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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.
Posted on: Monday, January 14, 2019
by Paul Sullins
A review of: Regnerus, Mark, Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage and Monogamy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).
This article was first published at humanumreview.
Cultural norms—the tacit, taken-for-granted expectations that structure human society—adapt to institutional and technological change. In our day, as the life tasks and realms formerly integrated within marriage—sex, intimacy, shared residence and meals, childbirth, raising children, economic sharing, and career planning—increasingly uncoupled from that institution, the related norms shift. When, as in America today, most children experience the dissolution of their parents’ relationship, the norms of mating and parenthood implicitly shift from the prospect of stability to the prospect of instability. When less than ten percent of women experience sexual onset within a permanent relationship, the norm shifts from regarding virginity with admiration to regarding it with ridicule. When more than half of births to women under 30 occur outside marriage, the norm of “first comes marriage” shifts to “marriage comes second”—if marriage comes at all.
In his book Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage and Monogamy, University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus argues that this shift in marital and mating norms has now extended to sex itself. Bringing to bear an impressive array of data, including Regnerus’ own large survey of over 15,000 Americans (called the Relationships in America [RIA] survey project) and over 100 interviews conducted for the book, he ably demonstrates that “cheap sex is plentiful—it’s flooding the market in sex and relationships—and … this has had profound influence on how American men and women relate to each other, which has in turn spilled over into other domains” (29). In case we need to be convinced, he presents detailed data and evidence that young Americans of marriageable age (ages 24‒32) engage in sex relations more quickly, casually, frequently and with more variety than ever before. Waiting until marriage is becoming a rare option; many do not wait until the second date. Or even the first date. In the RIA data, Regnerus reports, over a third of men and a quarter of women reported that they had sex with their current or most recent partner before the relationship actually began (97). Like text messaging has replaced, for young Americans, the intrusive investment of time and interpersonal energy in an actual phone call, Tinder and the hookup has rendered almost quaint the notion of investing time and interpersonal energy in an actual date. If you think that this is a description of the commodification of sex, you are beginning to get the idea.
Sex has become cheap, explains Regnerus, not because it leaves young people feeling cheap or is less desired by them—in fact, quite the opposite—but as a matter of hard-headed rational social exchange: “Sex is cheap if women expect little in return for it and if men do not have to supply much time, attention, resources, recognition or fidelity in order to experience it” (28). This definition follows the little-known branch of sociology known as “sexual economics,” which analyzes sex relations on the model of a transaction in which a man offers his resources—summarized above as “time, attention, resources, recognition or fidelity”—in exchange for sexual access to a woman’s body. The popular formula which says that men give love to get sex, while women give sex to get love, expresses roughly the same idea. But sexual economics goes further, analyzing the sum of these transactions as a kind of mating market, using the tools and concepts of classical economics to expose what many would call cultural insights.
In the mating market of young Americans, explains Regnerus, well-documented gender differences show that men are largely the source of demand for sex, while women function as gatekeepers controlling supply. Sex has become cheap not because demand has decreased—male sexual desire is reliably constant—but because supply has become much more plentiful. The key drivers of this change, he maintains, are not cultural or even sociological, but something more fundamental: technological change. Since the 1960s, and particularly since the turn of the present century, norms of sex and marriage have been upended by the confluence of “three distinctive technological achievements: 1) the wide uptake of the [birth-control] Pill as well as a mentality stemming from it that sex is “naturally” infertile, 2) mass-produced high-quality pornography, and 3) the advent and evolution of online dating/meeting services” (11). The Pill has eliminated the perceived risk of pregnancy, thereby greatly lowering risk which had formerly inhibited casual sex relations, particularly for women; Tinder and similar online meeting sites have increased the supply of willing short-term partners, particularly for men; and ubiquitous pornography allied with masturbation (“the cheapest sex” ) has made sexual experience available for men (and for women, but mostly for men) without even troubling to find an actual partner.
The result of these technologies is that women’s gatekeeping power is largely undermined in the sexual exchange. If men give love to receive sex, and women give sex to receive love, then in today’s mating market, young women must give much more sex in exchange for much less love.
The young women who do so, in the vast majority, are not reluctantly lowering their moral standards (though they may have other reasons for reluctance), but conforming to a new standard, a shift of norms, as abundant non-fertile sexual experience has become for them an assumed social fact. “[Cheap sex],” Regnerus observes, “is a presumption, widely perceived as natural and commonsensical, and hence connected by persons to expectations about their own and others’ future sexual experiences (as similarly low-cost). It has become normative, taken for granted” (30). In the popular mentality and cognition of today’s young Americans, sex is for fun, not for procreation.
Many of the developments Regnerus documents were predicted 25 years ago, in the influential analysis of modern sexuality presented in Anthony Giddens’ 1992 volume The Transformation of Intimacy. Giddens, a pre-eminent Marxist sociologist who is the longtime Director of the London School of Economics, proposed that the emergence of “plastic sexuality,” i.e., sexuality freed from the needs of reproduction, reflected a fundamental transformation in the constitution of sexual relationships. Sexuality, love and eroticism were increasingly being shaped by aspirations for personal fulfillment, sexual attraction (and repulsion), and psychic needs, and decreasingly by collective control imposed by the state, tradition or moral norms. The result was a restructuring of sexual intimacy, not around marriage and family or any social or moral norms, but around what Giddens called (ironically, to Catholic ears) the “pure relationship,” which is “a social relationship which is entered into for its own sake, for what can be derived by each person from a sustained association with another; and which is continued only in so far as it is thought by both parties to deliver enough satisfactions for each individual to stay within it.”
Although marriage, through the rise of the romantic love complex, had played a major role in the rise of the pure relationship, eventually the connection between love and sex via the pure relationship would undermine marriage. Women tended to lead, while men lagged, in the present and future development of such relationships; they were therefore the most advanced, in many ways, among lesbian couples. Regnerus examines Giddens’ predictions throughout the book, partly as a kind of guide, and partly as a foil to his own analysis. He finds that most of Giddens’ predictions and insights hold up well, although he is less positive about them than Giddens may have been, as evidenced by the fact that what Giddens called a “pure relationship” roughly corresponds to what Regnerus calls “cheap sex.”
