Archive for the ‘sex and technology’ Category

Book Review: Vulva 101

January 4, 2012

Today I come to praise vulvas.

Vulvas in general, but especially the hundred and one featured in Hylton Coxwell’s new book. It’s gorgeous. They’re gorgeous.

The coffee table book is elegantly simple: it features 101 Canadian women, age 18-65, showing their vulvas close up in living color. We get the women just as they are. We see hair, we see stubble, we see smooth, bare skin. We see jewelry, tattoos, and even the wisp of a tampon string.

The variety of course, is astounding. For decades, we sex educators have been saying “vulvas are like noses—every woman has one, but each one is different—in size, shape, color.” Indeed, in these extreme close-ups every vulva is a landscape (vulvascape?) all its own: graceful peaks, abrupt valleys, graceful curves, contrasting textures, the random asymmetries of nature.

And the colors! The high-resolution photography yields every possible shade between ebony and bubble-gum: cranberry, wine, claret, maroon, nutmeg, fire engine, mauve, chocolate.

A review of this wonderful book would be incomplete without mention of its predecessors. In 2003 there was Petals (the book, followed in 2006 by the DVD, both of which won a Sexual Intelligence Award). Its black-and-white work was exquisite; the interviews with its models were even more eye-opening.

A decade before that (and, remember, before digital photography) was Femalia. The truly groundbreaking book edited by Joani Blank featured 32 full-page vulvas, all with lips spread. This little (6”x8”) gem has just been reissued, and is a perfect $15 Valentine’s Day gift.

“Vulva 101 is a great resource for anyone who wants to honor the female sex organ,” says educator and artist Betty Dodson. Indeed, our world would be a better place if every girl received a copy from her parents the day of her first period.

In fact, Vulva 101 is a great antidote for any woman considering labiaplasty to “correct” her “unattractive” genitalia. It’s also a great response to activists complaining that today’s porn, which shows primarily shaved or waxed vulva, is subtly training men to desire pre-pubescent girls. In these dozens of bare vulvas, no one could possibly say there’s a little girl among them.

With a tip of the historical hat to both Petals and Femalia, congratulations to Vulva 101. It’s the perfect confluence of art and sex–which makes it a work of political provocation. Both the subject and the provocation deserve celebration.

The book’s website is here.

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Top Moments of Sexual Intelligence, 2011

December 30, 2011

2011 was quite a year for Sexual Intelligence. Some 75 posts were viewed over 125,000 times.

The blog was also honored twice. It was named number 21 of the Top 100 Sexuality Blogs. And the post on the circumcision debate (Self-Hatred As Public Policy) was expanded and reprinted in the book Best Sex Writing 2012, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel and published by Cleis Press.

What do you think of as the year’s most memorable moments of Sexual Intelligence? Here are my choices—some happy, some awful, all important.

5. Mississippi “Personhood” Amendment Fails
4. Stealth Federal Funding for Abstinence Ed
3. Newsweek Conflates Watching Porn, Prostitution, & Trafficking
2. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Ends
1. Teen Pregnancy, Sex Abuse, & Rape Decline in America

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Your Kid Looks At Porn. Now What?

December 23, 2011

I was recently interviewed by internet safety expert Dr. Larry Magid for a piece on kids looking at porn. We had such an interesting conversation I thought I’d write about this myself.

Of course, 700 words can’t possibly cover every aspect of this issue. But let’s begin.

Given the typical danger-oriented media coverage of pornography, it’s easy for parents to feel terribly anxious about this issue. To listen to Newsweek or “morality” groups, you’d think that every American boy is in danger of becoming a porn addict—an obsessive, aggressive loser who hates women, and eventually destroys himself.

So let’s all take a deep breath and calm down.

Here’s what we know: All children are sexual. That means they have sexual feelings and thoughts. Naturally, six-year-olds don’t think about intercourse, and thirteen-year-olds can’t imagine the subtleties of mutual arousal and satisfaction. But every human is born a sexual being. How parents deal with their feelings about their children’s sexuality will shape how they feel about, and what they do about, their kid looking at porn.

