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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.
Divorce Child, by Javad Alizadeh, Iranian artist. CC via Wikimedia
The author of a new book talks about the elite ideologies driving today’s sexual culture.
Did the Sexual Revolution just sweep through society like a mindless force of nature, or did powerful people actively promote it? Why is the sexual revolutionary propaganda so relentless, and increasingly bizarre? Do children have rights to be born into an intact family with parents who stay together for life? Are men and women really different? Does it matter? These and other pressing questions of our day find answers in a new book by Ruth Institute President Dr Jennifer Roback Morse: The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and Why the Church Was Right All Along. Here she answers a few questions of our own.
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MercatorNet: Like every revolution, the sexual revolution (SR) that erupted in the 1960s has created a lot of victims. In the first chapter of your book, “The Misery of Modern Life”, you identify a number of them. Which types of victim do you think are the least recognized, even among those critical of today’s sexual culture?
Dr Morse: The victims of the divorce culture are almost completely invisible. I include the abandoned spouses, or reluctantly divorced persons, who would have liked to remain married, but were divorced against their will. Few people realize that under U.S. no-fault divorce law, the government always takes sides with the person who wants the marriage the least.
We do not even ask the questions that would allow us to answer the question: “how many divorces have a reluctant partner?” Since the book went to press, I have found evidence that suggests as many as 70% of divorces may have a “reluctant” partner. But the person who found this was not looking for it. He stumbled over it in the course of looking for something else.
The children of divorce are also socially invisible. They are supposedly “resilient,” but in fact they suffer for a lifetime. I also think apart from committed pro-life advocates, very few people recognize the health problems associated with contraception and abortion.
A good and decent society should do everything possible to separate sex from babies. I call this, the Contraceptive Ideology. Unlike many commentators who say things like, “The Pill changed everything,” I consider the ideology far more important than technology.
The ideology tries to convince people that sex without a live baby is an entitlement. All sorts of nasty things follow from that, including the depredations of people like Harvey Weinstein.
The Divorce Ideology is that a good and decent society should do everything possible to separate both sex and babies, from marriage. Behind this lies the idea that children don’t really need their own parents. Kids are so resilient that adults can switch partners and living arrangements without worrying about the welfare of their kids. But we know now that this is completely false. Kids do need their own parents. Deliberately separating kids from their parents without an unavoidable reason is unjust to children. In this section of the book, I discuss the children of unmarried parents, as well as children of anonymous donor conception. All these kids have tenuous, at best, relationships with one of their parents.
The Gender Ideology started with “feminism” that stated that a good society should eliminate all distinctions between men and women. All such differences are socially constructed, and evidence of injustice. Therefore, society should reconstruct itself to eliminate all those differences. This is the thought process that led to the US federal government declaring that all colleges should have equality in sports programs. Since men are generally more interested in sports, the federal government went around shuttering men’s wrestling teams to create “equality.”
Now the gender ideology has morphed into transgenderism which says that a person’s bodily sex is less important than their idea of who they are and what they want to be. This has led to males who “identify” as female winning girls’ track and field events.
What unites these two versions of the Gender Ideology is that the sex of the body is unimportant and can be over-written with enough social engineering and medical technology.
You also identify the various “narratives” by which these ideologies have been advanced: “the march of history,” liberation, feminism, overpopulation... What is the relative importance of each of these?
Under the Liberationist Narrative, I list several sub-types, the Consumerist, the Orientation, and the Gender Identity sub-narrative. Important also is the (Stealth) Capitalist Narrative. I think most people can recognize the significance of feminist and various forms of liberationist thought. So here, I want to emphasize the others.
The March of History story is important because it wipes out all moral responsibility for anything: all these changes in society just “happened” like a force of nature. The Over-Population Narrative is significant because the population controllers provided the money for an awful lot of the subsequent stages of the Sexual Revolution. And the (Stealth) Capitalist Narrative is important precisely because it is “stealth.” In the first place people are making money from the Sexual Revolution.
Secondly – and importantly -- employers have benefited from having a whole class of new workers, eager to prove their worth in the market, and having few non-market alternatives. I am speaking of women, of course. The “careerist” branch of feminism basically delivered women into the hands of employers on terms that benefited the employers. Most people don’t notice that, until it is pointed out to them. And the fact that people are making money from the Sexual Revolution must be confronted honestly, if we really mean to create positive chance.
Against these you posit “the Catholic narrative” about sex – which is, in essence?
The Catholic Narrative directly challenges all three of the Ideologies of the Sexual Revolution. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that each of the ideologies challenged some aspect of Catholic teaching. The Catholic Narrative has the virtue that it can account for the failures and unhappiness caused the Sexual Revolution, something virtually none of the other narratives even considers.
We could summarize Catholic teaching from the perspective of children, in this way. Start from the premise that children are entitled to a relationship with both of their parents, in the absence of some unavoidable tragedy. How can we structure society to ensure children receive what is due to them?
