Archive for the ‘obscenity’ Category

Parents Television Council REALLY Loves the Sin

August 17, 2012

For years, I’ve been saying that the PTC website is a valuable tool for pre-teens looking for raunchy TV. PTC helpfully charts the upcoming week’s TV shows with special tags warning (or guiding) viewers about where they can find “gratuitous sex,” (what about artistically necessary sex?) “explicit dialogue” (Hey Mabel, how about some gratuitous sex?), and “obscene language” (words that no one ever hears at home, like “bitch”).

And of course, “violence” (wanting to shrink the government smaller and smaller until its only function is censoring speech).

This week, PTC helpfully let me know that Comedy Central had scheduled a roast of Roseanne Barr, featuring “unbelievably graphic sex talk.” To help me decide whether or not I wanted to watch it, they actually ran a very brief transcript of it. In fact, they even added a 45-second clip—filled with the expletives that they don’t want you to have the privilege of watching on your TV.

A few samples:

Amy Schumer: “Roseanne bought a nut farm, which is also the nickname for Ellen Barkin’s mouth at an audition.”

Jeff Ross: “Roseanne was molested as a child. That poor molester.”

Roseanne: “Gilbert Gottfried. You know the difference between Gilbert’s voice and a sandpaper dildo? After 20 minutes, you might start enjoying the dildo.”

True, not exactly “Who’s on First” or The Soup Nazi or Woody Allen’s finest. Steve Martin won’t lose any sleep over the competition.

But the whole PTC thing is so transparently juvenile: laying out in meticulous detail something so awful that we should all avoid it—after we enjoy it. The Roast is self-consciously stupid, and because it doesn’t take itself seriously, we can laugh at it. But the PTC is unintentionally stupid, and takes itself ultra-seriously, so we can’t laugh at it. We shouldn’t laugh at it. It’s too dangerous.

The PTC are the people who also said the Republic would fall when children saw Janet Jackson’s nipple for a half-second. They warned the Republic would fall when Cher said “fuck ’em” on an awards show (actually, Cher getting a singing award at this point may, in fact, signal the upcoming end of civilization as we know it).

What PTC doesn’t get is that censorship threatens our way of life far more than any sexual words or pictures. Bill O’Reilly said it all when he claimed that “the word uterus destroys children’s innocence.” He’s superstitious, fearing magic syllables the way our ancestors feared witches. What he doesn’t fear is limiting others’ self-expression and creativity, or his own exposure to ideas other than his own.

The PTC takes its mission of scrubbing the airwaves so seriously that it doesn’t realize that scrubbing the airwaves is a dangerous mission. They’re willing to burn down the house to roast the pig. Reducing TV to what’s fit for (ignorant) children—that’s like, as Mark Twain said, “saying a man can’t have a steak because a baby can’t chew it.”

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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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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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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Deep In the Valley: Going to a Porn Shoot

August 29, 2011

I’ve been on movie sets and I’ve been on network TV, but in all these years I’d never watched a porn film being made.

So last week while I was in L.A., I finally accepted an invitation. After lunch I drove out to the San Fernando Valley, parked in a neighborhood of modest homes and small warehouses, and walked into the studio of Brash Films. I spent about two hours there, watching and occasionally chatting. Everyone involved made me feel welcome.

The most interesting thing I have to say about it all is—nothing.

But maybe not for the reasons you think.

* * *

Sooner or later, watching the same people having sex is repetitive and boring—unless, of course, you’re adding to it via fantasy, imagination, arousal, and voyeurism. I didn’t do much of that, because I was there working (yeah, I know—nice gig). So yes, watching the shoot did reduce the sex (along with the filming itself) to a technical craft. She used her left hand when the camera needed it, even though she’s right-handed. He stopped right in the middle of licking her when some sweat dripped into a bowl of fruit.

Some people condemn how watching porn at home supposedly does the same thing—it reduces sex to “mechanics.” But the critical difference between watching a film being made and watching it at home is what the consumer brings to the experience. And that transforms the “mechanics” into something stimulating.

Those who say that watching porn reduces sex to mechanics aren’t adding anything to the film. Nothing positive, that’s for sure.

This is the same dynamic when consuming any media—whether it’s Seinfeld, or Guernica, or Star Wars. In fact, both Bach and the Beatles are just noise unless the listener adds something to them. Ever listen to Chinese music and think “This isn’t music”? I went to China last spring, and sure enough, their tunes sounded like noise—because I didn’t know what to add to the sound to turn it into what I recognize as “music.” The Chinese architecture looked like art to me, because I was able to add something to it. But I couldn’t make the Chinese music sound like “music,” so it sounded like noise. The same is true with Coltrane or Miles Davis, if you’re not conversant with their hum.

