Archive for the ‘church-state’ Category

Giving Thanks for Sex…With a Bit of Melancholy

November 27, 2010

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, mostly unconstitutional, 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. 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 state safety inspectors.

* Emergency Contraception is now available over-the-counter across the U.S..
…Although some 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—kids sending nude pictures of themselves and each other via mobile phone—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 in hotel rooms—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 considered “normal” at public beaches and parks.

* You can watch most available adult pornography on your own computer in your own home.
…Although millions of computers in workplaces, universities, and libraries are filtered, typically with algorithms that are secret.

* Almost every American has sex before they marry, which should undermine the credibility of religious and political leaders who pour billions of dollars into the failed “abstinence” model.
…Although millions of young people still pledge abstinence, proven to be one of the least effective methods of preventing pregnancy or STDs.

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

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

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Can Pam Anderson Make Fur Non-Kosher?

November 8, 2010

Former super-babe Pamela Lee Anderson is in Israel to be a judge on their version of Dancing with the Stars.

While there, she plans to use her “powers of seduction” on ultra-Orthodox Jewish lawmakers to get them to ban fur. Fur is a big issue for these guys because of the 200-year-old Eastern European tradition of wearing fur-trimmed hats (“streimel”) that many ultra-Orthodox follow.

Good luck, little shiksa. Since they’re not married to you, these guys won’t shake your hand; many won’t even look at you. Listen to you? I doubt it. There are Orthodox Jews right here in San Francisco who respect and admire my wife but won’t shake her hand. We both know it’s nothing personal, and she’s OK with it, but when confronted with that kind of medieval thinking, I won’t shake theirs, either.

It’s part of a modesty code that I abhor. Rule one: men have to protect themselves from the existence of women—they’re too distracting and tempting. Rule two: women have to hide from men—to protect men, and to honor their husbands. In fact, ultra-Orthodox Jewish women hide their hair because of a religious injunction against “wantonness;” to make it easier, many shave their heads and then wear a wig (or just a headscarf, fearing that a wig looks too much like natural hair).

What is it with the orthodox followers of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity? Regardless of the language they use (the power of women, the needs of women, the special purpose of women, the wish to honor women, the desire to protect women, the fundamental evil of women), the motivation is clear—reduce male anxiety about the existence of women.

No, that’s too polite. Reduce male terror of women.

So cover their bodies, cover their hair, cover their faces. Silence their voices. Disqualify them from leadership. Don’t let them read the Torah. Don’t let them read, period. The Taliban mutilates women who don’t cover their ankles. Fundamentalist Christians tell women that Jesus wants them to obey men, not to think—a modern form of mutilation.

If Pam Anderson is serious about making the ultra-Orthodox more humane, she can start by talking about birth control. Each man has one or two fur hats. Each man has 12 or 15 children. Those children need a lot of care, and they eat a lot of chickens. Do the math, Pam.

Meanwhile, the question remains: how does the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus feel about beauty? You’d think that oceans, sunsets, peach trees, and breasts would be proof that God really loves beauty.

But as a fundamentalist Muslim warns in the current international play The Great Game, “Don’t look at the Moon—it’s too beautiful, and it will take our mind off prayer.”

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Science Shows What Sexual Repression Actually Looks Like

November 7, 2010

With the recent election still echoing in everyone’s ears, and pundits pundificating about how conservative the country really is, this is a good time to remember the major study done about online pornography subscriptions just 18 months ago.

As reported in the Journal of Economic Perspectives,
* The rates at which people buy pornography are not wildly different from state to state;
* States where people vote for conservative candidates buy more porn than states in which people vote for progressive candidates.

And yes, this is after adjusting for factors including broadband access, income, and population.

According to credit card receipts from a national provider of adult entertainment, eight of the top ten pornography-consuming states went Republican in the 2008 election. And the trend goes beyond voting. For example, states where a majority of residents agreed with the statement “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage” bought more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed. The same difference emerged for the statement “AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior.”

And of course the state with the highest per capita purchase of online pornography is…Utah. Of course.

To repeat: porn subscriptions don’t just come from California, New York, and other Liberal-Jewish-Urban-Latte-Sipping nests of perversion. They come from every state. And they really come from states in which people claim their values make them uninterested in or resistant to porn.

One technical term for such people is liars, but let’s be more compassionate, the better to understand our fellow creatures.

