Sexual Intelligence
An Electronic Newsletter

Written and published by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

Issue #75 -- May 2006


1. Film review: Mrs. Henderson Presents
2. U.S. Attempts to Out-God Iran
3. Kansas Teens Do Own Their Bodies
4. LaRue: Pedophiles Made, Not Born--By Porn
5. Dutch Tolerance Goes On Offensive

1. Film review: Mrs. Henderson Presents

This wonderful 2005 film stars Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, and a dozen lovely bare breasts.

Based on true events in late 1930s London, it is entirely appropriate that the nude bosoms drive the story. As the wealthy Mrs. Henderson and her crafty stage manager Mr. Van Damm work to present nudity on stage, they are resisted by the English government. The ingenious compromise Mrs. Henderson proposes (and Lord Cromer the censor accepts) is that the young women are staged like classical art--frozen in tasteful tableaux, rather than prancing around.
The film is very funny, with Dench and Hoskins going at each other like a witty, energetic couple who would rather be nasty with each other than nice with anyone else. Christopher Guest is a hilarious repressed aristocrat, who almost chokes to death when the elderly Dench uses the word “pussy” to describe what he calls “the midlands.” The music, dancing and period atmosphere are charming.

Then World War II comes to London, and everything changes.

Almost everything. Because Mrs. Henderson insists on keeping the Windmill Theatre open--indeed, it was the only West End theater to remain open continuously throughout the Blitz. Located underground, it was safer than most places people could go. One dancer mentions her surprise that the safest place to be during a war is standing naked on a stage in front of an audience. What a lovely metaphor--finding safety in the arms of eros while death rains from the sky.

Young soldiers loved the place, and found solace there in the hours before shipping out. When the bombing starts, Lord Cromer tries to shut the Windmill, saying it's dangerous for people to congregate anywhere. But Mrs. Henderson quickly reminds him that people can be "overly-cautious" in times like this, one of many poignant reminders of how similar our time is with theirs.
In fact, she tells him, and a crowd of ardent young soldiers, why she's so intent on presenting nudity on stage. From clues she pieced together, she believes her own son had shipped out to World War I (where he died at age 21) without ever seeing a naked woman. She believes this is a tragedy, and she doesn't want “these nice young boys” to suffer the same fate.

This film accomplishes something amazing--it entertains us with nudity, it shows others being entertained with nudity, and simultaneously takes sexuality absolutely seriously.

It shows, without comment, the struggle to present nudity onstage in a way that won't offend those who aren't attending (those attending such shows never complain). In such a society, someone's always inventing new ways to categorize nudity and sex--as if there were a real (or objective) distinction between wholesome and prurient. Breasts above the nipple OK, nipples not. Butt cheeks OK, butt cracks not. Bikinis OK, bras or pasties not. Butt cheeks OK if framed by a thong, bottomless not. Male-female kissing OK, female-female kissing not.

It's all about arbitrary rules, justifying why some bit of eroticism is less dangerous than some other bit. The finer and finer gradations we see are a modern version of ‘How many pubic hairs can fit on the head of a pin?'

So the Windmill Theatre presented nudity that looked like museum paintings. In “civilized” England, nudity was safe if it was a few centuries old. For American hillbilly John Ashcroft, even classic art was indefensible. Like many Americans, he believes the nude body is shameful--something God meant us to enjoy only if we're willing to feel bad about it.

So what did Mrs. Henderson Present? Part of our birthright--something precious that was stolen from her young audience, and what they yearned to get a peek of. The film quietly shows that the war was also being fought for the right to watch nudity. To choose to watch nudity. Boobies or not, there's nothing trivial about having--or losing--such a choice.

Ultimately, the film reminds us how important controversial art is in a time of war. Now that the U.S. is in a permanent state of war, we need more such art, not less. More erotic risk-taking, not less.

For Mrs. Henderson, sexuality wasn't a problem. It was an answer.

2. U.S. Attempts to Out-God Iran

As it has for half a century, your government (and all 50 governors) has designated May 4 as a National Day of Prayer. A three-hour National Observance will take place at a congressional office building, and speakers will include Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. And the religious right has the nerve to call itself disenfranchised?

The mission of the National Day of Prayer Task Force is to "communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America and its leadership." Its national chair is Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. This is the same James Dobson who received a rapturous, wildly inappropriate thank-you letter from Justice Samuel Alioto after he was confirmed onto the Supreme Court (issue #73).

