Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley demonstrated recently why it’s so important to pay attention to political campaigns. During a speech to pastors in Kansas City, Hawley, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, blamed the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s for the human-trafficking industry. As if that wasn’t enough of a head-scratcher, his campaign reinforced that position when given an opportunity to clarify Hawley’s words.
Hawley’s statement, in an audio recording obtained by The Kansas City Star, brought to mind Todd Akin, the Missouri U.S. Senate Republican nominee who in 2012 asserted that women don’t get pregnant in cases of “legitimate rape” because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
What happens to the thought processes of Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate in Missouri? Akin, an anti-abortion activist, might have wanted to highlight differences between himself and incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. Could Hawley, who is likely to face McCaskill in November, have been similarly motivated?
“We’re living with the terrible after-effects of this so-called revolution, which was in fact, I think, a great step back,” Hawley says on the audio recording. “And one of them is, one of those effects, is a crisis in our country that goes by the name of human trafficking.”
Hawley got his bachelor’s degree in history from Stanford University and his law degree from Yale. Perhaps he missed school the day they taught that the White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910 made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes. In other words, human trafficking existed long before the ‘60s rolled around.
Maybe he missed other historical facts about sex slavery, such as the early American colonists who used force to procure wives, often capturing and enslaving Native American women. Or that African-American slaves were systematically raped by white men or forced to breed with other slaves. Or that poor European women were forced to migrate against their will to be wives to men in the United States.
Human trafficking long predated the sexual revolution, and Hawley is being either excessively naive or intentionally cynical when he says it didn’t.
Not surprisingly, Hawley failed to mention society’s gains from the sexual revolution, such as accessible birth control, women’s liberation, improved divorce laws, greater child care availability and greater emphasis on workplace equality.
Hawley might be uncomfortable with such social changes, but the sexual revolution is not responsible for society’s demeaning treatment of women. If he truly wants to take on the morality challenge, he might start by declaring his rejection of President Donald Trump’s degrading remarks about women, or his reported bedding with a porn star.
Hawley met his wife while both were Supreme Court clerks. Maybe she can help enlighten him on the proper way to take a stand.
Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.