Our bodies, our entitled selves

5 03 2012

Much has been said about Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke over the past several days. It’s a shame that so much of the commentary has revolved around sex.

The focus on sex might seem appropriate given Fluke’s plea before Congress for free contraceptives. But this debacle has presented us with so many of what the president might call teachable moments that we ought to take a step back and look at some of the broader issues in play.

Fluke’s Congressional testimony is an excellent example of the embarrassing state of contemporary lawmaking. Her brief presentation contained few arguments based on expert medical opinion; instead, it was a collection of weepy anecdotes presented by a semi-professional student activist. None of this was accidental. Fluke was not brought before Congress to state facts, but to conjure up emotions – sympathy from the left, and outrage from the right.

Her testimony seems to have had the desired effect, and then some. Self-professed women’s’ rights advocates are in a tizzy, convinced now more than ever that the next Republican president is hell-bent on banning condoms. Conservatives have been drawn into the fray, like flies to a bug zapper, unable to resist another battle in the culture war. Do you think Obama would rather have the nation discussing birth control or domestic energy policy come November? At least the firestorm over Rush Limbaugh’s injudicious commentary has proved such a clear demonstration of liberal media’s double standards that even left-wing pundits have taken notice.

But this mess isn’t really about sex, a never-ending culture war, or media double standards: it’s about how we went from Our bodies, Ourselves and the sensible push to keep government out of our pants to squabbling about some supposed right to free birth control within the span of a few decades. Pull back the sheets, and you’ll see that its about the insidious, ceaseless march of entitlement culture through our social and political institutions.

You can’t look very far without detecting some manifestation of entitlement culture today. Its ubiquity is a testament to its pervasive, corrupting influence. It’s palpable on campus, where activists assert that tuition should be free. It’s on display every election year, when politicians are afraid to tell voters that sustaining Social Security is an actuarial fantasy. A careful observer could even notice it at Tea Party rallies, where some protesters took umbrage at Obamacare’s threatened cuts to existing entitlements (“Keep your government hands off my Medicare”).

The Fluke controversy injects entitlement culture into a new realm – the bedroom. Advocates of religious freedom argue that Georgetown, as a Catholic institution, cannot be compelled to act against its own conscience and provide contraceptives to students and staff. That reasoning may be sound, but it misses a more fundamental point – that government should not have the power to compel any institution to underwrite an individual’s sex life. The right to engage in consensual sexual activities without interference does not translate into a positive right to contraception.

Fluke’s own comments on the debate reveal why the entitlement mentality will be so difficult to eradicate: the inhibition of self-awareness seems to be one of its many negative side effects. Despite her efforts to make the provision of contraceptives a public, and thus political, matter, Fluke stated in a recent Washington Post interview that “what I have learned is how willing some members of our government are to play political football with women’s health.” She added that it had all been “heartbreaking to watch.”

Even more heartbreaking is that we live at a time where an individual can make such a statement without a hint of apparent irony.

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One response

7 03 2012
Doug

This article is great. I have nothing more to add since; you covered it all.
Bravo, good sir! Bravo.

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