An Electronic Newsletter
Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.
Annual Awards Issue
It's a pleasure to present this year's Sexual Intelligence Awards.
As a reminder, last year's winners were:
This year we received more Awards nominations than ever before, from 16 states and 14 countries. Thanks to everyone who suggested an honoree. The stories of a particular individual and a well-known organization were so compelling that we created two new award categories, Posthumous and Unintentional/Ironic.
We'll return with our regular format next month. On April 1 we publish issue #50. This would be a great time to send in your thoughts about Sexual Intelligence, and how you think this milestone should be celebrated--by us, by you, by the rest of the world.
As always, do remember to subscribe or forward an issue to your friends.
Susan Wilson, Sex Educator
Susan Wilson's career has been dedicated to an idea--that knowledge helps teens make better decisions--that is accepted across America with only one exception: sexuality.
Wilson launched her career during a term on New Jersey's Board of Education, when she drafted the state's then-radical policy requiring sexuality education in public schools. She is now chair of the New Jersey Advisory Council on Adolescent Pregnancy. For 22 years, she has run the extraordinary Network for Family Life Education at Rutgers University, a combination technical assistance/advocacy/resource organization working on behalf of teens' right to medically accurate sexuality information.
In 1994 Wilson asked teens if they would read a newsletter about sexuality and health written by their peers. The enthusiastic response led to the National Teen-to-Teen Sexuality Education Project. This features:
The real jewels of Wilson's program are www.sexetc.org and the SEX, ETC. newsletter. Both written by teens, the newsletter reaches 2 million students three times each year, while the website gets 7 million hits per year.
And Wilson's program isn't just a pretty face. A study by Dr. Catherine Sanderson in the Journal of Adolescent Research (November 2000) concluded that students who read SEX, ETC. showed significant increases in responsible sexual attitudes.
The Network for Family Life Education offers the essence of empowerment: in addition to teaching kids about sexuality, it shows them that they can participate in effective mass communication and community action. This is Sexual Intelligence at its finest: encouraging citizenship and rational decision-making at the same time.
Thanks for this nomination goes to Peggy Brick, another veteran sex educator. In many ways, Peggy has made the work of Susan, me, and many others possible.
Laura Kipnis, Cultural Theorist/Critic
Dr. Laura Kipnis knows that sexuality connects almost everything important. That's why her bio on Northwestern University's website (she's a professor there) explains that her work focuses on "the intersections of politics, body, and psyche, with detours through aesthetics, love, Marx, adultery, scandal, Freud, pornography, and the legacy of the avant garde."
Kipnis has been writing and making videos about sexuality for two decades. The titles of her three books show her provocative intellect:
Kipnis gives her readers plenty to ponder, delightfully unmoored from the conventional wisdom or political correctness of the Academy, feminism, or liberalism. In a recent issue of Slate, she commented on the increasing number of universities banning student-faculty sex: "The problem in redressing romantic inequalities with institutional blunt instruments is that it just confers more power on the institutions themselves, vastly increasing their reach into people's lives."
In a recent New York Times op-ed piece on the decreasing percentage of married Americans, she noted that President Bush is in denial, insisting that heterosexual marriage is a fundamental, enduring institution of our civilization--"Shortly after his own administration floated a proposal for a $1.5 billion miracle cure: an initiative to promote healthy marriage, particularly among low-income couples...In this Administration, the economic benefits filter upward, the marital meddling filters down."
With the insight of a scholar and the passion of an artist, Kipnis's book on pornography takes dead aim at the interface of American politics, emotions, eroticism, and capitalism: "Pornography...has attained popularity because it finds ways of articulating things its audiences care about...It speaks to its audience because it's thoroughly astute about who we are underneath the social veneer, astute about the costs of cultural conformity and the discontent at the core of routinized lives and normative sexuality."
Kipnis's creative efforts to enlighten readers, students, and the power structures of the university, media, and government are the embodiment of Sexual Intelligence.