So how do you, Mom or Dad, feel about your kid masturbating? That is, after all, why he or she looks at porn more than once or twice. If you can’t handle that, the kid’s use of porn will of course be unacceptable—but beside the point. Whether it’s about kids’ use or adults’ use, too many conversations about whether porn is harmful to users or society is really about the unacceptability of masturbation. If that’s your position, be honest and say “I don’t want my kid masturbating to porn because I don’t want my kid masturbating.”

Even parents who accept the reality that their kids are sexual and masturbate can be concerned about porn. What if it’s violent? What if it encourages values of which I disapprove? What if it’s confusing?

The answer to all three questions is: it might.

The porn your kid watches might be violent—but it probably isn’t. Most porn isn’t—for the simple reason that there’s a limited market for that.

The porn your kid watches might encourage values of which you disapprove—but it probably doesn’t. Most porn shows men and women as partners, wanting pleasure and wanting to give pleasure. Porn isn’t a love story, so if you disapprove of people having sex before marriage, you may object to your kid watching almost any sexual depiction, whether it’s porn or Desperate Housewives.

But if your kid watches porn, he or she might easily get confused: Is that what sex is really like? Is that what most people look like naked? Do strangers really have sex together so easily? Are some people really rough with each other in bed? (This is where you explain that just as kids play games on the ballfield, pretending to be mean or brave when they really aren’t, some adults play games in bed, pretending to be bossy or submissive when they really aren’t.)

Questions like these deserve answers. And if you remember your childhood—before the internet—you know that kids develop questions (and confusion) about sex even without porn. After all, you did.

The response to “my kid’s watching porn, what do I do?” is—you talk about it. You ask lots of gentle questions. Your kid squirms. You explain stuff. You squirm. No one’s comfortable talking about this. You talk anyway. That’s what parents do—they talk about subjects even when they’re uncomfortable.

Just like kids need media literacy, kids need porn literacy. They need to understand that they’re watching actors playing roles, not documentaries. They need to understand that just as Glee and Harry Potter are edited, so are porn films. None of these media products is an accurate portrayal of real life. For example, porn usually omits two crucial parts of sex—the feelings and the talking.

All of this argues for a pre-existing parent-child relationship, doesn’t it? No one wants their first parent-child conversation about sex to be about porn.

So make 2012 the year you raise the subject of sexuality with each of your kids. Both you and they will benefit. And if at some point you need to discuss porn with them, you’ll already be in the middle of a loving, long-term dialogue.

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The Morning After: Screwed By Obama

December 9, 2011

President Obama has joined President Bush in opposing the widest possible access for Emergency Contraception (Plan B). And he’s done it for the two worst possible reasons: emotion and “common sense.”

After years and years of dishonest stalling, the FDA has finally recommended that minors get complete over-the-counter access to Plan B. In a rare move, the HHS Secretary overruled the FDA’s decision. The President says he supports Secretary Sebelius’ decision, “as the father of two young daughters…we [should] apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.”

This is anti-science doubletalk.

During the dark Bush years, the federal government stalled the availability of this miracle drug for adults, which was already being used safely in Europe. The objections have generally coming from the religious community, “decency” crowd, and those who pretend to want a smaller role for government. After they exhaust their morality pitch, they simply lie. They say Plan B is an abortion drug (it isn’t), and that it will promote “promiscuity” because it lowers the perceived cost of reckless sex (data from both Europe and the US show it doesn’t).

The terror of “promiscuity” is the same argument used against the HPV vaccine, legal abortion, condom distribution in schools, contraceptive insurance coverage, and every other public policy measure designed to make sex safer or more enjoyable. This terror deserves sympathy and psychotherapy, not public policy consideration.

Some argue that young teens can’t be trusted to use Plan B properly. That’s undoubtedly true for some of them. But we let them have access to a lot of things in the drug store that they might not use properly: tampons, razor blades, ipecac. And there’s nothing they can do with Plan B that will be as dangerous and life-damaging as carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term, much less getting an illegal abortion.

Every sexually active fertile person, regardless of age, should have Emergency Contraception in their medicine cabinet. It’s for an emergency, get it? At $50 a throw, I don’t imagine a lot of 12-year-olds buying it for a thrill—or by accident.

