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The Pill, the Sexual Revolution & Gay Sex

This morning, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill, Glenn links two posts, the first by 1970s bombshell Raquel Welch who observes:

In stark contrast, a lack of sexual inhibitions, or as some call it, “sexual freedom,” has taken the caution and discernment out of choosing a sexual partner, which used to be the equivalent of choosing a life partner. Without a commitment, the trust and loyalty between couples of childbearing age is missing, and obviously leads to incidents of infidelity. No one seems immune.

But, what really caught my attention was this in neoneocon’s (must-read) post:

Now we have to worry about rampant promiscuity among teens and even preteens, and the deep psychological and even physical damage it can cause (such as STDs). Girls who once were protected by the mores of society and their own fear of the shame of pregnancy are free to enjoy sex—but how many of them are really having all that much fun, and at what cost? How many of them have the maturity to understand what they want and with whom they might be happy? How many are giving in to the age-old pressures of popularity and the needs of teenage boys?

Emphasis added.  I would say the pill has been a mostly good thing.  It helped launched the sexual revolution which, in turn, made it easier for gay people to start being more open about our sexuality.  But, this revolution while mostly a good thing, was not entirely a good thing.  It did have some downsides.  And these two smart women get at some of the issues we all wish to brush under the table when discussing sexuality.

Past social mores, while often oppressive, did serve a certain purpose.  But, some served only to censure folk like us.  We are grateful for the lifting of the social stricture on homosexual conduct.  But, I wish to draw your attention to the part of neoneocon’s post that I emphasized.  Too many of us try to write off the psychological consequences of hooking up.  We say that the shame we feel is only a social construct and so try to wish it away.

But, it’s real and often recurring.

I just think we need to consider the psychological consequences of hooking up.  Some of us may weigh the pain we feel in the aftermath and decide it’s worth the pleasure of the casual encounter.  Others may not.  On balance, the sting of the shame may be a small price to pay for the relief and relaxation the sexual act affords.

Perhaps, this subject is much on my mind, not just because of the 50th anniversary of the pill, but also because I wrote most recently about the first night Odysseus and Penelope spent together after that long-suffering Achaean warrior was finally reunited with his beloved wife.  His Olympian patroness, the goddess Athene, prolonged the night so that after the “royal couple” had “reveled in all/the longed-for joys of love,” they had time to revel “in each other’s stories.”  It is as if Homer were telling us that a mature expression of sexuality includes an intimacy which transcends the sexual act, sharing not just our bodies, but also our stories.  Perhaps the shame, the psychological damage, comes from limiting our sexual expression to its mere physical manifestation.

We could all learn from such ancient wisdom.

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24 Comments

  1. Sexuality is a gift from God. I think the following social statement from the ELCA does a brilliant job of discussing sexuality in a post-pill age:

    http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Social-Statements/JTF-Human-Sexuality.aspx

    I don’t see how it is possible for secular humanism, materialism, or any form of “optimistic” atheism to deal with the complexities of sexuality. My sexual morality is simple: I only want to have sex with the person God calls me to have sex with. I want my church community to be part of that discerning process.

    Comment by Ashpenaz — May 9, 2010 @ 1:43 pm - May 9, 2010

  2. The preponderance of hookup culture in gay life is one of the reasons many still think of homosexuality as dysfunctional.

    Academics and activists have constructed a house of cards around the stark reality of gay promiscuity – starting with McWhirter’s redefining “fidelity” for gay couples, and continuing to this day.

    The rest of us have eyes in our heads. When the drive for hookups overrides supposedly committed relationships, something is wrong.

    Comment by Ben-David — May 9, 2010 @ 2:41 pm - May 9, 2010

  3. Academics and activists have constructed a house of cards around the stark reality of gay promiscuity – starting with McWhirter’s redefining “fidelity” for gay couples, and continuing to this day

    Exactly. You have Matt Foreman boasting that “sexual freedom and liberation” is one of their core values and a “fundamental human right”. You don’t have him saying anything similar about monogamy.

    You also have an underwhelming number of gays actually getting married in places that allow it, and some of those, like Eric Erbelding, make them “open marriages”.

