Why do modern liberals continue to defend sexual freedom while selling out on other personal liberties that raise the same issues?
Many modern liberals are quite happy to restrict liberty in the name of health when it comes to, say, the food you eat. They’re ready to impose fat taxes, restrict marketing of junk food, permit lawsuits against Big Food by their obese customers, and so on. They’ve already succeeded in all three endeavors (taxes, marketing restrictions, and lawsuits) against tobacco, and in the first two against alcohol. But when it comes to sexual freedom, the liberals are holding out. They oppose state restrictions on sexual freedom when it comes to abortion, sodomy, promiscuity, and so on. People who have more frequent sex, or who engage in certain non-traditional sex acts, expose themselves to greater health risks. Just like people who smoke or drink or gorge on trans-fats, they are accepting long-term risks for short-term pleasures. There is no difference in principle.
So why don’t liberals who support a fat tax also support a sex tax? One possible defense: a sex tax would just be too invasive and burdensome to implement. Okay, but what if we had effective sex-tracking technology, so that people’s bank accounts could be automatically debited for each sex act with minimal invasiveness and low enforcement cost? Would they have any grounds for opposing the sex tax then?
But set aside the science fiction, since at present fat taxes are still more feasible than sex taxes. How about marketing restrictions? Sex-marketing is even more common than junk-food-marketing, and probably just as effective. Yes, advertisers aren’t trying to sell sex per se; they’re using sex to promote other goods and services. Nevertheless, marketers glamorize and encourage sex just as much as they do junk food. Conservatives harp on this point all the time, and they’re right on the facts. The reason to ignore them is that, well, they’re anti-sex. But I don’t see how a liberal who supports health-based restrictions on food marketing can consistently oppose health-based restrictions on sexual marketing. How long will it be before the moralist right and healthist left make common cause to put government back in the bedroom?