Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #57 -- November 2004


1. Obituary: Katharina Dalton, Who Welcomed PMS
2. Sex OK; Taping It, Not
3. Dildoes: TX vs. MS
4. Unfortunately, We Are the World
5. ABC Sex "Survey"--Must Miss TV


1. Obituary: Katharina Dalton, Who Welcomed PMS

Katharina Dalton, the British endocrinologist who coined the term "premenstrual syndrome" has died at age 87. If you're periodically cranky and bloated, but take comfort in knowing you're "normal," you can thank her.

As a pregnant 32-year-old medical student Dalton realized her monthly migraine headaches had disappeared. She and Dr. Raymond Greene concluded that the headaches could be attributed to a deficiency in progesterone, which drops before menstruation but soars during pregnancy. Dalton and Greene published this theory in several medical journals in 1953, using the term "premenstrual syndrome", or PMS, for the first time.

Dalton's research showed that during severe PMS, students' academic performance dipped and women were more likely to abuse their children or commit crimes. She concluded that Queen Victoria suffered from PMS, explaining the monarch's monthly screaming and throwing objects at her beloved husband, Prince Albert.

In 1957, Dalton opened the world's first PMS clinic at London's University College Hospital, and directed it for over 30 years. She advocated treatment with diet and natural progesterone. Both innovative treatments were enormously successful.

Dalton's research was controversial in the U.S. for decades, resisted by medical practitioners who believed the source of symptoms was psychological, and by feminist leaders opposed to any suggestion that women were emotionally unstable once a month.

So how many premenstrual women does it take to change a lightbulb? That's not funny!

2. Sex OK; Taping It, Not

Two years ago, former high school teacher Todd Senters was having sex with his 17-year-old girlfriend. It was legal, because the age of consent in Nebraska is 16. Hopelessly romantic, the couple videotaped themselves having this legal sex.

Senters' roommate, unfortunately, found the tape and--he's either a weenie, or a victim of culturally-induced paranoia--he sent it to police. Senters was then arrested and convicted of manufacturing child pornography--because that law defines "child" as under 18. Now required to register as a sex offender, Senters is prohibited from contact with the young woman for the rest of his probation. His case is finally headed for Nebraska's Supreme Court.

Young people in states like Nebraska are allowed, at 16, to consent to sex. But they aren't, even at 17, allowed to consent to being taped having that sex. Apparently, teens need to be protected from their photo more than they need to be protected from sex.

(Side note: Describing photos of naked 17-year-olds as "child pornography" helps explain the huge numbers that prosecutors and morality groups like to throw around to show what a horrible problem this is. Is there any sense to describing Senters as a "child pornographer," other than to scare us--and to justify more crime-fighting dollars?)

Of course the two laws involved are contradictory. But this is true of most laws restricting pornography--virtually all porn (we did just say "virtually all," not "all") depicts happy people doing happy things. Obscenity laws are an expression of communities' discomfort with depictions of otherwise perfectly legal activities.

So Senters was convicted of something akin to a thought crime. He's busted for demanding to own his experience. This is becoming an increasing problem, as ordinary people have more and more tools to record (and share) their experience: digital cameras, DVDs, blogs, cell phones, PDAs.

Questions about contraception, prostitution, and sodomy are about who your body belongs to; Senters' case raises the question, who does your experience belong to? Increasingly, our laws say that if your experience involves sex, it isn't entirely yours.

In this way, government affirms that the representation of the thing is more dangerous than the thing itself. This is an accurate rendition of one popular belief: "they" aren't afraid of sex as it is as much as they're afraid of sex as they imagine it, or the places they imagine sex will take people.

Ultimately, many people are even more afraid of the erotic imagination than of actual sex. We hear that the brain is the most powerful sex organ. That explains why the government isn't content with trying to control genitals (say, by prohibiting lap dancing). It wants to control the way eroticism interfaces with our minds.

3. Dildoes: TX vs. MS

Mark Twain once said that if he owned Texas and he owned hell, he'd sell Texas and live in hell. If you're given the same choice between Texas and Mississippi, here's something to consider: vibrators are no longer illegal in one, but their criminality has been affirmed in the other.

Until the other day, it was illegal in Texas to sell any object designed for sexual stimulation. Dismissing the case before her, Judge Alma Trejo ruled that the Texas statute is unconstitutional.

But if you suffer from buzzophobia or penetraphobia (fear of being attacked by vibrators and dildoes respectively), there's still a safe place for you. The Tupelo Police Department in northeast Mississippi recently charged a Spencer Gifts clerk with the distribution of unlawful sexual devices (which in Mississippi is literally redundant). Spencer Gifts is a novelty store specializing in dramatic clothing, posters, toys and gag gifts. But an undercover agent somehow resisted these and instead purchased a sex toy at the mall store. Police then seized some $2,000 worth of illegal merchandise.

Interestingly, the cops were tipped off by the locally-based American Family Association. The AFA Center for Law & Policy is urging citizens in other states that prohibit sex toys to go after their local Spencer Gifts stores, too.

Gay marriage, sex toys, pornography: the Christian Right sees all eroticism and sex-related public policy on the same continuum. While they can accept the narcissistic pleasures of eating donuts and watching football, they mistrust sex that is pleasure-centered, fearing it will lead to disaster.

They describe this fear clearly regarding same-gender marriage and "alternative" sex: give people too many choices, and they'll abandon traditional arrangements. How sad for these people: They describe straight marriage and "normal" sex as God's gifts, but don't trust that these gifts can compete successfully in America's cultural marketplace.