For women, the Pill has reduced the ability to form a good marriage by splitting the mating market into parts: at one extreme, persons looking for casual sex with a minimum of strings, and at the other extreme, persons looking to marry. Consistent with the sex differences already noted, Regnerus notes, “there are more men in the sex corner of the pool than women, and more women in the marriage corner of the pool than men” (35). Due to the imbalance of males in the sex corner, although sex is cheap for men, it is still much easier, as we all know, for a woman to have casual sex, if she wants to, than it is for a man. As Regnerus points out, men looking for a no-strings sex partner often come up short, but “[w]hen women signal interest in [casual] sex, men pounce” (35). But at the other end of the pool, where there are far more women than men who are interested in the “expensive” sex of marriage, men dominate the exchange.
Since women are less likely to marry a man with lower education and earnings than themselves, the pool of men available to marry has grown even smaller as women become, on average, more highly educated and employable than men (another, less direct, effect of the Pill). The result is that women who want to marry struggle to find a marriage partner and some will fail to do so. Others may settle for a less than optimum partner, which contributes to increased rates of divorce—the large majority of which are initiated by women—and relationship churning. In this way, cheap sex directly lowers the quality and duration of marriage.
But the effect of cheap sex on women is dwarfed by its effect on men. A central concern of the book, pursued in a chapter with the same name as the subtitle, is that “cheap sex has transformed modern men …, undermined and stalled the marital impulse, and stimulated critics of monogamy” (191). This is more than just a matter of the proverbial milk and cow effect. Shorn of the need to offer significant resources in exchange for sex, cheap sex has not just lowered men’s interest in marriage, but more importantly their marriageability: that is, their economic and social capacity to marry, or to attract a marriage partner. The rise of underemployed and underachieving young men in the past 15 years has been a widely observed trend, puzzled over by a spate of books across the ideological spectrum, from Hanna Rosin’s left-leaning The End of Men to Lionel Tiger’s right-leaning The Decline of Males. One largely overlooked reason for the lassitude of young men today, Regnerus argues, may be cheap sex. “Cheap sex, …”, he writes, “does little to stimulate the [men] of our modern economy toward those historic institutions—education, a settled job, and marriage—that created opportunity for them and their families” (154). Faced with no need to attain a higher education or well-paying job in order to attract a woman, many young men lose the motivation to attain a higher education or well-paying job at all.
It gets worse. Because marriageability and productivity are closely allied, the decline of marriageability resulting from cheap sex has also reduced young men’s general social productivity. On this point Regnerus cites the sexual economists Baumeister and Vohs: “giving young men easy access to abundant sexual satisfaction deprives society of one of its ways to motivate them to contribute valuable achievements to the culture” (152). The Freudian idea here is that sexual deprivation energizes the development of civilization. Catholic thought arrives at the same place by a different route, affirming that as marriage (the only proper realm for sex) contributes to the common good, when men fail to contribute to marriage they also deprive the common good of valuable accomplishments. In this way, however understood, cheap sex beleaguers not only men and marriage, but society more broadly.
The overall effect of this book is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Each well-documented fact, each clinical insight, contributes to the growing realization that marriage is in more trouble than is currently imagined, and in a way that is not likely to recover very soon, if at all. By the end of the book it has become clear that the analogy of market exchange, which has helped to explain male-female interactions throughout the book, has now become the defining reality of sex relations for young Americans. As Regnerus explains, it is not just that “marriage … is in the throes of deinstitutionalization” (195) but that cheap sex is in the throes of mass-market commodification, becoming “a synthetic compound of our Western penchant for bigger, cheaper, better, diverse and more—an ironic postmodern intersection where Wal-Mart meets [explicit sex advice columnist] Dan Savage” (197).
Shed of transcendence and uniqueness, disconnected from larger life goals or relationships, cheap sex has become a rationalized commodity, discounted even further for being mass produced in bulk. Cheap sex has become junk sex. Like McDonald’s burgers—the prototypical rationalized commodity—it has become a kind of ersatz product which can be obtained ever more quickly, cheaply and reliably, and which is tasty and attractive, but not very nourishing as a steady diet. Regnerus, citing Wendell Berry, terms it “industrial sex”: “Industrial sex, characteristically, establishes its freeness and goodness by an industrial accounting, dutifully toting up numbers of ‘sexual partners,’ orgasm, and so on, with the inevitable industrial implication that the body is somehow a limit on the idea of sex …” (198). Regnerus sums up the accounts from his interviewees of “orgasmic experiences, partner numbers, time in pursuit, exotic accounts, one-night stands, regrets, pain, addictions, infections, abortions, wasted time, and spent relationships” as metrics “of an industrial sex whose promises consistently exceeded its deliveries” (198).
When sex becomes this cheap—affordable to all like a Big Mac—, marriage by comparison becomes prohibitively expensive, like a five-star dinner affordable only to the select few. The problem industrially cheap sex presents for marriage is not only that fewer young men will marry—that process is well advanced—but that fewer older ones will marry as well. The metrics of good industrial sex listed above by Berry and Regnerus omit, not by accident, the most important measure of good sex relations in Catholic and traditional thought: children. Older men, more than younger men, have typically eventually settled down to become more open to marriage for the sake of children and family. If, in their minds, sex is really for fun and not for children, and women can have and raise children without their lifelong commitment, there is little need for them ever to step up to parental responsibility, nor for women to demand of them that they do so. In the era of cheap sex, men (and women) who in the recent past may have married for these very reasons (and then perhaps divorced) are increasingly likely never to marry at all.
