Wednesday, June 07, 2006

How to Think About Sex

I just sent a letter to my lawmakers, Representative Jan Schakowsky, Senator Barack Obama and Senator Dick Durbin. Remember a few months ago when rogue pharmacists were refusing to fill prescriptions for morning-after pills because their “religious” beliefs prevented them from dispensing a drug that might stop a pregnancy after fertilization had occurred? Even if these pharmacists did see the morning-after pill as a new form of abortion (which I call stretching it), they had no right to refuse to do their job: dispense legal medications that people obtain with a doctor’s prescription.

Now such pharmacists are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control. Birth control. Can you imagine going to pick up your usual prescription and having your pharmacist say that he or she will not give you your medication because their religious beliefs don’t allow them to? What is this country coming to?

Our country is coming down to an ugly face-off between people who like to have sex and people who don’t believe sex should be allowed. I’m serious. Oh, for the good old days when right-wing, religious hot-heads would picket abortion clinics, shoot at doctors and rail against those who didn’t “choose life.” It was easy to distinguish the dividing line because we all agreed on what abortion was: a surgical procedure to extract a fetus. Were you for or against?

But the right wing is no longer concerned about just fetuses. They want to make sure sex is only happening between a man and a woman, hence the gay marriage hysteria. And even if it is just a man and a woman, sex shouldn’t happen before marriage, which is why they favor lectures about abstinence over sex education. And now -- why didn’t we see this coming -- even if sex is happening only between a man and a woman who are married, sex should only happen if they are doing it to conceive a child. Hence the anti-birth control stance.

In Russell Shorto’s essay, “Contra-Contraception,” he quotes Edward R. Martin Jr, a lawyer for the public-interest law firm Americans United for Life. Martin says, “We see contraception and abortion as part of a mind-set that’s worrisome in terms of respecting life. If you’re trying to build a culture of life, then you have to start from the very beginning of life, from conception, and you have to include how we think and act with regard to sexuality and contraception.”

There it is. Right-wing groups like Americans United for Life (“whose work includes seeking to restrict abortion at the state level and representing pharmacists who have refused to prescribe emergency contraception,” from Shorto’s essay) not only want us to act in alignment with their belief systems, they want us to think in alignment with their belief systems. They don’t even want a legally married biologically-born-male man and biologically-born-female woman engaging in plain, vanilla missionary-position sexual intercouse unless they are doing so with the appropriate view towards conception. Otherwise, “a husband will sometimes begin to see his wife as an object of sexual pleasure who should always be available for gratification,” according to Dr. Joseph B. Stanford, appointed by President Bush in 2002 to the F.D.A.’s Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee (from Shorto’s essay).

Please read Shorto’s essay. You’ll need to register at the New York Times website, but it’s free so just do it.

I used to think that as a 39-year-old, unmarried woman who didn’t want children, none of this was important. But it’s not just about fetuses and marriage licenses. It’s about how Americans think about sex. The only people who can consider themselves outside of this issue are people who never have sex and never think about it. Can I see a show of hands?

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