Sexual Intelligence
Marty Klein pic

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 #92 -- October 2007



If I Say "Oral Sex," Will I See Dental Floss?

You've probably had the experience of going to and receiving suggestions about what you might enjoy next, given what you recently purchased. You like Frank Sinatra? Try Ella or Duke. You bought Season Three of American Idol? Here's 10% off on a lobotomy.

But now that's so Old Thing.

The Next New Thing is an internet phone service that will be completely free--in exchange for sending you ads while you talk. Special ads related to what you're discussing on the phone at that very moment.

As with Skype, consumers plug a headset and microphone into their computers, dial a number, and yak as long as they like--say, all the way until Britney Spears finds a new career. Meanwhile, Pudding Media is monitoring the call with voice recognition software. The program deciphers what's being discussed, selects ads based on what it "hears," and sends them to the subscriber's computer screen while he or she is still talking.

A conversation about movies, for example, will generate movie reviews and ads for new films--while callers are talking movies. People discussing cars will see ads for cars--or for oil changes, depending on the conversation.

So what if the talk turns to sex? Ads for dildos, lube, condoms? Ads for hotels that rent by the hour, pharmacies that carry emergency contraception, testimonials for Blowjob Becky?

Or will the rules for sex be different, as they are in so many other venues? I write with voice-activated software, and it's great. But the dictionary and other algorithms are strictly-controlled trade secrets. Users don't know if the program understands, say, "teabagging," "threesome," "fudgepacking," or "golden shower" until they use it in a sentence.

This new phone thing faces the same questions. If a couple is reminiscing about that glass elevator grope that wet her panties (and a few bystanders'), will they see an ad for Windex? Talcum powder? Victoria's Secret? What about an intense exchange about pulling a guy's nipples too hard--an ad for Excedrin? A sports medicine clinic? Victoria's Secret?

If anything is scarier than your phone company mining and translating your words into possible commercial interests, it's this: Pudding Media's CEO Ariel Maislos says that during tests, the ads seemed to shape the talk. "The conversation was actually changing based on what was on the screen," he said. "Our ability to influence the conversation was remarkable."

Maybe something like, I say that was great sex last night. You say yeah, you were in there pretty deep. A second later, we're looking at an ad for penis enlargement. "You could go even deeper next time," you say. "We could try that position you've mentioned a few times. I don't know why it never occurred to me before."

That's pretty benign. But what if the ads are for baby food instead of birth control? Barbra Streisand instead of Stevie Ray Vaughan? The Tonight Show instead of tequila? Pajamas instead of garter belts? This is some serious potential mind control.

Most importantly, will this reduce all that spam we get about penis enlargement?



Limiting Marriage to Pregnant Brides

Maryland's highest court has upheld a 34-year-old state law banning same-gender marriage, rejecting an attempt by 19 adult Americans to marry the partner of their choice.

The divided (4-3) Court of Appeals ruled that limiting marriage to a man and a woman does not discriminate against gay couples or deny them constitutional rights. Since marriage is a government-endorsed contract that confers government-created benefits (regarding taxation, inheritance, travel, healthcare, etc.), how can withholding those benefits from certain couples NOT constitute discrimination?

More troubling than this illogic, however, is the judges' statement that prohibiting same-gender marriage promotes the state's interest in heterosexual marriage as a means of having and protecting children.

What exactly is it about letting gays marry that would diminish the motivation of heteros to procreate?

* "I'd marry you, George, but since I can marry Helen, forget it!"
* "I'd love to have a baby with you, Mary, but now that gays are marrying and having babies, well, I'm just not in the mood."

Even worse is the assumption that the state should restrict the privilege of marriage to those who can have bear children. If that's so, why not test those applying for marriage licenses for fertility instead of STDs? Let's get serious, and prevent people from marrying if they're infertile, post-menopausal, sterilized, unable to get erections, or simply not interested in breeding.

Better yet, annul any marriage that does not produce a child within three years.

