What Florida's Sex Survey Should Have Asked Women

Ensconced in some Tallahassee conference room, how state officials must have pictured it: An anonymous Florida woman receives a questionnaire in the mail and gets comfortable -- gets intimate -- perhaps sloshing some red into a glass, laying down an Erykah Badu track, and pulling out her pen to spill all of her sex secrets to some suit hundreds of miles away.

At no time, apparently, were our feckless bureaucrats at this health department conference room like, 'Whoa, maybe we shouldn't send this, because THAT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN."

Instead, what did: Around 1,300 women in South Florida recently opened an offensive and crude letter asking them, more or less, if they like condoms when having sex -- and then paid them off with a $10 CVS gift card for their tales.

It gets worse. The state spent nearly $50,000 on this but still bungled it badly, sending one of the "surveys" to a minor. Two cheers for efficacy of big government! Glenn Beck zealots, you have their vindication!

The state did this, ostensibly, to understand how Florida's women approach their family planning. Which would happen only if you stop being such a prude and open up to the state about your sex life.

Here's a sampling of some of the questions:

• How did you feel emotionally when you had unprotected sex -- were you trying to get pregnant, were you in the "heat of the moment and just went with the flow," or did you find the man attractive and "thought it would be nice to have a baby with him"? Did you feel "powerless"? Or was it that you "felt emotionally connected with your partner during sex"?

• Are you depressed? Have you ever been physically abused? What's your religion? Do you smoke? How much do you weigh?

• How old were you when you first had sex? Last time you had sex with a man, did you do anything to keep from getting pregnant? If not, why not?

Meanwhile, here's what the state really should have asked Florida's women:

**How does it make you feel to have your reproductive rights decided by a bunch of conservative men hundreds of miles away?

**How does it make you feel that politicians often use your body as a cheap wedge issue in politics, wielding it to either anger and propel older conservatives to the polls or to anger and propel younger liberals to the polls?

**What do you think when men like Todd Akin theorize that your body possesses magical powers that will preclude the possibility of pregnancy in instances of "legitimate rape"? And that, therefore, your right to choose isn't a concern?

**Do you feel belittled and marginalized that our Republican-dominated Legislature makes you have an ultrasound before you have an abortion?

**How does it make you feel that after decades of civil rights triumphs for women, netting equality in suffrage, military service, and employment opportunity (though not pay), you're not completely trusted with the care of your own body?

**Were you angry when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut because she used contraceptives, or, perhaps, would possess answers to the questions the state now asks you?

**Does it piss you off when the GOP conflates contraceptives with abortion?

**Are you puzzled when state Republicans simultaneously exalt the grandeur of small government except when it has to do with your body?

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Terrence McCoy