A Spanking Good Analogy on Casual Sex/Contraception

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“Why did Mike Ditka and Joe Paterno recommend the removal of facemasks from football players’ helmets?” asks BC professor, Tim Muldoon, “It’s because when I perceive I’m protected, I amp up my risk level. Same with contraception.”

That bang you just heard was reality, closing in on you.

Muldoon’s analogy is what my Auntie Lillie would have called “a spanking good telling” that delivers an inarguable truth to our got-contraception-now-go-have-sex culture; it’s the point Muldoon is making in Part III of his 5-part series on the McDonaldsization of Sex:

Natural sexual behavior is not fundamentally rational, in the sense that it always involves careful forethought and planning. It is rooted in desire and passion which, as Plato once observed, can be like a wild horse that must be tamed by a charioteer of a person’s will and harnessed to the tame horse of a person’s reason. Moreover, sexual behavior, like much human behavior, is fundamentally mimetic. People take their social cues in matters of sexuality from the people around them in a society. (For a scholarly discussion on this, see the work of the theorist René Girard. Overview here.) Following Freud, when primitive men competed for the sexual favors of women who restricted their access to sex, the men had to compete for women by developing communication patterns and sensitivities to their needs. The resulting dynamic was civilization. Women called the shots, and men became more humane.

In the contraceptive era, however, that dynamic has been reversed because contraception has made sexual access virtually universal. Men have little incentive to marry, rear children, or develop responsibility. Their competitive urges, instead of being directed toward marriage and family, are directed toward competition and violence. But here I depart from Freud, and I wonder whether sexual behavior, like aggressive behavior, increases in a damaging way with greater expression (a phenomenon known as the “catharsis hypothesis” or “ventilationist hypothesis,” both of which suggest that just “letting it out” is a good thing). If that is true, then the greater opportunity for sex guaranteed by contraception may in fact be feeding a cycle that is ultimately destructive for individuals and society as a whole.

There he goes. Another damn Catholic actually applying reason
where society says it has no business going. Read the whole thing; pass it around; discuss it at lunch; send it to your pastor and your manicurist, and to all the folks you know who think smart Catholics should leave the church because the stupid Catholics will stubbornly, unreasonably cling to their teachings, and refuse to understand what “everyone” accepts — that we’re just animals and we shouldn’t be constrained to control ourselves, except when it comes to soft drinks.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Dan C

    Clever witticisms do not make good science. And when one is talking as such, one is making scientific judgements. The science does not support the hypothesis that “engaging in protective behavior increases risky behavior.”

    Arguments will need to be based on good evidence not appeals to rationale arguments based on poor foundations. Reason is only as strong as the foundation on which it is made.

    [Well, there is always this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peltzman_effect -admin]

  • Joshua Gonnerman

    Yay, shout out to Girard!

  • Dan C

    The purported support to this hypothetical effect termed the Peltzman effect comes in a variety of hot-button anti-regulatory examples portrayed in this AEI-funded research (and let me be overt-this suggests bias). This AEI-funded research is promoting certain conculsions that are predictable, coming from the AEI, and focuses largely on two areas-economic risk (with data I cannot interpret due to limitations in the field) and some conclusions based on what can be described as qualitative observations of governmental regulatory structures. First-the conclusions of the act of a separate regulatory agency and regulators and its impact on risk behavior of an individual is different than those behaviors an individual personally embraces due to protective behaviors as this blog post’s application suggests. Also, considering the source of the data, one can write the conclusions of this research-reduce regulation of banks, investment companies, shrink the FDA, and the EPA. The best study Peltzman provides to support this hypothesis is a study by Einav and Cohen describing their interpretation of a data set provided by the NHTSA. This secondary analysis is controversial, drawing specific behavioral conclusions not actually available from the data set itself. Additionally, other methodologies and studies of traffic data do not support this interpretation of the traffic rules.

    Hypothesis unsupported. “Engaging in protective behavior increases risky behavior.”

    In truth, if the athletes were less ‘roided up, their behavior would be less risky, but such sports “reporters” cannot mention such things. Behind the wheel risk behavior is not what is associated with the traffic fatalities.

    Scientific epistemology differs from rhetoric. The Peltzman effect as described relies on good rhetoric. And a good PR department.