    Comment by NYAlly — May 9, 2010 @ 2:53 pm - May 9, 2010

  4. There are no “fundamental human rights.” “Fundamental human rights” is a sorry construct invented by individuals in committee somewhere as “self-evident,” but always excusable by the application of moral relativity. Hence, Islamic women can be thrown out with the trash and stoned on a mere whim, but Swedish parents can not spank their children.

    The Judeo-Christian ethic believes in Natural Law and knows that human individuals have “certain inalienable rights” ….. to quote Jefferson and the founders. Although the certain inalienable rights are universal, they are not entirely immutable. Life can be taken, property can be restricted and the pursuit of happiness can be curtailed. It is the government as established by the individuals which can and sometimes must interfere with the inalienable rights.

    “Sexual freedom and liberation” is not an inalienable right. No society has ever been structured on such a concept and survived. Before you scream about the Greeks and the orgies in ancient Rome, stop and realize that the actions were not based on foundational beliefs or a critical component to the organization of the society.

    Fair warning: whenever you hear talk of human rights, you are hearing the musings of a contemporary who probably couldn’t shovel sand for a living. It is all smoke and no cigar.

    Comment by heliotrope — May 9, 2010 @ 3:47 pm - May 9, 2010

  5. I’m just pleased, both here and the sites you link to, for the continuing reminder that all social changes have both benefits and costs. Rules always grew up for a reason, and changing the rules always comes at a price. The rules are (usually) changed with some benefit in mind, and we hope that arrives approximately as promised. But beware those who promise that there is no cost or no benefit. They are always trying to sell you something.

    Comment by Assistant Village Idiot — May 9, 2010 @ 3:59 pm - May 9, 2010

  6. There are fundamental human rights and responsibilities given to us by God, as revealed in the history of Israel, the Incarnation of God in Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. We are not the owners of our bodies or our sexuality–we are stewards of God’s gift and are called to honor God with our bodies.

    I am glad some churches are becoming more accepting of gays. But there needs to be discipline along with acceptance. Gays need to know that God expects them to express their sexuality in lifelong, sexually exclusive, publicly accountable relationships, the same as straight people (however poorly we may all fall from this ideal).

    I don’t see how one can build a workable sexual morality based on materialistic evolution.

    Comment by Ashpenaz — May 9, 2010 @ 5:50 pm - May 9, 2010

  7. 0.The preponderance of hookup culture in gay life is one of the reasons many still think of homosexuality as dysfunctional.

    Ben-David, maybe so, but I think it is a matter of predetermined selectivity. I’ve been to a few straight bars as well, up to closing time, and you have to see all the “negotiations” that go on. In other words, I believe that there is a preponderance of hooking up in the straight world. And no, just because straights do it, doesn’t make it right for gays to do it as well.

    I don’t see how one can build a workable sexual morality based on materialistic evolution.

    If that’s true, Ashpenaz, we have a dilemma. We can ignore the truth, and say that it’s all God, because that’s the only way we can keep ourselves in line.

    Or we can say that no matter how we got here, and even if we don’t believe in your construct, that there is good reason to avoid promiscuity, hooking up, etc., and strive for the monogamy ideal.

    Comment by Pat — May 10, 2010 @ 6:53 am - May 10, 2010

  8. Ashpenaz:

    There are fundamental human individual rights and responsibilities given to us by God, as revealed in the history of Israel, the Incarnation of God in Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. We are not the owners of our bodies or our sexuality–we are stewards of God’s gift and are called to honor God with our bodies.

    Natural Law and God given rights are one in the same. God gave inalienable rights to each human, not to humanity. This is no “distinction without a difference” argument.

    It is the responsibility of each individual to come to God, obey God’s commandments and to love one another. It is not the job of the Council on Human Rights to mandate and threaten and persuade groups of individuals to “obey” some list of “human rights.”

    When you morph individual rights into a collective of human rights you immediately bury responsibility to self, to God and to your neighbor and place it in political hands. There are NO human rights. Such a concept is transitory, politically based and meaningless. Progressives have worked hard to diminish Natural Law and replace it with Jello such as the convoluted concept of “human rights.” All “human rights” are subject to who holds the power and control.

    God gave you individual rights which you are responsible for protecting. If He gave us “human rights” then God is a jerk who sits by and lets people all over the planet make a mockery of Him.

