Republican Party Sex Problems

Rick Santorum is at the front of a brigade that wants to re-fight the sexual revolution. They'll lose.

Between the rise of Rick Santorum, the controversy that has erupted over contraceptives, and last week’s legislative developments in Virginia, there’s been a lot of talk about Republicans and sex lately, and it’s starting to make some senior Republicans just a little nervous:

Republicans are getting queasy at the gruesome sight of their party eating itself alive, savaging the brand in ways that will long resonate.

“Republicans being against sex is not good,” the G.O.P. strategist Alex Castellanos told me mournfully. “Sex is popular.”

He said his party is “coming to grips with a weaker field than we’d all want” and going through the five stages of grief. “We’re at No. 4,” he said. (Depression.) “We’ve still got one to go.” (Acceptance.)

Castellanos would likely agree with what Rick Moran noted recently in a post at PJ Media when he pointed out that the Republican Party stands to hurt itself among voters at large if it becomes associated with a view of what most people consider to be an entirely private affair that is, to put it mildly, out-dated:

The social conservatives in the Republican Party have a problem with sex and it is going to cost the party dearly in November.

I don’t mean they have a problem with contraception, although many do (conservative men, anyway). Nor am I saying that opposition to pornography is politically problematic, or the criticism of using sex in marketing will lose them votes, or denouncing the prevalence of sex and sexual imagery in music, TV, film, and art is necessarily wrong.

All of the above are used by social conservatives to mask the real problem: their outdated, even primitive, critique of human sexuality that denies both the science and the cultural importance of sex and the sex act. Their main target appears to be women, and women’s sex lives, although the act of love itself is also to be placed in a strait jacket. No doubt the right will argue that their criticisms are only meant to help women, and nurture “healthy” attitudes toward sex. Nonsense. First of all, women don’t need that kind of help. They are capable of making their own choices without a bunch of ignorant busybodies telling them how to govern the most intimate and personal aspects of their lives.

Secondly, there is inherent in this critique a 19th century — or earlier — view of sex that seeks to keep the act of love within the confines of the marriage bed, and believes that physical intimacy should be primarily for one reason, and one reason only: procreation. At the very least, sex outside of marriage should be severely proscribed and limited to those who plan a long term relationship or eventual matrimony. Having sex because it’s fun, or because you’re bored, or because you crave physical intimacy, or for any other reason beyond traditional notions of “love” is grounds for disapprobation.

Certainly religion has much to do with this assault on sex. And if the extent of their critique stayed in the pews and pulpits of conservative churches, there would be no problem whatsoever. Christian denominations can tell their adherents how to live their lives, citing chapter and verse from the Bible, and nobody would care.

But when Republican politicians, and others associated with conservatism or the Republican Party, start echoing the various criticisms of contraception, of casual sex, of sex outside of marriage, the perception cannot be dismissed that the imprimatur of the entire party — and consequently, the government if they ever came to power — has been granted and that somebody, somewhere, might want to do something about it. As a voter making a political calculus on how to mark one’s ballot, the GOP is kidding itself if they don’t think this affects the decisions of millions of citizens.

This, I think, is the part of the resurrection of the social conservatives in the Presidential race that poses a problem for the Republican Party. There’s nothing wrong, really, if people believe in a certain view of human sexuality that some may consider old-fashioned, and few people are going to argue with the idea that children would be better off not being raised in a sexuallized environment. However, when you start hearing the SoCon rhetoric from candidates for office, it leads necessarily to the conclusion that they believe that these are topics that are the proper concern of government. Indeed, Rick Santorum said several months ago in an interview with an Evangelical Christian website that, as President, he would “discuss” the supposed, and largely exaggerated, evils of contraception.

This leads, quite obviously, to a question. What business is it of the government, or of a politician running to be the President of the United States, what adult Americans’ sex lives happen to be? Rick Santorum can think that certain things are wrong if he wishes, and nobody is saying that he cannot, but where in Article II of the Constitution does it say that it is either the job or the duty of the President to lecture Americans about their sex lives?

