Archive for the ‘war on sex’ Category

James Deen, Sex Workers, & Rape

December 7, 2015

You may have heard that several porn actresses have accused porn actor James Deen of sexual assault. In response, various production companies have terminated their contracts with him.

Yeah, there’s bad people everywhere, even in the porn industry. If he raped anyone I hope he’s locked up for a thousand years.

The case reminded me of a symposium I attended at Stanford University Law School a few weeks ago on the possible connection between sex work and trafficking, and America’s legal response to each. Panelists included a prosecutor, a sociologist, an anti-trafficking activist, and Maxine Doogan of ESPLERP (Erotic Service Provider Legal, Educational, & Research Project).

The topic is especially hot in California right now as ESPLERP is working its lawsuit through U.S. District Court challenging California’s criminalization of prostitution. The attorneys for the case include Louis Sirkin, who successfully handled the world-famous Robert Mapplethorpe obscenity trial in Cincinnati some years ago.

Well-informed and articulate as always, panelist Doogan challenged the tired old myths that prostitutes and other sex workers are primarily damaged people coerced into their work. The other panelists kept using pejorative expressions like “women selling themselves” and “men buying women” when referring to adults purchasing sexual services from willing sellers.

The whole idea that sex work dehumanizes adult, consenting sex workers in some special way is particularly egregious. It overlooks the common idea that we pay to consume LeBron James’ body, pay to consume Meryl Streep’s body, and really don’t care about either human being beyond their performances. We may like to gossip about each, but that’s a far cry from caring about them.

While many of us have paid to consume Kobe Bryant’s physical performances for years, we will all forget about him minutes after this season ends. And we’ll have no concern whatsoever about any back or leg pain he’ll suffer for the rest of his life. Anyone care much about Mariano Rivera, Roger Clemens, David Beckham, or Shaquille O’Neill? Or Dionne Warwick, Judy Collins, or Linda Ronstadt now that they’ve lost their voices? Dehumanization is the foundation of capitalism, particularly in the various service industries. Every adult is free to sell their services in the marketplace, and to decide what the price for their dehumanization is.

Back at the Stanford panel, both the prosecutor and the activist insisted it was necessary to keep sex work illegal in order to discourage new entrants into the business, to pursue bad guys coercing people into it, and to protect the sex workers themselves.

But think about the James Deen case. The women pursuing their rape cases against him are able to do so because they are legally employed. They each have the option of going to their employer, the police, or both. What if they were raped while acting as prostitutes? They’d have no employer. They couldn’t go to the police, because they’d be arrested themselves. Or, as many prostitutes can attest, they’d be extorted for sex by the police in exchange for not being arrested.

Suggesting it was a progressive idea, the activist talked about the current Scandinavian model, wherein sex workers aren’t arrested—their customers are. This is exchanging one bad arrangement for another. Whenever economic activity is criminalized, it goes underground, denying legal protections that other industries enjoy. And denying adults the right to buy and sell the services they choose isn’t progressive. It’s arbitrary, unfair, and coercive.

As for the idea that sex workers provide a product so irresistible that consumers need to be protected from themselves, America already has a system for dealing with products like that. We regulate alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and prescription drugs. If we want to restrict the products of sex workers to consumers over, say, 18 (or 21), we can do that (it works in Nevada). If we want to restrict sex work jobs to those over, say, 18 (or 21), we can do that (it works in the porn industry). If we want to require that sex workers get regular medical certifications, we can do that (it works in Germany).

The best way to protect sex workers is to see them as WORKERS, and provide them with all the legal protections (and responsibilities, like paying taxes) of other workers. If people are really serious about eliminating sex trafficking, they’ll get way more serious about demanding and using legitimate statistics: saying there are 300,000 youth “at risk” of being trafficked is meaningless; conflating world statistics with U.S. statistics is pathetic. Decriminalizing sex work also helps reduce illicit trafficking by enabling sex workers to report suspicious-looking arrangements without putting themselves in jeopardy.

While anti-sex workers rights activists are self-righteously talking about protecting sex workers, it’s ironic that many American jurisdictions allow police to treat possession of condoms as evidence of sex work. This put sex workers in a double bind—use condoms to reduce the risk of HIV but increase the risk of prosecution, or don’t use condoms and increase the risk of HIV for themselves and their clients in order to reduce the risk of prosecution.

In the months to come, you’ll probably hear more about the ESPLERP lawsuit. Do consider supporting it financially, or following them via their website or at #DecriminalizeSexWork.



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.”

Should We Discriminate Against Chick-Fil-A?

July 26, 2012

This much everyone agrees on: The president of Chick-Fil-A restaurants, Dan Cathy, actively opposes same-gender marriage. He says it goes against the bible, and that proponents of gay marriage are inviting God’s judgment. Sure Dan, whatever.