    God does not rule our daily affairs through divine guidance and intervention. We are responsible for taking care of human business. We do a pretty good job, with more than enough examples of human evil to show the contrast between right and wrong.

    Comment by heliotrope — May 10, 2010 @ 10:47 am - May 10, 2010

  9. If you doubt the negative psychological ramifications of promiscuous sex, just check the documentary “The Lost Children of Rockdale County” about a teenage sex ring.

    Chilling.

    Comment by Travis — May 10, 2010 @ 11:07 am - May 10, 2010

  10. “Sexuality is a gift from God.”

    No, sexuality is PUNISHMENT from God for stupid Eve eating the apple!

    Comment by Sonicfrog — May 10, 2010 @ 11:58 am - May 10, 2010

  11. At least that is what they taught (taunt) us at CCD. :-)

    Comment by Sonicfrog — May 10, 2010 @ 12:03 pm - May 10, 2010

  12. The preponderance of hookup culture in gay life is one of the reasons many still think of homosexuality as dysfunctional.

    I certainly don’t think it’s an original thought. but it seems impossible to me to broach this topic without examining its root cause in the very thing that differentiates a heterosexual relationship (or potential relationship) from a (male) homosexual relationship: the lack of a female. I know danm sure that had my door swung that way, I could have been getting laid a hell of a lot more in college and likely would have shown minimal restraint. It was, almost always, the selectivity and caution of my would-be female partners that tempered by “hooking up.”

    In this, I think Ms. Welch is rather perceptive. I think one need not be overly cynical to wonder how much the “sexual revolution” was designed to give women the “freedom” us guys always wanted them to have? leaving aside the real physiological hazards of a promiscuous life style (dangers the gay community is well aware of, but that some still try to deny), it is largely the biological differences between men and women (e.g. oxytocin levels) that make the hookup culture disproprtionaltely more emotionally and psychologically dangerous for the unsuspecting young lady that has been raised and weened on the “woman and men are the same” lie.

    Comment by submandave — May 10, 2010 @ 12:07 pm - May 10, 2010

  13. As Kierkegaard said (somewhere, sort of), you can’t resolve the dilemma of being an immortal being created to be in relationship to God by pretending not to be. A decision to escape God and the responsibilities of being God’s child by pretending that the material world is all that exists will only end up in despair and the sickness unto death–or, as we call it, Wet Crotch Night at the Cock ‘n’ Bull.

    Comment by Ashpenaz — May 10, 2010 @ 12:16 pm - May 10, 2010

  14. submandave, have you been reading the notes for my dissertation?

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — May 10, 2010 @ 12:20 pm - May 10, 2010

  15. I always get twitchy when people talk about “fundamental human rights” and the like.

    Human beings have NO natural rights. None. What we have are agreements with one another that we will treat each other in a particular way. When an agreement seems near-universal in a particular group, that group will tend to call it “rights”. And since different cultures will agree to treat their members in very different ways, they will have very different conceptions of “rights”. (Does a young boy have the “right” to eschew violence and study the arts? Most of us would probably say that he does. The Spartans of ancient Greece felt quite differently.)

    A “fundamental human right” would thus be one shared universally by all cultures; is there such a thing? I doubt it.

    Our culture abhors murder, for example, and we often express this as a “right” — although the State can take that “right” away with capital punishment, and Mother Nature with her natural disasters will always have the last laugh. But other cutures can and do feel quite differently about murder, and would not acknowledge this “right” the same way we do. Think of societies that promote “honor killing”, for example.

    (Please note that our Founding Fathers understood this quite well. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That’s the part that everybody quotes. But then: “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” In other words, these “rights” don’t just happen; it’s up to people to make sure that we all have the “rights” we agree that we ought to have, and to set up a government that will protect those rights.)

    A closely-related concept is “fair”. “Life is not fair”, JFK told us, and indeed it is not; Mother Nature never promised to be fair to any of us. And why should she?… “fair” is an artificial human construct, which (usually) means that everyone should have an equal opportunity at something. The animal kingdom knows nothing of this; some animals will get opportunities that others will not, and that’s just the way it is for them.

