You all remember Eli Whitney, who invented the cotton gin in 1793. And you all remember Ron Popeil’s dad, Sam, who invented the Veg-O-Matic in 1963. You may not remember me, but, back in 1956, I invented sex.
I’m pretty sure about that. I know it was either me or Dickie Robertson.
When I saw what I had done, and knew that it was good, I did what any of your great inventors would have done. I ran around telling my friends. That was no easy sell. My friends had heard about sex, I suppose, but it was little more than a wispy rumor in the universe of their practical experience. Relatively speaking, sex was as likely to occur in their teenaged lives as a neighborhood basketball game was to be interrupted by an exploding asteroid.
Our parents never talked about sex. Never. By the time my old-school father brought it up, I had been married for six months. He seemed relieved when I told him I had it covered. The schools wouldn’t touch the subject with an eleven-foot pole. Back in the Fifties, government schools knew their place and it was rarely in loco parentis. Even TV and date-night movies paused the action at the bedroom door. The End. For those of us hungry for information of a bio-romantic sort, there was nowhere to turn but to the grapevine, which was every bit as reliable in those days as the Internet is today — a highly efficient vehicle for the distribution of fudge and fabulation.
Until I came along, that is, with that all-important, first-person testimony. I told my friends the good news in strict confidence, of course. None of them proved to be trustworthy. Word began to get around. In fact, it wasn’t long before everybody seemed to be talking about sex. There were newspaper columns, lads’ magazines, chatshows hosted by shrill women, how-to manuals, mediagenic therapists. I blame myself. Sex was clearly better than talking about sex.
But then, only a few decades later, people were talking about sex so much that, to serve the new constituency, an entire political party chose to dedicate itself to matters of sexual obsession.
The first time I encountered the new sexual politics was over the issue of women in combat. I confess that I never really understood the argument. Why would any society choose to field a fighting force that was, to a measurable degree, shorter, slower, and weaker? Wouldn’t that be the approach you hoped an ideologically deranged enemy would adopt? And then, after the concept gained traction and our military forces became partially feminized, there was the suggestion, never stated explicitly, that we would somehow feel better about ourselves while losing the marginal battle. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have felt better.
In the sequence of my political experience, I then ran up against the people, largely of the sexually obsessed party, who support abortion, which is, to be no more than reportorial, the taking of one human’s life by another. In what seemed to be rapid progression, and well within the span of my own middle years, abortion went from being a crime to being a right; from being something that sent you to jail to something that could send you to Washington. In the question of abortion, of course, the advance of the new party did not end the debate or cause us to move on or anything of the sort. The ultimate questions of life and death can never be closed by transitory majority. But there was, and is, no denying the emotional reality: The temporary ascendancy of the abortion movement has been soul-chilling.
For one brief political season, the sex party then pressed the case for “free” birth-control pills, a cause fronted by the Warhol-esque figure of law student Sandra Fluke, who insisted that she was not about the money but the principle of the thing. Sorry. It all went by too fast. I never had time to apprehend the principle under which I should feel compelled to subsidize Ms. Fluke’s premarital sex life. (As one could have predicted effortlessly, Ms. Fluke will be standing for public office in California this year.)
More recently, I have encountered the “transgender craze,” which the sex party supports as the logical and necessary extension of its campaign for comprehensive sexual liberation. Here again, a confession. I do not know a transgendered person and, at a guess, I doubt that I know anybody who knows a transgendered person. The major media having assured me that such a craze is indeed taking place, however, I have decided in my sheepish way to concede the point. It wouldn’t be the first craze I failed to notice. Nor, for that matter, would it be the first craze to fade to black when the media yank the camera plug and move on down the road to the asteroid explosion. We shall see.
For the next presidential cycle, the sex party seems to have pre-committed itself to a woman candidate. Any woman candidate. Hillary Clinton, if the old gal can still get around the track; Elizabeth Warren, if the Indian princess is nubile; Maggie Hassan or Amy Klobuchar, if Andrew (You’re Kidding Me) Cuomo gets loose. One wonders: Will a woman president be held to the man’s standard? Or to a new and perhaps lower standard? And, further to the point, will the rejiggering of the standard itself be promoted as a milestone of social progress? We’ll have to check the party’s newsletter, the New York Times, for campaign updates.
For the current season, though, the sex party has clearly fixed on a new killer app: gay marriage, the political triumph of which has been declared by the media, perhaps prematurely, to be “inevitable.” I should disclose that I am a man of faith who accepts comfortably the Biblical interpretation of marriage. My belief is fortified by the historical observation that marriage, traditionally construed, has served human societies well for thousands of years, as also by the prudential concern that overthrowing a long-serving institution in a moment of political passion will surely invite consequences not only unintended but unimagined. Even so, I see no reason to penalize those with whom I disagree by way of the tax code, the penal code, or any other code.
My beef, rather, is with the churches and synagogues. What can one say about religious organizations that affect a position of neutrality on questions of scriptural truth and falsity? What can one say about religious leaders who decline, until the polls close, to commit themselves as between right and wrong? Indeed, at this point in the course of a long moral retreat, with sex almost irreversibly divorced from procreation, for what kind of guidance should we be looking to religious leaders? For guidance on the minimum wage? Voter-ID laws? The merits of socialized medicine?
Even as we should expect our government to be tolerant, we should demand that our churches be judgmental. In the current circumstance, to be specific, we should be vastly more disappointed in the latter than the former.
I was recently asked by the chairman of a board I serve to mute my public enthusiasm for traditional marriage, lest I inflame an upcoming event to be hosted by our organization. In the spirit of collegiality, I complied with the request. I regret that I did so.
Who’s in the closet now?
— Neal B. Freeman is a contributing editor of National Review.