What I brought to the porn shoot was nothing. And because of the situation, I was perfectly willing to have a bland, non-erotic experience.

What a consumer brings to a porn film is imagination, privacy, a little time, maybe lube or a toy. And that gives the images meaning—erotic meaning. When anti-porn crusaders take the same film and add fear, anger, and a sense of helplessness, they also give the images meaning—but distinctly un-sexy ones (such as “exploitation” and “immorality”). So:

Porn + nothing = neutral meaning
Porn + privacy + time + imagination = positive meaning
Porn + fear, loneliness + anger = negative meaning

* * *

In all, it was just like being on any other movie set: a bunch of people wearing t-shirts and shorts (except for Her, Him, and Him), intensely concentrating and cooperating for short bursts of time—and then stopping to adjust a light, mop a brow, snip a loose thread, or find the damn beeping that only the sound guy can hear. Then another burst, maybe stopping when a scene is completed. Or when an actress really needs to pee.

Of course, the focus was on the people having sex. Her underwear was gorgeous, and she had exactly the body it was designed for. The guys had abs and muscles on top of their abs and muscles, and pretty fair penises, too. But what I admired most about all the bodies was their backs. You gotta have a strong back to thrust and thrust and keep thrusting. You gotta have a strong back to twist around and service a guy at each end, changing positions without missing a beat.

I imagined what these people do in their spare time—a little bit of sex, and a lot of time at the gym.

* * *

I wasn’t there on a political mission—in fact, I had no agenda at all except to just be open to whatever happened. But I finally couldn’t help asking myself—what exactly is the problem here? Crew, actors, actress: they’re all adults, they’re all getting paid, they all know exactly what they’re doing. No one’s exploited, no one’s been tricked into thinking they’re making Art. They know they’re not working with Pixar or Spielberg, Natalie Portman or the Coen Brothers. And they’re also not working the graveyard shift at 7-Eleven.

They’re making a living. Like most working stiffs, they’re not brilliant, they’re good enough.

I saw a few orgasms (perhaps), spoke with a couple of tech people, and thanked the director. Several people on break thanked me for coming. I gave them a copy of my book America’s War On Sex, which they admired.

They have their craft, I have mine. Different in some ways, not so different in others.

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National Security? Protecting Kids? Porn Takes the Rap Again

August 4, 2011

Say you were the U.S. government and you wanted a record of every moment that every American was on the internet: every search, every transaction, every click. Of every American. And just for laughs, you also wanted every credit card number and bank account number an American used on the internet.

What would you call such a law?

* The No More Internet Privacy bill
* The 1984 Really Is Here Big Brother bill
* The Trust Your Government With Your Privacy bill

No, those wouldn’t be very attractive with voters, would they. So instead, the House Judiciary Committee has just passed the Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011.

The bill would require your ISP to maintain a record of your internet activity for a year. Not because you’ve done anything wrong, but because you might. If that strikes you as, well, exactly the kind of government reasoning that made the Soviet Union such a successful and stress-free place, you’re right.

And if you’re wondering what that has to do with protecting children, get in line.

“The bill is mislabeled,” said Committee member Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). “This is not protecting children from Internet pornography. It’s creating a database of everybody in this country for a lot of other purposes.” Indeed, the information wouldn’t be available only to the government. It could, for example, be subpoenaed by attorneys litigating civil disputes in divorce, insurance fraud, and other cases.

The Republican majority that fast-tracked this bill through the Committee seems to have forgotten that looking at internet pornography is legal. You should feel insulted that one of your hobbies has been tarnished in a pathetic attempt to get popular support for a bill that strips every American naked.

“Every piece of prematurely discarded information could be the footprint of a child predator,” said Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-TX, who cosponsored the bill with pseudo-liberal Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-FL. “This bill ensures that the online footprints of predators are not erased.” The key word there is could. Lamar, how about you start submitting a minute-by-minute log of your driving activity for review by the government—-which will hang on to it for a year or two? After all, your car could be used by a child predator.

Some three dozen civil liberties and consumer advocacy organizations oppose this warrantless invasion of privacy, this dangerous expansion of government surveillance, this continued drumbeat of our children’s vulnerability. To oppose this bill, use the Electronic Freedom Foundation’s
handy form.

