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Sin, Sex and South Carolina

The South Carolina (SC) primary takes place on Saturday, January 21st and, as expected, Mitt Romney will likely pull off another victory, as he did in New Hampshire but (as the recount showed) not in Iowa.  Nevertheless, with a SC victory, the game’s over!  Unless he does something totally out of character like appearing in drag or being outed for a gay liaison, the remaining Republican primaries will be only victory laps.

Romney and his fellow Republican primary contenders are playing the Christian conservative card, trying to out-rightwing each other in this strongly Republican state.  The evangelical and Tea Party right plays a powerful role in the state Republican party; white evangelicals account for 6 out of 10 Republican voters.  The candidates, especially Romney, have adjusted their positions on all key issues accordingly.

In the coverage of the SC primary, it’s interesting to see the appearance of one former state official, governor Mark Sanford.  Made famous for his “walk” along the Appalachian Trail, he’s been rehabilitated as a paid contributor for Fox News; one can only wonder if, like Eliot Spitzer, he’ll get his own TV show?

In a recent commentary, Sanford identified the issues that are of concern to social conservatives, especially along the Bible Belt, as abortion and gay marriage.

Yet, as he and many other bloviators endlessly repeat, 2012 will be an election about jobs, jobs, jobs.  Culture-war issues, “values,” are less important than in 2008 or 2010, leading many evangelicals and Tea Party followers to either vote for Romney or sit it out.

Against the media story about the influence exercised by Christian evangelicals and other conservatives in the Republican primary, Sanford’s relatively speedy rehabilitation points to a quiet sexual revolution that seems to be taking place in SC. And what appears to be occurring in SC is not unlike what is taking place throughout the country, America’s 4th sexual revolution. [see Deviants on Parade:  Folsom Street Fair and America’s 4th Sexual RevolutionCounterPunch, October 20-21, 2007.]

* * *

There are two dimensions to today’s sexual life, the social and the personal.  Social sex-related issues include sex scandals involving political figures, sex offenders and the Christian-right concerns over abortion, gay marriage and teen sex education.  Personal sex-related issues involve adult encounters, whether involving swinger get-togethers, gentlemen’s strip clubs, gay parties, heterosexual hookers or adult sex toy outlets.

In addition to the Sanford flameout, the most uproarious recent sex scandal involved a SC resident having a particular attraction to his horse.  Jon Stewart drew national attention to this 2009 incident.

Another 2009 scandal that got a chuckle out a SC residents involved a state deputy assistant attorney general, Roland Corning.  Out on a lunch break, Corning was busted having a quickie in the back of his SUV in a secluded part of a Columbia cemetery.  The SUV was stocked with sex toys and an 18-year-old woman, a stripper at the Platinum Plus Gentleman’s Club.

Going from the pathetic to the tragic, while the Penn State pedophile scandal was playing out late last year, an equally seamy episode was unraveling in SC, this one involving a man long considered above suspicion, Louis “Skip” ReVille.  This married men and father of triples was arrested for allegedly molesting boys while working as a counselor at the Citadel’s summer camp (Charleston) and serving as vice principal at the Coastal Christian Preparatory School (Mount Pleasant).

ReVille was a Citadel graduate and while working at the camp he allegedly showed pornography to boys and engaged in “sexual activity.”  At Mt. Pleasant’s Velocity Sports Performance, an elite training facility, ReVille hosted all night “lock-in” sleepovers for boys.  Parents dropped off their sons and ReVille hosted a night’s entertainment mixing basketball, Bible study and other activities.  So upstanding was this alleged pedophile, he held Bible study classes for boys at a local Dunkin’ Donuts shop.

According the Crimeinfo.com, SC has a total of 30,311 registered sex offenders.   One imprisoned sex offender is Eddie Fisher, another Citadel alumni.  He was a teacher for four decades, teaching at area Catholic schools like Bishop England and Sacred Heart Elementary.  He was convicted in 1999 for molesting at least 39 boys and received a 20-year sentence.

