Archive for the ‘sexual politics’ 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.”

Imagine Sex Is Just Sex

March 30, 2012

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

–John Lennon

Throughout my career, I’ve continually been asked why the U.S. is such a nutty country when it comes to sex.

Consider: No one is debating sex education for teens in Holland. No one is questioning the wisdom of birth control in Japan. No one’s freaking out that prostitution is legal and regulated in Switzerland. If anyone suggested withholding Gardasil (the HPV vaccine) from Germany’s young people for fear of increasing “promiscuity,” he’d be laughed out of town. And in Spain, Australia, Israel, and dozens of other countries, gay soldiers serve openly next to straight ones.

And yet every one of these issues is considered controversial in American politics. Ours is the only industrialized country in the world in which people actually demand fewer rights and more restrictions on their sexual expression.

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

The only reasonable explanation for what separates us from other advanced countries is the toxic form of Christianity that has a stranglehold on our political dialogue, medical institutions, and childrearing.

The Pope has more influence on public policy in America today than he does in Italy. More Americans believe in the Rapture than in Evolution—and while they’re awaiting celestial transportation, they’ve captured our school boards. Pharmacy schools teach future professionals that they can pick and choose which prescriptions to fill—if they make their choices based on religion (rather than, say, obeying the voice of Elvis).

Tens of millions of Americans have actually invented a god that condemns their sexual feelings and behavior. Interestingly, this doesn’t affect their sexual impulses or behavior—it just makes them feel miserably guilty and alone. Some 10 million American teens are taught that this same god is deeply offended that they’re interested in sex before marriage. Instead of shaping their behavior, however, this teaching simply makes them unable to plan for sex, leading to all the messy stuff that happens when you have sex unexpectedly—unwanted pregnancy, misunderstandings, exploitation, etc..

By teaching children that masturbation is sinful, organized Christianity gives sexual impulses and behavior meaning where none exists. It creates an external sexual standard against which people believe they are compared—and are always found wanting, which damages them for life. The very idea that the consensual and responsible expression of sexuality can somehow be sinful is psychotic and abusive. Only because religion has so much cultural acceptance in the U.S. are these ideas seen as a system of “morality” instead.

By the way, I spent the weekend in Bethesda, MD, a guest of the American Atheist National Convention. It was as joyful, as thoughtful, and as irreverent a bunch of adults as I’ve ever met. A thousand of them gave me a standing ovation after my talk.

It was great.

Like they say: religion flies planes into buildings; science flies people to the moon. Religion gives people guilt about their sexual desires, and shame about their bodies; science gives people birth control, lubricants, penicillin, RU-486, pre-natal screening, and post-partum care.

Imagine.

It’s Not A War On Women—It’s A War On Sex

March 11, 2012

First, why is “slut” considered an insult? After all, it’s simply a woman who’s willing to have sex with several men with whom she isn’t married, and probably doesn’t even “love.” We know Rush meant it as an insult—loose morals and all that—but do we have to take it that way? Why the hurry to assert Sandra Fluke’s status as wholesome? That’s very different from saying she didn’t deserve to be attacked.

Next:

* Demeaning Fluke’s sexuality doesn’t just attack women—it attacks people.
* Saying birth control is immoral doesn’t just disempower women—it disempowers people.
* Requiring vaginal probes before granting the increasingly rare privilege of abortion doesn’t just trivialize women’s lives—it trivializes people’s lives.

Women shouldn’t complain as women, they should complain as people.

And men should complain just as much. These women are their loved ones. Not only that, they are being attacked by the government in their role as sexual actors. That makes them someone’s sex partner, typically a man. Why aren’t these men complaining?

Why men are willing to stand by and let their right to contraception and abortion be swept away is beyond me. And why they’re willing to let their wives, girlfriends, and sweethearts (not to mention their mothers, sisters, and daughters) be defamed and disenfranchised is similarly beyond my understanding.