The bill is repulsive for its frontal attack on a basic American right-—the right of innocent people to be left alone, unsuspected and unmonitored.

It’s also noteworthy in the way that it uses fear of sexuality (not fear of death, or of poverty, but of sexuality) as a way of distracting and disarming people from the blatant power grab. That’s why sexual literacy helps safeguard American democracy. Reducing the fear of sex, and the perception that sex is dangerous, eliminates a key excuse American leaders currently use to undermine democracy, limit our rights, and impose a unitary vision of American society on all of us. That vision limits reproductive rights, adult entertainment, unfiltered internet access, and the use of sexually explicit material, to name just a few of its elements.

Just as racial myths (Blacks are criminals, Black men are after White women) were a key element in institutionalized racism, myths about the dangers of sexuality—-and the resulting necessity of controlling it at all costs-—are a key element in reducing Americans’ freedom of expression and thought.

The demonization of sexuality is not a trivial matter, and tolerating it is a luxury that no freedom-loving American can afford.

In opposing the bill, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) proposed renaming the bill the “Keep Every American’s Digital Data for Submission to the Federal Government Without a Warrant Act of 2011.”

That also failed. The government insists it wants to monitor you to protect your kids from porn.

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Dishonest, Damaging, Disgusting: Newsweek Calls YOU “The John Next Door”

July 24, 2011

If you’ve never paid a prostitute for sex, you may be surprised to read that Newsweek refers to you as “the John next door”—a “man who buys sex.” You should definitely check out this dishonest article about some misleading research.

For her study, self-described sex work “abolitionist,” enemy-of-porn (and often-arrested) Melissa Farley interviewed 201 men, attempting to show the contrasting traits of men who “buy sex” and those who don’t. But her categories are defined in ways that skew the results–in ways that support her ideological agenda.

The “sex buyers” are defined as men who “have bought” sex from a prostitute, escort, massage parlor or sex worker (even once, a jillion years ago), or anyone who has exchanged “something of value” for a sex act (which covers almost anyone who has ever dated as an adolescent or young adult). Thus, this category is pretty weak.

More importantly, the “non-sex buyers” aren’t simply men who haven’t bought sex, as Farley defines it above. Rather, to qualify for this category, a man ALSO has to “not have purchased phone sex,” not gone to a strip club more than once in the past year, not have bought a lap dance, and not have used pornography more than once in the past week. Farley notes that even this last criterion alone—what she calls “infrequent porn use”—narrows her category substantially.

So Farley isn’t comparing men who “buy sex” with men who don’t “buy sex.” Instead, she’s comparing men who “buy sex” (or perhaps have dated extensively in the real world) with men who are far less interested in virtually all aspects of sexual entertainment, and in some cases presumably masturbation as well (as reflected in their “infrequent” or non-use of porn).

Not surprisingly, Farley finds that men who are less involved in all aspects of sexual entertainment, less interested in porn, and in some cases presumably masturbate less are less likely to view women sexually, are less likely to have many sex partners, less likely to have sexual conflict with women, etc.. It’s the equivalent of finding that people who go to church are more likely to believe in God than people who don’t go to church.

With all the sociologists and sexologists in America, the article doesn’t quote a single one. Somehow, the only people qualified to speak about the reality and impact of prostitution are those devoting their lives to ending it. How’s that for “fair and balanced?” Newsweek calls this “news of current research.” I call it demeaning propaganda.

So the four-page article focuses on a single study contrasting men who have bought or bartered for sex with men who rarely or never use sexual entertainment, including pornography. The study concludes that men who “buy sex” are violent criminals who dehumanize women, view them with anger and contempt, and relish their ability to hurt them. This will come as a surprise if you or your mate look at porn or go to strip club. Are you or your mate really Jack The Ripper?

Newsweek’s article is their latest contribution to America’s feverish Sex Panic. Want more proof? After damning all legal forms of adult sexual entertainment, including the single most common form of sexual expression—porn use—the article brings in the heavy guns: the dreaded “Sex Trafficking.” Yes, an article that starts out bemoaning America’s level of prostitution use, and the vicious sadistic mentality of the average customer, then moves on to “sex trafficking.” From there it’s just a tiny step to “underage sex trafficking.”

Everyone agrees that there are no reliable figures on how bad “sex trafficking” is in the U.S. (which itself is a clue to its rarity), so activists simply make them up. The most commonly cited figure is “100,000 to 300,000”–and even the guy who made this up won’t stand behind it.

From The New York Times to to Wikipedia to Newsweek, that’s the figure cited—not 150,000, not 250,000, but always “100,000-300,000” American kids sold into prostitution every year.