    To say that “sexual freedom and liberation” is a “fundamental human right” is meaningless. Your “right” to sexual freedom, or to anything else, is wholly dependent on your society’s acceptance of it. One can wish that it were different, but wishing don’t make it so.

    respectfully,
    Daniel in Brookline

    Comment by Daniel in Brookline — May 10, 2010 @ 1:57 pm - May 10, 2010

  16. I don’t think men need “females” to “tame” them. I think men are designed for loyalty, fidelity, responsibility, maturity, wisdom, integrity, etc. Men are designed for lifelong, sexually exclusive, publicly accountable relationships which are blessed by God–and when they are trying to express their sexuality some other way, they end up in despair.

    See, for example, the relationship between John Henry Cardinal Newman and Ambrose St. John, which is being discussed now that Newman is being beatified.

    Men need to be “tamed” by the Holy Spirit.

    (There is no evidence, not one single tiny fossil, that any behavior evolved from an earlier, non-adaptive behavior. You can’t say there was an earlier group of men who largely mated monogamously and died out leaving a new group of men who survived because they mated promiscuously. Fossils can’t tell us anything about the choices people made. So, to blame evolution for “hard-wiring” men for promiscuity is based on the same amount of hard evidence that Mary was assumed into Heaven.)

    Comment by Ashpenaz — May 10, 2010 @ 1:58 pm - May 10, 2010

  17. Umm…I dare say that most of the women on the pill are not being promiscuous. A lot of them are married or in a serious relationship and just don’t want to get pregnant right now. The pill allowed women to choose when they would have children and how many they would have. Choices = Freedom.

    Comment by Houndentenor — May 10, 2010 @ 6:30 pm - May 10, 2010

  18. I would say the pill has been a mostly good thing. It helped launched the sexual revolution which, in turn, made it easier for gay people to start being more open about our sexuality.

    That, Dan, is a very odd criterion for judging contraceptive measures, which are exclusively for heterosexual activity.

    I would think that in judging the pill the first question to ask is whether or not interfering in the normal body functions of a healthy person is properly to be considered health care.

    Comment by Classical Liberal Dave — May 10, 2010 @ 11:11 pm - May 10, 2010

  19. A decision to escape God and the responsibilities of being God’s child by pretending that the material world is all that exists will only end up in despair and the sickness unto death–or, as we call it, Wet Crotch Night at the Cock ‘n’ Bull.

    Ashpenaz, there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s not necessarily about escaping God or not. It’s about making your own life decisions. Yes, plenty of atheists, or believers who do not follow God’s rules, or whatever, do live unhappy, miserable lives. But so do many who do follow your plan. Life’s too short. Sometimes, you’ve got to get moving, and make your own decisions. That’s God’s plan as I see it. And it’s served me well for the most part. And when it’s failed, it’s usually because I let others make the decisions for me.

    (There is no evidence, not one single tiny fossil, that any behavior evolved from an earlier, non-adaptive behavior. You can’t say there was an earlier group of men who largely mated monogamously and died out leaving a new group of men who survived because they mated promiscuously. Fossils can’t tell us anything about the choices people made. So, to blame evolution for “hard-wiring” men for promiscuity is based on the same amount of hard evidence that Mary was assumed into Heaven.)

    Ashpenaz, much of religion involves faith, accepting things for which there is no proof. Since I am not an expert in evolutionary biology, I don’t have rock solid proof either. But I think it works something like this. For some reason (whether it was God, or something else), higher forms of life evolved into organisms into which procreation involved two people. It is more likely that species that can procreate in a way that is pleasurable, as opposed to repellent, have survived. Since males are the ones that didn’t have the burden of bearing the children, they were able to have their cake and eat it too. As such, in most species, the males do like to sleep around. And if they end up being the more dominant ones, they get to do just that. The less dominant ones would also like to spread their seed, but may be prevented to do so by the more dominant ones. So now, cut to humans, the same thing has happened. However, now humans developed reasoning power, and has figured that being promiscuous may not be the best thing any more, and figured out a way to more beneficially continue the species, by promoting monogamy (i.e., promiscuity got us here, now let’s stabilize this thing called the human species). In fact, perhaps the way this happened could possibly be because a lot of men got together and mandated that God said that’s the way it should be (not saying that’s the way it happened, but it’s possible, right?). And here we are today. And despite 5770 plus years with God and 1980+ years with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, there is still plenty of promiscuity.

