Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #42 -- August 2003


1. Middle America Rejects Censorship
2. Thought Crime Reversed
3. Bambi Reveals Our Prejudices
4. For Many, Abstinence Doesn't Work
5. The Kobe Koverage Klub
6. Presidentially Courting Gays


1. Middle America Rejects Censorship

Two new studies suggest that the average American is ahead of the average American policy-maker when it comes to tolerating erotic imagery in the public domain.

You'll recall how Cincinnati brought Robert Mapplethorpe unwanted fame in 1990 when its Contemporary Arts Center and the Center's director were indicted for "pandering obscenity" just hours after an exhibit of Mapplethorpe's photographs opened. Director Barrie and the Center were acquitted in a highly-publicized trial six months later (For a wonderful 1990 article on how jurors who found the photos "lewd and gross" felt obligated to acquit, see

Cincinnati's legacy of fanatic prosecutions lives on, as a local Hustler store is currently being threatened with obscenity prosecutions. But a poll of 500 residents, jointly commissioned by the Cincinnati Enquirer and station WCPO-TV, recently found that 62 percent believe the store should be allowed to sell adult videos, and that Hustler should not be prosecuted for doing so.

Lest anyone dismiss Cincinnati as a hotbed of licentiousness (which is like accusing Ronald Reagan of being soft on Communism), it appears that couch potatoes across the nation are more tolerant of sexuality than they're given credit for.

In a survey of over 1,000 adults commissioned by TV Guide, "nudity or sexual innuendo" came in a mere fourth among the most offensive things on TV. Viewers said they were most offended by "graphic violence & gore" (17%), followed by "bodily functions" (9%), "foul language" (8%) and finally "nudity or sexual innuendo" (6%).

So killing someone with a used tampon, say, is a lot more offensive than a nude person swearing "goddamn it."

"Whose TV airwaves?" is as good a question as "whose Main Street?" and "whose Internet?" We all deserve equal access to such public resources. So let's rerun Leave it To Beaver on some channels, with Richard Pryor, the Sopranos, and Italian shoe commercials on others. Let's support churches in prohibiting X-rated videos from their premises, while zoning in an adult toy store in every town. America has enough coastline to alternate thousands of clothing mandatory and clothing optional beaches from Canada to Mexico (the country and the Gulf).

Censoring access to sexual imagery and erotic opportunity is un-American. If the people of Cincinnati can handle adult videos, and TV viewers don't mind a few butt cheeks, our Republic should find room for both.

2. Thought Crime Reversed

Two years ago (issue #18), we reported that Brian Dalton had been sentenced to prison for writing about sexually tormenting children--in his private journal. We called it a "thought crime," and challenged the County Prosecutor's statement that the case was "a breakthrough in the battle against child pornography." We said that criminalizing sexual fantasy made Americans less safe, not more.

Dalton's conviction was recently reversed on a procedural issue. Says the new defense attorney, "Now we'll be able to directly address the constitutional issue" of private descriptions of illegal sexual behavior.

Responded D. James Kennedy, president of the Center for Reclaiming America, "This is simply another attempt by the ACLU to remove morality from America's laws in the name of civil rights." We think he's absolutely right, and we wish the ACLU godspeed.

3. Bambi Reveals Our Prejudices

By now, you surely know the Hunting For Bambi story. Everyone's been talking about men supposedly coming to Las Vegas to "hunt" (well-paid) naked women with paintball guns. AOL even posted the story on its main page last week.

Commentators, psychologists, and chatroom denizens all reacted with horror, horror!--about people paying for the chance to chase other people who were getting paid to be chased while risking getting bruised. It sounds like football without the annoying sideline reporters or commercials. As the choruses of "this is the end of civilization as we know it" met the familiar verses of "this proves that men hate women," a little reality intruded: the whole thing turned out to be a hoax. And as with every con, those who wanted to believe it most were fooled the most.

The most passionate believers were the morally outraged Right and the victimologists of the Left. Both agreed that Hunting For Bambi was apocalyptically awful--violent men violating foolish women, a rehearsal that would undo the norms of psychic repression and lead to misogynistic slaughter.

