Ruth Speaks Out

This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.


The Saints dun won da Super bowl!

listen to my podcast from last week!!   Come to think of it, looking at Washington DC, maybe Hell has frozen over!

Vatican news service discovers Pat Fagan

Regular Ruth readers already know about Pat Fagan's article about the pernicious effects of pornography. Now, Legionary Father John Flynn summarizes his report.
The impact on wives increases when the husbands become addicted to porn. One study cited by Fagan revealed that 40% of such sex addicts lose their spouses. There has not been a lot of research on the relationship between pornography and divorce, but he reported that one study of reports by divorce lawyers found that 68% of divorce cases involved one party meeting a new love interest over the Internet, and 56% involved one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic Web sites. ...
Fagan described how the viewing of pornography by teenagers disorients them during the developmental phase when they are learning how to handle their sexuality and when they are most vulnerable to uncertainty about their sexual beliefs and moral values. One study of adolescents found that sexually explicit Internet material significantly increased their uncertainties about sexuality. Another study found that adolescents exposed to high levels of pornography had lower levels of sexual self-esteem. There is also a significant relationship between frequent pornography use and feelings of loneliness, including major depression. High adolescent consumption of pornography is linked to significantly increased sexual intercourse with non-romantic friends and can be a significant factor in teenage pregnancy.
Our students have shared stories about the negative impact of pornography on their lives. They corroborate Dr. Fagan's report. Read the whole story here.

Tim Tebow Ad

I just saw the (a?) Tim Tebow ad on the SuperBowl. What the heck is teh big deal?  There was nothing there about abortion. You would have to know the back-=story to have a clue that that's what they were talking about.  NOW needs to get a life. But then, they have needed a life for some time...

Stunning Hypocrisy from the Princeton Administration

Regular Ruth Readers know that I have been supportive of the students of the Princeton University Anscombe Society, and their efforts to obtain a center to support abstinence and chastity on campus. Their efforts have been smacked down by the University adminstration, for a variety of extremely lame reasons.  But now, the Christian Union, housed at Princeton, reports that the University's refusal to support the students who value sexual integrity is nothing short of hypocrisy.  They claim that they want to remain neutral and not impose or even propose values to students, so they couldn't possibly support an abstinence center on campus, to go along with the Women's Center and the LGBT Center. But now, the mask is off entirely: the University supported events that quite obviously promote non-abstinence, non-monogamy.  I can't make this up. Let the Christian Union report:
In Princeton President Shirley Tilghman’s email rejection of the petition she states, “it [your argument] implies that the Women’s and LGBT Centers are there to support a non-chaste or non-abstinent lifestyle, which is not the case, and would be considered offensive by both centers.” However, two events that were promoted or sponsored by the LGBT Center discussed non-abstinent and non-chaste lifestyles. The events, held November 17, 2009 and November 18, 2009 in University facilities, featured self-described “pornographer” and “anal sexpert” Tristan Taormino. Her topics: “Beyond Monogamy: The Case for Open Relationships”; and “Queer Sexualities”, which addressed the question “How can we learn to embrace and cultivate our erotic power in order to build confidence and create fulfilling relationships?
The students of the Anscombe Society respond here.

Maggie weighs in on the abstinence studies...

Maggie Gallagher did her syndicated column on the new abstinence studies. (Regular Ruth readers already know something about this controversy. See our posts here, here,  and here and our podcasts here .)
The release of this new study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine this week is weirdly timely. ...It's just the gold standard for intervention research, a bright and shining pinnacle of research design that social science seldom ever reaches: random assignment....The main conclusion of this rigorous clinical trial? "The abstinence-only intervention compared with the health-promotion control intervention reduced by about 33 percent the percentage of students who ever reported having sexual intercourse by the time of the 24-month follow-up, controlling for grade, age and intervention-maintenance condition." Wow. Any negative side effects? Are the kids less likely to use condoms? Nope.... How about the contraceptive "safer sex" education program? Did teaching the kids to use condoms make them more likely to use condoms? Remarkably, no. The kids in the control group were just as likely to use condoms as kids given safer-sex education. Well, then, did the comprehensive "abstinence plus" approach do better at increasing condom use, compared to doing nothing? No, it did not either delay sex or increase condom use, either. The abstinence-only approach, in this one rigorous study, was the only one that "worked."
Maggie is appalled, just as I am, that the Sexual Revolutionaries get a free pass on the evidence question:
the Guttmacher Institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood) required no real study at all to claim (and get widely reported as "fact") that abstinence-only education was causing the increase in teen pregnancy rates.  Yet in 2008, according to a Health and Human Services funding analysis requested by Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., the federal government spent just $177 million on abstinence education compared to $609 million on contraceptive-based sex education.
Maggie's bottom line is similar to mine. I think my sensible readers agree:
Are progressives like Carolyn Maloney going to call for an end to safer-sex education now? Will the Guttmacher Institute retract its attack? Will President Obama step forward to restore abstinence-only funding? We will learn something about the alleged commitment of people like this to science from their response to this new research.


