Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #71 -- January 2006


1. Canada Legalizes Swing Clubs
2. Tolerating Tina Turner's Triumph
3. Oprah: Still Addicted to Demonizing Sex
4. Book Review: Making Sense of Abstinence
5. 2006 SI Awards: Nominations Invited

1. Canada Legalizes Swing Clubs

We have previously cheered Canada for legalizing gay marriage (#61) and providing over-the-counter access to "morning after" emergency contraception (#63).

Now Canada's Supreme Court has ruled that clubs featuring group sex and swinging are legal. In its 7-2 decision, the Court said that because consensual sexual activity in a private club poses no threat to society, it shouldn't be criminal. What a concept.

So head for the border, Yanks. Get your discount Viagra, go to a swing club, get your Plan B if you need it, and then return home to the country that boasts of its freedoms.

The case involved club owners who had been arrested for operating a "bawdy house," used for "acts of indecency." Indecency had typically been defined in relation to what ordinary Canadians will tolerate.

But the Court's ruling said the test for indecency should not simply be whether an activity violates a "social consensus" of community standards, but the actual harm it causes. "Criminal indecency or obscenity must rest on actual harm or a significant risk of harm to individuals or society," wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in the majority decision. "Consensual conduct behind code-locked doors can hardly be supposed to jeopardize a society as vigorous and tolerant as Canadian society." The judge thus gave her fellow citizens the highest possible compliment.

As if responding to the main arguments threatening such clubs in the U.S., the Court said, "The causal link between images of sexuality and anti-social behavior cannot be assumed. Attitudes in themselves are not crimes, however deviant they may be or disgusting they may appear." And legalizing the clubs doesn't undermine the right to not go to them: "Only those already disposed to this sort of sexual activity were allowed to participate and watch," they said. The Court also dismissed the red herring of clubs spreading STDs. "Sex that is not indecent can transmit disease while indecent sex might not," they ruled. SI couldn't have said it better.

Both sides agree on a fundamental point: this ruling changes the role of the government in evaluating private behavior. They disagree on a fundamental point: the extent to which private sexual behavior affects the public good. I do agree that this ruling does affect non-swingers. It means their rights to private adult behavior are better protected--say, even the right to pray to a god who creates genitals but hates sex.

The court ruling requires that public policy limiting Canadians' sexual rights has to be based on facts rather than disgust--the key idea American conservatives have fought successfully for decades.

Religious Canadians now say the courts are the wrong venue for deciding about swing clubs, and call instead for a debate in Parliament with public input. How would they feel about Parliament debating whether churches are allowed to train clergy or select prayers without government approval? They would probably feel that these rights are part of a civilized country's social compact and therefore beyond debate.

Well, so are the private sexual rights of adults.

Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis, among others, have criminalized private swing clubs. Together these three cities have more than 10% of Canada's population. And as these clubs become more popular across America, pressure to criminalize them is increasing.

Some countries attempt to export democracy abroad. Other countries actually practice it.

2. Tolerating Tina Turner's Triumph

Last week the annual Kennedy Center extravaganza honored distinguished artists in various fields. The lineup of honorees was exceptional: Tony Bennett, Suzanne Farrell, Julie Harris, Robert Redford and Tina Turner.

It was the usual black-tie, must-be-seen-at affair. The audience at the glittering event always boasts America's artistic and political royalty, including the current President. Like the Christmas Day cease-fires common in wartime, when bitter enemies cease combat to share a moment of mutual humanity, the annual Kennedy Center programs have become a moment when our fractious body politic momentarily unites to celebrate profound human art.

Quincy Jones, for example, hailed Bennett's role in American song, and Diana Krall honored him by performing Fly Me to the Moon. Tom Brokaw and Paul Newman lionized Redford. The program's climax was a hot medley of Tina Turner's songs combined with footage of her performances. And so we heard and saw Queen Latifah ("What's Love Got to Do With It"), Beyonce ("Proud Mary"), and Melissa Etheridge ("River Deep, Mountain High"). None was Tina, but each did approximate Turner's legendary onstage energy with great, powerful songs.

It was a love-in, the holiday meal everyone enjoys by silently agreeing to ignore the drunk uncle or hostile cousin. And for one night, the whole thing was legal. Which made it ironically hollow.

Beyonce's body-hugging, thigh-exposing dress was a delight. Her backup singers' classic go-go dresses and go-go dancing pulled our eyes right above their hemlines. Latifah's plunging gown showcased her major cleavage. And film of Turner's high-octane performances, when she and her dancers dressed to thrill, was more of the hip-shakin', boob-wobblin', thigh-glistenin', female flesh-a-thon. I am not complaining.

But it was painfully ironic that our President sat there earnestly watching a show you or I would be prevented from seeing in cities across America--because it was "indecent." If our TV screen didn't continually return to W in between this shimmy and that, the Parents TV Council would have fired off 10,000 form complaints to the FCC before midnight.

The enthusiastic applause for Etheridge added to the irony--a lesbian who was only able to adopt the two kids she and her partner have because she happens to live in a state that doesn't forbid it. She and her "indecent" life would be run out of burgs across America.

It was a great night honoring over a combined century of artistic achievement. Like some modern pasha who is allowed to have what the masses can't, President Bush's attendance protected performers and audience alike.

By the following morning, the tuxes were off, the scathing judgments returned, and the fierce and vengeful God who hates flesh and desire was back at work. Along, no doubt, with His servant the President, still struggling to get those African-American thighs out of his mind.