Mr. President, when you were elected you promised us science and rationality. I don’t want you making public decisions as a father, a husband, a Hawaiian, or a basketball fan. I want science from you and your administration. Save your “common sense” for the dinner table. And if you have any, make sure your kids understand Plan B.

And just to remind you: the most dangerous thing the average 13-year-old does is ride a bike while talking on a cell phone. You might want to talk to Malia about that, too.

Giving Thanks: Teen Pregnancy, Sex Abuse, Rape All Decline

November 24, 2011

Mandatory disclaimer: Sex abuse is gruesome, rape is horrifying, unintended teen pregnancy destroys lives. One single case of any of these is way, way too much.

Now to the science: there’s been a dramatic drop in child sex abuse and rape for several years. And while these two crimes are obviously under-reported, there’s no reason to think they’re more under-reported today than 10 years ago. If anything, the reverse is true.

Teen pregnancy has also decreased dramatically. And although teen marriage is far more common in some American subcultures than others, the decline in teen pregnancy has occurred in every kind of group—racial, ethnic, income, educational.

Nevertheless, the media, fundraising appeals, politicians, and conservative (and some feminist) doomsayers cry endlessly of dysfunctional epidemics, of out of control behavior, and of our country’s very fabric being destroyed by sexual violence and compulsivity.

(Pornography is often cited as the “cause” of these non-existent epidemics. Claims that these social pathologies are getting worse are then used as proof that pornography is dangerous and must be controlled or eliminated. But let’s not digress.)

So since it’s Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks. There’s little enough to cheer about in our battered republic these days, and this is legitimately good news, fantastic news.

And while giving thanks, let’s note:
1. America should be cheering the apparent success of various programs that tackled these three problems. Increased awareness, empowerment of the less powerful, and other interventions may actually be working. Those working with children are subject to more background checks; women are more assertive about their boundaries; teens are using more contraception, starting sex later, and having fewer partners.

Instead of talking about how nothing works and problems keep getting worse, let’s build “things can and do change” into our national story. And let’s demand that more resources go toward maintaining those changes, possibly helping people rather than giving in to our culture-wide despair.

2. We should be very curious about why so many people are claiming that things are getting worse and worse when the data shows that they’re getting better. This phenomenon is killing our country, and we should examine it as carefully as drunk driving, cancer clusters, high school dropout rates, and similar dangerous trends.

3. Why are we so eager to embrace the demonstrably false myths about socio-sexual pathologies getting worse and worse? Why do we resist the good news about a drop in sexual violence or childhood exploitation?

Sexuality seems to be a magnet for this kind of mass delusion. Look, for example, at teen sexting. As online safety expert Dr. Larry Magid says, there’s an epidemic of good decision-making about sexting—practically no kids do it. “It’s important to acknowledge that NOT sexting is “normal,” he says. Otherwise, we’re practically begging kids to join the “everyone’s doing it” mentality, turning a false perception into an accurate one.

An article like this inevitably receives a flood of hate mail, angry that I “don’t take these problems seriously.” To which I sigh, “please see this post’s first and last sentence.” But the question is, why must taking a problem seriously require either cooking or ignoring the facts? Why is cheering the improvement of a problem perceived as trivializing it?

We who care about social problems like sexual assault and sexual abuse should be working overtime figuring out exactly how these decreases occurred, so we can promote and enhance them (they may actually have little to do with programs or interventions). And we should be studying what perversity in human (or American) nature makes people insist that things are worse than they are, ignoring documentation of the very changes our hearts desire.

And now I’ll repeat sentence number one: Any amount of sexual violence or teen pregnancy is a bad amount. But some bad amounts are bigger—i.e., worse—than others. Exaggerating how terrible things are in order to generate attention or create more funding (or to prove piety—that one really, really cares) isn’t just bad policy. It’s immoral.

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The Pleasures of Sexual Science

November 10, 2011

Last week I had the honor of addressing the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. Everyone was very nice to me, and my talk was received enthusiastically.

But that wasn’t nearly the best part. For four days I got to listen to the country’s best sexual scientists. It was a festival of fact, tested hypotheses, and replicated data—actual information.

