Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #40 -- June 2003

Contents


1. Lenny Bruce--Pardoned At Last?
2. Correspondence--Laci's Pregnancy
3. Public Colleges, Private Morality
4. High School, Condoms, & Good News
5. Townshend Now a Sex Offender

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1. Lenny Bruce--Pardoned At Last?

An inspiring array of entertainers and attorneys has petitioned New York Governor George Pataki to pardon Lenny Bruce's 1964 obscenity conviction. Bruce was hounded by police and prosecutors for years until he was finally destroyed by legal, financial, and mental problems.

Lenny Bruce was busted for telling the truth. In addition to talking about religious and political hypocrisy (his Moses-Christ-Cardinal Spellman routine was a scream), he said what people everywhere knew, but were too polite to discuss:

Bruce was persecuted for saying things that Chris Rock, George Carlin, and Roseanne Barr now get paid millions for. He'd be stunned at what Leno and Letterman--never mind Tony Soprano--say on TV every night. Bruce's defiant genius made it possible for us to hear Jon Stewart talk about George Bush's hard-on over invading Iraq.

Were Lenny Bruce alive today, he, too, could make millions on America's comedy club circuit. On the other hand, he'd be barred from most college campuses, because of their language codes and demands for political correctness. How ironic that universities have become so afraid of hurt feelings that they are retreating back into the early sixties, when Bruce was crucified for thinking bad thoughts and his words--words!--were considered dangerous.

And so Robin Williams, Margaret Cho, Penn & Teller, Nat Hentoff, and ACLU President Nadine Strossen, among others, have asked Governor Pataki to pardon Lenny Bruce.

A pardon can't help Bruce now, of course. It would, however, underline that those who fear repression and hypocrisy more than words and ideas weren't evil or foolish then--and aren't evil or foolish now. Looks like Lenny Bruce is still fighting for our right to think and speak.

To email Governor Pataki and encourage the pardon, click here.

 

2. Correspondence--Laci's Pregnancy

Not unexpectedly, we received lots of email on last month's piece describing how Laci Peterson's pregnancy was being exploited to undermine abortion rights (issue #39). The consensus of the letters was that I underestimated the psychological and cultural power of the pregnant women, and that of course people had become involved in that aspect of this sensationalized murder case.

"I disagree that the pregnancy per se has no bearing on what people feel--there is and always will be an archetypal aspect to a pregnant woman (ask any pregnant woman how many strangers have touched her belly as if she were not quite a separate person).
"I am a lawyer, and I happen to agree that a fetus is not a person--and I agree that the media and the Right have an agenda here, one I am not comfortable with--but I also feel you have overlooked an important aspect of this case."
--Carroll Straus

"I have to disagree with you about the status of Laci Peterson's son. She was eight months pregnant at the time she was killed, and therefore the fetus was viable, had he been born at the time of her death. It is clear that [the murderer] knew of Laci's pregnancy, and intended to kill both her and the baby. One could certainly make a case that it would not morally have been double murder if she had been only three months pregnant, but at eight months, [it is]."
-- Eleanor Oster

OK, I guess I did underestimate the power of the pregnancy as an unavoidable aspect of this news story. Thanks to those who pointed this out.

But Sexual Intelligence has again anticipated events. Two weeks after our story, congressional Republicans renamed their pending bill that endows fetuses with legal rights separate from the expectant mother. They're now calling it "Laci & Connor's Law," and President Bush says he will sign it if passed.

''This is one of their strategies," says NARAL President Kate Michelman. ''to do whatever they can to ultimately overturn Roe v. Wade." Although the bill has been endorsed by Laci Peterson's parents and siblings, renaming it for Laci and Connor ''is shameless exploitation of a horrific tragedy,'' Michelman said. For more proof of the true anti-choice agenda, listen to Dr. Joe Cook, vice-president of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists: ''This bill is aimed at establishing that a fetus in utero is a human being and has human rights.''

Separating fetuses into those that could be viable on their own from those that can't is a huge political mistake. Once we confer legal rights on any unborn beings, all forms of abortion and contraception are in danger.

Finally, another reader made a beautifully eloquent point worth repeating:

"Choice is the issue. Laci made her choice, and someone took it away. The Right wants to take away everyone's choice. And they are wrapping their political agenda in a language that exploits the primordial, nearly universal inclination to protect pregnant women.
"But they have no record of protecting women and children, and they are as controlling and self-serving as the individual who murdered Laci. They would murder our right to choose for ourselves, and take away our independence--in the sacred name of protection."
--Vena Blanchard

 

3. Public Colleges, Private Morality

If you're a "glass half-full" kind of person, there's good news from the University of Kansas. Professor Dennis Dailey was completely exonerated of obscenity, harassment, and all other charges brought by State Senator Wagle (see issue #39), who sent her intern to spy on Dailey's human sexuality class. For the moment, academic freedom has been preserved, and a governor and university president have stood up for their institution and faculty.

