Sex vs. Terrorism, Here and Abroad
Last weekend, I cried hard at the English-Arabic wedding ceremony between the Jewish groom and Lebanese bride. I indulged at their reception where food and wine flowed, and the groom rocked with his band. And at the after-hours party in someone's crowded hotel room, I danced nasty.
Since The Attack On America, I hadn't huge desire to do any nasty, despite media reports of ramped-up humping nationwide. Sexperts predict a little baby boom in nine months or so. From urgent marital coupling to constant casual clinging to a surge in prostitution, "terror sex" has taken on a whole new meaning from drunken college days.
Apparently my mourning 9-11's senseless brutality hasn't been quite as sensate as others. Diminished, along with desire, has been my capacity to write my columns or book undressing sociosexual issues. So it felt good when the beat crept in past the post-wedding chatter, and lifted me off the couch to touch the music and myself. When my husband judged my dancing a bit "sleazier and sluttier," I thought just maybe I'm getting back to normal as President Bush requested. Now back to work.
Swept by such powerful need to serve my country, sharing sex stories seemed trifling. I actually considered re-enlisting in the Army. Yeah, my life views of today stand worlds apart from Sergeant Riscol's of 11 years ago. But I know how to lock and load. Trained for tank repair, finance and photojournalism, and ranked expert on grenades and M16s, I thought the U.S. military maybe could put me to use in this new war.
Then I learned I'm pregnant.
Whereas lives shattered by hate fueled my need to help safeguard our nation, life spawned in love drives me to help shape a better future. Whereas soldiers throughout time have sacrificed their lives to defend American freedom, warriors on the homefront have devoted their lives to breathe social justice into that freedom. Whereas U.S. forces must now focus intelligence and might so that America survives, civilians must continue to combat fear and ignorance so that America thrives.
Which is how I got into sexology in the first place. Before terrorists united Americans against an external enemy, we eviscerated each other in an escalating culture war, with sex as ground zero. In fact, before Black Tuesday, you'd think sex the number one threat to American security.
Fiscally responsible Republicans gleefully funneled millions of taxpayer dollars into sniffing out President Clinton's sex life. Ominous reports on blowjobs, semen stains, teen promiscuity and anal sex, and Condit conquests made nightly news indistinguishable from tabloids. Made the most open minded long for a shower.
With Biblical Bush's blessing, the family values crowd charged Capitol Hill to take America back to more chaste days. From their seat at domestic and international policy tables, theologians smart-bombed reproductive health services (including family planning for the poor), sexuality education, pornography and the erotic, and civil rights for homosexuals. Even condoms were declared the enemy.
Though the nation's attention has moved on to a threat seemingly greater than promiscuity, conservatives march on to root out the cause of America's moral decline. More than 400 ladies have united with Utah's porn czar, Paula Houston, to stamp out the saucy and suggestive. Targets include Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, Better Homes & Gardens magazine and LaQuinta Inn.
"The parallels between [smut and terror] are uncanny," says Women For Decency Director Janalyn Holt. "Pornography destroys families. It's not a one-time shot like an airplane flying into the World Trade Center. But little by little, blow by blow, it can be just as destructive. We are getting bombarded on all sides."
Yes, she really did say "blow by blow," presumably without cracking a smile. Lacking in both humor and irony is the American Life League, which took out a full-page ad saying, "Defend America ... De-fund Planned Parenthood ... Abortion is the ultimate terrorism."
This when the "pro-life" Army of God claimed some of the powdery letters mailed to more than 140 Planned Parenthood clinics, with member Reverend Donald Spitz calling the anthrax threats a "brilliant move." This when some of the notes aimed to breed terror for performing a constitutionally protected health service, saying, "You have been exposed. You will die." This when Planned Parenthood -- which prevents more abortions and saves more lives through family planning than any organization in the world -- established a security department seven years ago in response to domestic terrorism.
Since divisive politics disappeared in the dust of disaster, conservatives have tried to double federal funding for abstinence-only-till-marriage. To stop California from extending domestic benefits to gay and lesbian couples, and becoming the second state to allow over-the-counter emergency contraception. To stop adults from enjoying porn and strip joints in localities everywhere. Although most agree America will never be the same, the war against sex still rages.
Make no mistake -- sexual liberty and justice are virtues of the civilized world. Bush declared that our enemy hates us because they hate our freedom. Despite the simplistic analysis, Islamic fundamentalists most definitely hate our sexual freedom. As the Religious Right does here. But covering our sexuality in burkas, or corralling it into marriage-only, does not contribute to our cherished American way. Supporting sexual diversity and responsibility does.
Circulating the Internet are jokes about how best to defeat the Taliban: drop porn bombs and airlift in women's colleges and strip joints. A government that honors female autonomy and tolerates sexual expression -- even when offensive to the sensibilities of some -- is far less dangerous than one that tries to control them.
I thank God I was born in America where I could break from my upbringing and forge my own path. Where I could choose my lifemate and when to have a baby. Where I could tap into the erotic at a wedding between a Jew and a Lebanese, dancing naughty with the bride who's wearing only a bra. And where I can continue to fight for sexual liberty and justice as a way to give back to my country.