Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #63 -- May 2005


1. Obits: John Paul II & Andrea Dworkin
2. Bathroom Treat
3. Canada Approves Real-World Plan B
4. Bloomberg & Plan B
5. Prescribing Morals, Not Drugs


1. Obits: John Paul II & Andrea Dworkin

In one of those poetic coincidences that no one would believe if it were fiction, Pope John Paul II and Andrea Dworkin died last month within days of each other. Their disparate lives were similar in many ways: they were both bright, articulate, creative intellectuals, passionate believers and tireless workers.

Unfortunately, their fundamental assumptions and their legacies are also similar.

Both feared sexuality, believed it's dangerous, and knew that women aren't lusty. Both believed that sexuality undermines love.

Their work makes it clear that they both mistrusted humans: they focused as much energy on protecting people from themselves as from each other. Both felt that the path to liberating people lay in taking away their choices. Dworkin actually invented new legal doctrine to prevent adults from looking at erotic pictures. And each time John Paul spoke about people's need for freedom out in the world, he cruelly restricted it inside their home.

Both wanted women to "civilize" men, not acknowledging that this trivializes relationships and bars women from full adulthood. Both feared and misunderstood women so much that they wanted to segregate them from power: in the Pope's case, political power; in Dworkin's case, sexual power.

Their respective careers empowered people who hate pluralism and democracy. They gave political conservatives psychological comfort, and provided a vocabulary that dignified their shameful bullying of others.

Dworkin and John Paul II both had influence beyond their own constituents, influence too often codified into legislation. The world of adult sexual choice is certainly better off without them, although each one's disciples will carry on their work. That's the tragedy--their ideals live on to torment believers as well as non-believers.


2. Bathroom Treat

Last week I went to an all-day meeting at the headquarters of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington, DC. It was a completely ordinary set of offices except for one thing: there was no gender designation on any of the three restrooms.

What do employees there do? Well, I'll tell you what the dozen of us at the meeting did: we used the restrooms. As I recall, each had two stalls, and one had two urinals as well. From 9:00 to 4:00 we shared them with the office staff.

People went where they went. We were told that if a person wanted privacy it was acceptable to walk in and lock the door. Apparently a few people did that once in awhile (to cry? fart? practice yelling at the boss?), but most never did.

Although nothing can relieve the tedium of a seven-hour meeting, I've never enjoyed peeing so much in my life. Several others said the same thing. The staff was used to it; why was it such a big deal to us?

It was just deliciously adult. It was a real-time experiment with a new world--with real-time proof of that world's viability. The shrugging acceptance that most men and women could share bathrooms felt very respectful of the group's adulthood.

Was it titillating to know there was a woman peeing in the next stall? No. But it was a little exciting to participate in an innovative social form that was notable for its complete mundaneity and lack of fuss. I enjoyed every pee that day, even the ones when I was alone or surrounded by men.

(For more on the politics of gender-segregated bathrooms, see issue #8.)


3. Canada Approves Real-World Plan B

Two weeks ago, Canada's federal health agency approved over-the-counter access to Plan B ("morning after") emergency contraception.

Because emergency contraception only works within a small window of time, eliminating delays caused by the need to get and fill a prescription (particularly over weekends and holidays) will help ensure that consumers will have the method when they need it. This will, of course, more effectively prevent unplanned pregnancies, a relatively uncontroversial idea in this relatively sane country.

The Canadian government website contains an excellent FAQ about Plan B, including When would a woman need to use EC? Note the wording: when would a woman need to use this medication? Not want, need. What a respectful and accurate way to put this. The FAQ gives a complete answer, including: the condom broke; no birth control was used; and two or more consecutive birth control pills were missed.

As we described last year, the American FDA continues to drag its feet on approving this same drug for over-the-counter use in the U.S. (issue #52). This is particularly problematic given the increasing number of pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for it--or who lie about its availability.

If it is approved for o-t-c use in America, we can imagine the government website's FAQ on why a woman would need it: she's a slut; she's lazy; she was molested as a child; she hates herself; she has no sense of right & wrong; she wants sex without consequences.

The FDA has no scientific reason to withhold this drug from the easiest possible consumer access. In fact, this is the drug that should be in the home of every American of childbearing age, along with a smoke detector, emergency radio with batteries, and an extra DVD of Animal House.

Given Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin's passionate support of same-gender marriage (issue #61), we may have to give the whole country a Sexual Intelligence Award.™


4. Bloomberg & Plan B

Speaking of sane, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has just announced a $3 million program to reduce unintended pregnancies. Starting next month, the city will provide emergency contraception free to any female of reproductive age at city clinics and hospitals.

"Ninety-thousand abortions is an outrage," Bloomberg said. "We should recognize this as a problem." Actually, we think the outrage is the city's 120,000 unwanted pregnancies, but we certainly share the mayor's goal.

In that spirit, Kelli Conlin of NARAL Pro-Choice NY said, "We frankly hope that people who define themselves as pro-life join us in this." But such a reasonable idea, alas, fell on deaf anti-choice ears.

Said Michael Long, chair of the state's Conservative Party, "If you make a mistake you have to be accountable and you have to understand the fact that you have an obligation--that's a human being." What he says reveals the anti-choice movement as one not of spirituality, but of political philosophy: most sexual activity must be punished. Their position--that teaching fallible people a lesson is more important than helping them rectify their mistake or preventing truly awful consequences that will hurt a lot of people--certainly can't be called pro-life.


5. Prescribing Morals, Not Drugs

Most states now allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions--and, ominously, many are proposing laws that protect pharmacists who refuse to refer patients to other pharmacies they know will help them. Reports from around the country (including The New York Times and San Jose Mercury-News) now document pharmacists confiscating birth-control prescriptions and lying about the availability of emergency contraception.

The American Pharmacists Association wants to balance "pharmacists' rights to not dispense drugs they are opposed to." The Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom says it isn't American to ask pharmacists to "sacrifice their rights." We say these "rights" do not exist. In fact, demanding these privileges insults the lofty ideal of morality.

Everyone is, of course, entitled to their own ethical vision. America's relative lack of an official morality grants us the true adulthood of determining our own beliefs. But these beliefs come with a price. Henry David Thoreau refused to pay taxes he considered unjust--and he went to jail. Martin Luther King refused to honor Jim Crow laws--and he was beaten and jailed. You are free to believe that some people should not have access to certain medications--which requires you to sacrifice the opportunity of being a pharmacist.

If pharmacists and their allies want to elevate this issue to a high moral plane, they should do so honestly--and be prepared to pay the price of their beliefs. But as columnist Ellen Goodman says, pharmacists are wanting "conscience without consequences."

Shall there be any limit on people's right to enforce their morality on others? If pharmacists demand this right, what about other people demanding their rights? These might include:

The only drugs that currently trigger pharmacists' consciences concern contraception. But different pharmacists can easily refer to their moral concerns about other medicines, and so we can expect to face the following rationales for being refused a wide range of drugs:

The Right is proving that it can find sex--and therefore "moral concerns"--literally everywhere. What is their obsession with sexuality as the primary indicator of morality? What about the moral values of compassion, tolerance, pluralism, and not casting the first stone?

It isn't really about morality for them. It's about sex.


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