Another fact: the mayors of Boston and Chicago have each declared the restaurant chain unwelcome in their city because of Cathy’s values (discrimination and prejudice). Local franchise owners are understandably unhappy—some actively support gay rights—but the corporation’s owner is steadfast. He’s dealing with Eternity, after all.

The important thing here is that the anti-gay position is Cathy’s personal feelings, NOT corporate policy. No one has accused Chick-Fil-A of discrimination in hiring, promotion, or other activities.

While I have no sympathy for the company president or his delusions (using a 2,000-year-old book as a modern public policy manual?), I’m not comfortable with the idea of cities excluding legal companies from the marketplace. Cities and counties have been doing that with sexually oriented businesses for years.

Their typical line is, “Our community doesn’t want that kind of business.” And so through zoning, punitive regulations, restrictions on hours or advertising, or just endlessly stalling license applications, city after American city has prevented perfectly legal businesses from opening or continuing.

The Phoenix City Council decided “we’re not the kind of city that wants swing clubs” (clearly inaccurate, because of the large number of clubs it shut down). Huntingburg, Indiana believed it shouldn’t have to tolerate the Love Boutique that had so many customers. Even past and present New York mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, who don’t agree on much, both said that neighborhoods had a “right” to exclude (legal) porn shops.

U.S. cities are no longer allowed to tolerate discrimination in housing, education, or employment. Excluding, ghettoizing, and damaging sexually oriented businesses is one of the last forms of discrimination in which municipalities can engage.

It’s totally unfair.

So I don’t want Chick-fil-A excluded by the same vigilante mentality—“we don’t want your kind around here.” Instead, let’s get rid of them the slower, old-fashioned way—by patronizing the competition. We shouldn’t throw rocks through their windows, either, to demonstrate our moral superiority. Perhaps Dan Savage can start a campaign to name a body fluid after their secret sauce. Something like, “we know what puts the A in Chick-fil-A.”

The good news here, the really lovely news, is that the mayors of two of America’s most important (and most Catholic) cities have said that mere religious belief does not somehow transform discrimination into something noble or acceptable. The mayors have emphasized that gay people are, um, people, “endowed with inalienable rights” and all that stuff.

So let’s celebrate this affirmation of secularism, and let’s celebrate that during the current plague of political conservatism and play-it-safe-ism, two mayors have said, simply and clearly, “discrimination against gay people is no better than all the other discrimination that’s outlawed.”

Let’s just not go too far and say these people can’t locate in our town. You know, love (or tolerate) the sinner, hate the sin. And hate their chicken, of course.

Are You Fred Willard?

July 23, 2012

Fred Willard is a tremendously gifted TV and film actor (Everybody Loves Raymond, Modern Family; Best In Show, A Mighty Wind).

His career is now abruptly over because he was arrested by L.A. vice cops at an adult movie theater. Not convicted, not sentenced. Arrested. For “lewd behavior” in a porn theater.

(Why doesn’t Fred watch porn at home? Maybe he likes company. In any case, that’s not really our business, is it?)

In the face of the Republican determination to defund and thereby destroy public television and public radio, PBS announced that it would fire the actor from his job as narrator of its new “Market Warriors” series, a show produced by public TV station WGBH. They can’t afford the bad publicity.

Puh-leese. Will firing Willard make much difference? Congressmembers suspicious of “subversive” public TV won’t distinguish between “their shows feature guys arrested in porn theaters!” and “they once even hired a guy who was arrested in a porn theater!” Memo to PBS: caving in to bullies never works. (Once again, let’s honor Dennis Barrie and Cinncinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center for standing up to the Jesse Helms gang and exhibiting Robert Mapplethorpe’s erotic works in 1990.)

In the past 35 weeks, L.A. police have apparently “inspected” the adult theater 40 times, arresting 23 people.

One can speculate how many of those “inspections” involved cops getting blow jobs. One can wonder how much tax money was spent on these “inspections.” And one can wonder, in a city where 300 people are murdered and several thousand are raped every year, how the city can possibly justify spending millions on “inspecting” porn theaters. How many murders are those inspections and arrests worth preventing—299? 199? one?

If convicted, the State could require Fred Willard to register as a sex offender. Depending on where he lives, he might have to move. No producer or casting director would ever look at his photo ever again.

California has 106,000 registered sex offenders. The country has three-quarters of a million.

While many sex offenders are dangerous anti-social criminals, most people don’t realize that dozens of trivial offenses can also get you registered: age-play in an adult chatroom. Sending a nude photo of yourself to the wrong person. Talking about sex to an unrelated minor (yes, really). Inviting someone to have sex in a public bathroom. Wanking in an adult theater. Going to an adults-only swinger’s club.

What have you done lately to get you fired from your job, dismissed as a Little League coach, or even arrested?

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.


* 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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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.