Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sex Part I : How Not To Fight The Culture War

This past weekend's edition of the New York Times Magazine greeted readers with a picture of a big red condom wrapper. Cleverly written on the condom wrapper was the following headline: The War on Contaception. However, if you were expecting an article about condoms, you were sadly dissapointed. In fact, the article wasn't about traditional forms of birth control at all. Rather, it was about Plan B and emergency contraception.

Let me be clear. By no means do I found much common ground with the religious right that would push their moral values on the rest of the United States. But that being the case, I also feel no common ground with the propaganda and outright deceit of the sort perpetuated by the New York Times Magazine. The debate over emergency contracpetion is relatively new, as it is unclear whether emergency contaception belongs in the cattegory of abortion, contraception, or somewhere in between. And there are bound to be disputes, paticularly in the over-regulated world in which we live today.

Starting with the big red condom wrapper, the Times Magazine article attempts to place this Plan B-backlash in the context of a larger war on contraception. The problem is, I'm not really sure such a war really exists. The article mentions groups who would like to take away the Constitutional protections afforded to contraception set out in 1964 in Griswald v. Connecticut, but then fails to describe these groups and fails to describe just how widespread they are. Some religious groups may have strict moral views about sex, but no evidence is given that there is any sort of large scale movement to impose these views on all Americans. Rather the real debate seems to be an extension of the abortion issue, which is not really about sex at all- the rest of the article focuses on sex education and young people.

Everything about the article attempts to invoke the feeling that the religious right is out to take contraception away- while the real story is about emergency contraception and teenage sex. The culture war must be fought, and will always be fought. But that being said, you invoke no sympathy for your point of view when you villinize the opposing side, and insiniuate them of engaging in the war you'd like them to fight, rather than the war they are fighting. A large majority of people favor contraceptive rights, but when you bring sex education and abortion in to the mix, the issues become dicier, and the public becomes more divided. The point is, don't be manipulative and just tell your side of the story. No wonder people don't trust the mainstream media.


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