Friday, 30 March 2012

Carolyn Moynihan | Friday, 30 March 2012

The end of women

The legacy of the sexual revolution is more subversive than its champions admit.

Adrienne RichThe death of the American feminist poet Adrienne Rich (pictured) this week has brought many accolades on account of her literary gifts and contribution to the feminist movement over the past 50 years. In her transformation from conventionally married mother of three sons in the 1950s, to lesbian partner and apologist in the 1970s, she became not only the voice but a living example of the revolutionary character of second wave feminism.

The chief legacy of that movement has been brought into sharp focus in recent months by the battle royal between Catholic authorities (mainly) and the Obama administration over the latter’s mandate forcing employers to pay for birth control, including abortifacients and sterilisation.

Old-guard feminists -- including Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius -- are nervous and casting the conflict as a “war on women”, an attempt to wind back the “reproductive rights” won in the 1960s and 1970s with the arrival of the contraceptive pill and the Supreme Court decision decriminalising abortion.
On the other hand, those who regard such methods of birth control as objectionable or morally wrong -- including those who hold that view as a matter of religious faith -- are outraged that the principle of freedom of conscience could be trashed for the sake of a symbolic enshrining of contraception in the pantheon of free health services.

Yes, the mandate is both an overblown tribute to the value of contraception in women’s lives -- in particular for their “health” -- and an act of intolerance towards those who do not value it at all. But at least we can be grateful that it has stirred up a debate that really needs to happen - a debate about whether the sexual revolution that contraception and abortion let loose on society has been a good thing or a bad thing.

As Mary Eberstadt wrote in her contribution to a forum on the issue in the Wall Street Journal last weekend, the legacy of the sexual revolution has yet to be “settled in the Western mind” -- despite claims that “women” (minus, at the very least, the 25,000+ who have signed a letter objecting to it) are solidly behind the HHS mandate, and the sexual revolution to boot.

In her recently published collection of essays, Adam and Eve after the Pill, Eberstadt covers all kinds of fallout from the “sex without consequences” culture that has grown up over the past four decades, including the growing chorus of unhappiness from women writing on such mournful themes as “The Case for Settling” and “The End of Men”, complaining about men who won’t grow up and lamenting the general state of relations between the sexes. If the sexual revolution was such a boon, how come women are not happier? She asks.

Hanna Rosin, who also contributed to the WSJ’s sexual revolution forum, has an answer to that. She says happiness doesn't matter. Rosin argues that young women (those in their 20s and early 30s) are generally better off than young men. “They are better educated and earn more money on average,” she points out. In other words, they don’t need men -- except for “temporary, intimate relationships that don’t derail a career.” She is working on a book called -- guess what? -- “The End of Men”, due out in September.

Rosin does make some frank admissions. She concedes that there is a rumble of complaint from young women about men who won’t commit; that this is because the post-pill market has made sex “very cheap” and turned men into “free agents” who sleep with as many women as possible; which in turn causes women “a lot of frustrating little dating battles” and “heartache”. But that is a small price to pay, Rosin argues, for a woman’s future success in a career.

(Funny how arguments in favour of post-pill sexual culture always seem to hang on college educated women with careers, who generally do find a mate, rather than working class women who increasingly “settle” for the insecurity of serial cohabitation, and bringing up children, much of the time, on their own. But that is another story.)

The odd thing about Rosin’s theory is that it really describes “the end of women” rather than the end of men. The great gift of the sexual revolution to women is not that it has taken them out of men’s power but that it has made them over as the new men. They can pursue their careers just like men. They can have sex without getting pregnant and having to get married, just like men. They can ignore the emotional consequences of 

uncommitted sex (“And how bad are heartaches, anyway?” asks Rosin) as men tend to do.
When the ache for a baby gets too strong, today’s macho woman can go get herself impregnated with donor sperm at a fertility clinic. And since there’s really no difference between men and women any more she could just settle down with a lesbian partner and save herself any further trouble from the officially male of the species.

The truth is that, if men have become redundant, so have women. One makes no sense without the other. What we have instead is humanoids who come in a range of genders and can make use of their sexual endowment (or someone else’s) in a variety of ways. They can generate or acquire children as the case may be; they can saddle the kids with two “moms” or two “dads” or with other combinations of “parents” if it suits them. What that means for the children simply doesn’t matter. Nothing that comes from the sexual revolution can really be bad for anyone. Get used to it.

Isn’t this the insane world we see taking shape before our eyes? There may have been a lot wrong with marriage and the status of women in the America of young Mrs Adrienne Conrad (Rich’s married name), but cutting sex adrift from babies and marriage was patently not the solution. It has made nonsense of the body and made men and women strangers to themselves.
To refuse to become an active party to such madness is a right no just society should deny to any member.

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Posted by Mollie
We’ve been talking quite a bit about how the public outcry over religious freedom issues has been portrayed in the press. When the Obama administration created a new requirement that religious employers fully fund abortion drugs, contraception and sterilization, many religious employers and their supporters cried foul. The people who support the mandate argue that free contraception is a fundamental right that the government must force employers to provide. Further, failing to force employers to provide these things constitutes a war on women.

And that side of things has been pretty well covered — even adopted, at times — by the media. That side of things should be covered well, although some media outlets have gone overboard by openly campaigning for that side. (Here, for example.)

