Wednesday, July 16, 2008

SEX MAD. I go away for a couple of days, and I find the folks at National Review have been talking about Cosmo and Barbies. Even a short recess will make this stuff even more hallucinogenic. It's like I left what I thought was a mildly dysfunctional family and came back years later to realize they were really the House of Atreus.

So I'm having a little trouble wrapping my head around it, but I will say this about the Kathryn J. Lopez column, which seems to blame feminists for way-to-bring-out-the-animal-in-your-man articles. Between the old days and the new, not much about human nature has changed. People will take the main chance every time it is offered to them, absent morality. Though it's clear that Americans have fewer restrictions on them when it comes to sex and sexual expression, it's much less clear that they are any more or less moral than once they were. The kind of guy who thinks of a woman as "a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment" because she let him fuck her would have, a hundred years earlier, thought that way about her if she showed him a bit of ankle.

The new way gave us more chances to screw, and also new chances to screw up, and so many people have. That's what happens with everything pleasurable in America, it seems. And it's very interesting that in the country where citizens most strongly prize their personal freedom, so many of us are drunks, junkies, overeaters, and/or sex mad. It's one of the things I sorta like about the place.

Of course we have our Puritanical side as well. We see it still in smoking bans, drug wars, and other such nannyish pursuits. But it has generally been on the decline for a long time. Its zenith was in the days of the Volstead Act -- the legal prohibition of a previously widely-enjoyed right. Not so many people think that was a great idea anymore. And I'm sure the few that do think it was a good idea, and would like to bring it back, must feel as oppressed by the contents of the wine and beer aisle in the supermarket as Lopez feels by the smutty mags at the checkout.

Lopez faults feminism for its part in the promotion of birth control, because it led to Cosmopolitan and all these other sexed-up artifacts of our modern life, which she believes are harmful to women. Let's tally it up: once, women only had to worry about unwanted childbirth, frustration, shame, ostracism, and ruin; now they have to worry about ways to bring out the animal in their man. That's some trade. Anyone who wants a do-over is welcome to join a cult -- or, in Lopez' case, remain in one -- and have it themselves. As the wonderfully American expression goes, it's their life.

UPDATE. I should add: if Lopez is really looking to form an anti-sex coalition, why does she start with an appeal to feminists, who are probably not inclined to take her seriously, rather than with an appeal to her fellow wingnuts? In today's edition of Rupert Murdoch's New York Post we find this:
GOOD news, horny New Yorkers!

We're the No. 1 destination in the US for tourists from other countries, and you know what that means, right?

Fresh international meat!
Come to think of it, maybe it isn't just an unwillingness to talk to her own kind. Maybe Lopez senses that the Post's repulsive reduction is, in its way, just as anti-sex as she is. Maybe, being a conservative, she thinks that if sex is exploitative, it is thereby redeemed.

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