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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

    

 

 

Sexuality and Public Policy

http://www.newsbatch.com/

 

What are the latest developments regarding sexual policy matters?

The major issue currently is the status of homosexuality in society. In June 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the Texas sodomy law, holding private consensual sexual conduct to be constitutionally protected. In November 2003 the issue was brought to the forefront of national attention when the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that it was contrary to the state constitution to prohibit gay marriage, clearing the way for gay couples in that state to wed beginning in May 2004. The state legislature has initiated a process which would modify the state constitution to prohibit gay marriage while approving domestic partnership but that measure will not reach the voters for approval until 2006. In February 2004, the mayor of San Francisco initiated a process for issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples which was halted by the California Supreme Court in March 2004. In Oregon, Multnomah County (which includes Portland) has been issuing marriage licenses since March 2004. Canada has become the third country to elevate gay unions to the status of civil marriage. In reaction to these developments, President Bush has advocated a Consitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

The status of homosexuals was an issue in the 2004 Presidential campaign and in the opinion of some analysts the gay marriage issue may have proved decisive in the election. State constitutional amendments protecting heterosexual marriage were on the ballot in 13 states and they passed overwhelmingly.

The 2004 Republican platform reaffirms its opposition to gay service in the military and states that marriages should be unions between men and women. The platform also states that sexual preference should not be given special legal protection or standing in the law. The 2004 Democratic platform leaves the state marriage controversy to the states and rejects the concept of a Constitutional amendment. It also calls for an end to workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

With respect to other sexual topics, the Republican platform calls for protections in libraries against on-line pornography and pledges to continue to combat the sexual trafficking of women. It further affirms the need to vigilantly protect the public against criminal sexual offenders. The Democratic platform is silent on these issues.

Why talk about sexuality and public policy?  Isn't sexual behavior purely a personal matter?

While there are obvious civil liberty issues concerning social and governmental oversight of personal sexual behavior, human sexuality is in fact an activity which is highly regulated by society through custom, religion and legislation.  Even those who adopt a libertarian attitude toward sexuality tend to respect modern social prohibitions regarding certain behaviors, e.g. incest, rape, and sex involving children.   By contrast, historically some these practices have been tolerated to varying degrees in certain cultures while many other practices currently considered acceptable have been prohibited.  In general, prevailing sexual behaviors are consistent with and governed by prevailing social attitudes. 

The most clear relationship between sexuality and public policy is the institution of marriage.  Marriage has existed in most societies as a religious and civil institution which encourages an association in which sexuality can be privately and exclusively expressed by each partner.  Marriage and the offspring from this sexual union form a family unit which receives virtually universal social and governmental recognition as the primary building block of a civil society.   Parents are provided with broad governmental powers within the family unit.  Society's inheritance and benefit rules are uniformly tied to marriage and family.   

Hasn't the "sexual revolution" changed everything?

Yes and no.  Sexual behaviors have changed, particularly in many industrialized countries.   It is fair to conclude that this is a dynamic situation and that civil and religious institutions are still adjusting to these changes.   In addition, serious research has shed some light on a topic which had not been previously subjected to academic analysis. 

Some generalizations emerge from this research:

  • There are distinct differences between the sex drives of men and women.

In modern society women have achieved tremendous economic and political gains.  This has unquestionably included a greater freedom for individual sexual expression.   But even a casual analysis of everyday life reveals significant differences in sexual appetite.  With rare exceptions, women do not purchase pornography, patronize prostitutes or become sex offenders.  Studies show that men have many more sexual fantasies and lifetime sexual partners.

This is not to suggest that men are by nature promiscuous and women are asexual. Throughout history most men and women have experienced a shared "romantic love" which combines sexuality with intense feelings of tenderness and monogamous attachment.

·         Sexual behavior is strongly influenced by habit.

Sexual experiences produce a euphoria which is quite similar to the pleasure experienced by users of recreational drugs.  Indeed there is a significant relationship between drug and alcohol use and the multiplicity of sexual partners. 

 In recent years "twelve step" "sexual addiction" programs modeled after drug/alcohol treatment programs have emerged for persons who are dissatisfied with their compulsive sexual behaviors.  As the experiences of Senator Gary Hart and President Bill Clinton illustrate, the strength of such compulsions can be powerful and destructive to family life and career.  For many individuals sexual habits can be modified.  For example, in prisons some heterosexual inmates temporarily adopt homosexual behaviors and then revert to heterosexuality when released.  

  • Society's "sexual norm" is a monogamous relationship between a man and woman. 

Even with the decline in the marriage rate and the increased tolerance of homosexuality, the overwhelming majority of individuals still confine sexual behavior to a single, exclusive partner.  This pattern has existed throughout human history and can be viewed as a compromise between male and female sexual needs.  Males benefit from this arrangement because they are spared the task of constantly seeking new partners and confronting the many conflicts which would occur in an "open market".   But the arrangement does deprive men of the sexual variety many of them might otherwise prefer.  Women have traditionally benefited from this arrangement by obtaining someone who will provide security for the family unit even if it means accommodating the male's somewhat greater sex drive. 

