The Washington Post

No sex please, we’re Republicans

Except for the Duggars. They have a waiver. (CHRIS KEANE/REUTERS)

Has it come to this?

In South Carolina’s Laurens County — in spite of squawking from the state party— county Republicans passed a resolution requiring anyone who wanted to run for office as a Republican to sign a pledge promising — among other things — not to have had any extra-marital sex in the past and also to avoid pornography at all costs.

Well, there go several Founding Fathers and most Internet users. But they probably weren’t going to run anyway.

Being a Republican once could mean a wide variety of things. You liked government small. You liked taxes low. Ronald Reagan once sent you a bag of jelly beans and it altered the course of your life. The Grand Old Party was a tent that, if an insistent and patriotic red, was large enough to accommodate everyone from Olympia Snowe to Rick Santorum, with a few Paul Ryans in between and a few Ron Pauls way off to the side.

Now, with the best efforts of self-dubbed Conservative Voices like Rush Limbaugh, it’s turning into the party of Men Who Don’t Want You To Be Having Any Sex. Not themselves, mind. Just you.

Various states manifest this trend in various ways. Virginia has decided to tackle one end of the issue by Doing All It Can To Make Certain That If You’ve Done The Deed, It Results In An Infant, insisting that life begins at conception and forcing even women who seek abortions for medical reasons to undergo ultrasounds. The South Carolinians are going at it from the other direction, trying to bar the non-procreative sort of sex in the first place.

“Republicans being against sex is not good,” strategist Alex Castellanos told Maureen Dowd recently. “Sex is popular.”

Alas, it is. If only there were some way to change that.

Everything has been tried. Rick Santorum has yelled and frowned and waved his arms. But sex is a difficult weed to uproot. Storks in sweater vests stand at the ready to take over the onerous task of procreation. But there is still an inexplicable and broad popular support for The Act Of Darkness.

Another upshot of this approach is that it has made the party’s positions well-nigh impossible to parody. Even the Onion abandoned the effort this week. What’s the need? “Voters Slowly Realizing That Santorum Believes Every Deranged Word That Comes Out Of His Mouth,” read this week’s headline.

And in South Carolina, Laurens County propounds its purity pledge.

Standards are easy to espouse. But once you’ve espoused them, staying faithful can be tricky. Many speculate that the South Carolina purity vow stemmed from a county sheriff currently violating several of the pledge’s 28 tenets. The State GOP has already pulled back from the county’s proposal. Such a litmus test, they point out, violates state law. But it may actually be a forward-looking step. We’ve heard a great deal in the past weeks and months from Republicans who did not want other people to be having sex. But themselves? Quite a different story. Just look at Rush Limbaugh. This pledge would make certain that chastity began at home. “If Republicans are so keen on keeping everyone from having non-marital sex,” people have groused, “let’s just see them try it first.”

Perhaps Laurens County is more enlightened than we thought.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".


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