The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.
-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia
How did the world go crazy, so quickly? How did America transform seemingly overnight from a country with an impressively strong marriage and family culture and a robust fertility rate to a nation wherein marriage continues on its steep decline, family forms are considered fluid and changeable, and fertility has tumbled to record lows?
The advocates of the sexual revolution would have us believe that changes in attitudes towards sex, marriage, childbearing, and the relationship between all three were simply a “natural progression.” That is, these changes just happened—they were part of man’s development into a higher being, one with a more fluid notion of morality and what constitutes healthy behavior. In contrast, Dr. Jennifer Morse, Founder of the Ruth Institute and a Ph.D. in economics, contends that this “march of history” narrative is false. The sexual revolution did not “just happen.” Rather, this revolution was deliberately created by American elites—and then enforced, sustained, and upheld by the state.
To bring about this revolution, the elite class—between whom and the “ordinary American” there is an ever-widening gulf in wealth, education, and moral beliefs—has had to actively promote three “ideologies,” all of which are false: the Contraceptive Ideology, the Divorce Ideology, and the Gender Ideology. The Contraceptive Ideology holds that sex does not make babies: Science has solved that problem. The Divorce Ideology teaches that marriage does not need to be permanent, and that no harm ensues when two consenting adults (or even just one) decide to end a marriage to pursue greater happiness and fulfillment elsewhere. The children, these proponents say, are resilient, and they will be just fine. The Gender Ideology—most recent and in some ways most radical of the three—asserts that biology does not determine maleness or femaleness. Gender is fluid, but also, and more importantly, the differences between men and women don’t really matter. This is the ideology that has allowed, for example, two men to assert that their donor-conceived baby doesn’t actually need a mother. They can handle the tasks of both sexes just fine.
These are all lies, Morse contends, such obvious lies that they need legal power to be enforced. “The Sexual Revolution needs the State for one major reason,” she writes. “[T]he premises of the Sexual Revolution are false. Sex does make babies. Children do need their parents, and therefore marriage is the proper and just context for both sex and child-rearing. Men and women are different. The true sexual revolutionaries resent these facts.” The title of the book is explained here. The sexual revolution needs the state because the state makes all of these aberrations from the natural possible. The state legally permits them, even enforces them. It mandates the new rules surrounding this new morality.
Morse exercises some fine historical scholarship to demonstrate when, where, and how the state first got into the business of moral behavior. She takes as an example Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court case that determined that Connecticut could not regulate the use of contraceptives for married couples because of a newfound “right to privacy,” thus opening the floodgates to mass national acceptance and use of birth control. Contary to what the case would suggest, Morse argues, birth control was in fact already widely available in Connecticut already. The problem, however, was that although the elite could manage to prevent births somehow, no clinics existed for the poor (nor could they legally exist), so Connecticut needed to abolish the law. Births weren’t the problem; the fertility of poor women in an ever-expanding welfare state was. Here, Morse quotes Allan Carlson: “As all architects of modern welfare systems discover, birth control becomes essential. Whether in wealthy Sweden or in urban American ghettoes, government programs of family assistance by their very nature generate an ‘illegitimacy problem.’” Welfare programs disincentivize work and penalize marriage and married childbearing. When an extra mouth to feed also means extra dollars to support, the government has a crucial interest in regulating the fertility decisions of the poor.
Such government intrusion into matters formerly considered deeply private is now par for the course in such decisions as the dissolution of a marriage. In such negotiations as visitation rights to children or fiscal arrangements between ex-spouses, Morse argues, “This level of involvement of an agency of the state [the family court] was unheard of prior to the era of rapid family breakdown.” But when family dissolves, the cost to the state is large, and the state has an interest in stepping in to mediate and provide basic care functions. “Fiscal freedom has been reduced as well,” Morse continues, “as taxes have increased. Fewer constraints on sexual behavior mean more children without permanent relationships with both parents. These children are disadvantaged in many ways that have consequences for the tax burden on the public.” The social ills consequent to family breakdown all carry a great public financial burden (incarceration, public schooling, poverty, etc.). This is all good for corporations, bureaucracy, media, and mass entertainment,—i.e., the elite—because Americans are left more vulnerable, lonely, and easily persuaded to buy things or do things that others want them to do. (If one wishes to carry the argument further, it is easily done. Two households instead of one means quite literally two houses to furnish and maintain, two grocery bills, more cars, and the list goes on. Almost every consumer-good market benefits from divorce.)
The Contraceptive Ideology and Divorce Ideology have led naturally to the Gender Ideology, which maintains that the two sexes aren’t really different, and children don’t need a mother and a father after all. Here, Morse points to all of the logical inconsistences, but perhaps most tellingly, to the tragic real-life voices of the children of gay parents, the donor-conceived, and all of those who have bought into the myth that gender is fluid, and that biology doesn’t matter.
The most heartbreaking component of the sexual revolution, of course, are its victims: the child of divorce, the woman left to believe she shouldn’t really want to marry and bear children, the man whose wife leaves him for “fulfillment” elsewhere. The greatest tragedy of our age, Morse says, is loneliness, and the lack of permanence that causes it: “People can’t count on permanence in even the most basic biological and sexual relationships.” The results have been disastrous. Loneliness is now considered by many experts to be a huge social problem in the U.S. and many developed nations around the world, and so-called deaths of despair (suicide and drug overdose) are at literally epidemic levels. Who benefits from the sexual revolution, then? Morse is doubtful here, but suggests that the only ones who seem to are wealthy men in positions of power, who profit for all of the reasons mentioned, and whose sexual libertinism can now be justified and the consequences pushed aside.
Throughout The Sexual State, Morse contrasts what the world says, what the elite say, with what the Catholic Church now teaches and has historically maintained in issues of sexuality, marriage, and family. The Church, she argues, has held constant, even as the forces about it have raged. And although the critic might point out that the Catholic Church certainly has its own problems in these areas—priestly abuse, the seeming nonconformity of its members to its official teaching in matters of sex—no one can deny that the Church itself has in all of its official teachings and documents certainly held firm to natural morality. Morse prays for a return to Catholicism, and indeed a revival of traditional Christian faith seems to be the only solution to a world gone mad.
Nicole M. King is Managing Editor of The Natural Family.