And if you're even more optimistic--like the boy who got a box of pony dung for a gift and became excited because he figured there must be a pony around somewhere--you'll think there's good news out of Virginia, where James Madison University recently faced down a similar problem. In this case, state legislator Robert Marshall criticized the school's sexual health fair as "tawdry," complaining about a demonstration in which students put a condom on a fake penis while wearing goggles and rubber gloves--to show the danger of mixing alcohol with sexual activity.

State Delegate Marshall has been a frequent critic of JMU and other state-supported colleges on issues of contraception and sex on campus. State Delegate Marshall has also succeeded in getting "morning-after" emergency contraception removed from the student health service. Apparently, his model of democracy involves a certain amount of tyranny.

JMU President Linwood Rose says the health fair was designed to raise awareness of sexual health issues such as pregnancy, rape, sexual assault and the consequences of irresponsibility. He added that the title--Sexfest 2003--was a misnomer intended to attract attention to the program, adding that the fair included material about abstinence and prostate cancer.

Notice the all-too-common defensiveness. To justify teaching college students about sexuality, President Rose felt obligated to mention various hellish aspects of sex, and to apologize for the program's non-boring, non-damning name.

For almost two centuries, hundreds of state colleges and universities have provided the chance for millions of working class, rural, immigrant, and other kids to move up and claim a tiny part of the American dream. Free college for tens of millions of young people--a glory that the Founders couldn't even imagine, and that other nations still cannot match.

These schools are now one more battlefield in America's tiresome culture wars, and their students are hostages of this war. There are actually grownups in power trying to prevent young adults--3/4 of whom are sexually active--from learning about sexuality, from examining a variety of viewpoints, from studying about more than danger and disease. These grownups cynically cite "taxpayers" or "the people of this state" as their justification.

Yes, these legislators remember being young. They remember feeling embarrassed, frightened, and guilty about sex. Some still feel this way. And they're trying to reduce their own anxiety by controlling the sexuality of others--with taxpayer's money. They, and the taxpayers who are paying for this massive exercise in projection and denial, should be ashamed.

 

4. High School, Condoms, & Good News

Teenagers at high schools where condoms were available were no more likely to have sex than other teens, according to a study published this month in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers examined 4,100 high school students in Massachusetts, comparing teens at nine schools that made condoms available with those at 50 schools that did not. Sexually active teens at the schools with condoms were more likely to use them during their most recent intercourse (good news). That intercourse, however, was no more likely among students attending the condom schools than among students at the non-condom schools (more good news).

Of course condom availability didn't increase sexual activity. That would imply that the lack of condom availability was inhibiting many high school kids. And isn't that one thing that both pro-sex ed and anti-sex ed forces agree on--that lack of condoms does not stop teens?

This is one of many contradictions in the Right's arguments about sex education, because they're unwilling to tell the truth: that they're against sex and pleasure, particularly for unmarried teens.

So now that we have the data (again; see Surgeon General Satcher's 2002 report), will the Right step up and say, "well, we want to prevent abortions, we care about kids' lives, so let's distribute condoms so that if they do have sex, they're protected"? No they won't, because they care more about depriving teens of sex than they do about reducing abortion.

And if the media are so liberal, why isn't this research report--with its actual good news--a front-page story in every newspaper and TV news show?

 

5. Townshend Now a Sex Offender

Readers know that four months ago, legendary Who guitarist Pete Townshend was arrested for viewing child porn websites (issue #36). Since then, he has insisted he is not a pedophile; rather, he was doing research for his autobiography, which discusses his growing suspicion that he was sexually exploited as a child. Though Townshend was cleared of criminal charges last week, he was formally cautioned by British authorities and placed on a registry of sex offenders.

In America, "I'm a researcher" isn't a usable defense--not for university professors, social scientists, or clinicians, anyway. If, say, Michael Jordan, Rosie O'Donnell, or Christopher Reeve were busted for viewing child porn, it would be interesting to see how such a defense would work.

If Townshend is telling the truth, does he have a legitimate right to view this material? If it's part of his past--albeit a painful part--can society legitimately withhold it from him? What about his wife, or his shrink--do they have the right to become educated about this difficult subject, the better to comfort and heal him?

If none of us have the right to see such images--even under the most controlled conditions--not only do molesters steal parts of victims' childhoods, governments then steal parts of victims' adulthoods.

So Townshend will do time--on the offender registry, but not in jail. What exactly is the point of this sentence? Does it mean he's dangerous enough to have to register with the government, but not dangerous enough to lock up? Or that the government wants to do something, but can't figure out what? Perhaps there's a profound reason the government can't figure out what that something is.

These are just some of the questions raised by laws that not only demonize child porn, but make it impossible to study. There are degrees of danger, there are categories of images, there are multiple causes and effects at work here--but scientists and clinicians haven't been allowed to do the research to enable us to identify them, or to understand different people's complex reactions to this material. Every community should be screaming about this enforced ignorance, which causes all of us to suffer.

 

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