I’ve started my second week in Poland, studying history and lecturing a bit (my new book, Sexual Intelligence, comes out in Polish this week). I’ve decided that one of America’s problems with sex is that we’ve had it too easy.
Today, tens of millions of Americans are demanding FEWER rights regarding sex. The Republican platform says no abortion, no way. Concerned Citizens pleads for corporations like Marriott to “prevent us from watching porn in hotel rooms.” The Abstinence Clearinghouse demands that school boards “prevent my kid from knowing the facts about sex.” Concerned Women of America demand that pre-teens be denied Gardasil, which vaccinates them against HPV, reducing cancer. Residents in hundreds of cities are demanding that their municipalities prevent other residents from going to strip clubs.
Here in Poland, the idea of people demanding fewer rights is laughable. For centuries, the Poles have suffered occupation by Prussians, Austrians, Russians, Nazis, and Communists. The idea of determining their own future has always seemed sweet and elusive. Ideas like personal freedom, benefitting from science freed from ideology, and of privacy from government intrusion are cherished by millions of Poles.
Maybe Americans need a few centuries without those things so they could appreciate having them.
Here’s what personal freedom looks like: you do what you want, I do what I want. We both tolerate the aggravating knowledge that our neighbor is doing something of which we disapprove. We let science determine reality, and let the marketplace adjudicate people’s commercial choices. You don’t want people to go to strip clubs or use condoms? While MYOB is the best option, here’s another: talk them out of it. Don’t bully them with the city council or Congress. If you change others’ attitudes, the products and services you oppose will wither and die. If you fail, you still have the personal freedom to abstain yourself.
The Poles have had a series of dictatorships forced on them, most recently by Berlin and Moscow. The Nazis and Communists said they were protecting good people from bad, good ideas from bad. America’s self-identified patriots are apparently so frightened of sexuality that they’re willing to demand government dictatorship to protect them.