A positive outcome from the Clinton debacle is that now America is free to talk about oral sex in the open. To be more serious, Clinton’s crisis opens the doors for a public debate regarding sex in general. But unlike past debates that focus on the biological aspects of sex, like pregnancy or abortion, the new wave includes talking about sex for pleasure. Clinton’s martyrdom is unintentional. If he could have kept a lid on the whole affair, so much the better. But turning crisis into opportunity is the best road to travel, and it’s time America comes out of the proverbial closet and starts talking about sex, openly and honestly.
The Christian Coalition and its religious right brethren will completely disagree with the notion of discussing sex openly and intelligently. To them, it is humankind’s greatest sin. The religious right opposes sex more openly than it does murder. Sex is bad. It’s possibly OK if you’re married, but it’s a personal matter at best, and the sex life of a married couple should never be shared with anyone else. It’s the old birds and the bees syndrome. Parents still don’t know how to relate to their kids on sexual matters, biologically or socially based. Macho guys still brag about imaginary conquests, but unless you’re gay, you don’t talk about it intelligently. Women might be more open with each other, but the idea of women who masturbate is far less acceptable then that of men who masturbate. Catching little Johnny with a Playboy is as American as Norman Rockwell. Women don’t get caught masturbating.
Whether in school — including college, the workplace, in a political forum or on a bus, people do not talk about sex. They might condemn some immoral act, like Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, or vocally vote in favor of some serial rapist getting the death penalty, but that’s where the line is drawn. In the name of compartmentalization, sex is something kept to the bedroom … or maybe the couch … or the backseat of a car … or on a golf course at night … or parachuting over the Rockies. Sex is something that is done, not talked about. There are no strong leadership voices with a sex agenda. There are no sex leaders, with the exception of perhaps Dr. Ruth, or in The Minnesota Daily’s case, Dr. Date.
There are certainly plenty of religious leaders, mostly on the right, who have no problem voicing there objections to any kind of outward display of sexual matters. Pat Robertson leads the way. The Christian Coalition just completed its eighth annual “Road To Victory” campaign, with an estimated two million followers sharing in the celebration. As a principle lobbying group for the Republican Party, ultra-conservatives everywhere are convinced that the year 2000 presidential election is in the bag, thanks to Bill. Behind him is a slew of organizations that are determined to ban sex outright, like the Family Research Council and many more. Further support is found in highly visible religious right proponents like presidential candidates Steve Forbes, Dan Quayle, Gary Bauer, Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri, and less likely candidates such as House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and good old Iran-Contra scandal leader, Oliver North. All were in attendance at the Christian Coalition party in Washington.
Where are sex industry leaders? According to Hoover’s Online, the adult industry accounts for an estimated more than $9 billion in revenues, with 10 percent of Internet sales, and 25 percent of video sales. There are strip clubs, phone sex, Vegas, fashion and TV. From hard core to soft core, no one is coming forth in the sex market to speak about sex openly, honestly and intelligently. Perhaps they say what they want to say by doing it instead. Hollywood is filled with sexy people, but not one of them is openly admitting in public that they like sex, or that sex is OK. This lack of vocal power is single-handedly responsible for driving pornography underground and making it a dirty thing. No one is stepping forth and saying it’s not a dirty thing. While the undecided are banged over the head and spanked on the bottom for even thinking about sex, it’s no wonder the moral consensus agrees that the religious right is right.
Except for the biological drive to procreate, sex is a luxury. Then again, so too is religion. If I’m in the jungle trying to stay alive, it’s food, maybe shelter I need, not sex or religion. The religious right might say a prayer could go a long way in terms of survival, but not if I’m being attacked by a lion or strangled by a boa. So, sex for pleasure and religion for spiritual needs are both human made. Essentially, we can live without either … that’s the bottom line. But a biological argument fails to account realistically for the social and cultural world we created and live in.
Some might say sex is a religious experience. For the Christian Coalition and all its affiliates and spin-offs, sex for pleasure is bad.
If the religious right can remove Clinton from office, it will win an ultimate victory in the crusade to drive sex to hell. But fortunately there are a number of individuals who are willing to discuss the Clinton scandal without bigoted condemnation or character assassination arguments. Some might not necessarily choose to do so, but are forced to, simply because of their positions. Newscasters must use words like oral sex and semen in their broadcasts, and do it with a straight face. The fact that they are deliberately trying to keep a straight face on-screen, and joking about oral sex off-screen, is a good indicator of sexual hypocrisy born from shame, embarrassment and repression.
America needs to get past the sordid peep show and trashy massage parlor view of sex, and elevate sexual pleasure to its rightful morally accepted place. Most importantly, beyond right and wrong, is the need to discuss sex … with a straight face. The therapist community could help a lot in this matter, but like everyone else, they too are victims of religious right oppression. Therapists are communication facilitators, who know all too well that sex is a primary issue in relationships and personal development. They also know it is something you don’t hide, or bad things will happen.
It’s the age of Viagra. It’s also the age of indoctrination and brainwashing, by both the religious right and the pornography industry. Forced prayer in the schools or nudie pictures on the Net; both sides are saying something, but they’re not talking to each other. Screaming, maybe, but not rationally conversing.
It is nonsensical to believe that advocating open discussions on sex is tantamount to advocating child molestation or rape. This is simply fear and ignorance talking. Seeking sexual pleasure does not have to mean exploiting women, or that the seeker is a hedonist determined to destroy the work ethic or family values. These kinds of accusations are reactionary. They are not intelligent comments. This issues can certainly be discussed intelligently, but lines need to be drawn between what constitutes sex for pleasure and when sex is used as a weapon to hurt others. The Christian Coalition’s Executive Director Randy Tate announced at the Road to Victory meeting that questions of values will be a national referendum on election day. When the country is split between going to Disneyland, buying a porn video, and voting for a religious zealot, just exactly where Tate’s values come from is most definitely up for debate. In fact, it’s fair to say, that many Americans go to church on Sunday, rent a Disney movie of one kind or another, and then have sex. Who’s zoomin’ who?
Jerry Flattum is the Daily’s Opinions page editor.