Thursday, March 17, 2005

Bedroom Farce and Global Tragedy

The Moscow Times, March 4, 2005

Sex, sex, sex – how it haunts the damp and fervid dreams of the Bushist Party faithful. And nowhere moreso than in the deeps of Dixie, where stout Christian soldiers were singing hosannas last week after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their righteous warfare against the foulest form of evil in the modern world:

Genital stimulators.

After prayerful consideration, the Supremes refused to hear challenges to an Alabama law that forbids the sale or distribution of "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs," Reuters reports. The law was aimed not only at public vendors of sexual enhancement but also the growing number of private "Tupperware-style parties," where suburbanites gather to peruse the latest marriage-goosing gadgets.

But do let's be fair. In their compassionate conservatism, the Bama Bushists did provide some exceptions to their iron grip on the state's genitals. For example, the law generously allows the sale of sexual devices "for a bona fide…legislative, judicial or law enforcement purpose." Here the mind reels (and the stomach turns): what on god's earth could possibly constitute, say, a bona fide "legislative" use of the "vibrators, dildos, anal beads" and other play-pretties covered by the law?

On second thought, don't ask. Instead, let's just rejoice in the knowledge that, thanks to the Supreme Court, politicians, judges and county sheriffs in Alabama can now diddle themselves to their heart's content with all manner of manipulators, while your ordinary desperate housewife will have to do without.

Yet as we all know – and as the state of Alabama itself acknowledged when confronted with statistics from the law's challengers – the vast majority of the now-banned Bama buzzers were sold to good ole gals, most of them in down-home, red-meat, church-blessed heterosexual marriages. The salt of the earth, in other words – the only kind of people worthy of full citizenship in Bushist philosophy. So why were these exemplary matrons targeted by the mullahs in Montgomery? That question leads us to another curious lacuna in the law – a gap mirrored in similar sex-toy restrictions in Georgia and Bush's own Texas.

As the challengers pointed out – and the Supremes ignored – the state's crusade against artificial exciters somehow failed to include Viagra, Levitra and other chemical erector sets designed to address male shortcomings in the pleasure department. Now, it would be uncharitable to conclude from this that the Bushists have, shall we say, special needs in this regard. Although it's true they exhibit a strange fascination for big missiles, military uniforms and naked Arab men in chains, we don't mean to suggest that they need outside help to achieve a more normative sexual response to a woman.

No, the real reason why girl toys are banned while boy boosters get greenlighted is simple: the laws in Bush's Texas and likeminded states aren't actually designed to restrict sexual aids as such. They are meant to clamp down on the sexual pleasure of women in particular. They are part of Bush's worldwide war against women, which we have often detailed here – a war in which the Bushists are allied with their putative enemies, the radical Islamists. These two groups share an overwhelming fear of the freedom and inviolability of a woman's body, her ability to control her own sexuality and fertility. This freedom threatens social, cultural, political, economic, even psychological structures that in some cases go back thousands of years. It is this, woman's autonomy, which is the true crux of modernity, the real dividing line – not technology, ideology or the much-vaunted "clash of civilizations."

This profound upheaval has provoked fierce, panicky and often violent resistance. To his shame, Bush has aligned America time and again with misogynist bastions like Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Saddam's Iraq in opposing international efforts to guarantee the rights of women. Even as we speak, Bush operatives are trying to blow up the landmark 1995 international agreement on the status of women, when the nations of the world pledged themselves to establishing women's equality in all areas of life, including health, education, employment and political participation. It also declared that women should be able to "decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality…free of coercion, discrimination and violence."

But the Bushists clearly don't want women's sexuality to be free of coercion, discrimination and violence. That's why they are sandbagging the 10-year review of the 1995 declaration now underway at an international conference in Beijing, AP reports. Bush is refusing to reaffirm the declaration unless draconian language is added to ensure that the agreement "does not create any new international human rights," as the Bushists put it. In other words, a little fancy talk about equality is fine – as long as it doesn't actually change anything, as long as the coercion and violence can go on.

This is all of a piece with Bush's savage elimination of U.S. funding for women's health clinics in the poorest regions on earth. For want of this indispensable American aid – mere pittances that wouldn't fund a single hour of Bush's rape of Iraq – clinic after clinic has been forced to close, destroying the only source of medical treatment and reproductive health care, health education, and pre-natal and post-natal care for the most vulnerable women in the world. It has been a literal death sentence for thousands of women – and their infants – in the past four years: a silent holocaust created at the stroke of Bush's pen.

The bedroom farce in Alabama – sweaty-palmed pols in a tizzy over vibrators – may be an amusing bit of provincial comedy. But it masks a sinister tragedy of global proportions.