Aphrodisiac? For What?

December 9, 2014

According to The New York Times, the Chinese are buying up the world’s supply of maca, an exotic root grown in the Andes. Their demand has driven the wholesale price of maca powder from $4 per pound to $20 per pound. Soon the indigenous Indians won’t be able to afford it as a nutritional staple.

Why? Along with the horn of the rhino (now practically extinct), the penis of the tiger (now practically extinct), and the fin of the shark (heading toward extinction), maca is believed to be an aphrodisiac.

That’s men for you: searching, century after century, for “aphrodisiacs.”

And after 34 years as a sex therapist, my response is—why? Why this mad rush, why this willingness to exterminate innocent species and now to vandalize Peru’s agricultural patrimony?

Aphrodisiacs are supposed to increase libido–magically, within minutes after ingestion. They’re not about erection or orgasm, just desire (thus Viagra is NOT an aphrodisiac, since it addresses erection, not desire or even arousal).

So guys, let’s say you can eat, drink, or chew something to increase your desire. Then what? If your mate (or harem, for that matter) hasn’t taken it, will they be so pleased at your explosive libido? If your partner is agreeable but doesn’t delight you in bed, will your enhanced libido be a blessing? If your partner typically turns you off with her moods, her words, or her demands, will you really enjoy wanting her?

And if your flesh is weak, once the spirit is more than willing, will your flesh rise to the occasion? That’s not generally how things work.

Historically, some cultures (like China) have believed that a big sexual appetite—whether ultimately sated or not—is an expression of masculinity. The philosophical question for men in such regimes is not simply how much sex are you having, but how much are you wanting? How much are you ready for? Bragging about feeling hungry or deprived is an odd definition of masculinity, but by no means rare. We should feel sympathy toward men who are culturally instructed in this direction.

So why the obsessive gallop to increase libido? Do most people want to DESIRE anything more? HAVE, yes; desire? I suppose I would take a pill to increase my desire for exercise, but other than that? Like almost everyone, I want to have more of what I want, not to desire it more.

Now if the traditional male project were “Let’s find an aphrodisiac and give it to all the women,” at least that would make some sense. But historically, men view female desire as a double-edged sword. Men have wanted women to want sex more, but not too much more. I suppose the traditional male ideal is to find an aphrodisiac for women—which men would administer, rather than letting women themselves control.

There are, of course, plenty of substances that supposedly promote erection, virtually none of which work. Some people swear by testosterone (which, even if it works, is among the world’s scariest drugs). And there are two medical products, PDE-5 inhibitors (Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra) and papavarene. But they don’t increase desire.

In fact, less than half the men who get a prescription for an erection drug request a second prescription. There’s more to most erection problems than not having erections on demand, and erections on demand aren’t enough to solve most cases of erection problems.

The solution for low desire is understanding (1) what we actually want, as well as (2) what makes us not want. Each of those typically involves more than sex. That’s what makes the search for aphrodisiacs and treatments for erectile dysfunction so complex. A pharmaceutical can give a man an erection, but it can’t make him feel aroused; if a drug could give a man desire, it wouldn’t make him feel wanted.

Desire without feeling wanted—or friendly, or competent, or connected—may seem like a fine thing, but in real life, it isn’t. Especially for grownups.

Especially in a couple. For sex to work, people need more than sex. For desire to be satisfying (and to lead to satisfaction), people need more than desire.

So the question is not what’s an aphrodisiac. The question is, why would you want one?

UK Censors Domestic Porn; No Pattern To What’s Banned

December 4, 2014

The United Kingdom just passed a law prohibiting domestic filmmakers from depicting certain acts in online pornography. It is an absolutely perfect example of how dangerous, how confusing, how pointless, and how downright stupid such a law can be.

