Get PJ Media on your Apple

Klavan On The Culture

Is Sex Just Sex?

August 4th, 2014 - 12:57 pm
YouTube Preview Image

An excellent debate went on at The Week last week (h/t to director Jeremy Boreing for sending it to me). The issue was sex.

In a civilized and considered essay, senior correspondent Damon Linker declares, “The culture war isn’t really about culture, and it never has been. It’s about sex.”

Welcome to sexual modernity — a world in which the dense web of moral judgments and expectations that used to surround and hem in our sex lives has been almost completely dissolved, replaced by a single moral judgment or consideration: individual consent. As long as everyone involved in a sexual act has chosen to take part in it — from teenagers fumbling through their first act of intercourse to a roomful of leather-clad men and women at a BDSM orgy — anything and everything goes.

All of our so-called cultural conflicts flow from this monumental shift — and the fact that some of our fellow citizens (religious traditionalists and other social conservatives) are terrified by the new dispensation.

Linker goes on to say that, while he feels comfortable with modern sexual liberty and appreciates its relief from “sexually inspired suffering, shame, humiliation, and self-loathing,” he has also come to appreciate that some traditionalist critiques of the situation are worth considering. The gains of the sexual revolution are clear: “It’s fun! It feels good!” But it may be that traditionalist fears that promiscuity threatens the stability of society and the welfare of children have merit.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
There are deeper human feelings than the mere impulse of sexual attraction in the moment. The ascendance of the ethos of doing what feels good in the moment is the obvious and predictable result of the creation of the birth control pill, but does not speak at all to the inherent human longing -- deeper than immediate sexual allure -- for profound connection with another human being. The depth of Eros inspired by love -- i.e., both genitals merging AND hearts merging -- is far more powerful, but far more difficult to open oneself to than mere sexual congress. This essay does not address that random sex is a coward's way out. Because the only way two people get to real love, which is what people really long for even if they don't know it, is via the courageous act of revealing oneself to the other, and thereby to oneself, and thus deepening that bond between two souls wandering this earth.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'd suggest that the cultural wars are about something bigger than sex, although sex is a pretty large component. It seems to me to be about God, and our willingness or unwillingness to submit to him, with sex a fairly large subset of the God issue. There's also our attitude of entitlement in the mix there somewhere- don't we all deserve sexual pleasure? Why of course we do! Isn't that what drove that creepy kid in Santa Barbara to try to kill as many people as he could, with girls his main target?

Pre-marital sex is excusable, or at least understandable, because most people were married by their early 20's up until a couple generations ago. So, yeah, if there is real commitment (and the girl doesn't seem to get that even in a committed relationship the guy can take a powder with 0 consequences, which is one of the reasons marriage protects women), I don't suppose pre-marital sex is so devastating to cultural stability.

Here's the dirty secret about sex, if I may: It's overrated. In a lot of cases it's not worth the heartache and health consequences. That's why it's always so much better to be rightly related to God. It takes much of the sting out of not having a partner to play with.

I believed, as a young man, that consent was all you needed, even if adultery was involved. Since I became a Christian, I understand the wisdom of marriage. I converted at 30, thinking, hey, in a year or two I'll get married. I can wait. Well, I had to wait 15 years. But I stayed celibate. Did I burn with desire in the meantime? Yeah, lots. Did my right hand and a certain geographically lower part of my anatomy become more acquainted with each other than perhaps they should have? Yes- but the Bible is silent on that particular issue, notwithstanding the widespread misinterpretation of Onan.

I waited.
I was patient.
And I was rewarded at age 45 with a woman who not only is the best person I know, but she owned 5 houses while all I brought to the table was the shirt on my back. And she still thinks the sun rises and sets on me.

So there you go.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dear Mr. Klavan,

I disagree with you. I not only disagree, if you will allow me the impertinence, you are wrong. I have been a Christian and have struggled to understand, trust and obey for the majority of my life. That is, as a Christian I have had to relearn much of what I was raised to believe, and to disbelieve.

In other words if there is a God, or actually SINCE there is a God, and since He has chosen to reveal Himself to us in many ways, most of which we are to one degeree or another insensate, but including a Holy Book of His inspired words, I have to disagree with your assertion that "Modern birth control and medicine changed the sexual situation and conservatives need to accommodate those changes in their thinking".

No. God has designed things in certain ways and with certain intentions and some things are just plain wrong, so wrong that they are evil, and such that they do unfathomable damage (and not just an ephemeral spiritual damage) within all of God's creation.

