California Senate Actually Protects Our Sexuality-Twice
A little-known government body--the California Senate Committee on Public Safety--got it right twice last week. They actually enhanced the safety of Californians by defeating two bills that had sailed through the state Assembly without a single dissent.
The first, AB1067, required "blinders" on store displays featuring magazines with "harmful matter" on the cover. The second, AB1475, mandated computer repair technicians to report "pornographic images of children" they find while fixing a machine.
Both are examples of a terrible, but common, public policy mistake:
Good Intentions + Hysteria = Bad Laws
That is, good intentions (protecting young people from inappropriate sexual experiences) mixed with hysteria (the belief that those potential experiences are terribly common, and always profoundly harmful), yielding laws that compromise the rights of all adults and children, and undermine our democratic system of free expression and innocent-until-proven-guilty.
What is "harmful matter" on a magazine cover-an exposed breast? Britney Spears' crotch flash? The Abu Ghraib photos? And what age are we protecting-six? Sixteen? Is there ANY sexual imagery that is NOT "harmful matter?" And who makes the decision-the store owner? Store manager? Twenty-year-old clerk? The local abstinence-until-marriage bluenose? A store wouldn't know it had broken the law until it was busted, which is the essence of totalitarianism.
This is the kind of law that encourages self-censorship; i.e., it's too much hassle to deal with, and too dangerous to risk crossing some undefined line, so any sensible store would simple discontinue carrying anything that MIGHT be illegal. This would continue shrinking Americans' access to legal material, simply because it conveys messages connected with sexuality.
The law requiring that computer technicians report anything resembling child porn is even more dangerous. The law does NOT require techs to get any training in what is and isn't legal. But facing possible fines and imprisonment, they will obviously err on the side of extreme caution, rather than endanger themselves through inaction. We will inevitably see allegations of child pornography brought against innocent people. No one ever recovers from this horrifying experience.
The bill's sponsor, Assembly member Cathleen Gagliani, naively said the definition of child pornography is unambiguous: "The kids either have their clothes on, [or] they have their clothes off."
Tell that to the dozens of American parents and grandparents languishing in jail, or deprived of their kids, simply because some untrained photo developing clerk decided that a bearskin rug or bathtub photo was pornographic (issue 36, 66). Tell that to the dozens of Americans languishing in jail because some computer tech or local D.A. decided that they didn't have the right to photograph themselves having sex. Tell that to the thousands of people deprived of custody of their kids because some judge decided the sexy photos of themselves posted on some website were perverse or disgusting (I've been an expert witness in several such cases).
Sexual exploitation ruins the lives of many kids every year. Hysteria about the sexual exploitation of kids is destroying American democracy. And that's bad for EVERY kid.
Fox & CBS Think Condoms Are About Death, Not Pleasure
You've probably heard about the new ad for Trojan condoms. It's actually pretty clever, showing young guys in a dance club coming on to women. The guys are depicted as actual pigs (the special effects are cool), and the women are understandably turned off.
Then a guy/pig goes to the men's room, gets a condom from a vending machine, and is transformed into a good-looking Mr. Right (or at least Mr. Right for Tonight), who gets plenty of smiles from the ladies.
The good news: the ad will run on ABC, NBC, MTV, Comedy Central, and seven other cable networks. Companion print ads will appear in 11 magazines, including Cosmopolitan and Glamour.
The bad news: The Fox and CBS TV networks rejected the commercial. Both had run Trojan's previous campaign, which urged condom use because a partner might be HIV-positive and not even know it.
Fox refused the new ad, saying, "Contraceptive advertising must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy, even with late-night-only restrictions." And CBS "did not find it appropriate" for the network.
The good news: the bad news is all over the internet, where even more people are watching the commercial.
Apparently, Fox and CBS will help sell a condom to prevent disease and death, but not to enhance quality of life. They say you can sell a condom to diminish the deadly effects of sex, but you can't sell a condom to help make sex an enjoyable part of life. What a perfect example of how sick America is.
By any measure, America has the poorest sexual health of any industrial nation. We have more STDs, use less contraception, have the highest rate of unintended pregnancy (49% of all U.S. pregnancies), spend more money prosecuting victimless erotic behavior like prostitution and lap dancing, have among the most restrictions around abortion, and spend more money indoctrinating kids to not have sex.
America now leads the industrialized world in sexual hypocrisy. With Fox and CBS promoting sex, sex, sex on both its shows and its ads (CBS's Victoria's Secret Fashion Show scored a double hit), it is astonishing that they can refuse a commercial acknowledging that sex has consequences--and encouraging young people to address them. No, better to run ads for the movie Knocked Up, in which people get drunk, have unprotected sex, and--how's this for hilarious?--get accidentally pregnant and have a baby! Now that's American!
I can't wait for Fox messiah Bill O'Reilly to blast his bosses' hypocrisy. Yeah, the same day that pigs will fly.
The American media have long been criticized for using sex to sell everything from toothpaste to cars. Apparently, you can use sex to sell everything--except condoms.
"Knocked Up?" No Thanks
So this fabulous woman--gorgeous, intelligent, great job, great future--gets drunk, sleeps with this loser without contraception, gets pregnant, drags the no-job, no-future stranger into a relationship, and has the baby.
Everyone says the movie is funny. 'Scuse me, I don't care.
I know that comedies are by nature ridiculous--think Duck Soup, Airplane, and anything Adam Sandler touches. But Knocked Up validates the dangerous idea that unintended pregnancy is a matter of bad luck. Worse, it describes a world in which abortion literally does not exist--it's called "the A word," which "rhymes with smashmortion." You'd never know that 1.3 million Americans get abortions every year, that most are glad that they do, and that complications are rare.