Because of the strong social investment in monogamy and the institution of marriage, it is not surprising that deviations from this standard meet with varying degrees of social opposition.  This tension is at the root of the public policy controversy surrounding alternative sexual behaviors and "family values".  Does increased tolerance of alternative behaviors increase their practice?   Should society even endorse some of these behaviors?

  • There is an increased social focus on sexuality in modern society.

In modern free market economies, sexual imagery is very commonly used as an advertising and promotional tool.  It is reflected in modern clothing fashions.  Sexual themes frequently are the subject of modern television programs and movies and the subject is often dealt with explicitly.  Sexuality is now examined seriously by academics and mental health practitioners.    The result of these developments is that sexuality is no longer an "underground" topic but has instead achieved a very visible and prominent place in modern consciousness.  For example, many individuals who engage in homosexual or bisexual behaviors now define themselves in terms of a "sexual identity" and this concept governs their sense of self and of their role in society to a greater extent than other individual traits or personality characteristics. It is safe to conclude that in modern society many decisions, including the selection of a marriage partner, are guided more by a need for personal sexual satisfaction rather than by custom or social mores.

    

MARRIAGE

What is the present status of marriage?

There has been a significant revolution in sexual behavior which began with the "baby boomer" generation born in the 1940s.   Both men and women born in that generation were far more likely to have engaged in premarital sex when compared to previous generations.  A substantial percentage of high school seniors now believe that cohabitation before marriage is a desirable option.     Many couples are now cohabitating instead of marrying and an increasing percentage of unmarried couples have families with children.    In fact, almost a majority of unmarried mothers are cohabitating with the child's father.  The majority of unmarried mothers are no longer teenagers. One result has been an overall decline in the marriage rate.  Census data indicates that the marriage rate has steadily decreased and the percentage of adults who are married has also significantly decreased. There has also been a substantial decline in the percentage of persons who report their marriages to be satisfying. The divorce rate skyrocketed between 1960 and 1980 and has remained at a high level since then  A substantial percentage of individuals have been married more than once. In fact, only a minority of U.S. adults aged 40 to 59 are in their first marriage. The birth rate has also decreased although not in the same proportion.  Thus there are far more single parent families. The percentage of births to unmarried women has climbed steadily and dramatically especially since 1960. These trends have generated significant public concern.  Although the majority of Americans believe that divorce is acceptable in some situations,they believe that it is a major threat to family values. Studies are now showing that children raised by divorced parents suffer significant emotional damage which affects their adult lives and relationships.  Children of divorced parents are also more likely to divorce themselves.

 

What has caused this phenomenal increase in divorces?

There are several interrelated factors:

  • Improved economic status of women

In modern societies, women are capable of achieving independent economic status. As a result, they can choose to leave marriages which are unsatisfactory. This has affected men as well because they do not suffer from extreme social ostracism if they abandon their wives and families.

  • The development of "no fault" divorce

In 1969, California became the first state to modify divorce laws to permit either spouse to obtain a divorce based upon irreconcilable differences. All states now have some sort of "no fault" divorce and in most states mutual consent of both spouses is not necessary.

This change in law was a response to the expense and demands that an increasing divorce rate had placed on the nation's judicial systems. But the removal of legal obstacles has also substantially contributed to the acceleration of the divorce rate.

  • Changing marital expectations

The marital vow "till death do us part" has become more of a mutual hope than an absolute promise. Frequently when either marriage partner realizes that their initial expectations are not being met, they divorce. Sometimes the decision is mutual; other times it is unilateral. It is fair to observe that most often the divorce decision is primarily based on the spouse's perceived personal welfare and that the effect of the decision on children and on the overall social system receives much less consideration.

What is the situation in other countries?

There is indeed an international aspect to these trends. The U.S., Cuba, Russia and other former Soviet bloc countries have the world's highest divorce rates.    The marriage rate in many European countries has declined substantially and the rate of births to unmarried women has risen dramatically in European countries such as France and England.

However, a greater percentage of European unmarried mothers are cohabitating with the fathers of their children. In most countries, the percentage of single parent families is increasing, but the U.S. rate is significantly higher.

 

What reforms are being proposed?

The decrease in marriage and the high divorce rate has generated concern, particularly with religious leaders, but at present it does not appear that the majority of Americans support legislation which would make it harder for individuals to obtain a divorce.

 

Arizona and Louisiana have enacted legislation which permit optional "covenant marriages" which allow divorce only for cause or by mutual consent. Proposals for a more comprehensive return to a "fault-based" divorce system have not yet obtained sufficient legislative support. It is unclear whether social and religious concern about "family values" will increase and whether society will experience a reversal of current demographic trends.

HOMOSEXUALITY

Has there been a change in social attitudes regarding homosexuality?

Definitely.

Although homosexuality has existed throughout history, its practice has been socially discouraged in most societies by custom, religion and law. Until the 1970's, homosexual acts between consenting adults were criminal in most states. Most states have repealed such "sodomy" laws

and the ones the remain have been seldom enforced. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled all such laws to be unconstitutional. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental and emotional disorders. A majority of Americans now consider homosexuality an acceptable alternative lifestyle.

