Sore Losers

Amanda Marcotte

For our homegrown anti-choice terrorists and stalkers, it's obvious that they're fighting a losing battle. Sure, they hope to have Roe v. Wade overturned and claim victory in the continuation of abstinence-only funding, but overall, the writing's on the wall.

Imagine, if you will, a cadre of male religious fanatics, drunk on overblown rhetoric and motivated by fantasies of beautiful virgins, that are intent on the violent destruction of prominent symbols of American liberty. Are these the villains in an upcoming action film starring a thick-necked actor who can barely recite lines? Are they Muslim terrorists living overseas waiting for the opportunity to die as martyrs in a strike against Western imperialism? Well, probably and yes, but that's not who I'm talking about here.

No, I'm talking about our own homegrown religious fanatics who sometimes make the leap into actual violent terrorist attacks. I'm talking about the protesters who are picketing the homes of Planned Parenthood employees and contractors in Denver, CO. Violent incidents may not have happened yet, but their very presence is there to inspire terror and fear for your own safety, not spontaneous conversions to a particularly wild-eyed version of Christianity. Picketing people's homes is to terrorism as stalking is to domestic violence and rape.

And I'm talking about the likely profile of the suspects in the various attacks on the offices of Dr. Curtis Boyd and the Planned Parenthood offices in Albuquerque, NM. Just as the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked because they symbolized American power to the 9/11 terrorists, women's health centers are targeted nationwide for domestic terrorism because they symbolize women's freedom to the terrorists that obsess over them.

All the fuss and violence, and in the name of an abstract cultural concept that doesn't actually exist, no less. No, not God. You'll have to go to my personal blog to read rants about theology — or the lack thereof in my life. No, the abstract concept that drives the obsession and violence in this case is virginity. Yes, that thing they make crappy teenage comedies about losing, at least when it comes to the guys. But when the subject is female virginity, it's less big screen jokes, more firebombs.

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I can already hear your thoughts: There's no such thing as virginity? Shocking, I know, but true. I recommend the book Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank, to learn more. Blank researched the history and various cultural ideas about virginity and realized that despite the fact that people tend to think of virginity as something definitive, physical, and absolute, the fact is that it's just an ideal that has no biological basis worth noting. Even the much-touted hymen doesn't give very good proof either way on whether or not a woman is a virgin, since hymens can and often do disintegrate long before a woman has any kind of sexual contact of any sort. And since it only exists as a subjective, hazy concept, it's hardly something you can "give" your husband on your wedding night with a big bow wrapped around it. And yet the sense that birth control and abortion allows women to just run around having sex without saving that special, non-existent virginity-taking experience for their husbands is what drives so much of the resentment that leads up to incidents like clinic arsons.

It's sad, really, that so many anti-choicers get so built up about virginity. The fantasy of cherry-popping on the wedding night, so built up for right wing men that they organize politically in revolt at the idea of not having the opportunity to do it, has to rate as a gigantic disappointment when it actually happens and turns out to be short of the all-encompassing, mind-blowing sexual experience it's built up to be, and instead turns out to be mostly some awkward fumbling that's over much too quickly. Not that you'll get anyone to admit it, of course. The dropping realization that you made a huge, honking deal out of something that wasn't that big a deal at all rarely results in a thorough mea culpa from anyone, and is more likely to result in a lot more defensive and unconvincing assertions that the cherry-popping was everything promised and even more.

Of course, the crazy sexual fantasy serves a larger social agenda, which is controlling women. The whole romance about giving and taking a woman's virginity is largely about women as things that are given and taken, not human beings in their own rights with their own purposes. So while the immediate energy that drives the hostility towards women's health clinics is the anger that women are just running around having sex because they want to, the big picture is that women's sexuality is just a tool to control women altogether.

I have a grand theory of terrorism, though. It's nothing new, but relevant when evaluating the way that anti-choice activism so easily slips into terrorist and terrorist-like activity. Terrorism is the desperate response of people who feel, usually rightly, that they're losing through the normal means. Fundamentalist Muslim terrorists rail against a modernity that's all but inevitable, for instance. In the case of our homegrown anti-choice terrorists and stalkers, it's obvious that they're fighting a losing battle. Sure, they hope to have Roe v. Wade overturned and claim victory in the continuation of abstinence-only funding, but overall, the writing's on the wall. For all their fantasies of women staying virgins until marriage, they live in a country where 95% of Americans end up ignoring that injunction. Women's expanded freedoms can be chipped away at, but the genie is out of the bottle.

Not that we can rest on our laurels, by any stretch. The price of freedom, of course, is constant vigilance, which is why this website even exists. Part of the reason that a cadre of crazy people has even managed to undermine reproductive rights as much as they have is because defenders of those rights have been too lax, felt that a victory won couldn't be undone.

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