Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #49 -- March 2004


1. Civics 101 For The President
2. CA Governor Forgets to Stop Acting
3. Church Cries Wolf About Health Insurance
4. Passion Vs. Passion
5. Janet Breast Begets Stern Boot
6. Memo: There are people attached to those penises!
7. A Word About Spamfilters


1. Civics 101 For The President

In demonizing same-sex marriage, both the Pope and the President have called marriage a sacred covenant with God. Only one of them is right.

In America, a church should have the right to offer whatever rituals, sacraments, and experiences it wants, to whomever it wishes, under whatever conditions it chooses. And it can change the rules whenever it likes: 1,800 years ago, abortion was acceptable in Catholicism; 100 years ago, divorce was not; and when I was growing up, my Italian neighbors couldn't eat meat on Friday.

But once a church wants government sanction for what it does, that changes everything--because individuals can opt out of a church, but we can't opt out of the law. Once a church wants the government to codify what it considers "sacred," it must play by civic, not religious rules. And that means equal access for all.

Every church should loudly advertise the benefits of its products (like holy matrimony, faith-healing, or abstinence from premarital sex), and compete in America's marketplace honestly--without government support.

But if marriage is indeed a civic good, let the government distribute the civic privileges (and responsibilities) of marriage in a just way--without discriminating according to ethnicity, fertility, gender, or any other civically irrelevant criteria.

And let churches stick to distributing their sacred products any way they like--to whomever volunteers for them.

2. CA Governor Forgets to Stop Acting

When people say that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a famous actor, they're speaking the truth.

First he announces his gubernatorial candidacy on Jay Leno's Tonight Show. Then he predicts that same-sex marriage will lead to deadly street violence, on Meet the Press. Last week he announced a softer stance on same-gender marriage--on Jay Leno again. Do I now have to watch late-night TV to keep up with serious news? I might as well subscribe to the National Enquirer to stay well-informed.

Schwarzenegger's love of hot lights and wild applause is part of the long slide of news and entertainment toward each other. Where does one now end and the other begin?

"Politicians" (imagine--Californians actually elected someone who insults that despicable job title) like Schwarzenegger who exploit the public's belief that TV is somehow real are sacrificing the integrity of our political process for their own short-term gain. The time will come when political candidates are given roles in sitcoms and TV dramas prior to elections. We won't need to go to the polls to vote--we'll let the Nielsen ratings do it.

Schwarzenegger will have helped us along this scummy, slippery slope, a traitor to the very system he wants to help run. The news media, of course, are complicit, too. They're thrilled to have access to exciting stuff like Terminators and celebrity rape trials, and the more glamorous they make the "news," the more glamorous they seem.

America: where having an opinion on whether or not a total stranger did something heinous now passes for being well-informed.

3. Church Cries Wolf About Health Insurance

The California Supreme Court last week ordered Catholic Charities, a statewide network of non-profit programs, to adhere to the law requiring their health insurance to cover the cost of contraceptive pills. For years, Church leaders had argued that the law's birth control provision conflicts with the Church's moral code.

"What was at stake here is whether or not the Legislature had the right to define who is and who isn't Catholic,'' said Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference.

The Church is being disingenuous when it says this law forces it to do things it doesn't support. No one's forcing CC employees to use birth control. If the church's own pressures against contraception aren't enough to prevent people from doing what it frowns on, they should accept this gracefully.

Instead, the church wants it both ways: the government protections of a non-profit, without any civic responsibilities.

With the federal government now funding "faith-based organizations," this principle is more important than ever. Are we going to create a parallel culture in which anyone claiming a "religious" basis is exempt from the basic rules of our society? This is exactly what we criticize about Islamist theocracies across Africa and the Middle East.

What if a group chooses to opt out of zoning regulations, health standards in its restaurants, or school inoculations that contradict its faith? What if a group says that non-discrimination against women or blacks in employment violates their faith (which was common only a few decades ago)? Our society already gives groups massive financial and legal privileges the second they can show they are a "religious" group. Shall we allow people the right to marry ten-year-olds because their religion dictates? What about the right to stone adulterers?

