The overturning of Roe v Wade is the first salvo in a bigger battle – one where the reactionaries are being aided by misguided liberals.
While America – and the rest of the civilised world – is still coming to terms with the shock of the overturning of Roe v Wade and the immediate outlawing of abortion across a large swathe of the country, the same people that pushed this change through a conservative, religiously-motivated Supreme Court are now gearing up to force through more morality-based reversals. One of these, if successful, will cause equal amounts of outrage among smart, liberal people; the other will probably be applauded. Both come from the same mindset and both will impose a Christian moral attitude on people’s sexual freedom, so why the difference? Well, let’s dig in further, shall we?
The (virtual) ink had barely dried on the Roe v Wade reversal before moral campaigners had their sights on another law that is probably more vulnerable than people like to think. The 2003 judgement in Lawrence v Texas ruled that the right to privacy extended to private sexual activity and stated, perhaps more importantly, that the criminalisation of ‘sodomy’ “furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual.” Sodomy – and we’ll come to that in a moment – was therefore legalised in a case that was very important for anyone in America that chose to engage in any sort of sexual activity that didn’t involve a penis entering a vagina. You might think that sodomy refers to anal sex, but in various state laws, it covers pretty much everything – anal and oral, straight and (obviously) gay coitus of any sort. Some fourteen states have laws on the books that Lawrence v Texas has overturned – all applying to gay couples as you might expect, but also many applying to unmarried heterosexuals and eight banning the filthy practices across the board (Michigan allows everyone to enjoy oral sex but anal is completely banned). If Lawrence v Texas is overturned, these bans will immediately come back into force. Punishments range from fines in Texas to anything up to 20 years in prison in Georgia. It goes without saying that legal gay marriage will also be quashed in these states, given that homosexuality will have been effectively outlawed.
Obviously, a change in the law like this would cause outrage – but then, so did the overturning of Roe v Wade. Do you think they care? And this isn’t just a vague hypothesis – In his concurring opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Clarence Thomas said the court should reconsider not just Lawrence v Texas but also the various legal precedents and judgements that legalised contraception, same-sex marriage, and same-sex sexual activity. That’s the same Clarence Thomas, by the way, who was accused by law professor Anita Hill of sexually harassing her and boasting about watching bestiality movies, rape porn and Long Dong Silver. You can read more about all that here.
The idea that gay sex, huge amounts of straight sex and even contraception (which ‘pro-lifers’ have spent the last week pushing as a reason why we don’t need abortion rights) could be outlawed seems frankly insane. But we’re living in insane times. Who knows how far all this will go? Certainly though, every liberal news outlet and organisation would do everything they could to stop such draconian, moralising laws fronted by demented religious bodies from being passed – and rightly so. Why, then, are they not only taking the word of these same groups without question when it comes to porn but also giving them a platform and support?
Even as Roe v Wade was being announced, American Christian morality organisations were pushing for the few legal protections that porn (and its consumers) has – not only the right to produce and sell but also the right to possess – to be rolled back. Anti-porn extremist organisations like Exodus Cry and NCOSE have been pushing hard and the outlawing of abortion – which you can be sure that they have supported, even if they keep it quiet – has given them the chance to demand a legal attack on the pornographers with new obscenity prosecutions and a push for the Supreme Court to take up their cases for the obscenity laws that have long been dormant to be resurrected. Do you really think a Supreme Court that has just banned abortion and is pondering outlawing gay sex won’t support them? And let’s not pretend that this will stop at kinky hardcore – it’ll be all visual (and probably written) forms of sexual expression, including mere nudity. If Facebook and Instagram think that nipples are obscene, why not the courts?
Exodus Cry is an evangelical group that claims to be fighting sex trafficking but has ties to anti-abortion and anti-LGBT+ groups and seems exclusively concerned with outlawing the legal sex industry. NCOSE is The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which sounds very impressive until you find out that they used to be Morality in Media, a Christian group that supported abstinence programs and campaigned against Monty Python’s Life of Brian and stated that its aims were to “strongly uphold traditional family values and Judeo-Christian precepts”. These organisations are not the friends of liberals; they are part of the same mindset that helped outlaw abortion and threatens gay marriage. Why, then, do they get so much unquestioning support from the liberal media?
Well, part of it is because they talk about sex trafficking and love to use the idea that no one (or at least no woman) could possibly make porn of their own will, a belief that tallies with a lot of left-wing Feminist ideas. Both groups have been good at hiding their fundamentalist beliefs and many sources – suspicious of porn for both social and moral reasons themselves – don’t ask too many questions. And so we get the shameful result of Exodus Cry’s former(?) mouthpiece Laila Mickelwait being given a platform in Newsweek today, while The Guardian, The New York Times, The New Yorker and others regularly give these groups and their supporters editorial space in a way that they would never do for anti-abortion organisations.
Perhaps they choose to overlook the reactionary beliefs of these people – I can’t believe that, by now, they are unaware of them – and turn a blind eye to the fact that anti-porn campaigners will also be supporters of the most dreadful reactionaries – hell, that they will be dreadful reactionaries. A sensible person might look at the wider beliefs of these groups and perhaps question everything that they claim – after all, many of the anti-porn and anti-sex work campaigns are based on hysterical lies and exaggerations that have been shown to be made up nonsense again and again – but clearly, it is more convenient to just look the other way. But if you do that, don’t be surprised when these groups are bolstered into positions of influence and start using that influence in ways you don’t like. America is on a moral precipice right now and if you call for more controls on porn, you’re simply emboldening those who want to drag us back to the 1950s. Sometimes, your enemy’s enemy is not your friend and you need to decide which you want more – legal abortion, gay rights and sexual freedom, or a world where Playboy is illegal and strip clubs are closed down. I rather suspect you can’t have both.
Credit to Gustavo Turner for some of the information here
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