It’s been another busy week for the male guardians of women’s bodies. We had the multimarried Rush Limbaugh attacking Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, who had testified to House Democrats on behalf of women in need of contraceptive coverage. While she did not speak at the actual congressional hearing about the health-insurance debate, Limbaugh still took time to call her a “slut” and a “prostitute” and later suggested that women who avail themselves of government-specified birth control should be required to videotape themselves in flagrante delicto for all those hardworking (presumably male) taxpayers to enjoy.
After a month of increasingly intrusive attacks on the female body from Republican presidential candidates — and most recently from the state legislatures of Virginia and Texas — it’s clear we’re dealing with something more dangerous than mere policy debates. This is open contempt for women’s lives. When Limbaugh questioned where we “draw the line” with taxpayer money by comparing women’s health to buying sneakers, it struck a nerve in a lot of women who saw what their mothers and grandmothers knew all too well: society’s striking indifference to the risks and burdens women face from pregnancy.
The outraged howl in the Twittersphere was the awakened consciousness of a nation of women who don’t like being treated like naughty schoolgirls sent to the principal’s office while the guys get a hall pass. Why do these pontificators exempt men from the consequences of sexual activity? American women aren’t having sex with Ken dolls. They’re not experiencing immaculate conceptions. Where, exactly, are all the men who’ve had sexual relations with or impregnated these “slutty” women? Where are the men who are contracting and spreading sexually transmitted diseases? Where are the men whose girlfriends are buying pregnancy tests and obtaining abortions and raising children on their own? Where are the men who have no idea if their sexual behavior resulted in pregnancy?
It’s hard to take seriously the views of all-male Senate panels or vote-hustling politicians when they seem unaware that men actually have sex lives. Women have always been the gatekeepers of sexual morality, of course, and have paid a higher price for their choices. But this shame-and-blame game feels genuinely shocking in the second decade of the 21st century. If men feel they have to control women’s bodies, they could first start with controlling their own. And the legislators who want to mandate vaginal ultrasound probes for women choosing abortions would do well to reflect on what else is going into women’s bodies. The hypocrisy of singling out women is blood boiling.
Let’s hope this recent spectacle is a wake-up call to people on all sides of the political spectrum to talk more honestly about the consequences of human sexuality. Folks, we don’t reproduce asexually, like snails and worms! If our politicians and pundits held men to the same harsh standards as women, they might find themselves favoring policies with a better grip on reality. They might also discover some respect for the tough dilemmas women face every day.
“What happened to personal responsibility and accountability?” Limbaugh crowed. Precisely. Gentlemen, you’re up at bat.