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The Conservative Sex Movement:
Freedom Essays

The Conservative Sex Movement

Every four years, a new crop of conservative presidential candidates barges into American bedrooms, looking to police what you do and with whom you do it. These politicians, eager to cater to religious voters, campaign on promises to eliminate access to birth control, ban abortion, pass discriminatory laws against gays, and regulate or outright ban any lifestyle or preference that doesn’t fit into their Christian crusade to eliminate all sexual activity that doesn’t lead to procreation. In the 50 years since the triumph of the sexual revolution, I have personally watched this fight over and over again: conservative candidates stepping on our sexual freedoms to reach the White House.

This year, no candidate beat the drum of sexual repression longer and louder than Ted Cruz. The Texas senator has spent his entire political career attempting to force his puritanical agenda into our sex lives. During his time in the Senate, Cruz has proposed bans on IUDs and other forms of birth control he refers to as “abortion-inducing drugs,” arguing that women don’t need access to such methods because “we don’t have a rubber shortage in America.” He has attacked laws that protect women from being fired by their employers for using birth control, opposed abortion even in cases of rape or incest, proposed an amendment banning same-sex marriage and promoted anti-LGBT legislation. Last year, Cruz attempted to orchestrate a government shutdown unless Planned Parenthood was defunded and promised that, if elected president, he would have the health care organization investigated by the Department of Justice as a “criminal enterprise.”

And yet despite Cruz’s fanatical fixation on our sex lives, he failed to win the Republican nomination. Polls show that voters found Cruz too conservative and failed to embrace his views on sex, women’s rights and gays. Instead, voters nominated Donald Trump, a thrice-married New York entrepreneur who once owned the Miss USA pageant, over Cruz, the son of a pastor. It’s a sign of the massive changes in the “family values party” and proof of what I’ve watched building over the past several months: a sexual revolution in the Republican Party.

This growing conservative sex movement certainly has implications. After losing two presidential elections, core conservatives realize the time has come for the party to stop pandering to America’s fanatical religious minority and give up a losing war to suppress our sexual rights. Polls show that the majority of “moderate” Republicans are pro-choice, accept gay marriage and favor politicians who acknowledge that “women and men feel free to have sex without any interest in getting married.” Political writer Michael Lind recently urged conservatives to dump “utopian projects,” including “the reversal of the sexual revolution.” Lind correctly points out the reality that “few if any elected Republicans or conservative pundits actually believe that there will be a… return to the sexual norms of 1950s America in their lifetimes, if ever.” And at this year’s Republican National Convention, a powerful and organized group of some of the party’s biggest financiers, calling themselves the American Unity Fund, plans to push the party to embrace same-sex marriage in the official Republican platform—a far cry from the previous platform, which described gay marriage as “an assault on the foundations of our society.” The organization’s Jerri Ann Henry claimed that the move away from the religious zealotry that has defined the GOP for decades is “necessary if the party is to remain viable in the years to come.”

Fifty years of progress passed that party by while its politicians pandered to a small, vocal minority of religious fanatics. When I wrote The Playboy Philosophy in the early 1960s, I warned, “Nowhere is this unholy alliance between church and state more obvious than in matters of sex.” Although that alliance shows signs of fracture, we must remain vigilant. Not all conservatives are willing to recognize that they have lost the war over our sexual rights. Utah governor Gary R. Herbert recently signed a bill declaring pornography a “public health hazard.” Conservative governors in Mississippi and North Carolina have signed laws promoting discrimination against the LGBT community. And across the country, attacks continue on Planned Parenthood and reproductive choice as evangelical politicians attempt to circumvent Roe v. Wade with legislation designed to regulate abortion access into oblivion.

We have already won those battles, and we will win them again. These are the final skirmishes of a retreating army of self-appointed moral authorities who have been defeated again and again for the past five decades. Americans have rejected these religious fanatics and fought to protect women’s rights, reproductive rights and our right to privacy rather than submit to their Christian view that sex exists for the sole purpose of procreation. Recent polls show that more than 60 percent of Americans view gay and lesbian relationships, sex between two unmarried people and having a baby outside of marriage as “morally acceptable.” Nearly 90 percent feel the same about birth control. This is no surprise. We won the sexual revolution; it has just taken Republicans 50 years to admit defeat. Now it’s time for them to exit our bedrooms and close the door behind them forever.


Hugh M. Hefner is founder and Editor-in-Chief of Playboy.


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