There are large groups of people who claim certain negative attitudes about sexuality, yet do those very same things. Porn. Prostitutes. Premarital sex. Same-gender stuff. Affairs. Adult masturbation. Wild fantasies.

What are they saying? That they reject their own sexuality. What are they feeling? Frightened, anxious, alone. Guilty, ashamed, tormented; as if, to quote a Jonny Lang song, “even God has lost track of my soul.”

Progressive politics MUST address these feelings in so-called conservative people. Until we do, we’re just reinforcing a phony us/them divide cooked up by politically powerful people. Talking about a sexually in-control “us” and a sexually out-of-control “them” is how the Religious Right made its fortune, and stays in business. The regulation of other people’s sexuality is a theme that never gets boring—for people who are afraid of their own sexuality.

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Abortion & Birth Control: How Humans Actually Behave

October 29, 2010

There’s belief and there’s science. When it comes to sexuality, American public policy is terribly prejudiced toward the first, while too often ignoring the second.

Election season invariably exaggerates this unfortunate tendency. And so, for example, people actually fear that gay soldiers will be humping while being shot at. Or that they’ll seduce straight soldiers in the shower—who will be powerless to just say no. Love that close-order drill!

New data about pregnancy, contraception, and abortion were just released. While I don’t expect this to influence too many decision-makers, when considered together these facts are intriguing:

* Reducing the cost of an abortion through health insurance or government coverage does NOT increase the number of abortions.

As a recent report shows, “Insurance coverage for abortion is not a significant driver of the incidence of abortion, any more than insurance coverage of pregnancy-related care drives the number of babies born each year.”

This reality is already demonstrated in countries with generous coverage for abortion in their national health plans. In the Netherlands and Germany, for example, where almost all abortions are free for citizens, abortion rates are less than half of ours. And in Canada, which has 1) no national restrictions on abortion and 2) a comprehensive national health system, the abortion rate is much lower than ours.

* The highest teen birth rates in the U.S. are clustered in the South.

This isn’t just a function of race or ethnicity, either. Recent data shows, for example, that Latino teen birthrates ranged from 31.1 in Maine to 188.3 in Alabama. Similarly, birthrates for white teens ranged from 4.3 per 1,000 in the District of Columbia to 54.8 births per 1,000 in Mississippi.

So what is it about the South? Religion. Guilt. More religion. And an almost complete lack of comprehensive sexuality education in school.

By contrast, in countries with serious sex education such as Holland and Sweden, their rate of unwanted teen pregnancy is dramatically lower than ours.
* * * * * * *
Ignorance and obstacles never stop people from having sex, unwanted pregnancies, or abortions. This is so well-established you’d think that more policy-makers and voters would have caught on by now. But when it comes to sex, Americans believe information is dangerous and choice invites irresponsibility. We don’t trust our kids or our neighbors.

Our country expresses this mistrust by shooting itself collectively in the foot. Too many kids having sex? Tell them Jesus disapproves, so when they have sex they’ll feel guilty and unable to use birth control. Too many teen pregnancies? Withhold information and support for using contraception so more kids will get pregnant. Too many abortions? Make them illegal and expensive, so people will have dangerous ones later in their pregnancies.

America’s public policy around sex is completely out of touch with reality. It looks like, say, Seattle building roads engineered for a desert climate, or New York building skyscrapers without elevators.

The belief: if we just wish hard enough, things we don’t like will go away (some people call this “prayer”). Teens will stop having sex, people having sex will stop getting pregnant, and pregnant people will stop getting abortions. If we just wish hard enough.

There are entire industries (led by civic “leaders”) whose sole purpose is keeping Americans ignorant and superstitious. Since 1973, the Religious Right has knowingly been spreading lies about how sex education leads to sex, and abortion leads to depression and cancer. It’s a dramatic example of belief triumphing over science.

Forty years after Roe v Wade, Sarah Palin and her proud clones are continuing the same lying tradition, although with a new twist. Somehow Palin’s unmarried pregnant daughter (who became an unmarried mother) has been positioned as heroic—but as an exception. Other girls who get pregnant are still sluts, especially if they don’t have TV contracts and millionaire parents.

If Americans valued science as much as they value a touchdown or reality TV, there wouldn’t be much of a culture war. We have the world’s best Constitution to help us sort out most public policy questions. A few serious public conversations with budget and other outcome data could resolve most of the rest.

Then we could rationally discuss the values on which we want to base our policies. Instead, Americans argue about what we “believe,” abetted by organized religion, an Oprah-ized, feel-good psychology of entitlement, and “news” shows that ask viewers what they think. In grownup countries, that’s called gossip.

