Sex on the Ballot: Who a Sexologist Endorses for President and Why
Seems many professional organizations are making endorsements for tomorrow’s election. Medical doctors are saying which candidate they believe, in their professional opinion, would be the best on health care. And auto worker unions say who they believe would be best for their profession. Students, soldiers, teachers, so on. So, I’m offering you my professional opinion on the candidate for president who would best advance sexual health and freedom based on 6 dimensions of sexuality; rape, domestic violence, sex education, access to sexual health care (breast exams, pap tests, STI testing, birth control, pregnancy termination, etc), gender, and sexual orientation. If I had more time I’d tell you all about a 7th dimension on a local level, of freedom of sexual expression, which includes prostitution, pornography, nudity, etc. but that’s seldom a federal issue.
I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. I’m telling you who is best in the field of sex, given my expertise on the subject. I know people vote on many different issues, sex may or may not be one of them. But if sex is important to you and you’d like an educated opinion to factor into your vote, read on. I’m about to be blunt. No sugar coating. If you get pissy about politics, feel free to click the red X on the right of your screen. You’ve been warned.
I’m voting for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. The Big O. Get it?! Haha. Let’s break it down.
You know this is an issue that is near and dear to my heart, and as a society there can never be true sexual freedom so long as sex is being used as a weapon. Team Obama is a clear winner here.
VP candidate for the Republican Party, Paul Ryan, cosponsored legislation with Todd Akin (of “legitimate rape” fame) to make a distinction in the law, creating a term called “forcible rape”. In fact this was the third bill sponsored that year, so Ryan clearly thought this was an important order of business. Hurdles for survivors of sexual violence are already hard enough. Paul Ryan worked to make it even harder, leaving victims of date rape, drugged rape, marital rape, and statutory rape as a second class group of rape victims, less likely to be believed, taken seriously, and given access to emergency contraceptives to prevent becoming impregnated with their rapists child. This is unacceptable. We have already come so far from the days where rapists were let free and women were blamed because they didn’t “yell loud enough” or “fight back hard enough”, not so subtly being told that if she really didn’t like it she’d have defensive wounds. All rape is forcible, and creating a legal distinction that classifies someone who might have been too drunk, high, or scared to physically fight back as not true rape victims is vile.
VP Joe Biden, on the other hand, has made the eradication of violence against women (VAW) one of his top priorities throughout his career. He created the 1 is 2 Many campaign to end rape on colleges campuses, and asked students to submit ideas on how to do it. But he didn’t focus his attention, as so many misguided VAW programs do, on how women should watch their drinks/walk with friends/protect themselves, he put it right on the perps, saying in a speech “And you guys have to understand a very simple rule: No means no. No means no if she’s drunk or sober. No means no if she’s in a dorm room or on the street. No means no even if she said yes first and changed her mind. No means no, no matter what. Assault is assault. Rape is rape is rape and it’s a crime.”
President Obama borrowed Biden’s “rape is rape” line, denouncing Todd Akin’s hideously offensive “legitimate rape” comment.
The Obama/Biden ticket wins the gold on this one too, as again Joe Biden has a strong history of making this topic a theme in his political career. It was Joe Biden himself who wrote the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, which provided $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, rape crisis centers, shelters, and hotlines, community violence prevention programs, and established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice. Biden has since called this bill he drafted “the single most important thing I’ve ever done”.
On the Romney/Ryan side, Paul Ryan as a member of the House of Representatives signed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden drafted back in 1994, which sounds good on the surface, but he supported the crappy watered down version, the one that offered $4 million for housing stalking and DV victims instead of the one that offered $10 million, he supported the one that excluded domestic violence victims who had a same sex partner rather than including funding for ALL victims, and so on.
Obama signed the better funded, more inclusive version of the Violence Against Women Act into law. The executive branch is more limited in this way, but he still created programs within his cabinet and executive agencies, such as pro bono legal services to victims of DV through the Justice Department, and programs for children who have witnessed DV through the Head Start program. In August 2012 he wrote an Executive Order called “Preventing and Responding to Violence Against Women and Girls Globally” where he outlines his respect for the dignity of female victims of violence and his plan for ending the violence. You can read it in full here.
Where do I even start with sex education? Being opposed to sex education, being opposed to any education or access to knowledge is a really dangerous position for the government to take. And yet in the face of what science and experts have been saying for years, that is still a popular position.
