In another example of the implosion of secularism (chronicled in my book, still on sale), an author argues that pretty much our entire society has turned against sex.
How can that be? Surely, our society is pre-occupied with sex. The taboos against pre-marital sex, homosexuality, and what used to be called perversions have all fallen. But, he says, permissiveness is not the point. “Today cultures pretend to be sex-positive, merely because they are sexually permissive. But it turns out that lack of permission was never the main impediment.”
So says Jacob Falkovich at the iconoclastic website Quillette in his article The Sex Negative Society.
Now he himself is “sex positive,” thinking there is nothing wrong with any kind of consensual sex, but he makes some illuminating points, demonstrating despite himself that human beings cannot help but recognize that sex has a profoundly moral dimension. And that the sexual revolution that has played such a major role in today’s secularism is now being thwarted by its own self-contradictions.
Falkovich cites data that indicates that people are having less sex and are finding it less satisfying. He acknowledges that everyone has “criteria, such as consent or matrimony, to declare whether sex is permissible or not.” He then goes through the various components of our culture today and shows how each is “sex negative.”
Conservatives, he says, are sex negative because they think sex is “dangerous and corrupting, to be repressed and regulated for the sake of social order and ‘family values.'” (I’ll reply to that one at the end.)
Progressives are sex negative. “They support displays of sexuality (especially by women and sexual minorities) but often place the act itself under suspicion of harassment, grooming, exploitation, or myriad other forms of endlessly traumatizing violence.” Feminists often hold to the view expressed by some critical theorists that sex, like everything else, is actually all about power and oppression, “that any heterosexual intercourse is an extension of the general domination of women.”
Macho men are sex negative, seeing sex as primarily a way to “score” and being fundamentally hostile to women. This is true of both alpha-male pickup artists and “incels” (the resentful involuntary celibates).
Politicians are sex negative, “looking mainly for bits of sexual expression to outlaw and regulate.”
The education establishment is sex negative, “especially when it engages in ‘sex education.'”
The media is sex negative, with its prurient interest “mainly in sex that violates law or consent norms.”
Capitalism is sex negative, using sex to sell, but that works only by creating the impression that you are not “worthy of sex” unless you buy the company’s products.
Falkovich discusses each of these aspects in more detail–so read the entire essay–and his analysis explains a great deal. If our society thinks about sex in these terms, no wonder homosexuality is thought of so positively. Sex between men and women is tainted by gender ideology, making men feel guilty for imposing their power on women, and making women feel victimized by their male partner. Sex between two men or two women, by contrast, would seem to eliminate the fraught gender issues. And if complete equality is the goal in marriage, the best way to achieve that would be for both spouses to be the same in sex and gender.
Of course, homosexuals also commit sexual abuse and harassment. And the very fact that sex is so psychologically complicated and so morally charged, even and perhaps especially in a permissive culture, suggests that regarding “all consensual sexual activities as fundamentally healthy and pleasurable,” as Falkovich calls for, is simply not possible.
Sex cannot be reduced to just a spasm of pleasure. Sex is how we engender new life. That gives it a psychological, social, and spiritual dimension. Cutting off sex from its very nature, by means of contraception and abortion, which Falkovich assumes should liberate sex, can only be “sex negative.”
Conversely, to be “sex positive” is to uphold sex in its biological and social function–that is, to locate sex within marriage, as creating the “one flesh union” between a man and a woman that defines a family and that may generate children for them to care for. This, in turn, will uphold sex in its psychological, moral, and spiritual dimension.