Sexual politics

Paula Bennett


New Zealand's political life was drippingly awash with sex this week and I think its time we all had a nice lie down for the weekend.

No, not that sort of lie down. And keep your hands above the blankets, please.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett's proposal that welfare workers be allowed to suggest to permanently barefoot and pregnant beneficiaries that going on the Pill might be a good idea sounded eminently sensible.

This is what the first wave of feminist reformers campaigned for, 100 years ago: removal of the yoke of perpetual pregnancy from women and giving them a bit more choice about how they live their lives.

That isn't good enough for the 21st century puritans, who come in two varieties.

The first group is in fact 21st century feminists, who were horrified that government welfare officers should suggest to women who are having to frequently resort to the domestic purposes benefit that perhaps some long term contraception might be a good idea.

Former Green MP Sue Bradford called the idea "intrusive" which was odd, as the proposal is voluntary. It hardly seems intrusive,  especially when compared with the intrusiveness of having an unwanted child.

Child Poverty Action group's spokesman Mike O'Brien said the idea was "offensive", which is one of those words which always betrays a puritanical cast of mind.

The rationale here is nothing to do with debating the practical benefits or de-merits of the policy, and more about making the claim that Ms Bennett and her fellow ministers might be thinking bad and derogatory thoughts about people on benefits.

Not for the first time, it is a case of those who make the loudest noise for the less-well-off being more concerned about making an ideological political point than with finding practical solutions.

The other puritan assault came from a more traditional foe – fundamentalist Christianity, this time in the guise of Conservative Party leader Colin Craig.

Mr Craig went through an extraordinary process this week: last Sunday he and his party were, with the self-immolation of the Act Party, being hailed as an emerging coalition partner for National.

Conceptually, it looked a good fit: the party might pull in a few moral conservatives, some of whom voted for Mr Craig in the last election, some of whom vote for Winston Peters' New Zealand First Party, and a dwindling band who, mostly for historic reasons, still vote Labour.

The Conservatives also got more than double the number of votes the Act Party got at the last election, even though the absence of an electorate seat kept them out of the House.

Mr Craig has lots of money – admittedly less than he did before he got involved in politics, having spent $1.9 million on last year's campaign and having paid more for every vote he got than any other party.

So he looked a good mate to cosy up to. National Party president Peter Goodfellow has apparently been in talks, and it all looked like being stitched up nicely.

By the end of the week, Mr Craig looked somewhat alone and bedraggled.

The debate around Ms Bennett's contraception proposals drew from him the over-excited claim New Zealand women are the "most promiscuous in the world".

This raised questions about Mr Craig's political judgment, not to mention capacity for logical thought.

Telling half the voters they're a pack of dirty slappers is, shall we say, a novel way of trying to gather political support.

And as many people rushed to point out, Mr Craig's initial comments did not seem to take into account the question of just who the hordes of dirty sluts are being dirty and sluttish with. They cannot, even in the most fervid imaginings of the morally censorious, all be lesbians.

To cap off a week pre-occupied with sexual matters, President Barack Obama endorsed allowing gay people to make the same sort of marriage contracts as the rest of us, an endorsement which had the inevitable ripple effect here.

You could hear the slightly alarmed intake of breath among New Zealand's two main political parties after the Obama announcement.

There was a period of shuffling and looking a bit embarrassed while the twin political demons of panic and calculation wrestled with each other in the offices of National and Labour.

Labour leader David Shearer then managed to endorse the move,  kind of, but said he would want to see any detail.  There was no suggestion he or his party might be moved to come up with some detailed proposal themselves and he left the definite impression he would rather not.

Prime Minister John Key came up with an equally finely calculated "I'm not opposed but I don't care about it much either" attitude to the idea.

Neither stance is exactly admirable, atlhough Mr Key's has marginally less double-talk about bit. 

Mr Craig's Conservatives, of course, seized upon it like manna from heaven, proclaiming it to be political correctness, an expansion of the state, and social engineering.

None of which makes a lot of sense. The stance of ostensible conservatives - of any kind - against gay marriage has always been illogical and unprincipled.

Illogical: because marriage is a contract between two individuals with the capability of forming and conducting such contracts and how they do so is really no-one else's business – and it is certainly no business of the state or of any nannying, preaching politician.

There is the claim allowing gay people to marry will somehow damage marriage as an institution but this is the worst kind of nanny state, collectivist claptrap. It effectively nationalises or socialises what is the most private and personal part of our lives.

It should be anathema for anyone calling himself or herself a conservative, dedicated to a non-interfering government, to give a damn about who other people marry. None of us have any business in anyone else's marriage, regardless of who they are or what gender they are.

It is doubly unprincipled for ostensible Christians to get all bent out of shape on the issue. If you go to your Bible you will find Christ has little to say on issues of sexual morality.

The only matter addressed is adultery and divorce, both of which the founder of the Christian faith comes down rather hard on.

On other sexual matters. Christ is silent.

It is a good example to follow.

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The last thing this country needs is journalists preaching morals.


People who ignore the clear tenets of the Bible will reap what they so.
Society has forgotten the biblical order and are hastening the end of the world as we know it.


Ha ha good one.
Sounds familiar to that zealot preacher in The US.
If anyone else wishes to preach any more end of the world propaganda, as has been done so 100's of times in recent years( And hello here we are very much still here). Then I believe the law should pay you a visit for being a public sh#%^t stirrer.


I certainly hope you don't eat bacon then.


Today Mitt Romney said it all. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.
This is not to suggest other relationships cannot be formed and they must have the freedom to do so but you cannot call it marriage.
Australia has a legal marriage definition and so should NZ


Deflection by John Key away from Sky City debacle.


35 out of 35 states whose people have voted on gay marriage in the US have voted against it. The last by 22% margin. The only states that have passed gay marriage have been by legislative or judicial activism and many of those decisions have been overturned by popular vote. Obama will lose next election and Romney will be in. Now there is a story!


Why is this a big deal? Of course they should be able to form the same kind of marriage unions. People don't choose to be gay, it is the way their brains are wired, and the rest of us have no right to discriminate against them on this issue or any other. Isn't the more important issue how you conduct yourself within marriage, concepts like equity, respect, acceptance love etc. There are plenty of hetero's who fail on some or all of those, and they aren't barred from entering marriage.


Gender is a big deal. It is hard wired into our DNA.
There is something about the positive tensions and differences between men and women that when bridled in a healthy manner through marriage become an incredibly powerful and force for good.


The best way to keep the sanctity of marriage is to ban divorce!

Why shouldn't I be able to marry the man I've been with for nearly 20 years?
Oh yeah, the Christians...


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