Obama supports comprehensive sex education and has reduced funding for abstinence only programs. In the last election, Mitt Romney mocked Obama’s stance on sex education and mischaracterized his position that medically accurate age appropriate sex education should be taught starting in kindergarten. I agree! And science agrees! When I was in kindergarten I was playing “doctor” with half the kids on my block, boys and girls, I believed only women could be teachers and only men could be principals, and I had been sexually harassed by a fellow kindergarten student. My class could have really used some “sex ed”- lessons on gender, boundaries and consent, body parts. But Romney’s stance is that Obama’s a perv for suggesting it, even though Obama is right according to all studies on the topic.
ACCESS TO SEXUAL HEATH CARE
When it comes to access to sexual health care, Obama by far has a record that is more in line with sexual freedom. There can never be true gender equality so long as one gender is burdened with the task of child-rearing while the other gender creates and enforces that burden. Women who can not decide if, when, and on what grounds they will reproduce ARE NOT EQUAL. It’s quite simple. So access to sexual health care is paramount to gender equality, and thus a more equal society in general. Both Romney and Ryan have made it more than clear that they do not support a woman being able to choose if, when, and on what grounds, which is bad enough, but Ryan also makes no exceptions. If a woman’s been raped, too bad. Ryan is of the opinion that the government should be in the business of forced motherhood. If the life of the mother, a living human being, is in jeopardy, too bad. Ryan is of the opinion that fetuses come first, which is also the opinion in the Dominican Republic in which a 16 year old pregnant girl (AND her fetus) recently died because the government refused to let her terminate the pregnancy and refused to let her have chemotherapy while pregnant. She died of leukemia. Abortions always have and always will happen. The question becomes will they be safe or will women be dying from drinking chlorine or sticking wire hangers in their uteruses, or doing what they need to do to maintain their dignity and live their lives the way they see fit?
Most troubling to me as a sexologist is the resistance to birth control by the Romney/Ryan ticket. If one is so opposed to abortion, then wouldn’t it make sense that they would favor everything that helped insure there would be less abortions, such as birth control? And yet, Romney/Ryan are opposed. If I hated abortion so much that I was willing to let women die rather than let them have one, I’d be giving out birth control pills on every street corner. I’d knock on doors handing them out. I’d send email campaigns every night saying “don’t forget to take your pill tonight! because I don’t want to you get pregnant and want an abortion”. But alas, such logic does not exist for Romney. He wants to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides birth control pills to women without health insurance. He opposes the piece of Obamacare that requires birth control to be as easy and accessible as possible, including requiring it to be offered without copays.
Obama on the other hand supports Planned Parenthood, which by the way also does breast cancer and STI screenings, sex education, and other sexual health services) and at a great political risk, instituted the no copay birth control policy.
SO MUCH to say here, but this has already taken me 4 hours to write what I have so far. Suffice it to say, as a sexologist, I must support Barack Obama on the grounds of gender. Sexuality, I understand, can get political and dicey and messy. There is NO reason and NO excuse that gender should get political. It’s easy. There are people. Some of them are male. Some of them are female. Some of them identify as something else. All of them are people and none of them are better than each other. Just people. There is NO excuse to oppose equal pay for equal work for all genders. FAIR PAY! Here’s the story: Two people have a bachelor’s degree, and two years of work experience, one year of entry level and one year a step above that. One makes $50,000 a year, the other makes $38,500. Running a bunch of stats, you find the only difference is that one has a penis and one a vagina. A bunch of people (US House of Representatives) get together and say, that’s not fair. Let’s create a law that says it’s illegal to pay women less for no reason other than they are women. You can pay them less if they’re less qualified, or less educated, but not because they’re women. Paul Ryan voted NO. Then those people said, let’s create a law that says if a woman learns she is getting screwed out of money for being a woman, and she complains, and then her boss fires her for “causing trouble” that should be illegal. Paul Ryan voted NO three times! Then those people said, let’s create a law that says if a woman finds out she’s getting screwed out of money for being a woman, she get that money back retroactively from her employer. Paul Ryan said NO.
The last of those, called the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, was the first bill Obama signed into law as president. As for Romney, let’s not forget his “binders full of women” remark, a nasty condescending story about how hard it was to find a qualified woman who wanted to work for him while Governor.
Again so much to say, so little time. Remember the Violence Against Women Act that Ryan chose which excluded same sex victims? Yeah, Paul Ryan thinks that violence victims only deserve respect and support and shelter if their abuser is straight. That is why I’m voting for Obama- this devaluing of gay humans is not in line with my cause of sexual freedom and equality, and I can not extend my vote to anyone who would deny help and dignity to anyone on account of their sexual orientation.
And then there is the issue of marriage equality, which Romney and Ryan oppose, and Obama and Biden support.
Also, let’s not forget that again taking a great political risk, Obama toppled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” while Paul Ryan voted against it, believing that gay people should be fired from their military jobs.