An Electronic Newsletter
Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.
Issue #62 -- April 2005
1. Censoring Cheerleaders
2. CA Bill to Limit Car Porn Defeated
3. Correspondence: Catholics For Free Choice
4. Virginity Pledges >> STDs
5. Yawning At Swimsuits
6. Destroying The Party To Save It
7. The Quietest Place in Istanbul
1. Censoring Cheerleaders
High school football is Big Stuff in Texas.
So is cheerleading. It's so big it can cause problems, says state legislator Al Edwards, who has proposed ending "sexually suggestive" performances at athletic events and other competitions.
"It's just too sexually oriented, you know, the way they're shaking their behinds," said Edwards. "And then we say to them, 'Don't get involved in sex unless it's marriage or love, it's dangerous out there.'"
So is he afraid of the irresistible lust the pompom girls are inspiring, or is he just sympathetic about the blue balls created by all that teasing? And exactly how far does Edwards want to go with this? Maybe Texas should institute wiggle-meters in high-school hallways that beep when a sophomore walks, to quote Billy Wilder, like jello on wheels.
J.M. Farias, owner of the Austin Cheer Factory academy, said cheerleading aficionados would welcome the proposed law. Cheering competitions, he said, already penalize for suggestive movements or vulgarity. "Any coaches that are good won't put that in their routines," he said, apparently oblivious to what people are watching when they watch cheerleaders. We suspect that fans of cheerleading are like NASCAR fans. A handful are purists, who love the technical aspects and transcendent struggle for perfection. Everyone else looks forward to the legs or the crashes.
"Most girls cheering on Friday nights were trained by professionals who know better," says Farias sanctimoniously. But his company has 9-year-olds cheering in lipstick and eye shadow. What's that about, if not erotic appeal? And what are these little girls supposed to do when they make it to the high school squad--turn off the charm that got them there?
Edwards' attempt to purge the high school environment of "shaking behinds" and other normal behavior will, of course, fall flat. But let's see how serious he is: why not require schools to cover up their cheerleaders, like baseball players? If not for erotic entertainment, what's the justification for those tight sweaters, bare midriffs, and short skirts everyone loves so much?
2. CA Bill to Limit Car Porn Defeated
A proposed bill making it illegal for anyone in California to exhibit "sexually explicit material in a motor vehicle, knowing that the material is visible to the public" has died in Committee.
With the state verging on bankruptcy, illiteracy, and a crumbling healthcare system, why would anyone bother to criminalize porn in a car?
"We've had a number of people complain that when stopping at a red light they've seen sexual acts displayed on the video screen in the car in front of them,'' said Assemblyman John Benoit (R-Riverside County), who introduced the bill. "Try to explain to your 5-year-old what he just saw when he wonders, 'What was that man doing that to that woman?' It's a hard thing."
The California Highway Patrol agrees that driving distractions are a concern, though it doesn't differentiate between porn videos and other entertainment shown in the back seat. Citations issued statewide for drivers distracted by video screens (from G to X) in their vehicles have risen from 105 in 2000 to 920 last year. "The increase is a direct result of video screens being more readily available in vehicles," said CHP spokesman Tom Marshall.
920 citations in a state with 40 million cars? Doesn't quite sound like a raging problem.
Of course, we all want safer highways, and so drivers shouldn't distract themselves. So where does Benoit stand on that? In 2003 he introduced a bill establishing an infraction for anyone driving distracted, with a hefty $35 fine. This, according to Benoit's website, was "an alternative to a ban on cell phones in the car." That's how much he really cares about distracted drivers.
The people obsessed with sex are not the few hundred playing porn videos in their cars. They're the politicians who stay awake nights thinking about new ways to restrict sexual expression.
A classic anti-sex politician, Benoit talks out of two sides of his mouth: he says his law will make highways safer, but also says it's terrible when dad has to explain sex to junior. These are the same people who say that sex ed belongs in the family, not in school--and then try to eliminate teachable moments and sexual conversations between parent and child.
3. Correspondence: Catholics For Free Choice
We are honored that Phil Harvey, a landmark innovator in international family planning, has been a loyal reader for years. He notes that in our SI Award to CFFC (#60), we omitted the name of Francis Keesling, who has headed the organization for over 20 years. >From major media appearances, here are some of her memorable quotes:
"The Catholic Church is not a club. Membership is not based simply upon following a certain set of rules and regulations. The Catholic church is a church of the people. [My faith] is a covenant I have with God personally."
"We have to respect the consciences of those who feel that abortion is the most moral decision they can make in a given set of circumstances. The church itself holds that conscience is primary. Conscience, however, is not a whimsical thing. It involves an attempt to try to understand what would God want of me in this circumstance."