But when University of Pennsylvania professors Richard Estes and Neil Weiner invented the figure “100,000-300,000,” they weren’t referring to actual prostitution or trafficking; they said the numbers “estimate the number of children at risk for commercial sexual exploitation.”

And who’s “at risk?” Almost everyone except Beaver Cleaver: loners, female gang members, kids who run away for 24 hours, transgender kids, kids who live near international borders, and others.

In response to a recent Village Voice interview, Estes says “kids who are kidnapped and sold into slavery? That number would be very small…a few hundred people.” American law enforcement officials estimate the figure is less than 1,000. Of course, that doesn’t stop professional crusaders and celebrity do-gooders like Ashton Kutcher from terrorizing parents, Congress, and kids themselves with completely fictional descriptions of danger.

Is it too much to expect Newsweek to ask for a single study actually backing up its extraordinary claim about the sexual trafficking of American children?

* * *

Newsweek’s article is littered with non sequitors, contradictions, and emotion presented as fact:
* It claims there’s a “growing demand” for prostitution—without citing any evidence.
* It presents bizarre exceptions as common: e.g., a mother trading her 4-year-old’s body for drugs.
* It says “Nearly 100% of men in the study said that minors were always available for purchase in Boston.” Since half the men interviewed claimed to never have bought a lap dance or time with a prostitute, how would they know this? Is that what you think about your community—that “minors are always available for purchase”?

The Newsweek article ends with the would-be heart-wrenching question: “should people be entitled to buy other human beings for sexual gratification?”

And while the reader is primed to answer—to shout—“NO!” and leap into action, in the real world virtually no one is suggesting anything about ordinary people “buying other human beings” for anything.

In America’s world of commercial sex, people (some with fewer choices than others) are selling services, access, and time (primarily to customers who are lonely or who feel self-conscious about their desires). You can disagree with whether that’s a reasonable product for people to sell, but it’s a far cry from “buying other human beings.”

By the article’s logic, we’re also buying human beings for our gratification when we pay to watch athletes and entertainers. But we all know we’re not buying them. We’re buying their time and access to their performances.

With its distortions and fear-mongering, this article is part of the problem—not of prostitution, but of sexual illiteracy, Sex Panic, and a general war on non-vanilla sex. Anything that lumps together prostitution, pornography, and sex trafficking is ideological propaganda.

Are you the John Next Door, or his mate? Newsweek thinks you are; worse, Newsweek thinks that means you hate women, or you’re a self-hating woman. You should feel insulted.

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Is Michelle Bachman Obsessed With Sex? It Depends On The Day

July 13, 2011

This week I described the morality pledge that Republican Presidential candidates are being asked to sign. It includes promises to oppose abortion, pornography, same-sex marriage, and non-monogamy, and to promote large families. As a bonus, candidates pledge to be faithful to their spouses.

I reported that Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann had already signed.

Now it seems that Bachmann’s husband Marcus is a psychologist, and that together they own and operate a counseling clinic in Minnesota. Let’s overlook the extraordinary hypocrisy that they’ve collected over $100,000 in government subsidies for the clinic-—while Michelle is making her career by damning all government spending on anything except the military and the defense of heterosexual marriage.

Instead, let’s look at the investigative report aired on ABC News, detailing what goes on in the Bachmann Clinic. It seems that this state-licensed clinic, operated by Michelle’s state-licensed husband, is enthusiastically offering to “cure” gays of their homosexuality—-through faith-healing.

In this clip, we see former patients discussing their “treatment,” and the result of undercover cameras recording sessions. Patients are told how “normal” people are hard-wired to be heterosexual, which gays can supposedly recapture through prayer and related activities.

According to almost every mainstream professional psychological association these are totally unacceptable diagnostic and treatment procedures. In fact, “This is so far outside the mainstream it’s practically on Mars,” says psychiatrist Dr. Jack Drescher, an expert on attempts at gay conversion.

When asked about the highly unethical, potentially dangerous, and discredited faith healing done at the clinic-—based on outdated and ideological assumptions about sexual orientation-—Bachmann said she couldn’t comment because she was too busy “focusing on jobs and the economy.” But she wasn’t too busy focusing on that stuff to sign a campaign pledge centered on the issues of sexual lifestyle and privacy. According to this campaign pledge, President Bachmann will focus on such non-economic issues as abortion, same-sex marriage, monogamy, contraception, and pornography. While candidate Bachmann talks about jobs, apparently President Bachmann will focus on Americans’ sex lives.

