This post is part of TNGG’s Annual Sex Week. Read more Sex Week articles.
AS OUR WEBSITE proudly proclaims on its homepage, this week is “Sex Week.” News and politics are not usually all that sexy, so for those of you hoping for a steamy edition of “We’ve Got Issues,” I’m sorry to disappoint. But the politics of recent weeks has been politics as usual, meaning there has been no shortage of men looking to restrict access to birth control and intolerant people are still busy putting others down because of their sexuality. Surprise!
Here is a run down of recent positive and negative developments in the world of sexual politics:
Birth Control Panel: Earlier this month, birth control became a hot button issue for many social conservatives after Obama advocated having employers pay for birth control. Obama stirred controversy by advocating that even Catholic institutions provide coverage for the cost of their employees’ birth control medications. Birth control matters have created a massive rift between Republicans – who argue that the issue of whether Catholic institutions will provide coverage is one of religious freedom – and Democrats, who want to extend access to birth control. But 2012′s contraception debate reached an ugly point last week, when it culminated in an all-male congressional panel addressing the issue. Whether this panel included no women intentionally or out of inconsideration, the move only helped fuel long-time liberal claims that socially conservative men are wont to regulating women’s bodies.
Oklahoma Personhood Act: Time and time again, year after year, Roe V. Wade is challenged by its opponents: on February 16, Oklahoma’s senate passed the Personhood Act. The bill, which is now en route for a vote in the state’s House legislature, grants rights to all embryos, legally defining personhood as beginning at the point of conception. Many Americans may feel uncomfortable with the idea of abortions and that there are many who maintain pro-life views. I can respect that. While I may disagree with pro-lifers, I will accept their right to speak on behalf of their beliefs. Still, as with the recent birth control debate, abortion is all-too-often debated on and legislated by majority male legislatures. Oklahoma’s bill, which is joined by a similar one waiting to be passed in Virginia, is another key example of women’s bodies being policed by males.
Asexuality Awareness: In the face of widespread ignorance, self declared asexuals have been fighting an uphill battle for recognition. So it was a big deal when last month, on January 23, television series House featured its first asexual characters. Salon.com writer Tracy Clark-Flory blasted the show’s handling of asexuality, arguing that Dr. House treated asexuality with ridicule. She also noted that the episode was criticized by David Jay, leader of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network. Still, I think the discussion resulting from the episode can be seen in a positive light: it brought attention to an issue that is seldom approached in our society. Unlike homosexuality, and even transgenderism, which have received increasing attention in the last decade, asexuality challenges the idea that all human beings are inherently sexual. Asexuals may not suffer from the same kinds of widespread hatred and discrimination that those in the LGBT community do, but they still face many challenges in their quest to be understood — a situation that will hopefully improve in coming years.
Researchers at Wash U. St. Louis: You can learn about the world by listening to a wide range of political opinions, but most will likely be plagued by any number of subjective notions. Because of this, empirical research is frequently a better way to understand reality. So my interest was piqued when a Washington University in St. Louis study was released last week showing a strong correlation between religion and politics and teen pregnancy: the more socially conservative the state, the higher its rate of teenage pregnancy. Sex education was actually shown to lower teen pregnancy rates. Surprise! Some Washington politicians strongly oppose contraception and sex education and instead advocate abstinence. But the study debunks the myth they are helping young Americans avoid pregnancy; it instead suggests that they are satisfying their socially conservative constituents to the detriment of teenagers.