Prayer is not a neutral or generic action, and pronouncements that Americans can pray to whomever we want doesn't make it neutral. I am offended when my President says that some victim or other (of Katrina, a mine explosion, Donald Trump, etc.) is in "our prayers." Over a hundred million Americans don't pray. Prayer is a religious activity, and as such the government has no business sponsoring it.

Besides, the goal of the National Day of Prayer (and of its supporters) isn't prayer, it's transforming the political system. Their 2006 Prayer for the Nation is "Today, we confess our sin of not responding to Your[God's] right to rule in our lives and our nation." They don't mean that metaphorically--they mean it literally. They mean it in exactly the same way that religious fundamentalists in Iran mean it.

I sympathize with America's religious moderates and progressives, who have seen their faith traditions hijacked by sinister anti-democratic forces. Since these moderates say they disagree with the political mayhem being committed in their name, they now have a golden opportunity. Let religious moderates loudly repudiate the National Day of Prayer. Let them say "we will pray when we want, for the ends we desire--but we will not support government-sponsored prayer." Only then can the rest of us take their frustration seriously, and trust their assertion that they can be religious and democratic at the same time.

3. Kansas Teens Do Own Their Bodies

A federal judge has ruled that Kansas law does not require health care workers to report sexual activity by those under 16, invalidating yet another anti-sex opinion by the state's attorney general Phill Kline.

Federal District Judge J. Thomas Marten said the reporting of consensual sex between teen peers would deter young people from seeking medical care, and would overwhelm the state authorities.

The ruling blocks Kline's advisory opinion from guiding the enforcement of Kansas' law requiring the reporting of serious abuse.  Kline has demanded that any teen pregnancy, STD, or request for contraception trigger mandatory reporting.

This is the second legal setback this spring for the attorney general's efforts to restrict abortion and other reproductive health care services. In February, the Kansas Supreme Court limited Kline's investigation into two abortion clinics by removing patients' identifying information from the medical records he had requested. This, too, was done under the guise of "protecting young people"--from consensual sex.

It's bad enough that all genital sex between teens under 16 is illegal in Kansas. Judge Marten said Kline's directive improperly conflated this illegal sexual activity with the "abuse" Kline claims he wants to prevent.

"The opinion wrongly redefines the common denoting all sexual activity to be 'inherently injurious,'" wrote Judge Marten. "The attorney general's overexpansive interpretation of the reporting statute not only fails to serve the public interest, it actually serves to undermine it."

Public policy that makes things worse--that's how it is in America when it comes to sexuality. The negative results then lead citizens to call for more sex-negative legislation, perpetuating a downward spiral. Examples:

Center for Reproductive Rights attorney Simon Heller said the ruling could have broad national implications because it is the first to assure adolescents constitutional protection for private communication with health care workers. What are teens' rights regarding sexual information, services, and products? Teens today are a sexually repressed minority, subject to currently-legal government discrimination. All in the guise of "protecting" them.

Predictably, Kline responded by playing the "child molestation" card: "I have always maintained, and continue to maintain, that the rape of a child harms a child," he said. No sane person could disagree with that. But what kind of a sick mind imagines two 15-year-olds enjoying sex, and thinks of violence and coercion?

4. LaRue: Pedophiles Made, Not Born--By Porn

Senator Joseph McCarthy--who used innuendo and half-truths to smear perfectly innocent people--would be right at home with the disgusting tactics of Jan LaRue, Chief Counsel of Concerned Women for America.

Her latest series on the website is entitled "The Road to Perversion Is Paved With Pornography." Her main point in all three articles is that viewing pornography isn't just reprehensible, it's dangerous--to the viewer, his wife & children, and society. She claims that adult pornography is a gateway drug that leads to viewing kiddie porn. Her proof is the popularity of 18- and 19-year-old women in porn, a genre she calls "teen porn," which conveniently sounds like videos of 8th graders. It isn't. The government is recruiting these same 18- and 19-year old "teens" to kill and die in Iraq, suggesting a level of adulthood LaRue simply denies.

Conservatives troll the newspapers for stories of people doing dangerous or illegal things, and a country of 300 million people, of course, has its share. As if it proves anything, this week LaRue cites the story of 26-year-old Luke Goljan, who flew to Alabama to acquire a videotape of schoolgirls who would give him oral sex--"pigtails, freckles, and school uniforms would be a plus." It's a terrible story. Does it incriminate airplanes, videotape, the internet, money, or oral sex? According to LaRue, it incriminates porn.

