Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #52 -- June 2004


1. Same-sex Marriage >> Hetero Divorce?
2. FDA: Federal Dark Ages
3. TV: Crime=Sex Crime
4. Abu Ghraib: The Usual Suspects
5. Saint Had Choices Pope Would Destroy
6. The Globalization of SI


1. Same-sex Marriage >> Hetero Divorce?

Since Massachusetts began to grant wedding licenses to same-sex couples last month, over 70,000 heterosexual marriages have ended in divorce.

Although couples cited a variety of reasons for divorcing, none of them are on record as mentioning same-sex marriage as a cause.

2. FDA: Federal Dark Ages

You'd think that any medicine approved by the conservative American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists must be pretty amazing--safe and helpful. The panels of scientists advising the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) thought so too. Alas, such science isn't enough when extreme political views intervene.

On May 6, the FDA gave in to pressure from the White House and Congressional opponents, rejecting Barr aboratories' application to make "Plan B" emergency contraception available over-the-counter. Emergency contraception (EC) is a concentrated dose of the hormones in ordinary birth control pills. Taken within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse, EC can prevent a pregnancy from beginning. It cannot affect an established pregnancy.

[For more information about EC and its potential to avert unintended pregnancies and therefore abortions, click here:]

Medical authorities agree that the prescription requirement for Plan B is an unnecessary barrier to its use. But the Bush administration has again put its radical beliefs before the health and safety of Americans. Overruling science with ideology challenges the integrity of the entire drug approval process. If the FDA will withhold drugs that are proven safe, why should we believe that it won't release drugs that are unsafe?

By definition, emergency contraception can't wait for a Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm visit to a pharmacy (which would also require a prior doctor visit to get a prescription). Restricting the medication to those with a prescription amounts to a complete ban on use for most women. It's like placing something on an impossibly high shelf and then saying "go ahead, use it. Right away."

Supporters of the ban say they fear the drug's easier availability would lead to promiscuity. Our first response is, so what. The prevention of "promiscuity" isn't for a democratic, secular government to legislate. The second response is, science has the facts on that issue--and in no country has the availability of this medication increased sexual activity.

By racing backwards away from science toward fear and intuition, public policy in America appears more medieval every day.

The American Right is obsessed with sex--all sexual rights are evaluated by the extent to which they resemble abortion, and those that don't are condemned as facilitating independent sexual behavior. They feel that sex involves either killing unborn life or enjoying this life too much. Where is this pro-life religion I keep hearing about?

3. TV: Crime=Sex Crime

Many people complain that there's too much sex on TV--by which they generally mean any sex on TV. In one specific respect, I must agree. I think there's too much sex on TV in connection with crime, violence, and mayhem.

Of course, I think there's too much crime, violence, and mayhem on TV, period. But not because I believe it makes people commit crime. Rather, because a steady diet of it leaves the clear impression that there's way more violence out there than there really is. Recent studies, in fact, show that people who watch lots of adrenalin-drama prime time shows believe there's substantially more crime in the U.S. than those who don't watch these shows.

So the missus is channel-surfing the other night, and she alights on Law and Order (a show that every station, apparently, has to run at least once each day to retain its license). A respected school principal with an unblemished
record is accused of having sex with a student; how could this champion of children and wholesome values suddenly be revealed as a molester? We find out she's also recently withdrawn from her loving husband and child, and she's gotten cranky and aggressive at work.

"Brain tumor," I tell the missus.

Indeed, twenty minutes later, that's how the character is diagnosed (the missus is suitably impressed). They operate, she's fine, and suddenly she's totally horrified by what she's done. The forensic shrink says that tumor-less, she almost certainly won't re-offend. The main characters then have a genuinely interesting conversation about responsibility, rehabilitation vs. punishment, etc.

But the show can't leave it alone. The woman's pregnant by the 14-year-old, she believes he has a right to know, and everything is quickly back in chaos. Most importantly, the character is now clearly a Bad Woman, so there's no moral ambiguity to trouble the viewer.

Dozens of hours each week, shows like Law & Order, Without a Trace, and CSI focus on sexual violence: rape, molestation, kidnapping, prostitution, compulsivity. This now-familiar plot device solves a recurring dramatic question: How to explain erratic behavior. Want to portray unpredictable rage? Secrecy, hiding, duplicity? Need a handy motive to explain why bad people are bad, or good people are doing bad things?

The answer is sex. If it's a bad person, he or she is driven by lust (or its consequences, like murder). If it's a good person, he or she was molested in childhood.

Lazy TV writers are giving sex a bad name. They're subtly persuading viewers that sexual violence and perversion are way more common than they really are.

For example, the brain tumor that led the upstanding character to have sex with a student? In 25 years as a sex therapist I've never seen this even once. The meek accountant who's really a high-priced hooker, who had to murder or be murdered to cover up her exotic career? Never seen her. But on these shows, such situations recur with religious regularity.

Cop shows have come a long way since Perry Mason squared off with Lieutenant Tragg. Special effects, scientific detail, and elements grabbed from the day's headlines (such as HIV, lawsuits, and abortion protests) make these shows seem as real as the news. But the more real these shows seem, the more dangerous they are. Viewers forget that this stuff is fiction--it's made up by a bunch of people making a living.

The idea that sex can be dangerous is as old as Oedipus. The Greeks knew the story was metaphorical, however, and it wasn't beamed into everyone's home every single night. In the twenty-first century American home, televised sexual violence is more common than the whole family gathered for dinner. If everyone spent more time eating as a family and less time watching televised sexual violence, we'd all be less likely to imagine that uncontrolled sexuality, such as pornography and thong panties, is destroying our homes and communities like so many termites.