It doesn’t, of course, and this is the part of social conservatism that makes most Americans uncomfortable.

Moran expands on this point at his personal blog:

It’s not these well meaning busybodies making superficial moral judgements who are the problem. The moralists have always been with us and despite being an anathema to the very notion of freedom, feel perfectly comfortable in trying to tell the rest of us how to live our lives.

It is Republican politicians pandering to the notion that government can actually do something about the sexual revolution that is the real threat to personal liberty. This is self evident. And those who profess reverence for the Constitution have a funny way of showing it. It is not a question of some imposing their morals or values on the Christians and others. It is a matter of personal freedom of expression, guaranteed by the Constitution, that is at issue. Are the Kulture Commandoes saying that the Constitution is the problem? Indirectly, yes. “Gee, if we could only make the notion of freedom disappear, sex would be back in the closet (as would gays), teens would be ignorant of sex, TV would be watchable again, and going to the movies wouldn’t be the harrowing experience it is today.”

Sorry, you can’t put the sexual genie back in the bottle. The real beef of the socons is with the idea that sex is no longer hidden, nor is it a societal taboo to say you love it, or that you enjoy porn, or that women seek it and love it as much as men. It is beautifully, gloriously out in the open to both the detriment of the culture and the empowerment of its adult members.

That, in the end, is the reality that the social conservatives don’t want to face. The sexual revolution is over and they lost. That’s why they keep trying to gain the reigns of power to enforce their idea of a Victorian America on the rest of us. Why they think it’s going to succeed is beyond me.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Peacewood says:

    Republican Party sex problems?

    Bob Dole could’ve fixed that.

  2. de stijl says:

    @Peacewood:

    Down, boy.

  3. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    I agree with Moran’s larger points. But I’m curious to click those links and see if his commenters are raining holy hell on him for speaking against the Red Team.

  4. DRS says:

    I have seen some comments since last summer from interviews with Republican primary voters that suggest we won’t be able to solve our economic problems until we get right with God on what might be called social and cultural issues. Kind of like Elijah in the Old Testament calling on the Hebrew people to smarten up and destroy a few statues of Baal.

    And if you’re really worried about the economy and your own situation looks really bad, then getting right with God at least gives you the feeling that you have some control over your life. Santorum, the legislators in Virginia and Mississippi with their “personhood” legislation and the mandatory ultrasound – they’ve tapped into something out there that others are missing.

  5. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    (clicks links)

    Holy heck, perhaps:

    I was heartened to see so many of the more than 230 comments agree with at least some of my critique. But few, if any, of my critics responded to the thesis of the piece; what business do these issues have in a presidential campaign? Why should government get involved in defining what is “moral” or “immoral” about sex?

    They gave no response because there is none. So they attacked me by accusing me of supporting the choices made by others. I offer no value judgment on women or men who have sex with dozens of different partners, or who wear revealing clothing, or who purchase porn, or who engage in sexual practices frowned upon by the social conservatives.

  6. Buffalo Rude says:

    The sexual revolution is over and they lost.

    If this were about the sexual revolution, you could say “they” lost. But this isn’t about that or who won or lost it. This is about control and as long as religious fundamentalists like Sen. Santorum (R-Vatican) occupy positions of power and influence, the war on women and their autonomy will continue apace.

  7. Ron Beasley says:

    Religion is all about control. The Catholic church was created by politicians to be the state religion for the Roman empire – spirituality had little to do with it. What better way to control people than through sex – one of our strongest urges. This is not about sex but control. The biggest beef the Vatican had with Luther was he published a bible in German so everyone could read it. There was a lot of stuff in the bible that the church didn’t want their flock reading. Fortunately for the church most of the flock still doesn’t read the bible or anything else for that matter.