To make this point Regnerus presents the above figure (146), which shows, from Census data, the proportion of young Americans who have not married by the age of 35. Strikingly, just since the turn of the century, that proportion has risen by almost 20 percentage points, from a third of young Americans in 2000 to well over half of them today. At the turn of the century, by the age of 35, over half of young Americans had married; today, over half remain unmarried. For decades, even though younger Americans have increasingly deferred marriage, by the time of their mid-thirties the vast majority of Americans had eventually married. Figure 5.1 suggests that that cultural pattern no longer holds. Regnerus attributes this change to the fact that the new norms of cheap sex are still diffusing gradually throughout the population:
[M]any people are marrying because they are still following the cultural practices of their parents and grandparents, even though historically compelling reasons—like babies, financial and physical security, or the desire for a “socially legitimate” sexual relationship—no longer hold. … The next generation, today no older than teenagers, will wonder why they should marry at all. (147)
The picture Regnerus paints is a grim one, not because marriage will fully disappear—marriage rates will remain high among the wealthy and the very religious—but because the rise of cheap sex and its consequences are the result of technological change, which is generally irreversible, rather than social or cultural trends which may recover. After several generations of predicating sexuality on effective infertility due to the Pill, as Regnerus points out, “a return to the patterns witnessed prior to the ‘sexual revolution’… is very unlikely” (8).
And yet. In a world of commodity sex, industrial sex is not just emotionally unsatisfying, as Regnerus observes, but may contain the seeds of its own destruction. Literally. The logic of the sexual economics which Regnerus deploys so well can be maintained only by treating children as an externality to coupled pleasure, the cost of which, like polluting smokestacks in an industrial market, is largely ignored. But children are not merely external to sex: they add distinct value to the exchange. Children, of course, do not negotiate or offer any exchange goods to the sexual partners who may produce them. But more than marriage, it is the prospect and eventual presence of children that, like religion, lifts the perspective of sex partners from the present experience to the future, not only a future state of society in which their children can thrive, but also the future beyond the horizon of their own lives. Children personalize sex and endow it with meaning, an exchange to be sure, though one that may be better understood in terms of gift, rather than a sexual economics based on transaction.
The value of children is pertinent, because what Regnerus does not address is that the Pill’s promise of reliably preventing conception, which he, like his study subjects, accepts largely at face value, is false. As a matter of simple fact, hormonal birth control fails to prevent pregnancy in actual use at a rate—between 10 and 20 percent of the time in most studies—unacceptably high to be reasonably considered a foolproof method of preventing pregnancy. The effect of the Pill, then, is not technological, as Regenerus holds, but symbolic, because as a technology, it clearly fails to deliver. Like mythology, young Americans believe in the efficacy of contraception because it enables and explains the hypersexualized world in which they have been socialized. More than a few discover, after much pain and regret, that that world is a lie.
The mythology of the Pill’s infallible bar to conception is maintained only by the prospect of the efficient elimination, through widespread legal abortion, of the children who slip past its provision. This is not a new social dynamic. Children inconveniently resulting from illicit sexual liaisons have long been cheapened, considered “illegitimate” and denied the recognition and care of their natural parents. Today’s bastards are the “unwanted” children, who comprise about half of conceptions in America, who are denied both parental and social recognition before birth and are routinely subject to death. One could say—and many do—that the technology of abortion completes the technology of effective contraception, but this ignores the inconvenient externality even more blindly. Cheap sex is enabled only by cheaper children; and the low value placed on unwanted, unborn infant life is not a product of technology but of a culture, possibly reparable, that has forgotten what it means to be human.
 Anthony Giddens, The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies (Stanford University Press, 1992).
 Ibid., 58.
 Ibid., 154.
Rev. D. Paul Sullins, Ph.D. is a tenured Associate Professor at the Catholic University of America and a Senior Research Associate of the Ruth Institute. His most recent book is Catholic Social Thought: American Reflections on the Compendium (Lexington).
Posted on: Tuesday, October 30, 2018
Exclusive: Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse slams 'fantasy ideology,' ugly fallout of Sexual Revolution
This article was first published October 23, 2018, at wnd.com.
by Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. But I doubt the mainstream media will even mention one easily-avoidable lifestyle choice that has been implicated as a risk factor in numerous studies around the world: abortion.
In my book, “The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and Why the Church Was Right All Along ,” I noted: “The link between abortion and breast cancer has been confirmed in numerous studies around the world, including Iran, China, Turkey, Armenia, India, and Bangladesh.” More recently, Drs. Angela Lanfranchi, Joel Brind and colleagues performed a meta-analysis of 20 studies of South Asian women, showing a correlation between breast cancer and abortion. Yet even the possibility of a connection between abortion and breast cancer will not be part of the month-long publicity campaign. Why?
The Sexual Revolution has created the Grand Sex Positive Narrative, to convince people that sexual activity is an entitlement for anyone capable of giving meaningful consent:
It’s as if they’re saying: “Oh, sure, casual sex used to present problems like risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. But we modern, enlightened, technologically advance people have overcome all that. We have antibiotics to treat any stray microbes that manage to make it through the condom barriers we all use 100% of the time. We have pills and IUDs and long-acting reversible hormonal contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. And of course, we have safe, legal abortions to clean up any stray fetuses that manage to get conceived.”
The possible link between abortion and breast cancer presents a problem to the Grand Sex Positive Narrative. If abortion presents significant downsides, risks or problems, viewing casual sex as an entitlement would no longer make sense. Therefore, Sexual Revolutionaries have tried hard to convince people that abortion is no more psychologically traumatic or medically risky than removing an appendix or pulling a tooth.
Notice how strong this claim is. It can be refuted with a single counter-example. I don’t need to show that every woman everywhere regrets her abortion or was seriously harmed by it. All I need to show is that some women are harmed in some way. Once the idea of harmless abortion is dislodged from the public mind, then every woman must consider whether she could be one of the women likely to be harmed. Responsible medicine would require all health care personnel to take these risks seriously and provide full information.
Being overweight or having a family history of breast cancer are risk factors for breast cancer. Women in these situations might want to avoid abortion.