There are thousands of websites devoted to abortion. This one is absolutely unique.
It's a place where women tell their stories about an often difficult choice they felt was necessary at the time--and that they'd make again in similar circumstances. A year ago, founder Patricia Beninato noted the abundance of websites portraying abortion as a "personal tragedy" followed by "lifelong sorrow" and even so-called "post-abortion stress syndrome" (which has never been validated). She knew that there was another side to the abortion experience.
The core of this website is the ever-changing display of women's letters, which arrive every week. Writers are young and old, wealthy and poor, from every ethnic group and continent. They give voice to a uniquely female experience, about the intersection of sexuality, pregnancy and life circumstances. The letters are remarkably candid and thoughtful, as women discuss these crossroads, their partners, and their complex decision-making--the "why" of abortion.
The anti-choice movement seeks to homogenize both the experience of abortion and the reasons leading to it. On this website, women can acknowledge their difficult experiences without having to regret them. Just as importantly, their stories show the extraordinary range of situations that lead to abortion--illustrating, in a non-ideological way, that every woman needs to be able to make her own choice, that no rule could possibly do justice to that range of unique situations.
For many women, the letters they write to the site are the first time they have ever admitted having an abortion. Tentatively or dramatically, they are seizing the chance to come out about a powerful secret, free of the judgments and political exploitation that has kept them in the closet, in some cases for a half-century.
By honoring this website, we also honor the individual women who raise their voices and share their diverse personal stories there, revealing their relationships to their bodies, their fertility, their lovers, and their families. We join www.ImNotSorry.net in celebrating its first anniversary this week.
Special Ironic Mention: American Family Association
What could suddenly mobilize a half-million people to petition Congress, asking that gay marriage be legalized?
The AFA, strong believers in democracy when people agree with its positions, posted a poll on its website two months ago asking constituents to voice their "opinion" on gay marriage. They expected overwhelming opposition to it, and planned to forward the results to Congress to help pressure them into banning it.
But darn, that democracy thing can be so untidy. Once the poll's existence and URL got out beyond the AFA, people around the country voted. More than half a million of them, 60% of respondents, said they favored legalizing gay marriage. An additional 66,000 (7%) favored gay 'civil unions.' The AFA poll wasn't killed, it was just rendered useless as a partisan tool.
"Homosexual activist groups around the country got a hold of the poll and they decided to have a little fun," said AFA representative Buddy Smith, "turning their organizations around the country onto the poll [to distort it], and they succeeded."
But that's where the AFA, conservatives, and most of the media are wrong. Gay marriage isn't a "gay issue" propelled by indefatiguable "gay activist groups." The AFA poll hopscotched around the internet via blogs, networking sites like Friendster.com and justice-oriented e-mail lists. Even Sexual Intelligence discussed it (issue #47).
The AFA has pulled the poll off its website, and won't be taking the results to Capitol Hill--revealing their contempt for how "the American people" supposedly feel.
For mobilizing those who believe in basic fairness for all sexual expression, for involving straight people in the fight for gay marriage, and for showing us that we can influence major-league politics, the AFA gets an Ironic Sexual Intelligence Award.
Aba Aziz Makaja, "South-Slavic Sexual Enlightener"
A few weeks after we opened nominations for this year's awards, I received email from people across Europe promoting the candidacy of a man who had changed their lives. They said he had developed a spiritual system (Komaja), gave seminars throughout Europe, had a website devoted to erotic liberation (www.komaja.org), that his work was increasingly recognized for curing drug addiction, and that many of his followers lived, like he did, in long-term, non-monogamous spiritual communities. I was skeptical but intrigued.
Reading further was like a delightful step back into the '60s. Makaja's "love-erotic therapy" envisions love as healing energy for individuals, communities, and the planet. He sees sexual anxiety and the cultural repression of eroticism as destructive to people and communities. I put on some old Crosby, Stills, & Nash, and continued reading about Komaja as a way of cleansing blocked erotic energy and of living more consciously.
