Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #33 -- November 2002

Contents

1. Jersey Sex Ed Victory
2. New Zealand: Porn Harms Baby
3. Amazon.com Supports Free Expression
4. Fighting Internet Censorship Abroad
5. Follow the Money, Do the Math
6. Alabama Vibrates Again
7. New Book

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1. Jersey Sex Ed Victory

Say what you want about New Jersey, it's the comprehensive sex education capital of the U.S. For decades, professionals there have fought for excellence in school programs, teacher training, and program materials. Your state--and mine--should be ashamed that we don't measure up to their standards.

This month I'm again proud to say Ich bin ein New Jerseyer. Their teacher's union canceled three sex education workshops scheduled for its annual conference after learning they would be led by abstinence-only educators and doctors--a direct conflict with the New Jersey Education Association's policy against abstinence-only sex education. The sessions will be replaced by workshops led by staff from Rutgers' wonderful Network for Family Life Education. The change was instigated by Susan Wilson, a long-time sex educator and advocate for accurate information.

This is a good time to respond to the increasingly common Big Lie that abstinence works--that it works, so they say, 100% of the time. This is simply not true--for many Americans, abstinence does not work. A large number of people attempting to use abstinence as a way of avoiding pregnancy become pregnant every year. It's even true for usually dependable middle-class adults, and it's true about behaviors other than sex. Many of us have tried the abstinence method with chocolate chip cookies, Nordstrom's, cigarettes, the Simpsons, and other things. At the end of the year (or day), how many of us are still abstinent? And if that's true of adults, how well can we expect abstinence to work for adolescents? Don't let people get away with saying that abstinence works 100% of the time. It simply doesn't. Kids who plan to abstain and then impulsively have (unprotected) sex are using abstinence--and suffering the inevitable consequences.
 

2. New Zealand: Porn Harms Baby

There's something weird going on in New Zealand lately. Last month (issue #32) we reported that the government censorship board decided its 12 censors deserve a hazardous duty bonus. Now, a federal court has issued an injunction preventing a couple from filming their labor and birth for a pornographic movie. Furthermore, the government wants guardianship of the fetus and a court order preventing the filming.

New Zealand's Deputy Solicitor General Helen Aikman did acknowledge that "It is increasingly common to videotape birth. The key difference here," she said, "is the intention to shoot the film for pornographic purposes." So what's the problem? "The thought of a baby being in a porn movie is likely to be highly offensive to a person of normal sensibilities," Aikman said, apparently believing she is in a position to assess the psyches of New Zealand's citizens.

Aikman continued, "Knowing it has been in a porn movie [who's going to tell?], the baby is likely to be harmed [when?] merely by association with this film. [why? maybe the kid will react with pride.]"

There's something unwholesome about the government's heavy-handed position. Sure, watching a birth while you're jacking off or making out is a bit unusual. But it's certainly no more peculiar than, say, wanting to see fully-dressed women soaking wet, or enjoying films of guys fellating themselves. You say the baby doesn't--and can't--give consent? Babies don't give consent to all those bearskin and bathtub shots we've all been raised on, either. C'mon, this isn't about the rights of a one-second old baby. This is about thinking that sex is dirty. Babies, of course, despite being created by sex, are clean.

You know that joke about kinky and perverse? Sex with a feather is kinky; using the whole chicken is perverse. Well, getting off on watching a birth may be kinky--but criminalizing it is perverse.
 

3. Amazon.com Supports Free Expression

Despite pressure from yet another Southern California morality group (which seem to grow like weeds in the warm California sun), Amazon.com has refused to pull David Riegelís book Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers from its listings. Clearly burdened with too much time on its hands, the United States Justice Foundation has threatened to sue Amazon.com for unfair business practices, saying the book encourages child molestation.

Amazon says pulling the book would be an abridgment of Americans' free speech, a sacred right that morality groups typically think is a luxury whenever they feel threatened.

"We believe that providing open access to written speech, no matter how controversial or ugly, is one of the most important things we do. And we will continue to make controversial works available, except where they are specifically prohibited by law," said Amazon spokesperson Patricia Smith. This shows why it's so important to have laws and a culture firmly committed to free expression. Today, companies such as Amazon can fall back on the law. Without it, every company would be vulnerable to pressure from across the political spectrum. Only a few years ago, books advocating the "acceptability" of homosexuality or interracial marriage would have received the same censorious pressure.

In issues like this, the Right displays its mistrust of ordinary people, and its insanely simplistic model of sexual decision-making. The Right apparently fears that there is an enormous pool of Americans just inches from sliding into destructive sexual behavior. They seem to believe that there are millions of people for whom reading about "man-boy love" will be a transformative experience, sending them hunting for boys. What little we actually know about pedophiles is that they are not healthy people who actively choose their paraphilia. Once someone is a pedophile, he (or she) doesn't need a book or film to send them out hunting for prey.

