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Culture Warriors vs. Sex for Pleasure: Why the Right Wing is Wrong When it Comes to Sex

If prescribing to dogmatic absolutes worked, then the most conservative Christian red states wouldn’t have the highest rates of teen pregnancy, divorce and porn consumption.

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When my mind pushes the replay button, I see that all my best sex has been for pleasure. Not sex for power or longing or need or hope. Not to be loved or wanted or desired. Not in exchange for commitment, security or promises. Not for duty. Or to make a wanted baby. But sex for pleasure. Raw, sweet, sad. Powerful, fun, intimate. Transcendent. Tender. Mind-blowing. Exquisite, loving pleasure.

Sex for pleasure breeds honesty, respect, and responsibility. Otherwise the ultimate fallout is simply not pleasurable. Culture warriors don’t stop sex, though they can make pleasure less attainable. America’s war on sex is really a war on conversation.

When President Clinton’s U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders answered a reporter’s question on HIV prevention that, yes, maybe masturbation should be taught as a healthy part of sexuality, she was forced to resign. Her successor Dr. David Satcher—also a pioneering African American physician from the south—released under President Bush the first-ever Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior to begin a national dialogue “with respect for diversity” and “for what science shows is effective.” Outraged chastity crusaders pounced. End of conversation.  

Letting politics and commercialism define our sexual narrative—continues our nation’s sexual schizophrenia with obscene rates of teen and unplanned pregnancy, abortion, HIV and STDs, sexual “addiction,” alienation and desire discrepancies, divorce, sexual violence and exploitation. Shutting down sexual conversation guarantees job security for porn as America’s closet sex educator. More silence and shame means more Penn State and Catholic Church sexual abuse atrocities because our kids don’t have the language to talk about what’s good and right, while adults rather look away.

Because my young son is so precious, I protect him by talking about sexuality, foundational to who and what we are, how we relate. He’s known since he was six years old about the clitoris being the only human body part purely for pleasure, about the normalcy of gay and transgender people he sees, and he’s still just as innocent. I won’t spew traditional “do as I say, not as I do” crap, but will teach awareness and moral reasoning over absolutes. I’m teaching him to value himself and others, the consequences of decisions, to choose pleasure over purity-promiscuity extremes. He’ll know that this is the United States of America and his sex does not belong to church or state, or Madison Avenue. And in time, away from schoolyard bullies, he can contrast the courage and empathy of Sandra Fluke vs. the bitchy fragility of Limbaugh and O’Reilly for examples of what it means to be a real man.

It’s morning in America, and she has a hard on. Waking up to a new breed of pleasure revolutionaries sick of gagging on the foie gras of smut and sanctimony being packaged and preached as the one and only true sex. Social media has opened the first ever intersection of sexuality scientists, educators, therapists, entrepreneurs; cross generational feminists, sex and gender queers, communities of color, sex workers, kinksters, faith leaders; youth, aging, disability, masculinity, reproductive health and human rights advocates to fight culture warriors against sexual pleasure for all.

Time to tell our own stories. We will not be silenced.

Though not a fan of evolutionary psychology that clings to sexual stereotypes— like men want sex and women want shoes, you know, hardwired from caveman days—I embrace the words of Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

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