Taking these questions seriously threatens the whole sexual revolutionary ideological structure. “Maybe I should not sleep with a guy who would be a lousy father. Maybe I should not sleep with anyone at all if I am not ready to be a mother. In fact, if abortion might be painful for me, and contraception might fail, I’d better be careful about my sexual choices.”
The Sexual Revolution is a fantasy ideology. We cannot build an entire society around the idea that sex and babies are completely disconnected. Yet many of our most intelligent, highly educated members of society are committed to precisely this goal. They can scarcely even consider evidence that some abortions are harmful to some women: it is just too upsetting, too disruptive to the Official Sex Positive Narrative.
That is why you have not heard anything about the connection between breast cancer and abortion, even during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
I’m not only willing to talk about it. I insist on it. Women’s health is too important to be threatened by political correctness.
Posted on: Monday, August 06, 2018
By Jenet Jacob Erickson
This article was first published on August 5, 2018, at Deseret News.
Once again, Roe v. Wade finds itself at the center of a Supreme Court nomination battle. And regardless of whether Roe v. Wade is ever overturned, there is no question that scientific advancements have “remade” the abortion debate. With ultrasound imagery and innovations in neonatology, a developing fetus is no longer referred to as “a mass of tissue,” even by abortion advocates. Public opinion reflects this change. Strong majorities of Americans, across demographic groups, oppose abortions in the second (65 percent) and third trimesters (81 percent). And even in the first trimester, a majority (53 percent) agrees abortion should be illegal when the woman’s only reason is not wanting to have a child.
Whether abortion means terminating a developing life is no longer debated. That is clear. The debate now centers on what abortion means for women. In the face of public support for some abortion restrictions, pro-choice advocates argue, “abandoning abortion rights means abandoning women.” NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue claims that those who advocate for restrictions on abortion are “not really anti-abortion. … They are against a world where women can contribute equally and chart our own destiny in ways our grandmothers never thought possible.”
But Hogue’s claim belies a damaging assumption. One we must take seriously. She assumes that women cannot be equal to men unless they act destructively against their bodies and the developing life they carry. Essentially, women are told that by sacrificing life they can achieve an “equal” life.
As Harvard visiting scholar Erika Bacciochi explains, abortion advocacy assumes a “troubling natural inequality” for women because they get pregnant and men do not. Abortion eliminates that difference so women, like men, can enter into sexual relations without commitment, “free” to become, both socially and economically. But to do so, women must act “affirmatively and destructively” on their bodies to imitate men.
In the words of pro-life scholar Camille Williams, in essence, women are reduced to “defective men,” living “at the mercy of our bodies, too weak, irrational and incompetent to resist irresponsible men who impregnate us, and too politically weak to shape our educational institutions and workplaces” to accommodate the gift of our fertility.
Abortion does not remedy inequality for women. It entrenches it by refusing to acknowledge and respect the sexual difference between men and women. Instead of shaping our educational institutions and workplaces to respect, protect and support women’s childbearing, abortion encourages us to ignore it. Instead of seeking remedies for the challenges and injustices faced by pregnant women, abortion “submits” to them, masking and not responding to the realities women face.
The assumptions underlying abortion have also undermined the responsibility men and women feel for each other, and the life they create. Abortion on demand teaches that relationships are terminable at will — that love, sacrifice and commitment are contingent upon self-interest and fulfillment. It says not only to a developing person, but to the mother herself, “I will love and care for you when it works for me.” But in the rejection of her pregnancy, she is also being rejected. To denigrate the gift of life unavoidably denigrates the person who carries that life.
As sociologist Mark Regnerus’ research found, “Sex among singles used to occur in and during the search for someone to marry. … The average woman could and did count on seeing evidence of commitment before sex, because sex risked pregnancy. … Now having sex and thinking about or committing to marry are two very different things.”
The tragic result is fewer marriageable men, less commitment, and a sexually permissive climate where women are easily objectified. Permissive abortion allows men to be absolved of responsibility for the gift of life that may result from their sexual relationships, whether aborted or not. And so, ironically, since Roe v. Wade, the out-of-wedlock childbearing rate has grown from 5 percent to 41 percent with profound negative implications, especially for low-income women and children. Although abortion is often marketed as a means of planning for child-rearing, easy access to it has undermined our capacity to form the committed relationships children depend upon.
A culture of abortion is ultimately antithetical to the equality women deserve, and it undermines the desire many women have for committed relationships with men as husbands and fathers, and with the children of those fathers. Given the long-term implications of the assumptions underlying a culture of permissive abortion, we can and must do better for women.
Jenet Jacob Erickson is an affiliated scholar of the Wheatley Institution at BYU.
Posted on: Saturday, June 24, 2017
by Betsy Kerekes
This article was first published May 26, 2017, at CatholicLane.com.
The pain of infertility or impaired fertility comes in more than one form. The first is the obvious suffering of the couple who wants so badly to have a child but, for whatever reason, is unable to.
The second is the judgment of others in their Catholic community.
I’ve experienced this first-hand, despite having three children—an amount that’s considered large by the world’s standards, but, “My gosh, what’s wrong with you?” by Catholic standards. In the Catholic community, five children is barely skating by, six is marginally acceptable, 7-8 is a passing grade, 9-10 means you’re a model Catholic, and at 11+ you’re being fitted for your halo. One’s place in the Catholic hierarchy becomes dependent on the size of one’s family.
So what of the family of one or none? Even though this semi-tongue in cheek ranking is never spoken about in polite Catholic society (at least society polite enough to not do so when I’m around) Catholic couples, men and women alike, intrinsically know it and fear it, that is, if they don’t measure up. They automatically qualify their family size.
One woman said, “I have one child, but we really want more…” She then proceeded to explain her difficulties conceiving. Upon. The. First. Meeting.
One man said to me: “We have two, but we wanted more. We love kids!” as though I would think otherwise.
Or modestly with a qualifier, “We have one child. We’re grateful God has allowed us to have one,” the second sentence speaking volumes of, “So don’t think we did this on purpose.”
Why the need to explain?
