EARTH—Cory Silverberg, a certified sexuality educator and webmaster for About.com's "About Sexuality" page, devoted this week's email blast to the fact that today is World Sexual Health Day—even if he's a little ambivalent about whether that's a good thing, since there seem to be so many interpretations of the "health" part of "sexual health."
"Since 2012, the World Association for Sexual Health has been celebrating September 4th as World Sexual Health Day," he wrote. "Each year they choose a theme (this year it's Sexual Rights) and member organizations from more than 35 countries around the world organize events to get people thinking about what sexual health means to them.
"I feel like the idea of health is a bit of a double-edged sword," he continued. "I understand its utility, but worry about the way the word carries the veneer of science when so often what is being put forth is about values and morality. Also the way that health is used to police bodies seems counterproductive in the extreme. So today I'm going to take note of every time I use the word health or healthy and when I do I'm going to take a few extra seconds to ask myself what I really mean when I'm using that word. Do I mean happy? Pleasurable? Normal? Ideal? Boring? And if healthy means some or all of these things, then why not use those words instead?"
Of course, sexual health is much on the minds of adult industry members and fans after the events of the past two weeks, with two performers having come forward as HIV-positive, but it's worth remembering that whether or not one has an STD is not the be-all and end-all of sexual health; there's a lot more to it—and here are some of the related matters that have come across AVN's desks.
• Pity poor Executive Coach, Inc., a North Texas company that provides school buses for, among others, the Birdville School District near Fort Worth. And pretty snazzy buses they are, too! They actually have video monitors placed throughout the buses, which normally play cartoons and educational shorts for the kids to view while they ride to and from school, and on trips.
One of those trips, which ferried kids from the Walker Creek Elementary School to the Skye Ranch, took place on April 9, but this time, instead of the usual fare, the video monitors briefly played a hardcore porn movie.
Cue the outrage.
"In a lawsuit filed in Tarrant County civil court against the Executive Coach Inc., the parents alleged that their children were emotionally harmed and that the bus company was negligent after they saw videos on the monitors as they boarded the bus for a trip to a nearby ranch," wrote Elizabeth Campbell for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
"The movie displayed graphic sexual acts and conduct that was outrageous, shocking and disturbing to the children," the lawsuit stated.
We're guessing that in reality, the kids, who might have been as old as 12, just laughed and pointed at the screen, and made what passes at an elementary school for lewd jokes, but shocked? Disturbed? Hardly. Fact is, most kids get exposed to hardcore photos and/or videos at some point in their young lives, but all survive and thrive—unless their parents can convince them how damaged they must be from having seen the images... in which case they grow up to be Morailty in Media supporters.
• Remember Jerome Corsi? He made his conservative bones writing, shortly before the 2004 presidential election, Unfit For Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, which claimed that Kerry hadn't deserved the Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts he'd received as commander of a swift-boat near the end of the Vietnam War.
Well, Corsi's been a busy little conservative beaver over the last decade, and one of his more interesting delusions concerns America's Founding Fathers and their views on sex.
"Our founding fathers knew that if we went this direction, there was no more moral compass and you won’t be able to explain to your children—you’ll have to face the fact that we lost holding the line on one of the most principle [sic] issues in the Bible, and that is sex is not about fun," Corsi told the crowd at the Gathering of Eagles 7th Annual Celebration of Freedom and Barbeque on August 3 in Jefferson, Oregon. "If you want to have fun, read a book, go to a movie. Sex is about the procreation of children. It’s a sacred responsibility that is meant by God to have men and women commit their lifetime to children."
Yep, that's right: None o' them Founders ever had sex for fun; not even, for instance, when Ben Franklin was visiting all those Parisian brothels, or James Madison was keeping his 15-year-old mistress secret from wife Dolley, or Alexander Hamilton was paying $1,000-a-year bribes to the husband of mistress Maria Reynolds so he could keep fucking her. Yeah, an incredibly sexless lot, they were!
• Conservatives have been getting bent out of shape for the past couple of weeks since it's been announced that the Chicago Public School System will be implementing age-appropriate sex education for all students, including kindergartners.
"According to Chicago Public Schools’ chief health officer, Stephanie Whyte, kindergartners and first-graders will learn about anatomy, healthy relationships, and personal safety," wrote Tara Culp-Ressler on the ThinkProgress.com website. "The teachers for those grades will design lesson plans around topics like 'my body,' 'good touch vs. bad touch,' and 'living things that reproduce.' By fourth grade, kids will start learning about the 'physical, social, and emotional aspects of puberty.' Students won’t receive information about human reproduction and contraception until middle school."