The law now lists thirteen things actors and actresses may not portray in domestically-made online porn films. Here are some facts about these thirteen:

* The behaviors in every one of them are legal in real life.
* You (yes, you) have almost certainly done at least one of these, and probably will again. Maybe tonight.
* Every one of them is done consensually by thousands or millions of people somewhere every day of the week.
* None of these necessarily causes harm. If consensual, most of these can’t possibly cause harm.
* More than of half of them do NOT involve the genitalia.
* None of the banned depictions involves children.
* These criminalized depictions have nothing in common with each other.
* Each of these can be defined in a wide variety of ways (which will lead to self-censorship and arbitrary enforcement).

Did I mention that each of these activities is legal in real life? At least for now.

So why this particular list? Nobody knows. Which means it could change tomorrow.

Are you eager to know what the specific depictions are, so you can decide how you feel about the new limits on Brits rights to create (and therefore to watch) what they want?

It’s a common enough response, but it shouldn’t be. How do you feel about the government limiting what adult depictions adults can create or watch? The answer shouldn’t be “it depends on this image.” Why? Here are some depictions the government could add to this completely arbitrary list tomorrow:

Same-gender sex
Same-gender kissing
Anal sex
Interracial sex or kissing
Sex or kissing between two adults with a large age difference
Sex where one partner is in a wheelchair or otherwise disabled
Sex between senior citizens
Sex with a blindfold
Sex where one or both partners have erotic piercings
Sex where one or both partners’ pubic hair is shaved

Many people think that pornographic depictions that make “normal people” say “yuck” ought to be banned. Let’s say that none of the above depictions make you say “yuck”; the truth is, plenty of people would say “yuck” to one or all of these. So who should be in charge of what’s illegal—you or them?

That’s the same problem with the list that’s just been published. There are things on that list to which you might say “yuck”—but others wouldn’t. Again, who should be in charge?

Like all censors, the British censors justify their violation of adults’ civil rights by saying this makes Britain safer for children—without even bothering to say how. Rather than the porn, it’s laws like this that damage British children: they reduce the freedom these kids will have as adults, and will reduce their respect for the law when they eventually watch foreign-made porn featuring material that’s banned if made in Britain.

Are you curious about what acts are banned from being depicted?

Does it matter? Does it matter if they make you frown? (Some of them certainly won’t; a few might.) Does it matter if the list focuses mostly on one gender? (There’s one specifically female activity; the rest are gender-neutral.) Does it matter if the actors are generally smiling while acting? (For most of these depictions they would be.)

Does it matter if the activity doesn’t depict physical “sex,” but depicts mind games played by people in costume? If person A can watch a mind game on film and not get aroused, while person B gets turned on watching it, should it be considered pornography? And if so, should it perhaps be prohibited just for people like B rather than for people like A as well?

And if certain erotic mind games can’t be depicted, does that make them thought crimes?

Pornography is the canary in the coal mine of democracy. No country protects anything less than it protects porn; porn is the bottom threshold of free expression. Raise that bar and we have more artistic, political, and social freedoms. Lower it just to prohibit a picture that lots of people don’t like, and the bar for all expression is lowered.

This latest law comes from one of the most democratic, freedom-loving nations in the history of the world. We’re not talking Egypt or Russia, where the government is committed to stifling expression; we’re talking about a country that has spent centuries investigating the outer limits of free expression.

There is absolutely no reason to think that if it happens in Britain, it can’t happen here.

* * *

You still haven’t seen the list; do you feel a little teased? FYI, some kinds of erotic teasing are on Britain’s updated list of prohibited depictions.

Giving Thanks for Sex; However…

November 29, 2014

It’s Thanksgiving, so let’s give thanks for sex.

Not just the huffing and puffing, the in-ing and out-ing, the sloshing around and drying off. Let’s give thanks for all the sexual rights we enjoy here in the U.S.—which billions of people in Russia, the Arab world, and many parts of Asia and Africa will never enjoy in their lifetimes.

Most of these rights have to do with privacy and autonomy. These always look dangerous to repressive or religiously-driven regimes. Science and technology look pretty frightening to such regimes when they can be applied for sexual purposes—which they inevitably are, throughout history.

