Sex Is Politics

Sex and Power

The sexual attitudes of any given society are the result of political decisions. In certain militaristic societies, homosexual relationships were encouraged on the ground that pairs of dedicated lovers (Thebes’ Sacred Legion, the Spartan buddy system) would fight more vigorously than reluctant draftees. In societies where it is necessary to force great masses of people to do work that they don’t want to do (building pyramids, working on the Detroit assembly line), marriage at an early age is encouraged on the sensible ground that if a married man is fired, his wife and children are going to starve, too. That grim knowledge makes for docility.

Although our notions about what constitutes correct sexual behavior are usually based on religious texts, those texts are invariably interpreted by the rulers in order to keep control over the ruled. Any sexual or intellectual or recreational or political activity that might decrease the amount of coal mined, the number of pyramids built, the quantity of junk food confected will be proscribed through laws that, in turn, are based on divine revelations, handed down by whatever god or gods happen to be in fashion at the moment. Religions are manipulated in order to serve those who govern society and not the other way around. This is a brand-new thought to most Americans, whether once or twice or never bathed in the Blood of the Lamb.

Gore Vidal
Sex Is Politics (1979)
United States: Essays 1952-1992

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