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Comes Naturally #24

Comes Naturally issues: 1-25 / 26-50 / 51-75 / 76-100 / 101-125 / 126-150 / 151-175

Libido Editor Dismissed at Northwestern; New Definitions for Perverts; Teenage Lust; Michael Rosen's Book #3

Canned for His Libido

Jack Hafferkamp is a founder and co-editor of Libido magazine, the delightful quarterly "journal of sex and sensibility" that has been coming out of Chicago for the past five years. Until recently, he largely supported himself (and his time working on Libido) as a lecturer at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, contributing both his experience as a small magazine publisher and his previous background as a reporter for various papers (including the Contra Costa Times).

Well, it seems that publishing a sexy little magazine (no matter how tasteful) and being on the faculty at Northwestern are incompatible, at least as far as Northwestern is concerned. In June, Hafferkamp received a curt three-sentence letter from Medill Dean Michael Janeway, explaining that the college "would not be calling on [him] for teaching in the coming academic year." This despite the fact that he was the senior faculty member teaching his first-year graduate course. Put that in your journalistic First Amendment and smoke it.

Hafferkamp, who had taught at Medill for seven years, takes both his teaching and his journalism seriously. He is well appreciated by both students and fellow faculty members. "He is professionally very strong and did a good job teaching while he was here," says Associate Professor George Harmon in the Northwestern Daily. Heather Campbell, a Medill graduate student, calls Hafferkamp "an excellent teacher."

Janeway claims his decision not to renew Hafferkamp's year-to-year contract was part of a general policy of cutting back on part-time lecturers, unrelated to his connection to Libido. But Hafferkamp notes that his relationship with Dean Janeway turned from polite to sour, after Hafferkamp and Libido co-editor Marianna Beck were featured in an eight-minute "Real Sex" feature on HBO last February. In the feature, Jack and Marianna explain their "intellectual" philosophy of sex publishing in articulate detail. They also get naked and caress each other most deliciously while their voice over explains that part of their motivation for publishing the magazine was having a way of expressing their attraction for each other. The narration also mentioned Hafferkamp's connection to Medill.

Apparently, it was the combination of the Medill reference and the sexy talk and pictures that got Dean Janeway's goat. Janeway called Hafferkamp into his office and warned him never again to mention Libido and Northwestern in the same public breath. Seems the university had received a complaint from an alumnus who felt his degree had been demeaned by Hafferkamp, and another from the parent of a Northwestern student.

Hafferkamp pointedly tells me that he is sensitive to Northwestern's potential public relations around an issue like this. Having spent over a year trying to get a basic second-class mailing permit out of the Chicago postal authorities, he is well aware of conservative sexual response to his magazine. He was, he says, perfectly willing to cooperate with the university to smooth whatever feathers might have been ruffled. (Appearing with Beck on CNBC's "Real Personal," for example, he was careful not to mention his connection to the university.) What Hafferkamp found upsetting was Janeway's accusatory stance ("he was waving his finger at me and issuing orders") and the underlying implication that publishing a magazine dealing with sex was somehow shameful.

"I want you to know that I'm not ashamed of what I do," he told the Dean.

"I don't care about that," Janeway shot back, according to Hafferkamp, "just never do it again."

When a reporter from the Daily Northwestern got wind of the story and came to interview him, Hafferkamp was wary. He agreed to the interview on condition that the story not mention the HBO incident, only to have exactly that appear as the lead to the story. That the story appeared under the headline, "THE EROTIC-MINDED PROFESSOR," and included enticing photos of him and Beck didn't help matters either. His dismissal letter came two months later.

As he collects himself and tries to figure out how to replace the twothirds of his income that has just disappeared, Hafferkamp consoles himself by watching one of the nation's most respected journalism schools squirm as it tries to reconcile his dismissal with its supposed dedication to journalistic free expression. Ten Northwestern students and graduates ("five times as many people as protested the HBO piece," Hafferkamp laughs triumphantly) have written the university protesting his dismissal, and pointed feature stories have appeared in the Chicago Reader ("The Naughty Professor"), the Chicago Tribune ("Compromising Position: Journalism instructor's sex journal too hot to handle for Northwestern"), and the Daily Northwestern ("Dear Jack, You're Fired").