So what is it candidate Michelle? Are you going to focus on something real-—the economy-—or on something strictly symbolic and opportunistic? If you had integrity and were consistent, wouldn’t you say much of what’s in that pledge is none of the government’s damn business?

To the sexually illiterate, everything is about sex. And once again, we see that the tea party wants to shrink government smaller and smaller until it can fit underneath your bedroom door.

(For an entertaining and scathing criticism of the Republican morality pledge, see Whoopi Goldberg here on The View.)

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Everything is Now “Potential” Child Porn

June 24, 2011

It’s official—every picture with a minor in it is now “potential” child porn.

Imagine this perfect storm:
* A mean-spirited Sheriff’s Department with too much time on their hands;
* A school run by spineless bureaucrats;
* A population of compliant students’ parents
* Detectives who apparently think “innocent until proven guilty” is SO over.

They all came together last week at Big Bear Lake High School in Southern California. After the school’s annual yearbook had been out for a while, someone discovered, in the background of a photo of a school dance, a couple in which a young man had his hand under a young woman’s clothes.

The school, displaying exactly the kind of moral weakness and lack of character everyone criticizes in our young people, decided they were obligated to call the Sheriff’s Department.

The Sheriff’s Department, licking their chops over the chance to be on the Lord’s side of a teen sex scandal, leaped in, declaring that the photo’s background “could involve penetration,” and therefore “could be child pornography.” Without anything as messy or expensive as a trial or even a judicial opinion, they demanded that all students bring their paid-for yearbooks back to school, or face the risk of felony prosecution.

(Note: If you’re wondering about the Separation of Powers that are the crowning glory of the American system of government, the two-century old arrangement has apparently been suspended in San Bernardino County.)

The school totally cooperated—throwing both the students’ rights and the school’s dignity under the bus of CYA—“cover your ass.”

And, this being America—where we’re SO eager to get the government off our backs and out of our lives, where we’re SO independent and mistrustful of authority—1,000 yearbooks were returned. Every one of the parents who supported this should be ashamed. This being suburban Southern California, these parents are the same electorate who are afraid that the Second Amendment is all that stands between them and tyranny. The yearbooks were turned in without a single shot being fired.
* * *
This is the decade of destroying children to protect them. It’s the decade of arresting teens for emailing sexy photos of themselves, turning them into Registered Sex Offenders. It’s the decade of arresting teens for having sex with each other, turning them into Registered Sex Offenders. It’s the decade of arresting and expelling 6-year-olds for “inappropriately hugging” classmates, turning them into “at-risk juveniles.”

It’s a disgusting Moral Panic. The Fear of Child Porn has gotten completely out of hand.
* * *
We know it’s a Panic, because laws that were designed to protect kids are now being used to destroy them, along with some of the basics of our adult system of government. And most people don’t even feel bad about it.

The bizarre behaviors of Sheriff’s Departments, state legislatures, school districts, and “morality” groups are not about protecting kids. They’re about responding to Panic. This is about adults, not about kids. It’s about frightened people reassuring themselves that they’re safe; that they’re doing everything they can to make a changing world less confusing; that they’re “erring on the side of caution” (as if there are no negative aspects to that); and that we specifically aren’t letting the niceties of the Constitution or common sense stop us.

It’s like a kid insisting on being a good Boy Scout by helping an old woman across the street even though she keeps saying she doesn’t want to go. He swears he’s taking care of her—but he’s really taking care of himself.
* * *
Of course, child porn is a real problem, and it needs attention and solutions.

But “child porn” isn’t a photo of two teens groping, and the danger of child porn—of the physical and emotional exploitation of vulnerable children—isn’t posed by two teens groping. Prosecutions like this trivialize real child porn, and they do absolutely nothing to stop it. In fact, by diverting precious resources and distracting people with nonsense, busts like this are an obstacle to reducing real child porn.

How I wish this country could be concerned about a sex-related problem without freaking out. That would be a great skill to teach today’s young people. Instead, they’re watching how we deal with our fear—by trying to destroy them. We can expect the same from them in 20 years—dealing with their fears about kids’ safety by destroying a new generation—to save them, of course.

By the way, what exactly was that picture? Or at least, what exactly did it show? No, you can’t have that information. The government has decided, without a trial (or a judicial order), that it’s too dangerous for you to see—and so you can’t judge the school’s or government’s behavior for yourself. All we know is, sex is dangerous. And from ABC to the Huffington Post, there will be NO film at 11.

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