The XX Factor

The Prurient Prude Tidal Wave

Recent events have given voice to social-conservative qualms over birth control use


It’s not just feminists and liberals who welcome conservatives’ big coming out party for the anti-contraception agenda that has previously been lurking in the shadows of the anti-choice movement. Comedians may, in fact, be even bigger beneficiaries than Democratic politicians who are watching a stampede of women voters into their welcoming “we don’t hate you because you’re sexually active” arms. Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Seth Myers, and Amy Poehler have all had memorable cracks at the anti-contraception nuttery that’s on the rise, and now a group of male actors and comedians working for Funny or Die have had their chance. These men hilariously skewer what David Frum calls the “the combination of prurience and prudishness”—with a side dose of baffling ignorance about how sex actually works—that characterizes the no-girls-allowed discourse over the past month on those ladies and their slut pills. I first saw the video yesterday afternoon and I still cackle every time I think about the phrase “tummy pockets.”

As amusing as this video is, and despite all the talent that went into it, the sad truth is satire can’t hold a candle to the real thing these days. The events of the past month have unleashed a tsunami of social conservative discourse on what they think the sexy sex is all about, and while some political operatives have valiantly tried to remake the attacks on contraception about “religious liberty,” there’s not much they can do to stop the wave. From Rick Santorum blaming contraception for teen pregnancy during Republican debate (in fact, widespread contraception use has cut the teen pregnancy rate in half since the 1950s) to David Albo complaining that Democrats highlighting his hostility to female sexuality is keeping him from getting laid to Rush Limbaugh suggesting birth control users and mothers are mutually exclusive groups, the past month has been a real education in how very little many conservative men know about sex, much less women’s bodies.

But David Frum really found a delightful highlight in the “man, they really have no idea how this works” category, a piece at CNS News by Craig Bannister, where Bannister spins his fantasies about the orgiastic lives of college-age birth control pill users, all wrapped up in disapproval and rendering his the erection of righteousness. The headline reads in part “Sex-Crazed Co-Eds Going Broke Buying Birth Control,” and delightfully, this is the least prurient/hysterical thing that Bannister says in the entire piece. Bannister imagines that the only reason that a young woman might be on the birth control pill is that she lives a life on non-stop sexual bliss that would put an ancient Roman orgy to shame. After all, he argues, for $3,000 over three years (the cost of the pill out of pocket), you could supposedly buy enough condoms to have sex nearly three times a day, every day. Bannister works with the assumption that there’s a correlation between how much sex you’re having and how much birth control you need, saying, “four out of every ten co-eds are having so much sex that it’s hard to make ends meet if they have to pay for their own contraception.” I wish I’d known that if you’re not getting it three times a day, you’re off the hook for paying for your pills! That knowledge could have saved me money.

Some would argue I shouldn’t begrudge CNS News for running articles about “sex-crazed co-eds” and their “sexual zeal.” Mainstream magazines aimed at liberals like Bust also feature materials to warm up the engine, so why shouldn’t conservatives have their own wank material? But alas, deep-set antagonism towards hypocrisy intercedes. Bust, GQ and other glossies aren’t trying to pretend that their sexy stuff isn’t sexy, but CNS is giving their male readers a lift while denouncing the erotic lives of women. That’s such a flagrant double standard that Victorian men locking their wives up in their houses while they hit the local brothel would have balked at the unfairness of it.