The other side — those who say that their previously enjoyed religious or economic liberty is more fundamental than free birth control — have not had their side of the story covered well. So mostly when we talk about how the religious freedom side of the argument has been portrayed, we’re talking about afailure to even mention that side of the argument, much less treat it with seriousness (see, for example, the scare quote trend some jumped on).

We’ve been drowning in examples of poor coverage of the outcry against the mandate so I wanted to highlight a story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that handled it well.

Most of the religious freedom rallies that were held across the country were held last Friday at noon. (We looked atprevious coverage here.) But some were held on the weekend and the one in Jefferson City, Missouri, took place yesterday. There was also another rally outside the Capitol, for a different grievance. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch covered both rallies, substantively, and put the story in the front section of the paper. There was even a picture of the large religious freedom rally on the front page of the paper with the headline “Crammed Into The Capitol.” So the paper did not bury the news that some Missourians are displeased about this mandate.

As for the story, it’s done by a great Godbeat professional, Tim Townsend. He gives a flavor the variety of the crowd and quotes from different factions:

Speaking to fellow Christians in the rotunda of the Missouri Capitol on Tuesday, St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson delivered a warning to the White House.
“The fight against a federal requirement that most health plans provide free contraceptive benefits to their members “is not about contraception,” he said. “It’s about religious liberty, and we will never give up this freedom.”
Thousands of people, many wearing red T-shirts with messages such as “I will not comply” and “I stand with the Catholic Church,” roared in approval.
Catholics, Southern Baptists, Missouri-Synod Lutherans and members of the Assemblies of God packed three floors of the rotunda at the “Rally for Religious Liberty” to protest the January announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Arguments over liberty and governmental authority being made concurrently in the U.S. Supreme Court were mentioned by speakers and those in the crowd. The rally also came on the same day that the Missouri Senate gave initial approval to a bill that allows employers to opt out of the contraception mandate.

I might have been nervous about characterizing the entire crowd as Christian — how does one know? — but I just really appreciate the tightly written lede that gives the basics without telling you what to think about what the people said.

We then get a chunk devoted to the other rally — where union members wore bright orange and green shirts in protest of “right-to-work” legislation and other worker laws. We learn that the crowds were the largest of the past decade, although no official estimate is made.
Then we get back to the religious freedom rally:

The federal birth control mandate — which would require religiously affiliated institutions, such as universities and hospitals, to include free coverage in their employee health coverage — has been called an attack on religious freedom by many Christians.
Speaking under the words of Rudyard Kipling carved into the rotunda, “Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet — lest we forget,” Missouri Baptist Convention executive director John Yeats called the Obama administration a “secularist government” that had “declared war on religion and freedom of conscience.”
To huge applause, he called Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “Obama’s health care high priestess,” and compared the administration to the British monarchy during the time of the American Revolution.

There are more colorful quotes from the Yeats fellow before we get a discussion of how the protests have taken place across the country and why. There are additional details on the mandate, promised revisions to the mandate and why that promised revision doesn’t pass muster with the people fighting the mandate. And then we get a discussion of how proponents of the mandate are framing the battle as a war on women. Which segues into an appearance by the woman who heads my church body’s life and health ministries:

Maggie Karner, director of life and health ministries for the St. Louis-based Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, was the only woman on the podium, and one of the four major speakers. Karner said, to a standing ovation, that the issue at hand was “not about women’s issues at all.””
“It concerns all of us American citizens and our constitutional rights,” she said.

There are also quotes from average participants, as well as a member of the legislature who opposes the rally attendees and what they stand for. People are given room to speak freely using their own words and terms. It’s just a very straightforward story that explains the arguments of the protesters.
The Illusionist
How Herbert Marcuse Convinced a Generation that Censorship Is Tolerance & Other Politically Correct Tricks
by Robin Phillips
The ancient Greeks had a school of philosophers known as the Sophists, who took pride in their ability to prove impossible things. Some sophists even hired themselves out at public events, where audiences could watch spellbound as they proceeded to prove propositions that were obviously false.

The sophist philosopher Gorgias (4th century b.c.) invented an ingenuous argument to prove that: nothing exists; and even if something exists, nothing can be known about it; and even if something exists and something can be known about it, such knowledge cannot be communicated to others; and even if something exists, can be known about, and can be communicated about, no incentive exists to communicate anything about it to others.

It would be nice if such sophistry had been limited to ancient Greeks. However, the 20th century saw a thinker whose nonsense rivaled and even surpassed anything produced by the sophists. His name was Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979), the guru of the 1960s counterculture.

Marcuse is important, not because he was able to take sophistry to new levels of truth-twisting heights, but because his truth-twisting thought has been formative in defining so much of the collective "common sense" (or more accurately, common nonsense) of our age.

How formative? In 1968, when students in Paris revolted, they tore apart the city carrying banners that read "Marx/Mao/Marcuse." In his forward to Marcuse's book Negations: Essays in Critical Theory, Robert Young said that "among pure scholars [Marcuse] had the most direct and profound effect on historical events of any individual in the twentieth century."

The Frankfurt School
Marcuse came from a generation of intellectuals who had experienced the devastation of World War I. This pointless war, together with the Spanish influenza, which followed on its heels and wiped out as many as the war had destroyed, produced a generation of exhausted and cynical intellectuals ready to embrace the false optimism of either fascism or Marxism. Many who adopted the latter course came together in the Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt in Germany (formally called the Institute for the Study of Marxism). Their movement was characterized by a unique intellectual vision that came to be known as "the Frankfurt school."