So let’s give thanks for the many ways we are allowed to use privacy and autonomy to express our sexuality, and to use science and technology to make sex safer and more life-affirming.

Still, we should remember that these rights are stained by the many limitations that our local, state, and federal governments place on our sexual expression. In an era when tens of millions of Americans are calling for “smaller government,” it’s especially bitter that many of these same people are calling for more government intrusion into private sexual expression.

So let’s give thanks that here in America…

* You can buy birth control in almost every community.
…Although an increasing number of pharmacists claim they are exempt from state laws requiring licensed pharmacists to fill all legal prescriptions. Christ or Napolean: does it matter what reason they give?

* The Supreme Court ruled, in Lawrence v Texas, that morality alone cannot be the basis of American laws criminalizing sexual acts, such as sodomy.
…Although powerful and well-financed Christian groups continue to demand—and get—laws to curb “indecency,” “smut,” “secularism,” and “the homosexual agenda.”

* Sex toys have become so acceptable that you can even buy them via Amazon.com.
…Although most marriage counselors, clergy, and physicians are licensed without ever learning a single thing about them.

* You can get tested for many common STDs without a lot of explanation. You can get tested for AIDS anonymously and confidentially.
…Although anti-pornography groups continue to lie that the adult film industry is a hotbed of STDs, and have targeted the industry for scrutiny by government safety inspectors.

* Emergency Contraception is now available over-the-counter across the U.S..
…Although many desperate anti-choice activists lie and call it an abortion pill.

* In most big cities, you can still go to swingers clubs, strip clubs, and dungeons.
…Although more and more cities are using emergency ordinances and discriminatory “sexually-oriented business” statutes to close these adult businesses—without having to prove they’re dangerous.

* Many states have developed “Romeo & Juliet” laws to reduce or eliminate penalties for consensual teen-teen sex if the kids are close in age.
…Although most states still treat teen sexting as the felony of child porn distribution.

* You can check into a hotel with any adult you like without having to explain why.
…Although Citizens for Community Values continues to pressure hotels to stop renting X-rated films—and has succeeded with the Omni chain and a dozen Ohio hotels.

* Women can dress any way they like without fear of religious or state-supported violence.
…Although men and women still get arrested every year for being topless or nude in parks and beaches—unlike our cousins in Europe, where toplessness and nudity are normal at public beaches and parks.

* Grandparents like Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, and the Rolling Stones are still performing, showing exactly what sexuality in old age can look like.
…If, of course, you’re rich, famous, and very, very fortunate.

I also give thanks for my thousands of readers, and your encouraging messages of support throughout the year. You can always reach me at Klein AT SexEd DOT org.

The Sexism Behind the Anti-Escort Movement

November 26, 2014

If you were around in the 1950s, you remember that employment ads in the newspaper were conveniently divided by gender: there were separate listings for “female” jobs and “male” jobs.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act ended that, when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was formed to eliminate discrimination in the workplace. Today, a want ad reading “female secretary wanted” or “male taxi driver wanted” is almost unthinkable.

So now we’re all free to pursue any job for which we’re qualified, and whose conditions are acceptable to us, right?


Escorts and providers of erotic services, unfortunately, face enormous criticism and discrimination over their choice of work. One of the worst kinds of judgment is the assumption that escorts are either coerced into doing their work, or that they’re too stupid to realize how bad it is for them. That’s the basis for the so-called “rescue” operations that activists do.

Let’s face the central question here squarely: are escorts mostly like other women, or are they some strange, alien species? If escorts are like most women, they have similar needs, similar interests, and make choices in similar ways. Many activists and other people don’t want to believe that. The idea of a normal woman rationally choosing to be an escort—rather than being coerced into it, or being incredibly naïve (or drug-addled) when she chooses it—is far too uncomfortable, and raises far too many questions about so-called “normal” women.