Perhaps the solution to much of the present culture wars is to create a church based on sexual experimentation and ecstasy (a tradition that goes back even further than Christianity). Their (consensual) sex practices and art would be exempt from political scrutiny--end of problem. But no, that's already been tried and rejected in America (think of Rajneesh's communities, or L.A.'s Church of the Erotic Goddess, both of which were busted and denied "religious" status because of their focus on sexuality).

When it suits its purpose (as with gay marriage), the Church calls for adherence to "the rules of civilization." If that's to be the criterion, the Church should admit that contraception is now honored throughout Western culture. Discriminating against it is simply not an accepted civic practice.

4. Passion Vs. Passion

"One of the cruelest movies in the history of the cinema," The New Yorker calls The Passion of the Christ. "The bloodiest, most brutal example of sustained sadism ever presented on the screen," says conservative columnist William Safire. The MPAA has rated it R.

The Dreamers, which features sex, nudity, and sex, is rated NC-17.

This is all you need to know about America's movie rating system. It's hypocritical, it's insulting to parents, it's based on dangerous ideas about humans and society. And yes, this is nothing new for them.

But with all the hype about Mel Gibson's anti-spiritual Jesus Chainsaw Massacre, it bears repeating. Both films feature bare flesh. Apparently this is OK if the flesh is bloody and tormented, but not if it's caressed.

What does this say about the MPAA's vision of the human psyche? Of children's psyches?

By the way, if it's tortured flesh you want, if it's spiritually uplifting erotic violence, you want, what about Philip Kaufman's Quills (issue #12)? DeSade was at least as spiritual as Mel Gibson, but as usual, what counts is the golden rule: the one with the gold makes the rules. And Gibson has plenty of that.

In his historically inaccurate, obsessively violent film, Gibson betrayed us and his art for some silver.

5. Janet Breast Begets Stern Boot

9/11 occurred over 2 years ago, and we still don't have a report on the most dramatic intelligence breakdown in American history.

But only days after Janet Jackson revealed her breast for a second (a second!) during the Super Bowl halftime show, the government began convening hearings on this threat to the republic. Only a month later, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to increase the fines for broadcasting "indecent" material from $27,500 to $500,000 per incident. For full shock value, read those numbers again.

The FCC is being urged--by people from adulterous Congressmembers to anti-liberty "decency" groups to selfish Religious groups--to "protect children" from savage things like images of breasts and certain combinations of our alphabet. Over and over, they hide their terror about sex, disgust at diversity, fear of competition in the marketplace of ideas, mistrust of their fellow citizens, and simple anxiety about the unfamiliar in the standard cry of "protecting the children."

Your elected representatives and non-elected nosy neighbors are demanding that the FCC must eliminate "indecency"--i.e. any references to sexuality--from the electronic media. Graphic images of mayhem, newsrooms tormenting us with meaningless "information" about isolated crimes, and endless exhortations to buy stuff that's destroying our kids’ planet are not considered indecent.

Global warming si, bosom warming no.

Huge corporations that normally gallop like snails are now scurrying to enact hypocritical "zero tolerance of indecency" policies. The latest step in protecting America's children from consonants, glands, and orifices is Clear Channel's firing of Howard Stern. The nationally-syndicated radio host invariably indulges in bad taste and the most boring kind of leering, adolescent humor.

Now follow the math for a second: Stern is syndicated by Infinity, a unit of Viacom, which also owns TV networks CBS and MTV. MTV: the people who produced the Jackson peek-a-boob. And CBS, who said MTV was ruining America.

Viacom and Clear Channel claim to be running away from "indecency." "Indecency" is not a legal category, it's just anything that someone with power doesn't like. Across America, "they" are trying eliminate "indecency" in bars, nightclubs, radio, TV, the internet, newspapers, books, colleges, movies, CDs, plays, textbooks, magazines, and, ultimately, our bedrooms. In an America where even the physically handicapped are mandated access to Yosemite, California ballots are printed in Spanish, and learning-challenged kids get special, tax-funded classes, is there to be no place in this great country where adults can have access to "indecency?"

Rush Limbaugh, that paragon of liberal free thought, said of Stern's firing, "I oppose it. I've never heard Howard Stern, but when the federal government gets involved in this, I get a little frightened...What happens if a whole bunch of John Kerrys start running this country and decide conservative views are leading to violence?"