One woman told me that on the first day of Kindergarten at a Catholic school, another mom said, “Why do you only have one?” She felt compelled to tell this stranger her history of miscarriages and other fertility struggles.
I’ve even fallen prey to this need to explain myself to total strangers. Here’s the typical situation: I’m at a Catholic mom’s group, and, as is typical, there’s at least a half-hour of chit-chat before we all get down to the business of the Bible study, Catholic book discussion, or Miles Christi document review. I’ll exchange names with someone and the small talk inevitable leads to family size. Quite often, “How many kids do you have?” is what immediately follows, “What’s your name?” Like so:
Newly-Met Woman: “So, how many kids do you have?”
Me: “Three.” Watches wheels turn behind the woman’s eyes as she processes this information coupled with my apparent age. I look old enough to have at least six by now. Her face softens as she gives me the benefit of the doubt, thinking I may have gotten married later in life. She tests this theory by her next craftily-worded question that will reveal all she needs to know about me.
NMW: “How old are they?”
Now the jig is up. There’s no hiding my apparent crime now.
Me: “11, 8, and 6.” I hold my breath in anticipation of her next move as I see the corners of her eyes crinkle ever so slightly.
NMW: “Ah,” she says shortly. Her smile seems a lot less natural now. If she doesn’t move on to speak with someone obviously pregnant with triplets, I’m left to flounder my excuse involving an ectopic pregnancy that evidently left me handicapped in the fertility arena, not being able to get pregnant for five years now, etc. I’ve usually lost her by this point, as she sees someone more worthy over my shoulder, ie, a young mother of seven.
I remember a mom of half a dozen at least telling me about a mutual friend pregnant with her fourth, all of which had been two years apart or less thus far. “She’s on track to have a nice big family,” she says to me in approval.
Dear Catholic women and men of large families, we all have our struggles. For some of us, having a large family, or even any children at all, isn’t in the Capital-P Plan. Please don’t assume that those of us slow out of the fertility gate are doing something wrong like using NFP without serious cause, or, heaven forbid, contracepting. Please don’t expect us all to be baby-making machines like the rest of you.
The day I arrived back to work from my honeymoon, a mom asked me if I was pregnant. Another mom told me her husband asked if I was pregnant yet. It took one miscarriage and then another year to have my first child. After which, it took a long time to get pregnant a third time. I suffered endless comments after that first child reached six months (six months!) about how she needed a friend and, “You want to have them close in age so they’ll get along well.”
And here I thought I’d get a reprieve once I’d finally had a child. It didn’t last long. I had to explain to those who had no business knowing, that my cycle took forever to return, after which point, we did indeed conceive right away, but apparently a spacing of more than two years is unacceptable.
My husband has long since stopped telling me when people at his Catholic workplace have asked if we’re expecting again. I suspect that as the years have rolled by, people have long since given up asking too.
More recently, I had the misfortune of commenting how sad it made me to see my husband holding someone’s infant child knowing that I wasn’t able to give him another baby. A father of eight said to me, “That’s on you, Betsy.”
“No, it’s not,” I said, knowing full-well that I was doing nothing to inhibit pregnancy. He apparently begged to differ.
“That’s on you, Bets,” he insisted, with a bob of his head for emphasis, having worked out in his mind that I have no more children because I, and I alone, have decided it that way.
“I have literally no control in the matter,” I told him.
He shook his head sadly, apparently in sorrow at the denial of my own selfishness. It was at that point that I walked away and avoided eye contact with him for the rest of the night. I managed to compartmentalize this encounter until I got home and was ready to cry, rather than have it spoil my evening out with friends.
“So this is what people apparently think of me,” I told my husband. He had no answer or consoling words for me. He, too, understands that this is life in the Catholic bubble. I love my Catholic community, and am so grateful to have it, but, ladies and gentlemen, God does not will large families to us all. Please know that it’s not possible for all of us to keep up with the rest of you model Catholic citizens. Also, note that this is not like Biblical times where women’s apparent infertility is a sign of sin and disfavor from God. On the contrary, He gives each of us suffering as our path to Heaven. For some that cross is more obvious to the outside world, which only adds to its weight.
So the next time you meet someone with only a few children or no children at all, who launches into her fertility history just to prove its not her fault, please put a hand on her shoulder and say, “It’s okay. I know it’s rough, and I’m sorry. I’ll pray for you.”
You have no idea what a breath of fresh air and salve to the wound that would be for women, and their husbands, to hear.
Betsy Kerekes is co-author of 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage (Ave Maria Press 2013) and 101 Tips for the Marrying the Right Person (Ave Maria Press 2016). She also blogs at Parentingisfunny.wordpress.com.
Posted on: Tuesday, February 14, 2017
'We are separating ourselves from our bodies'
A new survey detailing the extent of casual sex among singles shows many are having intimate relations before the first date, a development that can be blamed in part on technology but leads to tremendous regret and permanently damaged relationships.
This week, the dating service Match released a new survey on sex and singles conducted by Research Now. Included in the data are the revelations that 34 percent of singles have had sex before a first date and that millennials are 48 percent more likely to have sex before a first date than all other generations of singles in order “to see if there is a connection.”
In a USA Today story on the survey, sex therapist Kimberly Resnick Anderson suggests millennials have inverted the relationship process, using sex to determine if they want to pursue anything further with that person.
“We used to think of sex as you crossed the line now, you are in an intimate zone. But now sex is almost a given, and it’s not the intimate part. The intimate part is getting to know someone and going on a date,” Anderson is quoted as saying.
Ruth Institute Founder and President Jennifer Roback Morse says the discrepancy between millennials and other singles is that the older ones know better.
“The reason older generations are not [having sex before a first date] is because they have figured out already from experience that this is not a good idea,” Morse told WND and Radio America. “What we’re doing is just one generation of young people after another are having to figure out for themselves that hopping into bed with somebody is a lot more complicated and potentially hurtful than we’re led to believe by the media and stories like this one.”
Morse also said smartphone apps for the explicit purpose of casual sex are contributing to the trend.