Meanwhile, the people our politicians and voters imagine us to be continue to behave differently around sex than our pathetic public policy predicts. No matter how hard people pray, other people keep behaving like, well, people. And given the biology of the human brain-nervous system-reproductive scheme, ignorance and obstacles will continue to lead to outcomes everyone says they want to avoid.

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Prop 8, Minority Rights, & American Democracy

August 5, 2010

Democracy does not mean three wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for dinner.

And that’s why yesterday’s federal court ruling overturning California’s Proposition 8 is good news for all Americans. Prop 8 did something that should never be done—it put the question of a minority group’s rights up for a vote.

America’s courts have two functions, one them far less understood than the over—and just as crucial to our democratic system. Of course, our courts try cases of wrongdoing—someone’s accused of breaking the law, they have their day in court, they’re found innocent or guilty. In addition, however, our courts try a special kind of case—they judge whether a law itself violates the law. Sometimes the government creates this law on its own, through Congress, a state legislature, a city council, etc.. Sometimes, as in California, people vote for a law directly through a referendum—via propositions.

It’s one of these laws-that-people-voted-for that Judge Walker found illegal—i.e., unconstitutional. He found that Prop 8 is a law that separates Californians into two groups, giving a certain right to one while denying it to the other. And he couldn’t find any logical, evidence-based facts to justify the discrimination that Prop 8’s law demands. So he had to overturn the law that people had voted for—because they voted for a law that is illegal.

Voters aren’t constitutional lawyers, so they can’t be expected to understand that sometimes they vote to create a law that is illegal. But that’s what happened in California. And Judge Walker reminded everyone that a community can’t do that—not even if 99% of the voters want to.

This is not “judicial activism,” it’s being a judge. Judge Walker was doing the job he was asked to do when appointed by President George H.W. Bush.

Yes, the will of the majority—at least, as expressed in the 2008 election that passed Proposition 8—has been overruled. Because the majority got to vote on something they shouldn’t have been allowed to vote on—the rights of a minority. And because the majority voted to restrict the minority’s rights based, as they themselves put it, on tradition, morality, and the religious beliefs of the majority.

And that’s exactly what the majority in America is not allowed to do. It’s right there in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution:
“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

And since government is in the business of granting marriage licenses, and government is in the business of guaranteeing the rights that result from being married, anything that restricts a special group from the right to marry cannot be legal. Even if the majority votes to create such a restriction.

Evidence of those good reasons? Judge Walker said there was none. Tradition, feelings of discomfort, and strongly-held religious beliefs are not, in 21st-century America, good enough reasons to deny a minority the civil rights enjoyed by the majority.

Moments after the ruling, the American Family Association launched a vicious attack on America’s legal system. AFA said that because Judge Walker is gay, he cannot rule fairly on this case. If that’s true, judges who drink shouldn’t be judging drunk-driving cases; judges without children shouldn’t be judging cases involving school taxes or teacher behavior; judges who own guns shouldn’t judge cases involving the right to bear arms; and Catholic judges shouldn’t rule on abortion cases.

Or is it that only Catholic judges should rule on abortion cases, and only judges who drink should rule on drunk-driving cases?

This makes it impossible to have any judges at all. There are no judges without personal lives, there are no judges who have nothing in common with the cases they judge. AFA has done a wonderful job of exposing themselves for what they are—completely cynical about the American system of democracy. They have always demanded the kind of “democracy” in which the Bible of a small number of people rules everyone else.

Until AFA deposes the American government and substitutes a theocracy, all Americans can breathe easier because of Judge Walker’s ruling—in which he said that fear and discomfort with homosexuality, and unscientific ideas about the brains of homosexuals, are not a sufficient reason to deny government benefits to a certain group of people. You don’t have to be a member of that certain group to appreciate that this ruling celebrates your country, and makes you safer in it.

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Congress Requiring Internet Filtering—Through the Back Door

July 12, 2010

Last week, the House agreed to a Senate amendment to a bill that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On the next-to-last page, it casually states:

“None of the funds made available in this act may be used to maintain or establish a computer network unless such network blocks the viewing, downloading and exchanging of pornography.”

Yes, buried in a bill (HR4899) that allocates $75,000,000,000 for the military, as well as for border security, veterans’ health, state education, and Haiti, Congress is preparing to require that all companies doing business with the federal government require internet filtering software.