"Cardinal O'Connor's action [protesting at a health clinic that performs abortions] is not the action of a church man. It's not the action of a loving and concerned pastor. It's the action of a bully."
"Catholics have the obligation to interpret the gospels in light of the times. Anyone who thinks that the gospels were so explicit that they do not call for a strong element of interpretation is really not on this planet."
4. Virginity Pledges >> STDs
If you've ever promised yourself you'd stay away from something and did it anyway, this will come as no surprise: the abstinence vows and virginity pledges made by high school and college students get broken. A lot. The latest twist is that these kids are putting themselves at higher risk of STDs.
A study of 12,000 adolescents in the April Journal of Adolescent Health documents what sex education proponents have been saying for years: teens who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are more likely to take chances with other kinds of sex. The report by Yale and Columbia University researchers reveals that teens who pledge abstinence:
Kids who pledge abstinence are told that they're bad if they
have sex. Thus, they refuse to prepare for it, and are less equipped to cope
with it or its aftermath. They are torn between the power of their sexual interests
and the desire to be a good person (as defined by the abstinence curriculum).
Lacking decision-making skills or real knowledge to lean on, they simplistically
decide that non-intercourse sex isn't sex. This allows them to have their (abstinence)
cake and eat their (pleasure) cake, too.
Leslee Unruh, president of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse, called the scientific study "bogus," disputing that those involved had pledged true 'abstinence.' "Kids who pledge abstinence are taught that any word that has 'sex' in it is considered a sexual activity," Unruh said. "Therefore oral sex is sex, and they are staying away."
What the abstinence crowd stubbornly refuses to accept is that this is what 'abstinence' looks like to a 15-year-old: stretching the rules. Making "mistakes." "Forgetting." "One thing led to another." "But we were in love." As we've said before (#27, 42), it's why abstinence is not the perfectly reliable method our government claims it is. 'Abstinence' as an abstract concept is totally different than abstinence the method in real life situations. Kids aren't abstractions--they're real people making real decisions in complex circumstances. 'Abstinence' doesn't equip them to make these decisions. Just like people who use the rhythm method are called parents, kids who use abstinence are called sexually active. 88% of teens who pledge abstinence have sex before marriage.
This study, by the way, is science at its finest. It details a truth at variance with many people's "common sense." It shows how one public policy--abstinence programs--leads to an unwanted public outcome--increased STDs. It's a great rebuttal to anyone (like our Congress) who says we don't need sexual science.
Speaking of being out of touch with reality, your federal government just posted a website (www.4parents.gov) designed to help parents prevent their teens from having sex. It's laden with one-sided values, contains expressions like "unborn child," and features inaccurate information, such as a major link between abortion and infertility. It's like the grownup version of the inaccurate federally-funded sex education curricula criticized by Congressman Waxman (#59).
But Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt says the website is on target, "designed for parents who are embarrassed about talking with their children about sex."
His response to the concerns of physician groups and others is to defend abstinence. He says that with abstinence, teens don't have to worry about STDs and pregnancy. What he doesn't seem to understand is that teens already don't worry--they're teens. They certainly don't worry during moments of passion, love, or peer pressure--the same way many adults respond.
Let's invite the government to prove its sincerity. Statistics tell us at least half the nation's married governors, senators, mayors, and Cabinet members had sex before they married. We invite each of them to stand up and say "I regret having premarital sex"--if, of course, they mean it.
5. Yawning at Swimsuits
No nipples, no pubic hair, no ass-cracks, nothing you don't see in high school or Safeway--or in church during the summer.
This is what Sports Illustrated subscribers were given the option of not receiving this year--the annual swimsuit issue. Filled with babes in bikinis, it was incredibly dull. Sure, you could masturbate to it if you want to, but any random 10 minutes on VH-1 are much hotter.
And yet every year people decry the swimsuit issue as the precursor to Armageddon. They say it teaches young men to value women for their sexiness--as if American advertising wasn't already based on this idea.
That's why this year, the publisher allowed subscribers to opt out (they won't tell us how many people accepted the offer). It's a clever idea: "If you don't like it, you don't have to look at it. But we're gonna make it available to people who want it." Geez, that could work with porn videos, strip clubs, and nude beaches: "If you don't like it, don't look at it. But we're gonna make it available to people who want it." The technical term for that, I think, is democracy.
As Gandhi said about Western civilization, "I think it would be a good idea."
6. Destroying the Party to Save It
Senator Hillary Clinton keeps moving to the Right.
Clinton made news a few months ago when she urged pro-choice people to find common ground with anti-choice people in the abortion struggle--even though the anti-choice side has been rejecting the common ground of contraception for decades, and now rejects emergency contraception as well.