  8. merl says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy: Repub small government in action, I guess. No regulations at all for business but all kinds of laws about sex.

  9. merl says:

    @Ron Beasley: The Russian Orthodox Church didn’t want any common people to read the Bible, either.

  10. It`s maddening how Santorum and his followers cannot see how they are creeping backwards and actually becoming like the countries they appose. Like in the Middle East. He wants to bring us back to a time when women had no rights. He is no doubt crazy, but what is crazier is he has got this far without being judged as a wacko and set aside. Do we have that many crazies here, or so little choices.

  11. Chris says:

    Doug, they (the leftists) have already skewed your thinking. Again, the Democrats are 10 steps ahead of the GOP in messaging. FACT: For decades, Abortion has been the left’s premiere talking point used to rally its base. Today, the majority of Americans are Pro-life. Again, the Democrats employ language manipulation to twist the issue. Their calculated strategy was and is to redefine the definition of contraception to include abortion. Setting aside, condoms and birth control pills (which today, are easier to get for free than a job), focus of the details of the HHS mandate- it includes abortifacients. There is no dictionary in existence, medical or grammatical which where ending conception after it has taken place (IE) RU-486 is included in the definition of contraceptives.

  12. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @Chris:
    Can someone explain this word salad? Or at least pass the dressing and a pepper grinder?

  13. grumpy realist says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy: Yah, they definitely are. The ability to stick one’s nose in another person’s bedroom seems to be the driving wish for a lot of people, under the name of “decency” and “God’s Will.”

    Most of the PJ commentators sound like they’re pissed we’re not living in Calvin’s Geneva.

  14. Ron Beasley says:

    @merl: I think it’s fairly common – only the priestly class are capable of understanding the word of god. Buddhism is an exception but then it was actually about spirituality not power.

  15. Chris says:

    Barb Hartwell,
    You are confused and falling for Obama’s propaganda scheme to create issues in order to take the focus off of his record. No candidate has ever mentioned or wished for any laws against contraception. Obama had his minions in the media create this phony issue and run with it. Don’t you remember last Oct or Nov when Stephanopoulos asked Romney if he thinks that a State has the right to ban contraceptives? To Romney’s credit, he responded and I’ve never heard anybody in favor of proposing something so outrageous. Stay focused and follow the facts and exactly what each person says – not the second hand interpretation of what Santorum said provided by the liberal media. The underlying issue is free abortifacients (read my other post). The other point relevant to your comment is that the President as no constitutional authority to force someone to pay for other peoples contraceptives, so they can get them for free.

  16. grumpy realist says:

    @Chris: Uh, dude, contraception isn’t an abortifacient. Better learn some chemistry. And some human biology.

  17. Nick says:

    People who oppose abortion don’t want their tax dollars paying for abortions.

    That’s easy to remedy–Reduce their tax contribution by the percentage that goes to pay for abortions, and reduce mine and other liberals by the amounts we don’t want to be spent on war.

    Oh, also–stop tax breaks for churches–I don’t agree with supporting them through the tax structure either.

    The idea that we can have a la carte government is absurd.

  18. Chris says:

    Ron Beasley,
    Bob stay on the proper issue. Everything you wrote about the history of the Catholic Church, the Bible etc., is as irrelevant as the history of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Judea. “Control” is a good term, but in this issue it describes the Government and the Obama Administration’s attempt to control individual choice and freedom. In today’s America, it’s far easier to get contraceptives than a job. President Obama’s HHS order increases the cost of everyone’s insurance premium, so that condoms, the pill and abortions are free of charge to the recipients of these services. This is authoritative tyranny and the reason most religions have joined the Catholic Church’s fight against this mandate. Listen to last week’s congressional hearing on the matter, There was a Lutheran, a Protestant, a Catholic and a Jewish Rabbi on the panel. The Rabbi wasn’t event opposed to abortion, but knows the history of mankind, so he was 100% on the side of the Catholic Church. Never forget the quote of Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) was an ardent nationalist and prominent Protestant pastor who spent 7 years in a Nazi concentration camp:
    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
    Because I was not a Socialist.
    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
    Because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

  19. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    Are you for reals?

