Sexual Intelligence
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Each month, Sexual IntelligenceTM examines the sexual implications of current events, politics, technology, popular culture, and the media.

Dr. Marty Klein is a Certified Sex Therapist and sociologist with a special interest in public policy and sexuality. He has written 6 books and 100 articles. Each year he trains thousands of professionals in North America and abroad in clinical skills, human sexuality, and policy issues.

Issue #86 -- April 2007


City Collapses Over Sex-Change Operation

After 14 years, excellent performance ratings and another raise just last year, the Largo, FL city manager was fired for announcing his upcoming sex-change operation. The City Commission fired him because he had "violated their trust" and "caused a major disruption."

What the City Commission members mean is, "Wow, you're confusing me! Making me uncomfortable! Making it impossible to ignore my own sexual beliefs! If you don't stop, we'll, we'll, we'll send you away so we can zip our existential terror right back up."

These five men and women actually think they have the right to vote on Steven Stanton's gender. They're demanding protection from their discomfort with his personal choices. Of course, if they weren't so obsessed with his personal choices, they wouldn't need quite so much protection from their terror.

And these people are actually willing to sacrifice Stanton's high-quality managerial services just so they can pretend the world is never going to change. Do you know how hard it is to find a decent city manager?

Well, Commissioners, you can ditch Stanton. But you really blew it--Stanton was your chance to develop a little tolerance and self-soothing before being challenged by someone you really care about: your son coming out as bisexual. Your wife saying she's been faking orgasms. Your fantasies about being spanked by both Barack Obama and Condi Rice. It will be great sport to watch you squirm when it's your grandkids or nieces or best friends challenging the dominant paradigm about sexuality instead of a guy you can just send away to Fire Island.

Sexually, the world isn't really divided into gay and straight. It's divided between people who can tolerate others' sexuality, and people who can't. People who may think about others' sexuality, and people who judge others' sexuality. That second group seems obsessed with others' sexuality. Who else spends every waking moment thinking about homosexuality, sex-change operations, prostitution, orgies, premarital sex, and porn, porn, porn, porn, and porn?

You want a city manager you can "trust"? Try drug addict Rush Limbaugh, extortionist Jack Abramoff, attempted child molester Tom Foley, compulsive gambler Bill Bennett, or the unemployed Tom DeLay--all eligible by virtue of keeping the gender they were born with. Ann Coulter has no managerial experience, but she obviously loves being a woman, so she's safe, too.

Oh, the Largo city motto? "To provide superior services that enhance the quality of life and community pride." Well, In one gesture, the city has

  • gotten rid of the guy who coordinated the superior services,
  • undermined the quality of life for all tolerant people, and
  • smeared the community's pride with shame
Hate and fear--undoubtedly the two strongest forces on earth. Besides sexuality, that is.


Gay Or Irish? Parade Organizers Force Choice

"Buy some corned beef," my local butcher smiled on March 17. "Today, everybody's Irish."

Well, apparently not everybody. In New York City--home to 2 million Irish-Americans, half as many as in all of Ireland--organizers of the huge Fifth Avenue parade have once again banned Irish-American gay groups from marching. And so the city's most powerful Irish-American politician, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, is boycotting the parade.

As every Irish person, gay and straight, should. Unless, of course, hatred, exclusion, and obsession with others' private lives is truly what it means to be Irish.

How anti-Irish is being gay? Last year, John Dunleavy, a leader of the Roman Catholic group behind the parade, actually compared the exclusion of gays to barring the Ku Klux Klan from marching in Harlem, or Nazis from joining an Israeli parade. I guess he forgot to add, ‘like inviting child molesters to a cub scout camp.'

In one sentence Dunleavy managed to insult every living person. He should be barred from singing or hearing Danny Boy for the rest of his pathetic, frightened life.

Today, if anyone tells you they're proud to be Irish, ask them why. People typically say it's the culture--the music, food, lust for life, melancholy attachment to a rugged land, an old-world spirituality, a tradition of surviving. Throw in some red hair and a couple of pints.

My butcher told me that even though I'm Jewish and have never set foot on the Emerald Isle, today I'm Irish. Well, no thanks. I'm with Christine Quinn. Who, by the way, is marching as a lesbian in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland, sporting a shamrock and pink triangle.


Newt: Hypocrite, or Opportunistic Hypocrite?

Newt Gingrich now admits he was having an extramarital affair while he led Congress in impeaching President Clinton for getting a few blowjobs from a consenting adult.