Despite their belief in the power of the free market, the Right is afraid to let certain ideas see the light of day. They have little faith in the free marketplace of ideas, whose sunlight shrinks the mildew of twisted thinking.

There are countries, of course, in which a central agency decides what books should be banned because their ideas are dangerous. Americans who advocate censorship should live in such countries a while before sending our nation down such a dark road.
 

4. Fighting Internet Censorship Abroad

Sometimes it's hard to tell if something is news or satire. But as regular readers know, everything in Sexual Intelligence is true--including this.

Washington lawmakers are considering legislation that would allocate $100 million to thwart Internet censorship by authoritarian regimes. HR5524 would establish an Office of Global Internet Freedom to foster the development of censorship-busting technology for users in countries such as China and Saudi Arabia. The office would be part of the International Broadcasting Bureau, which operates stations like the Voice of America and Radio Martí (beamed to Cuba).

The bill states that authoritarian governments are trying to limit their citizens' access to the Internet, citing censorship techniques such as surveillance of e-mail and message boards, filtering content based on keywords, blocking individuals from visiting proscribed websites (often without those individuals even knowing the sites have been blocked), blacklisting users seeking to visit proscribed websites, and outright denial of Internet access.

This is exactly our complaint against the blocking software that is becoming increasingly prevalent in American life. Readers know (issues #12, 28) that both the Clinton and Bush administrations have tried to require public libraries to use blocking software. Various readers report that even Sexual Intelligence is blocked from various corporate or government computers (issue #1).

It is absolutely bizarre that our government may allocate $100 million to fight Internet censorship abroad while simultaneously allocating a similar amount to advance Internet censorship in America.

"With nearly 10 percent of the world's population now online and more gaining access each day, the Internet stands to become the most powerful engine for democratization and the free exchange of ideas ever invented," HR5524 says.

I agree. We should definitely try it here.
 

5. Follow the Money, Do the Math

Concerned Women for America (CWA) is another one of those morality groups that's obsessed with sexuality. Only two years ago they tried to get an indictment against Amazon.com chair Jeff Bezos, claiming he encouraged child molestation because of the books his company sold.

CWA's latest report criticizes many Fortune 500 companies as "white collar smut peddlers" who profit from pornography. Companies cited include AT&T, MCI, Time-Warner, DirecTV, Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, and Radisson, who make billions of dollars from "dial-a-porn" and in-room adult films.

CWA also berates credit card companies like Visa for accepting $420 million in processing fees from on-line porn purchases. "CWA is sending letters to the CEOs of each of these corporations urging them to place the welfare of children and their families above profits and [to] discontinue trafficking in pornography," said Janet LaRue, Chief Counsel of CWA.

Once again, anti-porn activists undermine their main point with simple mathematics. The billions of dollars involved in sexually explicit entertainment prove that this is a mainstream American industry catering to a huge number of mainstream Americans. "Trafficking" and "profits" are what corporations are all about. Without customers, there is no trafficking and there are no profits.

For better or worse, corporations like AT&T and Visa are generally not sympathetic to demands based on "morality." And fortunately, most groups like CWA are sufficiently marginalized that their threatened boycotts have little impact. Still, it's scary to contemplate CWA's logic: that pornography is everywhere, part of the basic structure of American capitalism and communities, but that it's enjoyed only by people on the fringes of our society--and that in any event, it's a sufficiently dangerous activity that it must be destroyed. Groups like CWA are so obsessed with their fear of eroticism that they'd gladly eliminate anything they have to--including America's civil and economic freedoms--to reduce everyone's exposure to it.
 

6. Alabama Vibrates Again

Two years ago (issue #9), we reported that an appeals court affirmed Alabama's right to criminalize the sale of sex toys, via its 1998 Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act. I'm pleased to report that three weeks ago, District Court Judge Smith determined that this law is unconstitutional.

Attorneys say that this decision goes beyond the issue of vibrators, supporting and perhaps expanding the constitutional right of privacy. Judge Smith wrote that "there exists a substantial history, legal tradition, and contemporary practice of deliberate state non-interference in the private, consensual, sexual relationships of married persons and unmarried adults...the fundamental right of privacy, long recognized by the Supreme Court as inherent among our constitutional protections, incorporates a right to sexual privacy."

Among the heroes in this case are the ACLU and sociologist Pepper Schwartz, who was a key expert witness.

So the good guys won. And yet, what kind of a country do we live in where we cheer the news that we are free to do as we please in private, with our own genitalia?
 

7. New Book!

Beyond Orgasm: Dare to be Honest About the Sex You Really Want  is my new book, published this week by TenSpeed Press. It's about the way we reject parts of our own sexuality because we fear we're abnormal, assume our partners will reject us in the same way if we're honest, and how our rresulting secrecy undermines desire, function, and pleasure. It has lots of interesting stories from my therapy practice, an essay on why the Mars/Venus model is such a mistake, and gorgeous sensuous photos by David Steinberg. To see it in full color (and, perchance, to order it), Click Here.

 

 


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