Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein got fired from own company–the Weinstein Company–after revelations of a long pattern of sexually abusing actresses and other young women. He joins the ranks of other prominent men–Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, etc.–who have been brought down by their sexual predations. The Sexual Revolution taught that sex is “no big deal.” Evidently, sex is a “big deal” after all.
In a thoughtful column on the subject, Cal Thomas cited one of Weinstein’s excuses: “Lisa Bloom, who resigned last Saturday as an adviser to Weinstein, made the laughable claim that he is a ‘dinosaur’ who came of age at a time when such behavior was more acceptable.” As an excuse, the “dinosaur” defense is indeed laughable. But it is still telling.
The Sexual Revolution overthrew all moral teachings and cultural attitudes that put limits on sexual behavior. As a result, in the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s, it was commonplace to hear that “sex is no big deal.” In fact, in the pop Freudianism of the day, freely having sex with no restraints was seen as a good thing, a healthy expression of one’s inner drives. Not wanting to have sex, on the other hand, was seen as bad. Being “repressed,” “inhibited,” having “hangups” was like a sort of mental illness in need of cure.
Men used that kind of rhetoric to try to talk women into having sex with them. When they succeeded, or when they failed but imposed themselves on women anyway, they could justify what they did by rationalizing that they were performing a sort of liberation. I suspect that when Bill Cosby covertly drugged a woman with Quaaludes, he thought that the pills would help “loosen her inhibitions.” He was doing her a favor.
Now the women who were used and abused very likely did feel violated afterwards. But they too had been taught that sex was not supposed to be a “big deal.” To complain would reflect unfavorably on them. They very likely blamed their “hangups,” so that they felt the shame, rather than the men who shamelessly assaulted them.
Of course sex is a big deal. How could it not be? Sex generates new life! By attracting men and women into marriage and enabling parenthood, sex creates families! And families are the foundation of all culture! Sex is tied up with our personhood and our most intimate relationships.
Sexual desire is so powerful that it must be restrained, controlled, and channeled. Thus, all true cultures have their sexual taboos and social norms. Even Freud, the patron saint of the sexual revolution whom the revolutionaries got laughably wrong, taught that the sexual desire must be controlled; otherwise, civilization would come apart and individuals would descend into primitive violence and self-destruction.
Sexual self-discipline is rightly a key moral principle. To abandon all sexual restraints is to destroy the family, violate one’s neighbor, and defile oneself. Sexual sins are especially harmful because they lead to other sins, causing others to sin (the person seduced into “consent”; the prostitute; the porn model) and potentially culminating in child murder, when an “unwanted” child is aborted.
So, yes, sex is a big deal.
It is good that the decades of pretending otherwise have resulted in a backlash today. Women who have been sexually abused are coming forward today, to the ruin of the Weinsteins of the world. Sexual restraint is coming back in vogue.
But sex is still a bigger deal than much of our contemporary culture is willing to admit. How can sexual restraint–which is now recognized as necessary for social life and the well-being of women and men–be cultivated when sex is still seen as recreational, separated from procreation, and unmoored to marriage and family? How can we expect men shaped by pornography to treat women?
Bringing back sexual restraint requires rebuilding the infrastructure of sexual morality.
Photo of Harvey Weinstein by David Shankbone (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons