Despite the lessening anti-gay rhetoric coming from the political right this election season, as discussed below, there are still a great many vigilant cultural warriors engaging in the battle for sex. These anti-sex warriors decry all sex that is not at least hetero-normative, and would prefer that all sex be procreative. They oppose any sexual pleasure, and one wonders whether they all do it on Saturday night, with the lights off, whilst wearing socks. And, if any pleasure should occur, do they self-flagellate?
I refer to this group of people as anti-sex because they oppose things like contraception, abortion and equal rights for the LGBT community. For these folks, sex is nothing but an animalistic procreative act. Animalistic in that it is done solely for the preservation of the species. Thus things like contraception, anal sex, sodomy and other sexual acts that cannot result in pregnancy are verboten.
Certainly, some animals do engage in sexual activity for pleasure. However, they are rare. In permitting procreative sex only, the anti-sex warriors undermine what to them is a central organizing principle- that humans are, by the grace of God, special among God’s creatures. This begs the question of what is so special about an animal that only copulates according to some unwilled desire to preserve the species. In other words, the anti-sex people, who are near universally religious, have taken away free will over one of our core abilities.
Much has been written, particularly by Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon and other places, about the Right’s anti-woman, anti-sex agenda. And I think Amada is entirely correct in her critique. However, I would add that its agenda is also anti-man in some respects. Let’s take the example of abortion. While some prolife individuals and groups really do focus their opposition to abortion on their belief that it is tantamount to murder, looking beneath some of that rhetoric reveals a very strong anti-woman bias.
It’s best encapsulated by the following- “we need to punish those dirty little whores.” This is part of the anti-sex crowds desire to make sex something more than just getting off. They want it to be something that has CONSEQUENCES. And so, they think forcing a woman to carry to term a fetus and then, presumably, mother that child for 18+ years will teach her some sort of lesson about keeping her legs closed. Or something. Never mind that of all the industrialized countries we have some of the worst birth control options and availability, because the anti-sexers want it that way. Again, consequences.
But consequences also flow to the father of the fetus and child. No matter how much paternal responsibility has diminished in our society, there are still fairly strong societal pressures for fathers to live up their responsibilities. So not only does forcing a woman to carry to term her fetus provide consequences to her, but also to the male in the reproduction equation. Perhaps we should punish all the sluts- male and female.
What’s underlying all of these positions (prolife, anti-equality, no contraception) is the notion that sex ought to have meaning. Of course, for the vast majority of anti-sexers, meaning is rooted in religious notions of morality. They are, in a manner of speaking, sexual ascetics. Unlike other ascetics, they seek not only to deny themselves pleasure, but the rest of us, too.
And that is where the problem lies. Sex is something so inherently personal that we might each attach different levels and types of meaning to sexual activities. Or maybe no meaning at all. I might even argue that the anti-sexers are, on some level, stripping meaning away from sex. Taking it out of the realm of pleasure and feeling and making it a mechanical operation.
It is certainly their right to conduct their sex lives in a manner that fits with their desires and values. Just as it surely is my, and your, right to have what we consider to be healthy and fulfilling sex lives. There really is nothing wrong with getting off.