In less than a decade, the number of Americans opposed to gay persons adopting children has decreased dramatically.

Nonetheless there remains a significant social stigma associated with the practice of homosexuality in mainstream society. Among male heterosexuals, homosexuality is rarely discussed and almost never in positive terms. Despite such a strong social stigma, at least a quarter of adult men who are or have been married have engaged in homosexual behavior.

Homosexuals, most particularly male homosexuals, are subject to routine ridicule and employment discrimination. Many experts believe that this social aversion, labeled "homophobia" by the gay community, is related to subconscious repression of homosexual desires by heterosexuals.

Aren't homosexuals "born that way"? How widespread is its practice?

The factors which influence the choice of homosexuality are poorly understood. Many homosexuals claim to have had these desires from their earliest memories and some current research has suggested that there may be subtle brain differences between homosexual and heterosexuals. Most experts believe that sexual orientation is shaped for most people at an early age through complex interactions of biological, psychological and social factors.

The reality is that "homosexuality" is probably too variable a concept to be analyzed in this fashion. It is clear that some men, particularly those whose interests and attitudes can be categorized as "feminine", may have no capacity whatsoever to develop a sexual attraction for the opposite sex. This also applies to some homosexual women, particularly those whose interests and attitudes can be classified as "masculine". But many homosexuals, probably a majority of practicing homosexuals, cannot be categorized in this fashion. These individuals, often influenced by random life events and personal associations, have developed a desire to practice sexuality in this fashion in preference to other options available to them. A thorough research study conducted among homosexuals in the San Francisco area in 1973 supports this conclusion.  A clear majority of the homosexual men studied had experienced heterosexual relations and a significant number had experienced heterosexual dreams.

The acknowledgement of heterosexual dreams and fantasies by members of this group is significant because most were quite committed to their adopted homosexual lifestyle.

If homosexuality is primarily regarded as a preference governed at least in part by personal choice, then its variable prevalence in societies can be more easily understood. Anthropological studies indicate that the prevalence of homosexuality is directly related to the prevailing social attitude toward the practice.

The incidence of homosexuality in the United States has always been difficult to determine because many "closeted" homosexuals keep their status secret. Many others disclose their status only to a small circle of friends. But it is unquestionable that the recent trend toward tolerance of homosexuality has vastly increased the number of persons who choose to adopt this lifestyle. Many more Americans now have homosexual friends or acquaintances.

Homosexual "enclaves" have emerged in many large cities. In such areas it has become far easier for homosexuals to associate without risking social disapproval and harassment.

Are committed "homosexual couples" comparable to heterosexual married couples in their sexual behavior?

No.

Male homosexuals, even when "coupled", are unlikely to confine their sexual behavior to their partner.

In stark contrast to female homosexuals, the vast majority of male homosexual encounters are between strangers even though a slight majority of such homosexuals are also involved in a sexual affair.

This accounts for the extraordinarily high lifetime numbers of partners that male homosexuals have.

This reality is probably far more associated with the nature of the male sex drive than it is with homosexuality itself. Male heterosexual behavior is arguably governed by the limited supply of available female partners. The promiscuity of some professional athletes and celebrities who have an accessible large supply of partners is quite similar to that of male homosexuals.

Although female homosexual couples are far more likely to be faithful to each other, studies indicate that female homosexuals have sex with much less frequency than heterosexual couples and that an absence of sexual desire becomes a common complaint in many of these long term relationships.

The sexual behavior of married couples is quite different. It is quite apparent that the institution of heterosexual marriage is a powerful vehicle for promoting regular and monogamous sexual behavior. This pattern of behavior does not appear to be significantly affected by the degree of sexual activity the partners may have had prior to the marriage.

How has the AIDs epidemic affected male homosexual behavior?

A major difficulty with the promiscuity associated with male homosexuality has been the high rate of venereal disease. The emergence of the AIDs virus in the early 1980's marked the arrival of a sexually transmitted disease that was fatal. The response of the gay community to this threat was impressive. There is no doubt that "safer sex" practices combined with the fear of AIDS had a profound and salutary effect on the health of homosexual men in general. The incidence of new cases of HIV, hepatitis B virus, gonorrhea, and syphilis, all other sexually-transmitted diseases, and AIDS decreased dramatically in the gay community. This was due to an increased use of condoms, more care in choosing partners, decreased promiscuity, and a decrease in the sex practices that were particularly high risk. The result is that the homosexual share of California AIDS cases has dropped substantially in the past decade and the CDC estimates that the majority of new HIV infections in the United States are not through homosexual transmission. There is some indication that because new drug therapies have allowed HIV to become a manageable illness, increasing numbers of gay men have returned to high risk sexual practices. Because testing for HIV is voluntary and because serious symptoms may not be manifest for many years, it is difficult to track the rate of new infections. But in San Francisco, there has been a reversal in the rate of diagnosed cases of rectal gonorrhea which is caused by the same high risk sex practice that transmits most homosexual cases of HIV.

