Pro-Life = Anti-Sex?

I’m Pro-Choice and I Fuck by Rachel Kramer Bussel
Bussel doesn’t so much review as meditate upon Cristina Page’s How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex (Basic Books, January 2006). Although on the face of it much of the rhetoric of the pro-life* movement is centered on the very difficult and perhaps ultimately unknowable question of thepoint at which potential life becomes actual life, the subtext is very often a moral argument against sex and sexual pleasure. Especially where the inheritors of a specific Western/Christian** ideology about the body, sacrifice, and duty are involved, the notion of sex as a means of bodily pleasure divorced from reproduction is anathema. Now, this could be an extreme extension of the argument over where life begins (Every sperm is sacred!), and that’s the way particularly the Catholic Church has framed its position, but given the anti-sex arguments of the early Christians, for whom even sex within marriage was sinful — a position that was easy to live with if you thought the Second Coming was a matter of years away — that predate any modern notions of pregnancy, sexuality, etc., the argument about where life begins or might begin seems rather more of a rhetorical flourish on much deeper notions of Original Sin. In this framework, the opposition of programs that might directly reduce abortion rates or safeguard human health — sex ed., birth control, STD innoculations, etc. — is consistent with the opposition of abortion.

One needn’t look far to confirm Page’s argument that sexual freedom and reproductive rights are intimately entwined. In the eyes of the pro-life movement women are designed for making babies, and men’s pesky sex drives are something to be suffered or used to procreate. According to, “Abortion enables the woman to become a reusable sex object without any idea of fidelity, and it gets the father out of having to pay for child support.” Someone recently posted to a Pro-Life America website, “There is no such thing as an accidental pregnancy. Pregnancy is the outcome of sex and is the sole purpose of sex. Sex is not a game and is not for pleasure only. If it were . . . then pregnancy would not be an outcome.” Even the group Feminists for Life ( points to women as the kinder, gentler, less horny gender: “No one can deny that women have always had a higher biological investment in sexual union; abortion seeks to undo that tie. Is the ideal a world wherein sex can be (and often will be) commitment-free?”

* Labels are not necessarily descriptors. As an anthropologist, I have grown used to accepting the labels that people use to describe themselves, even where such desriptions may be ideologically driven, as I believe the choice of “pro-life” most certainly is. However, it would be a denial of the agency and even humanity of those who oppose abortion for me to choose or adopt other, equally ideologically-motivated, labels. Although I may say “anti-choice” or “pro-death” in explicitly activist contexts (I generally don’t, but I reserve the right to) this site, while it may be political (how can it not be?) is not meant to be such a context. [BACK]
** I don’t mean to single out a particular contemporary religion here — as Max Weber notes in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Christian political, economic, and cultural power has been such that all Europeans — Catholicals, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims — can be said to share certain basic cultural beliefs. Although the ideas I’m talking about here originated in the early Church (and technically are pre-Christian, though not by very long), their power comes from their integration into the Church (and by extension every European state until the French Revolution) and into the cultural fabric that even non-Christians lived in. [BACK]

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