Note: this was written August 18, 2008. It’s being posted now because it might as well have been written yesterday. Or, for that matter, next week. Last week I traveled 14 hours to Staunton, Virginia to testify in an obscenity trial. A guy was accused of selling DVDs in his […]
The plural of “anecdote” is not “data.” But people who believe that America is loaded with victims of porn have no data. All they have is anecdotes.
The Bible contains no injunctions against cannibalism. That’s not because Hebrews and early Christians thought it was morally acceptable–it’s because no one was doing it.
If your girlfriend, wife, or marriage counselor has conservative, misguided, or just plain inaccurate ideas about sex, you might want to ask if she watches Oprah. The daily talkathon is a veritable fountain of sexual fear, prejudice, harsh judgment, and male-bashing.
Gay rights are not just for gays. They are essential for every sexual person in America, regardless of orientation. As far as the anti-sex Right is concerned, sexual orientation isn’t about straight vs. gay–it’s about clean sex vs. unclean sex–and your orientation may very well be “unclean.”
What could unite the PTA, Christian Coalition and American Library Association? The goal of protecting kids–from a law that supposedly protects them.
Just weeks ago, former President Bill Clinton signed the Child Internet Protection Act into law, requiring any library receiving federal funds to install filtering software on its Internet-access computers. Ostensibly to make computers “safe” for young children, the federal government has just fired the latest shot in the nation’s culture wars.
In his classic 1978 book “Male Sexuality” (now available as “The New Male Sexuality”), Dr. Bernie Zilbergeld discussed the concept of conditions for good sex. He said that everyone has conditions, or requirements, for enjoying sex. I believe conditions can be divided into three categories: those about ourselves, about the environment, and about our partner.
Most people have sexual fantasies. Role-playing involves a certain kind of fantasy, and a certain relationship to that fantasy. It requires a conscious acknowledgment of the fantasy; furthermore, it involves sharing that fantasy with a partner, who, presumably, consents to participate in it.
Here are a handful of sexuality-related issues bouncing around the news–with what I modestly believe are sensible responses:
* Banned in Arkansas * Reinstated in Michigan * Computer earmuffs * Science = child molestation? * Federal entrapment on the Internet * Yes, Fremont has no bananas * Gay marriage & the Knight Initiative *
In my 20 years as a sex therapist, people continue to ask me one question more than any other. The most common sexual question is “Am I normal?”
Americans are concerned — virtually obsessed — with the normality of their sexual fantasies, preferences, responses, frequency, secrets, turn-offs, problems, and bodies. The fear of being sexually abnormal interferes with and even prevents pleasure and intimacy.
The Phoenix, AZ City Council recently decided to eliminate sex clubs for adults. Do you feel safer now?
The Council says that government has a right to protect public morals, and that having sex in front of (consenting) others is by definition immoral. They don’t need proof that nude dancing leads to harm, they said; it’s enough that the majority of its citizens allegedly “knows” it’s wrong. They also claim that sex clubs spread “disease,” although no legislator, public safety officer, or public health professional could produce any evidence to support this.
Most Americans do not want to discuss sexual issues rationally. Their sexuality poisoned by the culture, they just want their emotional pain taken away. To people afraid of sexuality, censorship looks attractive. It appears to be a solution to the pain. This pain, this fear of sexuality, leads people to support censorship.
Take all the predictions of Jules Verne, Nostradamus, and Ray Bradbury. Throw in the scary prophecies of TV evangelists, the best scammers of the Psychic Friends Network, and just for fun, Nancy Reagan’s astrologer.
None of these visionaries or soothsayers predicted one of the oddest medical breakthroughs of our age. No, it isn’t a cure for cancer or AIDS. It’s a pill that creates erections: a half-hour after taking it, if a man gets any mental or physical stimulation at all, he gets hard.
If convicted mass murderer Ted Bundy had said that watching Bill Cosby reruns motivated his awful crimes, he would have been dismissed as a deranged sociopath. Instead, Bundy has said his pornography addiction made him do it–which many people treated as the conclusion of a thoughtful social scientist. Why?
No one knows how many people are doing it. Maybe you’re one of them.
Sex on the ‘Net: late at night in a dark, quiet house. Or in the bright light of morning, just a room away from the kids playing Nintendo. Computer screens across America are glowing with lusty self-portraits and requests, aimed at strangers whose “handles” read like vanity license plates: Cumgood. 69ForU. Babyface.
Like children telling stories about a scary old man, women criticize each other’s sexuality–from a safe distance.
“Slut!” is what women call a woman who is “too” sexual. It’s someone who can enjoy sex without being in love. Someone who admits she enjoys sex more than a woman “should.” In other words, it’s a woman who can enjoy sex the way only men are supposed to be able to.
I’m a sex therapist. I spend most of my time in the private worlds of 25 patients a week. I treat undependable penises and vaginas, desires that trouble partners, orgasms that don’t please, and fantasies that frighten. Hour after hour in a comfortable chair listening to uncomfortable people, I sit in a sunlit room bearing witness to the darkest parts of people’s lives.
I’m very much against people being mean or violent to each other. But although I’ve spent my entire career promoting gender equality, current efforts designed to protect people from others’ sexual energy feels misplaced, even dangerous to me.
These days it seems that people are looking at gender relationships, being reminded of sex, and reacting as if all unwanted attention men give women is best understood as sexual–and therefore damaging.
Sex has no intrinsic Meaning. Almost everyone wishes it did.
The desire to give sex meaning is an understandable, important enterprise. Honestly approached, it can be a valuable exercise; disguised as the righteous desire to simply appreciate the meaning sex has, or as the pursuit of restoring sex’s “true” meaning, it is a common source of conflict for both individuals and society.
As the mass media hurtles toward a new century it seems to have one thing in mind–your opinion. It’s just about impossible to turn on the radio or TV, open a newspaper or magazine, or log onto the Internet without being implored: “Please, we’re dying to know–what do you think?”
These talkshows are driving me crazy.
They prey on people’s misery, exploiting both the guests and studio audience. The hosts patronize and psychologize, as they suggest that complex problems have simple solutions. The genre propagates conservative norms about sex, and obsolete stereotypes about intimacy and gender. Everyone involved pretends that this is a wholesome enterprise, entertaining as well as educational.
Your seminar was packed, and no one was disappointed. You bring expertise in sexuality, law, medicine, and public policy—a tremendous combination.
- Columbia University, School of Public Health
Your expertise, sense of humor, and candor enabled our men to explore issues that they might otherwise ignore. They came away from your talk improved as men, fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, and friends.
- Wilshire Blvd. Temple
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