Grab your smelling salts and brace yourself—I’m going to talk about sex. Not graphically, the children don’t need to leave the room or anything. But I’m going to talk about the idea of sex as an underlying basis for policy.
In the wake of the truly misguided Hobby Lobby decision, which endowed a legal entity with the right to discriminate against working women of child-bearing age via a newly discovered corporate religious freedom, I was reminded that puritanical America is alive and on Twitter. What I found on my mentions feed were a lot of people (some women, mostly men) who felt like they wanted to offer the following advice: an aspirin between your knees is a great birth control…and affordable.
Translation: These Hobby Lobby women shouldn’t need birth control because they shouldn’t be having sex.
Some tried to sound more fiscally conservative and say, “I don’t care what they do as long as I don’t have to pay for it.”
Translation: They shouldn’t be having sex.
Women and their liberal brethren are upset because a billionaire employer gets to dictate which medications their female workers have to pay for out of pocket. But to the Right, it’s a rarely missed opportunity to re-litigate the 20th Century’s gradual acceptance of women first as voters, then as unregulated private citizens (Roe v. Wade), and then as equal participants in recreational sex. Not just being sexy; not as sexual objects; an not just as whore or virginal mother constructs, but as actual women being free to partake in their natural ability to desire and enjoy intercourse (and not be an outcast).
Some have pointed out (myself included) that if you are truly against abortion, you should be FOR what counters the need for abortion—reliable, cheap and widely available birth control. This assumes (wrongly) the pro-life movement is really about “life.” When it comes to children, their concern stops at birth and when it comes to women, their finger wagging starts at sex.
A few years ago for a story, I went undercover at a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC), a fake clinic offering no health care services and misleading medical advice. Their guidebook, called the Pearson Manual, declares they’re battling Satan and to them Satan is a “girl who wants to kill her baby” and therefore she doesn’t deserve real information. Because she’s Satan. The only way to not get pregnant, they said; don’t have sex. One of the pamphlets read, “True love protects 100 percent of the time.” Which is far from being medically sound. CPCs are billed as solely anti-abortion; they’re firstly anti-fornication.
It’s a little fun to watch Republicans try to be more libertarian. It’s not a great fit. Republicans like liberty when it’s something they agree with, like oil and gas company subsidies. And not so much for things they don’t agree with, like women having sex without consequences. It’s an actual fear. Conservative Christians fear women having sex freely will erode society. It’s somehow going to hurt the country if our womenfolk act like men in regards to their libido. To them, female sexuality is a matter of national security! Conservatives are against equal rights for women. Women are different, they argue, and they need to be protected. They’re pro-woman, sure, as long as said woman is not sexually liberated (i.e. a slut).
And that is what is going on in the minds of some of the jurists at the Supreme Court. Case in point: in the 2011 decision Snyder v. Phelps, which hinged on Fred Phelps’, of “God Hates Fags” fame, First Amendment right to picket funerals of dead marines, the court ruled 8-1 in Phelps’ favor. Justice Alito wrote the dissent: “Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.” He continued, “In order to have a society in which public issues can be openly and vigorously debated, it is not necessary to allow the brutalization of innocent victims like petitioner.”
And in last week’s McCullen v. Coakley the “buffer zone” law at abortion clinics—establishments that have been repeatedly bombed, shot and otherwise terrorized by “protestors” –how did Alito vote when it came to “vicious verbal assault” on loose women? Alito thinks that’s protected speech. The decision was unanimously in favor of the harassers.
The coinage of The War on Women denotes planning on the part of the right wing. It suggests some kind of coordination and agenda. I don’t think that’s what we have here. I think what we’re seeing is a visceral kneejerk—a deeply rationalize prejudice against female sexuality.
It’s not a war—it’s just warped.