"I Do, Sir"
Two Spanish air force privates wed last month. They were both men. Yes, as we've already reported (issues #56, 64), Spain is way ahead of the U.S. on such matters. That's Catholic Spain, if you're keeping score at home.
Apparently, Spanish soldiers have more discipline than ours. The two arguments about keeping gays out of America's military, of course, have been that 1) gay soldiers couldn't stop themselves from seducing the straight ones, and 2) straight soldiers couldn't stop themselves from obsessing on their gay company-mates' supposedly undressing them with their eyes. Along with other European nations, Spain doesn't seem concerned about this. Maybe there's more to their macho thing than we suspect.
Then of course there's the marriage issue. Many Americans are so insecure about their own marriages that they fear that gays marrying each other will destroy their own. Apparently, Spanish marriages don't feel quite so shaky to participating husbands and wives. I dunno--the macho thing again? The siestas, the vino, the, um, Old World approach to monogamy?
Some members of Spain's military are obviously unhappy about the wedding, but the Defense Ministry says the wedding is a personal matter, a non-event for the men's careers, and it has no comment. So where's the gift register--at the PX?
Bush Out of Touch on Touching
A miserable failure at getting young people to stop having sex, the Bush administration now plans to discourage all unmarried people from behavior that could result in "sexual stimulation"--including kissing and hand-holding. I know, it sounds like Saturday Night Live. But this is serious.
The government's policy will now go beyond completely unrealistic, to actually contradicting developmentally appropriate behavior. Efforts to prevent teens (much less all unmarried people) from doing anything resulting in sexual stimulation will certainly have many harmful public health consequences. These include reduced use of contraception when they do have sex (which almost all unmarried Americans eventually do), as well as guilt, anxiety, and trauma associated with sexual feelings and behavior.
State legislators are also trying to regulate teen sexual behavior by requiring family planning clinics to involve parents when young people seek birth control. Lawmakers claim their goal is strengthening family ties, but given parent-child relations in the real world, the obvious goal is preventing young people from seeking contraception. The belief that this will discourage sexual behavior is, um, insane.
Besides, kids who are "abstinent" don't need birth control, and therefore don't need to be discouraged from going to a clinic, right?
In Their Own Words
Sometimes we just have to quote a real-life public figure who is also a public danger.
You may remember Katherine Harris, who faced widespread criticism for the way she supervised the 2000 presidential recount as Florida's Secretary of State. Now a Congresswoman, she wants to run for the Senate against incumbent Bill Nelson. Here's what U.S. Congresswoman Harris said a few weeks ago:
"If you're not electing Christians then in essence you are going to legislate sin. They can legislate sin....And that will take [down] western civilization, indeed other nations, because people look to our country as one nation under God....That lie we have been told, the separation of church and state...that is so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers...if people aren't involved in helping godly men in getting elected than we're going to have a nation of secular laws. That's not what our founding fathers intended and that certainly isn't what God intended."
The Associated Press reminds us that Harris's campaign "has been overshadowed by news of her dealings with a corrupt defense contractor who gave her $32,000 in illegal campaign contributions."
The Naked Truth
Roger Libby has been a sexologist for thirty years--before the audience for his new book was born. The Naked Truth About Sex: A Guide to Intelligent Sexual Choices for Teenagers and Twentysomethings tells them exactly what they need to know about sexual orientation, masturbation, virginity, and "normality." He emphasizes the importance of talking with a partner before, during, and after sex, and isn't afraid to acknowledge that most young people want sex to be fun. As his readers would say, "duh!"--but this is what passes for radical thinking in much of America today.
If you want your teen or young adult to have sound sexual information but can't quite bring yourself to say enough, this book will definitely help you and them. Visually it's a little hectic to my eyes--which presumably means it's perfect for its audience.
Years Late, But About Time
It's rare to get good news from the Internal Revenue Service, but this month they revoked the tax exemption of the anti-choice group Operation Rescue West. The group violated prohibitions on nonprofits' electioneering by promising tax deductions for contributions to defeat Presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004. At the Democratic convention, ORW also drove around a truck with a large photo of an aborted fetus and the words "Kerry's Choice."
As we described just last month (issue #79), churches and religious organizations are becoming increasingly active in electoral campaigns. Tax-exempt charities and churches are generally prohibited from campaigning for candidates, but they are still allowed an amazing amount of leeway to take stands on issues, hand out voter guides, and get directly involved in political campaigns. When you have the President creating new "faith-based" financial giveaways practically every week, the "faithful" mobilize real quickly.
The latest politician to court the church vote is Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline. SI readers know about Kline's attempts to require all health care professionals to report any suspected sexual activity among teenagers; his demand for the medical files of all girls under 16 who have had abortions, as well as some women who have had late-term abortions; and his order (supported by a local judge) that patients not be informed of this extraordinary government intrusion into their personal lives (issues # 46, 61, 75). If the man weren't Attorney General, it would be obvious that he's obsessed with controlling others' sexuality.
In a memo first reported by The Lawrence (KS) Journal-World, Kline directed his campaign staff to get him in front of as many congregations as possible. He mentions the need to create campaign committees in each church, and directs staff to give churches "I.R.S. rules guidance regarding what they can and cannot do," including ways to get around fairness regulations.
