Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #36 -- February 2003

1. Bush Condom Reversal--Africa Only
2. Teen Says to Georgia: Fornicate Off
3. Sterilization--With a Bonus
4. Correspondence: Wal-Mart Photo-Terrorists
5. Pedophile Hunt Continues
6. Oprah/Dr. Phil/Klein Redux


1. Bush Condom Reversal--Africa Only

Last year, we criticized the President's destructive decision to spend $138 million on abstinence-only, condom-free programs in American schools (issue #27). Sexual Intelligence can't really take all the credit for this good news: in a major policy reversal, the President has tripled the funding that America will spend to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean--including tens of millions of dollars to promote condom use (along with, sigh, abstinence).

We need a similar bill here in the U.S.

All over America, teachers are prohibited from teaching about the health advantages of condoms during sexual activity. Florida high school teacher Colin Nicholas knows this better than most--he was just fired from his job teaching sex ed for demonstrating condom use with a banana. His goal, he said, was stimulating discussion about actual situations students might face. He foolishly thought that distributing accurate information was his mandate as a teacher.

"He doesn't belong in the classroom," board member Pat Carroll said. "It's those kinds of demonstrations that we don't want in our schools," superintendent Dan White said.

Note to Nicholas: apply for a job in Africa, that progressive place where children are allowed to learn about condoms.

2. Teen Says to Georgia: Fornicate Off

Sixteen-year-old Jesse McClure was having sex with his girlfriend at 3 A.M. when her mother discovered them. The girl's probation officer brought charges against him for "fornication" sex not sanctioned by marriage. When a court ordered him to pay a fine and write an essay on why he shouldn't have had sex, he wrote that it was none of the court's business. With the help of the ACLU, McClure fought the 19th-century law and had it overturned. All Americans are safer as a result.

While we can debate the wisdom of 16-year-olds being sexual together, the fact is, they do it. So how shall society respond? While some people actually claim that these laws protect teens, they're clearly there to control and, if necessary, punish them. We can argue whether Jesse and Dee should be sent to their respective rooms for a time out, or told to clean the garage, but jailtime--and the lifelong necessity to register as a sex offender--is Talibanesque. These laws are a savage statement of a desperate, frightened culture.

Even with this punitive law overturned, the legal status of teens having sex is still in limbo. In many states they simply do not have the right to consent (Georgia's age of consent is 16). In some states, physicians, therapists, and others are mandated to report teen sexual behavior to the authorities, whether or not it's consensual, private, or loving.

Many legislators, psychologists, and social workers have begun to talk about sex between underage teens as "child abuse." This bizarre idea only serves to advance a political agenda--limiting adolescents' access to their own bodies and feelings. Shame on people who say they want to save kids by pathologizing and punishing them.

3. Sterilization--With a Bonus

CRACK has expanded to New York. The organization--Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity--has a simple offer: "Get birth control, get cash. If you're addicted to drugs and/or alcohol then this offer is for you," its fliers on inner-city streets read. CRACK offers addicted men and women $200 to be sterilized or put on long-term birth control. So far over 800 women (and 2 dozen men) have taken the cash and reduced their fertility. Almost half have chosen sterilization.

CRACK was started in southern California in 1997 by homemaker Barbara Harris, after she adopted four children from the same drug-addicted mother. The organization sees the program as a humane effort to help women who simply aren't in a position to raise kids. Critics call it a bribe to women in desperate situations.

Yes, that's exactly what it is. And it's a great idea.

Although CRACK's signs have been torn down near San Francisco, and its billboards taken down in Kansas City, other communities see its value. CRACK volunteers in Albuquerque have been meeting weekly with female jail inmates. And last spring some 30 CRACK billboards adorned Detroit, where Harris was invited to speak to a predominately black church congregation of 5,000 people. "I don't see the controversy," said Rev. Charles Ellis of Detroit's Greater Grace Temple. "People in the Betty Ford Clinic have some kind of support. In urban Detroit, a lot of time there is no support system."

Even progressives like the New York Civil Liberties Union are nervous, saying this isn't the right way for these street people to make choices. But addicts don't make choices in quite the same way as comfortable middle-class people. Addiction strips people of options. So do poverty, homelessness, and the mad hopelessness that gnaw at people who aren't eating, sleeping or getting health care.

People on the street can't necessarily take advantage of--or afford--the full range of contraceptive/fertility choice. Many female addicts trade sex for drugs, for example--and are often told, "it's no condom, or it's no dope."

Motivating such people to get the help they need to limit their dependents is merciful. It is presumptuous and condescending of us in our warm living rooms to say, "what a horrible, dehumanized situation--but better fertile than bribed."

We already know that conventional education programs rarely work with this population. Most communities resist distributing free condoms or clean syringes. No state offers nearly enough drug rehab programs.

On the other hand, religious and "morality" organizations bribe frightened and lonely pregnant young women with food, money, and comfort to have their babies instead of abortions--and no one complains.

At home, we often tell our middle-class daughters, "postpone or avoid pregnancy, so you can have a future--a job, home, degree, career." Most street people don't have a future to bargain for--so cash is the best way to help them help themselves. And to help the communities in which they live.

