Interested in sex? Then you’re interested in politics, whether you like it or not.
There are literally thousands of laws that regulate our sexual expression–who we can have sex with, what we can do, the products and pharmaceuticals we can use, the ways in which we can control our reproduction, and the ways we can share what we do with others. Who makes these laws? Politicians—from mighty senators to self-righteous state legislators to friendly city council members.
A few of these people can be bought. Others want to do good, or to leave a legacy. Almost all of them want to get reelected or reappointed. All can be influenced—many by you.
Think you’re not interested politics? Think again. If you’re involved in sex, here are a few ways you’re involved in politics, whether you know it or not:
* Mental health
Your psychologist, marriage counselor, and psychiatrist receive almost no training in human sexuality. Many programs still use the language of perversion, frigidity, and shame. Many therapists have never seen a vibrator, felt some lube, or used the word “pussy” in a sentence.
Training and licensing programs are overseen by states—meaning state legislatures. In most states it’s still legal for therapists to “treat” gay teens with the goal of making them straight.
* Sex education
What kind of sex education does your kid get? At least half of all kids in America are still exposed to the toxic propaganda called Abstinence-only sex ed, funded by school boards across the country. It’s easy enough to find out if your taxes are being used to indoctrinate your kid into the idea that good people don’t have sex before marriage, and therefore don’t need information or decision-making skills to deal with sex until then.
Congress has consistently refused to pass a law requiring that all sex education be medically accurate. A pretty low bar, but apparently still too high for Congress.
* Reproductive rights
In 1973, Roe v. Wade decriminalized abortion in America. Since then, thousands of laws passed by every single state have made getting an abortion as difficult and emotionally painful as possible. And although abortion is statistically safer than childbirth, Utah has now made abortion more dangerous by requiring that patients 20 or more weeks pregnant get anesthesia, whether they want it or not. Texas has forced the closure of more than half of its remaining abortion clinics by requiring expensive and unnecessary retrofitting of buildings. Five states have only a single part-time abortion facility.
In addition, states have tried to prevent consumer access to RU-486 (pregnancy termination drug), female sterilization, and the morning-after pill. And religious organizations have sued the federal government to get a special exemption from the Affordable Healthcare Act regarding contraception.
In the U.S. it is illegal to create, possess, or distribute a sexual image of a minor. And “sexual image” is now defined to include clothed images that a jury decides has a sexual intent.
When minors themselves take naked selfies, they are creating child pornography. When they send or receive on, they are sending or receiving child pornography. In most states this is a felony for which someone can be jailed until the end of time.
In 40 states, the age of consent is 16 or 17, but the age that determines “child pornography” is 18. Thus, it can be legal for two 17-year-olds to have sexual intercourse, but be jailed for creating a photo of that sex—even if they only share the photo with each other.
* Sex Offender Registration
In no way do I trivialize the damage caused by adults who sexually exploit children or other adults. Such people need treatment (which they rarely get after conviction), which may involve medication or long-term supervision.
Sex offender registries were set up nation-wide to help parents protect their kids from known predators. In reality, they protect almost no one, while destroying the lives of virtually everyone they register. And unfortunately, it’s incredibly easy to be placed on such a registry.
Crimes for which such registration can be a punishment include public urination, unwanted adult-adult kissing, sex between underage teens, receiving unsolicited and unwanted images of child sexuality, a drunk male having consensual (or non-coercive, if you prefer) sex with a drunk female, photo-shopping a picture of a nude adult onto the head of a minor, and non-contact exhibitionism. If you think this couldn’t happen to you in a thousand years, you’re wrong. You don’t have to be a sex offender to become a Registered Sex Offender.
* Sex Work
Except for a few counties in Nevada, exchanging money (or other valuables) for sexual services (with or without orgasm) is illegal in the U.S.. Lap dances, hand jobs, massages with happy endings, sacred temple prostitution, being whipped while covered in cream cheese—if you find it sexy, and money has changed hands, you’ve broken the law.
Sex is the only kind of labor adults are not free to sell or barter. Of course, those who sell sexual labor are subject to a fierce public relations campaign to persuade the public that all sex workers are exploited and/or damaged. Conservative feminists can be cruelest of all, accusing adult women who claim full agency when selling their own sexual labor of being delusional and in need of rescue. Crusaders like Melissa Farley and Gail Dines classify anyone who sells sexual labor as a victim of human trafficking.
Somehow, our intercourse-obsessed culture has managed to criminalized outercourse activities such as BDSM and kinky sex. Local and state governments seem to feel that any physical activity that provides pleasure is suspect.
And so if you’re interested in sex of ANY kind, you’re involved in politics.