"It's appalling, really frightening," Rita Haley, president of New York City NOW, declared. "It says something about the men who want to play this game, and something about the financial climate that drives women to participate. The big fear is that somebody who plays will eventually want to use real bullets."

As with prostitution, stripping, and other erotic activities, women were told that it's wrong to let themselves be exploited for money as Bambis--although it's honorable to let themselves be exploited for even less money and dignity working graveyard in a 7/11, or a non-union sweatshop. It was another example of middle-class people wanting to prevent women from making "immoral" choices. Distressed over Bambi, feminism and liberalism again got into bed with the Right, all agreeing that 1) women can't be trusted to make their own choices, and 2) men are beasts.

Open memo to all those so terribly upset about the poor naked women running away from those whizzing paintballs--would you have made such a fuss if it were men shooting naked men? No? Why not? Male targets would be at the same risk, with shooters risking their civilized veneer just the same.

OK, you reply, I'm hypocritical about protecting women while not protecting men. But what about the videos of these alleged hunts--doesn't that prove that men are perverse? Who but a pervert would buy a video of men shooting naked women with paintballs?

Well, why assume that all buyers of these videos are male? The pervasiveness of healthy women's rape fantasies is well documented. This makes the Bambi footage natural porn for some women. And in these modern times, we surely must admit that women have a right to their porn.

These videos aren't any worse than the high-adrenaline TV crime shows that are America's lullaby. Every night TV is full of crazed, violent men chasing terrified, helpless women, supported by heart-pounding music and ultra-real technical effects. And every day, millions of women ingest another romance novel featuring the same formula.

The difference is that neither viewers nor readers admit that there's an erotic kick to the shows or the books. That's what makes them respectable. The sin of Hunting for Bambi was the crude refusal to dress it up as mainstream entertainment.

4. For Many, Abstinence Doesn't Work

New research findings show that vows of abstinence made by late teens and young adults are--surprise!--broken by more than half of the earnest little vowers. A study of 527 undergraduates at Northern Kentucky University asked about the students' long-term adherence to any pledge to remain celibate until marriage. Sixteen percent had made such a pledge. And almost 2/3 of them broke that pledge.

And what of the other self-disciplined, focused, proud 39% of pledgers who remained abstinent? More than half acknowledged having oral sex while describing themselves as celibate. Such "technical virginity" is a delicate mental contortion, meant to placate suspicious parents, an erotophobic God, and the lustful callings of one's nubile body.

Mass "virginity pledges" first started in the 1980s and 1990s, a result of well-funded campaigns using rock 'n' roll spectacle to turn Jesus into a cool dude, demonizing sexual desire and glamorizing a simplistic solution to a complex issue. At the time, critics scoffed at the effectiveness of such campaigns. Less than a generation later, the NKU study justifies that criticism.

The researchers also report that avowed celibates who broke their vow were less likely than non-pledgers to use a condom during their first sexual encounter. This makes perfect sense. Why prepare for something you believe you won't do? Why admit to yourself that you want to do something you've decided is wrong? Such self-delusion is a virtual hallmark of adolescence, and is a recipe for disaster whether the subject is sex, alcohol, money, or anything else.

For years, we've been deluged with the message that only abstinence works 100% of the time to protect people from disease and pregnancy. This new report underlines the appropriate response. Abstinence does not work 100% of the time--in fact, it works less effectively than condoms or any other method.

Science thus proves what common sense knew all along: that vows of abstinence break far more often than condoms.

5. The Kobe Koverage Klub

Kobe Bryant is a brilliant basketball player. Watching him perform has been a great escape from everyday life for people around the globe. Now he's in big trouble, accused of rape by a woman with whom he admits he "committed adultery."

And so move over Gary Condit & Chandra Levy, move over Laci & Scott Peterson, the next juicy mystery of sex and violence is here. And Americans are, clearly, thrilled with it.