If you want to support Jack Hafferkamp and receive four issues of a deliciously smart, humorous and sexy literary/photographic quarterly, get yourself a subscription to Libido (P.O. Box 146721, Chicago, IL 60614;$26). Just for the record, Libido's motto is "post coitum omnia animalia trista sunt tantum gallis hominibusque exceptis, which translates, profoundly and classically, "after sex all animals are sad except people and roosters."

How to Spot a Pervert

DSM-IV is out. DSM-III-R is history.

The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders may not be on the top of your reading list but, whether you know it or not, this is one influential publication that has a lot to say about what is considered normal and sick among those who have the power to officially decide such things. Psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, social workers, psychiatric nurses -- psychiatric workers of all stripes -- use the DSM to make both legal and analytical judgments as to who's sane and who's crazy, who's understandably eccentric and who's decidedly pathological.

Now, one man's insanity may be another woman's delightful bohemianism, but to the APA, mental illness is absolute rather than relative, and minutely classifiable at that. Not only does the APA divide the world into distinct classes of people (normal, neurotic, and psychotic), but there are multitudinous subcategories as well, each with its diagnostic features, its subtypes and specifiers, its differential diagnosis, and so on.

You've got your sleep disorders, your dissociative disorders, your impulse-control disorders, your mood disorders, your adjustment disorders, your eating disorders and, of course, your sexual and gender identity disorders.

You've got pyromania, kleptomania, and trichotillomania. You've got four different brands of schizophrenia (catatonic, paranoid, disorganized, and residual), not to mention schizoaffective disorder, schizophreniform disorder, and schizophrenia undifferentiated. You've got exhibitionism, fetishism, transvestic fetishism, sexual masochism, sexual sadism, frotteurism, pedophilia, and voyeurism. And how about "Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent, Severe" (with and without psychotic features).

Who cares!? you say. What's in a name? Sticks and stones and all that. NOT! In many states (California is not quite so bad), if you're classified crazy you can be locked away in a mental institution against your will, and once the heavy steel or genteel oak doors of the psychiatric inquisition close behind you, you may very well never see the light of non-institutional reality again. You enter a world where your rights as a human being largely disappear, where you can be given mind-altering, numbing, crazy-making psychotropic drugs -- drugs with all kinds of uncomfortable, frightening, dangerous, and often irreversible side effects -- if these are deemed necessary to control your behavior.

There was an incident once involving a newspaper reporter who got himself admitted to a psychiatric facility so he could report first hand on the conditions there. A week later, his chart was replete with references to his "inappropriate" moods and behaviors, including repeated notations that he was compulsively taking notes. When he gave up the charade and told the hospital staff what he was doing, they dismissed him as delusional and refused to discharge such a dangerous psychopath into an unsuspecting society at large. It was only when his editor vouched for him that he was let go.

Let's just say that entering the labyrinth that calls itself the mental health system is a threshold to be crossed carefully and at one's own risk. "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here" might well be posted over the doors of many a psych ward.

Who's sane and who's normal? A tricky question, especially relating to something as charged as sexual behavior. Until recently, for example, homosexual behavior was a clinical disorder, a disease, a mental illness. It was only after years of campaigning by gay activists that homosexuality was finally removed from the DSM.

Well, the much anticipated new edition of the DSM has been released, the first redefinition of psychiatric reality since 1987. And you'll be glad to know that in the category of "Sexual Paraphilias" (sexual desires and attractions beyond the usual), there has been at least one decidedly progressive and tolerant change: consensual s/m and fetishism have been depathologized.

