Wednesday, December 17, 2003

SEX MAD. I guess it's just human nature, but it seems that the more power conservatives get in this country, the more irrational they become about those areas of life over which they have no power.

The sexual mores of this country, for example, remain in flux, despite the attempts of some on the Right to arrest their development. The most obvious sign of this is the gay marriage movement: even gay-marriage opponent Jonah Goldberg admits that "Everyone agrees that we are well on our way to living in a country where allowing same-sex marriage is the law of the land." The cultural change seems as inevitable as lava coming down Mt. St. Helens.

So in the last ditch, some conservative scribes have abandoned politics, even reason, and reverted to theology. How else to explain this absolutely crazy National Review piece, "Love and..." by Jennifer Roback Morse?

Morse, in her second paragraph, reveals "the meaning of human sexuality." Under normal circumstances one would expect this to be the money shot, so to speak, but Morse disappoints: "Sexual activity has two natural, organic purposes: procreation and spousal unity. Babies are the most basic and natural consequences of sexual activity. 'Spousal unity' means simply that sex builds attachments between husband and wife." One wonders if Morse writes technical manuals when not employed as a sex scold.

Being a heathen and an Epicurean, I find all articles of this sort a little silly, but I'll say one thing for old-school marriage-thinkers like St. Augustine: he seemed to have some awareness that people have sex because it feels really good -- offers, in fact, a kind of pleasure that's categorically different than any other. But Morse goes out of her way to keep us from even thinking about that aspect of sex even while she's discussing it:
For many people in modern America is a recreational activity, and a consumer good... the sexual partner has become an object that satisfies [one] more or less well.

She makes it sound like lawn darts or something. And so it probably seems to her the most natural thing in the world to talk about the social and political utility of banning gay marriage as if she were talking about the re-jiggering of tax incentives -- a purely utilitarian matter, calculated to produce a social good.

It's already a truism that conservatives, despite their libertarian affectations, have fallen in love with social engineering, especially as regards marriage and childbearing. As this House Committee on Ways and Means document from 2001 demonstrates, they like to think of government programs from Social Security to the Earned Income Tax Credit as ways to affect the stability of marriage as an institution. This is narrow-minded, but not quite as mad as the extreme to which Morse has taken it: trying to shore up marriage by reforming the way we have sex, and reforming the way we have sex via an essay in the National Review. (Did Maxim turn it down?)

Of course, just because her idea is crazy doesn't mean it's doomed. But this does: Morse has no leverage. She's not peddling the old fire-and-brimstone like Augie Dog. The worst she can threaten is that, if you persist in accepting gay marriage, you'll be shut out of the really spiritually fulfilling aspect of sex as diagrammed in Paragraph 2. "We will be happier if we face reality on its own terms," she says. That's nice. And we'll be happier when you take your religious pamphlets to some other rental unit, so me and my partner can have hot, tolerant sex.

1 comment:

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