Tuesday, March 25, 2014

He And She Part 2: Premarital Sex

Before we begin: Yes, the email has been torrential, and once again it's more or less evenly divided between approbation and condemnation. If I were the sort of person who puts others' opinions above the verdicts of his own mind and conscience -- e.g., a politician -- that might trouble me. As matters stand, it's just evidence of how deeply wounded is the culture of today.

The most fatuous missives were those that dismissed my reasoning because "you're an admitted Catholic." The implication is that I might as well "admit" to being a child molester. Yes, I'm a Catholic. Moreover, I take my faith and its implications seriously. That implies a duty to think about the various ways they should actuate and constrain me, and just as important, to ponder the occasions on which the Church has gone seriously wrong by going beyond its Christ-given authority.

Which is tangentially relevant to the subject of today's tirade.

For those disinclined to page down, here are the snippets of yesterday's screed that excited the most indignation:

It became a staple of "women's wisdom" that sex is a gift not to be lightly bestowed upon an uncommitted suitor, no matter how attractive or ardent. Sexual access wasn't the whole of the lure by which she could catch herself a man, but it was certainly part of the package. Society reinforced that "bundling" of her gifts with strong public disapproval of premarital sex, conveyed both by religious institutions and by secular culture. In extremis, when the "rules" were violated to the extent of a premarital conception, the "shotgun wedding" was a common response.

And later:

Worst of all the developments of the past five decades has been the cultural embrace of the notion of utterly carefree, consequence-free sex. It sometimes seems as if our contemporary arts can address no other subject. It's a toxin that has polluted relations between men and women to a degree that's impossible to exaggerate. It did so by reducing her to a commodity: a body to be exploited.

Torrents of vitriol poured forth in response to the above. You'd think I'd endorsed foot binding, or perhaps clitoridectomy. The intensity of the condemnations is itself evidence of the cultural descent of which I spoke. It speaks to the extent to which sex and all its variations have been presented to us as some sort of ultimate good: a "right" that trumps all other rights and obligations, including the obligation to accept and answer for the consequences of one's actions.

Indeed, enormous effort has gone into severing sexual indulgence from any and all unwanted consequences. We have various reliable contraceptives; simple and safe operations to sterilize either sex; and powerful drugs that can defeat almost any venereal disease. We've legalized abortion right up to the instant the baby's head exits his mother's body. Centuries-old laws against adultery, fornication, and sodomy are no longer enforced anywhere in the United States. But one consequence remains against which all the gates of Hell and Political Correctness have not prevailed -- the disapproval of the differently minded -- and it infuriates the Emissionaries of Sex Unbounded to the limit of their endurance.

Ask yourself why.

There's a special sort of clarity that accompanies the realization that a fundamental error has obscured a fundamental truth.

A postulate stands behind the proposition that sex can be utterly consequence-free. It's an important one, infrequently articulated and even less often challenged in these latter days of the West. It maintains that the body and the mind are separate entities that can function independently of one another.

Quite a number of absurd fantasies have been built upon that postulate. At the pinnacle of the realm are visions of wholly disembodied intelligences, "freed from the bonds of the flesh," that would exist under the veil of Time. This is absolute nonsense. Mentation of the sort we practice, or can imagine, is inextricably tied to a material base. Whether that base is composed of proteins and fats or silicon and rare earth metals, no operation of mind can occur without one.

But let's return to the central point. If body and mind cannot be separated, it follows that bodily behavior will have mental consequences, just as mental operations will evoke bodily responses. Only after human life has departed permanently from the body will that interaction cease -- and at that point, of course, the body's "behavior" will consist solely of putrefaction.

Sexual conduct will always have mental consequences. Some of them might not be immediately available to the conscious mind. Nevertheless, they'll be there, and they will have consequences of their own.

To cap this segment, consider these quotes from a philosopher not generally regarded as a sexual savant:

"Love is blind, they say; sex is impervious to reason and mocks the power of all philosophers. But, in fact, a man's sexual choice is the result and the sum of his fundamental convictions. Tell me what a man finds sexually attractive and I will tell you his entire philosophy of life. Show me the woman he sleeps with and I will tell you his valuation of himself... The man who is proudly certain of his own value, will want the highest type of woman he can find, the woman he admires, the strongest, the hardest to conquer—because only the possession of a heroine will give him the sense of an achievement, not the possession of a brainless slut."...