Marcuse was a key intellectual in the movement, along with Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Erich Fromm, Walter Benjamin, Leo Lowenthal, Wilhelm Reich, Georg Lukacs, and many others. These men were disillusioned with traditional Western society and values. Lukacs, who helped found the school, said that its purpose was to answer this question: "Who shall save us from Western Civilization?"That vision was essentially Marxist, but with a twist. Whereas Marx believed that power rested with those who controlled the means of production, the Frankfurt school argued that power rested with those who controlled the institutions of culture. The school would come to include sociologists, art critics, psychologists, philosophers, "sexologists," political scientists, and a host of other "experts" intent on converting Marxism from a strictly economic theory into a cultural reality.

"Terror and civilization are inseparable," wrote Adorno and Horkheimer in The Dialectic of Enlightenment. The solution to terror was therefore simple: dismantle civilization. Marcuse expressed their goal like this: "One can rightfully speak of a cultural revolution, since the protest is directed toward the whole cultural establishment, including [the] morality of existing society." Lukacs saw "the revolutionary destruction of society as the one and only solution to the cultural contradictions of the epoch," and argued that "such a worldwide overturning of values cannot take place without the annihilation of the old values and the creation of new ones by the revolutionaries."

Lukacs used the Hungarian schools as a front line for instilling this cultural nihilism. Through a curriculum of radical sex education, he hoped to weaken the traditional family. Historian William Borst recounts how "Hungarian children learned the subtle nuances of free love, sexual intercourse, and the archaic nature of middle-class family codes, the obsolete nature of monogamy, and the irrelevance of organized religion, which deprived man of pleasure."

To America
When Hitler became chancellor in 1933, the Frankfurt school was forced to disband, relocating first to Geneva, and later, after most of its intellectuals fled to the United States, at Columbia University. From Columbia, its ideas were disseminated throughout American academia.

On the surface, post-war America seemed like the last place that would give this anti-Western philosophy a hearing. After all, the entire Western world, but especially America, was acutely conscious of the way fascism had nearly wiped out their civilization. The Nazis had risen to power on a wave of fashionable neo-paganism and primordial tribalism that presented itself as an alternative to the culture of the modern West. In a number of ways, therefore, the defeat of Hitler represented a triumph for Western values. In America, this victory was followed by the renewed cultural optimism characteristic of the late 1940s and 1950s, which, among other things, manifested itself in the baby boom.

The genius of the Frankfurt School lay in its ability to convert this newfound confidence into a force for sabotaging society. The strategy involved a clever redefining of fascism as an extreme right-wing heresy. According to this narrative, Nazism had been the outgrowth of a society entrenched in capitalism. ("Whoever is not prepared to talk about capitalism should also remain silent about fascism," commented sociologist Max Horkheimer.) Cultures that attached strong importance to family, religion, patriotism, and private ownership were declared virtual seedbeds of fascism.

The historical revisionism reached its height with Marcuse, who established himself as the most well-known member of the movement because of his ability to effectively communicate with the youth. Marcuse was adopted as the intellectual guru of the hippie movement, and he, in turn, provided the younger generation with a steady stream of propaganda to sanctify their rebellious impulses. (It was Marcuse who invented the catchphrase "Make love, not war.")

For Marcuse, the only answer to the problem of fascism was communism. "The Communist Parties are, and will remain, the sole anti-fascist power," he declared. For this reason, he urged Americans not to be too hard on the totalitarian experiments of their communist enemies, asserting that "the denunciation of neo-fascism and Social Democracy must outweigh denunciation of Communist policy."

Whistling & Work Theory
The Frankfurt thinkers taught that those who held conservative views were not just wrong, but neurotic. By converting conservative ideas into pathologies, they set in motion the trend of silencing others through diagnosis rather than dialogue. "Psychologizing" political opponents became a substitute for debating them.

It wasn't just their political opponents who fell under the hammer of psychoanalysis. By pioneering a discipline known as "Critical Theory," the Frankfurt School was able to deconstruct all of Western civilization. Instead of showing that the values of the West were false or deficient, they diagnosed the culture as being inherently logo-centric, patriarchal, institutional, patriotic, and capitalist. No aspect of Western society, from cleanliness to Shakespeare, was immune from this critique. Even the act of whistling fell under the deconstruction of Adorno, who said that whistling indicated "control over music" and was symptomatic of the insidious pleasure Westerners took "in possessing the melody."

It is doubtful that Marcuse ever got too worked up over whistling, but what did make him really mad was labor. A good day's honest work was one of the most repressive aspects of the civilization he hoped to undermine. As an alternative, Marcuse urged what he called "the convergence of labor and play."

The libido was the key to this pre-civilized utopia. Marcuse called for a "polymorphous sexuality" involving "a transformation of the libido from sexuality constrained under genital supremacy to eroticization of the entire personality." Once this transformation took place, labor would no longer occupy such an important role in the West. In Eros and Civilization Marcuse wrote that "labor time, which is the largest part of the individual's life time, is painful time, for alienated labor is absence of gratification, negation of the pleasure principle."

In his book Intellectual Morons, Daniel J. Flynn helpfully compares Marcuse's views on labor with those of Marx:
Marx argued against the exploitation of labor; Marcuse, against labor itself. Don't work, have sex. This was the simple message of Eros and Civilization, released in 1955. Its ideas proved to be extraordinarily popular among the fledgling hippie culture of the following decade. It provided a rationale for laziness and transformed degrading personal vices into virtues.
This elevation of laziness included self-conscious rejection of the "work" of keeping oneself clean. Thus, Marcuse argued that those who returned to a more primitive state must reject personal hygiene and experience the freedom of embracing a "body unsoiled by plastic cleanliness."

