Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
The AARP Bulletin that includes the controversial advertisement
An advertisement in the American Association of Retired People’s January/February 2009 AARP Bulletin points readers toward a website that sells not only sex education materials and products but also explicitly pornographic videos.
Robert Peters, president of the anti-pornography group Morality in Media, reports on ChristianNewsWire that he sent a letter to AARP CEO William Novelli and AARP President Jennie Chin Hansen, asking them to stop promoting bettersex.com products to AARP Bulletin readers.
“By directing its members to the www.bettersex.com website,” Peters writes, “AARP is not only directing them to a source of purported ‘adult sex education’ materials but also to a wide variety of products typically available in an ‘adult bookstore.’ It’s a bit like accepting an ad for a parlor that offers health massages, knowing that one or more backrooms have been set aside for promiscuous sex.”
Peters’ criticism also points out that the Better Sex website is operated by the Sinclair Intimacy Institute, which in turn is run by PHE, Inc., one of the nation’s largest mail-order pornography companies, better known to customers as Adam & Eve.
The Sinclair Intimacy Institute, which created the Better Sex video series advertised in the AARP Bulletin, describes itself as “the leading source of sexual health products for adults who want to improve the quality of intimacy and sex in their relationships.”
The Institute is also watched over by an advisory council of doctors, professors and sex therapists that claims on the organization’s website it “helps guide the development of Sinclair products and policies to ensure each video reflects the concerns and needs of healthy, monogamous couples who want to enhance their intimacy.”
The Institute’s connection to the bettersex.com website, however, gives Peters his cause for complaint.
Included on the site, which features sex toys, products and the Better Sex video series, is an “adult movies” link offering videos for sale. The videos – some from notorious porn producers Penthouse and Playgirl and others with titles like “Burning Lust,” “Wicked Wives: A Voyeur’s Diary” and “My Neighbor’s Wife” – make it clear that not all the products are intended to be educational for the “needs of healthy, monogamous couples” but instead for explicitly pornographic purposes.
In his letter to the AARP, Peters quotes a 2002 Chicago Tribune article in which Mark Schoen, then the director of sex education at the Sinclair Institute, defended its adult films.
“Because we’re about sex and we’re on the Internet, people assume we’re an adult site,” said Schoen. “For some people, if a video has explicit sex, it’s a dirty movie, but others are seriously looking for accurate sexual info, and they want a graphic depiction. That’s what we do. We don’t pull any punches.’”
Peters responded, “Even assuming that the Better Sex video series and other Institute ‘adult sex education’ films are not ‘dirty movies,’ there would still be a problem for mainstream publications that carry ads for BetterSex.com – namely, that BetterSex.com doesn’t just promote ‘adult sex education’ materials. It also promotes commercially distributed pornographic movies.”
Peters concluded his letter to the AARP by questioning whether mass distribution of sexually explicit videos, whether deemed “educational” or not, actually improves retirees’ sexual health.
Peters writes, “Even assuming that some sexually explicit materials can have positive educational value when provided by a competent professional for use by a specific individual, doesn’t mean those materials won’t have a detrimental impact on others when disseminated indiscriminately.
“To the extent that Better Sex videos sexually arouse viewers, they can have the same effect as ‘adult movies;’” Peters continues, “and for millions of Americans, viewing pornography has become a ruinous addiction.”
WND contacted the advertising department of the AARP Bulletin to discuss the ads, but phone calls were not returned.
The AARP’s online guidelines for advertisers clarify that the organization deems some industry sectors as unacceptable for publication, including ads for tobacco, firearms, and political and religious messages, but does not mention pornography.
The AARP website also states, “The appearance of any other advertising in any of AARP’s publications, however, does not constitute nor should be construed as an endorsement of any product or service.”