Dr. Joseph B. Stanford, who was appointed by President Bush in 2002 to the F.D.A.’s Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee despite (or perhaps because of) his opposition to contraception, sounded not a little like Daniel Defoe in a 1999 essay he wrote: “Sexual union in marriage ought to be a complete giving of each spouse to the other, and when fertility (or potential fertility) is deliberately excluded from that giving I am convinced that something valuable is lost. A husband will sometimes begin to see his wife as an object of sexual pleasure who should always be available for gratification.”
The article provides a good range of views:
“[…] some who work in the public health field acknowledge that the social conservatives have a point. “I think the left missed something in the last couple of decades,” says Sarah Brown, president of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which positions itself as a moderate voice in the heated world of reproductive politics. “With the advent of oral contraception, I think there was this great sense that we had a solution to the problem of unintended pregnancy. But that is a medical model. I think the thing that was missed was that sex and pregnancy and relationships aren’t just a health issue. They are really about family and gender and religion and values. And what the right did was move in and say we’re not just talking about body parts.”
The emphasis on sexual freedoms as just a medical model of body parts rather than as an act of autonomy, especially female autonomy, is more about the way the centrist consumerist model co-opted sexual freedoms into “sexiness”, the ultimate marketing tool. So while I agree that the left at large failed to maintain the initial emphasis on sexual autonomy, I can’t agree that the left is to blame for overemphasis on sex as just about body parts – that’s all about corporatism and sell sell sell.
The Right has however been very effective in framing the trivialisation of sex as mere body parts as part of the leftist manifesto, because it’s a very good way of scaring people away from true leftist positions of considered autonomy that don’t involve submitting to your husband’s sexual desires no matter what your own are even if the thought of another pregnancy makes you feel dead inside.
Pandagon’s Amanda reminds us that the battle against contraception is tied up with a view of sexual freedom as an elite privilege that the poor don’t deserve
Categories: culture wars