Clinton's latest attempt to prove she's a Republican is her call for a system rating sex and violence in video games, TV, and other entertainment for children. Three weeks ago she joined two of the most viciously anti-child, anti-education, and anti-sexuality senators (Brownback, R-KS and Santorum, R-PA) in calling for the government to study the impact of media on childhood development.
Two years ago, we quoted Santorum as saying that the Constitution does not grant a right to privacy (#39). On the eve of the historic Lawrence decision, he said that if the Supreme Court acknowledges a right to gay sex in the home, "then you have the right to bigamy, incest, adultery...man on child, man on dog, or whatever."
Brownback, of course, recently convened Congressional hearings about "porn addiction"--which somehow didn't include any sex therapists, or anyone challenging the concept itself. Just last week he convened hearings on regulating the porn industry without inviting any representatives of the $9 billion industry.
According to The New York Times, Clinton is increasingly referring to faith and prayer in her speeches. Along with other 2008 Democratic presidential contenders such as Joe Biden and John Edwards, she's stressing the importance of national security over education and health care--even though a March Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that 53% of Americans think the Iraq war is not worth fighting, and 57% disagree with President Bush's handling of it.
Clinton apparently believes that it's more important to get elected than to stand for something. She seems to be willing to destroy the Democratic Party in order to save it. We think it's a poor strategy: if voters want a Republican, they'll go get a sincere one, not a fake one.
7. The Quietest Place in Istanbul
From Mexico City to Lagos to Shanghai, every Third World mega-city has several things in common: everyone smokes, the traffic jams are apocalyptic, there's amplified, Westernized music everywhere, and the streets are always filled with people--more people than the city can possibly handle. As a result, the unrelenting noise is a major feature of daily life.
On a recent speaking trip to Istanbul (population 15,000,000), I found the quietest place in the entire city in a most unlikely location.
I spent a day with an experienced and erudite guide named Erkal, and while visiting various ancient buildings we talked politics. I eventually asked about prostitution, and he said the city operated a brothel (licensed prostitution is legal in Turkey). Curious, I asked to see it, and so we strolled down a fashionable street until it ended. We turned right, passed through an 18th-century stone arch, and found ourselves at the head of a cobblestoned lane. After the cop on duty ascertained we were over 18 and had no camera, we walked on. The lane was about 15 feet wide, and lined with beat-up houses. After walking about two minutes, I saw some 30 young men huddled in three or four awkward rows facing a wide doorway, as if they were watching TV. They were virtually silent, and the cloud of smoke that hovers about every Turk was missing. Walking closer, I saw the men looking at a half-dozen women in various states of tawdry undress, who were lounging around waiting for, or resting between, customers.
These men were absolutely transfixed. Threading my way through them I walked on, and two minutes later saw the scene repeated, and repeated several more times until the lane ended. I'd seen naked and half-naked women in my time, but a quiet, smoke-free street in Istanbul--now that was something to experience.
I raved about it to Erkal repeatedly during our half-hour adventure. I even mentioned the quiet and orderly atmosphere to the prostitutes I chatted with on my way back out to the main street (my guide introduced me as "the famous American sex doctor," which is a great conversation starter in a brothel). Erkal and the ladies were unimpressed with my observation. But the guys sure noticed me having simple and direct human contact with these women. At each of the five women-filled doorways where I stopped and chatted, the men nervously edged closer to us en masse, like a school of fish or group of penguins. I was disturbing the local human ecology; fortunately, no one minded.
The eerie silence and dramatic psychological distance between men and sex workers seemed clear to me. Here was the living result of forcibly separating the genders, mystifying the female body, making male-female conversation taboo, and restricting opportunities for sexual exploration and expression.
Erkal said that many of these men had, or would have, their first sexual experience here (like many of their fathers). And what do they learn about sex between a man and woman here? Nothing, really. They're so freaked out about being with a woman and seeing her body that they can't possibly relate to her as a person. Virtually all ejaculate within seconds, ending their session before they can possibly get comfortable or feel connected.
I went back out through the stone arch, and was immediately assaulted by the noise (and smoke) of Istanbul. My glimpse at those young men's souls felt so intimate, so intensely personal, I could barely look at the passersby. The contrast between my feelings and behavior and that of the young Turkish men was stark. I felt more privileged at that moment than I did the entire rest of the trip, which included lavish meals, a limo, and dozens of beggars. Privileged to have grown up breathing the same air as girls, to have gone through puberty with girls, and to live in a world where "good girls" expose their flesh to the sun.
People like me don't want a quick trip to heaven. We have it right here.
You may quote anything herein, with the
"Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence, copyright © Marty Klein, Ph.D. (www.SexEd.org)."