Friday, March 2, 2012

Sex or Babies?

This morning on The Today Show I saw two  different stories about sex and women.  The first concerned Rush Limbaugh's tirade against the bill and its supporters that would require insurance companies to provide full coverage for contraceptives for women.  Mr. Limbaugh focused, as many conservative men seem to do who want control of women's bodies, on the freedom contraceptives give women to have sex.  From there he leaped to the bill's requirement actually paying women for sex and the bill's supporters wanted to be paid for sex..  Really?  I thought it was about insurance coverage which means the insurance companies would pay pharmacies who sell the contraceptives.  So, does that mean, following Mr. Limbaugh's reasoning, that the insurance companies would be paying the pharmacies to have sex?  What a jaw-dropper!

Mr. Limbaugh, by focusing on contraceptives giving women more sexual freedom misses the whole point of contraceptives: to prevent pregnancy.  If a woman does not want to get pregnant, is that bad?  Not really.  It's her body and she should have control over her body.  If she wants to have sex, is that bad?  Not really.  Sex, in and of itself, is not bad.  It's what people think about it, the beliefs that have come down over the generations about it, that were designed to keep sex under the control of men.  There are still men in this world, in the 21st century, who want women to be totally submissive to them, to not think or feel, to do whatever the men tell them to do, and to exist for their sole benefit and pleasure.  They do not like at all that women have won so much independence, equality and respect in the last 40+ years.  The use of contraceptives, by preventing pregnancies, may also prevent abortion.  That cannot be bad.  While women seek sexual equality and partnerships with their significant others, the men who want submissive women seek domestic dictatorship.

Which brings me to the second story about sex and women which aired about an hour after the Limbaugh story on The Today Show.  A novel entitled Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James has soared in popularity recently among bookclubs with all-women members.  This novel is part of a trilogy by James that explores a woman's relationship with a man who wants to dominate her sexually and inflict pain.  The story on The Today Show showed women talking about this novel as if it were a primer for men to learn what women really want sexually.  But if you read the reviews at, the story actually involves a college-aged woman who is trying to figure out why the man she's fallen in love with would want to hurt her.  Hmmm...sounds to me like a woman-rescuing-man-from-his-demons type of story.  So why the focus on the sex? 

The report stated several times that the sex is explicit and graphic, that it deals with a common female fantasy of wanting a man to take control in the bedroom.  One woman even commented that she was tired of going to work, making dinner, taking care of housework and kids, then expected to do everything in bed, too.  Dr. Drew Pinsky on The Today Show commented that the book disturbed him because it equated the infliction of pain during sex as arousing and OK.  He made the point that people who were physically and/or sexually abused as children -- and let's face it, folks, it happens more often than we would like to think -- receive the message that pain is sexually arousing, and inflicting pain on someone else is also sexually arousing.  Dr. Drew has a point.  What we learn in childhood follows us throughout life. But why "glorify" unhealthy sex?  From the reviews at Amazon, it sounded like the novel's female lead was not particularly happy with her boyfriend's need to inflict pain, so perhaps she had some sense of what is healthy sex and what is not.  I have not read the book (don't plan to either) but I do hope that the female protagonist chooses respect, love and healthy sex in the end.

Sex sells.  Whether it's Rush Limbaugh ranting about birth control pills or a romance novel with passages of explicit sex, it gets our attention.  Novels allow us to explore the dark side of our natures safely, as well as how to deal with that dark side.  What dismayed me about The Today Show's coverage of the novel was their not allowing Dr. Drew to talk about healthy sex between consenting adults and that the infliction of serious pain is not healthy during sex.  The person who's inflicting the pain has a psychological problem, but so does the person who accepts being hurt.  They both need help. 

Would you read a "romance" novel about a man who likes to hurt women?  How is that romantic?  There's a part of me that really wants to ask Rush Limbaugh if he'd read the novel and tell me what he thought.....       

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