It's unethical for the state's top law enforcement official to use his office in this way. Of course churches will go along with his guidelines, regardless of their accuracy. Who's going to question the Attorney General on the tax code?
Meanwhile, the I.R.S. says it notices a sharp increase in prohibited activities by charities this year, and warns that it plans to reverse the trend. We think this scrutiny is good for democracy. But ORW says it will simply reorganize to circumvent its I.R.S problems. "Whatever structure we have,'' President Troy Newman said, "we are going to speak out, we're not going to be intimidated, we're not going to be muzzled and we're not going to be gagged."
This is one of the current narratives of the Religious Right: a persecuted minority, innocent victims of aggressive Sodomite power. Pity those poor Christian teachers, pharmacists, generals, ministers, judges--all prevented from trampling on the Constitution that gives them the most religious freedom enjoyed anywhere in the world. Christians control the White House, Congress, federal judiciary, and most state governments. Who, exactly, is persecuting them?
Of course fundamentalist Christians want to destroy the separation of church and state--it would create a financial windfall for their church, and put the state in their pocket. It's what we who believe in democracy call a lose-lose.
How They Do It
A coalition of nearly 80 politicians and community leaders such as James Dobson and Donald Wildmon recently sent a letter to President Bush asking him to expand prosecutions of sellers and buyers of "obscene pornographic material."
This provides a great chance to see their manipulative methodology in action. We've underlined (and responded to) a few phrases for your dining and dancing pleasure.
The letter said Bush's help was needed "because pornographers and sexual predators [a category mixing legal business people and criminals] are increasingly targeting [would business people target non-purchasers?] America's most vulnerable citizens: our children." The letter asked Bush to address the issue of obscenity [not the same as "pornography"] publicly, adding that a meeting with members of the conservative groups [what about representatives of 50 million porn users?] would give him the opportunity to do so.
The letter also urged Bush to add resources to the Department of Justice's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, and called for more involvement by the FBI. The letter claimed that a recent study [by whom?] showed that 33% of youth [including 16- & 17-year-olds] had been exposed [spam--which everyone discards] to unsolicited sexual material ["hot sluts want you!"...borrr-ing] on the Internet in the last year and that one in seven young people [primarily teens coming on to each other] had received unwanted advances for sex [yup, that's what teens do] during the same period.
There you have it: an apparent epidemic of dangerous people doing illegal things, threatening the safety of little children across the country. Obvious danger: sex. Obvious solution: repress it.
It Isn't Complicated
Constitution Day was September 17, and again most Americans can't name even two of the five freedoms guaranteed by the glorious First Amendment (speech, the press, peaceable assembly, petitioning the government, and protection from government-sponsored religion).
The annual Day has come and gone, ignored (we're being charitable here) by our President. It gives us the chance to ask America's 100,000 federal, state, and local officials determined to limit what's allowed in television, radio, films, textbooks, plays, advertising, adult entertainment, medical conversations, and the internet, what part of "shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech" don't you understand?
UK: More Than Tea & Crumpets
A new study by Nielsen NetRatings about internet pornography use in Great Britain is out.
It reveals that more than 9 million men, almost 40% of the male British population, used pornographic websites last year. This is four times the number in 2000, which is primarily an artifact of increased internet access rather than increased perversion (although Charles is closer to the throne than ever). The number of women downloading Internet porn in the six-year period soared 30 percent to 1.4 million.
The average amount of time per month that both men and women viewed online adult content was 40 minutes. Per month. Since that's the average, plenty of Brits are obviously using more than that. But 40 minutes is the average. This fact is a profound challenge to America's anti-porn crusaders who insist that occasional porn use is only temporary, that porn is so powerful that it ensnares casual users and addicts them. Porn "addicts" then quickly lose their marriages, families, jobs, health, and minds, becoming child molesters or rapists (or both). Making heroin look like harmless Haagen Dazs in comparison, porn ultimately reduces users to drooling, Dickens-era idiots urinating in the street and selling their blood for another fix (the monthly broadband fee, one assumes).
Well, it hasn't happened on a mass scale in Britain (no remarks about pre-internet drooling Brits, please). And it hasn't happened here, either. Of the many lies told about American porn users, the biggest is that there is no porn "use"--only porn "abuse." That's the first question to ask people who want to talk about public policy and pornography: what's their definition of "reasonable" (or--gasp--"healthy") porn use? If all they can talk about is rape, child porn, human trafficking, and mayhem, tell them they're discussing violence and crime, not porn. And tell them how millions of Brits drink tea and watch a little porn once in a while.
America's War On Sex
America's War On Sex has taken off, thanks in part to SI readers. Thank you very much for all your orders.
The book is still available to subscribers at 10% off at www.AmericasWarOnSex.com (use discount code SI10). Subscribers also get a guarantee--if you don't love the book, send it back for a full refund.
Buying a copy or two is a nice way to pay for your enjoyment of SI, which has been free (and 100% free of ads) since issue #1, almost seven years ago.
Next month we'll provide a link to the print and website reviews starting to appear. Meanwhile, do check out my extensive speaking schedule this fall and winter (including New York, South Florida, and L.A.)--I may be discussing the War on Sex in your area soon.