Loving the Sin More Than The Sinner?
It's just too perfect: Salt Lake City, Utah officially ranks # 1 in Internet searches for adult-related content.
During a recent Child Abuse and Family Violence Conference, FBI Special Agent Jeff Ross noted that Google searches for terms like "naked girls," "nudity," "strip tease," and "pornography" are especially high among Salt Lake City residents. The city ranks # 2 in searches for "hot sex" and "naughty." The state itself is #8 in Google searches for "sex." At the same time, Salt Lake City is also # 2 in Google searches for "family values."
It's fun to laugh at such things, but there's a serious point here. All these sexy searches are taking place in one of the country's most sexually repressive states, which even boasts America's only Pornography Complaints Ombudsman. Rather than calling them hypocrites, let's say that Utah residents obviously have a love-hate relationship with their sexuality. To put it even more compassionately, the overwhelmingly Mormon residents of Utah are apparently torn between two intense, conflicting sets of emotions about sexuality. They are caught between desire and fear, between curiosity and anger, between self-love and self-hate. Ted Haggard, anyone?
Rather than seeing his data in this larger context, FBI Agent Ross predictably focused on the dangers of homeless people downloading child porn at the public library (an urban legend right up there with alligators in New York City's sewers) and the all-pervasive horde of ravenous adults just waiting to prey on underage flesh.
Like almost everyone, Agent Ross is grimly alert to the dangers of the internet rather than the dangers of sexual repression. While the first endangers a few children--which, of course, is too many--the latter endangers everyone--which is way, way, too many. America desperately needs a public outcry or government response in proportion to the actual dangers. But like a drunk looking for his keys under a lamppost even though he dropped them 50 yards away--"the light's better here"--society attends to the danger that's easier to quantify, and easier to demonize as "them," not "us." And so the real danger--sexual repression--continues. That's the breeding ground of people like Haggard, Mark Foley, and Bill O'Reilly sexual self-loathing.
Fox Appointed To Guard Henhouse
Actually, it's worse.
President Bush has appointed Dr. Eric Keroack to head family planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services. He will oversee $283 million in annual family-planning grants that are "designed to provide access to contraceptive supplies and information to all who want and need them with priority given to low-income persons."
Dismayal alert: Keroack is former medical director of A Woman's Choice, a five-clinic group so opposed to birth control it won't even dispense contraception to married women. According to their website, "birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness." Naturally, the group terrifies pregnant women with lies about the supposed physical and emotional effects of abortion.
The President's selection of this fanatic perfectly matches the appointment of anti-U.N. "diplomat" John Bolton as our ambassador to the U.N.. What next, Dick Cheney in charge of hunting safety? Katherine Harris in charge of election fraud prevention? Pat Robertson supervising the separation of church and state?
The American government blocked public access to RU-486 and emergency contraception for years while people in Europe used them safely. Presumably, Dr. Keroack has been appointed to reduce access to routine birth control. This, despite the fact that the abortion rate among poor women is four times that of middle class women, making federally funded contraceptive services the most effective, humane way to reduce America's abortion (and poverty) rate.
Is there still any question about how ruthless the Conservative Republican-Evangelical axis is? They are willing to throw almost $300 million in taxpayer-funded health-care services down the drain--along with the five million poor women and their desperate families who are supposed to be served by it. Obsessed with fetuses and embryos, these political leaders are totally uninterested in the needs of actual human beings. Mechanically devoted to meaningless platitudes, their religion is a hideous contrast with authentic spirituality.
The appointment of a family planning chief opposed to contraception is obviously intended to please Bush's most conservative supporters. When a top health or safety official is chosen for political rather than the public's benefit in Russia or Egypt, we proud Americans scoff, "it figures."
If you're embarrassed to be living in a banana republic, tell HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt to replace Keroack with an administrator committed to actually promoting women's sexual health, at www.ppaction.org/campaign/replace_keroack.
Zeffirelli Tells His Truth
The new autobiography of famed 83-year-old Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli ("Romeo & Juliet," "Tea With Mussolini," "Brother Sun, Sister Moon") reveals something interesting about his childhood. Depending on the interpretation, he was "sexually assaulted by a priest" (UK's The Guardian), "the object of a priest's affection" (Contactmusic.com), or had to handle the "advances of a Catholic priest" (The Irish Independent) while attending Catholic school in Florence.