  • Dan C

    In regard to the section quoted from Muldoon-I agree with aspects of the second paragraph.

    In general, though, I watched this begin.

    I blame sports and video games, and but not sexual availability, on this matter. The national religion is sports, and I have no part of that religion. I went to college in the 1980′s and watched male Gen X’ers waste whole weekends in front of television watching sports. Mass couldn’t be attended since it interfered with football. Since then, I can also attribute video games as an additional enormous distraction. I watched the Reagan-era male devolve into a selfish, beer-swilling, violent male. And it only got worse. I blame capitalism’s promotion of base instincts of this era as the cause. (This was the era of “greed is good” and wealth was the currency of success.)

    I am unshocked by the state of males today-I watched the devolution begin in the 1980′s. I find sex as a less interesting aspect, but I always do, and unlike this post, I think that most men have no greater reason for living than themselves, and this is promoted in two ways in our capitalistic, greed-promoted economy. First, there is the Gordon Gecko believers. “Greed is good” pervades the lives of many in the financial industry, then in other businesses. This impacts all aspects of their lives, after spending 80 hours a week promoting the vice of greed. It should be no shock that they then pursue sexual selfishness, or substance abuse, or other self-involved pursuits.

    Then, should individuals form families, the families universally look alike if making greater than $50 grand a year-that is, religion influences activity and appearance little. David Brooks repeatedly notes that the middle and upper classes will talk like libertines and behave like Puritans, but the lower middle and lower class folks will talk like Puritans and behave like libertines. In middle and upper class families, behavior is as the “selfish unit” -an Ayn Rand model in which greed and self-centeredness still prevail but as a clan, again I refer back to economic concerns. In short, I don’t find the problem with sex or its easy availability. I claim economic selfishness is the core of the problem, selfishness with time (because time is money) and wealth.

    The Gospels spend a lot of words on economic matters, like taking care of the poor. Less on sex. Maybe that is because the roadmap out of selfish degeneracy isn’t based on sexual prudence (which, again, most middle-class and upper class families achieve-it is David Brooks who repeatedly comments on such behavior), but on how we care for other people, and how we form communal structures beyond our own self-interested units. The psalms in my Liturgy of the Hours repeatedly note the axiom: the care of the poor wipe away many a sin.

    I don’t disagree with Muldoon, but his focus on sex and family may not help anything. The prescription I make is that single men should focus on something beyond themselves, should focus on improving the “community,” should focus on taking care of the poor, and should cease the prevasive, persistent, self-centered focus of their time and wealth. Obsessing about their sex lives may be a waste of time when these same men spend their whole day immersed in a workplace promoting greed. Getting these men involved in a soup kitchen may be the way to save “the family.”

  • Bertha

    “Maybe that is because the roadmap out of selfish degeneracy isn’t based on sexual prudence…”

    Sexual prudence certainly isn’t the only way out of sefishness, but sexual imprudence, or contraception, can be a big stumbling block to self-giving. Contraception allows a person to withhold the fullness of who they are (fertility, commitment, love) from another person. Contraception does not promote nor encourage sacrificial love. Contraception IS a promotion of base instincts. There are a number of things which contribute to selfishness in our culture and contraception is definately part of the problem.

  • Dan C


    I do not disagree with your statement. I just think that considering the time one can spend on sex compared is less than 10% what these dudes spend pursuing greed in any given week. Sexual sins are not such “super sins” that 1 hour of sexual sins greatly outweigh a week dedicated to backstabbing, greedy self-pursuits between 60-80 hours a week. For these Mini-Gordon Geckos, these vulture capitalists, the pursuit of wealth is the “be all and end all” of the day. That is not a virtuous life. Their contraceptive behavior is only a brief part of their week wallowing in vice. Contraceptive sins are also not “super sins.”

    Sexual sins are not the dominant sins in these men’s lives. They may be the liveliest and most interesting sins for conservatives.

    I do return to the Gospels and the psalms to discuss what the roadmap out of degeneracy is: helping the poor- for the poor are Christ. Again, as much as you might want to make the problem about sex and that its ALL about contraception or sex or both, the psalmist gives a different remedy.

  • doc

    Dan, were there any selfish, beer-swilling violent males during the Carter era? Just checking to see if you have any awareness of the cartoonish character of your conclusions.