A Sex Ed 101 curriculum for conservatives

By Amanda Marcotte
March 2, 2012

Recent national kerfuffles over abortion and contraception access bring up many important questions: Should employers retain control over your wages and benefits after they sign them over to you? Is contraception, a service used by 99 percent of American women, really so controversial? How much state regulation should there be over women’s most private decisions? But amidst all those questions is one overarching one: Do conservatives need a crash course in sex ed?

Usually, when we think of the sex education debate, we think of junior high and high school kids putting condoms on bananas. But recent events indicate that this country needs remedial sex education for adults, specifically social conservatives who wish to hold forth on reproductive rights without seeming to know the basics regarding who has sex and how it works in 2012. With that in mind, I designed a quick curriculum for these surprisingly necessary courses.

Intercourse 101: It Takes Two to Tango. After voting for a mandatory ultrasound bill that serves no other purpose than to shame abortion patients for their sexuality, Virginia delegate David Albo complained in the legislature that he’s not getting the sex he feels entitled to from his wife. CNSNews columnist Craig Bannister shamed women on the pill for being “sex-crazed co-eds” who exhibit too much “sexual zeal” — before ending his piece by wistfully wishing he could have sex with all the sexually active women he just insulted. Rush Limbaugh, who is on his fourth marriage and is an admitted Viagra user, called Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who testified before Congress about her use of contraception, a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

In this first section of the remedial sex education course, we will discuss this sexual double standard: When having sex, men are behaving well and women behaving badly. The midterm will be an essay on the following prompt: “If women are supposed to say no to sex, whom do you propose straight men sleep with?”

Contraception 101: History as Prologue. Many conservatives appear to believe that prior to the Obama administration requiring employers to fully cover contraceptive care as part of their health plans, contraception wasn’t considered a medical service, but something more like a party item you pick up with your beer and cigarettes. Tina Korbe of Hot Air argued that supporters of the new regulation “labor under the illusion that contraception is a medical necessity.” Limbaugh argued that health insurance covering contraception means women are “paid to have sex.” The reaction on the right suggests that this is the first time in history someone has suggested that contraception care be included in general health benefits.

During this portion of the class, we will look at the history of medicalized birth control. Students will learn (in conjunction with another mandatory class, The Pill 101) that the birth control pill has always been controlled by doctors and pharmacies, and that insurance companies treat it as medical care by offering the drug with a co-pay. Special attention will be paid to the 28 states that already require contraception coverage, the existing Medicaid coverage of contraception, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decision that found that contraception coverage is a normal part of women’s healthcare that should be covered by healthcare plans.

Premarital Sex 101: A Quantitative Look. Underlying many of the arguments over women’s reproductive healthcare is a widespread fear of women using these rights to have sex outside of marriage. During the Arizona Republican primary debate, Rick Santorum blamed contraception for the problem of teen pregnancy, presuming that teenagers in a contraception-free world would instead abstain. Utah Republican state representative Bill Wright defended a bill banning discussion of contraception in schools by saying: “Why don’t we just be honest with them upfront that sex outside marriage is devastating?”

Contrary to students’ expectations, there is no high-level math prerequisite for this course. The statistics involved are relatively straightforward. Students will learn that 95 percent of Americans have premarital sex and have done so for decades without bringing ruin to the nation. In addition, students will read literature showing that the teen pregnancy rate actually declined after the sexual revolution, leaving it at half the rate it was in the 1950s. Students will be asked to research why it is that blue states, where residents are more likely to use contraception and delay marriage, have lower rates of divorce and teen pregnancy.

The Pill 101: A Scientific Look. The ignorance on display on the right regarding the birth control pill, which has been around as a contraceptive for over 50 years, has been astounding. Limbaugh’s comment — “she’s having so much sex she can’t afford her own birth control pills” — indicates that he believes there’s a correlation between the number of sexual encounters and the number of pills necessary. Limbaugh also seems to think mothers and women who use birth control are mutually exclusive categories, saying: “How do you become a mom if you’re into birth control?” Additionally, with words such as “slut,” “prostitute” and “sex-crazed” flying around to describe women on hormonal contraception, it appears many conservatives believe that the drugs exist primarily for use by single women with multiple partners.

Students in our remedial sex ed course will take their time learning about hormonal contraception. They will learn that women on the pill must take one every day for it to work, no matter how much sex they’re having. Students will discover that monogamy isn’t enough to prevent unintended pregnancy, and thus married and monogamous women use the pill just as single women do. To drive home what not using contraception would mean for women, married and otherwise, students will be asked to watch the TLC show about the Duggar family, with its 19 children, and then offer a five-minute presentation in class.

As evidenced by the ignorant rot tumbling out of various right-wing mouths in response to these controversies, a curriculum of this kind is sorely needed. Perhaps female Democrats in Congress can write a bill funding Sex Education for Grown-Up Pundits and help elevate the conversation with a little basic understanding.

PHOTO: Radio show host Rush Limbaugh speaks at a forum hosted by the Heritage Foundation on the similarities between the war on terrorism and the television show 24, in Washington, June 23, 2006. REUTERS/Micah Walter


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I can’t believe this made the Reuters feed.

Posted by Nfojunky321 | Report as abusive

Someone said there were FREE condoms? Where? They used to give them away at gay men’s bars, but I have not seen those in years. Now it’s free lube packets.