Reason logically from this premise and here is what you get:
In other words, you end up with traditional Christian sexual morality. There is more to Catholic theology of marriage, of course. But at this moment in history, protecting the basic human right of every child to a relationship with both parents would be an achievement worth celebrating.
Many would argue that the Catholic narrative has been a notable failure, even amongst Catholics, who apparently contracept like everyone else and whose clerical ranks have harbored sexual abusers. Doesn’t this discredit Catholic teaching, or at least put it in the realm of idealism?
On the contrary: The Catholic narrative is daily being proven correct. The heartbreaking situations we see all around us are the direct result of NOT living according to the Church’s teaching. Thinking with the Church, embracing the Church’s teaching with enthusiasm is really the only possible way out of the problems we face.
We now know why so many clergy refuse to preach or teach on the sexual issues, and why so many dioceses have a lackluster record in this regard. There are way too many men using their position of authority and respect in the Church to pursue their private sexual purposes.
However, this makes it even more important that faithful Catholics take up the challenge of educating themselves, living the Church’s teaching, and sharing it with others. We can’t wait for the clergy to put their houses in order.
By contrast, hasn’t feminism, for example, been a great success, achieving much for women?
Define “success.” People reflexively define “progress” and “success” in terms of women participating in higher education and in the labor force on the same terms as men. But what has been the price of this form of “equality?” One of the first footnotes in my book cites a study of happiness. Women have been growing less happy both absolutely, and relative to men over exactly the period of greatest entry of women into the labor force. And, women’s participation in both higher education and the labor force had been increasing steadily since the beginning of the 20th century, well before “feminism.” I argue that we could have attained increased participation in higher education and the professions, without all the toxic ideologies we have had to endure.
Your basic thesis is that the sexual revolution “needs the state”. Why is that?
The Sexual Revolution is irrational. Each one of the ideologies is false. Sex does make babies. Children do need their parents. Men and women are different. Building an entire society around the opposite of these statements simply cannot be done.
That does not mean the attempt to do the impossible is harmless. Quite the contrary. Attempting to do the impossible requires a whole lot of power, force and propaganda. The “advanced” countries of the world are run by people who believe doing the impossible is a high moral duty. Therefore, they can always justify increased power for themselves. This explains the whole course of the Sexual Revolution.
Who benefits from our predominant sexual culture?
The “elites” as I use the term, include the rich, the powerful, the influential, in any field of endeavor. People like Warren Buffet and George Soros in our time, and John D. Rockefeller III and Katherine McCormick in times past, have financed the spread of the ideologies. Academics produce and promote the research. Entertainment elites of the likes of Harvey Weinstein create the propaganda. Their motives are varied but include the fact that some of them are making money, and some of them desire social permission to do what they want sexually without fear of social sanction.
If, as you argue, the majority of people never wanted the ideology of the Sexual Revolution, let alone its effects on marriage and the family, why haven’t they used the democratic system to get rid of it?
There are a couple of reasons. First, the propaganda for the Sexual Revolution is very effective. Most people do not connect the dots between these ideologies and the problems they and their families are experiencing. Second, the Sexual Revolution is very well financed. Warren Buffett, for instance, has given over $1 billion to support abortion, and abortion political advocacy. There simply are no funders of comparable size for the social conservative side of the issues.
Finally, the ideology of the Sexual Revolution appeals to some of our deepest fantasies about ourselves and wishful thinking about the world. “Everything would be alright, if we just allowed people to do whatever they want.” “I do not really have to restrain myself sexually.” “The problems in my marriage are my husband’s fault.” And so on. Pride is not only one of the Seven Deadly Sins. It is also The Original Sin. Every person is susceptible to appeals to their vanity.
In your closing “Manifesto of the Family” you list a number of things the government should stop doing, or start doing, and some that the rest of us could do. Would you like to talk about the latter?
In my 15-point Manifesto, the first 10 points are all things the government should stop doing, because it never had any business doing them in the first place. The last three points are really all about love. We need social encouragement for long-lasting love, inside the family.
The propaganda campaigns of the last 50 years have created a watered-down, almost unrecognizable redefinition of love. Starting with “Love the one you’re with,” in the sixties, down to things like “Love wins,” and “Love makes the family.” These are marketing slogans, designed to “sell” people on a program of political and social change. These slogans are not much help in hanging in there with our difficult relatives. For instance, people never stop to ask what happens to the family if the love goes away. Does the family disappear? Do the children lose their parents? The slogans can’t handle the questions. We have been chasing our tails, “looking for love in all the wrong places,” as the song says.
Agape love, the highest form of Christian love, requires much more of us. At the same time, that kind of complete self-giving love is the only form of love that can really satisfy us. Committed Christians have the best chance of offering the world what it is really looking for. That is why I believe my Manifesto for the Family can lead us toward a Civilization of Love.