And that's the point that censors--and frightened parents--forget over and over. Americans have made a unique deal with each other: I won't try to shut you up, you won't try to shut me up, and we'll let the market decide if either, or both of us, gets any airtime.

6. Memo: There are people attached to those penises!

More than half a decade into the era of erection drugs, there is still no pill to promote arousal in women. You can see this as corporate skullduggery, the will of God, or something in between.

After years of research and testing, Pfizer this week officially abandoned it's attempt to rev up women with Viagra.

In explaining the failure of the three erection drugs to arouse women, there is a consensus among commentators, therapists, and the drug companies themselves that women's sexuality is more complex than men's. I hear repeatedly that while men simply have an on-off switch, women's arousal is far more contextual.

For example, as Pfizer's lead sex researcher Dr. Mitra Boolel says, "There's a disconnect in many women between genital changes and mental changes. This disconnect does not exist in men. Men consistently get erections in the presence of naked women and want to have sex." This so-called sex researcher knows as much about sex as UFO researchers know about UFOs.

This is a sexist bias that trivializes men's feelings. Drug companies, physicians, and indeed men's sex partners still have trouble realizing that men's erections and sexual experiences are as affected by their emotions as women's. Unfortunately, most men themselves have been so socialized about this that they also believe their emotions are only marginally relevant to their sexual expression. That's why erection drugs work for only 2/3 of the men who take them, and why the drug companies have much less demand for second prescriptions than they anticipated. And that doesn't even count the millions of men who aren't trying erection drugs. Whether they know it or not, their anger, sadness, and humiliation would prevent the drugs from working.

It's true that Viagra creates pelvic engorgement in many women, as it does for many men, and that women are "so complicated" that the engorgement isn't sufficient for them to be sexually aroused. But that's also true for men. The difference is that many men settle for engorgement--erection--even when they're not emotionally aroused. They've been taught that erection is everything, and so they gulp down pills that they hope will create it. Do they feel comfortable and connected, do they get the touching they want, do they feel desired and appreciated, do they feel their partner reaching toward them and co-creating an intimate experience?

Don't ask. Men have been trained to want, need, and be content with an erection. Sexual pleasure and intimacy, too often, are seen as the domain of women. It's not because men are jerks. It's because men have been short-changed, their sexuality culturally reduced to a hydraulic response in a few inches of their anatomy.

Indeed, for some men that's true--an erection is all they want or need, and sex follows erection like TV follows dinner. But that's pathetic. So is the fact that if most men were to say "it doesn't matter if a pill helps me get hard, what I want is to be caressed and feel desired," they'd be looked at as weirdos.

Women are fortunate that when they say "it doesn't matter if a pill heats up my genitals, I'm looking for more," scientists, liberal columnists, and conservative family types say "yes, that's how women are wired. Foreplay starts in the kitchen." Women, pundits, and drug researchers also need to learn that foreplay starts in the garage--or, for that matter, in the kitchen, where Herb is washing the dishes and would love a pat on the butt.

* *

Given the iconic status of erections in our culture, the idea of a pill that can magically create one at any time under any circumstance (which is far from accurate) was sure to generate plenty of urban legends and alleged proofs of misogyny.

So now we see the predictable "women resent newly-erect men chasing them around the house" myths. Without any evidence, media columnists pity the poor women dragged out of grateful sexual retirement by Viagra-crazed husbands. A few months ago a well-known news magazine asked me to talk about this "epidemic." When I said I wasn't seeing it and didn't believe it was a problem, the reporter simply went on to the next therapist in her rolodex, looking for someone to validate the existence of this juicy, "obvious" problem.

As a sex therapist, I can tell you there are just as many men who are being hassled by their partners to take an erection drug when they'd rather not. And too many women still don't suggest or insist on using external lubrication to make intercourse more comfortable because "it's too embarrassing"--and then they complain that their partners are clumsy lovers.

In general, health care professionals dispense pills instead of counseling not because they're insensitive to women, but because they're insensitive to people--with ailments ranging from depression to hypertension to chronic pain.

The existence of erection drugs--and our simplistic expectations about them--is as much a cultural insult to men as the lack of a parallel drug is a cultural insult to women.

7. A Word About Spamfilters

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