There is a possibility that improved screening may account for some of this increase.

What political issues have emerged regarding homosexuals?

  • Discrimination

Despite its increased public acceptance, most states still do not have laws which protect gay people from discrimination in employment, housing and health care. The lack of consensus on this issue is reflected by the numbers of Senators and Representatives who have not adopted non-discrimination policies for the hiring of the office staffs.

A particularly difficult aspect of the discrimination problem has involved the Boy Scouts of America. Although the Boy Scouts is a private organization, its activities are part of the fabric of mainstream America. The organization has long maintained a policy of excluding Scout participants and leaders who have been discovered to be homosexual. In June 2000, he United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote

invalidated a New Jersey court ban on the dismissal of a homosexual scout leader based on the New Jersey anti-discrimination law. Because part of the Boy Scout's mission is to provide young men with role models, its discrimination policy blends the "tolerance v. legitimacy" dialectic which has characterized the gay rights debate. The difficulty of this issue is reflected in a recent Senate vote regarding whether public schools should be allowed to ban the Boy Scouts from facilities based on their anti-gay policies.

The Boy Scout policy is in part based on religious principles (the organization also bans atheists and agnostics). The status and level of inclusion of gays and lesbians in organized religion is a question of debate in many major denominations and religious groups.

The traditional view of most religions is that sexuality is to be confined to a monogamous heterosexual marriage. The growing social acceptance of homosexuality strongly challenges that view especially when it is considered that monogamy is quite rare in committed male homosexual relationships.

  • Military service

A major aspect of the discrimination issue involves the military. The Armed Forces have regulations which require the exclusion of individuals who have been discovered to have engaged in homosexual behavior. These rules have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. In the aftermath of the election of President Clinton in 1991, there was a reexamination of this policy. Military leadership and conservative political forces strongly resisted elimination of the exclusionary policy and it was decisively defeated in the Senate.

Ultimately, Congress passed legislation forbidding the military from aggressively investigating suspected homosexual behavior, the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The policy has had virtually no effect on military discharges except during the brief period in which the policy was being reconsidered.

Public opinion now overwhelmingly supports the rights of gays to serve openly in the military.

  • Hate crime legislation

Perhaps due to the greater political visibility of homosexuals, there has been an increase in hate crimes related to sexual orientation.

Certainly highly publicized incidents have highlighted this trend.

Highly Publicized Hate Crimes Involving Sexual Orientation

Source: hatecrime.org

Matthew Shepard
On October 6, 1998, 21-year-old college student Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence in Laramie, Wyoming, pistol-whipped, then left for dead in the freezing night. He died six days later. This has been the most publicized incident although the major motive for this crime was apparently robbery. His killers received life in prison with the agreement of the Shepard family.

Brandon Teena
Born Teena Brandon and raised as a girl, he was living as a man known as Brandon Teena in Falls City, Nebraska, when he was murdered at age 21. In December of 1993, two men who discovered his gender raped him. His attackers later shot and killed him after learning Brandon had reported the rape and was to help police in the investigation.

PFC Barry Winchell
Pfc. Barry Winchell, 21, was beaten to death by fellow servicemembers while sleeping in his cot on July 5, 1999 at Fort Campbell, Ky. His Army colleagues thought (correctly) that he was gay, so they killed him.

Tyra Hunter
On August 7, 1995, Tyra Hunter died after DC fire department emergency medical technicians called her epithets, backed away, and refused to render treatment on discovering that she was a transgendered woman.

Public opinion polls show that a clear majority of Americans support hate crime legislation which would protect homosexuals.

Most states have passed such laws, although some states do not extend hate crime protection to sexual orientation.

Federal hate crime legislation which includes protections against sexual orientation has yet to be enacted even though both the Senate and House have voted favorably on this issue. 

  • Domestic Partner benefits; "gay marriage"

Perhaps the most contentious "gay rights" issue involves "gay marriage" and "domestic partner" benefits.

There is a significant economic aspect to the controversy.

Because health care benefits are an increasingly important portion of the compensation earned by employees, and because such benefits are usually available to spouses and family members, homosexual employees believe that they are under-compensated unless they receive similar benefits for a designated "domestic partner". A small number of states

cities and major companies provide domestic partner benefits to their employees. California is leading the country in instituting protections for gay and lesbian couples without a court mandate. In Hawaii and Vermont, legislatures were compelled by their state courts to extend equal benefits to same-sex couples. This trend has been contentiously opposed by religious groups and conservatives who believe that this policy constitutes a social endorsement of homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle. Nevertheless public opinion has shifted to the point that a majority of Americans support many domestic partner benefits.

Congress recently rejected a provision which would have banned the establishment of domestic partner health benefits for DC workers.

The "domestic partner" concept has recently been expanded in California to include many governmental rights normally provided to spouses.

