Is The Modern GOP an 'Anti-Sex Movement?'

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

This was far from what I was expecting to see pop up in my news feed the day after April Fools, but here we are. At the Guardian, columnist Rebecca Solnit gazes across the American political landscape and concludes that Republicans are engaged in a huge leap into the past, specifically to the 19th century. The GOP is, in Solnit's view, being hijacked by "anti-sex crusaders" seeking to shame anyone who is too provocative when it comes to subjects involving sexuality. But what evidence is being offered? Who are these crusaders and what subjects are they focusing on? It quickly becomes obvious that her entire argument boils down to abortion and transgenderism, just like almost all conversations on the left these days.

The US supreme court justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas cited the Comstock Act, named after the 19th-century anti-vice campaigner Anthony Comstock, in last week’s case about access to the abortion pill mifepristone. If you don’t know who Anthony Comstock was or what his law did, that might not have alarmed you. But it should have.

The Comstock Law has come up a lot lately, and it’s part of the Republican war on sex, and to put it that way might sound overly dramatic. But there is such a war, and parts of it – against sex education, against access to birth control, against the healthcare provider Planned Parenthood and of course against abortion – have long been out in the open along with a war against the rights of women and on the rights and very existence of queer and trans people.

Comstock was reputed to be driven by religious shame over masturbation to become his era’s most extreme anti-sex crusader.

The title of this column was obviously quite disingenuous, but it was probably seen as a way to drive clicks so I suppose that's understandable to a certain extent. (Check back later for my scathing expose on topless beaches in California.) But beyond that, the entire premise is a fabrication. To describe a political party as being "anti-sex" implies that they have taken a position in opposition to people having sex. That would mean they oppose reproduction and hence the continuation of the species. I've yet to hear of anyone from either party in favor of that idea except the fringe elements on the left that belong to Extinction Rebellion

The author moves on to suggest a "war" against a variety of things such as sex education, access to birth control, Planned Parenthood, and abortion. In order to grasp what's really going on here, you need to run this column through a Leftist-to-Human translator. Conservatives in general are not opposed to sex education, instead insisting that it be handled at an appropriate age and with the consent and involvement of the parent or guardian. What they oppose is sexually explicit material showing up in school libraries and being hidden from parents. That's not sex education. It's pornography.

There may still be a relative handful of conservatives who oppose birth control in all forms, but this is a vanishing breed. Birth control is fine if (again) it is regulated and distributed appropriately. It becomes a problem when it's being given away for free to children at pop music festivals. And I don't personally know anyone who opposes Planned Parenthood because they distribute birth control. They oppose them because the vast majority of their business revolves around providing abortions. If Solnit wants to accuse Republicans of being opposed to abortion, that's fine, but it's not exactly a secret.

I will grant the author that there remains a rather strong sentiment in American conservative circles regarding the need for responsible behavior when it comes to adult sexual activity. Like all adult activities, you are assuming certain risks and responsibilities when you step out into the world. The freewheeling attitudes of the hippie generation suggesting that people should simply get naked with anyone they run into who is willing never really caught on with a lot of people, despite what you may have taken away from the Broadway version of Hair. Similarly, most conservatives are not going to apologize for pointing out that an abortion involves the life of a baby and it should not be used as a convenient replacement for birth control. Most will admit that there are certain situations where an abortion may be unavoidable, but it shouldn't be the default by any means.

She somehow sandwiches transgenderism into this muddy mix, though without any clear explanation of how or why. Aside from finding the entire topic somewhat "icky" (if you'll pardon the technical terminology), I haven't spoken with many conservatives who are particularly opposed to people claiming to be transgender provided you don't drag children into it. It's unscientific and makes no sense at all, but people can dress as they wish and call themselves what they like. Just don't try to legislatively force your language on the rest of us. That's not "anti-sex" in any way. It's actually a show of support for better mental health resources.

None of this adds up to a "war on sex." It's more of a war in support of common sense, which is all too often lacking on the left these days. But that doesn't make a very good bumper sticker.

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