God's commands and character haven't changed, and neither will the nature of sex. And love and commitment and sacrifice and patience and understanding and forgiveness. Truth won't change, and the thing called fidelity, including sexual fidelity, won't change.

The nature of the universe and the nature of being human, and the nature built into every (fallen) human soul is this. We are fallen people living in a cursed world. In an ideal world men and women would join for life, enjoy each other, have sex and go forth and multiply and fill the world and subdue it.

In fact Adam and Eve were to become one flesh, and that includes at the very least joining his seed, his DNA with hers, and bringing forth another single human being. They really do "become one flesh".

And not that Adam or Satan were not without guilt in this, but the curse of God included that women would desire men ('desire to rule over' is how this word 'desire' is seen in the lexicon), but that men would rule over them. History has born this out. And we see that women use sex and sexuality far more to control and reward men than to please them. But men still have the God-spoken biologically determined drive to have sex, though usually contorted, confused and corrupted in how they act on it.

And now that women (and men) have the Pill, sex is even more divorced from this first command to "go forth and multiply". Women have separated themselves from their role as the 'helper' to man in this command. And sex is considered a matter of pleasure only.

And sometimes all that really pleases a woman is a new pair of shoes.

(show less)
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (73)
All Comments   (73)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Naw, it isnt' about sex, this war, like most in history is about middle eastern mythology, just read the comments from the combatants.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
These debates about sex are nothing more than intellectual nonsense attempting to justify self indulgence and pass it off as a virtue while at the same time attempting to paint the virtues of self control and self discipline as oppression. The debate is nothing more than academic nonsense and doesn't deserve any recognition or credibility whatsoever.

Self discipline in all matters is what any person should strive for. I'm not saying that I'm disciplined in all matters - I'm not even close to it - but I recognize that the idea "if it feels good then do it" is nothing more than the philosophy of a self indulgent fool and is therefore something to be avoided. I realize that my failure to be disciplined in all things is what holds me back. A self indulgent fool believes they are held back by everyone but themselves.

Striving to be disciplined in all things is a worthy pursuit. Striving to be foolish isn't. Being disciplined doesn't mean that you can't have fun, it simply means that you choose the right times, the right ways, and you accept the consequences of your choices whatever they may be.

So please, spare me your intellectual nonsense.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.

G. K. Chesterton
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dear Mr. Klavan,

With this whole series of conversations here on PJMedia on sex, human sexuality, sexual behavior, marriage and the application of sex in amorous spirituality (though I don’t recall having read anyone using the word ‘affection’, or for that matter ‘altruism’ in any of all this), and I am reminded of a conversation that I was privileged to overhear several decades ago at the dinner table of a world-renowned physicist in his field, who was a Christian, and his adult sons, the eldest of which was an intellectual atheo-hippy provocateur.

The father said that the very laws of physics declare that the organization of all things in the universe ultimately and invariably degenerate into disorganization and chaos, and so the very existence of creation and organization require the existence of a transcendent creative God, and that evolution as a physical theory denies and runs counter to what we see and know of physics, specifically the laws of thermodynamics. And the son replied, “But creation and organization is LIFE”. To which the father answered, “That’s my point!”

Life runs counter to entropy. And so life as a process is fundamentally divorced from entropic laws. Life naturally and obviously requires supervening imperatives; and we see this and embed these imperatives into evolution, into a purely physical theory that by its very nature (at least popularly) denies the possibility of them. We are forced to give Evolution a god-like prescience, creative power and purpose (even if we refuse to acknowledge it formally), because we know that these attributes exist and yet want to deny the God whose attributes these are.

And so from my perspective, if we want to be intellectually and philosophically consistent and coherent, we cannot consider the creative, bio-molecularly-organizing, self-replicating and propagating aspects of sexuality apart from the existence of God Himself – who created the species to reproduce after their own kind, and who created them male and female, and who joins a man and a woman together to become one flesh, and who said go forth and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Life runs counter to entropy."

No, it doesn't. The maxim that entropy must increase is only applicable to non-reversible processes in isolated systems. The processes of life may be non-reversible, but the Earth is nowhere near an isolated system. It closely approximates a closed system, but the Earth receives massive quantities of energy from the Sun. The Solar System closely approximates an isolated system, but the core of the Sun is a prodigious creator of entropy. The small, local reductions in entropy due to life are rounding errors in the thermodynamic calculus. The claim that this position was held by a "world-renowned physicist" is either a) wrong in the claim of "world-renowned" and/or "physicist" or b) an example of a person being deliberately stupid in service to their religious beliefs.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, no. I didn't want to mention his name. But he really was. And if you don't take my word for it then that's one less thing you'll know. But you are saying that the biologic process, ourselves and our children, is the result of a rounding error in the entropic universe, or in other words, just bumps in the road compared to the vast forces at play in the universe. How do you know that we are just rounding errors? You are implying a mathematical improbability to account for our existence. Is this rational or a grasp in the dark while lacking a better explanation?