That’s another sexist idea—that “normal” women are barely sexual, or are too wholesome to compete with escorts. But it’s foolish to stereotype a group as heterogeneous as “women.” Women who aren’t escorts range from sexually uninterested to sexually average to, shall we say, hot as firecrackers. Of course. Female sexuality is not limited to “professionals” or to damaged women—it’s everywhere, regardless of age, social class, or traditionally-defined beauty.

Male-dominated society has been attempting to limit female sexuality for millennia, and the anti-escort movement is part of that historical crusade in two ways: one, by damning escorts as abnormally sexual; and two, by labelling non-escort women as wholesome, whose sexuality is limited.

Another common refrain from anti-escort activists is that these women are routinely abused while working. In reality, most escorts report that they are treated well by their clientele. That’s one of the advantages of their job—they don’t have to take every customer who comes along, and can usually ditch anyone with whom they really don’t want to work. The presence of a financial transaction doesn’t prevent an escort from choosing her own customers.

There’s some serious sexism in the idea that “escorts can’t be trusted to make adult decisions in their lives.” So it’s especially ironic that many would-be rescuers (including Gloria Steinem herself) call themselves feminists. I guess their motto is “women know what’s best for themselves, unless we disagree with their choices.” That’s exactly what women have been fighting for eons: being told that their choices are not legitimate, thus proving they’re not terribly capable. Imagine having to deal with that challenge just because of your occupational choice.

Of course, the challenges facing escorts are not simply emotional or philosophical. Today’s coalition of feminists, conservatives, and even human rights activists are attempting to impoverish escorts’ lives as a way of defending “women’s rights.” Their critiques are translated into criminalization, exclusion from social systems such as child daycare, and the prospect of discrimination in child custody battles or allegations of sexual violence.

These are challenges that everyone should be able to recognize as those of “normal” women. And as such, society should be working to eliminate them. That’s a legitimately helpful set of projects for would-be “rescuers” and “activists.”

In fact, the escort’s quest to control her own life IS feminism defined. Or, if you prefer, it’s everyone’s quest for adulthood—to own oneself. American society debates this question every day: Should I be allowed to end my life on my own terms, such as with physician-assisted suicide? Should I be allowed to terminate my pregnancy with an abortion? Should I be allowed to smoke marijuana? Should I be allowed to go to a swingers club? Should there be a tax to discourage sugary soft drink consumption? Should the tax code force individuals to support religious institutions?

Each of us deserves the right to make our own choices on matters of personal liberty. In a free society, we’re all required to tolerate others’ choices, even when they are different from the ones we would make. Regarding the decision to work as an escort, adults should be able to make their own choices—even if that adult is a woman.

Want to watch a lot of porn AND have good sex?

November 11, 2014

Say you watch a lot of porn.
Say you want to have really enjoyable sex.
Some people say you have to choose one or the other.

Some say that porn changes your brain so you can’t enjoy sex with a real person. Nonsense. If you don’t want sex with a real person, it’s either because you don’t desire the person you’re with, or because you have issues about sex or closeness. That’s when watching porn is a lot easier than creating good sex. But let’s not blame the porn.

Some say that porn gives you unrealistic ideas about sex. Yes, that happens—unrealistic ideas about what people look like, sound like, do, want, and about how communication and hugging have very little place in sex. Unrealistic ideas about sex—whether you get them from porn, from religion, from Cosmopolitan, or from your father—make it hard to create enjoyable sex.

And some say that porn provides such powerful images that we inevitably compare our own sex to the images—and of course we seem pretty lame in comparison. Yes, that happens. That even happens to people who don’t look at porn, who have sex with someone who does. They imagine you’re thinking about porn when you make love, which makes them think about porn when they make love, and that’s bad for sex all the way around.

Some people say the solution is to stop watching porn. Probably not gonna happen.

Instead, I say the solution is to make love consciously, and to watch porn consciously. That helps to keep the two activities separate, which is the key to enjoying both.

So if you want to watch a lot of porn AND have good sex:

* Remember that porn is fiction. It’s not a documentary, it’s a highlight reel. It involves lighting, editing, and off-camera preparation. It’s planned ahead of time so that everything looks perfect.

