Politically Impermissible Sex Talk
Why is the right so insistent on imposing its political correctness on any political discourse about sex?A year ago on my radio show I interviewed a guy from some right-wing fundamentalist group called the American Life League. His thesis: A bunch of liberals-most notably Dr. Joyce Elders and Jane Fonda (is she still one of us?) -- held a secret meeting where, according to tapes the League claims to possess, a plan was hatched to promote sexual promiscuity.Did such a meeting take place? I hope so! Because what would be so wrong with promoting within the public arena a more tolerant -- and, therefore, guilt-reducing-attitude toward responsible sexual practice?Indeed, 30 years ago such discussion was fully accepted as a subject for rational public discourse and debate. Which shows how far we've regressed during the post-'60s conservative avalanche and its imposition on the body politic of its "political correctness" as defined by the likes of William Bennett, Dan Quayle, Pat Robertson -- and now, Bob Dole. Perhaps most ironic: A liberal approach to sexuality is no longer permissible within public political discourse-but our behavior hasn't changed.Since the end of World War II, the onset of puberty averages almost two years earlier; the age of marriage, five years later. The result is a seven-year increase in the window between puberty and wedlock -- an additional seven years of horniness most folks ain't gonna tolerate. But while public political discourse isn't permitted to recognize the implications of this, our personal attitudes -- and much of contemporary mass media content which seldom leads, but almost always follows such attitudes -- reveal an ever widening acceptance of doing what it's no longer politically permissible to discuss. Thus, within a few weeks of Joycelyn Elders' firing for daring to speak realistically about masturbation -- ironically, the safest sex there is! -- the repeat of the classic Seinfeld episode on the masturbation contest, was the season's top-rated single sitcom episode. (Imagine how much less hassle Bill Clinton would have had in his political career had he taken Elders' advice about meat-beating!)The right, and especially the religious right, caught up in a theology centering on a God whose major concern seems to be what we do with our genitals, has a tough time dealing with this. If they're not gonna stop us from doing what more and more of us are doing, or from laughing at it on sitcoms, or reveling in its more perverse aspects on the daytime soaps and TV talk shows, at least they're going to make sure that those who govern us will continue to speak to the need for a repressive sexual code of conduct.The politicians will ignore that such calls have about as much reality as the anti-drug campaigns which were predicted on the assumption that when Nancy Reagan spoke, junkies listened. Which is not to say that this repression of political discourse about sex has no repercussions. When it goes beyond the realm of limiting talk and results in legislative enactments, it does have profoundly negative impact on those targeted -- most notably the poor, the pregnant and the gay.So-called "welfare reform" which punishes children for the profligate sexual life the religious right sees the out-of-wedlock poor as living is, of course, the prime example. The nibbling of abortion rights-laws such as those requiring parental notification in the case of minors, or that women be forced to wait 24 hours before they can undergo the procedure -- is another. Pregnancy, after all, is an outcome of sex.And, according to the religious right all sex, other than sex within wedlock for the purpose of procreation, is evil. Then there are the campaigns by the religious right to prevent decriminalization of gay sexual practices (such laws remain on the books in more than 20 states!) or, until that recent Supreme Court decision, to repeal laws which guarantee gays protection from discrimination.The major problem with the religious right's control of what is acceptable political discourse when it comes to sexuality is that as long as it retains this control, the pressures will mount for enactment of more such repressive laws.Maybe TV sitcom writers should organize a new political party. When it comes to sex at least, they seem to have it right.