LaRue repeatedly says that viewing adult porn leads to viewing teen porn leads to viewing child porn leads to molesting children--and that's why adult porn should be illegal. This is as logical and factual as McCarthy's tactics: if you were friends with someone who had a friend who went to a meeting about workers' safety, you were a "fellow traveler" who might as well be a KGB agent or Red Army volunteer.

Here's one of her typical everything-but-the-kitchen-sink rants:

"Whether one of you "regular guys" ends up running over a child, your drive down the dead-end porn road is hurting you and those you care about. Every mile defiles your thoughts about women and girls and affects the way you treat your mother, sister, friend, co-worker, wife, daughter and the rest of us. You can't consume degrading depictions and descriptions of women and "teens" and continue to treat us with respect as human beings."

It's important to keep abreast of high-visibility con artists like LaRue, James Dobson, Phil Burress, and Tony Perkins, because their deceptions are picked up by Fox, MSNBC, and CNN, by thousands of local pastors, and by their organizations' own members. Repeated often enough, the lies acquire the cachet of truth. Men destroy perfectly happy marriages to look at porn. Porn makes men rape women.

And now the most destructive lie of all: porn turns normal people into child molesters. We're all against child molesting, so if you're not against porn...well, you even look like a Communist. And your name, that's not an American name, is it?

Of course LaRue resorts to lies, disinformation, and anecdote. She knows the facts alone aren't nearly compelling enough.

5. Dutch Tolerance Goes On Offensive

Potential immigrants to the Netherlands will be faced with a film showing two Dutch men kissing publicly and a Dutch woman swimming topless. The DVD is part of a new entrance test designed to determine if applicants are open to the socially liberal views of the country.

The new evaluation process is a response to the assassination of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a self-described enraged Muslim, local Muslim riots in response to "offensive" Danish cartoons, and the general anxiety about Muslim residents increasingly hostile to Dutch pluralism.

"It's not very subtle, but it prepares people for what they will find in this country," Marco Pastors, a Rotterdam city councilman, said. "If you want to live here, you have to accept that girls are allowed to wear miniskirts and can stay out until 3AM. You don't have to behave this way yourself, but you have to tolerate it."

After complaints from Muslim groups, the government produced an expurgated version of the DVD. It lacks the bare breasts and male kissers, but still has women in bikinis and men who appear to be lovers. Ironically, the video itself is considered pornography, and is therefore illegal, in some Muslim countries, so it had to be changed. That neatly describes the enormous culture gap faced by those who wish to emigrate.

Does the film discriminate against Muslims? No, it discriminates against those who reject pluralism. And, sadly, sexuality is a reliable vehicle with which to measure acceptance or rejection of pluralism. The video doesn't suggest that anyone has to behave these ways, but it does show what would-be immigrants can expect, and what the country stands for--not topless women and homosexuality, but tolerance of such things.

Before we get too smug about our superior American culture, let's remember that this video--produced by the Dutch government--would be abhorred and even illegal in many parts of the U.S.. The topless beach behavior is criminal in virtually our entire country, while pluralism regarding sexual orientation is hardly a universal value here.

At present, only applicants from predominantly Muslim countries have to view the film; people seeking entrance from the EU, Japan, U.S., and former British Colonies are exempt. Although it would be expensive, applicants from these countries should be shown the DVD as well. Everyone should know what they're getting into, and everyone should sign on to the treasured Dutch experiment they wish to inhabit.

We need more of this: pluralistic societies proudly standing up, saying "we announce and defend our values. Do not come here planning to change the principle that makes us what we are." Flooding secular societies and attempting to transform them, even through their own democratic process, is not immigration, it's murder. It's not only people who can be killed; as we've seen in the U.S. and elsewhere, ideals and institutions can be killed, too.

Too few Americans understand that the value of pluralism is more important than whatever body part or naughty word people feel uncomfortable about.

Of course, the Dutch test isn't perfect, and actual discrimination is wrong. But this is self-protection at an institutional level. In the finest Enlightenment tradition, the Dutch are doing it without bombs, without threats, without violence--just with information, which should be the most powerful thing in the world.

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