The solution to the same-gender marriage hysteria is simple:

1. Religious organizations can decide exactly who they want to bless with marriage;
2a. Government should get out of the business of certifying relationships (it doesn't have a very good track record, does it?).
2b. If government insists on certifying relationships, it shouldn't award any rights to those it certifies.
2c. If government insists on handing out civil rights and benefits to those it certifies, it should distribute them to all committed adult relationships equally.

Virtually every court decision and constitutional argument over same-gender marriage say that marriage is 1) really valuable for adults and 2) really critical for children's well-being. Why then deny it to 3 or 4 million Americans because they're gay? And why punish hundreds of thousands of children by denying them the right to have married parents?



Is "Cum" Vulgar?

Few legal specialties are as boring as trademark law--unless, of course, someone wants to trademark a sexually-oriented device, phrase, or logo.

The U.S. trademark office is supposed to be a dull bureaucracy that simply protects Americans' intellectual property, thereby encouraging innovation.

Registering a trademark is a tiresome, routine process. At least, it's supposed to be. But just as the FCC has the bizarre power to keep "immoral" images and words from being broadcast, the trademark office is empowered to refuse to register trademarks that are "immoral" or "scandalous."

Why, why, why? Why does the government give a darn if you want to trademark a naughty word or picture? Why is the government allowed to give a darn? A trademark is the way someone wants to represent him- or herself. Let the ever-sacred marketplace decide if a logo or slogan is too "scandalous" to succeed. No bureaucrat should be setting a standard for the nation.

Now on to the news.

The U.S. Trademark Office rejected Cathy Lynn Carlson's attempt to trademark "You Cum Like A Girl" for T-shirts, tank tops, scarves, and other clothing. It said the expression "You Cum Like A Girl" is scandalous because the word cum is a "vulgar" term, slang for "semen ejaculated during orgasm."

Carlson just lost her appeal. The authority of the Trademark Office was reaffirmed, as was the "vulgarity" of the magic syllable.

Memo to the Trademark Office: "cum" is how real people talk.

Some of my patients--the healthier ones--use the word. Professionals like me--the more comfortable ones--use the word while we're working. It's part of how we connect with patients, letting them know we live in a real world they recognize, not in some perfect therapy-land.

Therapists, physicians, nurses, and other clinicians--the smart ones--encourage patients to use the word with each other. When it comes to sexual function, nothing is more important than partners talking openly with each other. Phrases like "down there" are shallow at best. Worse still is using no phrases at all, letting sex go by in an enforced, awkward silence.

After doing 30,000 hours of therapy, I can report that no one shrieks "I'm about to ejaculate!" No one excitedly encourages, "Yeah baby, have an orgasm!" And almost no one refers to the "semen" creating that wet spot we all try to avoid. "Cum" is part of English. People know what it means, and they need a word that says what "cum" says.

Years ago, George Bernard Shaw said "We don't think of sex decently, so we have no decent language with which to discuss it." He was describing the way people disparage words used to discuss sex.

Well, "cum" is decent. To cum is more than decent.

To call cum immoral is scandalous.



Is A Good Mortgage Like Geriatric Sex?

As if dealing with the hideous sight of supermodel Heidi Klum's boobs in a Jordache ad isn't painful enough, Americans also have to deal with that little mortgage thing that threatens to eat everyone's home.

Apparently, Australia can discuss both--sex and mortgages--at once. Local lender Virgin Money's new print and TV ads show a naked old couple being very, very affectionate.

In America, the response would be, 'how do we keep men, women, and children from contracting polio, HIV, and permanent brain damage from this lascivious ad?'

In Australia, by contrast, the question is, "will these lascivious ads help sell the product?' The product is mortgages, and the company's selling point is the advantages of a long-term commitment--they actually lower the rate after several years to reward loyalty.

So are Australian eyeballs somehow tougher than ours? Do they love their kids less than we do?