“Pornography” is not a legal term, of course, so sincere (and not-so-sincere) people can disagree on what qualifies. But American workers, managers, and company owners will have almost no discretion about which millions of websites they will no longer have access to (and not even know it). Private internet filtering software companies will make these decisions. In secret. With no explanation or appeal.

This is an extraordinary assault on the rights of tens of millions of Americans. Of course Congressmembers, urged on by the usual porn-destroys-lives crowd, say “well, people shouldn’t watch porn during work.” Of course they shouldn’t—because they should be working, not relaxing. And so there are many other sites people shouldn’t access at work—gambling sites, craigslist, facebook, World Cup soccer, celebrity sites. And yet only pornography has been singled out.

No one is sponsoring a regulation that “workers getting federal money can’t waste time at work.” No one is proposing “workers getting federal money who perform poorly because they surf the web should be fired.”

The ferocity with which groups like Enough Is Enough and Family Research Council lie, cheat, and steal in order to oppose pornography is frightening. They are so obsessed with porn—with sex—that they are willing to sacrifice our precious Constitution, which guarantees free expression. And then they scream in outrage when they believe their freedom of religion is trampled, or when they believe their religiously-oriented freedom of speech is curtailed.

Google is fighting the largest government on earth for the right to bring the uncensored internet to a billion Chinese. America spends tens of millions of dollars to bring uncensored information to Iran and North Korea.

There is absolutely no evidence that looking at porn at work is any worse than the other ways people waste time at work. Is it too much to ask that American citizens not be denied information at work just because some frightened, angry people are terrified of everyone’s sexuality?

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Innovative Pharmaceutical Abortions in Iowa—And Hypocritical Resistance

July 1, 2010

If you want to deprive women and men of their right to an abortion, at least be honest about it.

In Iowa, Planned Parenthood offers an innovative service to facilitate private pharmaceutical abortion. Since most Iowans live far from the state’s very few abortion providers, Planned Parenthood is offering telemedicine service. The patient goes to a nurse or other non-provider in her home town, who connects with the physician-provider in a Planned Parenthood office, perhaps 100 or more miles away. The doc asks the usual medical questions, the patient answers, and if she qualifies, the doc OKs the nurse to dispense RU-486. Both the nurse (in person) and the doc (via teleconference) are available for followup.

Predictably, the procedure has its opponents. After all, some Americans are obsessively against abortion, no matter when, where, or how it’s done.

But these opponents—who believe that government should be shrunk smaller and smaller until it can fit under the bedroom door—are claiming they are terribly, terribly concerned about the doctor-patient relationship. They’re concerned that teleconferencing creates “one-size-fits-all” medical care.

These people should be ashamed of their hypocrisy.

Since 1973, people who are against other people’s right to choose abortion have made the procedure increasingly difficult to find or use. Some 90% of all U.S. counties now lack a qualified abortion provider.

Thirty-four states require that a woman undergo pre-abortion “counseling”—which isn’t even required to be accurate (and so women are told about bogus ‘connections’ between abortion and breast cancer or depression). Twenty-four states require a waiting period after that, often more than 24 hours—meaning that most women would have to make two separate trips to a clinic or physician, often 5 or 6 hours away. The latest insult is the requirement, in several states, that women get (and often pay for!) a fetal ultrasound before being granted the privilege of a legal abortion.

Having made abortion hard to find, hard to get, and even more emotionally wrenching than necessary, anti-choice zealots have the nerve to criticize a program that makes abortion easier, safer, more private, and slightly less grotesque and frightening.

In an era when many HMOs require visit after time-consuming visit just for a patient to see a specialist (who may just prescribe medication anyway), telemedicine is a great way for many people to get high-quality medical care.

It’s a great solution to the problems of access, confidentiality, and fear that the Religious Right has created for women who want a medical procedure with which they disagree. At the very least, people who want to disempower 2,000,000 or more American women per year could be honest about what they’re doing—and why.

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Destroying America to Save It

June 4, 2010

A group of California attorneys say they are literally on a mission from God to replace four current judges with themselves. They are running for San Diego Superior Court judge on June 8.

“We believe our country is under assault and needs Christian values,” said candidate Craig Candelore, who believes “God has called upon us to do this.” The campaign is supported by clergymembers, gun enthusiasts, and opponents of reproductive choice and same-gender marriage.

This is simply un-American. It threatens to take us back to the 17th century of the Puritans and the monarchy-centered Europe from which they came.