  20. Chris says:

    @grumpy realist – if you read my point, you’d know I agree with your statement 100%. Next time, concentrate, educate yourself on the full scope of the issue. Your comment needs to be directed at the Obama Administration for mandating an order which includes coverage of abortifacients as contraceptives.

  21. Herb says:

    @Chris: “The underlying issue is free abortifacients”

    Is it? Is it really, Chris? You expect me to believe that if the regs included some kind of co-pay, this issue would magically go away?

    Sorry, bud…..not that naive.

  22. An Interested Party says:

    Oh my, now mandating that health insurance companies cover birth control under thier plans is comaparable to the Nazis coming for you? Watch out everybody, your days of freedom are numbered…

  23. michael reynolds says:

    That was totally how the Nazis did it. It’s right there in Hitler’s three-stage plan:

    1) Universal health care.
    2) Murder all Jews.
    3) Take over the world.

  24. grumpy realist says:

    I hope the idiots squawking about the Catholic Church’s right to control what goes in its associates’ employees’ health insurance realize they’re just making the case for a universal health care system stronger….

    (And unless you allow me to stop paying taxes for stuff I don’t consider morally appropriate, like the military, shut your bloody gob about the associates having to pay taxes on stuff they don’t approve of.)

  25. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    Wow, is Moran taking a beating.

  26. anjin-san says:

    Doug, they (the leftists) have already skewed your thinking.

    Man. Stupid on steroids.

  27. grumpy realist says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy: Amazing the number who accuse him of being “far-leftist”. or a Democrat-in-sheeps-clothing.

    Whatever happened to the section of the Republican party that was business-oriented and just wanted to leave people alone? (Back in the 1930s, Republicans were also quite in favor of high taxes–when did that get dropped by the wayside?)

  28. Ron Beasley says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy: I don’t agree with Rick Moran about much but he is sane so you can have an intelligent discussion with him and I have. Because he is sane Rick is under almost constant attack from today’s Republican party. My friend Jazz Shaw is much the same. We are on different sides of the yellow line in the middle of the road but Jazz and I were successful co-bloggers for several years. The US of A would be a much healthier place if the Republicans had a lot more Morans and Shaws.

  29. MikeInVA says:

    I always get a kick when I see people like Rick Santorum (who has had eight children) referred to as “anti-sex”.

    Where do you people think babies come from?!!

  30. An Interested Party says:

    I always get a kick when I see people like Rick Santorum (who has had eight children) referred to as “anti-sex”.

    To be fair, it’s harder to write “anti-sex unless it’s to make babies”…

  31. stan chaz says:

    What a circus. Republicans condemn condoms! Republicans praise rape as a gift from God. Republicans endorse trans-vaginal probes. Republicans hate women (and men who want to plan their families). What’s next? Republicans mandate missionary-position only? Hey, Newt was right. ‘Cause Newt and all his Republican friends SHOULD set up a moon colony…. AND GO THERE! Then, they could tell each other what to do and how to live and who to love…. while leaving the REST of us alone, here on Earth. Newt, I always KNEW that you were a problem-solver. Unfortunately, you and your Republican friends ARE the problem…

  32. anjin-san says:

    The idea that we can have a la carte government is absurd.

    I don’t want corporate welfare for wildly profitable oil companies. Take that off my tab.

  33. HankP says:

    @Chris: The actual quote is “first they came for the communists”. Are you willing to support communists?