"Let a man corrupt his values and his view of existence, let him profess that love is not self-enjoyment but self-denial, that virtue consists, not of pride, but of pity or pain or weakness or sacrifice, that the noblest love is born, not of admiration, but of charity, not in response to values, but in response to flaws—and he will have cut himself in two. His body will not obey him, it will not respond, it will make him impotent toward the woman he professes to love and draw him to the lowest type of whore he can find. His body will always follow the ultimate logic of his deepest convictions; if he believes that flaws are values, he has damned existence as evil and only the evil will attract him. He has damned himself and he will feel that depravity is all he is worthy of enjoying."

[Yes, you guessed it: Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged]

Rand's well known hostility to religion did not blind her to the inseparability of reason, emotion, and values from sexual decisions.

An old maxim that passed from mothers to daughters about avoiding premarital sexual indulgence was "Don't make yourself cheap." Mom's intentions in deploying that maxim were quite good. Certainly, they were wholly benevolent. Even so, the phrase deserves close scrutiny, especially in its connotations.

"Cheap" in this context meant readily sexually available, without conditions. That which we render to others cheaply is, of course, deemed to have little value. Though the remark was almost always directed toward a young woman, it applies with equal validity and force to men.

To proffer your body to another person "cheaply" is to indicate that you consider it of little value. As the body and the mind cannot be divorced from one another, the implication is that you consider the consequences of your behavior, whether for your body or your emotions, to be of little value as well.

There is no escape from this chain of logic, except for one: You must accept yourself to be of no particular value -- to yourself or anyone else.

Would you be happy with that?

The "use" of sexual access as a lure into commitment -- traditionally, marital commitment, though other forms exist and are sometimes applicable -- denigrates neither the power nor the importance of sex. Indeed, it puts them at their proper altitude. Even today, when the most fearsome and burdensome bodily consequences of "casual" sex can be averted -- legally, at least -- few persons qualified to cross the street without a minder would deny the potency and significance of sexual intercourse.

Older societies, not merely those derived from Christian and Jewish descent, discouraged sex outside of marriage mainly because of those bodily consequences. The technology of our time was not available to them, and their comprehension of the moral horror of abortion was clearer than ours. Yet we of today who continue to disapprove of "casual" sexual indulgence are fully aware of the legal and technological changes. We respect the inseparability of body and mind.

The above is not intended as a condemnation of all premarital sex. As sexual compatibility is an important ingredient to a stable marriage, and is never guaranteed simply because he's a man and she's a woman, it would be foolish to condemn premarital intercourse between two persons who are, as we say, "serious about one another." But there is a continuum between that sort of prudence, animated by nascent love and tempered by appropriate caution, and the low, dissolute grade of sexual indulgence powered solely by lust and numb to the self-degradation involved in "making yourself cheap." That's a realm the wise and the self-respecting decline to explore, preferring to remain firmly against the stops of sexual restraint under nearly all circumstances.

Religion has nothing to do with it. Religious conviction can reinforce the discipline of the intelligent. It might help to protect the otherwise un-thoughtful. But the logic of the thing is derived solely from human nature.

More anon.


pdwalker said...

I came across this rancid, steaming hole of a cesspit the other day. ( https://mobile.twitter.com/TinderFession ) and I read a few pages...

I'm no prude, and my morals maybe more lax than my good parents raised me to be, but Good Lord in Heaven! I cannot imagine that we of the West could have fallen so far so quickly. I'm petrified of the world my daughters will enter in their maturity. I've become the old moral prude trying to instill the morality my parents tried to instill in me. Not just the what and how, but the why as well.

If anything, you've understated the importance of the message. That kind of deviancy can only mean the end of the civilization that has given us so much.

It is to weep.

Tom Kratman said...

Steve St. Onge frequently refers to, or, rather, sneers at, the "Church of the Holy Orgasm." He has a point.

Example: I tossed out on Baen's Bar the prospect of Carrera, in the ADCP series, doing a bit of post-war social engineering in the form of a "virginity bonus," enough money for a girl to use as a pretty fair downpayment on a house, with some furniture, if, on a date certain before her wedding, she presents herself to a legionary doctor and is certified as unbroached. Note that I wasn't even ridiculous about it, I went with a version of the old rule (yes, it _was_ the rule our grandparents and theirs operated under) to the effect of, "Once you've demonstrated seriousness by becoming formally engaged, we don't care what you do, except that if she comes up preggers you WILL marry in a hurry, boy." It would have given every girl an excellent excuse not to, which excuses don't otherwise exist anymore.

And readers, not necessarily liberal readers, freaked about it, as if it were exactly the same as locking the girl in a chastity belt. That kind of lack of reason suggests to me that Steve is 100% correct, the right to consequence free sex has arisen to the level of an obligation.

Which convinces me that the virginity bonus is a damned fine idea.