For most people in the history of the world, no one got to vote on anything. Kings made the laws, local big shots implemented them, and if you didn’t like it, tough luck. “Courts” were local appendages of political and economic power that simply decided how things would be. There were no separate “judges”—the “judge” was either the guy who made the law, or it was a guy appointed by the guy who made the law. If he made a decision the king or lord didn’t like, he’d hang—and he knew it.

So in the Bad Old Days (the Pharoahs, the Dark Ages, Russia today), “judges” knew the outcomes of cases ahead of time, and then looked for ways to justify these decisions. In places like Iran, Turkey, and China today, those justifications include “hooliganism” and “insults to the state.”

Although we tend to take it for granted, the creation of an independent court system, and the separation of judges from lawmakers, is a spectacular innovation that has only been tried on a limited basis in human history. I imagine most people living under this system would say they prefer it to the alternative.

So it’s crucial to have judges who are free to adjudicate the law independent of political concerns. And it’s equally crucial that they be free to do this independent of their own personal interests. Otherwise, what’s the point of the law?

Unfortunately, 33 out of 50 American states now have elections for judges. This doesn’t have to be a disaster—after all, people COULD vote for judicial candidates based on their wisdom, their training, and their demonstrated fairness. But anyone who went to high school knows that that’s NOT how elections work.

Indeed, candidates Candelore, Bill Trask and Larry Kincaid have been rated by the San Diego County Bar Association as “lacking some or all of the qualities of professional ability, experience, competence, integrity, and temperament” needed in judges.

But their platform is not competence. Their platform is the outcome of their judicial decisions—which they are announcing in advance.

I don’t want ANY judges who know the outcome of their cases in advance, even if I would agree with the decisions. I’ve been in countries where people go to “court” knowing the decision has been made before they utter a word of defense. I never, ever felt safe there. Would you?

This is not some abstract issue. Imagine being involved in a custody battle with your ex, knowing your case will be decided by a judge’s notion of your “morality:” “You won’t raise this child Christian? You don’t get to parent him.” Or you’re denied the right to buy a home because you’re an unmarried couple: “This is not a lifestyle the court condones.” We’re talking real lives here, not just theory.

Although imperfect, American law intends to let people do what they want in private. For better or worse, the regulation of sexuality is a key focus of organized Christianity. That means that if elected, these “Christian” judges will make decisions about people’s personal lives in accordance with religious values—not the 200-year-old law that guarantees the right to be left alone in “the pursuit of happiness.”

Candelore admits that he and his religious colleagues want to take over the United States and change its laws: “If we can take our judiciary, we can take our legislature and our executive branch.” This simple declaration should be the only campaign statement his opponents need. Unfortunately, many Christian voters are willing to sacrifice the America they claim to love in order to save it.

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Can Atheists Have a Code of Sexual Morality?

March 29, 2010

Can atheists have a code of sexual morality?

With the publication of recent books about atheism, the simultaneous attempts to blur the separation of church and state promised in our Constitution, and Americans’ unending obsession with matters sexual, the question arises:

Can atheists have a code of sexual morality?

This question is at once hilarious, insulting, pathetic, and revealing. It only makes sense if you believe in two things:
1. Moral thought and behavior are essentially determined by the fear of punishment;
2. The definition of “morality” regarding sex is different than it is for other human endeavors.

And indeed, young children and emotionally under-developed adults do make moral choices based on the fear of punishment. Organized religion relies on and promotes this style of personality organization: “Do the right thing or God will punish you.”

And what is the right thing regarding sex? Every organized religion has highly specific answers to this question. They mostly involve “God doesn’t want you to do sex this way; God strongly prefers you do sex that way.” And if you disagree with God about your sexual expression, see rule #1.

Organized religion typically imagines sexual “morality” as involving limitations. In most cases, the less sex you have the better God likes it; God, apparently, also wants you to limit the number of sexual partners with whom you do the right or wrong sexual acts.

So religiously-oriented people ask, in all sincerity, “if you’re not afraid of being punished for doing the wrong sexual acts, how and why do you keep from doing them? And if you don’t follow God’s rules about which sex acts are allowed and forbidden (as interpreted by a priesthood or sacred commentary), how do you know you’re making moral choices?”

Fascinating.

So here is the adult version of atheist sexual ethics: Do not do unto others as you would not have others do unto you.

(Memo to religious people—does this sound familiar?)