Leslie Kantor discussed sex education outcomes, demonstrating that scare tactics do not motivate young people, that accurate information is not dangerous, and that parents can shape their kids’ sexual behavior—if they’ll talk to them.

William Fisher dissected common government strategies for fighting HIV/AIDS–and showed why most common approaches are wrong if we want to minimize the spread of the disease.

Debbie Herbenick talked about why promoting sexual satisfaction is an important part of getting people to make responsible sexual decisions. She also showed that policy-makers underestimate men’s willingness to use condoms.

Mickey Diamond presented his long-term study on how children develop a sense of gender—and what happens when physicians or parents ignore this.

There was plenty of other science to go around, with data on the effects of pornography in real life (quite small), the dynamics of sex offending (very low recidivism), the most effective ways to teach medical students about sex, the impact of social media on sexual decision-making, and so on. Even former Surgeon General David Satcher gave a talk.

While sexual scientists were examining the fine points of sample size and research design, Republicans wanting to run for President were running away from science as fast as they could.

Rick Perry dismissed evolution as “just a theory” with “some gaps in it.” He also dismisses climate science as a “contrived phony mess that is falling apart.”

Newt Gingrich, a brilliant, well-educated man who surely says different in private, calls himself “agnostic” on the question of climate change: “I actually don’t know whether global warming is occurring.”

Mitt Romney, who would gladly say Rhode Island is bigger than Texas if he thought it could help him get elected, now says he’s “unsure” about climate change.

Michelle Bachmann—who makes Sarah Palin look moderate, intelligent, warm, and conciliatory—has never met a scientific fact she couldn’t ignore or disagree with. On the “Today” show, she attacked vaccination. In speeches, she calls Emergency Contraception “the abortion pill,” even though a pregnant woman taking EC continues to be pregnant.

Gravity? Unfortunately, these candidates are not being asked if they believe in it. I’d love to hear them either deny that it’s real, or actually say the words “yes, I acknowledge the science.”

Of course, this is a country in which more people believe in the Rapture than in Evolution. Half of today’s Americans are like cavemen confronting fire for the first time—pointing at it with a combination of fear, wonder, and rage.

It all helps explain why sexual scientists spend so much time talking to each other, getting so little time to speak with policy-makers, bureaucrats, and elected officials. Maybe after the Rapture takes all the anti-intellectuals, it will be easier for the voices of scientists to be heard.

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Mississippi Personhood Amendment Fails

November 9, 2011

People in the state of Mississippi just spent a few cool millions of dollars arguing about how many fetuses can writhe on the head of a pin. That is, they just voted on a ballot measure that would decide the simple question of when life begins. How many textbooks, hepatitis shots, firefighter salaries, and fresh vegetables would that money buy? Well, who cares about that when you can invest in shackling some stranger whose pregnancy you’ve made your business?

And “when life begins”! Only in America, where “democracy” is the pitiful excuse for mobs, religious zealots, the powerful, and the terrified to enforce their morality on others, would adults actually get to vote on the mysteries of the universe. And only in America would people think they deserve to vote on such a thing.

The internet and “interactive news” (now there’s a modern abomination—let’s vote on the news) have pushed this trend to the point where people feel deprived if they don’t get to comment on everything that interests them. Michael Jackson’s doctor gets convicted of manslaughter, and instead of a serious conversation about medical ethics or family responsibility, newspaper (and blog) readers are invited to “vote” on the verdict—right or wrong? It’s yet another exercise in fact-free self-expression. Where do I click for “How the hell do I know?”

The Mississippi ballot measure conferring personhood on a tiny random blip of carbon is not, of course, about sponsors’ awe of biochemistry; rather, it’s a cynical ploy to outlaw other people’s abortions (and much of their birth control). After all, even though every Mississippian with a heartbeat can own a gun, these people revere “life”—i.e., the ability to control what you do with yours.

Fortunately, the measure failed (although over 40% of voters approved it. Maybe Secession wasn’t such a bad idea). Similar campaigns, however, will be pursued next year in at least six other states. These ignorant, flag-waving “patriots” don’t understand the first thing about “democracy:” it isn’t three wolves and a lamb voting on who’s for dinner.

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Fourteen Ways to Observe Pornography Awareness Week

November 1, 2011

Coinciding with the horrors of Halloween, this is Pornography Awareness Week.