All the sanctimonious talk from America's morality police about the media's gratuitous sex and glamorous young people hooking up instead of falling in love and regretting their tattoos is ironic.

These Australian ads depict what should be the poster children of the Right--old geezers married for 50 years, squeezing each other. And paying their mortgage, of course.

But no, if it's sex, it's not OK with us Yanks.

Of course, they might use the Australian ad campaign as a way to reduce adolescent sex and pregnancy. Surely plenty of teens would look at the two oldies getting hot and respond "Eeyewwwwwwww! Gross!"

End of sex--and of future mortgage problems too, perhaps.



"Garden-Variety Porn?"

I testified as an expert witness last week in San Diego. Mr. N. was on trial for allegedly molesting his three nephews and raping his niece. The police found 5,000 porn images on his computer, which was presented as a key piece of evidence. The defense attorney requested my testimony about the typical relationship between collecting porn and violating people.

The American trial system is frankly adversarial. That means the government's lawyer tried to make me look like an unqualified, prejudiced, drooling idiot. Of course, people do that in other parts of one's life, but they usually don't admit that that's their intention.

The prosecutor started with the usual questions: did I have any education, wasn't I being paid to render my opinions, did I have tons of experience in dealing with child molesters. My answers were simple: yes, in fact I train other therapists; yes, of course I was being paid-but to explain the science, not my "opinions"; and yes, I had some experience with molesters--not the single most experienced guy in the profession, but among the top 1% in America. All, of course, with a calm, straightforward demeanor.

The prosecutor must have had some personal issue about pornography, because she focused on it way more than was good for her case. And she always seemed on the brink of losing her temper, which of course many people are when discussing pornography. I imagine the jury--a dozen individuals who were somehow unable to get out of jury duty--might be a little put off by that.

The prosecutor referred to photos recovered from the defendant's computer, which I had already examined. Wouldn't I agree they were of very young girls? No, I said--the girl in this picture has pubic hair, the girl in that picture has hips, and the girl in that picture has the hands of a 20-year-old.

What about all the anal sex depicted, she continued-didn't that show an unusual interest in anal sex? Well, there were less than a dozen such images out of a collection of 5,000; more importantly, since 1/3 of Americans play with anal sex, it's hardly an "unusual" interest.

Well, she persisted, wouldn't I agree that child molesters often "groom" their would-be victims by showing them pictures of sexual activity? Yes, I agreed, sometimes they do, but none of these photos show adults and minors having sex together, so these pictures wouldn't be the logical choice for "grooming," I said.

Clearly frustrated, the prosecutor invited me to sound like a complete jackass: Dr. Klein, are you saying that nobody who looks at pornography commits any sex crimes? Of course not, I replied. I'm saying that whether someone consumes routine pornography is not a good predictor of behavior. Most adults enjoy fantasizing about things they don't want to do, whether the subject is quitting their job, robbing a bank, or having sex with their wife's sister on Times Square at high noon.

So you're saying, the prosecutor countered incredulously, that we can't come to any conclusions about the defendant based on the fact that he has thousands upon thousands of porn images on his computer? Perhaps, I replied simply, that he has too much time on his hands. Chuckles of recognition escaped from the jury box.

When the defense attorney summed up my testimony, I could see that the pre-trial consultations we'd had had made an impact. So Dr. Klein, he said, you're saying that:

* looking at ordinary porn doesn't predict what a person actually desires or how a person will behave sexually;
* looking at pictures of adults having anal sex doesn't show a predilection to sodomize 10-year-old boys;
* looking at pictures of young women doesn't predict that someone will rape young women.

That's right, I said, looking at the jury in what I hoped was a friendly yet competent way.

Are there no scientific studies that contradict your opinion here, he asked? This is not merely an opinion, I said calmly. And no, there are no credible studies that show a connection between porn viewing habits and subsequent behavior. The single study showing that those who consume child porn are slightly more likely to hurt children than those who don't has never been replicated.