Kobe's on the cover of every magazine, his case the subject of countless TV talking-headfests, his life the lifeline of every city's talk-radio junkies. Whether we love to defend him or love to condemn him, we love to think about Kobe and some young woman having sex in a small-town Colorado hotel room. We love to imagine we know him well enough to know what happened. To support that fantasy, we enable an industry of experts speculating on the legal, medical, and psychological meaning of it all. Overnight, tens of millions of people have joined the Kobe Koverage Klub, digesting the daily "news" (it can't possibly be spelled without quotation marks) from Klub leaders, discussing it with fellow Klub members.

Kobe's story is a media dream come true, with true crossover appeal for murder fans, rape fans, justice fans, and sports fans. Even business fans can participate by reading about Kobe's $40 million sneaker endorsement deal in the Wall Street Journal ("Is it in jeopardy?"). If the accuser is white, the story will have additional legs for racial fans. Bring us all together, Kobe.

Feeling forced into competition with 24-hour cable TV shows and the internet, the traditional media have lowered their standards about what constitutes "news" and "proof." As NBC morphs into the National Enquirer, audiences approve, voting with their eyeballs. This obsessive coverage of Chandra, Laci, and Kobe might be just a guilty pleasure, might not be so dangerous for the Republic, except that it's obliterating the line between entertainment and news. The ongoing Kobe spectacle is strictly entertainment for fans of sports, sex, or the courtroom. But it's presented in the idiom of actual news. Increasingly, people can't tell the difference. Already, most don't care.

The massive coverage and speculation make "innocent until proven guilty" simply impossible. Already, "alleged victim" and "alleged assault" have become more a part of Kobe's name than Kobe. The internet is a key part of the Klub, too, with special websites ranging from to

And why is the accused's name in the public record, while the accuser's name remains coyly hidden? As soon as we say we need to protect one party, we establish a victim, which clearly implies a crime and an offender.

This media policy originated long ago in response to the reality that victims of rape were heavily stigmatized. With changing sexual mores and the internet drenching our environment, it's now the accused who will carry the stigma forever. Besides, it's hypocritical for news outlets to say they're protecting the accuser by withholding her name--and then smearing her reputation with half-assed speculation and vague reports about her mental health and prior sex history.

Regardless of who did what, the lives of both accuser and accused are damaged forever. But Kobe Klub members will walk away from this train wreck without a scratch: If he's innocent, members had some fun and pretend no one got hurt; if he's guilty, members get to say they knew Kobe was too good to be true, and they get the dirty excitement of talking obsessively about illicit, coerced sex.

The hobby of the members of the Kobe Klub, Chandra Club and the next inevitable Klub has a simple name. It's called gossip.

6. Presidentially Courting Gays

Most political candidates tell different audiences different things. Even so, attendees at a recent Human Rights campaign forum had the privilege of seeing contenders for the presidential nomination jockey for the favor of gay voters. And that's something to celebrate.

Various Democratic presidential hopefuls pledged their support on a range of issues relevant to sexual orientation, including same-gender marriage, federal benefits for same-sex couples, and a repeal of the Pentagon's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), for example, boasted about being the only senator "to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act and say that it was gay-bashing." Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean said he would block any attempt to enact a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a male-female union. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) went the furthest, pledging to push for a law legalizing same-sex marriage if elected. All the Democratic candidates said they support federal benefits for same-sex couples.

So far, so good. But how can national candidates champion gay civil rights effectively? How are they going to counteract talk of a "militant gay agenda," "immoral left-wing ideas," etc.? Appealing to Americans’ sense of fairness will not be enough. Such candidates need plenty of creative political thinking and language. And surely they must not be apologetic; rather, they must go on the offensive, showing how conservative candidates are operating from a discredited paradigm of fear and scarcity.

Perhaps we need to talk about the Right's Nero syndrome--how they're obsessed with something as insignificant as sexual orientation while our Rome is burning. America's kids are getting pregnant at 16 while flunking math, our under-employed young adults are moving back home, we're all getting frisked at the airport, everyone's cousins are getting divorced, hardly anyone can afford health insurance--and groups like American Values are frantic because gays are trying to build strong domestic institutions.

Maybe the Right has a secret agenda to undermine American communities. Sounds like an expose for FoxNews to investigate.



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