4. Correspondence: Wal-Mart Photo-Terrorists

Last month we described how a Kansas Wal-Mart employee called the police on shopper Tamie Dragone, who was picking up photos of her three-year old--topless in a kiddie pool, and bottomless on the living room floor. The cops detained Dragone for 45 minutes and confiscated her photos. Regular readers know this is not an isolated incident (issue #s 16, 19, 22, 26).

Toronto humanities professor Paul Rapoport--president of the legal advocacy group Topfree Equal Rights Association ( spoke with Wal-Mart representatives. Paul's response:

"Wal-Mart sets itself up as the moral judge of our two countries’ photos with its absurd anti-nudity photo policy. It has no expertise in the subject of morality, let alone nudity, freedom or even photography. It arbitrarily and willfully retains or destroys people's legal photos; subjects people to harassment and police action; and may permanently ruin their reputations. In addition, the notion that photos of naked kids reveal or cause crime is wholly without foundation.

"Wal-Mart's policy states, 'We do not print pictures that contain nudity, [which is] any male or female in a state of dress that would not allow them to be on a public street.' Andrew Pelletier, Head of Corporate Affairs at Wal-Mart Canada, told me the policy 'serves the mainstream.'

"Aside from the dubious logic there, the policy is uninformed. If you choose to be nude at home, on a beach, or at a club, Wal-Mart declares you're on a public street. Moreover, the seized photos were of someone merely topfree (which is not nude and is acceptable attire in many places). Pelletier stated that Wal-Mart is not out to set moral standards. But the policy reinforces a notion that in itself, nudity is basically immoral or illegal. Wal-Mart's few exceptions to its no-nudity rule (e.g., young children without clothing running through a sprinkler are okay) confirm its arbitrary approach."

5. Pedophile Hunt Continues

Two high-profile child-porn busts last week highlight fundamental flaws in our society's continuing obsession with those who appear to have a sexual interest in children. These cases tell us nothing about kiddie porn and too much about our fear and our future.

Last week, world-famous Who guitarist Pete Townsend was arrested for accessing a child porn website. He claims he did so as part of researching his autobiography, which describes how his grandmother's friend sexually exploited Townsend when he was five. "I am angry about child porn on the Internet," he said, "and deeply wounded at the inference that I might be a pedophile. I sincerely believed that the police would know my history as someone who works tirelessly to help the abused."

Days later, Paul Rubens (Pee-Wee Herman) was charged with one misdemeanor count of possessing a depiction of children under 18 engaging in sexual conduct. Police carted away 30,000 pictures and 650 hours of film, which court documents describe as "a vast and valuable historical collection of artwork, kitsch memorabilia and adult erotica."

The charge should be dismissed, says attorney Blair Berk, because the material was produced long before its possession was illegal--some of it a century ago. "The statute does not apply to materials produced before its effective date [1989]," he said. Rubens faces a year in jail if convicted.

Together, the two cases describe our society's attitude about child pornography: it shouldn't exist, we want to pretend it never has, and we refuse to attempt to understand it.

One gets the impression that this stuff is so potent and so poisonous that it sears the eyeballs that witness it.

According to Exodus, when Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, he yearned to see God's face. God offered to show only his back, warning "you cannot see My face, for man may not see Me and live." The Greeks wrote of Medusa, guardian of Hades, who was so ugly that a single look at her would turn a man to stone. Over a thousand years later, Middle Age theologians described the particularly unpleasant musical interval of the augmented fourth as Diabolus in Musica: "The Devil in music." They actually proscribed composers from writing it and musicians from playing it, fearing its hellish effect on musician and audience.

The Devil's chord, Medusa's ugliness, God's face--throughout history, humans have described things so intense, so powerful, so otherworldly, that the senses would shrivel from beholding them. A millennium after the diabolical interval, the diabolical image--underage eroticism--is now forbidden. No researcher, no historian, no psychologist, no journalist may perceive it, much less study or describe it. Only the hands that seize, bury, or burn it may legally touch it.

Townsend will probably get off because he's famous enough to get world-wide support. A devoted, lifelong researcher whom no one knows would already be in jail.

Pee-Wee has a collection of enormous cultural significance. Only he knows whether he jacks off to it. Regardless, American courts say we should destroy pieces of our own history--exactly like Roman and Communist tyrants who wrote their predecessors out of history books and chiseled them out of public statuary. Like those tyrants, we wish to erase a past that challenges our contemporary reality. Is the present that fragile to need such protection?

Our legal system gives the image of children's eroticism no existence as cultural artifact, sociological phenomenon, historical reality. By taking it completely out of context our society strips it of true meaning; demonizes it; and ultimately leaves it to those who are confident in their biases and invested in everyone's proud ignorance. What hubris, as Homer would have said, to think we know everything there is to know about such an important subject.

6. Oprah/Dr. Phil/Klein Redux

Last issue (#35), readers were offered a copy of my current Playboy article, "What Oprah & Dr. Phil Don't Know About Sex." Hundreds of people asked for a copy. A few days after sending them, the thank-you letters started pouring in. Whew! More than a few people wryly suggested I might not get onto Oprah to promote my new book, Beyond Orgasm.

Now that the Playboy issue in which the article appeared is off the newsstand, here's the offer one more time: click here and get the article. Enjoy it.


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