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
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
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,
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
4. Unfortunately, We Are
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 www.bondage.com/topic_id/115709/forums/topic.html,
the forum administrator warned,
"...in 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
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
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
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
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,
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.
You may quote anything herein, with the
"Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence, copyright
© Marty Klein, Ph.D. (www.SexEd.org)."