That said, let’s stop blaming men (“all-male church,” “mostly-male Congress,” “male-run Fox News,” etc.) for doing all this bad stuff to women.

Women vote to put anti-sex politicians in office; a majority of women voted for Republicans in the 2010 Congressional election. Women support the churches that keep anti-sex politicians in office. Women buy the newspapers and consume the radio and TV programs (like Rush’s) that promote moral panics about sexuality.

And let’s remember that when women get political power they typically act like men when it comes to sex. Both Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin are aghast about Rush—not about what he said, but about how he’s been held accountable for it. And virtually every female Republican governor and Congressmember of the last decade has voted to restrict access to abortion and birth control.

All of which shows that women can be manipulated to vote against their own interests just like men can.

But again, it’s a mistake to think of this as a war on women. It’s actually a war on sex. Anything that makes sex safer, more comfortable, healthier, or more pleasurable for women or men is under fire. Rush wants Sandra Fluke to have less sex so she needs less contraception. The Family Research Council wants the HPV vaccine Gardasil withheld from the public because it might lead young people to have more sex. Rick Santorum wants to make abortion harder to obtain so that people won’t take sex so lightly. The Phoenix, Arizona city council banned swing clubs because they believe people shouldn’t use sex for recreation.

Let’s call it what it is: a war on sex. That makes it clear that everyone is a combatant, whether they like it or not.

Superbowl Sex Trafficking Increase? Super Nonsense

January 30, 2012

Sex trafficking—the real thing, not the political consumer product or object of sloganeering—involves kidnapping or manipulating someone out of their community, forcing them to engage in sex acts somewhere else, and not allowing them to leave at will.

It’s horrendous.

It’s not simply prostitution, not even underage prostitution. It’s not making porn films, even under onerous conditions. It’s not stripping or being an escort.

An increasing number of groups are intent on persuading Americans that we have a terrible and growing problem with sex trafficking. Their data is virtually non-existent, elided with words like “experts agree,” “a shameful epidemic,” and “enormous human suffering.” The media reports their conferences and feral estimates, politicians grimly respond with vows of stricter laws, and the occasional wildly unusual victim is trotted out as proof of some enormous underground industry.

The favorite ploy of anti-trafficking groups is to grimly remind us that major sporting events are a central focus of this evil. Last year, for example, Texas attorney general Greg Abbot said “The Super Bowl is one of the biggest human-trafficking events in the United States”—without any data. He strengthened a unit to pursue those involved with child prostitution (not the same thing as trafficking, of course). The result—at the Dallas Superbowl there were 113 arrests for prostitution, and none for trafficking.

The same is true for the last three Superbowls: grim predictions of upcoming trafficking disasters, and none materializing. Says Robert Casey Jr., special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas office, “The Super Bowl does not create a spike in those crimes.”

Every year, the NFL has to deny that they’re the center of an odious international sex slavery ring. NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy says the super bowl sex slave story is a simply an urban legend.

But that doesn’t stop those who are feeding—and feeding off of—America’s latest Sex Panic. One week before hosting next week’s Superbowl, for example, Indiana’s House and Senate both voted unanimously for a new law that makes recruiting, transporting or harboring anyone younger than 16 for prostitution a felony punishable by 20 to 50 years in prison. The law was passed without a single documented case of sex trafficking in the state. You now get less jail time in Indiana for murdering a teen than for pimping her.

The dozens of groups “fighting” trafficking rarely report success stories, which shows exactly how pointless most of what they’re doing is. “Raising awareness” is harmless if it doesn’t cost money, doesn’t encourage fear and anger, and doesn’t spread misinformation.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly why “raising awareness” about sex trafficking in America isn’t harmless—it’s diverting money, time, and attention to a barely-existing problem, encouraging politicians and the public to ignore more important issues—like unintended pregnancy, domestic violence, and a lack of prenatal medical care for poor teens.

