"The War on Contraception" by Russell Shorto, which appeared in Sunday's New York Times Magazine is very important reading for anyone concerned about sexual freedom. It provides a good deal of insight into the mind set of the "abstinence only" crowd and makes it abundantly clear that for many in that group, overturning Roe v. Wade is not so much a goal as it is a first step.
For many social conservatives, non-procreative sex is the problem; their hidden agenda is the elimination of all forms of contraception and that is not all. According to Shorto, "[t]heir ultimate goal is not a number - the percentage of abortions or unintended pregnancies - but an ideal, a way for people to think and behave." This is why they are seeking to block the production of a vaccine against Human Papilloma Virus; they value their goal of transforming society more than they value the lives of sexually active women, protestations about the sanctity of life notwithstanding. Their way of thinking is profoundly at odds with the Tantric perspective, in which sexual activity can be a means to an end -- most often the experience of altered states of consciousness, a direct path to union with the divine.
There is a very quiet movement afoot in the United States to stamp out the rights of all sexual minorities, to return to a mythical golden age when we were invisible, when non-marital sex was forbidden and women were little more than breeding machines, with no right to pleasure. While some members of this movement can be quite vocal, the general public remains substantially unaware of the scope of its project. This is an age-old struggle; Shorto begins his article with a discussion of Daniel Defoe's "A Treatise Concerning the Use and Abuse of the Marriage Bed", in which Defoe claimed that by enaging in non-procreative sex, married men make whores of their wives. Today, beyond the struggles over abortion rights and contraception, several Southern states ban the sale of sex toys, and these statutes have been upheld in the courts.
Those of us who do not share the social conservatives' views ignore them or minimize them at our peril. Roe v. Wade hangs on by a thread -- in all probability a single vote on the Supreme Court. When that thread is pulled, the entire fabric that protects our rights will begin to unravel, and we will be living in a society governed by a set of rules that could make outlaws of us all.
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