A clear majority of Americans continue to oppose the concept of "gay marriage"

which is the logical extension of the "domestic partner" concept. Under legislation recently passed in Vermont, couples can file for a "civil union" and many committed gay couples have journeyed to Vermont to file for this status. Hawaii also passed a "reciprocal beneficiaries" plan which gave couples many rights previously restricted to married couples. In anticipation of the possibility that a future state might approve the concept of a "gay marriage", about half the states passed legislation which would ban recognition of any such marriage.

The House also recently passed legislation which would block federal recognition of such marriages.

In November 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Court interpreted the state constitution to permit gay marriages and that state has become the first state to authorize such marriages which are available to Massachusetts residents only. At the local level, gay marriages were temporarily authorized by San Francisco in defiance of state law, but were subsequently invalidated by the California Supreme Court. They have also been authorized in Multnomah County (Portland), Oregon. In the wake of this activity, President Bush has called for a constitutional amendment to limit marriage to heterosexual unions. In July 2004, the Senate blocked consideration such an amendment.

Many states have undertaken action to amend their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage. 

    

What is the status of homosexuality in other countries?

Although the practice of homosexuality is now legal in most of the world, it remains forbidden in most countries which have a high percentage of Muslims.  In some countries, it is even punishable by death. 

Countries which tolerate homosexuality are divided on whether to permit homosexuals to serve in the military.

With respect to domestic partner benefits, only a handful of countries have policies which provide certain benefits or rights to gay couples. Only Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada have policies which amount to a full marriage equivalency.

The Canadian approval of such unions was based on a court decision which is supported by the current Prime Minister. Nine of Canada's 10 provinces will accept the extension of marriage to same-sex couples. The only holdout is Alberta. Public opinion in Canada narrowly supports this development.

 

PROSTITUTION

How prevalent is prostitution in the United States?

It is very difficult to measure the prevalence of prostitution in the United States, but it is much lower than in Europe and than in many less developed countries.

This was not always true. Prostitution holds a major, if underreported, position in the annals of American history. During the years of massive immigration into this country, there was a frequent shortage of women. Although prostitution was always illegal, brothels and free-lance prostitutes were a common aspect of urban life even at the beginning of the 20th century

What changed? Prostitution was a victim of the same moral wave that prompted the Volstead Act and brought the country into the era of prohibition. These changes were accomplished by an enforcement zeal at the local level. Once the institutional structure of prostitution was dismantled, it has occupied a relatively low degree of visibility since. Even with the relaxation of sexual mores, there has been no major resurgence, perhaps in part because many men today have other options for premarital or extramarital sex. Prostitution is legal today in a few rural areas of Nevada and tolerated in very few other communities. Sexual survey data supports the diminished influence of prostitution in American sexual life during the past century

Today prostitution is conducted by streetwalkers who congregate in run-down urban areas and at truck stops (the lowest rungs of the prostitution hierarchy), massage parlor workers (the next highest rung), bar and hotel girls (a little higher up than the massage parlor workers), and call girls and escort service workers (the highest rungs). In addition to traditional prostitution, many cities have "adult entertainment" establishments where women physically interact with customers. There are also "phone sex" services where women discuss sexual fantasies with customers. Men also perform similar services for homosexual customers. There appear to be no reliable studies which estimate the total number of such "sex workers" and the percentages of individuals in each type of occupation.

Why do men seek prostitutes?

Despite its relatively low profile and the fact that police vice operations often vigorously control its practice, prostitution does exist and there are customers who are willing to risk exposure and prosecution by patronizing them. In countries where there is more tolerance of prostitution, the demand for services is quite high.

Studies have shown that the customers of prostitutes fit no particular profile psychologically or socially. The only common characteristic is that most appear to have a high sex drive. A slight majority of the men who pay for prostitutes are married or cohabitating and the vast majority have been married or have cohabitated at one time.

The demand for prostitution can best be understood in the overall context of male sexuality. As with homosexuality, most men appear to have the ability to enjoy the experience of sexuality with a minimal need for intimacy. These men may have and enjoy intimate relationships with women but such relationships do not fully satisfy their sexual desires. It is probable that many married men refrain from using prostitutes not because the idea is repugnant but because it would be an act of disloyalty to their marriage partner or otherwise against their moral values.

Is prostitution a "victimless" crime?

In many countries, the demand for such services outweighs the supply of women who choose to provide them. As a result, there is widespread importation of women from economically disadvantaged countries. Quite often such women are lured into the work through misrepresentation by racketeers or even through sale by parents. Many are children. Such individuals are quite clearly victims.

This trafficking does occur in the United States. According to the CIA, an estimated 45,000 to 50,000 women and children are trafficked annually to the United States and a majority of such women are forced into prostitution.   In addition, the American military regularly facilitates the use of prostitutes by overseas American servicemen in third world countries.

In the United States, a large percentage of "street" prostitutes come from very disadvantaged backgrounds. Many use prostitution to support a drug habit for themselves and for a male companion. These prostitutes experience high rates of sexual violence even while not working. Many were involuntarily introduced into prostitution as adolescents by manipulative pimps.

"Non-street" prostitutes come from more stable backgrounds. But a majority of these prostitutes were sexually abused as children, most often through incest, although the estimates of the exact percentage vary widely. The suicide rate of prostitutes is quite high according to some studies.