  34. sam says:

    Y’all might be (should be) interested in Roy Edroso’s column at the Village Voice website, Sex Mad: Why the Rightblogger Obsession With Ladyparts Never Ends. (Also, you might want to visit Roy’s own site, alciublog.) A taste of the VV piece:

    At Wizbang, David Robertson also tried a philosophical approach:

    As I see it, liberal hate is born out of a liberal’s desire to do whatever pleases the liberal, to give the liberal’s flesh what it wants. Whenever a conservative uses a standard of morality that conflicts with the liberal’s desire, the liberal will accuse the conservative of hatred, when in reality it is the liberal who hates the standard of morality used by the conservative.

    To sum up, if a conservative takes something away from a liberal, the liberal is wrong because the conservative is wearing a crucifix. Also, why are you hitting yourself?

  35. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Chris:

    Today, the majority of Americans are Pro-life.

    This is a familiar trope of the right. They may be pro life but by massive margins they are also pro allowing women access to abortion without hindrance if they so desire it. Ditto contraception. Whenever any attempt has been made top put laws on the books hindering these rights through the medium of special questions as has happened is several states they have been massively defeated. So Chris boy stop the smoke and mirrors act. Americans may be pro life (who isn’t) but they are certainly not for an assault on women’s health and private lives.

  36. Brummagem Joe says:

    Castellanos has it about right about the issue….

    “Republicans being against sex is not good,” the G.O.P. strategist Alex Castellanos told me mournfully. “Sex is popular.”

    And he’s probably not far wrong about this too…

    He said his party is “coming to grips with a weaker field than we’d all want” and going through the five stages of grief. “We’re at No. 4,” he said. (Depression.) “We’ve still got one to go.” (Acceptance.)

  37. sam says:

    @Chris:

    For decades, Abortion has been the left’s premiere talking point used to rally its base.

    Well, one thing you can say for Santorum, if that was a burden for the Dems, he’s relieved them of it by shifting the debate to contraception. And only a fool would think being contra-contraception is a winner.

  38. WR says:

    @MikeInVA: It’s actually “anti-sex for people Santorum doesn’t like and anti-sex in ways Santorum doesn’t approve,” but that takes a long time to type.

    But now that I think about it, you’re right. We should all let Rick Santorum regulate our most personal lives because he’s had sex at least eight times in his life.

  39. MBunge says:

    “Why should government get involved in defining what is “moral” or “immoral” about sex?”

    For the same reason the government gets involved in defining what’s moral and immoral about a lot of things. Or are we saying there should be NO laws regarding matters of sex?

    Mike

  40. @MBunge:

    As long as we’re talking about consenting adults, then yes I am saying there should be NO laws regulating private sexual behavior.

  41. David says:

    20 years ago, and someone came back in time said that abortion would still be a political issue in 2012, I would have said “sure, I can see that.” If they had said that contraception was going to be a political issue, I would have said “you are ing nuts.” The GOP is going down the freaking rabbit hole on this.

  42. mattb says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    consenting adults

    I think that’s the key phrase in all of this — and the best defense against slippery slope “people will start to marry or eff animals, children, and cars at the same time.”

  43. MBunge says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “As long as we’re talking about consenting adults”

    And what do you mean by “consenting adults”, kemo sabe? Are we talking 16 years old? How about 14? Or 13? And what about those polygamous cults out west when young girls are raised up to think that marrying the 60 old prophet who runs things is the most natural thing in the world? And what about consent? Does alcohol negate consent? How much? What if both “consentors” are drunk? What about the use of emotional and psychological manipulation in order to obtain “consent”?

    And what if a husband cheats on his wife? Are we saying that adultery is no longer grounds for divorce? After all, why should the law punish a “consenting adult” for having sex with another “consenting adult”?

    You can go on and on with this sort of stuff. There are plenty of areas of sexual behavior where you want and need the law to get involved. And besides the passing of laws, what’s wrong with political and elected leaders expressing opinions on sex and what is and isn’t considering preferable for society? Would there be something wrong with a President saying “I don’t think it’s a great idea for 45 year old men to be dating 19 year old young women”?