The prosecutor was determined to get one more crack at me. So Dr. Klein, she said, here's a collection of 5,000 images, most of them of young-looking women, some of them of anal sex, even a few of what you admit to be so-called art photos of minors. How would you characterize this collection? I looked at the jury and shrugged. It looks like a collection of garden-variety porn, I said. The prosecutor strode toward me with one more photo. Dr. Klein, would you agree that this is a woman with her legs spread, with a cucumber in her vagina?

A cucumber--or possibly a zucchini, I said. It's hard to tell, I deadpanned. And, triumphantly crowed the prosecutor, would you characterize a photo of a woman with a cucumber or zucchini in her vagina as "garden-variety porn"?

I turned to the judge. Your Honor, I said, it's hard not to make a joke at this point, but I'm determined not to, I said earnestly.

The judge was right on it. Turning to me he said, Dr. Klein, let the record reflect that on the question of whether a photo of a woman with a cucumber--or zucchini--in her vagina is garden-variety porn, you respectfully refrained from making a joke.

No further questions, said the prosecution. You may step down, said the judge.



Hey Southwest Air: Women's Bodies Are OK

If you fly, of course you hate to fly. As if air travel isn't repulsive enough these days, Southwest Airlines has found a new way to make passengers angry.

Southwest tried to boot a shapely 23-year-old college student off a flight recently because one person complained about the way she was dressed. A customer "service" (there's an oxymoron) supervisor named Keith told San Diego passenger Kyla Ebbert that her miniskirt, high-heel sandals, and sweater-over-tank top (over a bra) was "inappropriate" for a family airline.

After berating the woman and telling her to go home, change, and catch a later flight, Keith relented, after which Kyla covered herself with a blanket, magazine, and an embarrassed frown. When she landed in Tucson, she called her mom, photographed herself, kept her doctor's appointment, and got back onto a return Southwest flight in the same outfit--without any trouble--and flew into her 15 minutes of fame. Next stop: The Today Show!

They cleverly told the story showing just her face, until the dramatic moment--ta da!--in which we see her wearing the same outfit in which she was humiliated... like, totally humiliated. And indeed, we see a very attractive woman wearing a very skimpy outfit--the exact outfit one sees on women in Safeway, on airplanes across the country, and on sitcoms every night.

The usually hip Southwest uncharacteristically defended the service rep and their vague policy regarding "obscene and patently offensive" displays. They didn't say why the smelly, armrest-hogging lady next to me or the butt-cracking, loudmouthed guy across the aisle last week were allowed to travel unmolested, while they molested the rest of us passengers.

It's a stupid story, and everyone over-reacted ("humiliated?" C'mon). But there are two serious Sexual Intelligence lessons here:

1. Why is cleavage and a little panty "offensive," while other stuff isn't? Oh, it's that sex thing again! And why is anyone who is put off by a little of this or that looking at this or that? Why does everyone else turn away from stuff they find disgusting or ugly, but somehow anti-sex people just can't seem to turn away from sexy displays or words? Whose problem is that?

2. People uncomfortable with sex complain when they see reminders of it (remember, Ebbert wasn't having sex in the plane, she just showed the outlines of a sexy body)--but when sexuality is censored, people comfortable with sex don't. And so the people running the country think there's a lot of erotophobes, and very few erotophiles.

By the way, don't miss the impressive hypocrisy of the Today show--tsk-tsking Southwest for being so squeamish, while playing the adolescent game of "we won't talk about sex directly, but we'll use an exploitative angle to discuss it whenever possible."

And don't forget that Morality in Media is watching this episode as well, deciding whether or not to complain to the FCC that it's too sexy. Ebbert apparently showed a tiny bit of panty while crossing her legs when the show ran live, but Today edited the taped version for the rest of the country. Nice to see the Republic is safe again--on the ground, if not in the sky.



Dear Larry Craig: Now You Know...

Dear Larry Craig:

Now you know what it's like.