Calling prostitutes of any age victims of trafficking is an insult to those who really are kidnapped or tricked into sexual slavery. And lying about the Superbowl’s magnetism for the worst kind of criminality—when the numbers clearly show otherwise—is a disservice to every parent, every teen, and every taxpayer. It’s the latest example of the Sexual Disaster Industry expanding its product line.

Should Prison Inmates Have the Right to Masturbate?

January 16, 2012

I was interviewed about this on Public Radio yesterday. Since it’s a subject I hadn’t given a lot of thought, I prepared by reading up on it just a bit. And I was shocked.

It’s actually against the law to touch yourself sexually—in private—if you’re in jail. Sounds barbaric, doesn’t it? OK, you’re behind bars, your body is no longer your own. But if you’re not allowed to masturbate, neither is your soul.

Worse, if there’s any disagreement about whether you’ve done it, you automatically lose the argument. There are many cases in which guards either misinterpret prisoner activity and perceive masturbation, or some nutcase guard goes hunting and finds masturbation in every nook and cranny. Either way, prisoners are punished.

Of course, masturbation in prison is common. A 2001 study of one maximum-security joint found that all but one male inmate masturbated. Another study found that 2/3 of female inmates masturbated. Criminalizing something that everyone does makes selective enforcement inevitable. And there are documented cases of just that.

Prisons say they have to regulate masturbation because of security issues, which sounds completely bogus. It’s the same argument society makes when it restricts the sexual expression of any group, such as teens, soldiers, and the elderly. But prisons are trying to control sex, not safety.

A new wrinkle in the prison masturbation scene is the increasing number of female guards. Because women are more likely to lack a criminal record, more likely to have some college education, and can oversee and pat-down both male and female inmates (male guards must work primarily with male prisoners), their numbers are steadily increasing.

Presumably, the percentage of nutty female guards is roughly the same as that of nutty male guards. Presumably, the one female guard who busted eight different Florida inmates for masturbation four years ago is an anomaly.

But the increasing number of female guards raises the question of “hostile work environment” that is bedeviling every American organization—governmental or for-profit—with a lawyer. A legal doctrine and laws meant to protect women is now being used as a weapon to strip sexuality from every possible workplace interaction. To protect their delicate sensibilities (a myth that 1970s feminism worked tirelessly to challenge), women in cities across America are now claiming that classic nude sculpture, photo shows depicting childbirth, sex education brochures, and even co-workers’ tiny silver vulva earrings create a workplace in which they just can’t function.

So what we have now is some women wanting it both ways—equal rights, but with extra protection. If a person, male or female, can’t work within earshot of the word “fuck,” that person should probably not be a prison guard, bus driver, football coach, or high school teachers. And if Michaelangelo’s nude David makes someone swoon, he or she should have the decency to get some help, rather than deprive their co-workers from the world’s artistic patrimony.

I don’t imagine that prisoners treat female guards any worse than they treat male guards. The content of the disrespect, envy, and manipulation may differ, but the treatment is no worse. Of course, any given guard—male or female—can get unhinged by seeing or imagining a penis while they’re at work.

Finally, punishing guys for masturbating in prison is counterproductive. How do people feel after orgasm? Relaxed. Isn’t that preferable to prisoners feeling rageful? I’d say inmate masturbation is the jailer’s best friend.

Every guy in prison started masturbating as a child, and always for the same reason: to soothe himself. To comfort himself, to feel a sense of control in otherwise repressive circumstances. To validate his power and individuality.

These, too, are what we want in prisoner’s lives. Better than the rage and humiliation that dominate prison life, and the brutality that naturally follows from it. Putting hundreds or thousands of men together, robbing them of their most basic rights and dignity, and expecting them to respond by being asexual for 10 years is simply ridiculous. Giving prisoners the chance to privately comfort themselves psychologically is in everyone’s best interests. And giving prisoners a private, solo sexual outline would surely reduce the amount of coercive and dangerous sex that’s rampant in every prison.

It’s simply logical. But when it comes to sex, science isn’t a strong suit of the correctional industry—any more than in any institution in the outside world.

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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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