Previously, you could be officially classified a sexual deviant for engaging in s/m and fetish sex, whether or not those acts bothered you, your partner, or anybody else. Why? Well, because the APA said so, that's why. That's no longer the case. According to DSM-IV, unconventional sexual desires, fantasies, and behaviors are diseases only if they "cause clinically significant distress," or if they majorly impair a person's ability to function. How reasonable. The inquisition is over. We have entered a new age of sexual tolerance.

The DSM defines Sexual Masochism as "the act (real, not simulated) of being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer." Specified masochistic acts include "restraint (physical bondage), blindfolding (sensory bondage), paddling, spanking, whipping, beating, electrical shocks, cutting, 'pinning and piercing' (infibulation), and humiliation (e.g., being urinated or defecated on, being forced to crawl and bark like a dog, or being subjected to verbal abuse)."

Previously, you were considered a deviant if you liked being spanked or blindfolded, or if you pierced your body, even if this made you happy as a clam. Now you're only pathological if your behavior is a problem to you. How sensible! How enlightened! How polymorphous!

The same generosity of spirit has been granted to Sexual Sadism -- "acts (real, not simulated) in which the individual derives sexual excitement from the psychological or physical suffering (including humiliation) of the victim;" to Fetishism -- "the use of nonliving objects" for sexual arousal; and to Transvestic Fetishism (cross-dressing).

Actually, for all my dislike of psychiatric arrogance, I was surprised at the sensibility I found in DSM-IV, much of which was included in the previous DSM-III-R as well. The section on sexual sadism acknowledges that a "victim" may well be a consenting partner. The section on fetishism specifically acknowledges the existence of dildoes and vibrators ("devices designed for the purpose of tactile genital stimulation") and excepts such sex toys from the fetish category. And you'll be interested to know that transvestic fetishism is specifically limited to heterosexual and bisexual men, so if you're a gay man or a woman of any persuasion, you can crossdress all you want and maintain your sanity certificate, leaving only the question as to why straight guys don't get to have fun, too. (Is this the one and only example of heterosexual male disprivilege?)

Voyeurism, exhibitionism, and frotteurism (rubbing up against people) are only certifiable if they involve unsuspecting and unwilling people and, again, if they cause great distress of inability to function. The same is true for pedophilia. Did you know that a certified pedophile must be over 16 and at least five years older than their partner or object of desire? Or that "late adolescents" involved in on-going sexual relationships with 12- and 13-year-olds are not pedophiles in any case? Pretty radical for the current mass state of mind, if you ask me. No wonder the Jesse Helmses of the world consider psychiatry to be part of the Atheistic Communist conspiracy that is destroying the moral fiber that made this country what it is (and what it is not).

Of Teenage Hormones, Leashed and Unleashed

What are we going to do about our teenagers and what the elders like to disparage as their raging hormones? It seems that all sort of people are in a tizzy because two teenage residents at the Santa Clara County Children's Shelter may have had (gasp) safe sex in a courtyard in front of the shelter late one night, using condoms provided by the shelter's nurse. The girl was 15. The boy was reportedly also "underage." Other teens making out nearby may have seen what happened. Oh my, oh my, oh my.

Two teenagers, removed to a shelter from their homes, presumably for some kind of abuse or neglect, have the presence of mind to ask the house nurse for condoms before they go have sex, and the next thing you know the sex is being called rape (although the girl denies being raped), the state licensing agency is investigating the shelter, and the director of Santa Clara County Family and Children's Services is spouting, "We cannot allow this type of behavior to occur."

Get it together, people. Teenagers have sex. Teenagers are sex. The question is not whether, but when, where, and how. Going into battle against teenage sex is like protesting spring rain. Make a little room for them to get wet.

In Bossier City, Louisiana, two teenagers have been arrested for "having sex" on a bed in the furniture department of a department store. An outraged customer called the manager and the outraged manager called the police. The 19-year-old boy and 17-year-old girl face up to six months in jail and a $500 fine, even though they apologized for getting carried away. Seems to me the apology would suffice, but we know I'm not the one being called to decide these things and, god(dess) knows, it's a long way from here to Louisiana. Maybe the judge will have a sense of humor and understanding. Probably not. Let's at least give them a nomination for a Spectator Slut of the Year award, Most Unbridled Passion division.

