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Right and Left Sex

No conservatism worth having can accept the ’60s revolution regarding sex and sex roles. The revolution wasn’t just another set of modifications to practices and secondary principles that are always changing anyway. Like the Bolshevik Revolution, it was a genuine modernist revolution that has created an unprecedented situation at odds with any normal way for people to understand themselves and live together.

Feminism permits distinctions of sex to have no net effect on any human connection that matters, and the sexual revolution complements feminism by making consensual sexual relations a purely private affair that does not legitimately concern anyone but the persons immediately involved. The two movements thus deprive sex of any social function, and so divorce social order from connections and distinctions that are absolutely basic to personal identity, the continuation of the human race, and the integration of the individual into society. Apart from a few speculations like Plato’s Republic nothing of the kind has ever been thought of before, and there is no reason to think the innovation will work let alone benefit anything.

Specific problems are obvious:

  • Family is based on marriage, and marriage on reliable connections and patterns of cooperation between men and women. That’s especially true in modern society, in which other economic and social factors that once supported family connections have become much more fluid. If sexual relations are purely a private matter and sex distinctions can’t affect human connections that matter in any serious way then marriage and family can’t amount to much as institutions. They become privately-defined connections on which no weight can be placed, indistinguishable from any other household arrangement.
  • Without family to connect people enduringly to particular social networks informal connections become fragile and unreliable. Neighborhood, ethnicity and any religious affiliation that isn’t radically sectarian lose most of their hold on what we are. Particular culture and tradition disappear as authoritative factors in human life for lack of an institutional setting. Universal formal institutions like state, bureaucracy and market that act directly on individuals become the only ones that can be taken seriously as authoritative and worthy of reliance.

In short, the ’60s revolution, by privatizing sex, destroys the status and stability of family life and so deprives the non-rationalized aspects of human life of any setting in modern society in which they can establish and articulate themselves authoritatively. The aspects of life in which humane values reside therefore become indistinguishable from private fantasies or consumer goods. The result is the modernist nightmare that conservatism exists to oppose, the fully rationalized social world. In that world there are thriving markets in sex, religion, culture and personal identity, every possible consumer choice is there, but for that very reason none of those things can touch us deeply. Any other result would violate the principles of tolerance and inclusiveness on which our feminist and liberationist custodians so strongly insist. The result is that we become sexless, Godless, cultureless ciphers, an undifferentiated mass of human material to be instructed and guided by therapists, organized by personnel departments, and manipulated by advertisers and propagandists. How can anybody cooperate with any of that and be taken seriously as a conservative?



There’s no mistaking Turnabout for National Review Online. Or, to suggest another example, a few years ago a senior editor for Weekly Standard wrote an article for (I think) New Republic. He wrote approvingly of ordinary people in the West having “sexual careers”, and of abortion as an essential item in the “toolkit” for modern life. To the mainstream press, this journalist is a conservative.