Thursday, March 24, 2011

Positive, Realistic Reform of the Sexual Revolution

Ross Douthat has a couple of interesting articles recently on the sexual revolution and what recovering some restraint in this area does to society (e.g., it makes people happier). I'm too busy to comment much, so I'll mostly reproduce some extended quotes that capture some of the more salient points.

"Among the young people Regnerus and Uecker studied, the happiest women were those with a current sexual partner and only one or two partners in their lifetime. Virgins were almost as happy, though not quite, and then a young woman’s likelihood of depression rose steadily as her number of partners climbed and the present stability of her sex life diminished.

When social conservatives talk about restoring the link between sex, monogamy and marriage, they often have these kinds of realities in mind...

This is what’s at stake, for instance, in debates over abstinence-based sex education. Successful abstinence-based programs (yes, they do exist) don’t necessarily make their teenage participants more likely to save themselves for marriage. But they make them more likely to save themselves for somebody, which in turn increases the odds that their adult sexual lives will be a source of joy rather than sorrow.

It’s also what’s at stake in the ongoing battle over whether the federal government should be subsidizing Planned Parenthood. Obviously, social conservatives don’t like seeing their tax dollars flow to an organization that performs roughly 300,000 abortions every year. But they also see Planned Parenthood’s larger worldview — in which teen sexual activity is taken for granted, and the most important judgment to be made about a sexual encounter is whether it’s clinically “safe” — as the enemy of the kind of sexual idealism they’re trying to restore."

The treatment abstinence only programs get in the news media has always struck me as insincere. I've seen headlines that read "No Difference Between Abstinence Only and Regular Sex Ed Programs" that struck me as incredibly disingenuous. When you dig down, there were big differences. Besides, if there weren't differences in outcomes, why would the left be trying so hard to kill them when they account for such small portions of federal spending in this area? The STD incidence rates may be the same among both groups, but the number of sexual partners that the abstinence only ed groups have is measurably lower, and that makes a big difference in the quality of people's future relationships.

"Yes, an ethic of sexual restraint can be turned to patriarchal ends, but so can an ethic of sexual permissiveness, as anyone who’s hung out in a frat house for any length of time can attest. And the fact that smart feminists like Goldstein feel compelled to act all blasé about the pornography industry, lest they give an inch to the forces of reaction, seems like one of the more regrettable aspects of the contemporary cultural debate."


Anonymous said...

I think the sexual revolution went too far. It may have helped liberate women to some degree from gender-based discrimination and biases, the revolution was, in the long run, a detriment to American ethics. As a society, we have become very immature. "Saving yourself" until marriage should not be viewed as religious dogma but rather as a mature behavior.

One aspect of immaturity is blindly following one's impulses. Children don't consider the consequences of their actions. Adults are supposed to know better and think about what is best in the long run, and what is best for everybody. The sexual revolution made people very immature in regards to the most intimate aspects of their lives.

If you eat whatever and whenever you feel like it, chances are you will get fat. There are physical and psychological sicknesses to consider here. If you sleep with someone, anyone, whenever you have the inclination, chances are you will end up either raising a child alone, or paying for the child's upbringing and having very stressed relationships at the same time. Some people honor the sexual revolution because it made us free to exploit physical pleasure. What is not acknowledged often enough is that the revolution also diminished our self-control, our maturity, and our social responsibility. The sexual revolution enabled countless adults and teenagers to "have a good time," but it caused a lot of unhappy relationships, a lot of single-parented children, and countless abortions.

Douglas said...


Good point about following one's impulses being a mark of immaturity. Thanks for the input.