Another reason to worry about IVF

Babies conceived through IVF are at higher risk for disorders.  For my libertarian friends who read this blog, please notice the Hayekian strain to this issue.  Not only are there unintended consequences of human action, as F.A. Hayek warned. First, look at the physical problems of IVF, that no one anticipated:
Scientists have discovered that the DNA of babies conceived through IVF differs from that of other children, putting them at greater risk of diseases such as diabetes and obesity later in life. The new research could explain why IVF babies tend to be at higher risk of low birth weight, defects and rare metabolic disorders. The changes are not in the genes themselves but in the mechanism that switches them on and off, the study of which is known as epigenetics.
There are also unknowable consequences: that is, we don't even know what we don't know. Therefore, when we think we can reconstruct a whole complex social reality, we are in fact playing with forces we can't even articulate or understand.  Some of these consequences go beyond the issues faced by the particular parents who conceived this child. After all, some of my libertarian friends who are enthusiastic for artificial reproductive technology might argue that the parents created the child with these problems. As long as they were informed of the risks and willingly took the risks, and were willing to bear the costs privately, without imposing on anyone else, then no big deal.  But, there may be consequences to other people, operating through the gene pool, in ways we can't yet understand.
There is a possibility that such changes could be transmitted to the children of IVF babies, meaning they could spread through the human gene pool..... In their findings, published in the Human Molecular Genetics journal, Sapienza and his colleagues took blood samples from the placenta and umbilical cords of 10 IVF children and 13 children who were naturally conceived. They studied the DNA of cells taken from the blood to see if there were differences in the level of methylation. This is the process by which molecules known as methyl groups are attached to genes to shut them down when they are not needed. The results showed that the level of methylation in the cells taken from IVF babies was significantly lower — implying that some genes were becoming active at the wrong times.
Hayek's warnings in The Fatal Conceit  are as timely as ever.  He was worried when we were "merely" trying to reconstruct society. Now we are trying to reconstruct the human person.  Of course, everything he worried about applies to our new conceits, in spades.

Donor conceived perspective

A donor conceived person tells her story.  My comments are in italics.
The concept of egg and sperm donation, donors procreating with the intention of not assuming any responsibility or feelings towards the person they have helped create, is a curiously artificial construct conjured by the infertility treatment industry. which has a financial stake in promoting one "choice" over others.  It is the complete opposite of how parents normally feel towards their biological children.  that irresponsibility and alienation caused by egg and sperm donation would not be possible without legal institutions designed to protect and facilitate it. The state is promoting something that is, quite literally, anti-social.  In the early days it was useful in helping clinics recruit donors, and for parents who wished to believe donor conception was truly a ‘cure’ to their own infertility, but what happens when the child refuses to accept that their biological parent is not merely a ‘nice man/woman’ who is inconsequential to their lives? In other words, what happens when the child refuses to go along with the fiction that their biological origins are unimportant? It is crucial to realise that the decision to use a donor to create a family results in life-long consequences for the child who is subsequently born. But the typical infertile woman is more focused on herself and what she wants than on the child and what he or she will need. Every person I know who is donor conceived (about 15) has been affected by it. It is untrue to claim there are no real issues with donor conception, that as long as you tell the child the truth, and tell early, everything will be fine. This is an exact parallel with the Big Lie told by the original promoters of easy divorce: as long as the parents are happy, and everyone behaves in a sensible and mature (ie non-emotional) fashion, the children will be fine. ... The psychology of donor conception is complex because it asks the child to differentiate between the ‘social’ and the ‘biological’ aspects of parenthood.  Historically there was never this schism, leaving our language unprepared for it.  Historically, sex, biology, child-bearing, and love between parents was wrapped up in a bundled called "marriage."  Thus, even the word ‘parent’ is loaded and ambiguous, so we are left with clunky terms such as ‘biological parent’ and ‘social parent.’ Lauren, I understand what you are trying to say, but the problems you describe are too deep to be solved by a few new semantic terms, and ever-s0-correct usages. ... Donor conceived children are generally smart and sensitive. They want to protect their parents. This often complicates the way they allow themselves to express their feelings about being donor conceived. They are generally especially sensitive about not upsetting the non-biological parent. Lauren, this is exactly the sort of thing that happens with divorce: the children end up taking care of their parents psychologically. In any other setting, this parental behavior on the part of a child is considered pathological, and evidence of psychological child abuse. The Parentalized Child is not a healthy child. ... Infertility can mean mourning the loss of somebody who has never existed. However, choosing donor conception to overcome infertility can mean transferring the loss so that it is now the child who grieves, in this case for someone they have also never met, the missing biological parent. I once had a conversation with a reproductive endrocrinologist who did not participate in artificial reproductive technology, as a matter of principle. He said, "infertile women tend to go in one of two directions. Some become very spiritual from the infertility experience, as they learn to let go of controlling the outcomes in their lives. Others become obsessed with getting their own way, and become narcisistic." ... Adoption was normally deemed the best solution to some crisis that meant the biological parents were unable to care for their child. I feel in this case the deliberateness of the decision to separate kin is significant. I completely agree with you.  Adoption is a child-centered solution to an unavoidable problem.  Donor conception is an adult-centered process, in which a child is made, not begotten.
I guess you can tell I like this article. I find it important. I hope people who are considering the use of donor gametes will read this and take it seriously.  Read it all here.  