And I do think that Viagra and Cialis should not be covered and that vasectomies ought to also be either mandatory, or outlawed altogether.

The issue is control over one’s own body. Men already have control, women want theirs as well.

Posted by CedarCat | Report as abusive

>”Contraception is a discretionary expense of discretionary sexual activity – no sex, no contraception expense”<

I’m afraid that isn’t the “irrefutable truth”. It is not used simply for discretionary sex. Since their introduction in the 1950s, birth control pills have undergone many improvements and some changes. As a result, birth control pills are now prescribed for many other reasons. These include treatment of PMS and PMDD, regulation of periods (flow, duration and frequency) treatment of endometriosis and—the very latest—treatment of acne. In fact, in her testemony before members of congress, Ms Fluke described a friend who happened to be gay, and used the Pill to control her ovarian cancer. The Pill has multiple uses, so this statement: “So Rush Limbaugh was correct to say that Ms. Fluke wants taxpayers to pay for her sexual activity” is incorrect. His ignorance of the pill and how it’s used is astonishing. His suggestion that she uses the pill because of the amount of sex she is having is ridiculous. It has nothing to do with the frequency of sexual activity. You don’t take a pill everytime you have sex.

Furthermore, Limbaugh fell over the cliff of anything resembling decency in using the power of his broadcast to attack a normal citizen who expressed her views before congress. He’s a common bully. A Thug.

The fact of the matter is that all students at Georgetown as well as other universities are required to obtain health insurence. Since Georgetown is a Catholic school, her coverage doesn’t provide for birth control. She and all others are forced to get it outside of the school. That means private insurence which as we all know is expensive. The Affordable Care Act helps people just like her afford the coverage that she needs.

Women make up slightly more than 50% of the population. I see no reason to deny that segment of our population healthcare that serves their biological needs,even though they don’t apply to me. If that’s the case, then why include maternity coverage? There are many things my tax dollars go toward that I may not agree with, so when you decide to reimburse me for my tax dollars that went to fighting a war in Iraq, then I’ll pick up the tab for you on birth control pills. Fair enough?

Posted by murphy831 | Report as abusive

>”But to require a private employer to act against their moral conscience and provide a benefit they otherwise would not include or support is UNCONSTITUTIONAL”<

No it isn’t. You have no understanding of the constitution and the first amendment. Your “morality or religious” beliefs don’t play into it at all. We don’t govern this country by bending to the individual morality of 300 million people. Obviously if we did, society couldn’t function. Everybody could claim a moral objection to anything they don’t like.

The First Amendment reads; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercize thereof”. And it seems that your objection to everything is based upon the second (Free Ex)clause. The problem with your argument is that the sentence “congress shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise thereof” makes absolutely no sense. The “Thereof” refers back to the first clause to get its meaning. Therefore, logically and grammatically, whatever counts as religion for the purpose of free exercize, must also count as religion for the purpose of establishment. The establishment clause says that Congress may make no law respecting an establishment of “religion,” while the free exercise clause says that Congress cannot prohibit the free exercise “thereof.” Again, logically, the word “thereof” must have the same content as the object to which it refers. Accordingly, what counts as “religion” for one clause must count as “religion” for the other.

Birth Control Pills are not a religion. But if you are going to use them for the purpose of free exercize, then you must logically use them for the purpose of establishment as well. The state, for example, abridges free exercise when it tells students they cannot pray during school, even if it allows them complete freedom to practice all other aspects of their faith. Similarly, the state cannot tell a church it must provide contraception coverage even if the church is otherwise left free to use its property as it wishes. The Obama Compromise deals with this. Private prayer and contraception are protected by the free exercise clause despite the fact that neither of these practices constitutes religions in and of themselves.

If prayer and contraception count as “religion” for the purposes of the free exercise clause, they must also count as “religion” for the purposes of the establishment clause. Just as the state abridges religion when it tells a student she cannot pray, so too does it establish religion when it requires prayer to be said in the schools. Just as the state abridges religion when it tells a church it must provide contraception coverage, so too does it establish religion when it makes a law that would deny contraception coverage to people based on a religious exemption to those outside the realm of the church at public expense. The state does not cross the line to establishment only when it goes to the trouble and expense of setting up a state church; it crosses that line when it sets up any religious practice that constitutes “religion” for the purposes of free exercise. To the extent that Republicans want to read the “thereof” in the free exercise clause broadly, they must also accept a broad reading of “religion” in the establishment clause. That’s basic logic. Logic isn’t a Republican or Democrat thing. It has no bias to it. You can’t ignore this fact, without illustrating yourself as an irrational putz.

The Blunt Amendment is an absurd and totally transparent attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act. It opens a loophole that you could drive a battleship through. It gives a religious or moral exemption to anything an employer may object to. If an employer decides that prayer cures all, then he could deny any kind of health care to his employees based on a religious or moral objection. It introduces government mandated discrimination based on religious or moral objections outside the title VII exemption of the Civil Rights Act for the church. If held as valid, then logically that same argument could be used for denying a veteran a job because the employer doesn’t believe in War, and it could also introduce discrimination based on a host of other moral or religious objections.

We cannot function with 300 million people making decisions over what laws they will follow based on moral or religious objections.

Posted by murphy831 | Report as abusive