Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #43 -- September 2003


1. Ten Commandments Put In Their Place
2. Campus Coup To Control Curriculum
3. Stealing Kids' Sexuality
4. Strengthening Real Couples
5. Promote Condoms, Get Audited
6. Thank You, Ira Reiss
7. New Audio Seminars


1. Ten Commandments Put In Their Place

Complying with a federal court order, Alabama officials have removed a two-ton Ten Commandments monument from public display in the capitol's Judicial Building. The commandments have been restricted to their proper place--in the hearts of those who find them meaningful.

If you believe in God, thank God for this wise decision. Everyone can also thank the ACLU ( and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (, who sponsored the litigation.

Although Alabama isn't exactly the center of the universe, and the legality of vibrators is still in question there (issues #9, 33, & 39), this event has great importance for anyone interested in sexual freedom.

As Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore had said in defending the religious monument at the courthouse, "This is not about religion, it's about recognizing that God is the source of our judicial system." He's right--which is the problem. While Moore intended to mean THE God, he could only mean his personal vision of an entity he calls "God." And even if fifty million people have similar visions of the entity they all call "God," they're still personal visions. Believers, of course, think "God" is a fact, but to non-believers, "God" is a belief. The two groups could co-exist--if believers were willing to keep their beliefs separate from the law.

The problem arises when a large group of people agree on what "God" wants (they call this "morality"), and decide to institutionalize that vision of morality as law. For two thousand years, "God" has apparently been obsessed with regulating people's sexual thoughts and behavior, and so a legal system based on "God's" morality inevitably restricts sexual choices in almost every conceivable way.

Justice Moore and his followers showed exactly what happens when people believe that there is a single, identifiable version of morality behind the law: the rights of non-believers are considered secondary. The value of pluralism, the crowning achievement of the American system, is trampled.

When "morality" (by definition, personal) is regarded as the basis of the law, all that's necessary to justify government involvement in something is to claim a moral dimension. The Taliban did that in prohibiting girls from attending school; the Saudis do that in prohibiting women from driving; until recently this country did it with laws preventing sex between races (and even more recently, sodomy). The justification for all these laws is the same: the government is both empowered and obliged to force people to behave "morally"--as defined by the group in power.

Moore and his supporters correctly perceive this battle as a skirmish in the war over government involvement in private beliefs and actions. If only they were vociferously protecting a two-ton statue of the Constitution. The foundation of the grandest social experiment in human history, it has supported every American's freedom of worship (and non-worship) for over two centuries--and it doesn't need any further justification than that.

2. Campus Coup To Control Curriculum

Readers will recall (issues #39, 40) how a state senator recently tried to shut down a highly-respected University of Kansas sexuality course.

Proving that whatever mistake Kansas can make, Michigan can do worse, a state representative is proposing legislation that would require public universities to submit class lists to the legislature for approval. If passed, lawmakers could prohibit the teaching of any course. Kalamazoo Rep. Jack Hoogendyk is claiming he has responsibility for how tax money is spent, but coincidentally, most of the 60 courses he's questioning involve sexuality and gender.

That's the slippery slope of censorship: throw one bluenose a course, and the next one wants a whole university.

The idea of politicians managing course selection is an insult to professional education. It also assumes that deleting a horrible class is less destructive than undermining the entire educational system. That's always the philosophy behind censorship--that restricting free thought can't be as dangerous as the idea being banned. This belief has been proven wrong by non-democratic systems around the world. China's horrifying Cultural Revolution is a perfect example.

Next, I suppose we can expect legislative monitors making recommendations as they go to study sessions ("more physics, less Shakespeare!"), practice sessions ("more layups, fewer jump shots!"), and makeout sessions ("less tongue, and keep your feet on the floor!").

3. Stealing Kids' Sexuality

No, not MTV or child molesters. It’s an even deeper issue: Do teens have the right to have sex with each other?

The age of consent varies from state to state, but every state has an age--generally around 16, 17, or even 18--below which Americans simply do not have the right to consent to sex.

Witness the recent case of two Wisconsin 14-year-olds. Caught in bed by the girl's mother, the teens were unrepentant, and so mom called the police. Each kid is now facing sexual assault charges--for sex that everyone knows was consensual.

Many cases of teen-teen sex are handled informally, of course. But "the reason I charged this case was because of their attitude," Assistant District Attorney Lori Kornblum says. "I believe they had to be brought before an authority." Busted for being a smart-mouth kid--with illegal sex as the excuse.

The Age of Consent laws were established to protect vulnerable teens from predatory adults. But if kids aren't legally allowed to consent and have sex together anyway, they're declared victims rather than participants, which means there has to be a perpetrator. Busting teen couples for victimizing each other is a perversion of the justice system.

As civil liberties activist Bobby Lilly says, this justice system has been hijacked from two directions. The Right fears teens being sexual, and the Left fears teens being exploited. Neither trusts kids or sexuality enough to allow kids their own experience, and to give them the tools they need to make good decisions.

