Cyber Swing/Polyamory Resource Center
Promoting Intimacy and Other-Centered Sexuality
Americans Sexual Fear Based Attitudes from Beaches to Sex Education
Topless Beaches: (Successful) Social
After a week of traveling, I spent three days at the Black Sea, former playground of Warsaw Pact bosses. Now favored by German, British, and Bulgarian tourists, the lovely beach was, of course, topless. On a warm summer afternoon, everywhere I looked I saw them--big ones, small ones, proud ones, and droopy ones. Children, that is. Splashing in the waves, eating ice cream, crying, listening to iPods, resisting sunblock, just doing all the kid things that kids do. They seemed completely oblivious to the uncovered breasts in front of them, beside them, all around them.
What a contrast to the breast-obsessed, country-bumpkin U.S.: where you can't show breasts on TV, can't wear too-revealing swimsuits in many places, can't go to topless bars without threat of arrest, can't get too close to the strippers if you do. And, of course, where you can't take off your top at the beach.
Too many Americans believe that tits--real ones or their images--are little round Medusas, turning all who view them to stone. Policy makers and millions of their constituents tell us that seeing real or pictured breasts damages adults, causes sex crimes, and destroys families. But mostly, they say that seeing bare breasts is dangerous for children. Here's how L.B. Bozell, President of the Parents Television Council, described Janet Jackson's one-second Superbowl breast-baring: "Grandpa and eight-year-old Johnny are trying to process why they have to be infected with this communicable disease, this vile programming."
Fortunately, there are well-established topless beaches on every continent except Antarctica (if any reader knows of a South Pole topless beach, of course, please drop us a note), and bare breasts and children coexist peacefully on all of them. So the experiment's been done, and the data's in from around the globe: clearly, bare breasts aren't dangerous to children or adults.
As usual, we challenge those who fear sex (in this case, breasts) to start spreading the good news. Paradoxically, sadly, those who fear sex only find it worth discussing when it seems destructive.
Safety vs. Feeling Safer
Taking off my shoes at one more airport, watching grandmas and schoolkids being frisked, I naturally thought about safety. According to articles in Harper's and elsewhere, it's clear that the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to insure our safety from air terrorism is not making us safer; in fact, by diverting money from programs that could make us safer (such as enhanced inspection of incoming container ships), Transportation Safety Administration programs are actually making us less safe.
If you ask airport passengers, however, many say these security programs are making them feel safer--or at least like something's being done.
That's what drives public policy around sexuality in the U.S.--making people feel safer, rather than actually making them safer.
Concerned about teen pregnancy? Eliminate fact-based sex education. This leads to more unprotected sex, but it makes people feel better. Concerned about sexual exploitation of kids? Increase the definition of "molestation" to the point where no sane male would dare teach in public school. The resulting lack of adult male contact or role models undermines some kids' growth, but it makes people feel better. Afraid of the influence of kiddie porn? Prevent all scientific research on it and its users. This obviously prevents any increase in our knowledge of the problem or effective solutions, but it makes people feel better.
Sexually repressive public policies are designed to reduce anxiety, not solve real problems. Unfortunately they accomplish their goal. But they leave real problems in their wake--with less money or political will to solve them.
Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence, copyright © Marty Klein, Ph.D. (www.SexEd.org).
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