Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tea and Sexuality

One of the more interesting aspects of the rise of the Tea Party mentality has been its return to the golden days of yesteryear (i.e. 1980) when the discussion of sexual mores and practices was fodder for political debate.

I find it incomprehensible how politicians like O’Donnell talk a big game about freedom and liberty, while out the other sides of their mouths seem to be calling for the imposition of medieval sexual morality, if not in law, in what is to be seen as proper behavior for “good people”. Even more incomprehensible to me is the fact that people buy into it. If we truly live in a free country, then as consenting adults, we are free to do as we will with regard to our own bodies. Perhaps sensing this internal inconsistency, they will often attempt to frame these moralizations into arguments about how “sexual deviance” is the root of all our social and political problems; thus making public problems out of our private lives.

First on the list, of course, is Teh Gayz. Marriage equality and the impending (if not glacially-paced) repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has brought sex out of the bedroom and onto the stage. Candidates are holding forth on whether or not being gay is a choice, whether or not their opponents ought to be seen in the company of gays on parade, and whether or not gays and lesbians or even unmarried straight women sharing a house with their boyfriend should be allowed to teach in the public schools.

It seems harmless enough; if you can’t make any sense when you talk about the real issues, go for the genitalia. But look at the recent rash of suicides among teens and children who have been bullied and tormented for being gay or even suspected of it. I don’t have any real proof that there’s a connection between the right wing’s return to morality-minding (as if they don’t need a refresher course for some of their own such as Newt Gingrich, John Ensign, and David Vitter) and these tragedies, but it’s hard to avoid the connection. Teens, especially those who are coming to grips with their own sexual identity, view it as an intensely personal and predominant force in their lives, and to suddenly find their most vulnerable aspect suddenly on display and held up to examination, mockery, and condemnation by friends, family, and the disembodied voice of some candidate running for office on TV is devastating. To see it bandied about by some chirpy scold like Christine O’Donnell on TV turns it into a laugh track. No one can see it in the abstract; it is all about them and their most private and guarded senses. No wonder the demons find it easy prey.

It is no great secret that those who wish to scold and repress others for their sexual or moral standards are, of course, doing it to repress and scold themselves. It is human nature and recorded in countless ways throughout history. The fact that it can still be exploited for political gain is nothing new, either. I just wish that those who are doing it would think — or even care — about the damage they’re inflicting on others, our society, and themselves.

HT to CLW.