    Now, I’m not sure why not following God’s plan, in and of itself, should lead to promiscuity, as if having sex is some non-pleasurable thing to do. Why don’t people find other ways to be miserable and desperate?

    Comment by Pat — May 11, 2010 @ 12:36 am - May 11, 2010

  20. How is the statement:

    It happened, so evolution must have done it

    different from:

    It happened, so God must have done it.

    There is no evidence, not one tiny fossil, which suggests that evolution or natural selection has the power to do the things you list in your second paragraph. Attributing Omnipotence to Evolution seems just as faith-based as attributing Omnipotence to God (who is more likely to actually be omnipotent).

    According to Kierkegaard, being miserable is a sign of being close to God.

    Comment by Ashpenaz — May 11, 2010 @ 10:02 am - May 11, 2010

  21. P.S. Sociobiology is the new astrology.

    Comment by Ashpenaz — May 11, 2010 @ 10:03 am - May 11, 2010

  22. How is the statement:
    It happened, so evolution must have done it
    different from:
    It happened, so God must have done it.

    Plenty. Science is not so much interested in whether God must have done something. If God is responsible for how we should have sex, then He is responsible for everything else, I would assume. So fine. Now the question is, how did God do it?

    Anyway, I attempted to give a rational explanation how something may have occurred. No proof, but, in my opinion, some common sense. Ashpenaz, you haven’t even offered a rational explanation for why God has complete control over our sexual lives and/or has the rules that you have attributed to Him and/or how we developed as sexual beings.

    Attributing Omnipotence to Evolution seems just as faith-based as attributing Omnipotence to God (who is more likely to actually be omnipotent).

    I’m not sure what you mean by omnipotence to evolution. Just saying that there is plenty of evidence that it happened. And if God exists and was the One with the controls, that’s the mechanism He used to get us to where we are today. As to the latter statement, there’s no proof that God exists, let alone there being any proof that God is omniscient.*

    *I personally believe in God, and if God exists, I’d guess He’s omniscient. Who knows? :-)

    There is no evidence, not one tiny fossil, which suggests that evolution or natural selection has the power to do the things you list in your second paragraph.

    As I suggested, I am not an evolutionary biologist, so I’m not in a position to offer any proof. Similarly, you haven’t offered any proof about the existence of God and/or how God wants us to be as sexual beings, and/or how we developed as sexual beings.

    I just find it hard to believe that if God exists, why we are still able to come up with the laws of nature and the universe, and see how things have come to be, on just about everything, but when it comes to human sexuality, that God somehow is turning the screws more and is somehow exerted more control. (Is this just for human sexuality, or does He control the morals of sexuality of dogs, cats, and other animals?)

    It just seems to me that if God is so much involved as you suggest, why wouldn’t He reward those who follow your prescription for sex. Yet we see many examples of those in their 40s, 50s, etc., who are still looking for that special someone, and never had the chance to have any sort of intimacy. (As a late bloomer, I know how it feels). So is this some sort of sadistic punishment by God? Or can we attribute this to one of those “well, God just has a different plan for you” excuses things.

    Comment by Pat — May 11, 2010 @ 2:20 pm - May 11, 2010

  23. I think if you follow the link I posted, you’ll see that the ELCA has actually done a good job of addressing all your questions. They talk about both science and faith as a key to understanding sexuality, etc. I hope you’ll give it a look.

    Comment by Ashpenaz — May 11, 2010 @ 6:20 pm - May 11, 2010

  24. Ashpenaz, I followed your link. It’s a rather long narrative, so I skimmed through it. It’s very nice and all, but I didn’t see any place where it addressed my points. I do agree with much of what it says, but it doesn’t address the point of how we got here regarding human sexuality. It just addressed what we do with it. It used Scripture extensively as justification, which is fine, since a lot that applied 2000 or more years ago still applies today. And I would argue that the Scripture has come from the men of those days who wrote what they believed God thinks about sexuality. Obviously, you would disagree with me on that.

    Comment by Pat — May 12, 2010 @ 7:02 am - May 12, 2010

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