[They] prey upon our most basic primal lusts, and that’s sex. And the whole abortion culture, it’s not about life. It’s about sexual freedom. That’s what it’s about. Homosexuality. It’s about sexual freedom. -Rick Santorum
Libertarians preach that governments should not pass any law that infringe upon individual freedom. Social conservatives also believe in personal liberty, but consistently highlight one area where they think government regulation would benefit society. Their major exception? Sex. Social conservatives like Rick Santorum believe that state and federal governments have a say in who we do what with, not to mention the where, when, and how.
So why do they care so deeply about goings on in our nether regions? The stock answer often espoused in teary-eyed pronouncements is “family values,” a marvelous pairing that sounds definitive and yet actually quite vague. The phrase is appealing because most people have some set of values about what makes strong and healthy family. These convictions however vary greatly between households, far too much for to make for sensible policy. The “family values” social conservatives advocate are specific rules that happen to be based on Judeo-Christian texts. Even more specifically, the only subject worth Judeo-Christian guidance happens to be sexuality. “Marriage is between a man and woman.” “Abortion is a sin.” “Contraception should not be widely available.” Government has no place helping the poor or healing the sick. So when social conservatives use the phrase “family values”, what they really mean is “a set of rules pertaining to sex that everyone should be forced follow.”
How do social conservatives, whose platform opposes any other form of government intervention, benefit from regulating sex? Because sex is one of the few things that has the ability to undermine organized religion. Religion is built on faith. Without faith a religion dies. As such, organized religion is constantly fending off individual doubt. Many faiths also happen to restrict sexuality—when you can do it, who and how many people you can do it with, etc. When individual sexuality conflicts with learned faith, it becomes a powerful source of doubt. Religious organizations have traditionally fended off the perceived threat of individual sexuality with isolation and shame, but this tactic is no longer is effective in an ever progressing world with an ever increasing acceptance. By simultaneously stoking sexuality as threat while offering shelter, social conservatives garner the ardent support of a fearful religious minority.
Given this dynamic it’s safe to assume that some social conservatives are honestly afraid of sexuality, their own or otherwise, while others are simply paying lip service to earn votes.
I wonder which one Rick Santorum is.