* Learn how to focus your attention on your body—how your partner’s hair smells, how your partner’s nipple tastes, how your partner’s skin feels, and so on. Center your sexual experience in your body rather than in your head.

* Don’t expect sex to feel how porn looks. That’s like expecting driving your car to feel like a Maserati looks. Or expecting playing tennis to feel like Wimbeldon looks. Reality can’t compete with created images. We have to value reality for itself.

* Know what your partner likes and wants. That won’t match what people do in porn films. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
Budget plenty of time to explore your partner’s desires, and find the ones that you love.

* Remember that unlike watching a porn film, orgasm isn’t the point. The goal of sex is enjoy yourself and to feel glad you’re alive. Orgasm lasts maybe five seconds. Do the math—five seconds out of 20 minutes isn’t much. Learn to enjoy the rest of the sex.

* Be flexible if things don’t go exactly as you want. You can be ashamed, angry, or afraid, or you can move closer to your partner, gently smile and say, “Well, on to Plan B, right?”

* In general, talk more and screw less. You’ll get more out of the experience, and you’re more likely to get more experiences. Kiss more and screw less. Caress more and screw less. Laugh more and screw less. Whisper more and screw less. Sex—and whispering and kissing—is for people. Porn is for paid professionals. Make love, not porn.

* Ask a friendly question every time you have sex. People don’t do that on camera—which is part of what can make real sex better than porn.

So sure, you can watch a lot of porn and enjoy sex with a real person. You just have to know which is which.

Bad Categories Prevent Smart Conversations

November 2, 2014

Don’t you agree that people who either murder someone or keep library books overdue should be punished?

“Murderers and library book abusers”—that’s an example of a phony category. Other phony categories include “bullies and predators,” “porn and child porn,” and “S/M and violence.”

I’ve spoken and written many times about phony categories and moral panics (e.g., here). It’s a common strategy in public policy discussions—creating a category that lumps two dissimilar things together, and decrying the more serious of the two. We’re all in favor of preventing hangnails and heart attacks, aren’t we? We MUST do something about that!

Because phony categories prevent meaningful analysis and conversation, they undermine democracy. And so the frontline of intelligent, progressive discourse sometimes has to involve the tedious work of looking behind the claims of a study or of statistics, so we can intelligently discuss their real meaning.

For example, you’ve probably seen or heard about the video of 24-year-old Shoshana Roberts walking through New York for 10 hours and getting over 100 unwanted comments.

There’s a lot to critique about it: she’s wearing skin-tight clothes that emphasize her every curve, and the catcalls are almost exclusively from men who seem unemployed, marginalized or even homeless at best. I leave it to the video’s producers to explain why they have a shapely young white woman walking through mostly Black and Latino neighborhoods.

The producers and many others call Roberts’ experiences in the video “sexual harassment” or “verbal abuse.” Clearly, she didn’t verbally invite a single one of the mens’ comments (although most adults would agree that in any U.S. city, her clothing choice would typically be coded as provocative). And clearly, she didn’t respond to the comments.

That said, there wasn’t a single comment that threatened or insulted her. No one suggested sex, invited sex, or demanded sex. Essentially, these brilliant comments ranged all the way from ‘Wow you look great’ to ‘Wow, I like looking at you.’ Pointless and stupid, an unwanted, frustrating intrusion into her private minute. Multiplied, of course, by 100. Not that she or any other woman generally walks the streets for 10 hours at a time, of course.

Now according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “non-contact unwanted sexual experiences”—a category that includes harassment on public sidewalks—is the most prevalent form of “sexual violence” for both men and women.

How many problems can you spot in that one sentence? These government statistics assume that:
~ unwanted verbal contact is harassment
~ unwanted verbal contact is a sexual experience
~ a non-contact unwanted experience is sexual violence

This sort of methodology creates rates of sexual violence that are enormous. With such a definition, American streets are dramatically more dangerous than those of Moscow, Cairo, Johannesburg, and drug-warring central Mexico. Which is (fortunately) silly, of course. Would you feel safer in one of those places, or the U.S.? Where would you prefer your daughter or sister?