Ho hum, another "family values" hypocrite. Ted Haggard, Ralph Reed, Mark Foley, Lou Sheldon, Bill O'Reilly, Paul Crouch, Rush Limbaugh, Randall Terry, Robert Livingston (who was supposed to succeed Gingrich as Speaker of the House)--the list of "family values" leaders whose family values include divorce, infidelity, gambling, and embezzlement is getting so big, they could form their own political party. Oh wait--they already have.

Republicans really face a dilemma this Presidential season: three of their four most prominent candidates are divorced. The fourth is--gasp--Mormon. And you know how wild and liberal those desert swingers are.

Serendipitously, Arizona Senator John (‘Jerry Falwell is intolerant except when he's considering supporting me') McCain pleaded that "gossip--‘family issues'--should not enter into this campaign." That was in response to Rudy Giuliani asking for privacy as he apparently deals with estrangement from his children.

In a better, more civilized world, of course our leaders' private lives would be private. We wouldn't even know that Gingrich had had extramarital sex with an employee 20 years his junior. And except for a bit of schadenfreude, we wouldn't care.

But the "family values" crowd has relentlessly shrunk everyone's zone of privacy. Your sex toy--illegal in 6 states. Your prescription contraceptives--subject to a pharmacist's "moral refusal rights." Your private, adults-only strip club, swing club, erotic bookstore--crippled or closed in every state. And so this crowd deserves no privacy whatsoever.

I personally don't care if a politician is divorced, bisexual, or unfaithful--can any President cause more "immorality" than our current non-drinking, monogamous, Church-going fool who brags about not reading the newspaper? But these people have earned our complete contempt for their private lives, their human struggles, their family dramas.

You know that cliché, live by the sword, die by the sword. Well, you get votes by trashing others' private choices, you lose votes because of your own.

And Newt? Now that he's acknowledged "There's certainly times when I've fallen short of God's standards," will he do the Godly thing and stop bashing other people's sexuality and lifestyle?


Sex Offenders? Torture & Hanging Are Next

Ohio wants to be the first state to require sex offenders and child predators to have special fluorescent license plates.

The reason is the same old excuse behind the rest of the billion-dollar let's-segregate-the-molesters industry: "helping families make informed decisions for themselves and their children," as State Senator Keven Coughlin of Cuyahoga Falls says.

Decisions about what? "Quick, change lanes, we don't want to be behind a molester." "Honey, don't wear that belly blouse and mini-skirt outside, there's a molester's car parked across the street."

I'm still trying to get data on other laws that publicly tag molesters after they're released from jail. Megan's Law is the most comprehensive, affecting every police and sheriff's department in the nation. It's bad enough that laws like these soak up law enforcement money that could actually be used to make communities safer, not to mention money that might actually treat some of these offenders.

No, the worst thing about laws like these is that they reinforce the public's terror and rage: terror about their ever-increasing sense of vulnerability. Rage about their dreadful sense of powerlessness. Result: a bloodthirsty desire to punish someone, someplace, for destroying the pleasures of parenthood.

Predictable response: segregate the sex-offending bastards. Prevent them from living anywhere reasonable, from getting a decent job, from getting treatment.

I'm actually quite sympathetic about how people are desperate to feel like they're doing something to make themselves and their families safer. Given the constant reminders that the world is now too treacherous to let kids out of the house--courtesy of Fox "News," Law & Order, Amber Alert, and the NRA–every reasonable American is scrambling to feel empowered. How can someone feel "I'm not gonna take it anymore"? Mess with the lives of molesters.

There's no data to suggest that any of these programs actually make our kids and communities safer. They certainly don't make anyone feel safer--in fact, just the opposite. But they make people feel they're doing something. Ohio will pass this law without actually researching whether it will benefit anyone besides the company that makes frames for the new license plates. Try it in one county for a year, then evaluate? Who has time for thoughtfulness--we're in a crisis!

Today, any public policy that helps people feel less powerless is perceived as good–even if it has no impact, or makes a problem worse (for a case study, see abstinence-only, issues #42 & #62). There is no science, no law enforcement data to show that tagging sex offenders makes the rest of us safer. It just makes people feel less impotent for a day, and more frightened into the open-ended future.

Why not simplify the problem and just execute sex offenders?

Actually, the Texas House of Representatives has just passed that law. Yes, really.


Fight the Anti-sex Religious Right, Not Capitalism

OK, let's agree that the major drug companies are in it for the money. Or, if you prefer, that they're blood-sucking capitalists.

Exactly like the makers of cars, gameboys, and everything else we wear, drive, eat, and use.
That agreed, the sudden vicious attack on Merck, maker of the HPV vaccine Gardisil, is a classic example of progressive people shooting, er, vaccine-ing themselves in the foot.