Flynn put Marcuse's entire philosophy in a nutshell when he contended that Marcuse "preached that freedom is totalitarianism, democracy is dictatorship, education is indoctrination, violence is nonviolence, and fiction is truth." As this suggests, Marcuse was a genius at "granting positive connotations to negative practices." This trick reached the height of doublespeak when Marcuse preached that tolerance is actually intolerance, and visa verse.

Guided by Marcuse's sophistry, the notion of tolerance came to mean the complete opposite of what it had formerly signified. No longer was tolerance the act of allowing or forbearing with another person's viewpoint or values despite one's disapproval of them. This was the notion espoused by liberals of the Enlightenment and embodied in the quotation (falsely attributed to Voltaire), "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Though this notion of tolerance, like any other type of liberty, has obvious legal limits, it was based on the Christian idea (not always perfectly followed) that we should refrain from deporting, imprisoning, executing, or humiliating those whose beliefs, practices, and behaviors we dislike or disapprove of.

Marcuse considered traditional tolerance to be "repressive tolerance," which needed to be replaced with "liberating tolerance." Significantly, liberating tolerance involved "intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left." Movements from the Left included the activism of various groups that Marcuse encouraged to self-identify as oppressed, including homosexuals, women, blacks, and immigrants. Only minority groups such as these could be considered legitimate objects of tolerance.

Commenting on this new type of tolerance, Daniel Flynn wrote:
Tolerating what you like and censoring what you don't like, of course, had a name before Marcuse came along. It was called intolerance. Intolerance had an unpopular ring to it, so Marcuse called it by its more popular antonym, tolerance. This word was often modified byliberating, discriminating, and true. Further corruption of language came via his criticism of practitioners of free speech as "intolerant."
What emerged from the shadow of this new tolerance was a type of intellectual redistribution. Instead of redistributing economic capital from the middle class to the working class, as Marx had urged, the new tolerance sought to redistribute cultural capital. Marcuse made no secret that this was his ultimate goal, admitting that he commended "the practice of discriminating tolerance in an inverse direction, as a means of shifting the balance between Right and Left by restraining the liberty of the Right." This was achieved in a number of ways, including what Flynn has described as "attitudinal adjustment" effected by "psychological conditioning through entertainment, the class room, linguistic taboos, and other means [that] transmit their ideology through osmosis."

In the years since Marcuse, the notion of tolerance has completed its metamorphosis. Whereas under the old notion of tolerance, a man had todisagree with something in order to tolerate it, under the new meaning, there can be no disagreement; rather, a person must actually accept all values and viewpoints as being equally legitimate (the obvious exception being that we must not tolerate the old notion of tolerance.)

Unlike many of his philosophical descendants, Marcuse was perfectly conscious of the double standard he advocated, making no secret of the fact that he was willing to stamp out academic freedom in order to shift the balance of power. He even acknowledged that this new model of tolerance involved "the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies," while "the restoration of freedom of thought may necessitate new and rigid restrictions on teachings and practices in the educational institutions which, by their very methods and concepts, serve to enclose the mind within the established universe of discourse and behavior." What Marcuse was saying is even more radical than Gorgias's claim that nothing exists. It amounts to this: Freedom of thought and freedom of speech can only be achieved by rigid restrictions on thought and speech.

In arguing for "the cancellation of the liberal creed of free and equal discussion" (from his essay "Repressive Tolerance"), Marcuse helped undermine the ancient university motto lux et veritas. The modern university, with its vigilant policing of ideas and its politically driven censorship policies, was given its intellectual legitimization by Marcuse.

While it is doubtful that anyone took Gorgias's thought seriously (least of all Gorgias himself), Marcuse's ideas have been taken so seriously that they have formed the intellectual foundation both for the academic Left and for the machine of political correctness that drives much contemporary media bias.

Gorgias knew that he was being irrational, but he did so for the enjoyment of demonstrating his intellectual powers. Marcuse also knew he was being irrational, but he believed that irrationality was good. For him, logic was a tool of domination and oppression, whereas, he wrote in One Dimensional Man, "the ability to . . . convert illusion into reality and fiction into truth, testify to the extent to which Imagination has become an instrument of progress."

Marcuse served stints at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brandeis, and the University of California at San Diego. In each of these institutions, he preached his gospel of nihilism, in which negative concepts and words were continually twisted into positives. Up until his death in 1979, he continued to convince people to "convert illusion into reality."

The truly amazing thing is that so many people have believed his illusions. •

What marriage means to today’s young adults

Young working-class adults revere marriage but believe that it is about personal fulfilment and has no essential link to children.

The New York Times’ recent story that more than half of births to American women under age 30 now occur outside of marriage, and the conversation spurred by Charles Murray’s new book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960 – 2010, have shifted public gaze to a population largely ignored in the scholarly literature of the past few decades: the 58 percent of Americans with a high school diploma but no college degree—what some might call “working class.”