SC is ground-zero in the abortion wars.  According to the CDC, there were 11,657 abortions conducted in 2009.  The Christian right pushed the state to adopt a law that bars all abortion unless necessary to preserve the life of a woman. NARAL insisted it is an “unconstitutional and unenforceable ban outlaws abortion procedures provided as early as 12 weeks”; the ban apparently violates the 2000 Supreme Court decision, Stenberg v. Carhart (530 U.S. 914).

Making matters worse, SC forces a woman to receive a state-mandated lecture on abstinence and wait a minimum of 24 hours before receiving an abortion.  Most recently, a Republican-controlled state legislative committee approved a bill to ban abortion funding under the “Obama-care” health care reform law.  It also adopted “The Freedom of Conscience Act” allowing medical workers, including hospital employees, nurses and pharmacists, to opt out of providing the morning-after-pill and other products and services.

In SC, sex education of teens and young people is pretty bleak.  According to an invaluable study by Forrest Alton and associates, “The Sex Education Curriculum in South Carolina’s Public Schools: The Public’s View,” in terms of rates of teen sexual activity, teen pregnancy and teen births, “South Carolina still has rates that greatly exceed national averages.”  In 2000, the birth rate for girls aged 15-19 was 59 per 1,000, nearly 20 percent above the national rate of 48 per 1,000.

Based on a 2003 survey, more than half (56%) of state high school students reported having had sexual intercourse, which is nearly 20 percent greater than the national level (46.7%).  Going further, the study reports the following per 2003: the state ranked 4th nationally (among all age groups) in cases of gonorrhea; 9th for new cases of AIDS; and 10th in cases of chlamydia.

Gay people and progressives in SC who support marriage equality face a tough, uphill fight.  Opinion polls show that South Carolinians oppose legalizing same-sex marriage, with more than two-thirds (69%) against it and just about one-fifth (21%) supporting it.  Even among Democrats, more than half (53%) opposed it while only a third (34%) favor it. However, nearly half of state’s voters (48%) want gay couples to at least have the same legal rights associated with conventional marriage.  A wedge issue?

* * *

SC is, nevertheless, part of the U.S. and the current 4th sexual revolution transforming America’s sexual culture is having its influence in the state.  Playing out below the radar, a radical, adult sexual life is flourishing in SC and, like sex scandals, will not be an issue in the primary.

With the magic of the Internet, zillions of websites catering to all tastes and the marvels of Google’s algorithms, elements of SC’s adult sex scene are easily discovered.  Most explicitly, the proliferation of gay bars throughout the state signifies the acceptance of homosexuality as a market, if not a human, condition, not unlike gender and race.  They operate throughout the state, offering community, personal hook-ups and (in all likelihood) discreet, illicit sexual encounters.

TUSCL, a website of strip clubs, lists 55 “gentlemen’s” clubs throughout the state, including the Platinum Plus whereCorning’s (the state’s former ass. att. gen.) sexual partner worked.

NASCA International, a swingers association, identifies just two clubs in the state, one of which is Southern Socials.  It announces:

[We are] a group of couples that get together in Columbia, South Carolina for exciting monthly dance club type parties. Single females may attend with a couple. …  We’re always private for the Saturday night theme party and late night hospitality & party rooms. New members are welcome: membership and picture ID are required at registration.

Only the deaf could not hear the understated message.

And what would a modern sexual culture be without all the accouterments of pleasure, especially appropriate fetish gear, lubricants and sex toys that fulfill every fantasy.  “Adult” shops with names like Aphrodite the Love Shop, His and Her’s Pleasure Zone, Sexy by Nature and Chateau Exxxperience dot the state.  Numerous women with names like “Beth” and “Charlene” host in-home “Passion Parties,” a favorite among Christian women.  In 2006, Rep. G. Ralph Davenport, Jr., introduced H-4830 that would, in an effort to prohibit the disseminating, procuring and promoting of obscenity, add “sexual devices” to the list of obscene offenses.  The motion died in committee, but the threat remains.

On Saturday, January 21st, the SC Republican primary will be held.  SC Republicans will cast their votes for their party’s presidential candidate.  And, as many expect, Romney will win. Unless he commits an act of political suicide, Romney will run against Obama — and the real issues of people’s lives, like their sexuality, will not be addressed.

David Rosen can be reached at drosen@ix.netcom.com.

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David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.

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