By Tom Kando
Maybe the title of my previous post (“Rightward Ho!”) didn’t quite hit the nail on the head. Maybe we are going in reverse -marche arrière! This certainly seems to be the case on the sex and reproductive front. It’s been clear for a long time that Americans have become sexually more conservative.
The high water mark for sexual liberation was in the sixties. It would be absurd to say that a majority of Americans have returned to Puritan values since then, but it is correct to say that most have pulled back from the extreme sexual permissiveness which characterized the Counterculture. Some of this is reasonable, what with AIDS and other new facts, society matures and understands that promiscuity is neither risk-free nor a panacea.
At the same time, there are many disturbing aspects to the new sexual conservatism. I already began to have misgivings in the late 1970s and 1980s when, under the mantel of women’s rights and dignity, communities like Berkeley moved to proscribe such things as Playboy Magazine. In some cases, there emerged a sort of right-wing feminism, whereby people like Gloria Steinem, the Reverend Jerry Falwell and even President Richard Nixon joined hands against such things as pornography and prostitution.
We all understand that pornography and prostitution exploit women. But the question is what to do about them. Outlaw? ban? legalize, zone, control?
Take prostitution: The Dutch/German approach used to be considered the hallmark of progressive enlightenment. Not only the legalization of prostitution, but also its medical control, unions, benefits, etc. But then, with the growth of sex slavery, trade in women, sex tourism, commerce in young girls and in mail-order brides from Moscow to Bangkok, and some overlap between these grotesque practices and prostitution in cities such as Amsterdam and Hamburg, people (including some women’s groups) developed second thoughts about prostitution itself. Maybe the “oldest profession” shouldn’t be tolerated at all.
Regarding prostitution, I don’t have the answer. I grew up believing that its criminalization has caused more pain to women, not less. I still favor the Dutch model - legalization. But then, what do I know? I am a man, and I come from Holland. I just know that, given the changing culture and politics, it will be a cold day in hell before the US legalizes prostitution, and I deplore this.
And the relentless march of sexual conservatism moves on to issues which had seemed settled long ago: Because of the inability of zealots to distinguish between something heinous - child porn - and something innocuous - soft-core adult pornography (or art), we may see increasing censorship and criminalization of anything that can be construed as even mildly sexual.
The assault on reproductive rights is the most bizarre: No longer is just abortion on the defensive. No longer is only Roe v. Wade in peril. The Right Wing is now taking on birth control! Under the guise of religious freedom, the entire Republican Party is lining up behind the Catholic Church. The morning-after pill is now considered a form of abortion, because an ovum that was fertilized 12 or 24 hours ago is defined as a human being.
If the pro-life movement declares a 'zygote' to be a human 'life', they will soon have to declare menstruation a form of abortion, since one half of all fertilized eggs never fully implant and end up leaving a woman's body during menstruation. Don’t these people realize that to prevent such a microscopic “embryo” from coming to fruition is less life-destroying than to pluck a cherry from a tree?
I recently came across an editorial comment calling Viagra immoral. Where will the nuttiness stop? leave comment here
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
By Tom Kando