“It’s a new thing when you have dating apps or casual sex apps on your cell phone and you can find out if there’s somebody close by who wants to have sex with you. That’s a new thing,” she said.
“The desire to be sexually active has been with us forever obviously, but this way of going about it and the way the culture is pushing people toward sex without any kind of intimacy or friendship, that is something new and, I think, uniquely destructive,” Morse said.
“What we’re trying to do is get away from this message of airbrushing away all the problems and allowing people space and time to say here’s what really happened. ‘Here’s how I really felt after casual sex. Here’s the next step after the first time you have that kind of encounter and then you get kind of swept away in it and are having one encounter after another and they’re not really satisfying you. Here’s where that leads,'” stated Morse.
She said her work shows that personal stories resonate best with young people.
“I think millennials particularly want to hear stories. They don’t care for data. All these numbers aren’t going to touch them one bit,” Morse said. “But if someone who is 35 years old stands in front of them and says, ‘This is how my heart was broken by doing what you’re standing there thinking about doing,’ they just might listen to that.”
Perhaps worst of all, Morse said, is the long-term damage casual sex inflicts on future efforts at meaningful relationships.
“The results of sex are bonding and babies. That’s the natural biological result of sex, bonding and babies,” Morse said. “If people don’t know how to bond with one another, they’re going to have trouble creating lasting, stable relationships for when they do finally want to have babies. Then they’re not going to be ready to really care for their children and give the children the kind of security and attachment that they need.”
She said the impact of poor bonding is also is also felt by the children.
“The kind of damage that’s going to happen to children of people who can’t form relationships is really hard to predict just how bad that can be,” Morse said. “Honestly, I don’t see a floor under this elevator. We’re still going down.”
Posted on: Monday, September 12, 2016
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first published at The Blaze on September 12, 2016.
Those of us who live in prosperous countries may not realize the full impact of the contraceptive ideology around the world.
You know the ideology I mean: everyone old enough to give meaningful consent is entitled to unlimited sex without a live baby showing up. We tend to think governments should allow people to obtain any form of contraception they want. We don’t realize that governments around the world, including and especially our own US government, have done far more than that. They have actively promoted contraception and even forced people to limit their childbearing.
As a devout Catholic, I believe the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of human life and the sacredness of the sexual act are good, humane and true. For holding these beliefs, I am accustomed to being a public punching bag (metaphorically of course). I am undaunted.
Pope Paul VI was prophetic in 1968 when he restated what had always been the ancient teaching of all the Christian churches. His landmark encyclical, Humanae Vitae, was correct.
In paragraph 17 of Humanae Vitae, called Consequences of Artificial Methods, Blessed Pope Paul (he was beatified by Pope Francis after the Synod on the Family in 2014,) makes a series of predictions. All of them have come to pass.
We have indeed seen an “increase in marital infidelity” and a “general lowering of moral standards.” Who can deny that we have obliterated the incentives for “young people to avoid temptation?” or that men have “lost their reverence for women?”
But it is Paul VI’s analysis of the misuse of governmental power that is truly prophetic.
Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.
I have often wondered how this seemingly far-fetched thought occurred to Blessed Pope Paul. Perhaps a meeting with John D. Rockefeller III in 1965 had something to do with it.
John D. Rockefeller III was an avid proponent of population control. He worked hard to neutralize the opposition of the Catholic Church throughout the 1960’s. He cultivated relationships with faculty and staff at Notre Dame, even sponsoring conferences there. His friend, Notre Dame President Theodore Hesburgh, arranged the papal audience in July of 1965.
Rockefeller was perhaps accustomed to religious leaders swooning over his wealth and power. (Metaphorically, of course.) We don’t really know what took place at this meeting. But we do know from a letter Rockefeller wrote that he volunteered advice to the pontiff for his upcoming encyclical (which became Humanae Vitae) and that he gushed about the need for population control. I can imagine the Holy Father, cultured European gentleman that he was, being shocked by the presumption of this brash, rich American. Perhaps it was this very meeting that persuaded Paul VI of the danger of morally sanctioned birth control in the hands of people like Rockefeller, and the governments they might be able to influence.
In any case, look at how correct Paul VI proved to be about the dangers of government’s imposing their will to override people’s genuine reproductive rights.
The Obama administration spent an estimated $23 million illegally lobbying Kenyan lawmakers and bribing opinion makers to legalize abortion in their country—and succeeded. The current president of the Philippines has proposed a “Three Child Policy,” in a country that has experienced amazing increases in prosperity and living conditions without any such policy. The Catholic Bishops of Africa have spoken out against these new forms of ideological colonialism. A Nigerian bishop has claimed that the US refused to help them fight Boko Haram, unless the Nigerians accept U.S. policies on birth control.
And China’s One Child Policy: what can one say? The Chinese Birth Control Police is arguably the largest law enforcement organization in the world with 1.2 million “cadres” and about 500,000 professional bureaucrats. Make no mistake: the One Child Policy has not gone away, just because the People in Power have decreed that some people get to have 2 children instead of 1. People still need Birth Permits. Pregnant women are still dragged off the streets and forcibly aborted. Couples with an “illegal child” may have their homes destroyed.
Oh heck, just watch this four minute video and see what I mean.
Hideous ideas have hidden behind the widespread social approval of contraception. Religious figures still allow themselves to be used by the rich and powerful of the world. George Soros tried to influence the media coverage around Pope Francis’ visit to the US, by dumping money into Catholic front groups. Even now, a group of dissenting Catholics are planning to present a “new” report on the ethics of using contraception at a UN-hosted meeting on September 20. Their goal: “to encourage the Catholic hierarchy to reverse her stance against so called “artificial” contraceptives.”
And where are the feminists while women are being forcibly aborted and sterilized? AWOL. And what about the libertarians? What do these freedom-loving people have to say about governments requiring permits, for the most personal of human rights, having a child? Crickets. The Catholic Church is the only major institution in the world offering even token resistance.
