Time To Start Asking Republicans Directly: How Much Sex Is Too Much Sex?

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, January 24, 2014 9:31 EDT
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Mike Huckabee said women should find it insulting that Democrats believe they use contraception. How much sex can a woman have before she loses her dignity? Time to start asking Republicans.

So Mike Huckabee grabbed headlines yesterday by directly stating that women who use contraception are sluts.

If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.

The equation was pretty clear. Requiring insurance companies to cover contraception–> Insulting women –> Because women are inherently insulted by the idea that they would use a foul thing like contraception –> Because the only respectable way to prevent pregnancy is abstinence. Let’s say this again, because conservatives are pretending that it’s not obvious: Huckabee said it was insulting to women to make contraception affordable, because the implication is you have sex and that is insulting. I was told by many conservatives that this interpretation is ignoring the context, so just to be clear, the context makes it worse:

Women I know are outraged that Democrats think that women are nothing more than helpless and hopeless creatures whose only goal in life is to have the government provide for them birth control medication. Women I know are smart, educated, intelligent, capable of doing anything that anyone else can do. Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women. That’s not a war on them, that’s a war for them. And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government then so be it! Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be. And women across America have to stand up and say enough of that nonsense.

In other words, he said that one can believe that women are wonderful or you can  believe that women use contraception, but you cannot believe both at the same time. Believing a woman uses contraception immediately and apparently permanently erases any respect you have for them, and causes you to see them not as a “smart, educated, intelligent, capable” creature, but a sex-haver who can’t control her libido. It is impossible, by his own measure, to respect women who have sex for pleasure instead of procreation.

Of course, nearly all women have sex for pleasure, so it really calls into question whether or not Huckabee respects women as a group when he excludes nearly all women from the group of respectable women. It’s like saying, “I think men are smart and wonderful, but George over there thinks so little of men that he thinks they masturbate.”  No one would dispute that I’m really just saying that men who masturbate are terrible, and since pretty much all men masturbate, I’m being a man-hater. (For the record, I do not have a problem with male masturbation. Jerk away, fellas.)

I did have one idiot trying to convince me that Huckabee wasn’t saying that Democrats were disrespecting women by saying they use contraception, but just those women who use contraception funded by the ACA-required contraception coverage. However, the idea that one’s libido is in control if you pay cash for contraception but out of control when you use insurance to pay for it is so stupid that I can’t even imagine Huckabee is that dumb.

In case this turns into another idiotic digression trying to pretend he didn’t say what he clearly said, I will state clearly for the record: I am not insulted by the implication that I would prefer to use contraception over abstaining from sex. I am happy to state, on the record, that I think there is nothing wrong with using contraception. I have used it instead of abstinence for many, many years now, and have zero problem with anyone knowing it. I do not think I am a slut or out of control because I have sex without getting pregnant. I believe that most other women agree with me and are not insulted upon learning that other people believe they have sex with their husbands or boyfriends or even, in some cases, with men who are not steady partners at all.

Huckabee imagines that women as a whole should draw up in outrage at the suggestion that we use contraception, and say, “Well, I  never. I control my libido.” That, of course, suggests that there’s something deeply wrong with not controlling your libido by refusing contraception.

I also doubt very seriously that Huckabee was suggesting all women should just be lesbians, though luckily I have not seen any conservative spitball that as an attempt to distract from what Huckabee was quite obviously saying.

Anyway, enough of trying to address all the tap-dancing conservatives are doing. It’s clear that they both want to say that women who have non-procreative sex are Terrible Sluts but do not want to admit that’s what they’re saying, because they also understand that they’re characterizing pretty much all adult women as Terrible Sluts. They should not be indulged in this desire. On the contrary! Huckabee himself said this: “Let us take that discussion all across America because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be.” The discussion being, by his own measure, “Do we believe American women are wonderful people or do we believe they have out-of-control libidos?” I agree! This is a helpful conversation. I have long believed we need to lay it out on the table and stop dithering about red herrings like fetal life and “religious freedom” to impose your faith on your employees. We need to just have this discussion about sex and women and whether or not American women are having “too much” sex and whether or not “too much” sex means you don’t deserve to be treated with respect.

However, I have one major problem with it. It seems the terms are ill-defined. We are a nation of quantifiers. When we say we control our eating or drinking, we mean we drink no more than X number of drinks or eat no more than X number of calories. We need to apply the same standard to the issue of “controlling their libidos”. Huckabee says he wants to have a discussion about whether or not women are in control or whether they need to be treated like a bunch of worthless slags. Okay. But we need to know: How do you tell a controlled libido from an uncontrolled one? We need to define our terms.

So I think the time has come. Huckabee said we need to have the discussion. The crowd fucking loved it. So here’s questions reporters need to start asking Republicans:

  • How do we know if a woman is controlling her libido? Huckabee said it was when she didn’t need to use contraception, but what’s your definition?
  • Gary Bauer called Sandra Fluke a “promiscuous coed”. What makes someone “promiscuous”? How many sexual encounters before they cross the line from not-promiscuous to promiscuous?
  • If women who can’t control their libidos are not respectable and the definition of not controlling your libido is using contraception, is that a lifetime thing? If a married woman has had all the children she wants to have, does she need to prove she can control her libido by never having sex with her husband again?
  • Rush Limbaugh claimed Sandra Fluke is “having so much sex” that her parents should be embarrassed. How much sex is it before it becomes embarrassing? Is there a lifetime cap on sexual encounters before you’re an embarrassment, or is it more a yearly thing? Does having sex 10 times a year make you an embarrassment? Or is it more like having sex even once makes you an embarrassment?
  • Huckabee said a woman should be insulted by the suggestion that she needs contraception, because that indicates she cannot control her libido. Is contraception the only thing women should be insulted by? Should women also be insulted by the suggestion that they enjoy sex? Is the female orgasm an insulting concept?
  • Most importantly: What is it about having sex that is so terrible that women should be insulted at the suggestion that they have it, or have it “too much”, as defined by you?

There’s a lot of great questions that can be asked now that Huckabee has demanded a nationwide dialogue about women’s  sexual habits and whether or not they are degraded by sex and should be insulted at the very idea that they would do such a thing as have sex for fun instead of making babies. So yes, let’s have that conversation. I think we should start today.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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