America still hasn't conceptualized a way for adolescents to be legitimately sexual. So they're left adrift with their drives, the fears we instill in them, and the actual danger that is out there.

We seem to believe that legislating against teen sexuality can make it go away. But teens' erotic desire is like gravity--you can deny it exists, even make it illegal, but it still exerts the same powerful pull. Our laws don't change nature. Remember, teens are biologically driven to separate from their parents, and sexual exploration is part of that. Rather than preventing this healthy differentiation, we need to help them find ways to do it that we can tolerate.

The fundamental assumption in this debate is that the most important mission around teen sexuality is preventing bad experiences. Once we start from this assumption, our options both as parents and as a society are limited. This assumption is what needs to be changed. Particularly if we eliminate most unwanted pregnancy & STDs, teen sex will mostly be non-traumatic. It won't necessarily be uplifting or even enjoyable, but it will be non-damaging--which would end the need to meddle so violently in their lives.

We make sex far more dangerous than necessary for teens, through enforced ignorance, withholding contraceptive information and supplies, making medical care scary, and mandatory reporting laws. If we want to protect the poor dears, let's not undermine their sexuality--let's make it safer for them to express it. And, of course, stop making them "sex offenders" for exploring each others' aliveness.

4. Strengthening Real Couples

California's Senate has just passed a bill that gives registered domestic partners most of the same legal benefits as married couples. Governor Gray Davis has pledged to sign the bill, which guarantees such glamorous things as:

There are still important married couples' rights that unmarried couples won't have, such as access to each others' pensions and social security benefits after one partner dies.

Still, California's law is a big step forward not only for same-sex couples, but for heterosexual couples uninterested in marriage. It continues the important trend of separating religious marriage from civil marriage. Religious marriage is a privilege bestowed by a private organization according to whatever criteria it wishes--including the gender and beliefs of the would-be spouses.

Civil marriage, on the other hand, bestows rights on people who choose to participate in an institution that the government not only sanctions, but monopolizes (a non-government marriage gets you no privileges at tax-time or at your beloved's deathbed). Therefore, the government must make that institution available to all responsible adults. Clearly, eligibility for a religious marriage should not be an eligibility criterion for the civil institution of marriage. Let those who want to expand or restrict the privileges of religious marriage fight within their religion. Just don't bring that brawl into the civil arena, where such sectarian quarrels should be irrelevant--the way religion or political party membership are irrelevant for a government job.

In a perfect world, plenty of religions would offer gays the whole range of religious privileges, including marriage; religions would cease trying to legislate morality through government; and government would get out of the marriage business altogether. Until then, establishing a "separate but equal" domestic partners arrangement is a step up. Non-marrieds--gay and straight--may be in the back of the bus, but at least they're getting onto the bus in more and more states.

5. Promote Condoms, Get Audited

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will audit Advocates for Youth for the third time in 12 months. The comprehensive sex education organization is being investigated for possible misuse of federal funds in the creation of a new website lobbying against abstinence-only sex education,

The group argues that it is being targeted because it disagrees with the Bush administration's stance on sex education and condoms. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) agrees. He wrote to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson calling the audit politically motivated, saying, "While Advocates for Youth will have opened its books three times in the last year, it appears that comparable organizations that routinely support Bush Administration policies have not experienced any such review...Whether a group believes that abstinence is the only acceptable means of achieving AIDS prevention seems to be the determining factor in these auditing decisions."

In fact, a report released by OMB Watch earlier this month highlights the way many groups that promote condom use as a way to prevent HIV/AIDS, STDs, and pregnancy are facing increased scrutiny.

By the way, September is National Family Sexuality Education Month. Our government is apparently pretty frightened about it; using audits as a political weapon is serious hardball.

6. Thank You, Ira Reiss

Last month (issue #42) we reported a study of 527 undergraduates showing that half of those sworn to abstinence eventually broke their earnest little vows. This showed, again, that abstinence does NOT work 100% of the time to prevent pregnancy and disease, as the government and Religious Right are continually saying. In fact, it shows that abstinence works LESS effectively than any other method.

The piece ended by saying "Science thus proves what common sense knew all along: that vows of abstinence break far more often than condoms."

I've since been reminded that world-class sexologist (and subscriber!) Dr. Ira Reiss said virtually the identical thing in two different books a decade ago (including "Solving America's Sexual Crises," which promotes sexual pluralism as the solution to America's cultural agony).

I'm glad to set the record straight. In this, as in many areas of sexology, Ira has been a progressive thinker and effective activist.

7. New Audio Seminars

I'm pleased to announce two new audio seminars now for sale on my website. They are:

Both are edited from live workshops I gave this summer, and are designed to help psychologists, physicians, and other professionals work more effectively with men, women, and couples around these issues. Like all my tapes and seminars, they're down-to-earth, thought-provoking, and funny.

To see a description, go to Please note that they're available in CD format only. Both are eligible for home-study CEUs for California MFTs & LCSWs.

Order by September 15 and shipping is free. As with all my books and audios, there's a 7-day 100% money-back guarantee.


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