Young women are, socially speaking, the proverbial canary in the coalmine. Their fate prefigures the troubles that lie ahead.
Once an optimistic middle-class defined capitalism’s post-WWII glory days; it distinguished what is known as the American century. Against much resistance, it fostered the ‘60s sexual revolution, Roe v. Wade and increasingly risqué (if sometimes over-the-top) expressions of sexuality in fashion, dance, music, ads or other popular media. Over the following half-century a new, freer erotic sensibility took shape in the U.S. and throughout much of the advanced industrial world.
In the decades following World War II, sex changed in America. Alfred Kinsey revealed the nation’s deepest, darkest secret: America was not a Puritan paradise but a land where lots of people had lots of sex, lots of different sex. During that half-century, people lived longer lives; the pill separated pleasure from procreation; the birth rate fell. This was an historical new social condition, one defined by rock-and-roll, the women’s movement, gay liberation and a more egalitarian, polymorphic eroticism. Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler represented the mainstreaming of this new sexuality.
Today, a dispirited, vindictive and pessimistic white Christian right is attempting to once again impose its Puritanical morality on the nation. Freighted by the increasingly more liberal, polymorphic sexuality embraced by a multi-ethnic and sexually-accepting youth culture, the Christian right is using the power of federal and state governments to impose its repressive beliefs regarding abortion, contraception, sex ed, obscenity and commercial sex. The Christian right is engaged in a campaign to discipline Americans into accepting a new condition of sexual austerity.
This is the third campaign by the Christian right to repress sexual experience over the last century. In the 1910s-‘20s, Prohibition’s second front was female sexual excess. A half-century ago, the battle expressed itself as Cold War McCarthyism’s war against homosexuals. Today, a new authoritarian value system, promoted by a reactionary Christian conservatism, is attempting to repress American sexuality and one of its targets is teen female sexuality.
The Christian right’s war against teen girls is an extension of its long-waged war against a woman’s right to an abortion, easy access to contractive [sic] products (e.g., condoms, the pill) and opposition to medically accurate comprehensive sex education.
Read the rest at Counterpunch here.