C. S. Lewis had his own restrictive views of what Christianity had to say about morality, but he objected to those Christians who thought that the chief sphere governed by morality was sexuality, and he objected to the prejudice that anything having to do with sex was automatically wrong. "I know some muddle-headed Christians have talked as if Christianity thought that sex, or the body, or pleasure, were bad in themselves," he wrote in _Mere Christianity_. He could not have predicted that in the richest and most powerful country in the world, members of that camp should have become so influential, and are condemning anything but a narrow range of sexual activity within marriage. This sexual tyranny is the subject of _America's War on Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust, and Liberty_ (Praeger) by Marty Klein. The author is a marital and sex therapist, and anyone who knows his fine blog _Sexual Intelligence_ will be familiar with his themes in this book, but the ideas here are forceful, broad, and referenced, with various battlefields summarized. Though Klein's writing is often amused and upbeat, much of what he has to report is dismal, a slope sliding into sexual ignorance and intolerance. Religious conservatives may be rejoicing, but as sexual pluralism is rejected in favor of a single morality and reduction of anxiety, we risk what we value most about democracy.
Klein frames the battle between "erotophiles" who value or tolerate sexuality and "erotophobes" who are made anxious by it. In America, the erotophobes not only are gaining political and social power, they are able to portray themselves as victims, captives who cannot get away from sexual imposition, and they feel that it is the responsibility of government to help them out. The religious call for American laws to regulate bedroom activity (and, Klein shows, even between married people), entertainment, information access, or medical treatment is little different from the law imposed by the Taliban elsewhere. Among the assumptions of puritans are that people cannot explore sexuality safely, that kids are damaged when they are exposed to sexual words or pictures, that sexual predation is on the rise, or that being scared about sexuality will produce good behavior. There are no studies to show that these core beliefs are true; rather, they are based on emotion and anxiety, not rationality. Even if scientific studies showed, for instance, that emergency contraception promoted promiscuity, Klein writes, "It wouldn't matter if they did, because this government and its religious allies don't trust science. They don't trust sex, and they don't trust you." Other countries are different. The teens of Europe or Canada are about as sexually active as those in America, but they have grown up in nations which think that young people have a right to factual sexual information; as a result, they have much fewer teen pregnancies, abortions, or sexually transmitted diseases. American advocates of Abstinence Only (which rarely allows even for discussion of non-coital sex or masturbation) always say that refraining from sex is the only way, for instance, to be 100% sure of avoiding sexual diseases or pregnancy, but they never admit that abstinence is not abstinence. 88% of teens pledging abstinence go ahead and have premarital sex anyway. Pills, condoms, and any other contraceptive plan have better success rates than that. Much has been made of the "pornography" forced on an unwilling public in the case of Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction", but of course, that's not really pornography; real video pornography is popular and fun because it consists of "consenting, enthusiastic people doing things they enjoy." That's not scary enough; count on erotophobes to exaggerate the prevalence of unrepresentative violent or child pornography as a way to get all pornography banned.
Klein isn't optimistic: "Those who war on sex mistrust my vision of individual autonomy, sexual integrity, faith in pluralism, and tolerance of differences." Theocracy or totalitarianism promise less sexual anxiety, but at a cost. There are millions who insist that sexual activity is so anxiety-provoking that government must regulate it and thereby make others conform to a single vision of morality and decency. Right now they have the power, but they are costing the nation in tolerance, in pluralism, and (though they would not like to admit that it is important) in sexual fun.