Nonmarital births have been common among Americans without a high school diploma for at least thirty years: as the 2010 State of Our Unions reports, in 1982 33 percent of births to women without a high school diploma occurred outside of marriage, compared to 13 percent of births to high-school educated women. But in the past thirty years, nonmarital births to high-school educated women surged: in the late 2000s’, 44 percent of births to high-school educated women occurred outside of marriage. (By comparison, only 6 percent of births to college-educated women were outside of marriage.) It is the behavioral changes of this “moderately educated middle”—the 58 percent of high-school educated Americans—that put the “normal” into “the new normal” that the Times describes.

Furthermore, the “new normal” is not driven primarily by an increase in single mothers, but in the number of cohabiting couples: in 1988, 39 percent of high-school educated Americans had cohabited; in the late 2000’s, 68 percent. According to Child Trends, 52 percent of all nonmarital births took place within a cohabiting relationship. Almost two-thirds (61 percent) of nonmarital births to white women took place in cohabiting unions.

These trends raise important questions. How do working-class young adults think about marriage today? Do they still revere it even while they choose to delay it, or are they jettisoning marriage altogether? If they do revere it, why the increase in cohabiting unions with children?

These are among the questions we have been exploring in more than one hundred interviews with mostly white working-class young adults in southwestern Ohio. Our findings are both sobering and hopeful to friends of marriage.

Hopeful, because in spite of the “new normal,” most of the young adults who spoke to us do aspire to marriage, or at least to what marriage stands for in their minds—mainly love, fidelity, permanence, and happiness. This is consistent with national statistics that find that 76 percent of high-school educated young adults say that marriage is “very important” or “one of the most important things” to them.

But sobering, because even as working class young adults dream of love, commitment, permanence, and family, they inherit a cultural story about love and marriage that frustrates those longings. And while there are other factors—both economic and social—this inadequate philosophy of love and marriage helps to account for the “new normal.”
Let us explain.

First, let’s take a look at how working-class young Americans think about marriage.
Meet Ricky, 27, an unmarried father who has been in “about eighteen” relationships and is in his fourth engagement (though never married). Although he has a wedding date set, he questions the point of marriage: “You’re willing to be with that person and you’re gonna spend the rest of your life with that person, so why sign a contract?”

But Ricky does like “the whole thought of what it’s actually about.” What is the “whole thought” of marriage? “It’s, like, being there for the other person and helping them when they’re down, helping them get through tough times, cheering them up when they’re sad,” Ricky says, “You know, just pretty much improving each other’s lives together.” In other words, marriage is about mutual help and companionship.

Ricky also sees marriage as permanent. “When I go into marriage divorce isn’t even on my mind,” he says. “It’s like not even an option.” He looks at his mom’s three divorces and the divorces of his aunts, uncles, and cousins, and asks, “Why’d y’all get married? When I put in what I’m doing I give over one hundred percent.  You know, I do what I’m supposed to do, I put pride behind it.”
And like everyone with whom we talked, Ricky believes that marriage is about commitment. Cheating is inexcusable.

In short, while Ricky would be fine with an informal, common-law marriage arrangement, he definitely aspires to at least some of the ideals of marriage—namely, mutual help, fidelity, and permanence.

Missing in Ricky’s discussion of the meaning of marriage is any connection to children. In fact, he specifically mentions that children and marriage are unrelated. “It’s kind of biased if you say you have to be married because you have a kid, you know. ‘Cause I mean, that’s not the point. I mean, that doesn’t matter.” He goes on to say, “Of course a child needs a father figure and of course a child needs a mother figure.” But that “really has nothing to do with the marriage.”
Further, we found that young adults’ belief in marriage as commitment and permanence comes with an asterisk: so long as both spouses are happy and love each other.

For instance, Brandon, 27, who ended his engagement when his fiancĂ©e cheated on him, lauds marriage vows as a “beautiful thing” in which two people say, “Hey, I wanna be with you and nobody else.” He laments that those vows aren’t “necessarily taken so serious as maybe what it used to be.” However, he adds, “But … if you’re married and if you don’t feel like it’s working out—you know, if you guys don’t wanna work it out, I don’t really see a problem with getting a divorce. ‘Cause, it’s just like why live your life in misery?”

Or as another cohabiting young man put it, “I think that the people that get divorced and married and divorced and married are stupid, honestly. But I mean, if you’re unhappy, you got to make yourself happy.”

For as much as young adults express hopes of permanence and commitment, those ideals crumble against the specter of unhappiness. What should the unhappily married person do? A common response went something like this: “It probably means that you married the wrong person and were never in love in the first place. You might have married for the wrong reasons—maybe because the person had money, or just because you got the girl pregnant.” As one roofer put it, “Maybe they was never in love at all!”

What is this enduring love that promises perpetual happiness and for which young adults are searching? Brandon’s response was a common one: “Love is a feeling that you just get when you just know, man. I don’t think there’s a word for it. Like, if you like look into that person’s eyes and it’s, like, you just feel it. Maybe just by the kiss, or by the look, or by the touch.”

Or as one woman defined love: “You know when your body lights up when you get that first kiss from a guy and your whole body is like in overload?….When you are still with that person ten years from now, and you still feel the same way.”

Many of the young adults we interviewed emphasized love’s subjective aspects—such as powerful emotions and “the spark”—as love’s essence. While they recognize the objective aspects of love—such as genuine care for the other person, faithfulness, and friendship—they tend to see the subjective aspects as the authentic indicator of marital love.

