Thursday, March 1, 2012

You want the blue pill; we'll pay for it. You want the red pill; Rush Limbaugh owns your sex life.

In Limbaugh Land, consumption of these is
determined not by time but by sluttiness.
I'm a big believer-- and try to be a big practioner-- of giving people the benefit of the doubt in disagreements. Because it's a nice thing to do, yes, but also because it's way too easy to do things like assume the conclusion of a person's position and then attribute that to them as if it's what they have in mind and support ("You support legalization of marijuana, I think that legalization of marijuana means that teenagers will get stoned and run over small children at the drive-through,* therefore you must want teenagers running over kids at the drive-through.") And there's the additional fact that if you interpret what someone says in the best possible light, they are far less likely to complain that you put words in their mouth. In fact, you might even improve on what they were trying to say.'s hard to give Rush Limbaugh any benefits for making the following argument:

1. Women who want health insurance to cover birth control are asking to be paid to have sex.
2. Therefore, they are prostitutes, or at least sluts.
3. And if we're going to pay them to have sex, we should get something out of it.
4. Therefore, they at least owe us video footage. So make with the sex tapes already.

Yes, this is the most charitable possible framing of what Limbaugh said on his radio show regarding the testimony of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke in Congress on the need for contraception coverage.
LIMBAUGH: What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.
LIMBAUGH: So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex. We want something for it. We want you post the videos online so we can all watch.
First of all, Fluke wasn't even talking about herself-- she was talking about a lesbian friend who stopped taking hormonal birth control because it was too expensive, and not covered by her university on religious grounds. She was on the birth control to stop ovarian cysts from forming, and after going off the pill a cyst formed that required surgery to remove the entire ovary.

But let's say Fluke was talking about herself. And let's say she's heterosexual, and just wants to have sex with a man or men with a drastically reduced likelihood of getting pregnant. That seems like a good idea, right? That sounds like being careful. Responsible. And regardless of how much sex she has, and how many men she has it with, she's going to require exactly the same amount of birth control as her lesbian friend (who might be having all kinds of sex herself, but presumably not with men): one packet every month. One pill every day. So the "she's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception" slam is blown out of the water, right there.

What about the claim that having insurance pay for birth control equates to taxpayers being made to pay people like Fluke to have sex? Well, again, people take the pill for a lot of reasons that don't involve preventing Fluke's friend, who (again) could be having any amount of sex with any number of people. So maybe instead of telling women not to have sex if it requires using birth control, Limbaugh should tell them to become lesbians. But she wanted the pill to prevent cysts. Some women take it to control their menstrual cycle. Some women take it to minimize the symptoms of endometriosis. It is a multi-purpose medication, used for a number of very important purposes just like lots of other medication already covered by insurance. Like, you know, Viagra, which I've never heard of someone taking because he's afraid of losing a testicle.

Additionally, of course, there is the fact that paying people to have sex without getting pregnant is cheaper than paying them to get pregnant, carry out the pregnancy, and give birth to a child they didn't want and can't care for. Limbaugh considers legal abortion a "holocaust" and women who fight for the right to have abortions "feminazis," so it sure seems like he should be all in favor of any preventative measures women can take before conception to make sure that it...well, doesn't happen. Nope. He's a proponent of Santorum-backer Foster Friess's method of aspirin-between-the-knees, which it's hard to believe was funny when the FDA legalized the pill (for menstrual disorders first, note) in 1957. When I'm pretty sure people already knew that it's possible to have sex with your knees together.

Limbaugh's argument is fundamentally not financial; it's moral: birth control is about making it possible for women to have sex without risk of pregnancy, and they shouldn't want this. If they do, it's probably because they're having sex with someone they are not married to and don't want to marry, which makes them sluts. Message to Limbaugh: most Americans by far either have used or will use birth control to avoid pregnancy. Most Americans by far have had or will have sex outside of marriage. Most Americans by far, I am guessing, do not want to risk creating a pregnancy every time they have sex, whether married or unmarried. Limbaugh himself is almost certainly one of these Americans in all three cases.

So why is he arguing so adamantly against this? Because it offers a chance to make a cheap shot at American women. All Americans benefit by having easy and cheap access to birth control, but Sandra Fluke's testimony made for an opportunity to say that women who benefit from that access must be sluts.  As Rep. Jackie Speier said today in calling for a boycott of Limbaugh's sponsors, it's flat out misogyny:
“Shame on you for calling the women of this country prostitutes,” Speier said. “Ninety-eight percent of the women in this country at some time in their lives used birth control.” 
“So I say to the women in this country, do something about this,” she continued. “I say to the women of this country, ask Century 21, Quicken Loans, Legal Zoom, and Sleep Number to stop supporting the hate mongering of Rush Limbaugh and if they do not do that, then I ask them to boycott those companies.”
Yes. Yes to this, but I wish she hadn't appealed specifically to women. It's an issue that should be of interest to everyone, because it affects everyone, and...everyone should consider Rush Limbaugh a hateful moron for saying crap like this. Charitably, of course.

*The actual plot of a PSA that ran on TV for a while.


  1. Maybe I'm overly sensitive to language, but I think that calling a woman in college a "coed," even if she is in college, is the kind of anachronism that reveals a great deal about point of view with respect to women. And slut?

    Do you remember this 2006 story?

    "West Palm Beach , FL (APE) - Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was detained tonight by US Customs officials for possessing prescription drugs without a legitimate prescription. Limbaugh was found to be carrying a number of medications, including Viagra, which he insisted was not for his own personal use. Limbaugh was returning from a trip to the Dominican Republic when he was detained."

  2. I agree with you on the word "coed." It suggests that the idea of women being in college along with men still some kind of novelty to the speaker, and that it once did and still makes sense to think of men as students, and women as co-students.

  3. "...having sex with someone they are not married to and don't want to marry, which makes them sluts."

    Well, shut my mouth and call me a slut! That was me from the age of 18 to 41. And so what? Because I'm the epitome of his tirade, I don't get to be offended by Limpbrain's comments? I hardly think so.

    For eight years of the time mentioned above, I was active duty USAF and as such had my b/c paid for by Uncle Sam. While in college, I also got my b/c paid for at the student health center courtesy of the state of CA.

    But get this, all that time I still managed to be a gainfully employed, pretty decent person who served my country honorably and after that, managed to hold down a job while maintaining a 3.8 GPA in college. But, hey. None of that matters due to the slut thing, right?

    Ever since this brouhaha started, I've been listening to and reading about how the 'good' women are being trashed along with us sluts and I'm getting a bit testy now. So for the record, I think sex is awesome, but I don't want babies and therefore contraception is awesome, too.

    "...Sandra Fluke's testimony made for an opportunity to say that women who benefit from that access must be sluts."

    Believe me, I wasn't the only one who benefited from that access. Every one of the slutty, slutty men I had sex with and didn't want to marry and who didn't want to marry me benefited, too. This is just a continuation of the same tired double standard women have lived with since the beginning of the patriarchy.

  4. Intercourse really should end up being all about the closeness of providing and getting enjoyment, correct?

    focus product


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