The director insists he was neither abused nor damaged by the experience. "Sexual abuse is putting it too strongly," he says. "There was no penetration. I felt sorry for the poor man. I thought the priest felt a special affection for me, he was always kissing me. [Early same-gender sex] is not always bad for boys. I don't think they make you homosexual. Sexual choice is made for you early on in life anyway--if you like girls, you like girls."
Of course, this is very different from the socially-approved American viewpoint. U.S. psychologists, physicians, teachers, police, and others learn a single "fact"--adult-child erotic interaction is always abuse, always involving a sick adult and a damaged kid. Few professionals learn about this subject with any subtlety or depth. Journalists reflect the superficiality of experts and the ignorance of the public, feeding it back to both so that no one, least of all our sex-phobic government, can formulate policies that make any sense.
Adult-child erotic interactions have been going on since the beginning of time. While some are obviously coercive and traumatic, others are just as obviously simple developmental events from which children emerge as "normal." By pretending there's no ambiguity, no cultural context or psychological differences between people or situations, America's rigid position--always abuse, always damaging--reduces an important subject to caricature.
As with many sex-related social issues, American society is loathe to actually learn anything that challenges conventional wisdom. When Judith Levine wrote about it in her award-winning book Harmful to Minors, she was vilified in the Minnesota legislature. When scientists Philip Tromovitch & Bruce Rind showed mountains of evidence that did so, they were personally attacked in Congress.
Of course, if one kid is molested it's one too many. But this phenomenon is way too important to pursue with an atomic blowtorch, burning down the house of human sexuality to roast the pig of sexual coercion and violence.
Can you imagine an internationally-acclaimed American film director saying his childhood sexual experience with a priest didn't hurt him? Career over. Films burned. Conventional wisdom--not children-- protected.
Civil Unions, si
Mexico City has approved civil unions for unmarried couples, gay as well as straight.
Mexico City is now the world's largest city to recognize gay unions. The biggest city in North America, it has more people than the ten smallest U.S. states combined. Only 8 U.S. states are more populous than Mexico City.
The preamble to the new law calls its passage "a true test of democratic pluralism" and a recognition of "the right to be different." It notes that anti-gay violence and discrimination are a "violation of human rights."
Mexico's religion? Eighty-nine percent Catholic, of course. As we keep saying (issues #50, 54, 56, 64, 80, 81), it seems that Catholic countries are making most of the progress in decriminalizing gay relationships. Social Democratic Party leader Alberto Begne called the change a step toward creating a country where "everyone is protected by the rule of law."
If American Catholics can't see the obvious democratic principle at work here, you'd think they could at least see how Jesus would approve.
Correspondence--Decency or Shame?
Last month (issue 81), we described how South Florida cities are spending millions in "an orgy of outlawing the clear-and-present danger of adult lapdancing." We asked, "When James Dobson spreads lies about the effects of sex education, or George Will fans hysteria about strip clubs, or Karl Rove demonizes the "gay agenda" in Ohio, where is today's Edward R. Murrow, asking "have you no shame, sir?""
SI reader Dick Kimball of Boston has alertly provided the accurate quote and its context. "I'm 61 and can just barely remember my parents avidly watching the Army-McCarthy hearings on our RCA black-and-white TV," he recalls.
"It was the Army's attorney, Joseph Welch, who challenged Senator McCarthy," he reminds us. The much-misquoted "Have you no shame?" was actually Mr. Welch's rejoinder to McCarthy: "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"
We'd love to ask Dobson, Will, or Rove that simple question.
Rare and Moving Nudes
Bodies and Souls: The Century Project by Frank Cordelle is a most unusual coffee table book with 100 photos of nude women. The portraits are arranged chronologically, from birth through Mary, age 94. Several of the women are related, and many narrate their own pictures. Photos and statements alike are highly moving, often entertaining, and always thought-provoking. While every reader will find some of these women sexually attractive, this is not a "sex book," certainly not one designed to titillate. Rather, it arouses one's thoughts, feelings, senses. It's wonderful.
For more information or to order the book ($35 plus postage), see www.heurekaproductions.com.
America's War On Sex
I appreciate everyone who's asked how my new book is doing. My favorite review thus far has been by Mark Kernes in Adult Video News, which you can read at http://www.ejhs.org/volume9/book38klein.htm.
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