Discerning whether the “spark” will endure is of the utmost importance, particularly if one is determined to avoid divorce. Maggie, a twenty-year-old whose parents divorced when she was 13, wants to “set up the life of the non-divorced … for my kids and the future. That’s my plan, really, just normal, try to be normal.” Given this goal, Maggie worries about finding the “right person” with whom she will always be happy.

John, 21, whose parents divorced in his early childhood and is now in a cohabiting relationship, struggles with the same uncertainty. When asked how one knows that he has found the right person, he stresses that you have to “know absolutely for certain, with 100 percent of your being” and that the person has to be “somebody who makes you happy.” But evaluating whether or not the person will always make you happy is tricky and time consuming—especially if one believes, as John does, that happiness is essentially outside of one’s control.

The takeaway for most of the young adults we interviewed is that the surest way to test if you’ve found the “right person” is to live together, perhaps for years,before you marry. That’s a view shared nationwide by a majority of young adults, according to a 2001 State of Our Unions nationally representative survey of twenty-somethings: 62 percent of young adults agreed that “living together before marriage is a good way to avoid an eventual divorce.”

Meanwhile, as the search for the right person continues, sex and children happen. While most working class young adults with whom we talked separate children from marriage, they do not necessarily separate sex from children. One twenty-year-old woman told us, “You know that when you’re going to have sex, there could be a consequence. Like, that’s the whole point of sex, is to reproduce.” Many working class young adults are open to children—“if it happens, it happens,” was a phrase we heard over and over.

And when it does happen, children are welcomed. In the words of one young cohabiting woman, having kids is “the biggest point in life. More than falling in love, more than your house, more than your money, more than anything is keeping your family alive. Keeping the world going. Like, that’s what you’re put on this earth to do.”

Which brings us back to the “new normal”: working-class young adults’ reductive understanding of marriage as ultimately about individual happiness—an understanding that includes no essential connection to children—begets an undefined period of trying to find the “right person,” and in many cases, those quasi-experimental relationships beget children. Ironically, the “new normal” may be as much about working-class young adults’ aspirations to marriage—or at least a version of marriage—as it is about a rejection of marriage. For it is not out of disdain for marriage that working-class young adults delay marriage and begin families, but out of reverence for it as something that ought not be broken.

Given the way working-class young adults’ views of love and marriage seem to influence the “new normal,” how can we restore a more comprehensive understanding of marriage as an institution that exists to promote and protect both the lifelong love and the stability for children that working class young adults so desire?

There are no easy answers, but we do have some thoughts about rhetoric. For one, telling young adults to “get married” will not do much good so long as the understanding of marriage is flawed. While many are fighting against the redefinition of marriage, another decisive redefinition has already occurred: marriage as merely individual happiness.

It is not enough to promise health, wealth, and happiness—benefits the social science evidence shows that married couples on average enjoy—to young couples considering marriage. While the social science evidence about the personal benefits of marriage has a place in public debates about marriage, when offered as the primary incentive to marry, it only encourages the narrow notion of marriage as personal fulfillment.

Instead, we should underscore that marriage exists to safeguard what working-class young adults hold dear: love and family. We should also underscore that, whether in the ordinary or extraordinary forms, heroism—and along with it sacrifice and fierce commitment—is needed for marital love to be sturdy enough to become a touchstone for their children and their children’s children.

In other words, along with G. K. Chesterton we should propose that “It is the nature of love to bind itself,” and that marriage merely pays “the average man the compliment of taking him at his word.” We should “respect him as the old Church respected him” —namely, to “write his oath upon the heavens, as the record of his highest moment.”

Anyone who doubts the effectiveness of this kind of morally muscular message among working-class young adults should consider how so many young adults of the same population join the military and are willing to sacrifice their lives for the country they love. The challenge is to show working-class young adults that marriage is also an invitation to such sacrifice: to devote themselves to their beloved and to their children, and to lay down their lives for their family.

David and Amber Lapp, researchers at the Institute for American Values, are the co-investigators of the Love and Marriage in Middle America project, a qualitative inquiry into how working class young adults in one small Ohio town form families. They blog at This article has been republished from Public Discourse

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

brainOkay, here’s something positive about brain research. In fact, this piece from the New York Times Opinionator blog waxes lyrical on the subject, with good reason since it describes the brain’s response to love (and the withdrawal of it) throughout our lives. The information comes from the science of interpersonal neurobiology.

It starts -- or at least begins in a new way -- at birth, reports Diane Ackerman, in the intimate bond between the infant and mother.

Brain scans show synchrony between the brains of mother and child; but what they can’t show is the internal bond that belongs to neither alone, a fusion in which the self feels so permeable it doesn’t matter whose body is whose. Wordlessly, relying on the heart’s semaphores, the mother says all an infant needs to hear, communicating through eyes, face and voice. Thanks to advances in neuroimaging, we now have evidence that a baby’s first attachments imprint its brain. The patterns of a lifetime’s behaviors, thoughts, self-regard and choice of sweethearts all begin in this crucible.

This “neural alchemy” continues throughout life in every important relationship. The sense of feeling loved and cared for shapes the brain and the brain in turn shapes our relationships. (Obviously the sense of not being loved also makes its mark.) Loving relationships contribute to longevity, medical and mental health, happiness and even wisdom.
“Choosing a mate” comes nearest to the experience of infancy:

When two people become a couple, the brain extends its idea of self to include the other; instead of the slender pronoun “I,” a plural self emerges who can borrow some of the other’s assets and strengths. The brain knows who we are. The immune system knows who we’re not, and it stores pieces of invaders as memory aids. Through lovemaking, or when we pass along a flu or a cold sore, we trade bits of identity with loved ones, and in time we become a sort of chimera. We don’t just get under a mate’s skin, we absorb him or her.

