Commentary Abortion

Anti-Choicers Get Real About Their Loathing of Female Sexuality

Amanda Marcotte

Time to dispense with the phony concerns for "life." Now anti-choicers are just straight-up admitting they don’t think women should be having sex for any other reason but procreation.

Anti-choicers aren’t even trying to sound reasonable anymore. Since the seventies, the anti-choice movement has gone to great lengths to try to spin their fear and loathing of female sexuality as anything but what it is. Obviously, the most popular gambit has been to claim to have concern for fetal life, but there have been other popular variations: Pretending to have public health motivations for removing evidence-based information from sex education, pretending to believe condoms don’t work, pretending to be concerned about women’s mental health if they exert control over their own bodies. While these derailing tactics are sadly not going anywhere soon, it does seem lately like there’s an uptick in anti-choicers just straight up admitting that they don’t think women should be having sex for any other reason but procreation.

This past week have been a veritable buffet of incidents that demonstrate that anti-choicers simply have a problem with female sexuality and that everything else is noise.

Example #1: Only virgins have a right to control their own bodies. Indiana is looking at passing a mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasound law, which has the added bonus of requiring two if you use the abortion pill. (I guess if you want to minimize your time with your feet in the stirrups and people sticking stuff in your vagina by opting for the pill over the surgical abortion, Indiana will just require you to get back into those stirrups, young lady.) Voters tend to have serious problems with the state requiring women to be penetrated against their will, but Indiana Right to Life legislative director Sue Swayze tried to calm those concerns by arguing that once a penis has been in your vagina, the rest of the world get an all-access pass: “I got pregnant vaginally,” she said, causing me to wonder if we’re expected to congratulate her. “Something else could come in my vagina for a medical test that wouldn’t be that intrusive to me. So I find that argument a little ridiculous.”

One does wonder how far Swayze is willing to go with her contention that once you say yes to a penis, you can’t say no to anything else anyone would want to put in there. Do we have to look forward to new anti-choice bills requiring that tennis balls and toothbrushes be shoved up in there? One does hope that Swayze doesn’t learn what oral sex is, because new laws requiring unwieldy objects to be shoved in the sinner’s mouth could get downright dangerous.

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Example #2: Always be ovulating. Oklahoma, presumably as a favor to Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby—a surprisingly misogynist organization for having a mostly-female customer base—is considering an (illegal) law that allows employers to refuse to cover contraception. The bill was brought forward at the request of Dr. Dominic Pedulla, because he believes birth control is “poison.” “Part of their identity is the potential to be a mother,” he argued, forgetting the part in medical school where they taught you that the pill does not actually render a woman permanently infertile. “They are being asked to suppress and radically contradict part of their own identity,” he added, because he believes that if women can buy birth control, they must buy it, much in the same way he is required to buy a new car every time he drives by the lot. “And if that wasn’t bad enough,” he continued, “they are being asked to poison their bodies,” stretching the definition of “poison” to include “safe drugs that improve your life,” a definition that encompasses everything from caffeine to aspirin. Needless to say, I’m skeptical that Dr. Pedulla opposes ingesting other safe drugs for life improvement that don’t lead to scary, scary opportunities for women to have sex without worrying about getting pregnant.

Example #3: The female orgasm is unholy, unholy I tell you! As reported by Katie J.M. Baker at Jezebel, Allegheny College hosted a sex education seminar called “I Heart the Female Orgasm” in the Ford Memorial Chapel on campus. Chapels are a popular place to hold all sorts of lectures and classes—even my atheist self has had the pleasure of giving talks inside their hallowed halls—for the obvious reason that you can hold a lot of people inside them. In the grown-up world, no big deal.

In the wingnut world, however, it’s time to cue the outrage, because while you filthy feminists may “heart” the female orgasm, anti-choicers strongly believe that God does not. (Which does make one wonder why, if God is so strongly anti-lady-orgasm, he didn’t just make women so they can’t have them in the first place?) Conservative blog The College Fix claimed that open “hearting” of the shameful, shameful female orgasm turned the chapel into a “boudoir of sorts.” Clearly, better sex education is needed on Allegheny campus if students such as blogger Katie McHugh think that talking about sex in public is the same thing as having sex in public. Fox News and The Daily Mail were equally disturbed.

As Baker notes at Jezebel, the only way the outrage makes sense is if you think it’s a given that female sexuality is depraved, unholy, and evil. None of the outraged folks straight up said that, but mostly because they seemed to believe it was a given and that everyone “knows” that the female orgasm is too awful to be discussed in public, much less in the home of the deity they believe invented it. But of course, the rest of us do not actually take it as a given that it’s terrible to be a fan of the female orgasm. On the contrary, some of us actually think female orgasms are nifty and that women are 100 percent entitled to finding consensual, appropriate ways to have as many as they damn well please.

So there you have it, folks: Anti-choicers aren’t even pretending that this isn’t about sex anymore. Which is fine by me! I’m a big fan of honesty, and believe that the debate over reproductive rights would be much more pleasant if the opposition was straightforward and honest about their beliefs. Of course, honesty tends to hurt their cause’s popularity, but that’s a small price to pay in order to be honest, moral people, I’d think.

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