In Washington, D.C., on the other hand, 211,163 cards have been staked to the ground, representing teenagers who have pledged to abstain from sex until they're married. "I always wanted to stay pure for my husband," said one 17-year-old Louisianan girl, presumably not the girl arrested in Bossier City.

And back in the Bay Area, my partner, Helen, recently received the following note from her 13-year-old son's junior high school:

Dear B-40 Parents,

As part of our 7th and 8th grade family life curriculum we will be having a presentation on Tuesday, May 17th by Molly Kelly on "Teens and Chastity". Molly Kelly... has produced videos on teens and chastity, and speaks at schools to thousands of teenagers annually. She will be speaking in assembly format to our students.

Because this assembly deals with family life issues parents can excuse their child from participation. If you do not want your child to attend the "Teens and Chastity" assembly, please complete the bottom portion of this note and return it to our school office....

Roy Nelson

What's a parent to do? Helen and I confer feverishly. God knows, we don't want some radical firebrand filling impressionable young Jesse's head with guilt and shame, teaching him to hate his body and to distrust what it feels. Why, that could twist him like a pretzel for the rest of his tender life, lead him away from the wholesome path of sensuous sensibility, down the known-to-be-demeaning and degrading road of selfhatred, and self-defeating self-doubt. We know all too well how hard it is for young people today to keep their senses and bodies about them, bombarded as they are by thousands of messages every day beguiling them to distrust and deny the beautiful, natural feeling of their god-given sexual awakening.

"Not with this child you don't," we yelled impotently and angrily at no one in particular, standing on the dining room table, shaking our fists in the air, and bemoaning the ways that the schools have usurped the parental role of providing guidance to the young on these matters.

Fortunately, calmer humors returned before we could put pen to paper, ostracizing Jesse from his friends for having parents who wouldn't let him do anything. Let a thousand flowers bloom, we smiled tolerantly at those who encourage the perversion of abstinence as an acceptable teenage sexual lifestyle, knowing that Jesse, like most people his age, has exceptionally fine-tuned shit detectors. But what if he was seduced by the sweet-sounding words of the likes of Molly Kelly? What if he became one more unnatural pledge card nailed to the sod in the nation's capitol? Could we trust him to sort the roses from the manure, the pheromones from the dirty socks?

In these difficult times, we decided, looking at each other in anguish, we really had no choice.

Tuesday May 17th dragged by like molasses in wintertime. Finally Jesse appeared at the door.

"What was it like?" we asked anxiously.

"Really stupid," he said, shaking his head. "No one was listening."

Praise the Lord.

Photographs that Test the Limits

Keep your eyes peeled for Michael Rosen's latest collection of mindboggling photographs, Sexual Art: Photographs that Test the Limits, due to come quite hot off the press August 31st. To my mind, this is Michael's best book yet, a mixture of his sexual portraits, sexual still lifes, and what Michael likes to call "action shots." But then, I'm hardly objective: I had the pleasure of watching the book take shape in Michael's mind over the last year or so, and of writing its afterword as well.

"In Sexual Art: Photographs that Test the Limits," says Michael in the book's introduction, "I continue the work of my previous self-published books on radical sexuality [Sexual Magic: The S/M Photographs; Sexual Portraits]. I present transgressive images of explicit sex, and I feature what I call non-standard penetration. Can sexually explicit images be art? I say, 'YES', and that such art is good for you! The function of art is not merely to decorate our nests and make us feel good, but rather to challenge our notions of what our world is about. I hope that my work shows something of what the possibilities can be."

Sexual Art: Photographs that Test the Limits is available from Michael at Shaynew Press (P.O. Box 425221, San Francisco, CA 94142) for $34 postpaid, $36.50 with tax in California). It will be available at Good Vibrations starting in September.

Spectator, April 19, 1994

Copyright © 1994 David Steinberg

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