Cue the outrage!
"The Chicago Public Schools are this year mandating that kindergartners receive sex education lessons. Opponents say it's a way of exposing them to the homosexual lifestyle," charged Bob Kellogg of the conservative/religious OneNewsNow.com website.
"What all the talk about is that from the perspective of those on the left, there is virtually nothing that is considered inappropriate," added Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute. "But they believe that it’s appropriate to talk to kindergarteners about diverse family structures. And what that means is talking about families that are led by homosexuals."
The Horror! The Horror!
• But if you think that's bad, try getting a decent sex education in Israel!
"The Education Ministry has asked textbook publishers to eliminate chapters on human reproduction, pregnancy prevention and sexually transmitted diseases from science textbooks used in state religious junior high schools as well as from their teacher manuals," wrote Lior Dattel and Yarden Skop for the daily newspaper Haaretz. "An examination of the chapters slated for removal reveals that they include basic scientific information about the reproductive system. For instance, one section describes the monthly menstrual cycle: 'Every month (during the woman’s period of fertility) one of her ova (the egg cells) ripens and is released from the ovary where it was created. This stage is called ovulation ... Only if a sperm cell reaches the fallopian tube during those days will fertilization occur.'"
"At first, the changes requested by the ministry were fairly minor," noted Katie Halper of Feministing.com in a satirical comment on the ministry's actions. "But eventually, the alterations became so drastic that publishers who had originally agreed to them are now infuriated and some are backing out of the deal: 'The ministry capitulated to one of the most extremist factions of the religious public,' said one publishing executive. They’re not the only people upset that students at Israel’s religious junior high schools won’t be seeing scandalous things like illustrations of sperm or ova or learning about gross things like… I can barely write it out… hold on… OK, I’m back from throwing up… menstruation... And those of you concerned [that] other disciplines aren’t being sufficiently stifled by religion, you’ll be happy to know that the Education Ministry has also altered the Hebrew language textbooks: all women represented now wear head coverings, and all the girls wear skirts."
• Meanwhile, as AVN noted, over in Scandinavia, Peter Stordalen, owner of the Nordic Hotels chain, has announced that guests will no longer be able to watch porn in their rooms over the hotel's cable TV system.
"The porn industry contributes to trafficking, so I see it as a natural part of having a social responsibility to send out a clear signal that Nordic Hotels doesn't support or condone this," the porn-ignorant Stordalen said.
And some Americans couldn't be happier!
"He’s right!" declared Princeton law professor Robert P. George and Zaytuna College president Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. "The pornography industry is corrupt through and through—inherently so. It should come as no surprise that it is connected to something as exploitative, degrading, and dehumanizing as human trafficking. Bravo to Petter Stordalen for refusing to continue profiting from peddling the industry’s wares."
In fact, George and Yusuf wrote a letter to several American hotel executives, trying to get them to stop offering sexual fare as well.
"We beg you to consider the young woman who is depicted as a sexual object in these movies, as nothing but a bundle of raw animal appetites whose sex organs are displayed to the voyeurs of the world and whose body is used in loveless and utterly depersonalized sex acts," they claimed. "Surely we should regard that young woman as we would regard a sister, daughter, or mother. She is a precious member of the human family. You may say that she freely chooses to compromise her dignity in this way, and in some cases that would be true, but that gives you no right to avail yourself of her self-degradation for the sake of financial gain. Would you be willing to profit from her self-degradation if she were your sister? Would you be willing to profit from her self-degradation if she were your own beloved daughter?"
Well, you know what they say: Ignorance truly is bliss!
• But if readers would rather not be ignorant, they might consider attending the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit in Silver Spring, Maryland (near D.C.) on September 19-22. Speakers will include actors Kelly Shibari and Buck Angel (whose film Mr. Angel will make its D.C. area debut at the summit), "Sex Nerd" Sandra Daugherty, researcher Judith Lynne Hanna, First Amendment attorneys Lawrence G. Walters and Luke Lirot, and lots more sex workers and academics who study sexuality.
• And finally, if anyone thinks that much of this material has never been discussed before, they should head on over to the World Association of Sexology website and take a look at their Declaration of Sexual Rights, which the organization adopted at the 14th World Congress of Sexology in Hong Kong in 1999—and for an expansive look at what some of its recommendations mean, Cory Silverberg is only too glad to help.