Sponsored by groups including Concerned Women for America (CWA) and Morality in Media (MiM), the goal of the week is “to educate the public about the extent of the pornography problem and what can constitutionally be done about it.” These are powerful groups lobbying Washington and state capitols to adapt Biblical principles for governing, and to weaken what they label the “so-called separation between church and state.”

Their suggested activities for the Week include urging the Attorney General to enforce obscenity laws; demanding that convenience stores stop selling X-rated mags or DVDs; and pressuring presidential candidates to promise to prosecute “illegal pornography.”

They also pledge to “raise awareness” of how pornography harms every single person in every single community. In other words, their goal is to lie, cheat, misinform, frighten, confuse, and manipulate. So far they’re doing a great job.

One strategy is the White Ribbons Against Pornography (WRAP)—literally wearing white ribbons to invite conversation about pornography. (They presumably considered but discarded the White Garter Belt Campaign.)

I totally agree with the idea behind WRAP. I support increasing everyone’s awareness of pornography use in this country: how many people watch it, who these people typically are, how it affects them and their relationships, how pornographers work hard to screen out underage performers, what Americans’ rights are regarding possession of erotic material, etc.

Of course, I have a fact-based approach to this phenomenon rather than WRAP’s emotional, say-anything-to-get-people-to-stop approach, so I propose a different set of activities to observe Pornography Awareness Week.

To counter the obscene lies that our media and legislators will be hearing this week, perhaps you could do one (or more!) of the following:

* If you use porn, talk about it with your partner.

* Thank the clerk in your local convenience store for carrying porn magazines or DVDs.

* Thank your local hotel for carrying pay-for-porn, even if you personally have never stayed there. Alternatively, write to a national chain that carries pay-for-porn (and has been bullied about it by groups like Citizens for Community Values), such as Marriott or Westin.

* Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper explaining that most people who use porn have no problem with it.

* Write about this on your own blog. Tweet about it: “I use porn and my sex life is fine,” or “I use porn and my sex life isn’t very good—but it has nothing to do with porn.”

* Invite your partner to share her/his concerns about porn with you.

* Instead of a White Ribbon, wear a Plaid Ribbon. When people ask, say it’s for Porn Awareness Week and your gratitude for the First Amendment.

* Start a conversation with someone: “Did you know that the Bill of Rights says NOTHING about exempting porn, obscenity, or indecency from our Freedom of Speech?

* Send a few bucks to the ACLU, National Coalition Against Censorship or Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance. They protect your right to read, watch, and jack off to whatever adult material you like.

* Write your mayor or governor reminding them that you vote–and that you have no problem with porn.

* Memorize this fact: in the real world, porn is NOT connected with violence against women, child molestation, or divorce. In fact, the FBI says these have all declined since the country was flooded with internet porn in 2000.

* Memorize this fact: the adult industry NEVER knowingly creates or distributes child porn. They’re smart business people, not clueless idiots. The government has only identified two underage performers in professional films—both of whom produced sophisticated false identification—in over twenty-five years.

* Memorize this fact: using porn does NOT cause brain damage, erectile dysfunction, or loss of sexual interest in one’s mate. Other things do that, but not porn.

* Use some.

Bonus: What to say to people who say that pornography causes most of America’s problems:

* “Of course some rapists and wife-beaters use pornography. So do 50,000,000 other Americans, and it doesn’t make them rape or beat anyone.”
* “Of course some people watch way too much porn. Other people watch way too much football, reality TV, or the Weather Channel. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with any of them.”
* “Porn doesn’t make men withdraw from their wives and girlfriends. Men withdraw for a variety of reasons. No pictures or stories can compete with a satisfying sexual & emotional relationship with a live person.”

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World Contraception Day Comes and Goes

September 27, 2011

Today was World Contraception Day. Sponsored by organizations from most parts of the globe, its goal is straightforward: to create a world in which every pregnancy is wanted.

So simple. So life-affirming and life-enhancing. Such a dramatic, proven program for reducing poverty and domestic violence. Who could be against such a thing?