In more contemporary and pragmatic language, atheists operationalize sexual ethics this way:
* Consent
* Honesty
* Responsibility

Of course, implementing this requires some thought. Are both people in a position to consent (consider alcohol, age, the pressure of status differences, etc.)? Does honesty cover not just telling the truth, but also not leaving things out? And do both parties have the knowledge, insight, and self-awareness to be able to take responsibility for their decisions?

Grownup atheists don’t need to fear some metaphysical being in order to prefer doing what’s right—all clear-thinking adults prefer doing what’s right. And grownup atheists don’t need a one-size-fits-all menu of sexual acts. They know that doing only the sexual acts on God’s Preferred List is no guarantee of moral decision-making or ethical behavior. And they have experienced the deep satisfaction of ethical decision-making while rockin’ the house with taboo sexual acts that would make seraphim and cherubim blush.

Is every atheist morally upright? Of course not. Does every atheist follow an honorable code of sexual morality? Definitely not.

But the question—can atheists have a code of sexual morality?—is very much like asking if blacks can really be good parents, or if gays can be expected to keep their hands off their fellow soldiers while showering or sleeping.

Just substitute the word “Baptist” or “Jew” for the word “atheist” to get a sense of how offensive and absurd the question is.

If I’m trapped in a foxhole—or a shower, slumber party, or abandoned farmhouse—give me someone who celebrates the human capacity for understanding and choosing what’s right, rather than someone who needs to be told what’s right, and then chooses it to avoid punishment.

As far as sexual decision-making being different from other kinds of decision-making? That sounds like something made up by people who believe that our sexuality is dangerous, and isn’t really ours, and that our bodies are dirty. If I thought that, I’d also believe that less sex is better than more sex.

No, making choices regarding sex is like making other choices.

Some people want to maximize human respect.

Other people just want to stay out of hell. They’re the ones who trivialize the majesty of sex.

(Note: Thanks to Greta Christina for her years of work in this area, and for supporting me in mine.)

Speaking As Janet Jackson’s Nipple…

February 5, 2010

…I gotta say I’m kinda confused. OK, I’m peeved.

When I think of what you people put me through after the 2004 Superbowl, I shiver—and not in a good way.

That ½-second shot of me during halftime? First, you accused me of ruining not just half-time, but the rest of the game. Then Morality In Media starts a campaign to punish CBS, which the FCC eventually did. For months, congressmembers competed to see who could denounce me the loudest. Eventually this led to the federal government increasing the fines for on-air “indecency” by 1,000%. People even trashed me during the 2004 presidential election.

I proudly remind you that the video of that ½ second was the most downloaded clip in internet history. Guess that shows how much people wanted to be “protected” from a quick glance at me.

Folks, I’ve moved onto other things, so I’ve let it go. To me, Nipplegate is history, I’m still gorgeous, and I entertain people exclusively in private. No complaints from any of them.

But now you have this major fuss about Superbowl ads this weekend, and I just can’t stay quiet. And I’m pissed.

I wasn’t good enough for you so-called decency groups, but a commercial about abortion is? What about that stupid argument you used on me 6 years ago—“I don’t want to have to explain Jackson’s bare nipple to my kid”—what, it’s less complicated to tell a kid what abortion is, and what “choice” and “pro-life mean”? Focus on the Family (the sponsor) is just plain disingenuous here. Or as you non-nipples might say, they’re full of bull.

And then CBS caves to right-wing pressure and rejects an ad for a gay dating site—guys hugging, or kissing, or whatever. Ooooooh, that’s so hard to explain to a kid. Try this: “those guys really care for each other, so they’re being affectionate. That’s what people do when they’re really into each other.” It’s the same approach I told you all to take when I was exposed for a half-second during Superbowl XXXVIII: the truth. “It’s a nipple. All women have them. Heck, men and boys have them too, right Timmy?”

Being comfortable with sex is not a right, and government shouldn’t be protecting people who are uncomfortable with it—any more than it protects people who aren’t comfortable seeing mixed-race couples hold hands, or women broadcasting the news.

Of course, we do have a name for people who are uncomfortable talking with their kids about life. They’re called parents. So my advice for when a nipple or boy-boy kiss is staring you and your kid in the face, and you’re uncomfortable? Parent the kid. Be uncomfortable and parent the kid.

I appreciate the huge amount of attention you gave me six years ago. I like the idea that you thought I was so powerful, although I didn’t like being called nasty names. The only criticism of my ½-second stardom that I really liked was Marty Klein’s.

He complained the lighting wasn’t good enough.

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