But not all prostitutes consider themselves victimized. Some prostitutes, calling themselves "sex workers", have formed organizations which are supportive of this lifestyle. They note that is an unskilled job that has high financial rewards. Many such organized prostitutes profess to enjoy their work and endeavor to reduce the social stigma and criminality which is attached to it.

The feminist community is somewhat divided on the prostitution issue. The predominant view is that prostitution is a servile vestige of a male dominated society. But other feminists take the position that prostitution is acceptable as long as the prostitute has control of her circumstances and exercises free choice to use her body to satisfy male sexual appetites. They thus support the "prostitute's rights" movement.

The reality is that prostitution has very low appeal as an occupation for most women. It confers very low social status on the women involved, thus estranging them from normal social associations. This is why the pay is comparatively high and why there is trafficking in such women as if they were a commodity.

Are prostitutes contributing to the spread of the AIDS epidemic?

Prostitution has a large role in the global spread of the epidemic but a relatively minor role in the United States. Studies indicate that the incidence of HIV among U.S. prostitutes who have not used intravenous drugs is quite low; less than one percent. The overall rate of female to male transmission in the United States is also very low so there is very minimal transmission of the virus from prostitutes to customers even when condoms are not used. It is the prostitutes themselves who have a higher risk of contracting HIV from customers or male lovers when they have unprotected sex. Although exact estimates are not available, it is believed that all but a very small percentage of prostitutes in the U.S always use condoms with customers. In the legal brothels in Nevada, the use of condoms is mandatory and universal.

In Sub-Saharan Africa and Thailand prostitution has been a major cause of the devastating epidemic. The common denominator in the spread of AIDs in both Thailand and Africa has been a cultural acceptance of the promiscuity associated with prostitution.

Because of malnutrition and a high rate of other untreated sexually transmitted diseases, particularly in Africa, the disease has been more contagious and the rate of transmission from female to male and male to female is about the same. Thailand has promoted a 100% condom use policy for prostitutes and has achieved significant success in its reducing its rate of new HIV infections and of venereal disease in general. The percentage of prostitutes who are HIV positive has also decreased significantly

What is the international status of prostitution?

Prostitution is tolerated to a far greater extent in Europe and in less developed countries although very few countries completely legalize the practice. According to the International Labor Organization, the commercial sex industry in Southeast Asia has grown into a key economic sector. In Thailand it accounts for 14 percent of the GDP and as many women are employed as sex workers as are employed in manufacturing. The economic transition of the countries in the former Soviet bloc has displaced many women from their sources of income and forced them into prostitution. According to a Congressional estimate, 700,000 women migrate annually for purposes of prostitution.

The apparent constant in prostitution is the demand for such services when they are available. Quite obviously, in areas where the practice is tolerated, millions of men use prostitutes every day and expend substantial amounts of money in the process. By contrast, in less tolerant societies, the demand for the service is much less.

The problem of prostitution trafficking in general, and particularly the trafficking in children has attracted the attention and concern of many throughout the world. The international community began meeting in 1999 to draft a Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children in conjunction with the U.N. Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. The U.N. General Assembly adopted the Convention and the Protocol on Trafficking in November 2000. The United States has passed legislation which requires the State Department to report to Congress regarding efforts world countries are making to punish traffickers and deter this trade. The 2001 report lists 23 countries which have failed to make sufficient efforts.

PORNOGRAPHY

What is the impact of pornography?

The graphic depiction of sexuality in various forms of media is relatively new in the United States. The change began in the late 60's primarily as a result of Supreme Court decisions which applied stringent First Amendment protections to much of this material.

The political reaction to this change resulted in the establishment of two Presidential commissions for the purpose of studying this subject.

The commission report issued during the Lyndon Johnson administration concluded that there was little evidence of a relationship between pornography and sexual criminal behavior and that in fact there was evidence that it might lead to a reduction in such behaviors. The commission's report recommended sex education, funding of research into the effects of pornography, restriction of children's access to pornography, and recommended against any restrictions for adults. The report was widely criticized and rejected by Congress.

In 1985, President Ronald Reagan appointed another commission to study pornography issues. It was headed by Attorney General Edwin Meese. The commission's report, released in 1986, found that pornography is harmful and can lead to violent acts. The scholarship of this report has been widely criticized.

As with prostitution, the feminist position on pornography is divided. Most believe that pornography contributes to the "objectification" of women and are strongly opposed to it. Others believe that participation in this business is acceptable if women are not exploited in the process.

There is overwhelming condemnation of child pornography primarily because of the exploitation of children necessary to produce these materials. Criminal laws strictly prohibit the sale and distribution of child pornography and offenders are vigorously prosecuted.

Today pornography is big business and the internet has developed into a major source of pornographic content. 

A substantial percentage of Americans still believe that all pornographic materials should be prohibited and a clear majority believes that sale should be limited to persons over 18.

 

The primary public policy concern regarding pornography at present involves the internet. A substantial percentage of visitors to the adult sites on the Internet are children although this percentage could be substantially reduced by effective regulation.