4. Unfortunately, We Are the World

A London reader writes:

American censorship affects what I can say here in the U.K., as the forum I want to say it on is based in the U.S. In last week's thread at, the forum administrator warned,

" the next few days, we may need to remove any forum post and clear the contents of any personals profile, essay questions, etc, that mention the words "rape," "bestiality," "lolita," "pedophile," "pedo," or "necrophilia."

This would be totally regardless of the context in which the words are used; for instance "I love Kubrick's film Lolita" or "Pedophile sentenced to jail" would have to go. Heck, if someone posts about measuring how far they walked using a "pedo meter", that would have to go. Not to mention anything about fantasy rape, etc.

It may well be a choice between taking this drastic action and just closing the site outright. This is a very scary time to be living in the United States, and we need to do what we can to maximize the chances of this community surviving. If your profile has any of those words, in any context, I'd advise removing them to avoid having that section of your profile blanked.

It seems to be another step towards the stifling of expression and speech by the religious extremists who appear to be running America."

Someone suggested that VISA was the "they" demanding this dramatic change, so I asked my favorite First Amendment attorney, Lawrence Walters, about it. His reply:

Yes, various payment processors and merchant banks have begun enforcing ‘banned words' policies on websites, in an effort to cut down their exposure for child porn/obscenity offenses. Of course, as private companies, they can censor all they want, without violating the First Amendment, but it does seem distasteful in a free society.

So don't assume that the government is the only problem or even the major problem restricting sexual expression. Companies who handle large sums of money have enormous indirect power; anyone who's a key part of an important transaction can create an obstacle. We saw this last year with the concrete contractors who tried to prevent the construction of a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Austin. ISPs are, without notice, censoring incoming email from "suspect" addresses (including, apparently, mine). Pharmacists are refusing to fill prescriptions for oral contraceptives. Newspapers and magazines are refusing advertising that makes them nervous.

That's a central issue: people in powerful positions who get nervous. Laws that criminalize or censor are unnecessary when people and companies can be frightened enough to voluntarily create distance between themselves and sex.

5. ABC Sex "Survey"--Must Miss TV

There are fictional TV programs, non-fictional TV programs, and an increasing number in between. It would sure help if the in-between shows were labelled: "This show is confusingly designed to look factual, but a lot of it is made up, left out, or distorted."

Last week's pathetic Prime Time Live "sex survey" show was an example of this third category. Many sexologists trashed the show the morning after. Sex researchers and clinicians who disagree on points of theory, history, and practice found acres of common ground in blasting the poll's oversimplifications, inaccuracies, and self-congratulatory assertions.  

As sex researcher Theresa Binstock said, it was "Not infotainment, but misInfotainment."

If sex itself were like this survey, it would be boring. Your partner would yak about a lot of pointless crap that showed s/he wasn't paying attention. It would be full of teases and boasts with little expertise or satisfaction. It would be a third-rate hand-job after promises of world-class head. And it would cost a fortune.

In addition to a "crack team" of urgent-sounding anchors breathlessly reading meaningless numbers, three experts were introduced, presumably, to add even more gravity (all women--wouldn't people howl if all the sex experts had been men?). The usually classy Dr. Helen Fisher should have known better than to participate.

When the poll showed dramatically different numbers than Fisher's classic study of divorce and infidelity around the world, she pliably conceded that the numbers were "close." And she confidently asserted that "women's sex drive is more powerful than men's," which must have come as a shock to the many couples suffering with the opposite problem.

Laura and Jennifer Berman were the show's other "experts." Jennifer's credibility took an enormous hit when she blithely declared that "men have difficulty understanding what it takes to stimulate women." They're both part of the ABC News stable of experts, which apparently means they can assert whatever they want. On ABC's website, for example, Laura--without any supporting data whatsoever--decries the supposedly terrible effects of pornography. She worries that "exposure to porn can make young men less inhibited sexually, because they've seen it all," although "it can also make them more inhibited, because they've never been involved with a real, live person." That, unfortunately, is exactly the degree of clarity and respect for sexual science that this program reflected.

But let's start at the beginning. Diane Sawyer had the nerve to call this "one of the most extensive nationwide surveys of American's sexual attitudes and behavior ever." Calling it a "scientific poll," she promised the truth about "everyone's sex life" in a "ground-breaking report" that would investigate Americans' sex lives as never before.

So much for Kinsey, Hite, the Laumann study, Massachusetts Male Aging Study, and others.

In case you're interested, the poll was conducted by telephone interviewers without any specialized sex-related training, and it lacked any mechanisms to assure that respondents were truthful. Viewers weren't told about the poll's hefty margin of error, or why they shouldn't generalize the findings.

The show presented numbers without context or meaning. This percent of men had sex on the first date. That percent of women had only 1 partner in their lives. The show never questioned truly extreme numbers--e.g., that 81% were "very satisfied" with their relationships (so why the 50% divorce rate?).

And while the show was happy to reinforce ABC's view of how America wants to view itself, it stated potentially significant findings with the same decibel level as everything else. They actually said that almost half of the sexually traditional people wished their partner would be more adventurous. That 30% of all couples watched porn. That 14% of all couples had had threesomes. Considering all the shows that ABC has done about the evils of porn, the importance of monogamy, and the "epidemic" of sex in advertising, it would have been appropriate to hear several comments about "gee, there's a lot of people doing stuff that the church condemns and the government wants criminalized."

The release of the new film "Kinsey" is already provoking the crazies to repeat their bizarre assertions that he did everything but kidnap the Lindbergh baby. Ironically, ABC will undoubtedly give the "Kinsey was Satan" people plenty of air time this month--more recognition than they gave the towering intellectual figure without whom their little poll would never have been done.

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