Sex & Politics

by Hannah

Sexual images and references might seem like they are everywhere in American popular culture, but our country still has issues surrounding sexual discourse. Perhaps it is our puritan history that makes us feel like sex is “shameful” and “inappropriate.” Sure, this mindset has minor implications, like making a certain eight-year-old extra thankful for the dimmed lighting in movie theaters that will hide her reddened face as she sits next to her mother while Jack and Rose steam up a carriage on the Titanic.

However, this puritanical approach to sexuality can also be harmful in that it makes certain topics taboo. I am not advocating that we start talking about sex in a flippant manner or in every situation (I’m all for a certain amount of decorum so that people feel comfortable), but there are some cases in which our culture’s squeamishness about sex is problematic. For example, in an ideal world, homosexuals would be able to be open about their sexuality and not have to worry about people who don’t approve of their “deviant” sexual behavior. Also, when sex education is either limited to discussions of abstinence or is even completely nonexistent, men and women will not be fully equipped to make informed decisions in order to stay healthy.

Last week, two examples from the political world got me thinking about our approach to sexuality:

image from californialeaders.org

1. Rep. Jackie Speier’s testimony in Congress about her personal experience with abortion during debate over legislation that would take funding away from Planned Parenthood.

“That procedure that you just talked about was a procedure that I endured… I had a procedure at seventeen weeks pregnant with a child who moved from the vagina into the cervix. I lost a baby. But for you to stand on this floor and suggest, as you have, that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous.”

Her statement is an excellent example of why we need more women in Congress. I ask you, “How many men have had an abortion? Then why should they be the ones legislating the practice?”

However, it also speaks to the role of shame in the way America treats issues having to do with sex. For a woman to admit that she had an abortion because of medical complications should not be a big deal. I applaud Rep. Speier for sharing her experience in such a public forum, so that we may begin to more comfortably discuss issues like abortion without the all-too-common implicit assumption that abortion is somehow associated with sexual promiscuity.

image from frugal-cafe.com

2. Senator Scott Brown’s account of the sexual abuse he suffered as a child.

Mr. Brown is the stereotypical handsome, masculine politician: his spread in Cosmopolitan showed off his conventionally handsome face and muscular physique and one of his winning campaign lines was, “I’m Scott Brown and I drive a truck.”

That he was a victim of sexual abuse would seem to challenge this stereotypical masculinity. After all, how often do we see a truck-driving, muscular, basketball-playing man as a victim, a sexual victim, no less? Rarely, if ever.

My reaction to Senator Brown’s announcement was similar to that of my feelings after watching Rep. Speier talk about abortion in front of Congress: “How brave! Good for him!” However, just as a woman who has undergone an abortion because of medical complications should not have to hide her experience in shame, a male victim of sexual violence should not have to tackle the stigma attached to the abuse he has endured.

Regardless of our own individual party affiliations, our country has chosen these individuals to lead. So let us follow and support them in combatting this double victimization that results from feeling ashamed of a complicated sexual history, whether it is abortion or sexual abuse.

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~ by freshinkblog on February 24, 2011.

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