Defining an unwanted “Lookin’ good!” (even from a scary-looking guy) as harassment trivializes real harassment. Defining catcalls as sexual experiences trivializes sex. Most importantly, defining words as violence trivializes violence.

Anyone—feminist, bureaucrat, politician, journalist—who promotes such nonsense should be held responsible for misleading the public, creating epidemics of sexual violence, and generating fear. Fear that intimidates and disempowers people. Fear that incites people to demand action, even if that action curtails their own and others’ rights.

Remember, the FBI says that today’s rates of sexual violence against both adult women and children are their lowest in over a decade.

It’s important for America to talk about—and reduce—violence, sexual harassment, verbal intimidation, and boorish behavior. It’s also important that we use words that help us understand the world and each other, rather than using categories that prevent communication and create fear.

Fear, is a terrible, terrible experience. But fear doesn’t necessarily mean we’re in danger.

What Italians Want to Know About Sex

October 30, 2014

Well, it’s actually Croatians. The Croatian medical students with whom I worked in Ravenna last week.

More than once, they asked how sex has changed since the invention of the internet.

It’s an important question.

On the one hand, there are some tangible ways:
* Porn is now available everywhere, all the time, in every possible configuration.
* There are new ways to meet people for sex: escort services, apps like Grindr, websites like Ashley Madison and Sugar Babies.
* It’s easier than ever to buy sex toys, lube, condoms, and other products, with privacy and low prices, from reliable companies.
* Did I mention porn? That’s where most young men and many young women are now getting much of their sex education.

Nothing brilliant about this analysis. “But,” I said, “One of the key ways the internet has changed our sexuality centers around the issue of multi-tasking.” That’s the expectation that people should be able to do more than one thing at a time—like reading email while talking on the phone. Or texting while talking with your kid.

In fact, it’s now more than an expectation that we CAN; it’s the expectation that we SHOULD. I see an increasing number of people who don’t feel comfortable doing one thing at a time anymore. And that’s bad for sex.

Because—assuming you’re with someone you want to be with, and they’re pleased to be with you—there’s only thing you actually need to enjoy sex: Focus. Attention. Engagement. In fact, regardless of what your genitalia can do, no matter how great your body is, you won’t enjoy sex much if your mind is on other things. You know…multi-tasking.

A lot of people I see in therapy have trouble focusing during sex. The problem for most of them isn’t the sex, it’s the focusing. They can’t simply watch a movie, either—they’re restless to check their voicemail. They can’t just eat lunch, they’re anxious about what texts they might have received. They can’t sit in my waiting room listening to music or thinking about our upcoming session for five or six minutes, they have to check the security cameras in their home.

One of the criticisms of internet porn is that it makes sex with a real person boring. I’m certain that’s totally inaccurate. Rather, I think it’s the new lifestyle that has developed at the same time as internet porn: doing two or three things at once, and constantly checking on incoming digital stimulus.

THAT’S what’s making people restless or dissatisfied about sex with a real person: it requires them to unhook from their online lives for a half-hour, which is a skill many people have lost (and most young people never developed).

So to enjoy sex with a person more, you don’t need better erections, or a wetter vagina, or easier orgasms. You certainly don’t need to lose weight, get a boob job, or learn the tricks of tantra or Cirque du Soleil.

You need to focus on your five senses, and to focus so fiercely on THAT incoming data that you have virtually no bandwidth left over to think about anything, or to miss any other incoming stimulation. When you can do that—when you make sex more interesting than any email that might be coming in—sex will seem rich and enjoyable, something to desire and anticipate.

And that aspect of Sexual Intelligence is true whether you’re in Italy, Croatia, or anywhere else.

New Law Undermines Therapy

October 6, 2014

A recent change to California’s legal definition of “sexual exploitation of a minor” has created a new set of problems for therapists, while making therapy more dangerous for many patients—without increasing public safety one single bit. Since many states’ laws often follow California’s, this is an event of national significance.