Unfortunately, way too many people:

* Religious adherents who think their god is against it;
* People who don’t want women to have more power in their relationships, families, and lives;
* People who see children as a source of family labor or national wealth;
* People so obsessed with abortion that contraception has become controversial;
* And some American presidential hopefuls.

That’s right: some Americans are actually considering whether to elect a President who opposes contraception. Kinda makes you yearn for the progressive days of, say, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Yes, familiar names who are against reproductive rights aren’t just against abortion. They’re against birth control. One example is Michelle Bachmann, who recently trashed Obama’s health-insurance bill by referring to “contraception and the so-called morning-after pill, which some researchers say are abortion-inducing drugs.”

“Some researchers say” is a handy rhetorical device that allows a speaker to lie without having to take any responsibility. Concluded Bachmann, so “people who have a moral issue about supporting abortion and paying for other people’s abortions will be forced to do so…”

Presidential hopeful Rick Perry one-upped Bachmann’s rhetoric with his recent actions as Governor. Together with the Texas legislature, he cut funding for family planning clinics by two-thirds. Asked if this was part of a “war on birth control,” state Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Nacogdoches) said “Of course this is a war on birth control and abortions and everything—that’s what family planning is supposed to be about.”

Civic groups, decency groups, religious groups, and just plain screwball groups are all out there, fighting against contraception—again, not abortion, contraception. One well-funded organization is the American Life League, which supports state legislatures in criminalizing birth control pills.

The believe that “separating lovemaking from procreation” leads to a couple’s, and a nation’s, death. A recent honored speaker repeatedly made the bizarre claim that “Contraception feeds the abortion industry.”

Websites like thepillkills proudly distribute lies about the effects of various forms of contraception. With a public whose scientific literacy is in tatters, readers of such sites are easily misled and inflamed. For them, the tea party awaits to channel their anger, fear, and alienation.

Fundamentalist religious groups have been challenging the scientific advances of contraception for a century. Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, and evangelical Protestants use eerily similar words to describe their opposition to family planning for not only themselves, but for all members of their tribe—and yours. It’s one more way in which fundamentalists of various religions are more like each other than they are like the moderates of their own faith.

In America, the massively destructive expansion of homeschooling has been a godsend to evangelicals, whose children are virtually untouched by secular culture. Sexuality, gender roles, and the Satanic intentions of contraception are central issues to sects like Quiverfull or the United Apostolic Brethren, whose adherents routinely have 10 children per family. Only last month such a fundamentalist couple with 9 kids spanked their 7-year-old to death, persuaded they were divinely instructed.

The choice to bear a child is without question the single most dramatic action most humans ever take. To believe that humans should take no responsibility for this “decision” is reprehensible and immoral, whether the belief comes from interpreting the Bible or channeling Napoleon. There’s nothing quite so disgustingly disingenuous as a Catholic or other pious couple claiming their “religion” forbids contraception—while they tolerate divorce, premarital sex, or women working outside the home. How convenient to treat religious dogma as a bunch of suggestions on Monday, and rigid guidelines on Tuesday.

Of course, if religious people taught their children to masturbate, and supported each couple in enjoying various forms of non-fertile sexual expression, their impact on society would be less damaging. Instead, people who oppose contraception refuse to teach their kids about it—who predictably still have sex like their peers, but without doing it safely. Why anti-contraception parents can’t see that they’re increasing their kids’ chances of unplanned pregnancy is a mystery for the ages.

While hosting his 1960s quiz show, Groucho Marx famously interviewed a woman with a dozen kids. “That’s a lot of children,” he said. “Well, my husband and I love each other very much,” replied the woman.

“I love my cigar, too,” said Groucho. “But periodically I take it out.”

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Morality in Media Admits They Lack Facts, So They Lie About Porn

September 4, 2011

The lobbying group Morality In Media wants to eliminate adult pornography. But they have a problem: adult pornography is one of the most successful consumer products on earth, and it is generally protected by the Constitution.

So MiM has resorted to a desperate measure—repeatedly connecting adult pornography to a reviled product (child porn) and a reviled behavior (child molestation). Of course there is no evidence linking adult porn with either of those things, but MiM has never let facts stand in the way of their Big Lie.