As we wrote last year (issue #77), here's a vaccine that could wipe out most cervical cancer in our lifetime; all we'd have to do is vaccinate girls before they become sexually active. Sex-phobic groups like the Abstinence Clearinghouse and Family Research Council immediately jumped on this, glowering that it would:

  1. increase 'promiscuity' ("c'mon Kevin, I can't get cervical cancer–let's do it!"), and
  2. send the 'wrong message.' Yes, that awful message of "we care more about your health than about our obsessive need to deny that you're a sexual being with an actual vagina."
That was to be expected. Whereas reasonable people might think cancer is a public health problem, Concerned Women for America think sex is a much bigger public health problem. They lobbied against the vaccine's release. And they lost.

But the drug is distributed by, er, a drug company. And so a group of otherwise progressive people are suspicious. They don't like the high price (every drug starts this way), want a 100% guarantee that the drug won't cause side effects in one single person (there is no such drug), want access to pharmaceutical company records, and are generally being a pain in the ass. The worst sin they see is that Merck has spent millions promoting the drug, creating groups to market it and lobby state legislatures to require it.

There's a shock--a profit-making company spending money to shape the legislative environment in which it competes. As if that hasn't been done with "green" cars, biodegradable diapers, and even the non-smokers' movement--not to mention more traditional products like TVs, furniture, and pop-tarts. Tariffs or tax relief anyone?

The Religious Right is rubbing its hands in glee as so-called feminists, self-identified "health activists" and other anti-capitalists do the dirty work of undermining the sexual health of teenagers and adults. Now the Right can save their medieval "promiscuity" argument for the next advance in sexual health, education, or entertainment.

Meanwhile, the idea that Merck is in it for the money--the huge money--is good. It's why they invented the drug, it's why they were able to get the drug approved, and it's how they could successfully lobby for its mandate in Texas, the country's largest school system. You and I couldn't have done it. What we can do is support efforts to make the vaccine mandatory in our own locale. Until capitalism is overthrown and everything is free, that is.


Correspondence: Porn? "That's Just Like A Man"

A reader named Janet has sent a vitriolic response to my criticism of the concept "victims of porn" (issue #64).

She says, "You totally missed the real victims…there is no pornography without the object of lust…this sends so many girls down a path of self-destruction, eventual shame and abuse in the porno world…where their self-esteem is forever damaged. They typically end up like Playmate of the Year Anna Nicole…confused, sad, and powerless to end their own misery."

This is a great example of the confusion and sex-negativity in the anti-porn world. They believe that lust is dangerous; that working in pornography is shameful; that no one could make a rational decision to participate in it; and that doing so somehow robs women of their adulthood. Oh, and that there's always a great alternative to being in porn. What would Anna Nicole be if there were no porn--Secretary of Agriculture? Professor of astrophysics? Or just one more average jane, working the nightshift at 7-Eleven and hating her life?

But the real highlight of Janet's nastygram is this: “I am not surprised that you arrogantly only see this from a man's point of view. Why not call your website"

Ah--now she gets to the problem: I'm a man. And so I can't possibly enjoy, respect, or like women. I'm a man, and so I can't be thoughtful about sex and gender. I'm a man, so my desire for pleasure is obviously selfish and aggressive. Janet, I'm sorry you live in such a terrible world.

But Janet, I'm afraid that you're no feminist, and you seem, well, too lazy to think. What you've done is just as bad as dismissing a woman's opinion as "just a woman being emotional," or "women just don't get it," or "she's just premenstrual." If we want to get beyond "women only think with their hormones," we have to get past "men only think with their penises."

Since you don't know me, and obviously haven't bothered to read my work, maybe you've missed my actual blind spot--if I desire the victimization of women, maybe it's because I'm Christian, left-handed, or an Aquarius. And if my piece were written by a woman--how would you account for the attitudes you find so appalling?

We live in a time where science is considered just one more opinion, and having strong feelings is equated with being well-informed. Put the two together, and meaningful discourse is impossible. The result is public policy that makes things worse: abstinence ed, Amber Alert, the battle over Emergency Contraception.

By dismissing someone's well-researched thoughts as merely the predictable artifact of their gender, you dishonor women, men, and thinkers. You disqualify yourself from any important conversation. You're just talking about your fear and anger.

Some of us are having a serious discussion about the fate of the world. Please don't change the subject.


America's War On Sex

  • Do see my new article in the online magazine American Sexuality 
  • The book's gone back for a second printing. Thank you!
  • You can still order your autographed copy from Use discount code SI10 for a 10% discount.



    In response to many, many requests, I've started a blog. It covers the same subjects you enjoy in the monthly emailed version: sexual politics, culture, the media, sexual rights and perversions of justice and, well, America's war on sex. Check it out at Special thanks to Marc Randazza and Gene Gonzales for helping to make it happen.


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