Viagra and “State Rape” – Sex and Violence Still Sell

We cannot keep our collective minds off of other people’s private parts. It is strange that on the one principle both parties can agree on – a government respecting an individual’s personal privacy – yet, Republicans do want to legislate those private parts and Democrats can’t help but react. We’ve had some one-upsmanship going on in the Ohio State Legislature, and some comic relief that isn’t funny at all.

Gary Trudeau, the cartoonist for the long running comic strip, Doonesbury, has made a statement around the systematic push of the Republican party to make birth control less accessible and abortions seekers subject to unnecessary violations. He sums up the situation pretty well:

“Ninety-nine percent of American women have or will use contraception during their lifetimes. To see these healthcare rights systematically undermined in state after state by the party of ‘limited government’ is appalling.  In Texas, the sonograms are the least of it. The legislature has also defunded women’s health clinics all over the state, leaving 300,000 women without the contraceptive services that prevent abortions in the first place. Insanity.”

In Trudeau’s strip that will run in his syndicated slot this week (published today), he pushed the envelope as to what to call the latest Republican approved procedures during the already painful process of making a decision about an abortion. The U.K. Guardian article describes it:

It portrays a woman who turns up at an abortion clinic in Texas and is told to take a seat in “the shaming room”. A state legislator asks if she has been at the clinic before and, when she says she had been to get contraceptives, he replies: “Do your parents know you’re a slut?”

Later, she says she does not want an intrusive vaginal examination but is told by a nurse: “The male Republicans who run Texas require that all abortion seekers be examined with a 10-inch shaming wand.” The nurse adds: “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”

The word “rape” has some newspaper editors up in arms, others are worried about children stumbling upon the strip on the comic page. Trudeau doesn’t see it as that out of the ordinary or worrisome – the law yes, his drawings and words, no. The fact is that inserting a probe like the one above in any orifice against a person’s wishes is considered “rape” in this country. Blackmailing a person into the situation by withholding health care does not make it any less invasive or assaulting. Some newspapers won’t run the strip because of the content, Trudeau reflects that when he started creating the strip in the 70’s, abortion was a hot topic then too and he dedicated entire week’s worth of materials to the subject; interesting that 40 years later abortion still isn’t a settled matter and our press seems less tolerant of progressive viewpoints.

Trudeau isn’t worried about the kiddos, he says that they know exactly how to handle Doonsebury – they don’t read it, as usual.

The law that Trudeau is specifically targeting is the one that Gov. Rick Perry made possible – it requires those seeking abortions to be vaginally probed. In Ohio a similar statement is being made by Democratic legislators in protest of the same type of Republican agenda.  State Senator Nina Turner (D) has submitted a bill that would require men to “see a sex therapist, receive a cardiac stress test and get a notarized affidavit signed by a sexual partner affirming impotency”.  The article from the Dayton Daily News can be found here.

Trudeau is doing his civic part – he’s using his talents, fame and platform to provide commentary on today’s issues, the legislation thing is getting out of hand. Don’t get me wrong, I am pleased that there is a resistance to this relentless media and legislation push that seems to have fixed themselves on private lady parts. I want folks to speak their mind and discuss the issue, I guess drastic measures have been taken. I just hate to see Democrats “stoop” to the level of Republicans in the way of personal privacy.

I don’t want Uncle Sam or any of his friends snooping in my private health care decisions! I don’t want them violating me or fellow citizens! It’s none of anyone’s business what happens south of my waist or south of yours. Are progressives throwing in the towel? Can we really afford to have this kind of theater in our legislative houses? 

Perhaps this issue of genital privacy has so much traction because the values involved with it are so visceral and muddled. Our senses of authority and empathy are difficult to assign to the variables of the issue, they seem to switch around as the perspective changes. The nuances cover health care provision, privacy, family planning, spiritual beliefs, traditional gender roles, family models, personal responsibility, safety, autonomy, birth, death, morality, empowerment, social justice, relationships…this could go on and on. Compounding this intense “value stew”, is the fact that no matter how you package it, sex and violence still sell.

Having been trained as a Rape Crisis Counselor, I will be the first to tell you that rape is not about sex, it’s about power. That holds true in the examining rooms and legislative houses of Texas. Rape does, however, does involve sex organs, and implies violence – the net result is that humans are interested in it. Our reptilian brains are hard wired to notice such things. Viagra obviously also involves sex, and so like passing by a bad car wreck, we are glued to the latest.  Women are especially vigilant because those that fought to empower women with choice and control over their own lives, have never felt that it was a settled issue. They have always known that there are outside forces – most notably, men – that want to control them.

Our reptilian brains are focused on body temperature, food, water, shelter, sex and safety. We have lots and lots of higher brain activity, obviously, but as soon as one of those survival issues comes into play, attention gets refocused. Republicans know this (at least their advisers do), the media knows this, Democrats are weak in this area, they haven’t used it to their advantage, only in reactions. If the Republicans continue to have the upper hand in controlling these sort of messages, it does not bode well for Dems. I don’t wish for a spate of more intrusive and regressive legislation who’s only intention is to bring more shame to sexual health care. “If you can’t beat ’em join ’em attitude” does not advance progressive ideas.

You are being sold to. The Republican party knows that we cannot resist sex and violence and they are claiming center stage repeatedly, getting to put their frames out there first, beating their breasts or playing the victim. We have to tear our eyes away from each outrageous nuance (the politicos are frantically one upping themselves), and focus on a strong original message – not just a reaction.

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One thought on “Viagra and “State Rape” – Sex and Violence Still Sell

  1. […] seems that this is another case, like birth control, like austerity, like DOMA – in which the Republican establishment says that they are all about […]

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