Is it just me or is there an air of sexual repression wafting through our country?
For example, our president, such as he is, wants more money to teach - or is it preach? - abstinence to young people.
Promoting sexual abstinence ignores several large obstacles, including the danger of unprotected (ignorant) sex, raging teen hormones, and the highly sexualized American culture stimulating those hormones for profit.
But the worst part of abstinence comes when impressionable young people go to their marriage beds inexperienced in the art of love and the workings of their own and their partners' bodies. Perhaps the young man has had a grope with a prostitute or seen a few porn videos, but that's not the best way to understand the complicated hydraulics of sexual activity.
Unless our young couple are extremely lucky in love, they will remain ignorant and dissatisfied throughout their lifetimes. If anything, they will have only idealized images of Hollywood sex to guide them. They won't know that rolling your eyes back, rolling your head back on the pillow, opening your mouth wide and making strange sounds in the back of your throat is not usually the way sex happens. They won't know that laughter is a large part of healthy sex. And they won't know that unlike the movies, people don't always reach orgasm at the same time.
One of the most important things they won't know is the location of the clitoris. I speak as something of a published expert in this area, because the only time my byline has ever appeared in The New York Times Magazine, it was in a letter to the editor about this topic. The Times had run a story about married southern Christian women who hold Tupperware-like parties in their homes to sample and buy sex toys. The women need the parties because - don't be too surprised here - they don't know much about sex. Or, to put it more bluntly, their husbands don't.
One shy woman whispered grateful thanks to the saleswoman for helping her find her clitoris, or, as she called it, "the little man in the boat." In my letter I saluted these women for learning about their bodies, but pointed out the vast disconnect between the gender of the euphemism and the female organ it represented.
Female sexuality has always put the male establishment - whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim - on edge. From our angry Biblical forefathers, who always seemed to be seeking a rationale for locking up their wayward daughters, to the even more drastic solution of female circumcision, the idea that women are equipped - by God, no less - to enjoy the greatest of sexual pleasures seems to drive authoritarian males (and the women who, for some reason, do their heavy lifting) mad.
That is why I was not surprised when, recently, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel refused to recommend approval of a new medical patch, Intrinsa, which increases women's sexual pleasure. The panel claimed it needed more data before exposing women to heart attack and stroke for "a marginal increase in sexual satisfaction."
The FDA is right to be concerned about drug safety for women, given its dismal track record in the area: the first birth control pills featured scarily high doses of estrogen; then came the Prempro debacle - for decades the FDA assured women it was safe, and then we learned that it increased the risk of heart attack, stroke and breast cancer.
But with Intrinsa, how much do you want to bet that the idea of women having better orgasms was just a little too much for the good doctors of the FDA, who intend to remain gainfully employed throughout the long dark years of the Bush Administration?
Another example of repression is how the new biopic "Kinsey" has once again unleashed that hound of hell, Judith Reisman. She believes that Dr. Alfred Kinsey, whose groundbreaking work on sexuality was first published in 1948, was Satan incarnate, and the sexual revolution he sparked led to "fifty years of cultural terrorism," according to an article in The New Yorker.
Reisman, who just won a lifetime award for her work promoting abstinence-only sex education, is also against homosexuality, pornography and masturbation. She also believes that Nazi Germany and the Holocaust were the creations of German homosexuals, and that homosexuals today are planning a similar movement. Clearly a raving lunatic, the fact that Reisman currently enjoys strong credibility on Capitol Hill should give us all reason for concern.
Once again we are facing the great American sex dichotomy - the love-hate relationship which will not die: the $10 billion sex industry, the popularity of trash television, advertising, music videos and the rest, vs. the hypocritical Bible-thumpers from the south - where, by the way, we also find the highest rates of teen pregnancy and divorce - who want to repress sexual pleasure.
The sexual revolution was, for the most part, a positive thing for this country. As long as God created us as sexual beings, isn't it our duty to love one another, and to keep rocking that little man in his little boat?
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who lives in Vermont and writes about culture, politics, economics and travel. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.