That is why I am proud to be a Catholic, not in spite of her teachings on the sanctity of human life and the sexual act, but because of them
Posted on: Wednesday, August 03, 2016
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first published July 23, 2016, at The Blaze.
Earlier this week, the Ruth Institute sent a letter of commendation and 24 white roses to Charles Chaput, the Archbishop of Philadelphia.
Our letter thanked him for “his clear teaching on marriage, family and human sexuality in the Pastoral Guidelines for Implementing Amoris Laetitia in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.”
With all the excitement of the political conventions, why would we spend our time sending flowers to an archbishop? We want to shine the spotlight on the positive things people are doing to build up society.
The archbishop’s guidelines restate the Ancient Teachings of Christianity regarding marriage, family and human sexuality. These teachings are obscured today. No less a theological heavy weight than the mayor of Philadelphia castigated the archbishop, saying the Guidelines were un-Christian!
To be fair to Mayor Jim Kenny, we have to admit that the publication of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, has caused worldwide confusion over Catholic teaching on marriage. Yelling at the pope has become a new cottage industry among tradition-minded Catholic writers. Pulling his words into a sexually indulgent direction has become a cottage industry among progressives of all faiths. And trying to parse out what he really meant has been a full employment guarantee for everyone.
Rather than getting involved in all that, we want to call attention to people who are implementing the unbroken teaching of the Church in a vibrant manner. Focus on what we know to be true and good. Archbishop Chaput’s Guidelines provide a clear and practical statement of ancient Catholic teaching, in the spirit of genuine mercy, incorporating language from Amoris Laetitia.
I believe that these teachings are correct, good and humane. I founded the Ruth Institute for the purpose of promoting those teachings to the widest audience possible. I don’t believe these things because I am a Catholic. On the contrary. It is precisely because I came to believe in these teachings that I returned to the practice of the Catholic faith after a 12-year lapse.
Let me discuss just one issue that has caused a lot of hand-wringing in the past 2 years. Jesus told us very clearly that remarriage after divorce is not possible. If attempted, it amounts to adultery. Why? According to Jesus, Moses only permitted a man to issue a bill of divorce because of “the hardness of your hearts.” (This is the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 19, in case you were wondering.)
At that point, he could have said, “So, I’m going to eliminate this appalling male privilege and allow women to divorce their husbands, exactly like Moses allowed men to divorce their wives.” However, he did no such thing. He didn’t extend the male privilege. He eliminated it entirely. “From the beginning it was not so,” referring back to God’s original plan for creation. “I tell you, anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” One of the “hard sayings” of Jesus, no doubt. But pretty darn clear.
(And please: don’t trouble me with that so-called loophole, ok? The real innovation in modern no-fault divorce law is that it allows an adulterer to get a divorce against the wishes of the innocent party. No sane person can argue that Jesus provided that “loophole” to allow the guilty party to validly remarry.)
The Church teaches that civilly divorced and remarried Catholics cannot receive communion because she is trying to implement this teaching of Jesus. A civilly divorced and remarried person is living with, and presumably having sex with someone, while still validly married to someone else. If the first marriage is still valid, the second attempted marriage is not valid, and is in fact, adulterous. What is so hard to understand about that?
You know who really understands this concept, who intuitively “gets it?” Children of divorce. Kids look into their parents’ bedroom and see someone who doesn’t belong there. “Who is this guy in bed with my mom: my dad is supposed to be there.” Or, “who is this woman in bed with my dad? My mom is supposed to be there.”
At the Ruth Institute, we know there are situations in which married couples must separate for the safety of the family. But we also know that those cases are by far not the majority of cases. No-fault divorce says a person can get divorced for any reason or no reason, and the government will take sides with the party who wants the marriage the least. The government will permit that person to remarry, against the wishes of their spouse and children.
This is an obvious injustice that no one in our society will talk about. The children of divorce are socially invisible. In fact, I bet some of them felt like crying when they read my paragraph above quoting with approval, what might have gone through their little minds. Many of them have never heard an adult affirm their feelings that something dreadfully wrong and unjust took place in their families.
Jesus knew. Jesus was trying to keep us from hurting ourselves and each other. And the Catholic Church has been trying to implement Jesus’ teaching. You may say the Church has been imperfect in her attempts and I won’t argue with you. But I will say that no one else is even seriously trying.
Political campaigns come and go. Political parties come and go. In fact, nations themselves come and go. But the teachings of Jesus are forever. What we do about marriage and children and love reveals what and whom we truly love.
That is why we congratulate Archbishop Charles Chaput for his guidelines. We wish the Archdiocese all the very best. Make Marriage Great Again.
Posted on: Wednesday, June 22, 2016
By Brandon Showalter
A new study shows that providing free condoms to teenagers worsens the problem it purports to solve. The finding is unsurprising given that the programs are "propaganda for the Sexual Revolution," Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse says.
In an extensive working paper entitled "The Incidental Fertility Effects of School Condom Distribution Programs," University of Notre Dame researchers Kasey Buckle and Daniel Hungerman chart the effectiveness of distributing condoms to young students in order to curb teen pregnancy and reduce rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Their results reveal that both teen pregnancy and STD rates increased with the presence of such condom distribution efforts.
As noted in a June 15 Vox article about the study, the push to make condoms more accessible in school districts was largely in response to the alarming AIDS epidemic in the early 1990s. Such a push appears to have backfired.
The Notre Dame researchers focused on school condom distribution programs, some of which required counseling of some kind and other programs that did not. For those programs that required no counseling, they found a 10% rise in teen births and a notable increase in gonorrhea in women, an additional 2.43 cases per 1,000 women.
Writing at National Review, scholar Dr. Michael New hailed the study as an addition to the "impressive body of research which shows that efforts to encourage contraceptive use either through mandates, subsidies, or distribution are ineffective at best or counterproductive at worst."
Other scholars suggest a much more nefarious agenda is operating here.
In an interview with the Christian Post, author and Ruth Institute founder Dr. Morse said that she is not surprised at all that school-based sex-ed programs are ineffective or yield unintended consequences, adding that such programs amount to "government-funded propaganda for the Sexual Revolution."