And so all life, to you, boils down to the result of random reductions in entropy. Is that the view that the scientific community has of the formation of life on earth? It is after all by logic and nature highly improbable. Certainly, if you believe that, then you must also view the evolutionary drive to perpetuate the species as a mere coincidence that has no ultimate purpose, point or benefit; another random reduction in entropy, accidental machines that reproduce according to scripts we barely can decipher. If that's so, then what difference does it make how we make love to our wives, or if we marry at all. Or if we are good fathers?

In the end it's all a sad existentialism.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
I forgot an option: You completely misunderstood what he was saying. I'm finding this one more likely since you're obviously dumber than a poopie-flavored lollipop. We can add basic statistics and philosophy to thermodynamics on the list of things you don't understand.

I'll give you a hint to help you deal with the improbability (of course, it's not that improbable, the probability of any occurrence that has actually happened is 1) of us being here: The Law of Large Numbers.

Instead of facing the universe as it exists, you build your life and worldview around a bunch of fairy tales for a group of semi-literate goat-herders who couldn't even figure out that pork is perfectly good to eat if you just cook it properly. What a sad existence.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to tend the fire in my back yard; I'm trying to create a decent manned Mars probe from inorganic matter in my backyard, using fire and large amounts of improbability. Wish me luck.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
In the era of Shakespeare, the plays were often indicative of the morality of the patrons. For instance the Globe, the most famous theater of Shakespearean plays was directly in front of a bordello, known as The Rose. At least one of the actors had a wife who was employed at the The Rose. The Bard often referenced The Rose since the word Rose was a ply on words as well: it referred to the most intimate part of the feminine anatomy.

Most of these bawdy euphemisms were whitewashed by those people who were charmed by the poetry but incensed at the double meanings; however, the Bard was more clever than the sensors and the bawdy jokes that made the young aristocrats and squires from the country pass up public executions, bear baiting, flogging of women and other exciting adventures to listen to the bawdy writing of young William. Now does a rose by any other name still smell as sweet? Obviously, if the commoners were aware of STDs, they were not overly concerned, because many men spent leisure hours in the bordellos. Did they contract STDs? It is a matter of numbers and probabilities, eventually the odds caught up with you, but these men and their women were less likely to produce healthy children that would survive or not be blind. It was the faithful ones who produced the strongest families and until WW II and the advent of penicillin, this was an influencing factor on every society. Now with resistant strains and Aids, the old influencing factors might return.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
When I was a kid, the powerful urges of sexuality were severely tempered not only by the risk of "incurable disease" but by the stigma of carrying it.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Aye, Flicker, and may we say, even today, people fear this topic so much, it is unworthy as a serious topic. As if by mentioning the diseases, you might be more likely to succumb or be associated with the stigma, associated with bordellos and women of low repute. However, of what use is history if it is not accurate, for then it is only fiction, a figment of the imagination and meant to influence those who follow.

Beyond staid dates and facts of sterile history are the mystifying facts of personality and a reality with all its flaws and frailty of humanity. Yes, our devout people carried society, until we face a precipice of decadence and immorality. How and why did those devout people produce these legions of immorality, if they represented the largest producers of viable and healthy offspring?

We forget that many Conquistadors were devout men and although they participated in mass murder and are legitimately called homicidal maniacs, they considered themselves to be men of the cloth. Men who could recite scripture and considered themselves soldiers of Christ; yet despite their morality, they found time to occasionally indulge in pleasures of the flesh. By what rationale did they justify this indulgence from the grisly murderous work for the church and the king of Spain? This is what pours the wine at the table of history and puts the finishing touches to a bountiful repast. Knowing the personalities of the people involved and trying to understand their decisions and drives.

Denying this mining of history is what makes the study of history so lifeless and boring for children.

"This Concept of Freedom" skooksjournal.com
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Two things, Skook. And I'm not disagreeing with you, really, just commenting. Firstly, all Christians are swamped in with faux-Christians the way wheat grows amonst the tares.

