The GOP's Sexual Anxiety?

Republicans are squeamish and repressed when it comes to sex! It’s easy to say, of course, but is it true? Today, Andrew Sullivan says the fact that “the two biggest ticket items that have leaped into public consciousness discrediting parts of the stimulus package have been family planning and STD prevention” is a “glimpse into the far-right psyche.”

I generally tend to think that when it comes to politics, the right, as Andrew writes, is too often and too easily “galvanized by sexual panic,” particularly with regard to gay marriage. But in this case, is it sexual panic, or is it an understandable hesitance to bring sex in the public sphere? It’s not uncommon to pine over an ideal of sexual openness (I’m sure I’ve done it myself), but let’s be honest: Sex is personal. Sex is intimate. Sex — thinking of it, talking about it, participating in its many rituals — can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. Sex, and the complications that surround it, is something not easily shared with others.

So when sex and its many, many complications — STDs, pregnancy, contraception — become matters of public scrutiny and public funding, well, I think it’s reasonable to be concerned, even upset. Sex should be a private matter, and Americans needn’t be forced to open up their wallets in order to pay for the sexual decisions of others — especially under the absurd guise of “stimulating the economy” (and asinine, offensive, and probably flat-out wrong arguments about children don’t help matters either).

Are these issues of primary importance when it comes to the stimulus package? Of course not. Are they issues which deserve public attention, scrutiny, and, yes, even concern? It certainly seems reasonable to me to think so. And, needless to say, you can’t discount the simple fact that, even (perhaps especially) in politics, salacious headlines sell (or at least bring readers). So news vendors and widely read gossips have an incentive to play up stories involving sex.

As for Republican attitudes about sex, well, politically they may come across as prudish, but there’s at least some evidence to suggest that in the bedroom, they’re happier, and perhaps even kinkier. So maybe it’s not actually that Republicans are particularly more uptight when it comes to sex — it’s that they’re enjoying themselves, and don’t feel any need to talk about it.