Psychologists, physicians, and other professionals are “mandated reporters”—they are required by law to report certain things they see or hear in the course of their work. In such cases therapists and doctors are even instructed to violate patient-professional confidentiality. However, mandated reporters are expected to use our discretion in deciding IF something we see or hear rises to the level of having to report it. Properly used, that discretion protects the patient, protects society, and protects the professional.

California’s new law, AB1775, requires therapists and other professionals to report if a patient has knowingly downloaded, streamed, or even simply accessed (that is, viewed) an electronic or digital image in which anyone under 18 “is engaged in an act of obscene sexual conduct.” That’s any image that lacks “scientific, literary, artistic, or political” value. This can range from the most egregious child porn to the most playful sexting.

Most importantly, this law gives us NO DISCRETION in judging the potential danger involved in the behavior we are directed to report.

California requires mandated reporters to judge the words and stories they hear in session every week. Does this patient really want to murder his boss, or is he blowing off steam? Does this patient really want to kill herself, or is she dramatizing how depressed she feels? Decisions about whether or not to break confidentiality and report such conversations to the authorities—so-called Tarasoff situations—are the bedrock of therapists’ ability to deliver high-quality confidential care to patients, while assuring the public that therapists will help offer protection from people who are likely to harm themselves or others.

This law will punish many innocent teens and adults, and will deprive those who look at child porn of the therapy they may desperately want. It puts therapists in a terrible bind, robbing them of any discretion to judge if a given patient is dangerous. Ironically, therapists retain this discretion when patients talk about murder, arson, suicide, or tricking someone into getting pregnant.

The California legislature created this law with the involvement of every almost conceivable stakeholder—child welfare activists, law enforcement, social workers, etc.—except sexologists. It is shocking and frustrating that a law changing the way therapists handle patients who look at sexual images of minors was designed without consulting a single sex therapist, sex researcher, or sex educator.

Speaking practically, getting this law repealed appears impossible. But there is a growing movement to amend the new law, possibly via one or more clinical organizations like the California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists or American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, & Therapists. The goal is to require therapists to evaluate those who look at sexual images of minors—just as therapists do with many other potentially dangerous behaviors—rather than automatically report them.

Research both in the U.S. and abroad shows that a large percentage of people who look at sexual images of minors are not at risk of committing any contact offense. The public, of course, is mostly uninformed that so many people who look at sexual images of minors never touch a minor inappropriately. That’s the deliberate result of the child porn hysteria currently sweeping the country.

Of course, a substantial number of consumers of child sexual imagery are dangerous. They need to be helped so that they don’t hurt anyone. A law that requires therapists to report such people without evaluating their potential for harm, and without treating them, guarantees that such people will remain invisible. They won’t get the help we all want them to get—making this law part of the dreadful problem it claims to want to solve.


October 1, 2014

It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to one of the best sex education websites in the history of the world: http://www.MyBeautifulSexLife.com.

Designed for high school and college students—and terrific for grownups of all ages—it’s accurate, relevant, and funny.

The producer is psychologist and college lecturer (the NCAA even asked him to speak to college athletes) Dr. Paul Joannides. The author and publisher of the famous Guide to Getting It On, Paul has been experimenting with various ways of educating young adults about sex for a very long time.

Believe it or not, the material on this website changes daily. Paul’s idea is to use catchy phrases, accurate line drawings, and brief, often-funny paragraphs to convey a single message at a time. Topics include what young people care about most: orgasms, “performance,” consent, anatomy, and communication. Here’s a sample of today’s items:

* Enough with the anal obsession! (Contradicting porn’s depiction that everyone’s doing, and loving, anal sex.)
* Guys describe how their up waking-up vs. hot-for-you erections feel
* A reminder about the effectiveness and convenience of IUDs
* The relationship of the vagina, bladder, and uterus—via a TSA image
* Most women’s breasts are 2 different sizes

The site is steadfastly oriented toward enhancing pleasure and closeness rather than preventing disease and disaster. Which do you think people pay more attention to?

