In the news recently were several items that spark comment. Secretary of State Colin Powell was being criticized for advocating the use of condoms to reduce the likelihood of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS in particular. President Bush proposed additional moneys to finance abstinence-only educational programs and he cut off funding for programs that might advocate or sponsor abortion. Yes, I know such actions are popular with some but, to my mind, and the minds of the majority, these are short sighted and dangerous policies. I'm ashamed to have our country associated with them as national themes. This is especially so, since they seem to be flying in the face of proposals and recommendations made only several months ago by Surgeon General David Satcher. The Bush administration's policies are not just harmful to the individuals they are supposed to protect. They fly in the face of knowledge available from and contributed to by members of our professional society. There is no doubt that the use of condoms reduces the likelihood of contracting an STD and there is evidence that good sex education programs, including how to practice safe sex, not only reduces the chance of infection but also significantly reduces the chance for pregnancy and delays initiation into sexual intercourse. And, perhaps most troubling, cutting off aid to international organizations that help women control their fertility contributes to poverty and population pressures that hinder world conditions. Keeping people ignorant and poor is not a way to benefit the world. These sorts of things are reason enough to encourage everyone to become politically active to increase the chance that government will listen and respond to creditable research. While sexologists don't have all the answers to problems of sexual behavior, STD, population and such, we certainly have enough to help shape government policy. There is an old Jewish expression that says "It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you free to abstain from it." Write a letter, make a phone call, contribute some time to back whatever cause you think is just.
Another thing was in the news. This was the Olympic scandal with pair figure skating. The ratings were skewed so that, in a face-saving move, two gold medal sets were eventually awarded rather than just one. One of the judges was less than honest and it caused much hurt and damage to the integrity of the games as well at to the individual's involved. The honor of judges is taken for granted; and in a just world, it should be. And this turned my thinking to journal referees. Indeed, they are supposed to be impartial judges and instead of medals, they allocate journal space. The majorities of reviewers do their best and contribute greatly to science. If I receive back a review of an article I've submitted, and I think it unfair, I grit my teeth, curse a little, and become depressed for a few days. On the other hand, when I calm down, I usually have to admit that responding to the reviewers' comments make my paper better. And I have to further state, I think attending to the criticisms improves the quality of research. The best referees are like coaches. They are honest and doing their best to make us better. Unfortunately, there occasionally are referees that have an agenda different from that of good coaches. They act out of professional jealousy, or competitiveness. They project their own agendas rather than foster that of the manuscript author. Unlike the Olympics, however, fortunately our field has many respectable journals and referees so one can always try again. Starting with our SSSS organization publication, the Journal of Sex Research, is a good place to start. If your manuscript doesn't earn you a gold medal, silver or bronze are not bad either.
Several months ago, on behalf of the Society, I requested contributions to help our organization balance its books. To date SSSS has received slightly more than $10,000 in contributions from about 100 members. This response is wonderful! This means we have reached 25% of our goal by the contributions of 12 per cent of our members. Those who have helped deserve hearty thanks from all members. Our solicitation drive is still on and we hope those who have been waiting for the right time to send in their contribution, will do so soon. The "Future Task Force" headed by Dr. Janet Hyde and the Finance Task Force chaired by Dr. Walter Bockting have been working away and your society is finding ways to reduce costs and resolve past debts. There is definitely light at the end of this tunnel and it's not an oncoming train. Your contributions definitely help and are appreciated.
As a last item, I would like to comment on Valentine's day. Here at the University of Hawaii, as at many other schools, the students hold all sorts of celebrations. This year, as every year, they had displays and booths teaching about STDs, family planning, relationships, and counseling, and more. There were booths for LGBT organizations, social and religious groups, and all sorts of school related issues. There were booths discussing sex harassment and booths that promote abstinence until marriage. Free condoms and leaflets supporting just about every type of philanthropy imaginable were distributed. And there was a movement to have the day co-labeled as Vagina day in honor of the Vagina Monologues which was being shown at one of the University theaters. Here was a true market place of sexual ideas where the students could teach and learn, argue and debate, and come out the better for it. Moreover, it was sanctioned by the University Administration and paid for from student activity fees. Many faculty and staff participated in one way or another. Secretary of State Colin Powell would have been right at home. This is a far cry from the situation not so long ago when administrators and politicians ran away from anything related to sex and would forbade such campus activities. The present situation does my heart good. It will be most wonderful world when all Universities can have their own Valentine's Day, where all facets of sexual matters can be openly and freely discussed without unwarranted repercussions.
To you all, I wish the happiness that is associated with Valentine's Day.
Milton Diamond, President