In their latest press release, they admit that they have no evidence of this connection—and, incredibly, they demand that the government find one: “No researcher has yet published a study that uses empirical science to validate the [alleged] link between adult and child pornography…the U.S. Department of Justice doles out hundreds of millions of dollars for crime research, ostensibly to discover ways to make us safer. The link between adult and child pornography should now be a top target of research.”

Clearly, anyone documenting this link would get the Religious Right equivalent of the Nobel Prize and MacArthur “genius grant.” If that link hasn’t been established yet, it can’t possibly be for lack of trying. If anyone could show it, they would. Social scientists have all the necessary research tools; if it hasn’t been credibly shown by now, it won’t be.

Having admitted that the link doesn’t exist, MiM blithely goes on to repeat its Big Lie over and over:

Viewing adult porn –> viewing child porn –> molesting children.

Therefore, says MiM, “the U.S. Department of Justice must change course and begin vigorously to enforce adult as well as child pornography laws.” The “therefore,” of course, is based on enthusiasm and lying, rather than any documented facts.

In last week’s press release, MiM continues its familiar lies:

* “The predatory pornography industry targets children with their teaser material.”
Nonsense: the industry wouldn’t waste money on consumers who have no money to spend on its products. And the industry doesn’t want the attention that would come with such stupid commercial behavior.

* “Federal laws prohibit distribution of hard-core adult pornography (called obscenity in law).”
Adult pornography is NOT legally “obscene”—unless a jury decides that a particular indicted production meets very special criteria. MiM bemoans the fact that this hardly ever happens.

* “The average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography is 11.”
This 12-year-old claim was debunked by Forbes Magazine five years ago, yet “decency” groups still use it. No one has ever documented this nonsense, and for starters, you’d have to publicly define “pornography” (which to some people includes sex education books, “sexting” by childhood peers, and mainstream magazines like French Vogue).

* “There is evidence that the rise in child-on-child sexual abuse appears to flow from consumption of Internet pornography.”
The “evidence” MiM cites is speculation by Australian officials who define such “abuse” to include “explicit swearing,” “inappropriate rubbing,” and “reports of sexual behavior among children.” Psychologists across America and the U.S. call this behavior normal.

So how does adult pornography supposedly pose a danger for kids?

MiM cites the usual freaky comments: ten years ago, an official of a Bangkok NGO said that “Men with perfectly normal sexual proclivities become seduced, then involved, and finally addicted to child pornography…the addiction leads many men into seeking out children to abuse.” Three years ago a Spanish “expert” (no credentials listed) offered the dubious “the majority of pedophiles develop the tendency later on…[after] looking for pornography on the web as their stimulation threshold rises, they feel the need for stronger and stronger material until their search leads them to child pornography.”

These officials and others citing their “observations” apparently have no clue about developmental issues in pedophilia or child porn consumption. Neither results from boredom with adult pornography. What could lead YOU to masturbate looking at photos of a four-year-old? What could make YOU desire sex with a four-year-old? “Boredom?” “Saturation?” “Needing stronger material?” That just defies logic.

MiM’s latest ends with this demand: “Candidates for president must pledge to protect our children from pornography, and that means committing to the vigorous prosecution of illegal adult pornography as well as child pornography.”

If anything, we need a president who understands the difference between adult pornography and child pornography. The first is legal, the second illegal; the first shows consenting adults doing things most American adults do, or wish to do (ask any marriage counselor); the second portrays activities that interest very few people, and is often the record of a crime.

We need a President who knows simple arithmetic: with adult pornography consumed by some 40 million adults each month, the overwhelming majority of them obviously do not commit sex crimes, do not consume child porn, and do not abuse children. In fact, those 40 million adults are similar to the American population that doesn’t use pornography—similar in levels of religiosity, income, marriage & divorce, and, for better or worse, in the way they vote.

If MiM really wants to protect children, rather than simply promoting itself through fear-mongering, it can champion comprehensive sex education—to help young people make good sexual decisions, including protecting themselves from those who want to exploit them. And it can acknowledge childhood sexuality, so ignorant people will stop seeing kids’ sexual experimentation as “abuse” that requires an explanation—inevitably focused on pathology.

Oh, and they can model an important value for our young people: you shouldn’t lie.
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