Legislative efforts are underway to regulate minors' access to these materials in a manner which is constitutionally permissible.

The overall impact of pornography is still a subject of debate. Contrary to what might be expected, studies have shown that there is a negative correlation between pornography and sexual criminal behavior. On the other hand, the proliferation and easy access to pornographic materials is unquestionably a major contributor to "sex addiction" behaviors. Such behaviors substantially interfere with the overall social functioning of many males in modern society.

TEEN SEXUAL BEHAVIOR

Has teenage sexual behavior changed?

It unquestionably has.

Teenagers are far more likely to be sexually active at an early age and their sexual activity is quite frequent An increasing percentage of teenage women have multiple sexual partners. Teenagers frequently use drugs and/or alcohol when they are sexually active. New York and many southern states have the highest teenage pregnancy rate Over 10% of high school seniors have become pregnant or gotten someone pregnant. The percentage of teenage mothers who are unmarried has increased from about 10% in 1950 to about 80% in 2000. The percentage of teenage pregnancies which are terminated by abortion has declined since the 1980s but remains at about 35%.A significant percentage of teen girls and boys report having been forced to engage in sexual intercourse against their will.There are some signs that this trend is slowing. Recent data indicates that there has been a decrease in teen sexual activity during the past decade as measured by the percentage of high school students who have had intercourse or who have had more than four partners. The teenage birthrate has declined since 1940 and is at an all time low. The decrease has occurred in each teenage groupThe long term decline in teenage pregnancy is primarily the result of two factors: 1) the increased use of contraception and 2) the fact that there are much fewer married teenage women.

The teenage pregnancy rate is far lower in Europe and Canada than it is in the United States due to less sexual activity and greater use of contraception in those countries.

SEX EDUCATION

Sex education has become prevalent in recent decades. Has it improved teenage sexual behaviors?

Sex education has indeed become more common in public schools. In the1970's only about 30% of high school students received such instruction. Many states now mandate that sex education and/or STD/HIV be covered in the public school curricula. and a great majority of the country's secondary schools cover the subject.Public opinion is generally supportive of sex education and most Americans believe that more than just abstinence be discussed. But the concept of sex education is not without controversy. Many religious groups are concerned that "comprehensive" sex education is supportive of the current prevalence of premarital sex. In response to this concern, over half of the states require that abstinence be covered or stressed in sex education courses. Abstinence education has been spurred by Congressional action which provides funding for programs which stress abstinence. Thirteen states require local school districts that do offer sex education to cover information about contraception.Even in states where sex education is deemphasized, over 80% of high school students report receiving sex education.Over 90% have received instruction on AIDS/HIV by the 12th grade. The effect of sex education on behavior appears to be significant if the program is comprehensive. For example a significant percentage of sexually active teenagers do use condoms or birth control pills. Condom use has significantly increased among high school students during the past decade.

SEX IN THE MEDIA

What is the contribution of the media to the modern "revolution" in sexual behaviors?

Sexuality is a very common topic in television programming although there is some evidence that this content is beginning to diminish.Even though most adults do not believe that television portrays sex realistically there is evidence that these portrayals strongly influence attitudes and desires. Most adults, for example, believe that movies and television portray a normal sex drive as "always being ready for sex". American attitudes on this issue are ambivalent. A majority are concerned with the danger of government censorship but also believe that standards for sex and violence should be more stringent. There is evidence that sexual content in the media particularly influence teenagers. Studies show that teenagers spend the almost the equivalent of a full work week receiving information from various forms of media and that the media is in fact a major source of sexual information for them. The major impact of the media on sexual attitudes may have less to do with programming than with the ubiquity of sexual content in advertising messages. The advertising industry quickly learned that one of the most powerful selling tools in a consumerist society is sex. Not only are women sexually objectified by advertising, but men are as well. Such images are now quite frequent in advertising materials designed for a male audience. Some social observers have concluded that the prevalence of the sexual content in advertising has put sex on a pedestal and has caused Americans to place an unreasonable priority on sexual satisfaction. In the process, such personal self-satisfaction has become paramount to the commitment required to channel sexual activity into a lasting marriage. Even many non-religious Americans are beginning to conclude that the "sexual revolution" - the acceleration of the divorce rate, the prevalence of homosexuality, the massive sale of pornographic materials, the prevalence of teen sexual behavior - are byproducts of the use of sex by the advertising industry to sell products.

CRIMINAL SEXUAL BEHAVIOR

How prevalent is rape and other sexual crimes?