I love that this site talks about sex as it really is, discussing topics that people really want to know about. That’s a big contrast to the watered-down abstractions that so many sex ed and self-help programs use—which reflect society’s discomfort with using proper adult words for body parts and common activities.

There isn’t a euphemism to be seen here. The site’s incredibly simple design encourages people to forward the helpful drawings and wry slogans to friends and lovers. For real expertise on real subjects (as a bonus, you’ll smile, too), check it out.

Banned Books Week Ends, But Censorship Doesn’t

September 28, 2014

You may not know it, but Banned Books Week just ended.

Sponsored each year by the American Library Association, National Coalition Against Censorship, and other groups, Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read. It highlights the value of free and open access to information—access that is currently limited in some way in every single state.

Each year, hundreds of books and plays are banned in American schools, libraries, and theaters. Some of the most frequently-banned are classics of Western civilization, such as 1984, Catch-22, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—all, coincidentally, about the dangers of following authority blindly. “Dangerous” books like these are surely banned in Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia as well.

But U.S. censors don’t simply want to keep adult books out of people’s hands; each year, the most-often banned books are wildly popular books written for children. These include Robie Harris’s It’s Perfectly Normal, the Harry Potter series, Judy Blume’s books, and this year’s “winner,” The Adventures of Captain Underpants.

It’s easy to deride the impulse to censor as the product of paranoid or repressed Right-wing minds. But the Left has a strong impulse to censor as well. Let’s look at some of the institutions of censorship championed by the Left on college campuses these days:

* Trigger warnings
Professors are being increasingly pressured to warn students of any words they may hear in lectures or read in books that “trigger” strong feelings in students, including incest, virgin, Holocaust, and yes, tornado. Predictably, some professors are whitewashing their lectures and reading lists to accommodate, rather than challenge, students’ lack of abilities to handle life. Rather than demanding personal growth, this policy will assure that such students remain victims.

* Speech codes
Most universities now have speech codes prohibiting students or anyone else on campus from saying things that hurt others’ feelings. While often described as creating a “safe campus environment,” this restricts spirited debate, makes sure students won’t be challenged, discourages anyone from learning rhetorical skills, prevents students from learning how to deal with hurt feelings, and gives the Administration the power to expel almost any student they wish.

* Challenging controversial campus lecturers or graduation speakers
The heckler’s veto is a key tool on campus these days. It is now dressed up as political speech. Condoleeza Rice withdrew from speaking at Rutgers after a student sit-in involved police and a shattered glass door. The Consul General of Israel was prevented from speaking at a San Francisco area college by a small group of pro-Palestinian students. Warren Farrell was prevented from speaking at the University of Toronto by a group of so-called feminists who misunderstood his truly feminist message—before he spoke.

Apparently none of these groups who so passionately oppose “oppression” and “privilege” see the irony in their oppressive bullying of their fellow students.

* Ignoring female students’ binge drinking
While RAPE IS NEVER THE VICTIM’S FAULT (is that clear enough?), it is baffling that tens of thousands of college women drink to the point of incapacity weekend after weekend when this behavior is a proven risk factor for rape. It is even more baffling that anyone who mentions this is attacked as a rape apologist.

We helpfully tell each other to stay out of certain neighborhoods at night because they are dangerous (especially to women traveling alone). So why is it wrong to say “don’t deliberately get roaring drunk in certain neighborhoods at night because that’s dangerous”? Yes, of course, men need to be sternly addressed and they need to change. But at the very same time we can ask women to think about how and why they deliberately risk putting themselves in harm’s way.
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For short videos of John Waters, Whoopi Goldberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and others participating in Banned Books Week, including a wonderful clip from Dav Pilkey about what to do if you hate a certain book, click here.
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For more on campus censorship (including their devastating critique of how the U.C. Berkeley Chancellor has dishonored the Free Speech Movement), see http://www.TheFire.org.


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