Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #34 -- December 2002


1. E Pluribus Inane
2. Cunning Linguists Face Discharge
3. Miss World, HIV, and Fatwas
4. Victoria's Eroticism No Secret
5. Flowers Demands 16th Minute
6. Letters About Issue #33
7. Holiday Gift Ideas



1. E Pluribus Inane

This month's award for the emptiest, most cynical legislative gesture goes to Pennsylvania's Congresswoman Melissa Hart, who sponsored a bill making it a crime to insert illicit or pornographic material into packaged food products. The bill is aimed at heading off problems such as one in which a 10-year-old boy found a pamphlet with racial slurs in a cake mix. Hart said Kraft Foods has reported over 100 such incidents in the past five years, which works out to roughly 1 per 75 jillion boxes of packaged food. Do you know anyone who's ever encountered this horrifying problem?

Well, at least when food package workers go postal, they don't go postal. I'll take a note scrawled "Murder all Jew-bastards" over a maniac with a handgun any day.

President Bush plans to sign the new law to "close a loophole in consumer safety policy." From here it looks like more of the too-familiar display of sexual righteousness that public figures use to show concern for their constituents.

Someday, our descendants will marvel at the laws we passed to show how loudly we could whistle past the scary graveyard of sexuality: no uncovered nipples in public, no condom machines in government buildings, private strip clubs banned in city after city, cosmetologists forbidden to wax labias or anuses. It's reminiscent of those old laws you read about in trivia columns: "In Kansas, it's illegal to pick your teeth with porcupine quills on Sundays if you're left-handed."

Representative Hart has demonstrated how conscientious she is by passing a law against sexual perversion--in the absence of any danger. Let's see her do something meaningful about sex--like facilitating education, health, or privacy measures to enhance our safety, decision-making, or pleasure.

As Mark Twain observed a century ago, "It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class--except Congress."

2. Cunning Linguists Face Discharge

The U.S. Army recently dismissed 9 linguists, including 6 who are trained in Arabic, because they are gay. According to CNN, the soldiers' dismissals come at a time when the military is facing a critical shortage of translators for the war on terrorism. The government has aggressively recruited Arabic speakers since 9/11.

Apparently, America's fierce single-mindedness in confronting terrorism has its limits. Our Secretary of Defense may be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, but he apparently can't think strategically while his mind is clouded by an image of two men tongue-kissing. An international movement is planning to destroy everything we hold dear, and our government is rooting out homos. If this is the sophistication with which we're responding to terrorism, we really are doomed.

As obsessed as Bush, Cheney, and Rice are with Saddam Hussein, there's apparently something our government fears even more: men loving men. If these gay soldiers are so scary, maybe we should threaten to send them to the Middle East. You can see Al Qaeda quaking now--"no, not the gay guys, pleeeeeze, not that. Scuds, B-52s, yes, but not the men who love men--we surrender!" End of war on terror. Just a simple redeployment of resources.

The blind fear and self-destructive hatred behind the military's anti-gay policy shows that we have more in common with our fundamentalist enemies than we'd like to believe.

3. Miss World, HIV, and Fatwas

In politics, as in sex, everything is ultimately related. Three such related situations have Nigeria in the news.

For several years, observant Muslims have been imposing Shariah, or orthodox, religious law, on an increasing portion of the country's north.

Earlier this year, for example, an Islamic court sentenced a young woman to die by stoning for adultery. Throughout the summer, a growing number of people around the world protested this decision, to no avail.

It was in this context that the Miss World pageant came to Nigeria several weeks ago. Muslims in various northern towns felt offended by the very arrival of the women and the value placed on their beauty. Big city journalist Isioma Daniel responded to this by suggesting that Muhammed himself (who had four wives) "would have chosen a wife from among them."

This enraged some Muslims, and a fatwa against Daniel was issued, demanding that "any Muslim who finds her should behead her." More than 200 people died in ensuing violence in northern Nigeria, and the pageant was relocated to London.

