Demonizing Sex, Then Trying to Get Laid: The Art of Hooking Up at CPAC

What Women Really Think
March 11 2014 11:54 AM

Demonizing Sex, Then Trying to Get Laid: The Art of Hooking Up at CPAC

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In her CPAC speech, Sarah Palin accused Democrats of treating women like “cheap dates”: “Feed 'em a few lines about that free birth control, throw in some scary quotes about the war on women, and they will be yours.”

Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

Democrats were routinely vilified at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference for the “insult” of acknowledging that women might have sex for nonprocreative purposes and therefore would like things like abortion rights and contraception coverage. But CPAC, like all other conferences that involve socializing and alcohol consumption, is still a place where sex for nonprocreative purposes is on many attendees’ minds. The annual CPAC struggle between the political need to demagogue over how all of the sex is destroying America and the urge to get some has been the source of some very public angst in the past, most notably Erick Erickson griping in 2012 about seeing young conference attendees buy condoms without displaying the levels of shame he felt the occasion called for.

Emily Crockett of RH Reality Check decided to ask some of this year's younger attendees about the contradiction. She asked University of Virginia students Amy McMahon and Abigail Welborn if there's still a belief that one should wait for sex until marriage among young conservatives, and McMahon replied, “It’s definitely kind of an ideal, but I think we’re realistic enough to see that it doesn’t always happen, and there’s nothing really wrong with that.”* What does happen?

Welborn recalled a conversation with a “random guy” who wasn’t hitting on her, but who said, “ ‘Oh yeah, I’m gonna hook up with five women.’ And I was like, whoa. That’s not what I thought of when I came to CPAC. I thought, politics, opportunity!”
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She got a similar assessment from a male student.

Is there hypocrisy along those lines? “I’ve seen a lot more not really practicing what they preach,” said University of Albany student Robert Warshauer. “I feel like religion plays a big part of it.”

All of which is why young conservatives should be asking hard questions about why their elders are so intent on demonizing insurance coverage of contraception and legal access to abortion. Sadly, that doesn't seem to be happening, perhaps because, as Jonathan Martin reports in the New York Times, while younger CPAC attendees are more liberal on gay rights or marijuana than their elders, negative attitudes toward abortion rights persist, unabated. That's troubling, because regardless of whether you feel that your premarital sex is a failure of will, a sin, no big deal, or a badge of honor, your reproductive health needs remain the same. 

Correction, March 12, 2014: This post originally attributed a quote to Abigail Welborn that should have been attributed to Amy McMahon.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

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