I don't say this in a mean way, I'm just pointing out a simple fact: Now you know what it's like.

You already knew what it's like to be terrified of being found out. You already knew what it's like to hide who you are. But like millions of other Americans, now you know what it's like:

* To lose a job because of your sexuality
* To be entrapped and then busted for inviting consensual, adult sex
* To be told you don't belong where you know you do belong
* To suddenly be seen as totally different because of one private thing
* To be told that your sexual interest is the only important thing about you
* To be told that your "perversion" is the only important thing about you
* To be an acceptable butt of jokes, with no moral standing to protest
* To suddenly have your rights taken away even though you didn't hurt anyone
* To go from being one of "us" to one of "them," even though you haven't changed

This has been the typical experience of millions of gay and straight American men and women for over a century. They've been bullied, beaten, and banished. They've been treated like some repulsive "other." Just because they liked sex with or loved someone of the same gender.

Just like you.

As you know, it still goes on today. People losing custody of their kids because they're into S/M; people losing their jobs because they appear nude on the internet; people losing their scholarships, apartments, or rights as athletes because they work at a strip club. People losing their cherished American freedoms because their private, consensual sexual activity makes some busybody or person in charge uncomfortable.

Let's put aside the fact that you've energetically fostered America's atmosphere of self-righteous hatred against non-conforming private sexual expression.

Now that you know what it's like to live in--and be punished in--this environment, won't you speak out? Won't you stop saying "I'm being persecuted by mistake" and instead say, "No one should be persecuted"?

Larry Craig, this is your chance to stand up for real American values and be a true American hero. With every camera and tape recorder in America aimed at you, you have a unique, historical chance to make a difference.

If you've ever wanted to serve your nation, your time has finally come.

Having Sex With Men Does NOT Make Larry Craig Gay

Larry Craig says he's not gay. I believe him. A lot of men who have sex with men aren't gay.

When biologist Alfred Kinsey collected data on Americans' sex lives in the 1940s, he discovered that almost half of American men had both heterosexual and same-gender experiences as adults. Heterosexual women also had same-gender sexual fantasies, preferences, desires, and even experiences. As Kinsey said, "people are not so easily divided into sheeps and goats."

This would help today's America understand Senator Craig's behavior, including his firm repetitions that "I am not gay." If Craig could simply say, "I'm straight, I just like to have an occasional sexual adventure with a man," he might not have to spend his life desperately trying to convince himself that he's not gay. He might not have to spend his professional career viciously trashing homosexuality and preventing gays from accessing their full civil rights.

He might have a marital crisis on his hands, but that's his private business. As almost everyone agrees, lying to your spouse about having sex with someone else is immoral, regardless of their gender. Craig's fears about his "immorality"--and his rantings about others'--have been focused on the wrong thing.

Freedom from government interference is one of the two conditions people need in order to freely express their sexuality with other consenting adults. The second condition is freedom from the crushing internal criticism that can result from inadequate categories of sexual identity.

Larry Craig helped prevent all of us from enjoying the first condition. He suffered from the lack of the second condition. He knew he wasn't 100% straight, and he was terrified by the only alternative he knew--that he was gay.

It is increasingly evident that those who moralize the loudest about others' sexual immorality are typically those who are most shocked by their own erotic impulses. Like Craig, those people need more than two internal categories to describe their sexuality--"wholesomely semi-sexual innocent" and "ravenous sexual pervert."

Until all Americans know that few people are either, and that most "good" people's psyches contain complex, intense (and harmless) sexual fantasies and impulses, our nation will continue to suffer under the tormented moralizing of "leaders" terrified of their own sexuality.

Which they express by condemning ours.



The Blog Continues

Just a reminder that you can get Sexual Intelligence three times per week at my blog, Same great style as the Newsletter. 25,000 eyeballs can't be wrong!



You may quote anything herein, with the following attribution:
"Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence, copyright © Marty Klein, Ph.D. ("