At the same time, new statistics reveal that Nigeria has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world. The Nigerian government and religious institutions are proving resistant to any serious discussion of social interventions to turn this tragedy around.

So what would Muhammed say or do about today's Nigeria? It's hard to believe that a loving Prophet would behead someone for social commentary. It's hard to believe that a peaceful Prophet would believe in the concept of "blasphemy." And it's hard to imagine a wise Prophet who wouldn't urge honest conversation about sex, bringing sexuality into the light to encourage good decision-making.

Nigerian Muslims who don't follow a path of love, wisdom, and peacefulness shame their tradition, and threaten their nation's health.

4. Victoria's Eroticism No Secret

Lest we become too smug, believing that all the backwardness of the world lies with other nations, here's the official response to the Victoria's Secret lingerie fashion show broadcast by CBS TV at 9PM a few weeks ago.

With your tax dollars, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps has called for an overhaul of the government's broadcast indecency standards after hundreds of complaints about the lingerie fashion show. Hundreds of complaints--out of a viewing audience of over 10,000,000. That's less than one one-hundredth of a percent. Although he says he did not watch the show, he somehow knows that it was "palpably and demonstrably indecent." He apparently means to judge it by the outrage of a few citizens (and how many of them watched?), rather than the apathy or pleasure of millions of citizens.

When the FCC staff told Copps that the show wasn't "so graphic or explicit as to be patently offensive (i.e., legally questionable)," Copps urged the agency to revise its definition of indecency and look into whether it should be expanded to include "obscene and profane" programming.

Profane. That's a word Nigerian Muslims used while burning Christian homes last week.

True, this whole FCC thing beats a fatwa or a rampaging gang. But again, where's the dialog? Where's the fundamental recognition that there's more than one legitimate viewpoint on the matter?

As usual, the lowest common erotic-tolerance denominator wins: when things are so bland that no one complains, it's considered the community standard. But how many of us complained to the FCC that we couldn't see nipples? Or the models kissing? Or any vibrators, a common accompaniment to lingerie? The FCC doesn't hear our voices, so they don't know we exist. And once again, we get the media our silence deserves.

I resent and am disgusted by people who won't simply change the channel when they don't like what they see--and instead try to prevent others from watching what they wish. But I admire their willingness to demand something different than they have. When people who are invested in erotic exploration are willing to do that, we'll have a better shot at what we want, too.

5. Flowers Demands 16th Minute

A federal appeals court has ruled that a defamation case brought by a former lover of ex-President Bill Clinton can move forward.

Long, long ago, in a more innocent era--the 1990s--Gennifer Flowers slept with then-Governor Bill Clinton. She agrees that it was completely consensual. She eventually took the matter public, grabbing her 15 minutes of fame. As every adult knows, when you make your private life public, there are consequences. Flowers has been complaining about those consequences ever since, and has done the all-American thing--asking the courts to intervene in her private little matter.

Going to the press about your private life and then complaining when your reputation becomes tarnished is the very definition of chutzpah--like the kid who kills her parents and then asks for mercy because she's an orphan.

6. Letters About Issue #33

A. Supports Free Expression

This article praised's refusal to discontinue selling a book that a conservative think-tank claims encourages child molestation. Photographer and writer David Steinberg writes,

        "I was surprised to see you make the all-too-common error (I know you're conscious of this problem) of conflating pedophiles with child molesters when you say that pedophiles are "not healthy people," and that they "hunt for prey."
        "I have always admired you for being an outspoken advocate on this risky issue, and I know that you know that the overwhelming majority of pedophiles never hunt for prey at all. Also, it's my understanding that most pedophiles…[like] most homosexuals and most people who practice S/M…are as sexually and emotionally healthy as mainstream folks.
        "Your reference [seemed to] encourage people to think of all pedophiles as dangerous predators, which I think is the last thing you (or I) would want to do."

Thanks, David, for catching this. You're right--most pedophiles are not child molesters. They are people who are strongly attracted to minors, and like other groups of people, most of them handle their sexual feelings without hurting anyone.

