The answer is yes. Here’s a sample of America’s complicated sexual landscape:
* The U.S. Navy just named a ship after Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in America. Things have changed in just 22 years, when gays were barred from serving in the military.
* In 2009, the city of Sandy Springs, GA passed a law criminalizing the sale of sex toys (that’s 2009, not 1909). Last month a federal appeals court upheld the law, referring to a similar existing ban throughout Alabama.
* There are increasing legal protections for trans people, and one rarely sees the acronym LGB or GLB anymore—the T is now a firm part of the sexual alphabet. On the other hand, there’s a vicious internecine battle going on about who’s a “real” trans person, whether a trans person is a “real” woman or man, and if sincere, intelligent people can actually debate the issues around transgenderism without being called transphobic—or worse.
* More Americans try anal sex and oral sex than ever before. More Americans experiment with BDSM than ever before. More Americans go online for sex advice than ever before. More Americans give online sex advice than ever before.
* Most Americans say they support sex education in school. Most Americans don’t want schools teaching kids about pleasure, pornography, why people have sex, how to decide when to have sex, or most other relevant subjects.
* It’s harder to get an abortion than to buy a gun. It’s harder to get an abortion than to buy an a semi-automatic weapon. In many states, it’s almost impossible to get a legal abortion. In every state it’s possible to get a dangerous, expensive, illegal one.
* The federal government now insists that if two college students get drunk and agree to have sex, one can call it rape and try to have the other expelled from school. At the ensuing hearing, the accused student will not be allowed a lawyer, nor will he be allowed to cross-examine his accuser. This destruction of due process is supposed to be “progress.”
* At least sixty million American men, women, and couples use porn regularly.
* Nearly half (45% or 2.8 million) of the 6 million pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended. There are 45 unintended pregnancies for every 1,000 women aged 15–44—so nearly 5% of reproductive-age women have an unintended pregnancy each year. How can that many people be that irresponsible year after year?
* You can buy sex toys at Walmart and Amazon.com, along with dozens of brands of lube and condoms.
* You can become a Licensed Marriage Counselor without hearing the words “sex toy” in your training.
* The federal government and various states spend tens of millions of dollars to plant detectives in adult chatrooms. They role-play being teens; when chatroom visitors role-play with them, assuming that the person claiming to be a teen is in fact an adult, the visitor is arrested and accused of thinking he was texting with a real teen, which is a felony.
* A majority of Americans think gay people should have the same rights as straight people.
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In a perfect expression of ambivalence, Americans are more sexually adventurous in their own bedrooms, but increasingly supportive of restrictions on other people’s sexual expression. Fear of sexual violence (which has steadily declined for years, but is regularly whipped up by both the Left and the Right) is one explanation. Fear for their children’s safety (although in many ways kids have never been safer) is another. And confusion and anxiety about the rapid pace of social change is surely a factor, too.
More information hasn’t necessarily helped: myths about predators, child porn users, pedophiles, swingers, age-role-players, and “perverts” such as nudists and cross-dressers have proliferated as public awareness of such people has grown without corresponding facts and insight about them.
In private at home, many Americans are able to leave these concerns behind, and explore their bodies (and each others’) with an abandon many people didn’t have twenty or thirty years ago. Still, too many people experience high and unnecessary levels of sexual frustration, disappointment, and “failure.” A gentler approach to the sexuality of people “out there” would surely help people relax, accept themselves more, and create more enjoyable, less self-conscious sex.