Conservatives have such weird hang-ups about sex. And they’re full of contradictions! Sometimes they seem to disapprove of anything sex-related. They’re always ragging on people to get over their porn addictions, and urging couples to get married just because they enjoy mashing their bodies together. To hear them go on, you’d think Americans have some kind of zipper problem.
At the same time, conservatives seem to talk about sex constantly. Why can’t they move on already? The sexual revolution is decades old already, and they’re still repeating the same sermons. What are they trying to accomplish? Here are five possibilities.
1. They Want to Subjugate Women
Women, as we all know, ought to spend as much of their lives as possible barefoot, pregnant, and the kitchen. Conservatives spend at least half of our waking hours figuring out how to make that happen.
As it turns out, nature herself is a fellow misogynist. The facts of human reproduction have stacked the deck against women, forcing them into service as wives and mothers when there are widgets to be manufactured and wars to be won. Naturally, conservatives think this is wonderful! It’s great to have Mother Nature as our ally in the war on women.
Misogynistic conservatives can breathe easy. Modern innovations such as birth control, in tandem with our abortion regime, have indeed undermined the traditional family to a great extent. But no worries! Women still shoulder a heavy biological burden, whether in single motherhood, nasty side effects to contraceptives, or in post-abortion regret.
2. They Hate Seeing People Have Fun
Let’s admit it: sex is fun. And conservatism is constitutionally anti-fun. No wonder conservatives rail against sex. People are out there enjoying themselves and we can’t have that!
We really need to step up our game, though. Popular sitcoms like “Sex and the City” may have lulled us into a false sense of security about supposedly stodgy marital sex. It turns out that married people seem to enjoy sex even more. There’s even some evidence that devout Catholics have the best sex lives of all! I ask you, fellow conservatives: what will it take to stop this scourge of amorous pleasure?
3. They’re Slavishly Attached to Anachronistic Morality Codes
Conservatives have some awfully funny ideas about sex. Did you know, there are still people who regard fornication as a sin? Haven’t they seen “Footloose”?
Why can’t conservatives be pried away from their lists of stodgy sexual rules? Well, that’s obvious. Conservatives have to stick with these frumpy, fossilized moral codes. The Bible tells us so.
As an unreflective rule-follower, I’ve been gratified to note that the rest of the world is catching up here by making some sex rules of their own. Welcome to the wonderful world of “by the book.” We’ve long known that sex is best when you’ve got a manual under your elbow.
4. Reveling in Self-Righteousness Just Feels So Good
For the self-righteous sex-hater, American society is a paradise. The opportunities for sneering are limitless! The modern moralist will never lack for ego treats, if other people’s sexual sins can give you that “I’m so pious” high.
Admittedly, libertines have given us a run for our money in the self-righteous-gratification contest. Self-righteous conservatives have to admire how effectively they exploit those “good die young” themes to make sexual gratification into a quasi-virtue.
5. They’re For Love, Against Exploitation
They want to live in a world where people love each other more, and exploit each other less. This theory is obviously ridiculous, but just as a thought experiment, let’s follow out the logic.
The sexual revolution is decades old, but in some respects those have been pretty lousy decades. We’ve seen more and more children born out of wedlock, while Americans in general (but the poor especially) are having a harder time than ever getting and staying married. That’s a shame, because it’s increasingly obvious that family structure is enormously important to children’s well-being, and to their adult prospects.
Most people want to forge a lasting, loving relationship at some point in their lives. Most hope that relationship can be the basis for family, as their husband or wife shares in the burdens and blessings of raising children.
Family breakdown is the ultimate lose-lose-lose. It’s bad for men. It’s bad for women. And it’s especially bad for the children, who are that much likelier to go on to repeat the cycle. (Incidentally, it’s also bad for society as a whole. Taxpayers are footing all sorts of bills to help stem the miserable ramifications of all this disorder, from benefits to social workers to incarceration.)
Here’s the crazy part. An enormous share of this could be avoided if people would follow a single rule. Only have sex in the context of a loving relationship, which both people view as the basis for family. (Back in the day, the kids used to call this “marriage”.)
Sex can seem pretty complicated, but then again maybe it’s not. You can have sex with someone in a unifying way that fully accepts the natural consequences of that act (from emotional attachment to pregnancy). We might think of that as saying, “I want to do this with you. I understand what sex is, and I’m in for penny and pound.”
Alternately, you can gratify your sexual appetites while desperately trying to cordon off those natural consequences. That might take the form of a one-night stand. (“Tonight let’s act like we’re everything to each other, but please don’t call me tomorrow.”) But it could also take the form of a long-standing relationship (even a marriage!) where it’s understood that conceiving a child really isn’t okay. Let’s get it on, baby. But don’t give me the whole package, please. I just want to alleviate this angsty feeling I’ve got just below my mid-section.
If you want to use someone else’s body to gratify your appetites, would it be fair to call that “exploitation”? Now, the stodgy moralists of yesteryear recognized that humans do, in fact, have recurring and predictable interest in gratifying those powerful appetites. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether that intoxicating “It’s you, baby” feeling is coming from the heart or the loins. Accordingly, they came up with some guidelines to help us love each other better, and exploit each other less.
Over the last half-century, mainstream society has re-written a lot of those rules. How’s that been going for us? Might that help explain why conservatives are still pretty attached to their antiquated rule-book?
It’s kind of a far-fetched theory, I realize. Could conservatives really want people to enjoy lasting, satisfying sexual relationships? And is it possible for people just to go without sex until they find the right person? Probably not.
Still, for a minute here, indulge yourself in a wild, romantic fantasy. Suppose we only ever had sex with people we truly loved. Suppose that the joining of bodies regularly coincided with the joining of lives, households, and family trees. Better world? Well, maybe it’s worth considering.