Following his eight-vote near miss in the Iowa caucuses, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is the man of the hour. Many people have commented on his profoundly conservative views on human sexuality. Santorum has clearly supported making abortion criminal and repealing all same-sex marriages, which he once compared to man on dog sex.
Santorum’s sexual policy clock, however, does not stop turning back in 2003 when the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws or 1973 when the Supreme Court protected abortion. Santorum would turn it all the way back to 1964, when birth control was criminal in many states. Actually, Santorum’s sexual policy prescriptions start in the fourth century, when the Catholic theologian Augustine of Hippo confronted his unruly d**k. After years of Gingriching around with every female in sight, Augustine came to Jesus. Despite his newfound commitment to disciplined, godly behavior, he just couldn’t keep the good man down. But he decided that at least he could justify, if not control, his irrepressible sexual desires by confining them to the otherwise consecrated ends of monogamous marriage and the reproduction and rearing of children. The only acceptable sex is marital reproductive sex. All the rest of the Catholic teaching on sex is commentary.
Criminalizing abortion and forbidding gay marriage are still, regrettably, outside the total nutbag category in contemporary American politics. But if the only allowable sex is Catholic-approved reproductive sex, the picture starts to look distinctly weird. Birth control, for example. Santorum has said repeatedly that he would work to overturn the Supreme Court’s 1965 decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, which stopped the states from making birth control criminal. And just in case you’re thinking that’s just to take the pill from those uppity women, the Catholic teaching is quite clear: All artificial birth control is forbidden, including the good old familiar male condom. Indeed, if the only allowable sex is marital sex, fornication and adultery would be similarly acceptable. The same doctrine forbids masturbation.
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Linda Hirshman is the author of “Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution,” forthcoming in June 2012. Follow her on Twitter @LindaHirshman1.