Many issues, but sex should not be one of them
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, March 8, 2012

I was thinking about the odd social conservative obsession with sex, while listening to debate over the latest Rush Limbaugh foolishness: he called a female college student a slut and a prostitute because she argued that her Jesuit university’s health insurance policies should cover birth control.

She was a 30 year old law student arguing for the Obama Administration’s position to force insurance companies to cover contraception (as well as treatment for cysts and endometriosis). Incredibly, Limbaugh changed the subject to co-ed sex. Limbaugh apologized. Don Imus called his apology “lame” and referred to his fellow talk show host as “an insincere pig.”

Until all this "civility" happened, I’d thought we were having a valid discussion about health insurance, and the government telling insurance companies what to cover, and limiting the choices of customers who might like cheaper, limited policies. There was a viable argument on religious freedom in there too. But along came El Rushbo with, among other things, a bizarre definition of “prostitute.”

The fact that liberal talk show hosts have said far worse things about conservative women, with little mainstream media attention, is true, but another debate entirely. For one thing, they often use the words as a generic mysogynistic insult that has nothing to do with sexual activity, per se. This column is about sex.

Long before my generation knew what sex was, I was confused about it.

We studied the Ten Commandments in Catholic grade school. The 6th Commandment is “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” I thought this meant thou shalt not become a typically irrational adult, which I was willing to avoid.

Before I reached puberty, I had fallen in love with Walt Disney’s Peter Pan. How could Wendy, given a chance to stay with him in Neverland, choose to leave? At the age of 11, I promised Peter I would never grow up, and I think I’ve kept that promise, spending my political-activist career fighting the pirates and playing with the Indians. Life has been fun.

But back to the 6th Commandment: I eventually learned what adultery is, and that prohibition made sense; but I wondered why the nuns had included looking at Playboy Magazine as a sin against the 6th Commandment. So was going to C movies, i.e., those films Condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency.

As with the Forbidden Books, I kept a mental list of the things I was going to see and read when I outgrew adult control. Noticed that while some of the C movies were condemned for violence – e.g., the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns – most of them were condemned for “sex out of wedlock, nudity, homosexuality, and implication of prostitution.” (Not to say that today’s movies couldn’t use some Decency).

Many books were forbidden because they were “sensual, libidinous, or lascivious.” I didn’t know what the last two words meant, loved Alexandre Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers” for its romance and swashbuckling adventure, “Les Misérables” for its drama and revolution. It’s not always about the sex, grown-ups.

Take the issue of gay marriage. Social conservatives make a great point when they argue for marriage as the building block of society. They can logically claim that easy divorce and out-of-wedlock children are a threat to that ideal, and that divorced people like me are creating societal problems. But why disapprove of gay couples who, unlike me, want to be married; especially if they want to have or adopt children within that wedlock?

Wild guess here: it has something to do with disapproval of gay sex. By all means, argue against promiscuity, casual unprotected sex that causes unwanted pregnancy or disease; but can’t we agree that sex and marriage go together like a horse and carriage, even when the vehicle is gay?

Probably not. We rarely hear that some straight married couples do the same things that gay couples do, just for variety. It’s not all about making babies, Rick Santorum.

Those of you who weren’t raised Catholic missed the fascinating discussions about birth control: bad if “artificial”, OK if timing the monthly cycle or doing something called “coitus interruptus.” But Sister, if sex is for making children, aren’t those things bad too? “Barbara, stop arguing.” But Sister, if marriage is for making children, why can grandpa get married again to another old lady who can’t have babies? “Barbara, go to the principal’s office.” Father Donald, how come God made people who want to have sex anytime, instead of just when they can get pregnant, like dogs and cats? “I think I hear the bell…..”

Poor Principal Donald; he did his best to answer my multi-issue questions through four years of high school, but on birth control, there was no logical answer. The Church, more tolerant of gambling (Bingo) and alcohol (communion wine) than some other religions, has just always had a problem with sex.

Thanks to the First Amendment, this problem has nothing to do with non-Catholics. The country needs a more competitive insurance system in which individuals can join with like-individuals to buy the policies they want. We need a Catholic Insurance Company, selling policies that don’t cover things that the Church disapproves, but do cover pregnancies of (only) married couples. We could have “Planned Parenthood Insurance Company” policies sold to college students who want contraception coverage instead of maternity coverage. We seniors on Medicare don’t need either birth control or pregnancy coverage, so we don’t have it in our supplemental plans!

The debate this month should have been about choice and common sense, not sex.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette.

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