Secondly, there seem to be two different approaches to the subject: one highly pragmatic, and the other largely authoritarian. I fall in with the ones who do not say it's wrong because it doesn't work, but rather I fall in with those who say it doesn't work because it's wrong.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Flicker, I haven't heard anyone refer to the tares or vetch in over 20 years. The wheat does grow around the tares and is preferable, but when the temperature drops to 30 or 40 below, a good stand of vetch is a welcome sight to you and especially your horses, for it will keep them alive and healthy until the weather warms up.

There is symbolism here: perhaps we should not be judgmental of sinners and those with a lack of moral standards. That is a job for the rider of the big horse. The guy who doesn't worry about feed and water for his horse when the weather turns grim.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sex is the impulse and physical expression of the best, the worst, and everything in between.

Our response to it, our seeking of it, are the bridge of the mind and spirit with the physical---joined by the like of another person.

In an odd twist we can explain the "why" of it easier than the "how," which is to say, it continues our line, but, our inner life reveals its uniqueness in the doing.

A bridge between what is universal and what is unique. Amazing.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sex is just one more weapon in the Left's arsenal. Every word they say about sex, like every other word they say, is a lie or a setup for another lie.

The arsenal is being used every day, in every way, to destroy a civilization that took ten thousand years to evolve. They are destroying it in a few decades.

And you can bet the farm that they aren't engaged in that relentless war in order to improve YOUR life.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dear Andrew: Thank you for your thoughtful discussion of a difficult and important subject.

I'm as shocked as you are that two interlocutors, coming at a controversial issue from different perspectives, can yet keep their heads I doubt that we'll see this again in our lifetimes.

As for sex, our country is simultaneously promiscuous and prudish. Americans are as confused about sex as they are about everything else. How else can one explain the long run of "Law and Order SVU," a show that both advocates unrestrained sexual activity and condemns the predictable results of such license. The character "Olivia Benson" has done as much as anyone in the entire popular culture to pervert relations between men and women. It's a despicable, silly show -- and monstrously influential.

My specific response to your discussion has to do with the meaning of a phrase that occurs toward the end of your column. You write: "Ethics — the application of unchanging moral principles — change as situations change."

Now, sometimes I'm a little slow. But you seem to be contradicting yourself within the sentence. On the one hand, you claim that ethics is the application of "unchanging" moral principles; on the other, you claim that ethics "change as situations change."

Perhaps I'm not following your reasoning. I did say that I can be dense. So, to clear up the matter for this confused reader, which, in your view, is it: unchanging (or "immutable") or changed and changeable?

I do blame the 60s, by the way. Its people, principally through the schools, the universities, and the ubiquitous media, have permanently conflated freedom with license, thus spoiling all the rich fruit of freedom.

Of course, the hippies would have no idea what I'm talking about.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
See Plato's Symposium, the dialogue about love.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Completely disagree because if modern birth control is so powerful that it allows humanity to change sexual behavior, then why are there so many unwanted pregnancies and children born outside of wedlock? The Pill surely isn't having the grand effect on society that you claim Mr. Klavan. I am not against birth control either. I am completely for it and see it is a great tool for us. However, to say that it has so changed human sexuality that we can change our behavior away from traditional morality, is completely unproven in the world. In fact, those in the "upper and upper-middle classes" of society still by and large practice traditional marriage and sexual behavior, which is most likely part of the reason they are in that societal class. Sex is still a very serious subject and shouldn't be treated as frivolously as you suggest.

That is just the pragmatic side of it. It doesn't even get into the spiritual, emotional part of human sexual relationships. Since God created human sexuality I would think He understands it better than even we do. His statement "the two shall become one flesh" is made for a reason. It all goes together: sex, companionship, life long commitment, children, the building of all of ones' lives together. To take sex just as an unrelated thing really misses the bigger point of scripture and sociological data.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Howdy R Browning
You make an important point with birth control. It was supposed to render unwanted parenthood obsolete, to reduce the number of out-of-wedlock births, families that didn't form, and abortions. It hasn't worked that way.
Obviously there was more at work. My own theory is that the burgeoning welfare state, coinciding with the common use of birth control, created most of the family pathology that birth control was supposed to reduce. Lots of things interweave here and I don't know how to weigh them, though.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
Engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage is not a moral sin. Casual sexual relationships in any venue gives one a glimpse into the respect, or lack thereof, is what builds or destroys a society. And this is a message that the ladies have complete control over. For women, modern sexual behavior is being treated just as males see it. It's a transaction.

The casual regard for what should be a prize given to those who honor, respect, and love us has been eliminated from the male/female equation. This behavior reveals low self-esteem and desperation.

Societies rise and fall on self-regard, respect for oneself, and long-term character building. The decline of these spells a very sick mindset.
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
1 2 3 Next View All