Redefining parenthood

Readers interested in how accomodating lesbian parents will impact the definition of parenthood should take a careful look at this post, by Julie Shapiro and the discussion in the comments.   She is referring to the Santa Cruz case, in which a woman who conceived twins with a known sperm donor, left the lesbian relationship and is now living with the sperm donor. They, the biological mother and father, want to raise the children themselves. I talked about this case when it was first reported.
This scenario is one that many lesbian couples doubtless consider when deciding how to obtain sperm.   And it strongly suggests that choosing an unknown donor (perhaps with eventual donor identification) is safer.     I wonder about how much the law alone can do to facilitate the use of a known/present sperm provider.   A clear statement that the provider is not a parent may not be enough.   If it is useful to have a known/present sperm provider, it needs to be a safe choice for both of the women.    This case is worth watching to see if the choice is indeed safe.  
safe for the women? what about the child? But who is taking account of the impact on the child conceived in these circumstances? Through the comments, it becomes clear that fathers really are being written off, if not pushed out, for insufficient involvement.  A reader/commenter writes in to ask Julie to clarify:
But back to my other point, which is the bias against men, that men’s fatherhood is to be determined by whether or not is is convenient for women. I find this outlook incredibly  disturbing, but since I haven’t managed to shake it, maybe it will help if I point out how this outlook really is damaging to women. Julie has mentioned a number of times that biological mothering can not be equated with biological fathering. In fact, though a biological mother is a mother, there is no such thing as a biological father according to Julie’s philosophy.... Isn’t one of the biggest complaint by women, both those who identify as feminists and those who don’t, the “second shift,” the double responsibilities of work and home, and the widespread failure of men to pick up slack in household and childcare duties?But why indeed not? If fatherhood is just a choice, how can a father be blamed for choosing the extent of how much he will or will not participate in parenting activities?
Here is how Julie Shapiro reponds to this question:
I think we should encourage men to become parents. But I think that means more than rewarding them with status for nothing more then delivering sperm. To grant a man legal status as a parent by virtue of his genetic contribution alone where he has not demonstrated some commitment to actually raising/caring for the child can effectively give the man power over the child and the child’s mother. This troubles me. I think perhaps you are asserting that if we give men the status of parents they will rise to the challenge and become more engaged? Maybe I just don’t have enough of that hope left. I think we should be clear about what kind of commitment is required if one is to become a legal parent and then encourage men to undertake it. But I don’t think we should give them the authority up front.
This is what's coming, as we disconnect sex from procreation and marriage: we are about disconnect biology from parenthood. H/T to Karen, one of the commenters, here and on Julie Shapiro's blog.

This is your brain. This is your Brain on Porn.

Pornography is addictive.  I've been pretty sure of that for some time.  Now there is neuroscience on this point:
William M. Struthers of Wheaton College explains, "Men seem to be wired in such a way that pornography hijacks the proper functioning of their brains and has a long-lasting effect on their thoughts and lives."Struthers is a psychologist with a background in neuroscience and a teaching concentration in the biological bases of human behavior. In Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain, Struthers presents key insights from neuroscience that go a long way toward explaining why pornography is such a temptation for the male mind. Pornography is "visually magnetic" to the male brain. Struthers presents a fascinating review of the neurobiology involved, with pleasure hormones becoming linked to and released by the experience of a male viewing pornographic images. These experiences with pornography and pleasure hormones create new patterns in the brain's wiring, and repeated experiences formalize the rewiring.

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