Every Monday, The CSPH takes a look at a book or film focusing on an aspect of sexuality. This week we are featuring the second edition (2012) of America’s War on Sex by Dr. Marty Klein.
Dr. Klein has previously written sexual guide books on sexual intelligence, and maintains a lovely blog. America’s War on Sex won the yearly title of being the “Best Sexuality Book” by AASECT, and examines the intersection between the law and sex, and who is attacking sex in America. Dr. Klein reviews why there is even a war on sex, how this affects secular democracy, why access to contraception is limited, how this harms young people, the war on pornography, and more.
In this book, Klein talks about how a sexual disaster industry enables fear rather than safety, thriving on premises that exist in spite of contrary evidence, including that people can’t explore sexuality safely, that people interested in sexual exploration or unusual things are “them” rather than “us”, and that kids are damaged by exposure to any sexual words, pictures, or concepts. If safety was actively being promoted, then different ideas would be produced and messages delivered, like: comprehensive sexuality education in schools, preventing or relieving guilt about masturbation, and training psychologists and marriage counselors to understand—instead of demonize—pornography use. Dr. Klein backs up his arguments with studies and statistics, including one surprising study showing that 88% of teens who take an abstinence pledge end up having sex before marriage. As a note, a 12% success rate is far lower than any safer sex method.
There’s a fascinating section where Klein examines how far the hostile work environment law has been taken, in his eyes, to a point where there’s a right to not be offended when in public. An example is college sexual harassment policies that tend to cover sexual harassment and sexual assault in the same document. The case he makes is that actual harassment causes a pervasive, ongoing, and hostile environment whereas many college policies seem to be protecting students from any other students’ unwanted or uncomfortable sexual feelings. He thinks that unwanted or uncomfortable feelings are unfortunate, but not something one ever has a right to avoid [unless it reaches levels of harassment]. In the book there are quite a few examples of university policies, most of which seem to be more for preventing hurt feelings instead of ongoing harassment; a notable example is from Drexel University where students “holding or eating food provocatively” are committing sexual harassment. Though I think Klein has a point here, he dismisses emotions and any other possible definitions of harassment a little too quickly for my liking. I would have preferred him to examine harassment further and the implications of using different legal definitions.
The second edition also mentions The CSPH, focusing on its struggle to open. This struggle is also described on Wikipedia. This edition also looks at a few more recent ongoings as it was recently published, and is slightly more aesthetically pleasing.
America’s War on Sex is an interesting, if slightly repetitive in argument, read. All in all, this is a wonderful page-turner stuffed with information. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in political issues surrounding sexuality.