The incidence of rape in the United States has significantly decreased recently at approximately the same rate most other crimes. Similarly, the number of substantiated cases of child sexual abuse has declined. But the rate of sexually related criminal behavior is much greater in the United States than it is in other developed countries. Almost one out of every 5 women has been a rape victim. A substantial amount of rapes are not reported.The closer the relationship between the female victim and the offender, the greater the likelihood that the police would not be told about the rape or sexual assault. Nevertheless, a majority of convicted rapists do have an acquaintance with their victim.  Of rapes that are reported, about half result in an arrest but less than 20% of such perpetrators actually serve a prison sentence. There is disagreement among researchers regarding whether rape is primarily a sexual crime or whether, as many women's advocates suggest, it is a crime which reflects male attitudes of dominance. The fact that the decrease in rape has been consistent with an overall decrease in violent crime actually suggests that sex may be the dominant motivation of most rapists. The rapist desires sex and is willing to "steal" sex by disregarding any consent by his partner. For this reason, many rapists also have extensive criminal records. Like many criminals, their behavior is often associated with drug use. Whether the rape is perpetrated by a career criminal or a "date rape" acquaintance, the common denominator is that the male has achieved sexual satisfaction without receiving the consent of the victim.

A modern issue associated with rape is "marital rape". This is a subject within the broader context of "spousal abuse", a subject which has received increased public attention particularly as a result of the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Spousal rape is presently a crime in all states although a majority of states provide some exemptions to the husband. These exemption statutes typically address the degree of physical force used. Researchers estimate that between 10% and 14% of married women experience rape in marriage. Yet prosecutions are not very common. A majority of countries do not have criminal statutes addressing "marital rape". Child sexual abuse, while also on the decline, has received considerable attention during the recent decade. In fact most of those incarcerated in state prisons for sexual offenses have victimized children.  The overwhelming percentage of these sexual assaults are perpetrated by family or friends. Most of the victims are girls and about half are under the age of 12. The perpetrators of these crimes are quite likely to have been abused themselves as children. There are various studies regarding the degree to which sex offenders repeat their behavior and the results of these studies vary. In general, child abusers are more likely to repeat their behaviors than rapists or those convicted of incest. As with rapists, child sex abusers also often have a history of non-sexual criminal offenses.

Are treatment programs for sex offenders successful?

The majority of sex offender treatment programs in the United States and Canada now use a combination of cognitive-behavioral treatment and relapse prevention. Different types of offenders typically respond to different treatment methods with varying rates of success. The only major treatment outcome study to date has found a small, yet significant treatment effect-an 8% reduction in the recidivism rate. Research also demonstrates that sex offenders who fail to complete treatment programs are at increased risk for both sexual and general recidivism. Some studies have shown that the rate of recidivism for sex offenders can be predicted by measuring a prisoner's interest sexual interest in nonsexual violence and degree of psychopathy.

The recidivism problem has prompted several states to pass legislation requiring the civil commitment of certain sex offenders who have finished their prison terms. This type of legislation has been upheld by a narrow vote in the U.S. Supreme Court.  At least eight states now require chemical castration for certain categories of sex offenders.

What registration requirements exist for sex offenders?

Highly publicized sex crimes committed by repeat offenders in recent years have prompted state legislatures to ratify laws that increase social controls on these offenders. State and federal laws have been enacted that require released sex offenders to register with law enforcement or other state agencies. In some states, this registry is primarily for the benefit of law enforcement; in others it is available to the public through the internet or "800/900" telephone system.

Has the registry system been successful?

It is unclear whether the system has achieved its goals of protecting families from sexual predators. Even in areas where there is a publicly available registry, a family is unlikely to learn of a neighbor with a sexual offense history unless there has been a reason to become suspicious or there has been an aggressive notification campaign in the neighborhood. In the instances where the identity of the predator has been publicized, the individuals have often been harassed. Because of these problems, the registry systems have been opposed by civil liberty organizations.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

How has "sexual harassment" become an important issue?

The concern about sexual harassment has coincided with the massive entry of women into all areas of the American work force during the past three decades. In 1979 Congress held hearings to investigate sexual harassment in the federal government, and the White House Office of Personnel issued a directive prohibiting sexual harassment. In 1980, the first major workplace survey of sexual harassment involved federal workers and these surveys have been repeated twice. These surveys indicate that there has been little change in the frequency of harassment behaviors even with increased public awareness and employer liability.

According to many surveys, workplace sexual harassment is quite common, particularly in the military. Research indicates that similar or greater rates of sexual harassment occur in European countries.Most European countries have presently have statutes which prohibit sexual harassment but many other countries do not. In 1991, Anita Hill submitted a confidential affidavit to the Senate Judiciary Committee, charging that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her from 1981 to 1983. Senate hearings on this charge were held in October. Ms. Hill's charges and the hearings have had long-lasting effects on the nation's understanding of sexual harassment  Since the inception of EEOC processing of sexual harassment complaints, the number of formal complaints and amount of monetary awards has steadily increased. An increasing percentage of complaints involve male victims. Only a very small percentage of actual instances of harassment are processed as formal complaints and the most common reaction by women is to ignore the behavior. The harassment problem is not limited to the workplace. Surveys have indicated that boys and girls are regularly subjected to various forms of sexual harassment at school. This harassment substantially interferes with the educational process, most particularly for girls.

 Inevitably, increased awareness and employer liability for sexual harassment will eventually reduce these behaviors the workplace and educational environment. But these behaviors are inevitably exacerbated by the overall cultural emphasis on sexuality which affect the behaviors of many individuals of both sexes in our society.