Your sex life is destroying America. That's according to Iowa Republican Steve King, who took to the floor of the House last summer to explain that sex for pleasure -- instead of for creating babies -- would make Americans extinct. A year later, his colleague Mike Kelly called a press conference to sound the alarm that affordable birth control was a plot to destroy the nation. "I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked. One is December 7. That's Pearl Harbor day. The other is September 11.... I want you to remember August 1, 2012" -- the day a mandate went into effect requiring health insurers to provide free contraception coverage. "That is a date that will live in infamy," the representative from Pennsylvania declaimed on the steps of Congress, his face reddening as he rallied fellow patriots to join his fight. "The question is, if not us, who? If not now, when? It is our turn." King and Kelly weren't alone. From the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes and the Great Plains, heartland Republicans pushed nearly a thousand laws to restrict access to contraception and abortion. The Tennessee senate took up the dangers of "gateway sexual activity," while the Texas GOP officially declared that pornography was rending the "fabric of society." In one orgy of delirium, Republicans revealed that sexual freedom itself was on their chopping block.
When Willard Mitt Romney entered high school, in 1961, birth control was illegal in some states, abortion was illegal except in rare cases, sodomy -- often including oral sex -- was a crime in every state and young single women had to lie to get the pill.
Is America going back to those days? That depends on what happens in November.
Many people presume that Romney, epic flip-flopper that he is, didn't mean anything he said during the GOP primary to swat down the wild-eyed fanatics like Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum. They're trusting that the candidate who once swore to Massachusetts voters that he was pro-choice and pro-gay rights is the real McCoy.
That's a comforting fairytale but a dangerous one.
The evidence from Romney's years as governor shows him to be anything but moderate. Governor Romney reneged on just about every campaign promise he had made to women and gays about sexual rights, personal freedom and privacy. Romney wouldn't even protect a rape victim from having to bear the child of her rapist; he vetoed a bill requiring hospitals to give emergency contraception to rape victims.
So what could America look like after a few years of a Romney presidency?
To get a preview of what might be in store for you, sexually speaking, take a tour of today's Republican-ruled lands. Start in our nation's capital, where the House spent one out of every seven days focused on America's lady parts, where Senator Rand Paul tried to attach a "life begins at conception" rider to the National Flood Insurance Program while Florida was bailing out from Tropical Storm Debby. Head north to Wisconsin, home of Paul Ryan, where recall survivor Governor Scott Walker and the GOP legislature defunded Planned Parenthood, ended the state family-planning program and, for good measure, repealed the state's equal-pay-for-women law. Travel through the heartland and over the Rockies into Salt Lake City, where in the shadow of the Mormon Tabernacle a Utah lawmaker defended censorship because saying the word condom to students was like encouraging them to "mainline" heroin. End your journey in Texas, where the Republican Party officially declared the separation of church and state to be a "myth" and called for outlawing no-fault divorce.
Flash forward a few years to 2016. The Romney-Roberts Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade and Griswold v. Connecticut. When the Defense of Marriage Act came before the Court in 2014, Justice Antonin Scalia used the occasion to restore the government's power to outlaw sex acts deemed immoral by overturning Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, the landmark 2003 case that tossed out antisodomy laws. The Affordable Care Act has been repealed, on the rationale that Obamacare's mandate to buy insurance was a tyrannical intrusion on liberty. Meanwhile, a national law requiring women seeking abortions to undergo compulsory ultrasounds has gone into effect.
With the constitutional rights to privacy and abortion wiped out, absolutely nothing stands in the way of the antisex crusaders. Birth control has become less like Viagra and more like medical marijuana: expensive and a bit complicated to procure. Few health insurers cover contraception, tube tying or vasectomies anymore; the government paperwork and personhood protests in front of their corporate offices make it too politically costly to attempt. Condoms have disappeared from store shelves in states where laws prohibiting sex outside of marriage have been enacted.
As Americans ready themselves for the 2016 presidential election, in half the nation abortion is illegal and birth control is rare. The average age of marriage has plummeted to 20. The notion of casual sex is a fantasy, the sexual revolution history. The sexual counterrevolutionaries have won.
Welcome to the future of your sex life. Welcome back to 1950.
By Nancy L. Cohen, excerpted from Playboy's November Election Special Issue, on stands now.