It’s worth interpolating here that, according to the neurobiologists, even casual sexual intimacy leaves some “bits of identity” in the other, stimulating attachment hormones that also revamp the brain. For women in particular, I suppose, it has something to do with the desire or will to have a loving relationship and not just the physical process.

“Troubled relationships” do not have the same protective effect as a healthy one.
If you’re in a healthy relationship, holding your partner’s hand is enough to subdue your blood pressure, ease your response to stress, improve your health and soften physical pain. We alter one another’s physiology and neural functions.

So far the article has only referred to “relationships” and “couples”. What about marriage? How good is that for your brain and your health? Thankfully there is some research on that.

While they were both in the psychology department of Stony Brook University, Bianca Acevedo and Arthur Aron scanned the brains of long-married couples who described themselves as still “madly in love.” Staring at a picture of a spouse lit up their reward centers as expected; the same happened with those newly in love (and also with cocaine users). But, in contrast to new sweethearts and cocaine addicts, long-married couples displayed calm in sites associated with fear and anxiety. Also, in the opiate-rich sites linked to pleasure and pain relief, and those affiliated with maternal love, the home fires glowed brightly.

A happy marriage relieves stress and makes one feel as safe as an adored baby. Small wonder “Baby” is a favorite adult endearment. Not that romantic love is an exact copy of the infant bond. One needn’t consciously regard a lover as momlike to profit from the parallels. The body remembers, the brain recycles and restages.

And it’s not all subconscious or implicit. Couples can set out the “rewire their brains on purpose” where bad habits have set in. A deliberate effort to lavish affection on her husband as well as “schooling” him helped the author’s husband recover the ability to talk and write after a stroke, and even to see better.

Well, I don’t know whether that tells us anything new about the ways of love, but it’s still pretty interesting. 

Friday, 23 March 2012

Nationwide Rallies Planned to protest the HHS Contraception Mandate on Friday March 23rd

Written by Dave Bohon
Thursday, 22 March 2012 11:38  
Christians and pro-life activists will gather March 23 in at least 140 cities around the nation to take a bold stand against the Obama Administration’s contraception mandate. Eric Scheidler (left) of the Pro-Life Action League, who is organizing the Nationwide Rally for Religious Freedom, said that since his group began planning the event, the number of cities expressing interest in hosting rallies has nearly tripled.

“The buzz is incredible,” Scheidler told the Catholic News Agency. “I’m getting phone calls from people all over the country.” He said that as the Obama Administration has refused to abandon the requirement that Christian institutions provide free birth control and sterilizations to their employees through their insurance programs, the numbers of individuals and institutions standing up to resist has exploded. “New cities and towns are still coming on to the rally every single day,” he told the Catholic news site on March 20. “We went into the weekend with 110, we came out of the weekend with over 120. The number of blog posts, and stories, and chatter on Facebook is another sign.”

The theme for the rally, which will be held at noon (local time) on Friday March 23, outside federal buildings, congressional offices, and historic sites across the country (click HERE for all locations) will be “Stand Up for Religious Freedom — Stop the HHS Mandate!” Religious, pro-life, pro-family, and community leaders will speak and lead participants in prayer to bring an end to the contraception mandate announced by the department of Health and Human Services in February.

Scheidler said that the rallies are part of the momentum that has built as religious and pro-life leaders have spoken out against the President’s brazen attempt to trample America’s constitutional freedoms. “At no point has the Obama Administration ever taken seriously the conscience concerns, the moral objections, or the religious objections of the American people to this mandate,” he observed. “Until they allow all employers to opt out of providing contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs — which are not ‘preventive care’ for anything, because pregnancy is not a disease — we will continue to fight this mandate.”

As reported by The New American, shortly after its original decree the White House attempted to defuse the outrage by announcing that it would “accommodate” religious institutions by relieving them of the requirement to provide or pay for contraception coverage, shifting the responsibility instead to insurance companies, which would be directly responsible to offer women the same coverage “free of charge.” But the U.S. Catholic Bishops and other religious leaders pointed out that the compromise amounted to a “distinction without a difference,” since the religious employer would still be required to pay for the insurance coverage and so would still be footing the bill for the contraception coverage it morally opposes.

As the moral crisis has intensified, the White House has recruited women to testify to the “hardship” they would face without free access to contraceptives. Similarly, pro-abortion and feminist groups have declared that churches and religious leaders are waging a “war on women” by standing against the mandate. Scheidler said that it is “insulting to the intelligence of women … that they continue to use this outrageous rhetoric and create these entirely fictional ‘crises.’ There’s no contraception crisis in this country.” As for the “war on women” charge,” he told the Catholic News Agency that the abortion/contraception crowd is waging war “against women’s intelligence. Anyone can see how much of the pro-life and pro-family movement is led by women.”

Fr. Terry Gensemer of the National Pro-Life Religious Council, who is organizing the rally in Birmingham, Alabama, said that at its foundation the effort is not about the issue of contraception. “This is about protecting religious liberty as it is enshrined in the United States Constitution,” he said, adding that the contraception mandate “completely disregards our freedoms as U.S. citizens and tears down the truths on which America was founded. This rally is intended to draw attention to those facts and to generate even stronger national opposition to a mandate that is already opposed by millions of Americans.”

