Rick Santorum's Strange Notions of Sex and Sexuality

"One of the things I'm constantly reminding people about Rick Santorum is that he doesn't have merely an anti-gay agenda -- he has an anti-straight agenda too. He's against birth control, he's against abortion, he's against pornography, he's against all sorts of things that straight people use and enjoy frequently....You need to know, heterosexual Americans, that gay-bashing isn't his only hobby." -- Dan Savage
As long term readers of my blog know full well, I am a man of passions -- huge, towering passions -- passions that are apt to wantonly reveal themselves in my unbridled gallops through flowering fields of epistemology, in my full frontal assaults upon the castle walls of logical fallacies, in my undying lover's devotion to well-evidenced arguments.  And so forth, etc.  Still, it may come as some surprise to my readers that I am not entirely unfamiliar with sex. Especially if said readers have been listening to the bitter and scurrilous reports of my two ex-wives.

Because I have in the past been on intimate terms with sex (see, for instance, my treasure for newlyweds, Towards an Epistemology of Carnal Knowledge, by Paul Sunstone, Bust, Colorado: Charging Boar Books.) I sometimes take an understandably passionate interest in sex.  Specifically, in:
  • what people are saying about sex,
  • what their reasoning is,
  • and how they have arrived at their conclusions about sex.
Today, two of my online friends -- Nance and the Cognitive Dissenter -- both urged me to examine the reasoning on matters sexual of the GOP presidential candidate, Rick Santorum.

I was at first reluctant to attempt such an examination, for I am nearly settled in the opinion that the man or woman who sets forth upon the task of extracting a reasonably logical and well-evidenced argument on sexual matters from a 21st Century American politician might as well indulge his or herself in trying to fornicate on the hop with a fleeing kangaroo.

Yet, Nance and CD finally aroused my interest by suggestively hinting that Rick Santorum might be downright promiscuous in both his fallacies and his falsehoods.  And, as you know, few things have the power to titillate one's interest as do logical and factual errors. 

So, one of the first things I discovered about Santorum is he seems to be best known for his opposition to gay marriage. But after a little digging, I discovered that he is also opposed to contraception.

For instance, as recently as last October, he stated in an interview with CaffeinatedThoughts.com editor Shane Vander Hart that, if elected president, he would repeal all federal funding for contraception because contraception devalues the act of procreation:
“One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country." And also, “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” (Source)
So, boiling that down, we might arrive at somewhat of an argument: Contraception is a license to do things that run counter to how things are supposed to be. Therefore we should repeal all federal funding for contraception.

However, as an argument, it fails to satisfy.  Perhaps it is not penetrating enough.  Or, perhaps the premiss is too vague. After all, what can you do with words like, "how things are supposed to be", besides ask for clarification?

In the same interview, Santorum also says:
[Sex] is supposed to be within marriage. It’s supposed to be for purposes that are yes, conjugal…but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen…This is special and it needs to be seen as special.
I'll wager if we squint hard, we might extract an argument from that statement!  An argument such as this one:
  • Sex is supposed to be for purposes both conjugal and procreative.
  • The perfect way to realize those purposes is within the context of a marriage.
  • Therefore, sex should take place [only?] within the context of a marriage.
Does the conclusion follow logically from the premisses?  To my thinking, that would depend on whether Santorum believes sex should take place only within the context of a marriage.  He doesn't quite come out and say that here, so I have placed "only" in brackets.  But from everything else he's said elsewhere, I would guess he believes sex should only take place within the context of a marriage.  And if that is so, then I believe his reasoning to be invalid.

Let's grant, for the sake of demonstration, that "sex is supposed to be for purposes both conjugal and procreative."  Let's further grant that "the perfect way to realize those purposes is within the context of a marriage."  Even if we grant both premisses, the conclusion does not necessarily follow because it is conceivable that one might yet argue for sex outside of marriage as a less than perfect, but nevertheless still desirable, activity. 


I must now beg my reader's forgiveness for my sudden, emphatic outburst.

There is much else -- much else -- that could be said about Santorum's strange sexual statements. Not just the ones presented here, but statements he's made elsewhere as well.  If I were to attempt to analyze them all fully, it might take several blog posts.  But it's getting late, and I still have work to do before I can go to bed.  However, I would like to mention one last thing.

Santorum brings up the notion that sex is for procreation.  Sometime ago, I wrote on that subject. My post began:
It’s easy to believe the natural purpose of sex is reproduction.   Offspring, after all, are the single most spectacular result of sex.  Many of us seem bedazzled by that fact.  Consequently, some of us seem to have got the notion the natural purpose of sex is reproduction and that sex without the possibility of reproduction is at best selfish indulgence and, at worse, perversion.
I then sally on to bring up a few of the many reasons sex cannot be legitimately seen as solely for reproduction -- nor even as having a purpose!  I recommend reading that post if you are interested in the topic.  It can be found here.


  1. I think the reasons not to vote for Santorum go far beyond sex and reproduction. I just posted a video that points out his hypocrisy.

  2. I tend to think religious conservative don't value logic very highly.

  3. You've just confirmed the premise of my recent posts: Republicans are stupid. See, I'm *not* cynical. I'm a realist.

  4. LOL, CD and Doug B have it right. But Santorum does seem to take the religious right's sex obsession to a new level. He's like the "Occupy your bedroom" candidate.

  5. Santorum's rhetoric isn't just silly; it's disturbing. He wants to impose his religious mores on the rest of society, not realizing how out of step he is with the rest of America. His obsession with sex and reproduction sets off alarm bells for me.

  6. It may SEEM like he's anti-sex (or anti-gay or anti-straight), but in the end it's all anti-woman.

  7. Tsk. Tsk. I think you deeply misunderstand Santorum. He is merely trying to make the case that anything that happens in nature is how God designed it to be, and, so, any interference with those natural processes is actually an interference of God's plan.

    Therefore, contraception is a wrong; as are contacts and glasses, sunscreen, and modern medicine.

    Santorum puts the fundy in fundamental. :-)


Comments Welcome -- but no flaming. If you wish, you can email me at paul_sunstone@q.com