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The New Politics of Sex

The New Politics of Sex
Forthcoming, The Western Australian Jurist

By Stephen Baskerville
Patrick Henry College
November 17, 2018

With astonishing speed, the public agenda of the Western world and beyond has come to be dominated by what Newsweek magazine calls "the politics of sex." Demands to liberalize abortion or recognize same-sex marriage are only manifestations of this trend, which entails much more than the familiar sexualization of culture. What we are seeing is the emergence of an expansive political agenda and a new political ideology that derives its power from claims to control and change the terms of sexuality.

Demands for new forms of sexual freedom -- what Helen Alvare calls "sexualityism" and what some are calling "gender ideology" -- increasingly dominate left-wing politics, though elite opinion has been remarkably slow to recognize this new form of ideology, both feminist and, to coin a term, homosexual-ist. "There has been a massive expansion of 'sexual liberty'," Alvare writes. "The federal government is seeking to expand sexualityism."

Much more is involved in the new sexual politics than simply sexual license. Ubiquitous demands for "power" and "empowerment" reveal that what has emerged is a true ideology, reminiscent of the older ideologies of Communism and Fascism (and even, more recently, Islamism). Unlike its predecessors, however, this ideology uses sexual leverage as its main political instrument and weapon. One sympathetic scholar terms it "the ideology of the erotic." This ideology reformulates the older battle cry of "social justice" into more ambitious demands for what is now being called "erotic justice". The means of achieving this involve the criminal justice system.

Both feminism and the newer homosexualist ideology that adopts its methods began with apparently modest claims: feminists to legal equality with men; homosexuals to be left alone in private. It is now apparent that these agendas encompass far more than meets the eye and that we have opened a Pandora's box of demands and urges that, like sex itself (and political power), are virtually insatiable.

"Sex is always political," the radicals proclaim, because some are said to be perpetrating "sexual oppression" by denying others their "sexual rights." To procure these rights, the oppressed are organizing "movements of resistance" to claim their "sexual citizenship" and "sexual self-determination." Sexual rights are said to be "inextricable from economic, social, cultural, and political rights," and these are "rights that are protected by the state." Sexual oppressors use "hierarchies of sexual value" such as religion and traditional sexual morality that "function in much the same ways as do ideological systems of racism." What is demanded now is "a more radical sexual politics capable of calling into question inequality or oppression in sexual relations or in articulating a vision of sexual self-determination and freedom" and launching a full-scale "cultural revolution."

We have heard this language before. With updated grievances, it expresses a hatred of restraint, and authority and thirst for unrestricted freedom and revenge reminiscent of the ideologies of the last century. Palpable in these manifestos is the emotion that feeds all violent political movements: resentment. The resentment is directed not at named individuals -- who could be formally charged and tried for recognized crimes using established procedures and tangible evidence -- but against groups of unnamed transgressors en masse, against whom new crimes and new justifications for punishment must be devised. For the resentment rationalizes the desire to rebel against the existing order, "to restructure society," to overthrow existing institutions and institute a new order with themselves in command, and to use their new power to punish people who they believe have harmed them, and who in this case -- even more than in the past -- are most often simply ordinary people minding their own business.

This is no longer the rhetoric of marginal extremists. The agenda of sexual liberation (and sexual resentment) now pervades virtually all social and political institutions: the media, universities, schools, charities, medicine, corporations, foundations, judiciaries, churches, governments, international organizations -- with hardly a word of challenge, all have become thoroughly saturated with the politics of sex. No other matrix of issues exercises remotely as influential an impact on our culture, politics, and daily lives, and yet none has been so astonishingly exempt from critical examination by journalists or scholars.

Sexual Liberation and Political Ideology
[More forthcoming...]

Stephen Baskerville is Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and author of The New Politics of Sex (Angelico, 2017). Versions of this paper were read at the European Advocacy Academy (Brussels), the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation (Paris), the Institute for European Studies (Belgrade), and Matica Srpska (Novi Sad), to whose participants I am grateful for their comments. A Serbian version is published in Letopis Matice Srpske (Chronicle of the Matica Srpska), vol. 501, no. 3 (March 2018).

See http://www.rojaksite.com/newsweek-politics-of-sex/.

Richard G. Parker, Bodies, Pleasures, and Passions: Sexual Culture in Contemporary Brazil (Nashville, Vanderbilt University Press, 2009), 111.

Sonia Corrêa, Rosalind Petchesky, and Richard Parker, Sexuality, Health, and Human Rights (Abingdon: Routledge, 2008), 4-5.

Ibid., 4-5, 24, 26, 27, 29-30, 93; Richard Parker, Rosalind Petchesky and Robert Sember (eds.) Sex Politics: Reports from the Front Lines (n.p.: Sexuality Policy Watch, n.d., http://www.sxpolitics.org/frontlines/book/pdf/sexpolitics.pdf), 9, 20. This publication and book cited in the previous note are funded by major foundations, including Ford, MacArthur, and the Open Society Institute.

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