Of Mice and Menstruation

Or Venus in Fur, with Convenient Slits

Ever hear of Dr. W. David Hager? He's a fundamentalist Christian doctor—which is fine—of no particular qualifications—which is not fine—whom president Bush picked over a list of eminently more qualified doctors recommended to him to head the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee. That's the board that approves or disapproves birth-control drugs, among other things. Hager's an OB/GYN recommended to Bush by a former drug-industry lobbyist and is also an anti-abortion activist who refused to prescribe contraceptives to his unmarried patients and recommends treating the pain of PMS with prayer, which maybe he should try when he gets kidney stones. Not surprisingly, in December, this Bush doctor blocked further approval of the RU-486 morning-after drug.

Meanwhile, not nine months after Sept. 11, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft launched a new war on porn, which should save al-Qaeda the trouble when they take over. Bush continues to promote abstinence-only sex education, which tells kids that science stops where the curly hair starts, and he announced in his State of the Union speech this year that he wants to spend $1.5 billion to promote marriage, which is over three times the emergency aid his administration refused to give to California to prevent the catastrophic fire that experts were predicting, with some accuracy.

So here we've got this dichotomy: we're a titillated nation as shameless as the soma-fied folks of Huxley's Brave New World, but we're also so puritanical we impeached a president for lying about an affair, whose only casualty was a blue dress, instead of getting worked up about a president who lied us into a war in which 500 Americans and thousands of Iraqis have died. You are only a few keypad strokes away from streaming video of whatever lurid kink you can imagine, yet half our classrooms leave kids ignorant about their own bodies. There are sex acts that a great many Americans would rank among the more profound experiences on this planet, yet there are 11 states where muff-diving remains a felony. Is this leading to a sexual civil war?

Joseph Campbell observed that back when troubadours were spreading the notion of romantic love, illicit love was the only real love. Marriages were arranged with no regard for the special connection or chemistry that can flow between two people, so it was largely outside of marriage that such currents occurred. I don't think Old Joe ever imagined a time when people would be humping doggy-style in cat suits or when a U.S. administration would be dusting off the chastity belts.

The problems of people like us don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. But we'll always have Paris.
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