Monday, January 08, 2007

Materialist, enlighten thyself!

While pointing fingers at the petty hypocrisies of religious believers lately, it struck me as an interesting exercise to take stock of how well we of the secular materialist realm follow our own professed and often unsolicited advice to the rest of the world. For we are the ones who, to quote Skipper, follow "what works". We put no stock in hazy mysteries or ill-conceived flights of fantasy, not we! Give us only the simple mead of experience, the lager of empirical datum to slake our thirst. Right?

One area where I feel that maybe we've been caught with our collective trousers at half-mast is in the whole arena of sexual liberation. I have no double-blind studies or peer-reviewed datum to rely upon here, but just a hunch that many materialists are also of the belief that a little female immodesty and relaxed attitudes towards sex, marriage and child rearing are perfectly consonant with sound material outcomes, ie. the sexual revolution "works".

How do we then explain the growing impoverishment of single mothers? To hear a sobering view on the outcome of the Sexual Revolution as visited upon two distinctly different demographics, college educated and non-college educated women, listen to this pod-cast of the Glenn and Helen Show as they interview with Kay Hymowitz, the author of Marriage and Caste in America.

OK, so this isn't totally fair, you can't blame all of the 60's on secular materialism. People who took avantage of the opportunity to get jiggy while the getting was good weren't thinking that deeply about it, and the revolution sucked in the religious and the secular alike. But where were the great materialist thinkers during this episode? Were there any from our side standing athwart the mad rush to personal liberation shouting "stop" or even "slow down"? What does "what works" tell us about how people should approach love, sex, marriage and children today?

I welcome the counsel of the Alliance.


Blogger Brit said...

As a human/social phenomenon, the 'sexual revolution' is seriously overrated. Contra Larkin, sex did not begin in 1963.

All that happened was the Pill. If the Pill had been invented in Victorian times, a lot of those myths about Victorian prudery wouldn't exist.

January 09, 2007 2:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It tells us we should be very careful about judging social institutions that have survived millenia as "failed".

January 09, 2007 11:34 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'Sexual Revolution' covers a lot of territory.

Could we narrow it down a little?

January 09, 2007 11:47 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Yes, but what advice does an materialist give now, knowing what we do about the consequences of the pill and all that followed? What would the motto "make it work" read like as a prescription for sexual mores?


We can start with the question of sex and marriage. Should you marry the guy/girl you have sex with, should you marry the guy you have a child with, should you marry him first before you have children, yada yada. If you have time, listen to the interview, it is quite interesting.

January 09, 2007 2:03 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Got no iPod, but I can answer part of that without Glenn and Helen.

If you're suggesting that young men should be forced to make honest women of young women; or that if a girl who has lost her cherry should be regarded as degraded and unfit to marry and raise a family, my answer is no.

We not only need to define 'Sexual Revolution,' we need to be precise about what we think 'Prerevolutionary Sex' was about. I suspect my understanding of how it was will turn out to be quite a bit different from, say, Orrin's or Peter's or maybe even yours.

January 09, 2007 3:31 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

You don't need an I-Pod, it's just streaming audio, as long as you have a speaker attached to your PC you can hear it.

Well, I don't think we need to define pre-revolutionary sex here and argue the pros & cons of one against the other. I get a sense in a lot of these discussions that people take a side for either the post-revolutionary ethos or the pre-revolutionary one, and feel they have to defend it in all circumstances. If you think that there are good and bad points about either ethos, then that's fine. You're allowed to mix and match.

Hymowits' thesis is that we are becoming a caste society where marriage is concerned. Educated, career women are much more likely to get and stay married nowadays than women who are high-school educated or dropouts. The irony is that it is the successful women that can more afford to indulge in such dysfunctional social behaviors like single motherhood, but in reality it is the poor working women who are going it alone.

From a materialist perspective one can only ask "wassup wid dat?"

January 09, 2007 6:43 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

That's just it. I don't buy that in the good ol' days, everybody got married and stayed that way, in either the upper or the lower classes.

January 09, 2007 7:45 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Lecturing people on their sex lives is against my religion.

January 10, 2007 2:43 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...


Full credit to you for trying, but are you really surprised all it bought you was time-travel to a dark and mythical past?

Although, I confess I've a mind to put on my Sunday clothes and go out to try and find me some of that there pre-revolutionary sex.

January 10, 2007 6:28 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Pre-revolutionary sex, from The Australian:

Church denies pill to raped women

By Adam Cresswell

January 11, 2007 12:15am

SEXUALLY-assaulted women who seek help at Catholic-controlled hospitals cannot be referred to rape crisis centres that supply morning-after pills, under church policy.

The policy, spelt out in an 80-page ethics document, has heightened concerns among doctors and rape counsellors about the Catholic Church's growing control of hospitals.

And The Australian reveals today that another fertility centre has been told to move out by the Catholic buyers of the hospital where it is based. One prominent doctor said she had long been concerned at the church's rape policy, which is contained in an ethics document approved by the Catholic hierarchy in 2001.

The Code of Ethical Standards, compiled by Catholic Health Australia, says direct referral of raped women to centres that offer the morning-after pill "should only occur if reasonable steps have been taken to exclude the likelihood of pregnancy".

Senior Catholic spokesmen defended the policy as a logical and ethical extension of the church's opposition to the morning-after pill, which it considers morally no different to abortion.


Me, too, but let's not hear any more about compassion.

January 10, 2007 12:09 PM  

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