The guy had more than just flowers in his hair, though. I read that his work was being funded by a university, municipality, and an international aid organization, was being evaluated and published in academic journals, and that he'd even presented at the World Association of Sexology.
Last week I read all the email from his followers in one night. Their sincerity made their imperfect English sing.
"Currently Macedonia lies in political, economic and social crisis where basic needs are not satisfied, let alone the deeper needs of the soul. Erotica and sex are covered by a veil of shame and guilt, and are seldom discussed honestly and openly in public or within the family. In an environment where no sexual education exists, Makaja's books are a true spiritual refreshment for all Macedonian citizens."
"Thanks to the endeavors of Mr. Makaja, DANI was the first newspaper on the ex-Yugoslav territories which has informed about the existence and activities of the "World Association of Sexology" and has published their Declaration of Sexual Rights...Mr. Makaja is meritorious in many respects for the "de-tabooization" of sexuality on the territories of former Yugoslavia."
"For Croatia in which number of drug addicts is strongly increased during 1994 to 1998 because of war and its consequences, Makaja's methods being efficient in curing addicts is effect of significant importance."
"Unfortunately, Serbia is still very conservative and patriarchal in all fields of life, especially in sexuality. Makaja is the only south-Slavic sexologist who has a remarkable influence on the consciousness of the Serbian public. I consider Aba Aziz Makaja as the "south-Slavic sexual enlightener".
I absorbed the feelings of an amazing variety of people--from a professor to a ballet dancer, engineer, physician, journalist, psychologist, even an air traffic controller--from Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Albania, as well as Germany, Switzerland, and Britain.
This political reach is the ultimate importance of Makaja's work. In a part of the world that has obsessively focussed on people's differences--with disastrous results, century after century--Makaja focusses on people's common human heritage. He talks of the erotic oppression that burdens them all, and teaches a way of living that focusses on what all people share: the potential for erotic fulfillment and conscious loving. I've been to the Balkans myself, and I've seen how desperately the people there need something to break the spell of ethno-aggressive nationalism and ethnocentric religion. Higher erotic consciousness and sexual self-acceptance just might be it.
Makaja's no pushover, though. Persecuted by both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches throughout the former Yugoslavia, he sued the national Church magazine that called him a "satanist" (a serious charge over there). The slander trial will finally proceed this summer. He no doubt will use the trial to expand the public's Sexual Intelligence.
Posthumous: Edward Schempp
This year we give our first posthumous honor to Edward L. Schempp, who died November 8, 2003 at the age of 95.
Schempp's lawsuit against the required reading of Bible verses in public schools led to a landmark Supreme Court decision restricting such practices. The 1963 ruling barring mandatory Bible reading in public schools helped define the pragmatic line between church and state. Madalyn Murray O'Hair was also a participant in the lawsuit.
Schempp became concerned about a Pennsylvaina law requiring the reading of 10 Bible verses and a joint recitation of the Lord's Prayer each day in school. In 1956, his son Ellory protested by reading from the Koran during the Bible reading. After he was reprimanded, his father, supported by the ACLU, filed suit against the Abington school district. The district and the state lost and appealed several times. After seven years, Pennsylvania appealed to the Supreme Court and lost. Every one of us--including highly religious people--have been freer ever since.
Sexual Intelligence requires more than access to accurate information; people need a social environment in which they can discover their erotic selves, free of institutional pressure to adopt a single approved view of gender, pleasure, and the body. Abington vs. Schempp meant that public schools couldn't sponsor or require religious beliefs or activities.
Unfortunately, thousands of public school districts across America now promulgate religious agendas in a more insidious way, through mandatory abstinence training classes. These curricula are, for the most part, taxpayer-funded religious or moral tracts stating that condoms don't work and that premarital sex is always dangerous and wrong. Attempts to require that these curricula be "medically accurate" to qualify for federal funding have been defeated in Congressional committee.
You may quote anything herein, with the
"Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence, copyright © Marty Klein, Ph.D. (www.SexEd.org)."