Salon reviews a new book by Dagmar Herzog called "Sex in Crisis" which argues that liberals had better start doing a better job of defending sex, because the religious right has co-opted the language of liberalism in order to defend and glorify such practices as denying third world sex workers access to condoms:

As recently as 2003, for example, a certain public figure was arguing that voluntary prostitution was "despicable" because it "demeans the value of women" and promotes "the severe degradation and exploitation of women, the literal rape of countless women around the globe." Was it Andrea Dworkin? Catharine MacKinnon? The correct answer: pro-life Rep. Smith, R-N.J., whose distinctly illiberal purpose was to limit AIDS outreach efforts to prostitutes and sex workers in developing nations.

...making "wives" into 24-hour sex-marts (but only for their "husbands"):

A Christian wife, if she wants to keep her husband's mind off porn and his hand off his own penis (onanism is still a big no-no), will have to be a 24/7 tootsie. She is advised to wear sexy lingerie and to keep her legs shaved and her nether region douched at all times. ("Wives," as Jack Jones once crooned, "should always be lovers, too.") And she has to give it up whenever her man comes calling. The example of a woman named "Ellen" is approvingly cited. "[My husband's] purity is extremely important to me, so I try to meet his needs so that he goes out each day with his cup full. During the earlier years, with much energy going into childcare and with my monthly cycle, it was a lot more difficult for me to do that. There weren't too many 'ideal times' when everything was just right. But that's life, and I did it anyway."

...and "converting" gay people into "heterosexuals in Christ."

"No matter how deep your homosexual feelings are, deeper still lies your heterosexuality, buried under a thousand fears." Preying on those fears, Exodus has mushroomed to more than 100 chapters across the United States, and zealots like Dr. Joseph Nicolosi have undertaken "conversion therapy" on boys as young as 3.

The author of the book is passionate, but the reviewer isn't so sure that liberals taking a few conservative opinions (especially "for the children") is such a bad thing:

When my 8-year-old son asks me why Jamie Lynn Spears, the star of one of his favorite shows, is having a baby at 16, I'm genuinely torn in how to respond -- not wanting to condemn and not wanting to endorse, either. It's the same discomfort many parents felt at seeing the topless pictures of Miley Cyrus in Vanity Fair. How do we accommodate our children's sexuality? And how far?

Which seems to be the reviewer proving the author's point: have liberals so lost the plot on sex that those are actually considered reasonable questions? Let's stop and talk about this for a second: first, give me a buck naked Miley Cyrus and I'll hand her a volleyball and suggest SPF 30. There is nothing "dirty" about being naked. Second, yeah, you better let your kids know that it's fully possible to get preggers at 16. If you don't, they might well end up that way. And 16 is far too young to have kids. It's a bit old to engage in "I'll show you mine if you show me yours," but it's probably right on time for some petting-grade explorations with peers.

In other words, sex is healthy and natural: it's healthy and natural from the time a 4 year old girl sleeps with her hands down her pants (although she should be warned off from doing that in school) to the time two grown men consent to hurt each other a little because sometimes that's fantastic fun. It's also healthy and natural when a man and woman decide they want to spend the rest of their lives together (although that's a pretty ambitious goal, and one without great odds for success).

I haven't read Herzog's "Sex in Crisis," but if part of the cure is getting more liberals to talk about how sex is great and to reclaim the language of liberation for liberating ends, then sign me up. I find the religious right's version of sex repulsive and degrading, but the sex I choose to have is a slip-sliding sensation-fest full of fun and giggles and lust and love. The most important word in that last sentence? "Choose."

What are your thoughts on sex?

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