Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Democratizing Nookie & Buyer’s Remorse

The cover story of January’s issue Reason Magazine is Guilty Until Proven Innocent – How the government encourages kangaroo courts for sex crimes on campus is authored by Cathy Young.  The article explores the confused and conflicted sexual agendas that can get a guy expelled from college for a seemingly consensual roll in the hay.

Our governing authorities rightly look to protect women from sexual predators.  Conversely, the culture encourages sexual an attitude of sexual freedom.  Popular wisdom holds that the easy access to birth control and abortion liberates females to explore sexuality as partners with men.

Ms. Young’s article suggests that liberation has muddied the already murky waters of sexual relations; making it ever trickier to navigate the hazardous channels of love, sex and romance.

Let’s look back at how are arrived here and what roles state and culture played.

Beginning in the 19th Century, Sigmund Freud taught that society’s ills are squarely rooted in the repressive Victorian sexual attitudes.  

That may be so said Margaret Sanger, but what about us women?  We can’t let loose without getting pregnant?  We need birth control if we are to have sexual equality and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of a fulfilling sex life.

Soon the churches fell in line.  At the 1930 Lambeth conference the Anglican Church became the first major confession to get on board with birth control and in front of the sexual revolution.  Come the Sixties and the Pill and the rest virginity was no longer an option.

Now all of this is fine with us libertarians so far.  We really don’t care who hooks up with whom so long as it is between consenting adults and they assume responsibility for any adverse outcomes.  Yet, once again democracy rears its ugly head.

Over two centuries ago in his Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith observed that there exist separate moral stands for the well-to-do versus the hoi polloi because, let’s face it, they could afford to be bad:

“In every civilized society, in every society where the distinction of ranks has once been completely established, there have been always two different schemes or systems of morality current at the same time; of which the one may be called the strict or austere; the other the liberal, or, if you will, the loose system. The former is generally admired and revered by the common people; the latter is commonly more esteemed and adopted by what are called the people of fashion.”

In the modern age, we workaday folks live vicariously through Hollywood celebrities, pop stars and jet setters who leap from bed to bed and from marriage to marriage because they can write big checks when the fit hits the Shan.

“How can this be fair?” cry the pleaders for the poor and oppressed? Why are the wealthy more entitled to a good time in the sack than us?  Isn’t that a basic right?  Margaret Sanger dragged class conflict into the already hazardous battle of the sexes, when she wrote about the “knowledge of birth control, so carefully guarded and so secretly practiced by the women of the wealthy class -- and so tenaciously withheld from the working women”.  A central argument in the pro-legal abortion position is that rich women can always “go away” to have their problem “taken care of” safely while the poor girls fall prey to back alley butchers.

In no time, sexual fulfillment became a right with birth control and abortion becoming entitlements.  With this, men and women arrived at equality in the bedroom, able to indulge risk-free pleasure that was often taxpayer subsidized.

We should now be a socialist dreamland of equality with men and women essentially neutered and turned into indiscriminant pleasure seeking bio-droids.  With the playing field leveled by legislation and litigation, it should be open season for guys and gals to find regret free trysts.

However, something has gone wrong.  Despite the best efforts of gender levelers there are still differences in how the sexes survey the sexual battlefield.  Vive la difference! 

Margaret Sanger herself saw this when she wrote, “There is no doubt that the natural aim of the sexual impulse is the sexual act, yet when the impulse is strongest and followed by the sexual act without love or any of the relative instincts which go to make up love, the relations are invariably followed by a feeling of disgust.” 

She concludes, “Respect for each other and for one's self is a primary essential to this intimate relation.”

What is happening and what is documented by Cathy Young’s Reason article, is that the breaking down of cultural and biological barriers to sexual gratification often results in impersonal hook-ups that engender that “feeling of disgust” and loss of self respect and resentment of the casual partner.  In other words, buyer’s remorse.

One is tempted to say caveat emptor, live and learn.  However the backlash now often carries considerable penalties for men who mistakenly believed that they equal participants in a mutually agreeable shag fest.

The lessons for libertarians here are that, yes, we endorse equality before the law and strong protections against sexual predators.  But let us also remember that the strength of a free society lies in diversity, including some hardwired differences between the sexes no matter how much we would like to deny them.

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