Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio Public Domain
Making Sex a Crime
By Richard Girard
"The question of sexual dominance can exist only in the nightmare of that soul which has armed itself, totally, against the possibility of the changing motion of conquest and surrender, which is love."
James Baldwin (1924--87), U.S. author. The Price of the Ticket, "The Devil Finds Work," section 2; (1985; first published 1976).
The recent furor over President Obama's compromise solution on the matter of employers and their insurers providing women's contraception as a part of their health care plan would be laughable if it were not so dangerous. By attempting to deny one-half of the American people the right to the full spectrum of health care upon the basis of the belief system of one person or a single soulless organization by whom they are employed is insane. The direct influence of all established religions and their dogmas should end at the door of the church. Any attempt to extend that direct influence beyond the door of the church to the workplace, even if that workplace is controlled by that religious institution, I believe violates the separation of church and state.
The only influence that a church should have beyond its doors is in the hearts and minds of its parishioners, not in the laws and actions of our pluralistic nation. In the United States of America, forcing the laws of Moses, the Catholic Church, Luther or Calvin upon the American people is just as wrong as forcing Sharia Law on them would be.
This is simply the most recent means by which this nation's Radical Right wing is attempting to force women into remaining second class citizens here in the United States. Without the control over their bodies that contraception, as well as abortion, gives women--control which the men already have in a similar if form under those self-same health care plans, including vasectomies and access to Viagra and other drugs for erectile dysfunction--women are forever limited in their choices both of lives and livelihoods in this country.
The real basis for the opposition to abortion and contraception in this country is denial of equal rights to women, just as the privatization of our public schools is a covert means to create a permanent underclass, and re-establish segregation . Privatization has never been about the teaching of Creationism, or prayer in school. The oligarchs simply do not want equality in any form, or a broad-based, well-informed electorate, or any of the other trappings of modern representative democracy. Any semblance of equality--whether between the races or the sexes--interferes with the oligarchs' ability to control the economic life of this country, and through it, our nation's political life. The oligarchs want control over the process of government in a manner that does not cost these would-be puppet masters too much money.
As Camille Paglia observed twenty years ago, "We should teach general ethics to both men and women, but sexual relationships themselves must not be policed. Sex, like the city streets, would be risk-free only in totalitarian regimes;" (Sex, Art, and American Culture; Introduction, 1992). The war against both contraception and abortion are simply a further attempt by the oligarchs--using the Radical Right--to take control of the heart and soul of America, as part of its program to end our liberties. For oligarchs like the Koch Brothers, and their puppets like Karl Rove and Rick Santorum, Supreme Court decisions like Roe v. Wade, Griswold v. Connecticut, Brown v. Board of Education, and Texas v. Hernandez, represent obstacles standing in the way of their taking control of this nation. The only ethics which the oligarchs wish to have taught is that of unthinking obedience to one's plutocratic betters, no matter how foolish those "betters" may be.
Even that most sexually uptight of feminists, Kate Millet, in her book Sexual Politics (Chapter 2, 1970) noted that, "Coitus can scarcely be said to take place in a vacuum; although of itself it appears a biological and physical activity, it is set so deeply within the larger context of human affairs that it serves as a charged microcosm of the variety of attitudes and values to which culture subscribes. Among other things, it may serve as a model of sexual politics on an individual or personal plane." An exposure of the Radical Right's ongoing war against any sort of psychologically healthy sexual outlook by the American people, an outlook where sex is more than a means of procreation, where the discussion of sex has evolved beyond the tawdry remarks of teenage males, as well as the power-based objectification of women by their fathers and other older males, is long overdue.
Ed Schultz, on his February 24, 2012 radio show, put a name to the purpose of the Radical Right in their war on abortion, contraception, and sex in general. Mr. Schultz stated that the Radical Right's object is nothing less than the reassertion of male control of women in this country, in order to once again make them second-class citizens. In other words, "their goal is 'vaginal management'."
I believe that most Americans have never had an honest and frank discussion about sex and its real effect on their own, their children's, or their community's lives, even with their spouses. To quote Oriana Fallaci (The Egotists, "Hugh Hefner;" 1963), "We do not understand these Americans who, like adolescents, always speak of sex, and who, like adolescents, all of a sudden have discovered that sex is good not only for procreating children." Almost fifty years later, very little has changed, except network television has gone from ignoring the issue of sex in America, to making it a generally sordid and regrettable comedy of errors .
This mindset has prevented any attempt at honest or realistic discussions, even at the most basic level of the married couple--let alone society--on teen pregnancy, venereal disease, rape, and the objectification of women. I want to approach the subject of these ongoing attempts to repress and regulate American sexuality from an entirely different direction: that area in our society where, in the always tumultuous relationship between sex and society, sex has already lost, and where the cost is most obvious. I am speaking of course of the shadowy realm of the sex worker, especially prostitution.
There are preconceptions about sex work--and by the term sex work I include phone sex operators, live web cam sites, exotic dancing, pornography, but most of all prostitution--which color and distort the American view of sex workers. These preconceptions have so far--because of our nation's Calvinist/Puritan heritage --been almost impossible to dispel. One of these preconceptions is that no intelligent individual who was not addled by drugs or alcohol (or both), would ever engage in any form of sex work unless they literally had a gun to their head.
In Love Ranch, a movie with Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci that is the semi-fictitious story of the early years of the Mustang Ranch Brothel in Nevada, there is a scene where religious protesters come out to the Ranch (carrying signs that say "God's Law not Man's Law," which encapsulates the Radical Right's position on the entire subject of "vaginal Management" perfectly), demanding its closure, because it is an unfit occupation for women, and a blight on the community. Helen Mirren's character--who is playing the titular Love Ranch's madame and part owner--steps out of the building with her "working girls." Ms. Mirren then makes a declaration that is the most publicly sympathetic reason ever stated by Hollywood for why every non-coerced sex worker in the world does what they do: "Do you think any of these girls dreamed of being hookers when they grew up. They are doing the very best they can with the hand they've been dealt."