The government's deliberate strategy is to "get the kids hooked on sex before they are old enough to have mature judgment," said Morse. They intentionally "convince them that self-command is impossible, and possibly unhealthy" and young people thereby "become participants in and supporters of the Sexual Revolution."
With condoms readily available, Vox's Sarah Kliff acknowledged in her piece that indeed "[i]t's possible that teens did engage in riskier behavior" but was quick to point out the effectiveness of birth control pills and wrote that the research paper is unable to answer why pregnancy rates rose in places where condoms were given out.
But as it also turns out, even as STDs rates continue to rise teenagers are forgoing contraception. And communities now tend to prefer sex education models that do not promote contraception.
An article in last month's Journal of Adolescent Health analyzed data from the Center for Disease Control's National Survey of Family Growth. The data showed that fewer communities are comfortable with the type of federally funded sex-ed programs, such as the Obama administration's Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program, that normalize teen sex, demonstrate use of contraception, and make usage of contraceptives attractive.
The CDC data also revealed that despite such efforts even sexually active teens are not using contraception.
According to the CDC's National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, since Obama's TPP program began, sexually active teens, especially 12th graders, are demonstrably less interested in using contraceptives.
Additional findings in the CDC's survey portend good news for what is known as Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) education, a model that promotes abstinence. To the surprise of some, approximately 60% of teenagers are waiting for sex, the highest percentage to date.
In a June 20 press release from ASCEND, a DC-based abstinence advocacy group, founder and CEO Valerie Huber said, "The research continues to reveal that the TPP program, while well intentioned, is not effective, and appears to actually increase risk for vulnerable teens."
"Taxpayer dollars would be better spent on SRA programs, which give youth the skills and information to avoid all sexual risk. The new
data in the CDC's YRBS report discloses that the SRA approach resonates with an increasing number of teens, and it is uniquely able
to help sexually active youth return to a place of health," Huber said.
Posted on: Tuesday, June 21, 2016
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first posted at The Blaze on June 1, 2016.
The image from the Huffington Post staff meeting created an immediate backlash for editor Liz Heron’s rhetorical question: “Notice anything about this Huffington Post editors’ meeting?”
Unlike many of the internet commentators, I am not interested in the ethnic diversity or ideological hypocrisy of the Huffington Post. All these editors appear to be twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings at most, with the possible exception of Heron herself. To me, this photo illustrates the most poignant sociological fact of our time: Delayed child-bearing is the price of entry into the professional classes.
Look at these eager young faces. These young ladies have high hopes for their lives.
An editors’ meeting at Huffington Post. Editor Liz Heron tweeted: “Notice anything about this Huffington Post editors’ meeting?” (Twitter)
They believe that by landing this great job, they are set. Once they are established in their careers, then and only then, can they think seriously about marriage and motherhood. They do not realize that they are giving themselves over to careers during their peak fertility years, with the expectation that somehow, someday, they can “have it all.”
They are being sold a cynical lie.
Here is the bargain we professional women have been making: “We want to participate in higher education and the professions. As the price of doing so, we agree to chemically neuter ourselves during our peak child-bearing years with various types of birth control. Then, when we are finally financially and socially ready for motherhood, we agree to subject ourselves to invasive, degrading and possibly dangerous fertility treatments.”
I am no longer willing to accept this bargain. These arrangements are not pro-woman. They are simply anti-fertility. Any woman who wants to be a mother, including giving birth to her own children, taking care of her own children, and loving their father, needs a better way. Until now, we have been adapting our bodies to the university and the market. I say, we should respect our bodies enough to demand that the university and the market adapt to us and our bodies.
We cannot expect much help from establishment publications like Huff Po, establishment institutions like the Ivy League and Seven Sisters schools, and certainly not from the government.
Huffington Post is a consistent cheerleader for the sexual revolution. They have a whole page devoted to divorce. They have a regular Friday feature called “Blended Family Friday,” in which “we spotlight a stepfamily to learn how they’ve worked to bring their two families together. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we’ll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life!” And they are enlisting twenty-somethings to sell their propaganda.
I wonder how many of the young ladies seated at that Huff Po editors meeting have ever heard of abortion regret or considered the topic worthy of their attention? I wonder how many of them believe that hooking up is harmless, as long as you use a condom. I wonder how many of them have ever heard that hormonal contraception – especially implants and vaginal rings – increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
I wonder if any of them wish for a guy who would dote on them, and act like he really truly cares. I wonder if they have ever chided themselves for being too clingy when a relationship ended, without realizing that bonding to your sex partner is perfectly normal.
I wonder how many of them realize how unlikely childbirth after 40 really is? A recent study of IVF in Australia looked at the chance of a live birth for initiated cycles. Don’t look at the bogus “pregnancy rate:” IVF pregnancies are 4-5 times more likely to end in stillbirth. And don’t be taken in by the “pregnancy per embryo transfer.” Plenty of women initiate cycles but do not successfully make it to the embryo transfer stage.
The average Australian woman aged 41-42 years old had a 5.8 percent chance of having a live birth per initiated cycle. And women over 45 have a 1.1 per cent chance of having a live birth per initiated cycle — which is almost a 99 percent chance of failure every time.
Yes, Huffington Post is an opinion-making and opinion-leading organization. And yes, it is not right for a bunch of white, privileged childless twenty-something
women to be having such an outsized influence on public opinion. But for now, let’s give a thought to these young ladies themselves. They are being
sold a bill of goods. It is up to us, as adults, to warn them.
Posted on: Monday, June 20, 2016
Suuprize, Suuprize, Suuprize!
A recent study (behind a paywall) looked at schools that gave out condoms vs schools that did not. Lo and behold. Giving out condoms, without any counseling, was associated with an increase in teen pregnancy. Vox, that bastion of social conservatism reports. (And no, I don't think that is literally what kind of condoms they gave out. However, I do think that is what the kids see.)