    Mike

  44. Neil Hudelson says:

    And what do you mean by “consenting adults”, kemo sabe? Are we talking 16 years old? How about 14? Or 13? And what about those polygamous cults out west when young girls are raised up to think that marrying the 60 old prophet who runs things is the most natural thing in the world? And what about consent? Does alcohol negate consent? How much? What if both “consentors” are drunk? What about the use of emotional and psychological manipulation in order to obtain “consent”?

    What about 5 year olds? Are five year olds adult, Doug? Zygotes? Are you saying zygotes should be allowed to have sex? What about if aliens abducted a male and a female and forced them to have sex on threat of their life? Is that still considered consenting?

    What if both adults are consenting but one adult is wearing one of those ultra realistic masks from the mission impossible movies so that the other adult thinks that his or her partner is someone else?

    What if the other adult IS Tom Cruise? No one can resist his charm. Is that still consenting?

    You’re a sick b*st*rd, Doug.

  45. anjin-san says:

    Would there be something wrong with a President saying “I don’t think it’s a great idea for 45 year old men to be dating 19 year old young women”?

    Yes.

  46. @MBunge:

    Would there be something wrong with a President saying “I don’t think it’s a great idea for 45 year old men to be dating 19 year old young women”?

    Yes there would be, because we are electing a President, not a Pope or a Moralist in Chief. it isn’t the business of a President, or any officer of government, to tell people that how they choose to live their private lives is wrong. If there’s a lack of consent, or some third party is being harmed then the criminal law gets involved. Otherwise, it’s none of the government’s business.

    As for your other questions, our society has already made the determination that 18 is generally considered the age of adulthood and that minors are incapable of providing valid consent. Some states have made the determination that the age of consent should be slightly lower — usually 16 or 17. I don’t see any reason to change those laws. And, no, there’s nothing in what I said that would justify sex with children so stop being ridiculous.

    Your divorce analogy is similarly without merit. Making adultery a ground of divorce, or a ground of fault used in determining the division of marital assets, is a civil matter, not a criminal one. Unless you are suggesting that adultery itself should be a crime as it was in the 19th Century, your analogy is completely inapplicable.

  47. mantis says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    You forgot robots! What if a consenting adult wants to marry a robot? What if the robot is underage?

    What about if aliens abducted a male and a female and forced them to have sex on threat of their life?

    Vonnegut. Heh.

  48. mattb says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Isn’t it also the case most states have some general guidelines for what constitutes “consent” or “giving consent” beyond age. So, for example, people in compromised mental states may not be able to give consent regardless of what age they are.

    Further I expect that most states limit the types of consent that can be given (so for example, I cannot give consent for my child to have sex with an adult).

    As I said, it seems to me that most politicians who have suggested that allow same sex marriage inevitable leads to man on dog action tend to conveniently leave out the well established legal concept of consent from their arguments.

  49. Tillman says:

    @MBunge:

    And what if a husband cheats on his wife? Are we saying that adultery is no longer grounds for divorce?

    See, now you’re talking about contract dispute and license infringements, obvious realms of government dominion. That you conflate this with morality is fun, but that’s more for a church or community to decide.

    Also, for some people out there, adultery isn’t grounds for divorce. Grounds for a lot of things, some of them hurled at high speed, but not divorce necessarily.

  50. Rob in CT says:

    What if both “consentors” are drunk?

    Heh, I’ve seen this question result in some serious mental gymnastics (over at another Site).

    Anyway, it’s true that we have disagreements over what is and isn’t consent, but I’d argue those disagreements are within pretty narrow bounds. Even if you reserve your right to quibble with what is consent, “consenting adults” covers a *lot* of ground.

  51. grumpy realist says:

    @Tillman: a commentator somewhere stated the best analysis ever on the whole Clinton/Monica bruhaha: “this is something that should have been left to be resolved in private between Bill and Hillary and a rolling pin.”