It’s NOT A War on Women

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Criminalizing surgical abortion and abortion pills, demonizing (and attempting to criminalize) artificial fertility treatments like IVF, limiting contraceptive access and the Morning After pill—the Washington Post, along with many other media, calls this a War on Women.

No it isn’t. As I first described in my 2012 book, it’s a War On Sex.

Framing this as a War on Women is a political mistake. It’s why there hasn’t been sufficient outcry from men about these various limits on THEIR rights. Most American men want abortion to be a legal option in their lives. They want easily-available over-the-counter abortion medication, birth control pills, IUDs, and condoms so they can have sex safely and enjoyably.

And most American dads want a range of books in public libraries, teachers trained to deliver fact-based sex education, and school counselors empowered to do their job of…counseling.

That’s what the Religious Right can’t abide—anything that makes non-reproductive sex safer, more pleasurable, and less morally objectionable. Their proposed “fetal personhood” laws criminalize not only IVF but many forms of contraception. Anti-abortion advocates aren’t stupid—they KNOW they’re spreading misinformation on the definition of abortion by claiming, contrary to all medical evidence, that some forms of birth control are abortifacients.

This isn’t new, and it isn’t a secret—they’ve been pushing this agenda since the Republic’s founding. The Comstock Act of 1873 jailed anyone who promoted birth control through the mail—and was still being used to jail advertisers of sex toys, porn, and women’s clinics a century later. The Catholic-sponsored Hays Code censored American movies from 1934-1968. Anal sex was only decriminalized in 2003.

After Americans gained the right to contraception in 1972 (Eisenstat v Baird), and abortion in 1973 (Roe v Wade), organizations like Moral Majority, Eagle Forum, and Focus on the Family held a series of summits, raised a jillion bucks, and mobilized a few million people to energize the sex wars—against everyone, not just women. Again.

CARE ABOUT POVERTY?

Most people agree that rich people ought to care about poverty. This is true from both a moral and a practical perspective. Life is better for EVERYONE if there aren’t desperate people committing crime, children growing up undernourished and poorly education, and millions of people without quality health care.

Similarly, we’re all better off when unplanned pregnancy is rare, when every child is wanted, and when both the public and professionals are educated about sexuality.

THE “VEIL OF IGNORANCE

In considering what makes a society ethical, philosopher John Rawls suggests a mental tool called the Veil of Ignorance, which helps eliminate the biases of our real-world personal circumstances.

That is, if you didn’t know where you’d end up in a hypothetical world, what kind of a society would you design? If you didn’t know whether you’d be rich or poor, intelligent or below-average, from a loving home or a violent home, whether you’d be raped or not, what kind of society would you want built? Which rights would you want everyone to have if you didn’t know how powerful you’d be in this hypothetical world?

We know that conservatives and religious people (and conservative religious people) get abortions. We know that at some point, practically every heterosexual (and a substantial number of gays) uses birth control—and, variously, watches porn, gets an STD, goes to strip clubs or massage parlors, and wants a doctor (or psychologist or marriage counselor) who’s knowledgeable about sex. And most consumers of fertility treatments aren’t women—they’re usually couples.

So sexuality—making it safe, enjoyable, understandable, and something professionals are trained in—isn’t simply a women’s issue. Or a gay issue, trans issue, progressive issue, young person’s issue, racial issue, or any other identitarian issue. It’s EVERYONE’S issue. And yet a minority of people continue to pursue a War on Sex that affects everyone.

So men—are you interested in sex? You better fight to keep your rights to it. Start by realizing that you’re a target. Get involved. Send your state assemblymember a 4-sentence email opposing their latest restrictions on sexual health, pleasure, and professional training—or supporting them if appropriate.

Conservatives and religious people don’t call it a war on women—they call themselves pro-life or anti-abortion. They’re stalking the sexuality of ALL people, not just women. So we should be protecting it for ALL people, not just women. ALL people, not just trans people or pregnant people or any other group.

A note to women: talk to the men in your life—your brother, son, boyfriend, dad. Remind them that their rights to abortion, birth control, IVF, and an educated physician are under attack. This is NOT women doing men’s work for them. This is any smart person who wants to be politically effective. If you’d rather motivate and energize passive women instead, go right ahead.

POLITICS: THE ART OF PRIORITIZING

We can talk about pronouns, drag shows, and breast binders til we’re blue in the face. We can waste countless DEI hours in medical school teaching young doctors to say “pregnant people” rather than teaching them more gynecological skills. And meanwhile, our very rights to contraception and emergency health care are being stolen from us in plain sight, marching this country backwards at breathtaking speed.

Politics isn’t the art of getting everything you want—it’s the art of prioritizing, compromising, and getting some of what’s most essential, while preparing for the next round of battles. Why are people who fear sex remarkably better at limiting it than we are at protecting it?
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Like short videos about sexuality? See www.youtube.com/@Marty_Klein
Like your Sexual Intelligence in just one line? See www.instagram.com/doctormartyklein/

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