There's a lot we don't know or understand about pedophiles and their emotional makeup. We'd all be better off if the government allowed sex researchers to study this population. Unfortunately, researchers are prevented from asking the relevant questions, and respondents invite investigation and jail time if they discuss their feelings honestly.

B. New Zealand: Porn Harms Baby

This article reported how a New Zealand court was preventing a couple from filming their labor and birth for a pornographic movie--and how the government wanted guardianship of the fetus. A reader named Danny wrote,

        "I have to take issue with your position . . . I'm a liberal, 22-year-old male, but this is not something I would endorse or allow either . . . [if I were] the baby filmed in that video I would be grossly ashamed, and I imagine most healthy individuals would feel the same. New Zealand officials are right to step in and end it (although I disagree with the guardianship issue)."

Danny himself makes the essential point--he's against what the parents did, but he "disagrees with the guardianship issue." Once we give the government the right to judge what's acceptable private sexual behavior, they will inevitably enforce their views in intrusive, destructive ways.

I worry about the number of people who actually think that being born on a porn film is worse for a kid than having the government take him away from his parents. This isn't about the baby's welfare--it's about thinking that sex is dirty.

C. Alabama Vibrates Again

Two years ago an appeals court affirmed Alabama's right to criminalize the sale of sex toys (issue #9). Last month we reported that District Court Judge Smith found this law unconstitutional. I mentioned expert witness Dr. Pepper Schwartz as one of the heroes of the case, while omitting mention of Dr. Vern Bullough, another key witness whose arguments were cited in the decision. It's a pleasure to recognize this giant historian and sexologist now.

D. Jersey Sex Ed Victory

This piece described how the New Jersey teacher's union canceled three "sex education" workshops scheduled for its annual conference after learning they would be restricted to promoting scientifically-discredited abstinence-only curricula. I proudly declared "Ich bin ein New Jerseyer." Toronto's Paul Rapoport has studied linguistics for years, and says,

        "Ich bin ein New Jerseyer" looks good to most English speakers, but it's better in German without "ein." When JFK said "Ich bin ein Berliner," it was funny, because "ein Berliner" would be taken as a kind of jelly-filled doughnut. It's rather like saying "I am a Danish." The better German was "Ich bin Berliner." I remember that very radio broadcast, by the way."

7. Holiday Gift Ideas

Two books have come across my desk that would make excellent gifts this year. Each celebrates sexuality in a unique way.

* The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex by Cathy Winks & Anne Semans has been revised, and it's terrific. It's kind of a "Our Bodies Our Selves" meets "Joy of Sex" meets Martha Stewart (in a good way).

The large paperback features stories, techniques, drawings, advice, a huge resource guide, suggestions for beginning swingers and S/Mers, and a dozen "Profiles in Pleasure" featuring some of the wisest sex experts around. For more information, see

* The Spirit of Lady Godiva by "Harvey," edited by Paul Rapoport, is a beautiful coffeetable book. It features 133 full-page photos taken in 15 American cities, including Seattle, New York, Ann Arbor, and Albuquerque. The theme is that each one is an outdoor scene with lots of people, including 2 or 3 nudes (male and female).

The best description is from the introduction by Paul Rapoport, arts professor at McMaster University: "Harvey photographs naked people amongst clothed people in everyday scenes. He takes the main presumption about public nudity--that it's indecent--and dissolves it utterly. His nude subjects are not embarrassed, dangerous, or in danger. They perform ordinary tasks with relaxation and confidence, appearing to exist just like everyone else."

The book is at once funny, erotic, philosophical, and artistic. Each shot is accompanied by a short story of how it was created. Most of the dressed people didn't suspect what was going to happen; they typically laugh or applaud when they realize what has just occurred. For more information, see

* Finally, another source of holiday gift ideas is I've written for them since their inception, and I'll talk more about our updated arrangement next issue. Meanwhile, for vibrators, handcuffs, sexy books, and great articles, click here. If you like Sexual Intelligence, you'll love


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