America’s War On Sex: Second Edition?

You may have read my most recent book, America’s War On Sex. It’s won a couple of awards, and I’ve lectured on the subject in dozens of cities. I’m pretty proud of it.

The publisher (Praeger) has asked me about doing a second edition—updating it and perhaps adding other material. In some ways, it would be more complicated than just writing a whole new book. So I’ve been thinking about how to do it.

How’s the War on Sex been going since the book was published? My initial answer is: “mixed.” Here’s the initial scorecard for the four years since the book was published.

Sex Education
* Good news The Obama federal budget cut much of the $100 million annual funding for abstinence-only programs. It allocated $100 million for “teenage pregnancy prevention” —limited to programs showing evidence of success. That eliminates, of course, virtually all “abstinence-only” curricula.
* Bad news: Church groups and national groups like Focus on the Family have picked up the slack, with events like Purity Balls, Chastity Balls, and Silver Ring Thing.
* Bad news: State governments are still funding “abstinence-only” programs that have already failed hundreds of thousands of kids.

Reproductive Rights
* Good news: Contraception is still legal for every American.
* Bad news: It’s pathetic that a modern country actually has to celebrate that.
* Good news: Emergency contraception is available without a prescription if you’re over 18.
* Bad news: Some pharmacists still refuse to dispense emergency contraception. Their lobby has gotten larger, stronger, and richer.
* Bad news: Abortions are getting harder to find in the U.S.; 87% of U.S. counties have no abortion provider.
* Bad news: Congressmembers like Michelle Bachman propose to defund Planned Parenthood.

Broadcast Indecency
* Good news: A federal court overturns the FCC’s half-million-dollar fine for CBS broadcasting a half-second of Janet Jackson’s nipple during the 2004 Superbowl.
* Good news: Cable TV features programs like The Daily Show and movies like Body Heat whose language and images are not censored like broadcast TV.
* Good news: Nighttime network TV shows feature characters in hospitals and police cars who actually use expressions like “pissed off” and “D bag.”
* Bad news: Groups like Morality in Media and Parents Television Council have a voice at the corporate and federal public policy table, armed with little more than money and a demand for “responsible” programming.

Adult Entertainment
* Good news: Craigslist and other internet sites allow middle-class consumers to find commercial sex more easily than ever.
* Bad news: An increasing number of cities and counties are successfully banning strip clubs, swing clubs, and adult bookstores without having to prove any actual negative effects of these establishments.

The Internet
Good news: U.S. courts continue to overturn state attempts to censor the internet. (I’m proud to have been a defendant in a few of these cases.)
* Bad news: The number of universities, public agencies, companies, and other institutions that censor the internet (including this blog) is increasing.
* Good news: Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society issues report, endorsed by 49 state attorneys general, that “bullying and harassment, most often by peers, are the most frequent threats that minors face online”—not sexual predators.
* Bad news: The media, Congress, religious groups, and others perpetuate the lie that the internet is terribly dangerous for young people.
* Bad news: Young people are being prosecuted as sex offenders and child pornographers for “sexting”—sending nude or sexual pictures of themselves to each other.

Pornography
* Good news: Free adult porn is still easily available.
* Good news: The rate of violent crime, sexual assault, divorce, and suicide continue to decline—despite predictions that porn would increase each one.
* Bad news: Lies about the social effects of pornography consumption are still popular, repeated in the media, and form the basis for continued Congressional and judicial concern.
* Bad news: A new “porn addiction” industry has emerged, backed by plenty of fear, anger, & shame, no science, and no outcome data.

Sexual Privacy & Minorities
* Good news: Same-gender marriage is legal in 6 states.
* Good news: The military is in the process of allowing gay men and women to serve alongside straight soldiers.
* Good news: There are over 800 Gay-Straight Alliances in California high schools alone. With a substantial minority of straight students, there’s even a national organization providing technical and other support to new clubs across the country.
* Bad news: 44 states still bar same-gender marriage—twice as many as the number of states that ban marriage between first cousins.
* Bad news: Involvement in an “alternative sexual lifestyle” (non-monogamy, S/M, etc.) can still be used as evidence to deny someone custody in a divorce settlement.

…Meanwhile, Americans continue to be more experimental in their bedrooms each year. Almost all Americans have had sexual experience before they marry. And Americans continue to go to church at a higher rate than any other modern country.

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