Scheidler noted that while many of the rally organizers are Catholic, the nationwide event is meant for all who are alarmed by the attack on religious liberty in America. “This really isn’t just a Catholic issue,” he pointed out. “This is a direct attack on the constitutionally protected right of religious organizations to define their own mission and purpose, which has been attacked by the Obama Administration.”

Organizers are hoping that believers of all persuasions will attend a rally near them, and to bring their pastors or priests with them. “We’re really encouraging people to invite local religious leaders — not just Catholics, but Protestants, Jews, and others — to participate as speakers at the rallies as well,” Scheidler said.

Bryan Kemper of Priests for Life, one of the groups organizing the rallies, told that the Obama Administration’s attack on faith and freedom in America “has woken a sleeping giant” among the nation’s faithful. “What we are seeing is a Christian unity like we have never seen before,” he noted. “What we would like to see is for the American public — not only Christian, but all of us who believe in the Constitution — to stand up and tell the Obama Administration this is not a dictatorship and we will not be okay with this in America.”

In related news, the Catholic Sentinel reported that the U.S. Catholic Bishops are urging Catholics and “all people of faith” across the nation to observe March 30 as a day of prayer and fasting for religious freedom and conscience protection. The bishops are asking believers to join them in “prayer and penance for our leaders and for the complete protection of our first freedom — religious liberty — which is not only protected in the laws and customs of our great nation, but rooted in the teachings of our great tradition.”

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Adam and Eve after the Pill

The toll of casualties in the Sexual Revolution is still being tallied up.

This book could hardly be more timely. The Obama Administration’s birth control mandate may be a matter of religious liberty and the First Amendment, but it has also opened up the questions about contraception and the sexual revolution that have hardly been discussed in sophisticated society--or even in Catholic parishes--in anything but celebratory terms.

The sexual revolution, which is unimaginable without the pill, has had a profound effect, still barely understood, on relations between the sexes, human happiness, and a host of intractable social problems. Yet it is so much taken for granted and assumed to be such a great good for women and for society that has become impossible to discuss it seriously.

Mary Eberstadt, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, offers a collection of essays, most of them originally published in First Things orPolicy Review, that deploy a mass of empirical findings from the social sciences as well anecdotal and confessional testimony to examine the dark side of the sexual revolution.

If it was so liberating, she asks, why are its supposed beneficiaries, especially women, unhappier than before? Why did the very effects that Pope Pius VI predicted in his much despised but (in her eyes, prophetic) 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, come to pass—an increase in infidelity and divorce, the objectification and degradation of women, abandonment of women and children, cohabitation, sexual promiscuity and increased abortion rates?

Eberstadt aims to connect the dots in order to show how the sexual revolution has harmed women and children, undermined marriage (especially for the lower social strata, so widening the class gap in poverty and education across generations), led to a massive increase in pornography, and left enormous numbers of children to grow up without one or both of their biological parents (with negative impacts in terms of poverty, health, mental health, school success, and other measures of child well-being).

There is an insightful discussion of “pedophilia chic,” of how children were being sexualized and sexual relations between men and boys were being normalized in smart circles -- until the priest scandal broke and the same people who had promoted or condoned this kind of sexual license became outraged by it. It was the one and only case where the “advances” of the sexual revolution have been reversed.

Equally interesting are the essays arguing that food has become the new sex--the locus of moral puritanism -- because sex between consenting adults has become a matter of moral indifference. Pornography has become the new tobacco, excused and defended with the same arguments used a few decades ago in favor of smoking.

One of the rotten fruits of the sexual revolution is the culture of Toxic U, the shadow college culture into which young women like Charlotte Simmons are recruited in their freshman and sophomore years. It is a time of binge drinking and hooking up (sex divorced not only from marriage and children, but from any kind of emotional commitment, sex on male terms leading to depression and other mental and physical health problems for young women).

Eberstadt links this toxic world to the pill and sexual revolution in the following way. Contraception enables a climate of apparently consequence-free sex. Marriage is delayed so young people do not invest in sexual partners as they did when having sex implied the man’s commitment to marriage if pregnancy resulted. Young men lost their traditional path to settling down and adult responsibility and became the child-men or slackers described by Kay Hymowitz. Shotgun weddings became a thing of the past. Abortion rates and single parenthood skyrocketed.

A major part of Eberstadt’s argument deals with the profound denial of the growing weight of evidence. But I wish that she had presented the evidence more clearly. She tends relegate this to the footnotes and focus on the blindness of academic and feminist elites. Her views would be more persuasive if a chapter on denial concluded the book. By then we would have been thoroughly convinced of the existence of a powerful ‘will to disbelieve’.

My other criticism relates to the difference between the sexes in matters of introspection and aptitude for the confessional mode of writing. The chapter on women is full of women’s own voices. The men, by contrast, are silent and tend to appear as perpetrators whose motivations lie unexamined. Kay Hymowitz does a better in her book Manning Up, although her men do not appear more admirable or, well, manly.

Finally, the book suffers from being a collection, albeit brilliant, of essays. I wish that Eberstadt had integrated them better. Notwithstanding these criticisms,Adam and Eve after the Pill offers a compelling argument and is a much needed contribution to a shamefully neglected topic.

Paul Adams is a recently retired professor of social policy. He now lives in Ave Maria, Florida, and blogs at Ethics, Culture, and Policy.