So why have sexual rights become increasingly tenuous during this nominally Democratic presidency?
Part of the reason is the lack of a coherent vision of either sexual rights or sexual health coming from the president. One is tempted to excuse this by noting the profound systemic challenges this president faces—global economic collapse, enormous unemployment, a Republican Party focused solely on destroying his ability to govern.
However, the criminalization and sanction of ordinary sexual behavior causes great suffering for millions of Americans. To a parent who loses custody of her child because she’s into sadomasochism (S/M), or a teen put on a life-long sex offender registry for texting nude photos of himself, the War on Sex is no abstraction that can be sacrificed to other issues. For people whose lives are damaged or ruined because of it, the War on Sex is real and current and profound.
Another reason the War on Sex has gotten worse is that the Religious Right has become stronger, smarter, richer, and more aggressive with regard to sexuality. Having almost completed its planned criminalization of abortion, it is now going after contraception and other medical interventions. They have successfully marginalized the wonder drug Gardasil, which could have protected an entire generation from human papillomavirus (HPV)—on the grounds that it “might” lead to “promiscuity.” Indeed, it became an issue in the recent Republican presidential nomination process, as Michelle Bachmann and others went after Rick Perry, who as Texas governor required the inoculation of schoolgirls several years ago.
Finally, the Religious Right has created coalitions on zoning boards, city councils, and state legislatures that have reduced or even eliminated adult entertainment in large parts of the country. They have persuaded many major hotel chains to stop offering adult movies in guest rooms. Regional bigots like Phil Burress have been rewarded and are now national bigots.