old miniskirts. We just don't want to admit that life has gone on without our consent.

Interestingly, most psychotherapists hesitate to discuss sterilization with their patients. It's almost as if it's impolite or too personal to ask patients to face the fundamental existential dilemma. Yes, sterilization is permanent-- that's the point. So is the aging process, the inexorable changes in our families, and the losses that accompany both. Human beings are amazing: they would rather face the hassle of condoms, the side effects of oral contraceptives, and the Russian roulette of the rhythm "method" to maintain the illusion that the future has unlimited possibilities, rather than enjoy the sexual and health advantages of sterilization--and simply accept that the future has arrived.
 

4. Oprah Still Promoting Sexual Anxiety

For almost twenty years, Oprah Winfrey has been promoting sexual anxiety, showcasing victimhood, exploitation, and a dark vision of sexual relationships. Sometimes she does it herself, and sometimes she hires others to do it.

Oprah's latest surrogate is "Dr. Phil" McGraw, a forensic psychologist who helped her out when she was sued by Texas beef growers three years ago for criticizing beef on the air. McGraw's now on the show every Tuesday, and has a column in her monthly magazine. His latest pronouncement is that men who look at internet porn are "addicts" who are "cheating on their partners." ALL men, regardless of circumstance? Absolutely: "This behavior is not OK, it's not even almost OK," he says. "This habit is a perverse and ridiculous intrusion into your relationship." But don't 20 million Americans look at internet porn each month? Surely they can't all be perverts. "Addicts give lame justifications for their behavior like 'It's harmless', or 'Everybody's doing it'," says McGraw. And in a final swipe at the humanity of men, he says, "Guys just don't understand the pain, hurt and devastation they can cause with their unfaithfulness."

So Dr. Phil, with Oprah's blessing, pathologizes millions of men for looking at porn. And supports millions of women in attacking, rather than understanding, their mates.

I suppose we should expect this from the doc selected as Oprah's top guru. He perfectly reflects the messages on which Oprah has built an empire: male sexuality is a problem; female sensitivity leaves women vulnerable to male manipulation. Oprah's the one, after all, who said on a show a few years ago, "We all know that, sooner or later, all men cheat if they have the chance." Hmm, does Oprah have issues with men or sexuality?

Her recent interview with Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, author of "What your mother never told you about sex," offers more clues. On an episode broadcast last week, the middle-aged African-American psychologist was straightforward about female sexuality: use a vibrator. Love your clitoris. Talk to your mate about what you want. And to counteract media pressures about youth and beauty, walk around the house naked when alone. Yup, let those breasts breathe free, and get some air between those legs. Hardly radical stuff, and yet La Winfrey could hardly bear it: "Walk around naked? not me!" she said, obviously embarrassed about her body. And using a sex toy or a vaginal muscle exerciser was clearly out: "Hell, I ain't puttin' that thing inside me," she said, wide-eyed. Perhaps most revealing, Oprah had terrible trouble saying the words "vagina" and "clitoris." The problem wasn't network censors, who didn't try to silence Hutcherson.

Oprah is America's most influential sex educator. With her sexual conservatism hiding as embarrassment, and her victimology disguised as compassion, Oprah is betraying the eroticism of the women she claims to empower. Too bad she's leaving part of each woman behind. And too bad so many women don't seem to notice.
 

5. Jim Morrison Still Dead

If you've ever had sex listening to a Doors album, take a minute on July 3 and think about Jim Morrison, who died on that day in 1971 when he was 27.

Morrison was a poet who fronted a high-powered, rapturous rock band. If you didn't come of age in the late sixties, it would be hard to appreciate the exhilarating, revolutionary way he sang about sexuality: He was a "back door man," "strange days had found us," and he demanded, baby, that you "light my fire." And if the sex got completely out of control, well, "our love'll become a funeral pyre." Unlike today's media-driven musical "acts," this guy was totally genuine--his eroticism came from deep within the intersection of spirituality, narcissism, drugs, insecurity, and a mystic vision that was both androgynous and earthily gendered.

As Morrison's public performances became increasingly raunchy, local governments became interested. When he pulled off his pants or pretended to blow another band member onstage, opportunistic cops would swoop in and arrest the dangerous degenerate. Finally, a bust in Miami for public drunkenness, lewdness, and profanity (arrested for saying "fuck" in public!) led to a 1970 trial, conviction, and jail sentence. Morrison never served it, but the band's bookings fell off permanently. Within a year, Morrison had joined Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix in the Holy Trinity of dead rock stars.

Cause of death? The same thing that killed Lenny Bruce and Oscar Wilde.

All three were persecuted for expressing their erotic imagination. To visionaries, this expression is life itself; and so once torn from their public stage, Morrison and the others could no longer breathe. All three understood that sexuality is energy in its most political form--IF it can be harnessed. Why do civilized people still tolerate the idea that government has the right to limit eroticism in popular entertainment? As long as average Americans deny that they watch porn, and insist that their vibrators are just for massage, the government will continue using force to keep eroticism BELOW the threshold of political power.
 


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"Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence, copyright © Marty Klein, Ph.D. (www.SexEd.org)."