Saturday, September 27, 2003

Lane Core Does Us All a Favor

From the estimable View from the Core comes reference to a brilliant article about sexuality, anthropology, and public policy which you can find here. Among the more interesting parts of the article are these bold statements:
The anthropological evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of those who argue that large social consequences follow from a society's decisions about which sexual practices are legitimate. The rules that govern marriage and sexual relations are, directly and indirectly, the basis of family life and have enormous influence over the formation of good (or bad) character . . . . The sexual privatizers imagine a society in which adults can seek their pleasures without interference and somehow children will get born and properly raised. It is a sheer illusion. . . . . Forms of "sexual expression" are, at a deeper level, modalities of social relationships that do have very real public consequences. Whatever a society accepts as legitimate "in the bedroom" inevitably becomes a choice affecting the status of husbands, wives, children, and many others. . . .
I say "bold" because an even-handed application of Weaver's dictum (paraphrased here as "sexuality has consequences") is anathema to believers in MTV's dogmas about unfettered sexuality. The only consequences we're permitted to think about are the consequences of not using the law to institutionalize MTV's view of human sexuality. We're permitted to think about unhappy gay and lesbian people who can't enjoy the social benefits of marriage; the false shame and emotional torment of being forced to live a life of surreptitious or at least unapproved sexuality; or about violence and bigotry against homosexuals in our streets and schools. Contemplation of those consequences is permitted, but thinking about unapproved types of consequences is strictly forbidden. Decent people aren't supposed to think about the shape society will acquire if we approve of gay marriage, polygamy, and the MTV way of looking at sex. Appropriately, the message seems to be "Just do it."

But suppose the media aristocracy wasn't really in charge of the debate. Suppose we could look at over 100 years of research and data which suggest that the list of "permissible thoughts" is too limited? The author of this article has been bold enough to tell us about these other forbidden thoughts: "[I]f you want to see where these social trends are leading, anthropology has some answers. Humanity has been experimenting with ways to organize itself into viable social groups for many millennia. Almost any combination of sexual partners has been institutionalized somewhere and often in multiple places. We can and should read that record as a realistic check against the dreams of consequence-free sexual liberation that have seized the imaginations of so many of our fellow citizens." The rest is worth reading, and frightening, not least because it shows us that the stakes are much, much higher than whether Friends or Will & Grace go into daytime syndication.

Upon being confronted with these facts, the liberal mind would probably respond by trying to encyst the entire issue, dusting off the researches of that famous liar Margaret Mead to create that most American of paralyses -- The Antinomy. You know The Antinomy -- the shades-of-gray moral fog created by the very fact of argument, a fog so thick and dense and reasonable that only a Hitler would try to cut through it. Better to stop thinking, draw no lines, and enter the Promised Land of Bipartisan Consensus where everybody gets what they want, nobody loses, and -- hopefully -- it will be quick and kind and you won't feel much pain at all.

That's why the author of this article is so truly bold. He insists that we think about all the consequences of the MTV lifestyle, not just the ones on the Approved List. He reminds us that ignorance is not strength; whatever blankness and sterility might characterize their minds, lemmings still end up getting wet. That notion, so closely related to the idea of Hell, is the only heresy possible among men who've embraced all heresies.

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