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"Is sex dirty?" Woody Allen asks in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask. "Only if it's done right."

But it's also become dangerously political.

We decided to do a sex issue to brighten up the calendars that go with our Summer Guide and to remind people that there's still a lot of passion, thought and fun that go with sex in these United States. But you don't have to think about it long to recognize that even more dirty than sex these days is the fight against sexual freedom that's at the core of much of the right-wing agenda. What they don't seem to understand is that sexual freedom is inseparable from individual freedom.

The religious right's campaigns against abortion, over-the-counter emergency contraception, gay marriage, condoms as a means for HIV prevention, and health benefits for domestic partners strike at the heart of what freedom is fundamentally all about--allowing people to live their lives as they want as long as it isn't damaging to anyone else. And as Esther Kaplan's story this week makes clear, the administration's campaign to attach fundamentalist restrictions to foreign aid is attempting to spread the right wing's philosophy abroad.

That their policies are often dangerous--encouraging the spread of HIV, for instance--heightens the hypocrisy. In the same way, the fight for abstinence-only sex-ed in schools only increases the risks of sexually transmitted diseases as it encourages teenagers to make decisions out of ignorance.

It should not be lost on us that we're starting to look like the people we say we are fighting. There's a whole school of thought that holds that sexual oppression and the oppression of women in Islamic countries are key factors in the failure of democracy to take root there. That, they say, can be directly linked to the rise of terrorism and suicide bombers.

It gives a whole new meaning to the idea of sexual politics. So enjoy this week's issue. And celebrate your freedom (maybe tonight).

More by Richard Hart

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