And of course it has the requisite absurd happy ending--he magically gets a job, she magically desires a guy who can barely tie his shoes, and they're magically glad they had this baby.
In real life this is almost always a disaster.
And in a country that's trying to discourage teens from using condoms, promoting the illusion that love and faith are more important than knowledge, and suffering with the worst sexual health and unwanted pregnancy rate in the industrial world, we really don't need Knocked Up.
Predictably, the Religious Right loves the movie. Columnist and radio host Michael Medved, for example, praises the movie as containing an "unexpectedly potent pro-life and pro-family message." What is pro-life about compounding a mistake? Or pro-family about forcing people together who will almost certainly hate each other?
Of course, anti-choice critics are complaining about the film's "coarse language." Ooh, now there's something to get upset about. Sexual reality-seems like any amount is too much for many Americans.
Obituary: Stan Dale, Sexual Pioneer
Stan Dale, founder of the Human Awareness Institute and leader of hundreds of sexuality/intimacy workshops, died this month at age 78.
I didn't take to Stan when we first met 17 years ago. He was just too damned happy. And way too loving, considering we barely knew each other. But he was relentless. He had decided we were going to be friends, not just colleagues. Eventually, he melted my heart.
That was the first thing I learned about Stan: the guy was dangerous. And fierce.
Stan sometimes said we were like two sides of a coin--me, educating people out there with ideas, he, moving people in their hearts. I think that's true. But what a difference in our projects. He was constantly falling in love with the majesty of human intimacy. I was continually angry about some repressive public policy, or cultural hypocrisy. When he saw sexual negativity, he saw an injured person doing their best. When I saw an exploitive Church, a cynical media, a corrupt government, I saw, um, exploitation, cynicism, and corruption.
And I was never satisfied with my work. Stan tried to fix that. He'd point out my accomplishments, reframing them 'til they sounded grand. I tried to correct him. He'd refuse.
Ultimately, what Stan offered the world was not his ideas, but himself. He treated everyone magnificently. He was infinitely patient. He designed a workshop program that healed people and connected them to each other. He created a little international cultural island on which people could be sexual together, transcending arbitrary limits like age, gender, the meaning of fidelity, the definition of "sex."
And Stan lived authentically, letting people know of his multiple marriage and unconventional sexual commitments. He answered the same questions over and over and over--from the media, from acolytes, from negative outsiders eager to be titillated or judgmental (typically both). People who didn't know him personally were often surprised to meet him--a regular-looking guy (except for those exquisite, dancing eyes) with two regular-looking women (ditto the eyes!), talking like regular people--unusually happy, peaceful people. Stan's life was the best advertisement for his workshops. Everyone who knew him thought some version of, "I'd take any workshop (or medicine or ritual) this guy recommended to be as happy as he is."
With his worldwide travel, lectures, media appearances, and writing, Stan influenced millions of people. We're all better off for him having been here. I didn't always agree with Stan about ideas, meaning, philosophy, or public policy, but I never felt more loved than when I was sitting with him, usually having breakfast at the Sofitel. And as Stan understood, making self-critical people feel loved is pure revolution.
Teens As A Sexually-Repressed Minority
What do you call it when the government singles out a group and denies them:
* health care services
* the right to consensual sexual activity
Sounds like discrimination, doesn't it?
In fact, American teenagers are a sexually repressed minority. In half of America's schools, teachers are not allowed to answer simple questions about the clitoris or anal sex. Teens are discouraged from using condoms through a combination of government lies and government-funded lies (see faith-based funding of socials services). In many states, teens are prevented from getting healthcare, including abortions. And worst of all, teens are jailed for consensual sex with each other.
I've previously written about Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, who demanded the medical records of all minors seeking abortions, pregnancy tests, birth control, or STD treatment. I've also written about Nebraska jailing teens for videotaping themselves having sex--at 17 she was old enough to consent to the sex, but she's still a minor, so her boyfriend was convicted of manufacturing child porn.
Two years ago Georgia locked up 17-year-old Genarlow Wilson for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old. The former honor student and star athlete was sentenced to 10 years in prison and life as a registered sex offender. When a judge reviewed the case and ordered Wilson released, Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker appealed the order, blocking Wilson's freedom.
Baker is a sick man. Kline is a sick man. This country is full of sick men and women who are more frightened of teen sexuality than of anything else-including the destruction of our Constitutional right to be left alone.
The abstinence movement continues to sell America the fantasy that teen sex is so dangerous that anything that discourages it is justified: lying to teens, terrifying teens, withholding information and services from teens, jailing teens. Why not go all the way and execute teens who have sex with each other?
When will people understand that damaging people in order to save them from (perhaps) damaging themselves is disrespectful, anti-American, and just plain cruel? And when will the abstinence crowd be brave enough to admit that the primary engine of their commitment is not their concern for kids, but the desire to reduce their own anxiety?
Blogging--The Sexual Intelligence Way
I'm blogging my butt off.
Well, maybe not quite. My goal is three times per week, and I'm doing it twice per week pretty consistently. July's the month I plan to really take off.
The world's moving on. Even though Sexual Intelligence was really innovative when it started over 7 years ago, newsletters are quickly being replaced by blogs. So I encourage you to check mine out frequently--maybe set up an RSS Feed for yourself (see below). The material is the same style you enjoy at Sexual Intelligence--but more timely, covering more topics. And apparently the more people who read it, the greater the chance it will be noticed by the real heavy hitters, such as Kos and HuffingtonPost.
Feel free to link to my blog's articles, reprint them (with attribution, of course), and encourage others to visit. It's simple: www.MartyKlein.com.
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