4. Abu Ghraib: The Usual Suspects

Every civilized person is haunted by the photos of prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib. We should also be haunted by the responses of some of our fellow citizens.

The Right blames pornography and too-free access to sexuality. Yes, really.

Concerned Women for America's Jan LaRue says "There is little doubt that regularly viewing pornography desensitizes and makes viewers more likely to imitate 'art.'" Apparently this isn't true of violent action films or professional wrestling, only pictures of people making love. And jeez, what kind of porn is LaRue looking at, anyway? Robert Knight of CWA's Culture and Family Institute also blames pornography, which he says gave the soldiers "the idea to engage in sadomasochistic activity." Apparently he hasn't heard that sadomasochism has been a form of human expression since the beginning of time, or that it's supposed to be consensual.

The Heritage Foundation's Rebecca Hagelin says "We permit school children to be taught that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle," and "allow our children to be taught how to use condoms in school, rather than why to avoid sex." If only that were really true. She laments the fact that pornography is the internet's biggest business, and sees people as passive victims of life-destroying pictures. Nine billion dollars a year of passive consumption of erotic pictures.

Broadcaster Rush Limbaugh says that Bill Clinton popularized oral sex (apparently an activity no one cared much about before then), which led to widespread perversion, which led to the sexualized prison behavior.

Thanks to reader Frances Prevas for directing our attention to the articles containing these revealing quotes.

Some people on the Left come off just as badly. Barbara Ehreinreich is shocked, shocked that women could do these awful things. She seems completely unaware of how insulting that is to men, whom she can easily imagine doing these awful things. Ehrenreich says she thought that women would change the military, "make it more respectful of other people and cultures, more capable of genuine peacekeeping." Another insult to the many male soldiers who happen to be sensitive and honorable. "A certain kind of feminist naivete died in Abu Ghraib," she says. "It was a feminism that saw men as the perpetual perpetrators, women as the perpetual victims." Well, it's about time.

Ehrenreich says she believed that "women were morally superior to men." I guess she didn't notice the militaristic Margaret Thatcher, the various Congresswomen who vote against contraception rights, Hewlett-Packard's Carly Fiorina who threw people out of work while making a 9-figure salary. Or Condoleeza Rice, who helped plan the war on Iraq.

If Ehrenreich is a little ashamed of having blamed men as a group, that's good. Her "struggles for peace and social justice and against racist arrogance" are doomed to failure if she demonizes a large class of humans. Remember, men hold up half the sky.

When we look at those horrifying Abu Ghraib photos, we see young soldiers using sexuality to dehumanize people. Sadly, this isn't entirely surprising, given what these young adults were so recently taught in school (and in many cases, their church): "Sex is dirty, sex ruins lives, sex is an expression of coarse indecency." Of course they used sex to humiliate these prisoners. They learned that sex is ugly; they wanted to do ugly things, so they used a sexual vocabulary.

Interestingly, many Senators have reserved their deepest disgust and alarm over the sexual humiliation, not the evidence of torture or murder. This perfectly reflects American society--which demonizes sex so completely that those who sexually exploit children are imprisoned far longer than those who murder them.

There's plenty of evidence--Seymour Hersh's article in the New Yorker is exhaustive, and it isn't the only one--that military superiors specifically suggested sexual humiliation as a tactic for coercing these prisoners. Of course, humiliating these people is profoundly disrespectful to them. Doing so with sexuality, the life force in all humans, is profoundly disrespectful to all of us.

5. Saint Had Choices Pope Would Destroy

In 1962 Gianna Beretta Molla, a pregnant mother of four, discovered she had a potentially lethal uterine tumor. She faced a horrible predicament: removing it would kill the fetus she was carrying; leaving it there would kill her. She insisted that doctors not save her life if it meant terminating the pregnancy. She died a week after giving birth, leaving her husband a widower and her five children motherless. For this choice, Pope John Paul II made her a saint last week.

Molla is the first married woman named a saint in modern times, a well-known symbol of the anti-choice movement. The Pope lauded her "extreme sacrifice," calling her a "messenger of divine love." This meaning, this institutional rigidity, is what he intends Molla's elevation to say to today's Catholic faithful. It's as instructional a message as stained glass windows were to the medieval faithful who couldn't read.

We don't see it this way. We see her canonization as a clear example of the Church valuing the life of an unborn child over the life of a living woman.

What exactly is the point of Molla's sacrifice? Although Molla's child received life, in what way was her family served? In what way is our world better? Molla's choice was suicide, a Catholic sin. Why is her suicide less sinful than a decision to save her life and nourish her family would be?

Perhaps it's too naive to expect the Pope to really affirm life. He is too obsessed with removing the tools of living from those already alive--contraception, sex education, stem cell research.

Because of her unusual medical circumstances, Molla had the right to make a choice. In China today, she wouldn't have any options: she'd be forced to have the life-saving surgery. In the America envisioned by the Pope and his priests and bureaucracts, Molla wouldn't have that choice either.

Is it too much to ask that we have the same options to "choose life"--however we define it--today as Molla did almost a half-century ago?

6. The Globalization of SI

We asked, you answered. Readers from Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and India wrote to say hi from across the globe. Each email was a special treat. Other readers from outside North America are encouraged to send their greetings as well.

You may quote anything herein, with the following attribution:
"Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence, copyright © Marty Klein, Ph.D. ("