3. Oprah: Still Addicted to Demonizing Sex

It's hard to imagine Oprah Winfrey finding new ways to be destructive about sexuality. She has already famously announced that sooner or later, all men cheat. And she unleashed Dr. Phil on an unsuspecting public--you know, the guy who said that asking your wife to go to a swing club "is making a whore out of her." For more of her sins, see my 2003 article, "What Oprah & Dr. Phil Don't Understand About Sex" (

Oprah's show last month on "porn addiction" hit a new low. She reinforced several myths about pornography; asserted that porn use must be eliminated from couples rather than negotiated by them; and stated that something routinely done by 40 million people is inevitably destructive.

The show was her standard morality play, in which a celebrity (singer Kirk Franklin) confesses his addiction but overcomes it through God; an ordinary couple describes their similar experience; and an expert analyzes these strangers on the spot, then mournfully agrees that "porn addiction" is a massive problem, which needs a 12-step approach, lots of "support," and of course Oprah's educational work.

Unfortunately, this "education" included Franklin's unchallenged assertion that he became "addicted" to porn at age 8; Oprah calling his consensual sexplay with childhood peers an "obsession;" Franklin saying he was constantly guilt-ridden about having premarital sex, but blaming his guilt on porn; Oprah repeating that sizzling but meaningless old line about "the crack cocaine of porn addiction;" and Oprah accepting that watching porn is infidelity.

She also bemoaned how male porn viewers "inevitably" take artificial images of female perfection into the marital bedroom--without wondering how her show's constant diet of artificially perfect actresses and models affects women in the marital bedroom.

Without saying the actual words, Oprah did indirectly criticize a few porn-watching "church people." Instead, she should have been criticizing a church that condemns sexual pleasure, masturbation, and premarital sex--i.e., the church that inspired Franklin's (and many of her viewers') massive sexual guilt.

Despite claiming to know nothing about this sexual interest, Oprah was quick to pathologize it. She also did this last month on her sleazy show on swinging, during which she talked about "a secret underground world"--so secret, of course, that swing clubs hire attorneys to guarantee the public's access to them.

Oprah claims to be a regular person who just happens to be more wealthy than most small countries. But she doesn't have a clue about how her ideas damage her viewers. Intentionally or not, she sets norms about what constitutes knowledge, the structure of relationships, the role of emotion in life, and the difference between testimonial and fact.  She never lets her ignorance prevent her from voicing her beliefs, typically stated as truth--which is exactly what's wrong with today's interface between public opinion and public policy.

Of course, porn is a problem for many people, and it is used in ways that do hurt many relationships. But Oprah's sensationalized, exaggerated approach prevents a serious discussion of this. And since her audience relies on her for their socio-political moorings, she is obligated to run a show on "millions of people use porn and it doesn't hurt their relationships," complete with real peoples' stories and experts explaining why and how. Ditto for open marriage, bisexuality, S/M, strip clubs, and other sexual interests.

I understand how all her money gives Oprah the right to pass judgment on people she's never met; but how is it she knows so little about any of the sexual variations afoot in our land? Can it possibly be that this is simply someone who desperately needs to get laid--or at least to get out more?

4. Book Review: Making Sense of Abstinence

In 1980 Planned Parenthood of Greater Northern New Jersey established an education department called the Center for Family Life Education. Growing to national prominence under the leadership of Peggy Brick, it has forever changed the way sex education is conceptualized and provided. In addition to training sex educators throughout the U.S., PPGNNJ also publishes videos, teacher's manuals and books--including its latest, Making Sense of Abstinence: Lessons for Comprehensive Sex Education. Co-authored by CFLE Director Bill Taverner and veteran sex educator Sue Montfort, it is simply wonderful.

Why would one of America's leaders in comprehensive sex education put out a manual to help adults talk about abstinence? (You know they'll never see a dime of the government's billion-dollar abstinence giveaway.) Because, as the authors point out, comprehensive sex education must include "positively-framed education about sexual abstinence."

This manual shows what abstinence education would look like if it weren't rigidly "abstinence-only" (the current federal standard), if it weren't horrified by sex, and if it didn't treat kids like robotic idiots. In helping young people examine abstinence as a meaningful choice, the book creatively and empathically relates to their world. It raises issues such as:

We're reviewing this book because it is a valuable, easy-to-use resource for every parent or other adult dealing with pre-teens and teens. You don't have to be a classroom teacher to benefit from it; if you plan to be talking to kids about sex, love, relationships, or their dreams of adulthood, this manual will expand your vocabulary, help you feel more confident, suggest lots of interesting questions to ask, make you more comfortable with the answers you get, and help you see kids' sexual and relationship curiosity in the larger context of their lives. Any adult can easily extract a few questions or valuable concepts from each of the many exercises.

SI has a long-standing revulsion to abstinence-only programs, which almost always demonize sex and trivialize kids' powerful emotions (#s 18, 27, 33, 43, 59). These programs disrespect the process of sexual decision-making so much that they aren't even willing to rely on the truth. Their lies about the alleged inevitable consequences of premarital sex are simply disgusting.

Ironically, progressive sex educators like Planned Parenthood and SIECUS could actually promote abstinence far more effectively than the sex-phobic Religious Right. This book--which does not say that abstinence is the best choice for all young people at all times--shows how.

For only $25, give yourself a belated holiday gift. Information/order: 973/539-9580 or

5. 2006 SI Awards: Nominations Invited

Every year, Sexual Intelligence Awards™ honor individuals and organizations which challenge the sexual fear, unrealistic expectations, and government hypocrisy that undermine love, sex, relationships and political freedom today.

Here's your chance to submit suggestions; just email us with a couple of sentences about your nominee. Feel free to nominate yourself. Awards will be announced in the February issue of SI. Last year, our 5th annual awards honored:

To see all previous recipients go here.

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"Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence, copyright © Marty Klein, Ph.D. ("